ABBA (Swedish pronunciation: [²abːa]) were a Swedish pop group, formed in Stockholm in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad: the group name derives from the first letter in each of their names. They became one of the most commercially successful acts in the history of popular music, topping the charts worldwide from 1974 to 1982. ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 at The Dome in Brighton, UK, giving Sweden its first triumph in the contest. They are the most successful group to have taken part in the competition.
ABBA are estimated to have sold 140 to over 500 million records, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. They are also the best-selling band from continental Europe and from outside the English-speaking world. ABBA were the first group from a non-English-speaking country to achieve consistent success in the charts of English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. They have a joint record eight consecutive number-one albums in the UK. The group also enjoyed significant success in Latin America, and recorded a collection of their hit songs in Spanish.
During the band's active years, the band was composed of two married couples: Fältskog and Ulvaeus, and Lyngstad and Andersson were married. At the height of their popularity, the band suffered strain which resulted in the collapse of both marriages. These relationship changes were reflected in the group's music, with later compositions featuring more introspective and dark lyrics.
After ABBA disbanded in December 1982, Andersson and Ulvaeus achieved success writing music for the stage, while Lyngstad and Fältskog pursued solo careers with mixed success. ABBA's music declined in popularity until the purchase of ABBA's catalogue and record company Polar by Polygram in 1989 enabled the groundwork to be laid for an international re-issue of all their original material and a new Greatest Hits (ABBA Gold) collection in September 1992, which became a worldwide bestseller. Several films, notably Muriel's Wedding (1994) and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), further revived interest in the group and spawned several tribute bands. In 1999, ABBA's music was adapted into the successful musical Mamma Mia! that toured worldwide. A film of the same name, released in 2008, became the highest-grossing film in the United Kingdom that year.
ABBA were honoured at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, when their hit "Waterloo" was chosen as the best song in the competition's history. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2015, their song "Dancing Queen" was inducted into the Recording Academy's Grammy Hall of Fame.
1958–1970: Before ABBA
Member origins and collaboration
Benny Andersson (born 16 December 1946 in Stockholm, Sweden) became (at age 18) a member of a popular Swedish pop-rock group, the Hep Stars, that performed covers, amongst other things, of international hits. The Hep Stars were known as "the Swedish Beatles". They also set up Hep House, their equivalent of Apple Corps. Andersson played the keyboard and eventually started writing original songs for his band, many of which became major hits, including "No Response" that hit number-three in 1965, "Sunny Girl", "Wedding", and "Consolation", all of which hit number-one in 1966. Andersson also had a fruitful songwriting collaboration with Lasse Berghagen, with whom he wrote his first Svensktoppen entry, "Sagan om lilla Sofie" ("The Story of Little Sophie"), in 1968.
Björn Ulvaeus (born 25 April 1945 in Gothenburg, Sweden) also began his musical career at 18 (as a singer and guitarist), when he fronted the Hootenanny Singers, a popular Swedish folk–skiffle group. Ulvaeus started writing English-language songs for his group, and even had a brief solo career alongside. The Hootenanny Singers and the Hep Stars sometimes crossed paths while touring. In June 1966, Ulvaeus and Andersson decided to write a song together. Their first attempt was "Isn't It Easy to Say", a song later recorded by the Hep Stars. Stig Anderson was the manager of the Hootenanny Singers and founder of the Polar Music label. He saw potential in the collaboration, and encouraged them to write more. The two also began playing occasionally with the other's bands on stage and on record, although it was not until 1969 that the pair wrote and produced some of their first real hits together: "Ljuva sextital" ("Sweet Sixties"), recorded by Brita Borg, and the Hep Stars' 1969 hit "Speleman" ("Fiddler").
Andersson wrote and submitted the song "Hej, Clown" for Melodifestivalen 1969, the national festival to select the Swedish entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. The song tied for first place, but re-voting relegated Andersson's song to second place. On that occasion Andersson briefly met his future spouse, singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who also participated in the contest. A month later, the two had become a couple. As their respective bands began to break up during 1969, Andersson and Ulvaeus teamed up and recorded their first album together in 1970, called Lycka ("Happiness"), which included original songs sung by both men. Their spouses were often present in the recording studio, and sometimes added backing vocals; Fältskog even co-wrote a song with the two. Ulvaeus still occasionally recorded and performed with the Hootenanny Singers until the middle of 1974, and Andersson took part in producing their records.
Agnetha Fältskog (born 5 April 1950 in Jönköping, Sweden) sang with a local dance band headed by Bernt Enghardt who sent a demo recording of the band to Karl Gerhard Lundkvist. The demo tape featured a song written and sung by Agnetha: "Jag var så kär". Lundkvist was so impressed with her voice that he was convinced she would be a star. After going through considerable effort to locate the singer, he arranged for Agnetha to come to Stockholm and to record two of her own songs. This led to Agnetha at the age of 18 having a number-one record in Sweden with a self-composed song, which later went on to sell over 80,000 copies. She was soon noticed by the critics and songwriters as a talented singer/songwriter of schlager style songs. Fältskog's main inspiration in her early years were singers such as Connie Francis. Along with her own compositions, she recorded covers of foreign hits and performed them on tours in Swedish folkparks. Most of her biggest hits were self-composed, which was quite unusual for a female singer in the 1960s. Agnetha released four solo LPs between 1968 and 1971. She had many successful singles in the Swedish charts.
During filming of a Swedish TV special in May 1969, Fältskog met Ulvaeus, and they married on 6 July 1971. Fältskog and Ulvaeus eventually were involved in each other's recording sessions, and soon even Andersson and Lyngstad added backing vocals to her third studio album, Som jag är (As I Am) (1970). In 1972, Fältskog starred as Mary Magdalene in the original Swedish production of Jesus Christ Superstar and attracted favourable reviews. Between 1967 and 1975, Fältskog released five studio albums.
Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad (born 15 November 1945 in Bjørkåsen in Ballangen, Norway) sang from the age of 13 with various dance bands, and worked mainly in a jazz-oriented cabaret style. She also formed her own band, the Anni-Frid Four. In the middle of 1967, she won a national talent competition with "En ledig dag" ("A Day Off") a Swedish version of the bossa nova song "A Day in Portofino", which is included in the EMI compilation Frida 1967–1972. The first prize was a recording contract with EMI Sweden and to perform live on the most popular TV shows in the country. This TV performance, amongst many others, is included in the 3½-hour documentary Frida – The DVD. Lyngstad released several schlager style singles on EMI without much success. When Benny Andersson started to produce her recordings in 1971, she had her first number-one single, "Min egen stad" ("My Own Town"), written by Benny and featuring all the future ABBA members on backing vocals. Lyngstad toured and performed regularly in the folkpark circuit and made appearances on radio and TV. She met Ulvaeus briefly in 1963 during a talent contest, and Fältskog during a TV show in early 1968.
Lyngstad linked up with her future bandmates in 1969. On 1 March 1969, she participated in the Melodifestival, where she met Andersson for the first time. A few weeks later they met again during a concert tour in southern Sweden and they soon became a couple. Andersson produced her single "Peter Pan" in September 1969—her first collaboration with Benny & Björn, as they had written the song. Andersson would then produce Lyngstad's debut studio album, Frida, which was released in March 1971. Lyngstad also played in several revues and cabaret shows in Stockholm between 1969 and 1973. After ABBA formed, she recorded another successful album in 1975, Frida ensam, which included a Swedish rendition of "Fernando", a hit on the Swedish radio charts before the English version was released.
First live performance and the start of "Festfolket"
An attempt at combining their talents occurred in April 1970 when the two couples went on holiday together to the island of Cyprus. What started as singing for fun on the beach ended up as an improvised live performance in front of the United Nations soldiers stationed on the island. Andersson and Ulvaeus were at this time recording their first album together, Lycka, which was to be released in September 1970. Fältskog and Lyngstad added backing vocals on several tracks during June, and the idea of their working together saw them launch a stage act, "Festfolket" (which translates from Swedish to mean both "Party People" and "Engaged Couples"), on 1 November 1970 in Gothenburg.
The cabaret show attracted generally negative reviews, except for the performance of the Andersson and Ulvaeus hit "Hej, gamle man" ("Hello, Old Man")–the first Björn and Benny recording to feature all four. They also performed solo numbers from respective albums, but the lukewarm reception convinced the foursome to shelve plans for working together for the time being, and each soon concentrated on individual projects again.
First record together "Hej, gamle man"
"Hej, gamle man", a song about an old Salvation Army soldier, became the quartet's first hit. The record was credited to Björn & Benny and reached number-five on the sales charts and number one on Svensktoppen, staying there for 15 weeks.
It was during 1971 that the four artists began working together more, adding vocals to the others' recordings. Fältskog, Andersson and Ulvaeus toured together in May, while Lyngstad toured on her own. Frequent recording sessions brought the foursome closer together during the summer.
1970–1973: Forming the group
After the 1970 release of Lycka, two more singles credited to 'Björn & Benny' were released in Sweden, "Det kan ingen doktor hjälpa" ("No Doctor Can Help with That") and "Tänk om jorden vore ung" ("Imagine If the Earth Were Young"), with more prominent vocals by Fältskog and Lyngstad–and moderate chart success.
Fältskog and Ulvaeus, now married, started performing together with Andersson on a regular basis at the Swedish folkparks in the middle of 1971.
Stig Anderson, founder and owner of Polar Music, was determined to break into the mainstream international market with music by Andersson and Ulvaeus. "One day the pair of you will write a song that becomes a worldwide hit", he predicted. Stig Anderson encouraged Ulvaeus and Andersson to write a song for Melodifestivalen, and after two rejected entries in 1971, Andersson and Ulvaeus submitted their new song "Säg det med en sång" ("Say It with a Song") for the 1972 contest, choosing newcomer Lena Anderson to perform. The song came in third place, encouraging Stig Anderson, and became a hit in Sweden.
The first signs of foreign success came as a surprise, as the Andersson and Ulvaeus single "She's My Kind of Girl" was released through Epic Records in Japan in March 1972, giving the duo a Top 10 hit. Two more singles were released in Japan, "En Carousel" ("En Karusell" in Scandinavia, an earlier version of "Merry-Go-Round") and "Love Has Its Ways" (a song they wrote with Kōichi Morita).
First hit as Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid/Frida
Ulvaeus and Andersson persevered with their songwriting and experimented with new sounds and vocal arrangements. "People Need Love" was released in June 1972, featuring guest vocals by the women, who were now given much greater prominence. Stig Anderson released it as a single, credited to Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid. The song peaked at number 17 in the Swedish combined single and album charts, enough to convince them they were on to something. The single also became the first record to chart for the quartet in the United States, where it peaked at number 114 on the Cashbox singles chart and number 117 on the Record World singles chart. Labeled as Björn & Benny (with Svenska Flicka), it was released there through Playboy Records. However, according to Stig Anderson, "People Need Love" could have been a much bigger American hit, but a small label like Playboy Records did not have the distribution resources to meet the demand for the single from retailers and radio programmers.
The foursome decided to record their first album together in late 1972, and sessions began on 26 September 1972. The women shared lead vocals on "Nina, Pretty Ballerina" (a top ten hit in Austria) that day, and their voices in harmony for the first time gave the foursome an idea of the quality of their combined talents.
In 1973, the band and their manager Stig Anderson decided to have another try at Melodifestivalen, this time with the song "Ring Ring". The studio sessions were handled by Michael B. Tretow, who experimented with a "wall of sound" production technique that became the wholly new sound. Stig Anderson arranged an English translation of the lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody and they thought this would be a surefire winner. However, on 10 February 1973, the song came third in Melodifestivalen; thus it never reached the Eurovision Song Contest itself. Nevertheless, the group released their debut studio album, also called Ring Ring. The album did well and the "Ring Ring" single was a hit in many parts of Europe and also in South Africa. However, Stig Anderson felt that the true breakthrough could only come with a UK or US hit.
When Agnetha Fältskog gave birth to her first child in 1973, she was replaced for a short period by Inger Brundin on a trip to West Germany.
In 1973, Stig Anderson, tired of unwieldy names, started to refer to the group privately and publicly as ABBA. At first, this was a play on words, as Abba is also the name of a well-known fish-canning company in Sweden, and itself an acronym. However, since the fish-canners were unknown outside Sweden, Anderson came to believe the name would work in international markets. A competition to find a suitable name for the group was held in a Gothenburg newspaper and it was officially announced in the summer that the group were to be known as "ABBA." The group negotiated with the canners for the rights to the name. "ABBA" is an acronym formed from the first letters of each group member's first name: Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid. The earliest known example of "ABBA" written on paper is on a recording session sheet from the Metronome Studio in Stockholm dated 16 October 1973. This was first written as "Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Frida", but was subsequently crossed out with "ABBA" written in large letters on top.
Their official logo, distinct with the backward ‘B', was designed by Rune Söderqvist, who designed most of ABBA’s record sleeves. The logo first appeared on the French compilation album, Golden Double Album, released in May 1976 by Disques Vogue, and would henceforth be used for all official releases.
The idea for the official logo was made by the German photographer Wolfgang "Bubi" Heilemann (de) on a velvet jumpsuit photo shoot for the teenage magazine Bravo. On the photo, the ABBA members held a giant initial letter of his/her name. After the pictures were made, Heilemann found out that Benny Andersson reversed his letter "B"; this prompted discussions about the mirrored "B", and the members of ABBA agreed on the mirrored letter. From 1976 onwards, the first 'B' in the logo version of the name was "mirror-image" reversed on the band's promotional material, thus becoming the group's registered trademark.
Following their acquisition of the group's catalogue, PolyGram began using variations of the ABBA logo, using a different font and adding a crown emblem to it in 1992 for the first release of the ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits compilation. When Universal Music purchased PolyGram (and, thus, ABBA's label Polar Music International), control of the group's catalogue was returned to Stockholm. Since then, the original logo has been reinstated on all official products.
Eurovision Song Contest 1974
As the group entered the Melodifestivalen with "Ring Ring" but failed to qualify as the 1973 Swedish entry, Stig Anderson immediately started planning for the 1974 contest.
Ulvaeus, Andersson and Stig Anderson believed in the possibilities of using the Eurovision Song Contest as a way to make the music business aware of them as songwriters, as well as the band itself. In late 1973, they were invited by Swedish television to contribute a song for the Melodifestivalen 1974 and from a number of new songs, the upbeat song "Waterloo" was chosen; the group was now inspired by the growing glam rock scene in England.
ABBA won their national heats on Swedish television on 9 February 1974, and with this third attempt were far more experienced and better prepared for the Eurovision Song Contest. Winning the 1974 Contest on 6 April 1974 gave ABBA the chance to tour Europe and perform on major television shows; thus the band saw the "Waterloo" single chart in many European countries. "Waterloo" was ABBA's first number-one single in big markets such as the UK and West Germany. In the United States, the song peaked at number-six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, paving the way for their first album and their first trip as a group there. Albeit a short promotional visit, it included their first performance on American television, The Mike Douglas Show. The album Waterloo only peaked at number 145 on the Billboard 200 chart, but received unanimous high praise from the US critics: Los Angeles Times called it "a compelling and fascinating debut album that captures the spirit of mainstream pop quite effectively … an immensely enjoyable and pleasant project", while Creem characterised it as "a perfect blend of exceptional, lovable compositions".
ABBA's follow-up single, "Honey, Honey", peaked at number 27 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and was a number-two hit in West Germany. However, in the United Kingdom, ABBA's British record label, Epic, decided to re-release a remixed version of "Ring Ring" instead of "Honey, Honey", and a cover version of the latter by Sweet Dreams peaked at number 10. Both records debuted on the UK chart within one week of each other. "Ring Ring" failed to reach the Top 30 in the United Kingdom, increasing growing speculation that the group was simply a Eurovision one-hit wonder.
In November 1974, ABBA embarked on their first European tour, playing dates in Denmark, West Germany and Austria. It was not as successful as the band had hoped, since most of the venues did not sell out. Due to a lack of demand, they were even forced to cancel a few shows, including a sole concert scheduled in Switzerland. The second leg of the tour, which took them through Scandinavia in January 1975, was very different. They played to full houses everywhere and finally got the reception they had aimed for. Live performances continued in the middle of 1975 when ABBA embarked on a fourteen open-air date tour of Sweden and Finland. Their Stockholm show at the Gröna Lund amusement park had an estimated audience of 19,200. Björn Ulvaeus later said that "If you look at the singles we released straight after Waterloo, we were trying to be more like the Sweet, a semi-glam rock group, which was stupid because we were always a pop group."
In late 1974, "So Long" was released as a single in the United Kingdom but it received no airplay from Radio 1 and failed to chart. In the middle of 1975, ABBA released "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do", which again received little airplay on Radio 1 but managed to climb the charts, to number 38. Later that year, the release of their self-titled third studio album ABBA and single "SOS" brought back their chart presence in the UK, where the single hit number six and the album peaked at number 13. "SOS" also became ABBA's second number-one single in Germany and their third in Australia. Success was further solidified with "Mamma Mia" reaching number-one in the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. In the United States, "SOS" peaked at number 10 on the Record World Top 100 singles chart and number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, picking up the BMI Award along the way as one of the most played songs on American radio in 1975.
The success of the group in the United States had until that time been limited to single releases. By early 1976, the group already had four Top 30 singles on the US charts, but the album market proved to be tough to crack. The eponymous ABBA album generated three American hits, but it only peaked at number 165 on the Cashbox album chart and number 174 on the Billboard 200 chart. Opinions were voiced, by Creem in particular, that in the US ABBA had endured "a very sloppy promotional campaign". Nevertheless, the group enjoyed warm reviews from the American press. Cashbox went as far as saying that "there is a recurrent thread of taste and artistry inherent in Abba's marketing, creativity and presentation that makes it almost embarrassing to critique their efforts", while Creem wrote: "SOS is surrounded on this LP by so many good tunes that the mind boggles".
In Australia, the airing of the music videos for "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" and "Mamma Mia" on the nationally broadcast TV pop show Countdown (which premiered in November 1974) saw the band rapidly gain enormous popularity, and Countdown become a key promoter of the group via their distinctive music videos. This started an immense interest for ABBA in Australia, resulting in both the single and album holding down the No. 1 positions on the charts for months.
In March 1976, the band released the compilation album Greatest Hits, despite having had only six top 40 hits in the United Kingdom and the United States. Nevertheless, it became their first UK number-one album, and also took ABBA into the Top 50 on the US album charts for the first time, eventually selling more than a million copies there. At the same time, Germany released a compilation named The Very Best of ABBA, also becoming a number-one album there whereas the Greatest Hits compilation followed a few months later to number-two on the German charts, despite all similarities with The Very Best album. Also included on Greatest Hits was a new single, "Fernando", which went to number-one in at least thirteen countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia, and the single went on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide. In Australia, the song occupied the top position for 14 weeks (and stayed in the chart for 40 weeks), tying with the Beatles' "Hey Jude" for longest-running number-one, and making "Fernando" one of the best-selling singles of all time in Australia. That same year, the group received its first international prize, with "Fernando" being chosen as the "Best Studio Recording of 1975". In the United States, "Fernando" reached the Top 10 of the Cashbox Top 100 singles chart and number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, ABBA's first American number-one single on any chart.
The group's fourth studio album, Arrival, a number-one best-seller in Europe and Australia, represented a new level of accomplishment in both songwriting and studio work, prompting rave reviews from more rock-oriented UK music weeklies such as Melody Maker and New Musical Express, and mostly appreciative notices from US critics. Hit after hit flowed from Arrival: "Money, Money, Money", another number-one in Germany and Australia, and "Knowing Me, Knowing You", ABBA's sixth consecutive German number-one as well as another UK number-one. The real sensation was "Dancing Queen", not only topping the charts in loyal markets the UK, Germany and Australia, but also reaching number-one in the United States. In South Africa, ABBA had astounding success with "Fernando", "Dancing Queen" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" being among the top 20 best-selling singles for 1976–77. In 1977, Arrival was nominated for the inaugural BRIT Award in the category "Best International Album of the Year". By this time ABBA were popular in the United Kingdom, most of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In Frida – The DVD, Lyngstad explains how she and Fältskog developed as singers, as ABBA's recordings grew more complex over the years.
The band's popularity in the United States would remain on a comparatively smaller scale, and "Dancing Queen" became the only Billboard Hot 100 number-one single ABBA had there (they did, however, get three more singles to the number-one position on other Billboard charts, including Billboard Adult Contemporary and Hot Dance Club Play). Nevertheless, Arrival finally became a true breakthrough release for ABBA on the US album market where it peaked at number 20 on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified gold by RIAA.
European and Australian tour
In January 1977, ABBA embarked on their first major tour. The group's status had changed dramatically and they were clearly regarded as superstars. They opened their much anticipated tour in Oslo, Norway, on 28 January, and mounted a lavishly produced spectacle that included a few scenes from their self-written mini-operetta The Girl with the Golden Hair. The concert attracted immense media attention from across Europe and Australia. They continued the tour through Western Europe, visiting Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Essen, Hanover, and Hamburg and ending with shows in the United Kingdom in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and two sold-out concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall. Tickets for these two shows were available only by mail application and it was later revealed that the box-office received 3.5 million requests for tickets, enough to fill the venue 580 times. Along with praise ("ABBA turn out to be amazingly successful at reproducing their records", wrote Creem), there were complaints that "ABBA performed slickly...but with a zero personality coming across from a total of 16 people on stage" (Melody Maker). One of the Royal Albert Hall concerts was filmed as a reference for the filming of the Australian tour for what became ABBA: The Movie, though it is not exactly known how much of the concert was filmed.
After the European leg of the tour, in March 1977, ABBA played 11 dates in Australia before a total of 160,000 people. The opening concert in Sydney at the Sydney Showground on 3 March to an audience of 20,000 was marred by torrential rain with Lyngstad slipping on the wet stage during the concert. However, all four members would later recall this concert as the most memorable of their career. Upon their arrival in Melbourne, a civic reception was held at the Melbourne Town Hall and ABBA appeared on the balcony to greet an enthusiastic crowd of 6,000. In Melbourne, the group played three concerts at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl with 14,500 at each including the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and his family. At the first Melbourne concert, an additional 16,000 people gathered outside the fenced-off area to listen to the concert. In Adelaide, the group performed one concert at West Lakes Football Stadium in front of 20,000 people, with another 10,000 listening outside. During the first of five concerts in Perth, there was a bomb scare with everyone having to evacuate the Entertainment Centre. The trip was accompanied by mass hysteria and unprecedented media attention ("Swedish ABBA stirs box-office in Down Under tour...and the media coverage of the quartet rivals that set to cover the upcoming Royal tour of Australia", wrote Variety), and is captured on film in ABBA: The Movie, directed by Lasse Hallström.
The Australian tour and its subsequent ABBA: The Movie produced some ABBA lore, as well. Fältskog's blonde good looks had long made her the band's "pin-up girl", a role she disdained. During the Australian tour, she performed in a skin-tight white jumpsuit, causing one Australian newspaper to use the headline "Agnetha's bottom tops dull show". When asked about this at a news conference, she replied: "Don't they have bottoms in Australia?"
In December 1977, ABBA followed up Arrival with the more ambitious fifth album ABBA: The Album, released to coincide with the debut of ABBA: The Movie. Although the album was less well received by UK reviewers, it did spawn more worldwide hits: "The Name of the Game" and "Take a Chance on Me", which both topped the UK charts, and peaked at number 12 and number three, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US. Although "Take a Chance on Me" did not top the American charts, it proved to be ABBA's biggest hit single there, selling more copies than "Dancing Queen". The Album also included "Thank You for the Music", the B-side of "Eagle" in countries where the latter had been released as a single, and was belatedly released as an A-side single in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1983. "Thank You for the Music" has become one of the best loved and best known ABBA songs without being released as a single during the group's lifetime.
Polar Music Studio formation
By 1978 ABBA were one of the biggest bands in the world. They converted a vacant cinema into the Polar Music Studio, a state-of-the-art studio in Stockholm. The studio was used by several other bands; notably Genesis' Duke and Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door were recorded there. During May, the group went to the United States for a promotional campaign, performing alongside Andy Gibb on Olivia Newton-John's TV show. Recording sessions for the single "Summer Night City" were an uphill struggle, but upon release the song became another hit for the group. The track would set the stage for ABBA's foray into disco with their next album.
On 9 January 1979, the group performed "Chiquitita" at the Music for UNICEF Concert held at the United Nations General Assembly to celebrate UNICEF's Year of the Child. ABBA donated the copyright of this worldwide hit to the UNICEF; see Music for UNICEF Concert. The single was released the following week, and reached number-one in ten countries.
North American and European tours
In mid-January 1979, Ulvaeus and Fältskog announced they were getting divorced. The news caused interest from the media and led to speculation about the band's future. ABBA assured the press and their fan base they were continuing their work as a group and that the divorce would not affect them. Nonetheless, the media continued to confront them with this in interviews. To escape the media swirl and concentrate on their writing, Andersson and Ulvaeus secretly travelled to Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, where for two weeks they prepared their next album's songs.
The group's sixth studio album, Voulez-Vous, was released in April 1979, the title track of which was recorded at the famous Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida, with the assistance of recording engineer Tom Dowd amongst others. The album topped the charts across Europe and in Japan and Mexico, hit the Top 10 in Canada and Australia and the Top 20 in the United States. None of the singles from the album reached number-one on the UK charts, but "Chiquitita", "Does Your Mother Know", "Angeleyes" (with "Voulez-Vous", released as a double A-side) and "I Have a Dream" were all UK Top 5 hits. In Canada, "I Have a Dream" became ABBA's second number-one on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart (after "Fernando" hit the top previously). Also in 1979, the group released their second compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, which featured a brand new track: "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)", another number-three hit in both the UK and Germany. In Russia during the late 1970s, the group was paid in oil commodities because of an embargo on the ruble.
On 13 September 1979, ABBA began ABBA: The Tour at Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, Canada, with a full house of 14,000. "The voices of the band, Agnetha's high sauciness combined with round, rich lower tones of Anni-Frid, were excellent...Technically perfect, melodically correct and always in perfect pitch...The soft lower voice of Anni-Frid and the high, edgy vocals of Agnetha were stunning", raved Edmonton Journal.
During the next four weeks they played a total of 17 sold-out dates, 13 in the United States and four in Canada. The last scheduled ABBA concert in the United States in Washington, D.C. was cancelled due to Fältskog's emotional distress suffered during the flight from New York to Boston, when the group's private plane was subjected to extreme weather conditions and was unable to land for an extended period. They appeared at the Boston Music Hall for the performance 90 minutes late. The tour ended with a show in Toronto, Canada at Maple Leaf Gardens before a capacity crowd of 18,000. "ABBA plays with surprising power and volume; but although they are loud, they're also clear, which does justice to the signature vocal sound...Anyone who's been waiting five years to see Abba will be well satisfied", wrote Record World.
On 19 October 1979, the tour resumed in Western Europe where the band played 23 sold-out gigs, including six sold-out nights at London's Wembley Arena.
In March 1980, ABBA travelled to Japan where upon their arrival at Narita International Airport, they were besieged by thousands of fans. The group played eleven concerts to full houses, including six shows at Tokyo's Budokan. This tour was the last "on the road" adventure of their career. In the middle of 1980, the group released the single "The Winner Takes It All" the group's eighth UK chart topper (and their first since 1978). The song is widely misunderstood as being written about Ulvaeus and Fältskog's marital tribulations; Ulvaeus wrote the lyrics, but has stated they were not about his own divorce; Fältskog has repeatedly stated she was not the loser in their divorce. In the United States, the single peaked at number-eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became ABBA's second Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one. It was also re-recorded by Andersson and Ulvaeus with a slightly different backing track, by French chanteuse Mireille Mathieu at the end of 1980 – as "Bravo Tu As Gagné", with French lyrics by Alain Boublil. November the same year saw the release of ABBA's seventh album Super Trouper, which reflected a certain change in ABBA's style with more prominent use of synthesizers and increasingly personal lyrics. It set a record for the most pre-orders ever received for a UK album after one million copies were ordered before release. The second single from the album, "Super Trouper", also hit number-one in the UK, becoming the group's ninth and final UK chart-topper. Another track from the Super Trouper album, "Lay All Your Love on Me", released in 1981 as a 12-inch (300 mm) single only in selected territories, managed to top the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart and peaked at number-seven on the UK singles chart becoming, at the time, the highest ever charting 12-inch (300 mm) release in UK chart history.
Also in 1980, ABBA recorded a compilation of Spanish-language versions of their hits called Gracias Por La Música. This was released in Spanish-speaking countries as well as in Japan and Australia. The album became a major success, and along with the Spanish version of "Chiquitita", this signalled the group's breakthrough in Latin America. ABBA Oro: Grandes Éxitos, the Spanish equivalent of ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits, was released in 1999.
1981–1982: Final album and performances
In January 1981, Ulvaeus married Lena Källersjö, and manager Stig Anderson celebrated his 50th birthday with a party. For this occasion, ABBA recorded the track "Hovas Vittne" (a pun on the Swedish name for Jehovah's Witness and Anderson's birthplace, Hova) as a tribute to him, and released it only on 200 red vinyl copies, to be distributed to the guests attending the party. This single has become a sought-after collectible. In mid-February 1981, Andersson and Lyngstad announced they were filing for divorce. Information surfaced that their marriage had been an uphill struggle for years, and Benny had already met another woman, Mona Nörklit, whom he married in November 1981.
Andersson and Ulvaeus had songwriting sessions in early 1981, and recording sessions began in mid-March. At the end of April, the group recorded a TV special, Dick Cavett Meets ABBA with the US talk show host Dick Cavett. The Visitors, ABBA's eighth and final studio album, showed a songwriting maturity and depth of feeling distinctly lacking from their earlier recordings but still placing the band squarely in the pop genre, with catchy tunes and harmonies. Although not revealed at the time of its release, the album's title track, according to Ulvaeus, refers to the secret meetings held against the approval of totalitarian governments in Soviet-dominated states, while other tracks address topics like failed relationships, the threat of war, ageing, and loss of innocence. The album's only major single release, "One of Us", proved to be the last of ABBA's nine number-one singles in Germany, this being in December 1981; and the swansong of their sixteen Top 5 singles on the South African chart. "One of Us" was also ABBA's final Top 3 hit in the UK, reaching No. 1 on some charts (such as Record Mirror).
Although it topped the album charts across most of Europe, including Ireland, the UK and Germany, The Visitors was not as commercially successful as its predecessors, showing a commercial decline in previously loyal markets such as France, Australia and Japan. A track from the album, "When All Is Said and Done", was released as a single in North America, Australia and New Zealand, and fittingly became ABBA's final Top 40 hit in the US (debuting on the US charts on 31 December 1981), while also reaching the US Adult Contemporary Top 10, and number-four on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart in Canada. The song's lyrics, as with "The Winner Takes It All" and "One of Us", dealt with the painful experience of separating from a long-term partner, though it looked at the trauma more optimistically. With the now publicised story of Andersson and Lyngstad's divorce, speculation increased of tension within the band. Also released in the United States was the title track of The Visitors, which hit the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.
Final recording sessions
In the spring of 1982, songwriting sessions had started and the group came together for more recordings. Plans were not completely clear, but a new album was discussed and the prospect of a small tour suggested. The recording sessions in May and June 1982 were a struggle, and only three songs were eventually recorded: "You Owe Me One", "I Am the City" and "Just Like That". Andersson and Ulvaeus were not satisfied with the outcome, so the tapes were shelved and the group took a break for the summer.
Back in the studio again in early August, the group had changed plans for the rest of the year: they settled for a Christmas release of a double album compilation of all their past single releases to be named The Singles: The First Ten Years. New songwriting and recording sessions took place, and during October and December, they released the singles "The Day Before You Came"/"Cassandra" and "Under Attack"/"You Owe Me One", the A-sides of which were included on the compilation album. Neither single made the Top 20 in the United Kingdom, though "The Day Before You Came" became a Top 5 hit in many European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The album went to number-one in the UK and Belgium, Top 5 in the Netherlands and Germany and Top 20 in many other countries. "Under Attack", the group's final release before disbanding, was a Top 5 hit in the Netherlands and Belgium.
"I Am the City" and "Just Like That" were left unreleased on The Singles: The First Ten Years for possible inclusion on the next projected studio album, though this never came to fruition. "I Am the City" was eventually released on the compilation album More ABBA Gold in 1993, while "Just Like That" has been recycled in new songs with other artists produced by Andersson and Ulvaeus. A reworked version of the verses ended up in the musical Chess. The chorus section of "Just Like That" was eventually released on a retrospective box set in 1994, as well as in the ABBA Undeleted medley featured on disc 9 of The Complete Studio Recordings. Despite a number of requests from fans, Ulvaeus and Andersson are still refusing to release ABBA's version of "Just Like That" in its entirety, even though the complete version surfaced on bootlegs.
The group travelled to London to promote The Singles: The First Ten Years in the first week of November 1982, appearing on Saturday Superstore and The Late, Late Breakfast Show, and also to West Germany in the second week, to perform on Show Express. On 19 November 1982, ABBA appeared for the last time in Sweden on the TV programme Nöjesmaskinen, and on 11 December 1982, they made their last performance ever, transmitted to the UK on Noel Edmonds' The Late, Late Breakfast Show, through a live link from a TV studio in Stockholm.
Andersson and Ulvaeus began collaborating with Tim Rice in early 1983 on writing songs for the musical project Chess, while Fältskog and Lyngstad both concentrated on international solo careers. While Andersson and Ulvaeus were working on the musical, a further co-operation among the three of them came with the musical Abbacadabra that was produced in France for television. It was a children's musical utilising 14 ABBA songs. Alain and Daniel Boublil, who wrote Les Misérables, had been in touch with Stig Anderson about the project, and the TV musical was aired over Christmas on French TV and later a Dutch version was also broadcast. Boublil previously also wrote the French lyric for Mireille Mathieu's version of "The Winner Takes It All".
Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who had recently moved to Paris, participated in the French version, and recorded a single, "Belle", a duet with French singer Daniel Balavoine. The song was a cover of ABBA's 1976 instrumental track "Arrival". As the single "Belle" sold well in France, Cameron Mackintosh wanted to stage an English-language version of the show in London, with the French lyrics translated by David Wood and Don Black; Andersson and Ulvaeus got involved in the project, and contributed with one new song, "I Am the Seeker". "Abbacadabra" premiered on 8 December 1983 at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in London, to mixed reviews and full houses for eight weeks, closing on 21 January 1984. Lyngstad was also involved in this production, recording "Belle" in English as "Time", a duet with actor and singer B. A. Robertson: the single sold well, and was produced and recorded by Mike Batt. A year later, Lyngstad performed "I Have A Dream" with a children's choir at the United Nations Organisation Gala, in May 1984 at Geneva, Switzerland.
All four members made their (at the time, their final) public appearance as four friends more than as ABBA in January 1986, when they recorded a video of themselves performing an acoustic version of "Tivedshambo" (which was the first song written by their manager Stig Anderson), for a Swedish TV show honouring Anderson on his 55th birthday. The four had not seen each other for more than two years. That same year they also performed privately at another friend's 40th birthday: their old tour manager, Claes af Geijerstam. They sang a self-written song titled "Der Kleine Franz" that was later to resurface in Chess. Also in 1986, ABBA Live was released, featuring selections of live performances from the group's 1977 and 1979 tours. The four members were guests at the 50th birthday of Görel Hanser in 1999. Hanser was a long-time friend of all four, and also former secretary of Stig Anderson. Honouring Görel, ABBA performed a Swedish birthday song "Med En Enkel Tulipan" a cappella.
Benny Andersson has on several occasions performed old ABBA songs. In June 1992, he and Ulvaeus appeared with U2 at a Stockholm concert, singing the chorus of "Dancing Queen", and a few years later during the final performance of the B & B in Concert in Stockholm, Andersson joined the cast for an encore at the piano. Andersson frequently adds an ABBA song to the playlist when he performs with his BAO band. He also played the piano during new recordings of the ABBA songs "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" with opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter, and "When All Is Said and Done" with Swede Viktoria Tolstoy. In 2002, Andersson and Ulvaeus both performed an a cappella rendition of the first verse of "Fernando" as they accepted their Ivor Novello award in London. Lyngstad performed and recorded an a cappella version of "Dancing Queen" with the Swedish group the Real Group in 1993, and also re-recorded "I Have a Dream" with Swiss singer Dan Daniell in 2003.
ABBA has never officially announced the end of the group, but it has long been considered dissolved. Their final public performance together as ABBA was on the British TV programme The Late, Late Breakfast Show (live from Stockholm) on 11 December 1982. While reminiscing on "The Day Before You Came", Ulvaeus said: "we might have continued for a while longer if that had been a number one". In January 1983, Fältskog started recording sessions for a solo album, as Lyngstad had successfully released her album Something's Going On some months earlier. Ulvaeus and Andersson, meanwhile, started songwriting sessions for the musical Chess. In interviews at the time, Björn and Benny denied the split of ABBA ("Who are we without our ladies? Initials of Brigitte Bardot?"), and Lyngstad and Fältskog kept claiming in interviews that ABBA would come together for a new album repeatedly during 1983 and 1984. Internal strife between the group and their manager escalated and the band members sold their shares in Polar Music during 1983. Except for a TV appearance in 1986, the foursome did not come together publicly again until they were reunited at the Swedish premiere of the Mamma Mia! movie on 4 July 2008.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, following the premiere, Ulvaeus and Andersson confirmed that there was nothing that could entice them back on stage again. Ulvaeus said: "We will never appear on stage again. [...] There is simply no motivation to re-group. Money is not a factor and we would like people to remember us as we were. Young, exuberant, full of energy and ambition. I remember Robert Plant saying Led Zeppelin were a cover band now because they cover all their own stuff. I think that hit the nail on the head." However, on 3 January 2011, Fältskog, who has been long considered to be the most reclusive member of the group and a major obstacle to any reunion, raised the possibility of reuniting for a one-off engagement. She admitted that she has not yet brought the idea up to the other three members. In April 2013, she reiterated her hopes for reunion during an interview with Die Zeit, stating: "If they ask me, I'll say yes."
In a May 2013 interview, Fältskog, aged 63 at the time, confirmed that an ABBA reunion will never occur: "I think we have to accept that it will not happen, because we are too old and each one of us has their own life. Too many years have gone by since we stopped, and there's really no meaning in putting us together again." Fältskog further explained that the band members remained on amicable terms: "It's always nice to see each other now and then and to talk a little and to be a little nostalgic." In an April 2014 interview, Fältskog, when asked about whether the band might reunite for a new recording said: "It's difficult to talk about this because then all the news stories will be: 'ABBA is going to record another song!' But as long as we can sing and play, then why not? I would love to, but it's up to Björn and Benny."
2016–present: Reunion and upcoming hologram project
On 20 January 2016, all four original members of ABBA made a public appearance at Mamma Mia the Party in Stockholm. It was the first time all four original members of ABBA had appeared in public together since the Mamma Mia movie premiere 8 years earlier.
On 6 June 2016, the four members of ABBA appeared together for first time since 1986 at a private party at Berns Salonger in Stockholm, which was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Andersson and Ulvaeus' first meeting. Fältskog and Lyngstad sang the ABBA song "The Way Old Friends Do"  before they were joined on stage by Andersson and Ulvaeus. Some sources incorrectly reported that all four members performed the song, "Me and I". The confusion came from the opening lines of the song performed by Agnetha and Frida, "The Way Old Friends Do", as the opening lines to that song are, "You and I can share the silence".
British manager Simon Fuller announced in a statement in October 2016 that the group would be reuniting to work on a new 'digital entertainment experience'. The project will feature the members in their "life-like" hologram form based on their late 1970s tour and is set to launch by the spring of 2019.
Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus
In October 1984, Ulvaeus and Andersson together with lyricist Tim Rice released the musical concept double-album Chess. The singles "One Night in Bangkok" (with vocals by Murray Head and Anders Glenmark ) and "I Know Him So Well" (a duet by Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige, and later also recorded by both Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston) were both hugely successful. The former reached number-one in Australia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland; number-two in Austria, France and New Zealand; number-three in Canada, Norway, Sweden and the US, as well as reaching the top 10 in a few other countries. In May 1986, the musical premiered in London's West End, and ran for almost three years. Chess also opened on Broadway in April 1988, but closed within two months due to bad reviews. In Stockholm, the composers staged Chess på svenska (Chess in Swedish) in 2003, with some new material, including the musical numbers "Han är en man, han är ett barn" ("He's a Man, He's a Child") and "Glöm mig om du kan" ("Forget Me If You Can"). In 2008, the musical was again revived for a successful staging at London's Royal Albert Hall which was subsequently released on DVD, and then in two successful separate touring productions in the United States and United Kingdom, in 2010.
Andersson and Ulvaeus' next project, Kristina från Duvemåla, an epic Swedish musical, premiered in Malmö, in southern Sweden in October 1995. The musical ran for five years in Stockholm, and an English version has been in development for some considerable time. It has been reported that a Broadway production is in its earliest stages of pre-production. In the meantime, following some earlier workshops, a full presentation of the English translation of the musical in concert, now with the shortened name of "Kristina", took place to capacity crowds in September 2009 at New York's Carnegie Hall, and in April 2010 at London's Royal Albert Hall, followed by a CD release of the New York recordings.
Since 1983, besides Chess and Kristina från Duvemåla, Benny Andersson has continued writing songs with Ulvaeus. The pair produced two English-language pop albums with Swedish duo Gemini in 1985 and 1987. In 1987, Andersson also released his first solo album on his own label, Mono Music, called "Klinga mina klockor" ("Ring My Bells"), all new material inspired by Swedish folk music – and followed it with his second album titled November 1989.
During the 1990s, Andersson wrote music for the popular Swedish cabaret quartet Ainbusk Singers, giving them two hits: "Lassie" and "Älska mig" ("Love me"), and later produced Shapes, an English-language album by group's Josefin Nilsson with all-new material by Andersson and Ulvaeus. Andersson has also regularly written music for films (most notably to Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor). In 2001, Andersson formed his own band, Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO), which released three successful albums in 2001, 2004 and 2007. Andersson has the distinction of remaining the longest in the Swedish Radio Svensktoppen charts; the song "Du är min man" ("You Are My Man"), sung by Helen Sjöholm, spent 278 weeks there between 2004 and 2009. Andersson released his third album BAO 3 in October 2007, of new material with his band BAO and vocalists Helen Sjöholm and Tommy Körberg, as well as playing to full houses at two of Sweden's largest concert venues in October and November 2007, with an audience of 14,000.
Ulvaeus has not appeared on stage performing music since ABBA, but had a reunion with his co-members of the Hootenanny Singers on 16 July 2005 at a music festival in his hometown of Västervik, singing their 1966 hit "Marianne".
Andersson and Ulvaeus have been highly involved in the worldwide productions of the musical Mamma Mia!, alongside Lyngstad who attends premieres. They were also involved in the production of the successful film version of the musical, which opened in July 2008. Andersson produced the soundtrack utilising many of the musicians ABBA used on their albums and tours. Andersson made a cameo appearance in the movie as a 'fisherman' piano player in the "Dancing Queen" scene, while Ulvaeus is seen as a Greek god playing a lyre during the closing credits.
Andersson and Ulvaeus have continuously been writing new material; most recently the two wrote 7 songs for Anderssons 'BAO' 2011 album 'O Klang Och Jubeltid', performed as usual by vocalists Sjöholm, Körberg and Moreus. In July 2009, 'BAO' released their first international release, now named the Benny Andersson Band, with the album The Story of a Heart. The album was a compilation of 14 tracks from Andersson's five Swedish-language releases between 1987 and 2007, including five songs now recorded with lyrics by Ulvaeus in English, and the new title song premiered on BBC2's Ken Bruce Show. A Swedish-language version of the title track, "Sommaren Du Fick" ("The Summer You Got"), was released as a single in Sweden prior to the English version, with vocals by Helen Sjöholm. In May 2009, Andersson also released a single recorded by the staff at his privately owned Stockholm hotel Hotel Rival, titled "2nd Best to None", accompanied by a video showing the staff at work. In 2008, Andersson and Ulvaeus wrote a song for Swedish singer Sissela Kyle, titled "Jag vill bli gammal" ("I Wanna Grow Old"), for her Stockholm stage show "Your Days Are Numbered", which was never recorded and released, but did get a TV performance. Ulvaeus also contributed lyrics to ABBA's 1976 instrumental track "Arrival" for Sarah Brightman's cover version recorded for her 2008 album Winter Symphony. New English lyrics have also been written for Andersson's 1999 song "Innan Gryningen" (then also named "Millennium Hymn"), with the new title "The Silence of the Dawn" for Barbara Dickson (performed live, but not yet recorded and released). In 2007, they wrote the new song "Han som har vunnit allt" ("He Who's Won It All") for actor/singer Anders Ekborg. Björn wrote English lyrics for two older songs from Benny's solo albums: "I Walk with You Mama" ("Stockholm by Night", 1989) and "After the Rain" ("Efter regnet", 1987) for opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter, for her Andersson tribute album I Let the Music Speak. Barbara Dickson recorded (but not yet released) a Björn & Benny song called "The Day The Wall Came Tumbling Down"; the song eventually was released by Australian 'Mamma Mia!' musical star Anne Wood 201 album of ABBA covers, Divine Discontent. As of October 2012, Björn Ulvaeus has mentioned writing new material with Benny for a 'BAO' Christmas release (also mentioned as a BAO 'box'), and Benny is busy writing music for a Swedish language obscure musical, 'Hjälp Sökes' ('Help is Wanted') together with Kristina Lugn and Lars Rudolfsson, premiering 8 February 2013. Andersson has also written music for a documentary film about Olof Palme, re-recording the track 'Sorgmarch' from his last album throughout the film.
Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad
Both female members of ABBA pursued solo careers on the international scene after their work with the group. In 1982, Lyngstad chose Genesis drummer and vocalist Phil Collins to produce the album Something's Going On and unveiled the hit single and video "I Know There's Something Going On" in August of that year. The single became a number-one hit in France (where it spent five weeks at the top), Belgium, Switzerland and Costa Rica. The track reached number-three in Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Poland, and was also a Top 10 hit in Germany, Italy, Finland, South Africa and Australia. The track also proved successful in the USA, peaking at No. 13 (and spending almost four months on the Billboard Hot 100). Sveriges Television documented this historical event, by filming the whole recording process. The result became a one-hour TV documentary, including interviews with Lyngstad, Collins, Ulvaeus and Andersson as well as all the musicians. This documentary and the promotion videos from the album are included in Frida – The DVD.
Lyngstad's second solo album after ABBA was called Shine, produced by Steve Lillywhite. Shine was recorded in Paris and released in 1984. Shine was Lyngstad's final studio album release for twelve years. It featured "Slowly", the last known Andersson-Ulvaeus composition to have been recorded by one of the former female ABBA vocalists to date. The promotion videos and clips for "Shine" are included in Frida – The DVD.
In 1980, Agnetha Fältskog and her 7-year-old daughter Linda recorded Nu tändas tusen juleljus, a Swedish Christmas album. Released in 1981, it was Fältskog's first Swedish-language recording for the Polar Music label after she left CBS-Cupol. It peaked at No. 6 on the Swedish album chart in January 1982, has been re-released on CD by Polar Music/PolyGram/Universal Music in the 1990s and 2000s, and is one of the best-selling Swedish Christmas albums of all time. The album title is derived from one of Scandinavia's best-known Christmas carols, "Nu tändas tusen juleljus" (Now a thousand Christmas candles are lit).
In 1983, Fältskog released the solo album Wrap Your Arms Around Me which achieved platinum sales in Sweden. This included the single "The Heat Is On", which was a hit all over Europe and Scandinavia. It reached number-one in Sweden and Norway and number-two in the Netherlands and Belgium. In the United States, Fältskog earned a Billboard Top 30 hit with "Can't Shake Loose". The single "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" was another successful hit, topping the charts in Belgium and Denmark, reaching the Top 5 in Sweden, the Netherlands and South Africa, and the Top 20 in Germany and France. The album sold 1.2 million copies worldwide. The album was produced by the highly successful producer and songwriter Mike Chapman, also known for his work with the Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro, Blondie, Pat Benatar and the Knack.
"It's So Nice to be Rich" was Agnetha's fourth top ten hit in Sweden in 1983. Her duet with Tomas Ledin, "Never Again", was the first.
Fältskog's second English-language solo album, Eyes of a Woman, was released in March 1985. It peaked at number two in Sweden (becoming a platinum seller), and performing reasonably well in Europe. The album was produced by Eric Stewart of 10cc. The first single from the album was her self-penned "I Won't Let You Go". Agnetha's duet with Ola Håkansson, "The Way You Are", was a number-one hit in Sweden in 1986 and was awarded double platinum status.
In early 1987, Agnetha recorded an album "Kom följ med I vår karusell" ('Come ride with me on my carousel') with her son Christian. The album contained songs for children and was sung in Swedish. For the album Agnetha recorded duets with her son and with a choir of children. She also recorded a few solo songs. The single 'Pa Sondag' was much played at the radio and even made the Swedish top 10, unique for a song made for kids to enjoy.
Also in 1987, Fältskog released her third post-ABBA solo album, the Peter Cetera-produced I Stand Alone, which also included the Billboard Adult Contemporary duet with Cetera, "I Wasn't the One (Who Said Goodbye)", as well as the European charting singles "The Last Time" and "Let It Shine". The album was extremely successful in Sweden, where it spent eight weeks at number-one and was awarded double-platinum. Shortly after some minor European promotion for the album in early 1988, Fältskog withdrew from public life and halted her music career. In 1996, she released her autobiography, As I Am, and a compilation album featuring her solo hits alongside some ABBA classics.
In 2004, she made a successful comeback, when she released the critically acclaimed album My Colouring Book containing 1960s covers who had the most impact on her teenage years as a music contender. It debuted at number-one in Sweden (achieving triple-platinum status), number-six in Germany, and number 12 in the UK, winning a silver award, and achieving gold status in Finland. The single "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind" (a cover of the Cilla Black 1960s song) became Fältskog's biggest solo hit in the United Kingdom, reaching number 11. The single peaked at number-two in Sweden and was a hit throughout Scandinavia and Europe. A further single, "When You Walk in the Room", was released but met with less success, only peaking at number 34 in the United Kingdom. In January 2007, she sang a live duet on stage with Swedish singer Tommy Körberg at the after party for the final performance of the musical, Mamma Mia!, in Stockholm, at which Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus were also present.
In 1992, Lyngstad had been asked and chosen to be the chairperson for the environmental organisation "Artister för miljön" (Artists for the Environment) in Sweden. She became chairperson for this organisation from 1992 to 1995. To mark her interests for the environment, she recorded the Julian Lennon song "Saltwater" and performed it live in Stockholm. She arranged and financed summer camps for poor children in Sweden, focusing on environmental and ecological issues. Her environmental work for this organisation led up to the decision to record again. The album Djupa andetag (Deep Breaths) was released towards the end of 1996 and became a success in Sweden, where it reached number-one. The lyrics for the single from this album, "Även en blomma" ("Even a Flower"), deal with environmental issues. In 2004, Lyngstad recorded a song called "The Sun Will Shine Again", written especially for her and released with former Deep Purple member Jon Lord. The couple made several TV performances with this song in Germany. Lyngstad lives a relatively low-profile life but occasionally appears at a party or charity function. On 26 August 1992, she married Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen, of the German Reuss family. Reuss von Plauen died of lymphoma in 1999 at the age of 49. In addition to losing her husband, Lyngstad had also lost her daughter Lise-Lotte in a car crash a year earlier.
On 5 December 2005, Universal released her box set, Frida – 4xCD 1xDVD, consisting of the solo albums she recorded for the Polar Label and the 31⁄2-hour documentary Frida – The DVD. On this DVD, which covers her entire singing career, the viewer is guided by Lyngstad herself through the years from her TV debut in Sweden in 1967 to the TV performances she made in Germany in 2004. Many rare clips are included in the set and each performance is explained by Lyngstad herself. The interview with Lyngstad was filmed in the Swiss Alps in mid-2005.
Lyngstad returned to the recording studio in 2010 to record vocals for the Cat Stevens song "Morning Has Broken", for Swedish guitarist Georg Wadenius's October 2010 album Reconnection. The album, which featured other guest vocalists, reached number 17 in the Swedish charts.
In May 2013, Fältskog released a solo album entitled A through Universal International. In a promotional interview, Fältskog explained that the album was unplanned and it was after she heard the first three songs that she felt that she "had to do this [record the album]". She also revealed that she completed singing lessons prior to recording A, as she felt "a bit rusty" in her throat. Fältskog stated that she would not be undertaking any tours or live performances in support of the album, explaining: "I'm not that young anymore. I don’t have the energy to do that, and also I don’t want to travel too much." The title of the album was conceived of by the studio production team. "A" has been very successful, earning her four Gold Records in the UK (where it peaked at number-six), Australia, Germany and Sweden. In the UK and Australia, "A" was in the top 100 albums of 2013.
Resurgence of public interest
The same year the members of ABBA went their separate ways, the French production of a "tribute" show (a children's TV musical named Abbacadabra using 14 ABBA songs) spawned new interest in the group's music.
After receiving little attention during the mid-to-late-1980s, ABBA's music experienced a resurgence in the early 1990s due to the UK synth-pop duo Erasure, who released a cover extended play featuring versions of ABBA songs which topped the charts in 1992. As U2 arrived in Stockholm for a concert in June of that year, the band paid homage to ABBA by inviting Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson to join them on stage for a rendition of "Dancing Queen", playing guitar and keyboards. September 1992 saw the release of ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits, a new compilation album. The single "Dancing Queen" received radio airplay in the UK in the middle of 1992 to promote the album. The song returned to the Top 20 of the UK singles chart in August that year, this time peaking at number 16.
The enormous interest in the ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits compilation saw the release of More ABBA Gold: More ABBA Hits in 1993.
In 1994, two Australian cult films caught the attention of the world's media, both focusing on admiration for ABBA: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding. The same year, Thank You for the Music, a four-disc box set comprising all the group's hits and stand-out album tracks, was released with the involvement of all four members. "By the end of the twentieth century", American critic Chuck Klosterman wrote a decade later, "it was far more contrarian to hate ABBA than to love them."
ABBA were soon recognised and embraced by other acts: Evan Dando of the Lemonheads recorded a cover version of "Knowing Me, Knowing You"; Sinéad O'Connor and Boyzone's Stephen Gately have recorded "Chiquitita"; Tanita Tikaram, Blancmange and Steven Wilson paid tribute to "The Day Before You Came". Cliff Richard covered "Lay All Your Love on Me", while Dionne Warwick, Peter Cetera, and Celebrity Skin recorded their versions of "SOS". US alternative-rock musician Marshall Crenshaw has also been known to play a version of "Knowing Me, Knowing You" in concert appearances, while legendary English Latin pop songwriter Richard Daniel Roman has recognised ABBA as a major influence. Swedish metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen covered "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" with slightly altered lyrics.
Two different compilation albums of ABBA songs have been released. ABBA: A Tribute coincided with the 25th anniversary celebration and featured 17 songs, some of which were recorded especially for this release. Notable tracks include Go West's "One of Us", Army of Lovers "Hasta Mañana", Information Society's "Lay All Your Love on Me", Erasure's "Take a Chance on Me" (with MC Kinky), and Lyngstad's a cappella duet with the Real Group of "Dancing Queen". A second 12-track album was released in 1999, entitled ABBAmania, with proceeds going to the Youth Music charity in England. It featured all new cover versions: notable tracks were by Madness ("Money, Money, Money"), Culture Club ("Voulez-Vous"), the Corrs ("The Winner Takes It All"), Steps ("Lay All Your Love on Me", "I Know Him So Well"), and a medley entitled "Thank ABBA for the Music" performed by several artists and as featured on the Brits Awards that same year.
In 1997, an ABBA tribute group was formed, the ABBA Teens, which was subsequently renamed the A-Teens to allow the group some independence. The group's first album, "The ABBA Generation", consisting solely of ABBA covers reimagined as 1990s pop songs, was a worldwide success and so were subsequent albums. The group disbanded in 2004 due to a gruelling schedule and intentions to go solo.
In Sweden, the growing recognition of the legacy of Andersson and Ulvaeus resulted in the 1998 B & B Concerts, a tribute concert (with Swedish singers who had worked with the songwriters through the years) showcasing not only their ABBA years, but hits both before and after ABBA. The concert was a success, and was ultimately released on CD. It later toured Scandinavia and even went to Beijing in the People's Republic of China for two concerts.
In 2000, ABBA was reported to have turned down an offer of approximately US$1,000,000,000 (one billion US dollars) to do a reunion tour consisting of 100 concerts.
For the 2004 semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Istanbul 30 years after ABBA had won the contest in Brighton, all four members made cameo appearances in a special comedy video made for the interval act, entitled "Our Last Video Ever". Other well-known stars such as Rik Mayall, Cher and Iron Maiden's Eddie also made appearances in the video. It was not included in the official DVD release of the Eurovision Contest, but was issued as a separate DVD release, retitled The Last Video at the request of the former ABBA members.
In 2005, all four members of ABBA appeared at the Stockholm premiere of the musical Mamma Mia!.
On 22 October 2005, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Eurovision Song Contest, "Waterloo" was chosen as the best song in the competition's history.
On 4 July 2008, all four ABBA members were reunited at the Swedish premiere of the film Mamma Mia!. It was only the second time all of them had appeared together in public since 1986. During the appearance, they re-emphasised that they intended never to officially reunite, citing the opinion of Robert Plant that the re-formed Led Zeppelin was more like a cover band of itself than the original band. Ulvaeus stated that he wanted the band to be remembered as they were during the peak years of their success.
The compilation album ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits, originally released in 1992, returned to number-one in the UK album charts for the fifth time on 3 August 2008. On 14 August 2008, the Mamma Mia! The Movie film soundtrack went to number-one on the US Billboard charts, ABBA's first US chart-topping album. During the band's heyday the highest album chart position they had ever achieved in America was number 14.
In November 2008, all eight studio albums, together with a ninth of rare tracks, was released as The Albums. It hit several charts, peaking at number-four in Sweden and reaching the Top 10 in several other European territories.
In 2008, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, in collaboration with Universal Music Group Sweden AB, released SingStar ABBA on both the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 games consoles, as part of the SingStar music video games. The PS2 version features 20 ABBA songs, while 25 songs feature on the PS3 version.
On 22 January 2009, Fältskog and Lyngstad appeared together on stage to receive the Swedish music award "Rockbjörnen" (for "lifetime achievement"). In an interview, the two women expressed their gratitude for the honorary award and thanked their fans.
On 25 November 2009, PRS for Music announced that the British public voted ABBA as the band they would most like to see re-form.
On 27 January 2010, ABBAWORLD, a 25-room touring exhibition featuring interactive and audiovisual activities, debuted at Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London. According to the exhibition's website, ABBAWORLD is "approved and fully supported" by the band members.
"Mamma Mia" was released as one of the first few non-premium song selections for the online RPG game Bandmaster. On 17 May 2011, "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" was added as a non-premium song selection for the Bandmaster Philippines server. On 15 November 2011, Ubisoft released a dancing game called ABBA: You Can Dance for the Wii.
In January 2012, Universal Music announced the re-release of ABBA's final album The Visitors, featuring a previously unheard track "From a Twinkling Star to a Passing Angel".
A book entitled ABBA: The Official Photo Book was published in early 2014 to mark the 40-year anniversary of the band's Eurovision victory. The book reveals that part of the reason for the band's outrageous costumes was that Swedish tax laws at the time allowed the cost of garish outfits that were not suitable for daily wear to be tax deductible.
A sequel to the 2008 movie "Mamma Mia!", titled "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again", was announced on 20 May 2017 and is expected to be released on 20 July 2018.
In June 2017, a blue plaque outside Brighton Dome was set to commemorate their 1974 Eurovision win.
ABBA were perfectionists in the studio, working on tracks until they got them right rather than leaving them to come back later on.
The band created a basic rhythm track with a drummer, guitarist and bass player, and overlaid other arrangements and instruments. Vocals were then added, and orchestra overdubs were usually left until last.
Agnetha and Frida contributed ideas at the studio stage. Benny and Björn played them in the backing tracks and they made comments and suggestions. According to Agnetha, she and Frida had the final say in how the lyrics were shaped. -- "When we gather around the piano to get our voices tuned up, we often come up with things we can use in the backing vocals." After vocals and overdubs were done, the band took up to five days to mix a song.
Fashion, style, videos, advertising campaigns
ABBA was widely noted for the colourful and trend-setting costumes its members wore. The reason for the wild costumes was Swedish tax law. The cost of the clothes was deductible only if they could not be worn other than for performances. Choreography by Graham Tainton also contributed to their performance style.
The videos that accompanied some of the band's biggest hits are often cited as being among the earliest examples of the genre. Most of ABBA's videos (and ABBA: The Movie) were directed by Lasse Hallström, who would later direct the films My Life as a Dog, The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.
ABBA made videos because their songs were hits in many different countries and personal appearances were not always possible. This was also done in an effort to minimise travelling, particularly to countries that would have required extremely long flights. Fältskog and Ulvaeus had two young children and Fältskog, who was also afraid of flying, was very reluctant to leave her children for such a long time. ABBA's manager, Stig Anderson, realised the potential of showing a simple video clip on television to publicise a single or album, thereby allowing easier and quicker exposure than a concert tour. Some of these videos became classics because of the 1970s-era costumes and early video effects, such as the grouping of the band members in different combinations of pairs, overlapping one singer's profile with the other's full face, and the contrasting of one member against another.
In 1976, ABBA participated in a high-profile advertising campaign by the Matsushita Electric Industrial (today's Panasonic), which was designed to promote the brand National. This campaign was designed initially for Australia, where "National" was still the primary brand used by Matsushita, who had not introduced the "Panasonic" brand to Australia yet despite its widespread use in other parts of the world. However, the campaign was also aired in Japan. Five commercials, each approximately one minute long, were produced, each using the "National Song" sung by ABBA, which used the melody and instrumental arrangement of "Fernando", adapted with new lyrics promoting National, and working in several slogans used by National in their advertising.
In September 2010, band members Andersson and Ulvaeus criticised the right-wing Danish People's Party (DF) for using the ABBA song "Mamma Mia" (with modified lyrics) at rallies. The band threatened to file a lawsuit against the DF, saying they never allowed their music to be used politically and that they had absolutely no interest in supporting the party. Their record label Universal Music later said that no legal action would be taken because an agreement had been reached.
Success in the United States
During their active career, from 1972 to 1982, ABBA placed twenty singles on the Billboard Hot 100, fourteen of which made the top 40 (13 on the Cashbox Top 100) and ten of which made the Top 20 on both charts. A total of four of those singles reached the Top 10, including "Dancing Queen" which reached number-one in April 1977. While "Fernando" and "SOS" did not break the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching number 13 and 15 respectively, they did reach the Top 10 on Cashbox ("Fernando") and Record World ("SOS") charts. Both "Dancing Queen" and "Take A Chance On Me" were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies each.
The group also had 12 Top 20 singles on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart with two of them, "Fernando" and "The Winner Takes It All", reaching number-one. "Lay All Your Love on Me" was ABBA's fourth number-one single on a Billboard chart, topping the Hot Dance Club Play chart. The singles "Dancing Queen" and "Take a Chance on Me" were certified gold (more than 1 million copies sold) by the RIAA.
Nine ABBA albums made their way into the top half of the Billboard 200 album chart, with seven of them reaching the Top 50 and four reaching the Top 20. ABBA: The Album was the highest-charting album of the group's career, peaking at No. 14. Five albums received RIAA gold certification (more than 500,000 copies sold), while three acquired platinum status (selling more than one million copies).
The album, More Abba Gold, was released in the United States in 1993. It topped the Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums chart in August 2008, being the group’s first number one album ever on any of the Billboard album charts. It sold 7x Platinum (1x Platinum = one million copies). It contains the previously unreleased single, I Am the City.
On 15 March 2010, ABBA were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bee Gees members Barry Gibb and Robin Gibb. The ceremony was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The group was represented by Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson.
- Agnetha Fältskog – lead vocals
- Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad – lead vocals
- Björn Ulvaeus – rhythm guitar, vocals
- Benny Andersson – keyboards, vocals
- Abbaesque – An Irish ABBA tribute band
- A*Teens – A pop music group from Stockholm, Sweden
- Björn Again – The earliest-formed ABBA tribute band (1988)
- The Concert – A Swedish ABBA tribute band
- Gabba – An ABBA–Ramones tribute band that covers the former in the style of the latter, the name being a pun on "Gabba Gabba Hey".
- Abbacadabra – A French children's musical based on songs from ABBA
- Abba-esque – A 1992 cover EP by Erasure
- Abbasalutely – A compilation album released in 1995 as a tribute album to ABBA
- Mamma Mia! – A musical stage show based on songs of ABBA
- ABBAmania – An ITV programme and tribute album to ABBA released in 1999
- Mamma Mia! – A film adaption of the musical stage show
- Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – An upcoming sequel to the original film
- ABBA: You Can Dance – A dance video game released by Ubisoft in 2011 with songs from ABBA and also a spin-off of Just Dance video game series
- Ring Ring (1973)
- Waterloo (1974)
- ABBA (1975)
- Arrival (1976)
- The Album (1977)
- Voulez-Vous (1979)
- Super Trouper (1980)
- The Visitors (1981)
- 1973: Swedish Folkpark Tour
- 1974–75: European Tour
- 1977: European & Australian Tour
- 1979–80: ABBA: The Tour
Awards and nominations
- ABBA: The Museum
- ABBA City Walks – Stockholm City Museum
- List of best-selling music artists
- List of Swedes in music
- Music of Sweden
- Swedish popular music
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
- Official website
- "ABBA". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- ABBAinter.net TV-performances archive
- ABBA discography at Discogs
- ABBA Songs – ABBA Album and Song details.