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A memorable team

The 28th episode of my fortnightly programs on music on AIR Delhi FM Gold saw my generous host Kiran Misra Ji asking me to present my selection of a band that was so popular ( and remains so, 50 years later) when I was growing up: ABBA.

The ABBA story began in Sweden, more than five decades ago when we look back today. In June 1966, Björn Ulvaeus then 21, met Benny Andersson, then 20 for the first time. Björn was a member of a very popular folk music group, while Benny played keyboards very well in Sweden’s biggest pop group of the 1960s, The Hep Stars. Benny remained the keyboards singer with ABBA.
They wrote their first song together just a few weeks later, and by the end of the 60s decade they had established a regular partnership as lyricists and composers. They released their records on the Polar Music record label, owned by Stig Anderson who was to later become ABBA’s manager. Stig also contributed lyrics to many ABBA hits during the first years of the group’s career.

In the spring of 1969, Björn and Benny met the two members who went on to become the other half of ABBA. Agnetha Fältskog, had been a successful solo singer since releasing her first single in 1967. She and Björn married in 1971. Anni-Frid Lyngstad also known as Frida, started her recording career actually shortly before Agnetha. Frida was of Norwegian origin, but had moved to Sweden at a very early age. Benny and Frida became a couple in the band but didn’t get married until 1978.

At first, the four members collaborated musically mainly by contributing songs, instrumental backing, production work or backing vocals to the recordings they each made as solo or duo acts. In 1970, the attractive sound of their four voices combined gave them the idea to put together the Festfolk. This first attempt at a collaboration was not successful, however.

In the spring of 1972 the group recorded a song called “People Need Love”, garnering a medium-sized hit in Sweden. At this time, they called themselves Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid. Encouraged by this success they entered the 1973 Melodifestivalen, the Swedish selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, with the song “Ring Ring”. They finished third, but the single and the album of the same name were the biggest hits of the year in Sweden, competing for the top positions on the charts. “Ring Ring” also became a hit in several other European countries.

The group entered Melodifestivalen again in 1974, this time with “Waterloo”, which took them all the way to the Eurovision finals in Brighton, England. By this time they had changed their name to ABBA, an acronym of their first names.The Eurovision Song Contest of April 1974 turned out to be the most famous moment in ABBA history, when the group won the international juries over with “Waterloo”.
Soon after this triumph, “Waterloo” was #1 on the charts all over Europe, even reaching the Top Ten in the US, where the Eurovision Song Contest had no impact. The album of the same name was also a huge hit in Sweden. However, the stigma of being winners of the Eurovision Song Contest made it difficult for ABBA to be taken seriously when they tried to follow this first success. It wasn’t until some 18 months later that they got a major worldwide hit again with “SOS”, taken off their third album, simply entitled ABBA.

“Mamma Mia”, is quite literally a perfect pop song and the
work of pop experimentation, an absolute treasure trove for music geeks with those in the know, that have long acknowledged the compositional prowess of ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson, it is surely one of the most overtly ingenious pop songs the duo ever wrote (or anyone could possibly have). Right at the beginning, with that marimba and piano line, oscillating back and forth , it’s an iconic motif, one that defines the song completely . But within its simple expression, there are subtleties – consider how the accent is on the off-beat, how it prefigures the whole song’s playful use of syncopation. Already, within the first few seconds, we’ve a musical representation of the song’s flighty prevailing characteristic trait.
When a duo of electric guitars and synthesizer join the marimba, introducing us to the melody which Anni-Frid and Agnetha sing later, this too is subject to ingenious ornamentation. Listen closely and you’ll hear the same trilled triplets that we can also hear in their hit song “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, establishing something of a stylistic tic, the equivalent of how Mozart would end countless concerto phrase with a trill and a resolution.

An oboe interspersing the vocal phrases is a deliberate instrumental choice, one that lends the verse a baroque refinement, an agreeable stuffiness which is blown to bits by the arrival of a thundering pre-chorus: “Just! One! Look!”

How many songs can anyone name where the chorus is the quietest bit of the whole song especially after such a texturally thick pre-chorus section, returning to the marimba/piano of the intro surrounds, the refrain in a delicate musical bubble, punctuated only by whispering strings and, finally, a return to the full-band for the second half? And this is just in the first 80 seconds. It’s that deft control of musical texture that allows ABBA to run the emotional gamut from staunch defiance to unavoidable vulnerability and back again (at least twice) in three-and-a-half minutes. From that blank opening passage, the tonally ambiguous thudding, through to the pleading chorus that performs (“Why why / Did I ever let you go?”) – it’s all mirrored in the texture and instrumentation. Bass for defiance, gutsy guitar scrapes and the absence of texture for the chorus itself.
For reference, it’d probably take an accomplished composer about half an hour to manage all that, and the end result would be the same.

Thoughtfully composed with lyrics that actually match the music (surprising how often this doesn’t happen), there are endless corners for theory geeks to explore. Put simply, it’s a music lover’s dream, but one that wears its genius lightly.

Also with the ABBA album, the group returned to the UK #1 spot, which they occupied a total of nine times between 1974 and 1980. “Mamma Mia” their best was #1 for ten weeks in Australia, which was the first territory to release it as a single. Over the next couple of years, Australia would be caught up in a virtual ABBA fever, giving the group a total of six #1 hits.

In 1976 ABBA finally and firmly established themselves as one of the most popular groups in the world. The various hits compilations conquering the world during this period (entitled Greatest Hits or The Best Of ABBA) became global blockbusters. Classic single releases such as “Fernando” and “Dancing Queen” topped the charts all over the world, including the US (in 1977) – “Dancing Queen’” was ABBA’s first and only Stateside #1.
In late 1976 ABBA’s fourth album, “Arrival”, was released. The album stormed up the charts and spawned hits which was followed by a concert tour of Europe and Australia between January and March 1977. The tour was a complete success with capacity houses everywhere. When the tour reached Australia, work was also begun on the feature film “ABBA – The Movie”. The premiere of the film in 1977 coincided with the release of “ABBA – The Album”.
The spring of 1978 saw the group embarking on a major promotional campaign in the US, leading to a Top Three single and a Top Twenty entry for ABBA – The Album. The hit singles ‘ were followed by ABBA’s sixth album, Voulez-Vous, released in 1979.
Another single was released in the autumn of 1979, coinciding with a major tour of Canada, the United States and Europe. Around the same time a second compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, became an international success.

At the end of 1981, ABBA’s eighth album, The Visitors, was released, which also met with great success.
Through the course of 1982 , Björn and Benny set their sights on writing the musical Chess and Agnetha and Frida were busy with their solo careers. The only ABBA LP release this year was a compilation double album of their hit singles, entitled The Singles – The First Ten Years, including two new songs. Thereafter they took a break and more than three decades after ABBA’s “temporary break”, the group’s music lives on: the 1990s saw the beginning of a major revival, with successful cover versions and high-profile movies using ABBA songs on their soundtracks attracting a great deal of attention. The compilation CD ABBA Gold, released in 1992, has sold more than 31 million copies. The 1993 companion album, More ABBA Gold, went on to sell 3 million copies. The box set “Thank You For The Music”  followed in 1994, containing all the hits, selected album tracks, plus rare and previously unreleased recordings.

The hugely successful musical “Mamma Mia!”, based on the songs of ABBA, premiered in London in 1999. The musical opened on Broadway two years later, and quickly spread across the globe; and it’s been seen by more than 60 million people in over 440 cities. The premiere in ABBA’s home country of Sweden in February 2005 was attended by Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida. A hugely successful movie version of “Mamma Mia!”, starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, opened in July 2008. The Stockholm opening of the movie was attended by the four ABBA members.

Since the start of the 21st Century, Polar Music International and Universal Music have continually upgraded the ABBA catalogue. ABBA’s eight original studio albums and their Spanish-language 1980 album Gracias por la mùsica, have been reissued as expanded Deluxe Editions, featuring DVDs containing previously unissued television performances and other rarities with additional bonus tracks, revised artwork and expanded booklets featuring detailed essays about the albums by ABBA historian Carl Magnus Palm. In 2014, the double-album Live At Wembley Arena was issued, the first-ever release of a complete ABBA live concert.

The compilation albums ABBA Gold and ABBA Oro have also been reissued with revised booklets and updated liner notes, while a double-CD entitled “The Essential”. The Collection compiles ABBA singles. A comprehensive box set, The Complete Studio Recordings, was released in 2005, receiving spectacular press reviews. A box set entitled ABBA – The Vinyl Collection, containing vinyl reissues of ABBA’s eight original studio LPs, was released in 2010. There have also been further vinyl re-releases of ABBA’s music, such as the 45 RPM half-speed mastered double vinyl edition of Arrival, issued to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album in 2016, and the similar release of ABBA – The Album in 2017, celebrating its 40th anniversary.
ABBA’s legendary videos, most of which were helmed by renowned director Lasse Hallström, have been collected on the DVD version of The Essential Collection, featuring the remastered original film clips. The two live concert films ABBA – The Movie and ABBA In Concert have been restored and re-released on DVD, with bonus material. Other DVD releases include ABBA In Japan (featuring a vintage television special) and the short film The Last Video, which featured cameo appearances from the ABBA members.

Today, ABBA are regarded as one of the all-time classic pop acts, acknowledged by their 2010 induction into the “Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame”. That same year saw the London opening of ABBAWORLD, an authorized touring exhibition and interactive experience. The project was endorsed by the former members of the band, who also contributed items and personal video interviews. The exhibition eventually found a permanent home at ABBA The Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Opening in May 2013, the museum was an instant success: as of early 2018, the museum has attracted more than 1.5 million visitors.
In January 2016, a dinner show concept called Mamma Mia! The Party opened in Stockholm. The opening was attended by all four ABBA members, causing international headlines when they decided to stand together briefly and wave to the audience. This was the first opportunity in three decades to capture the four members together exclusively in one and the same photograph.

In 2018 a sequel of the movie Mamma Mia! was released – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again allowed the original cast to reprise their roles, and also feature a cameo from Cher.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, ABBA’s Voulez-Vous was reissued as a multi-format including a 2LP half-speed 180g vinyl, mastered at Abbey Road, cut at 45RPM. A coloured-vinyl 7″ single box set, collecting 7 singles released in the era of the Voulez-Vous album and each single released as a limited-edition standalone picture disc.
ABBA Gold, originally released in 1992, passed its 900th week on the UK Official Albums Chart, making it the longest-running Top 100 album of all time.
Super Trouper, the album that soundtracked the Christmas season and far beyond 40 years was celebrated. The album was reissued as a multi-format release including a 2LP half-speed 180g vinyl, mastered at Abbey Road, cut at 45RPM. A coloured-vinyl 7″ single box set, collecting 3 singles released from the album and each single released as a limited-edition standalone picture disc.

Here is a complete recording of the program as it happened on AIR Delhi FM Gold on 13th June 2022.

Perhaps the most famous event in ABBA history is their victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in April 1974. In front of hundreds of millions of television viewers, they performed “Waterloo”, and achieved a breakthrough that would make them one of the biggest acts of the 1970s. If one has studied the group a little more in-depth one is probably aware that they almost chose the ballad, “Hasta Mañana”, as the song to enter into the Swedish selection for Eurovision but they decided against it because the more rocky “Waterloo”, was how they wanted to project themselves to an international audience at that time.
But if contemporary press reports are to be believed, they originally had a third song as a contender. That tune was “Honey, Honey”. In most countries,”‘Honey, Honey”, was the follow-up single to “Waterloo”, and this super-catchy tune featuring tight harmonies and excellent production remained popular and is still frequently heard today.
“Honey, Honey”, like so many other famous ABBA songs, had been written in Björn and Benny’s famous songwriting cabin on the island of Viggsö in the Stockholm archipelago. It was then brought to Metronome Studio in central Stockholm for a backing track recording in 1973, a part of the sessions for the “Waterloo album”. The musicians present were Benny on keyboards, Björn on guitar, augmented by ABBA’s core session musicians at the time: Brunkert on drums, Rutger Gunnarsson on bass, and Janne Schaffer on guitar.
The backing track secured, Agnetha and Frida came to the studio to add their high-energy lead vocals to the song.
The cotton-candy type pop lyrics more popular in Sweden than in the US, and with a tight and slick arrangement combine to create this catchy ABBA classic which could have been turned into something far different and risqué in other hands.
It definitely is one of the catchiest of ABBA songs, which courtesy the forceful strings, pulls you straight in to the song within the first few seconds, just like every good pop song should. The ABBA members themselves are quite fond of it as well. “It’s a good song and a good recording; it’s tight and slick,” said Benny recently.
Flash forward about eight months or so: the “Waterloo”, single has conquered the world and it’s time to select a follow-up single. In most territories the choice fell upon “Honey, Honey”, which had emerged as one of the top tracks on the “Waterloo” album.
In an ironic twist, though, “Ring Ring”, didn’t become much of a hit in the UK, while a cover version of “Honey, Honey”, by the duo Sweet Dreams reached #10. ABBA would certainly have preferred to enjoy that hit themselves, but if nothing else, it proved that Björn and Benny had talent as hit songwriters beyond “Waterloo”. A few years later, in an admirable display of good sportsmanship, Benny even pointed to Sweet Dreams’ version of “Honey, Honey’”, as the only cover version of an ABBA song that he liked. Single charts aside, when it was featured on the mega-selling compilation albums either titled, “The Best Of ABBA” or “Greatest Hits”, released all over the world in 1975 and 1976, ABBA’s version of “Honey, Honey”, would reach a wide audience, and so must have been one of their most recognisable songs at the time.

1 . People need love.

“People Need Love” is from the album: “Ring Ring”.

This was the first ABBA single, although it was first recorded under the name Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid and issued in 1972.

In 1973, it appeared on the nascent supergroup’s “Ring Ring” album. The song had a fair reception, but it was not until ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo” that the ball really started rolling.

As with the majority of ABBA songs, this was co-written by Andersson and Ulvaeus. Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson had been planning to record a proper song for a long time and both knew each other and made music together and covered bands like Sweet and Middle of the Road. Benny Andersson had cut his songwriting teeth while being a keyboard player with covers band The Hep Stars, while his future songwriting partner Björn Ulvaeus had been performing with a Swedish folk group.

In this day and age, when pop stars with little previous stage experience achieve instant number one hits through participation in television shows such as Pop Idol and American Idol, it is sobering to be reminded of how long it actually took before ABBA achieved worldwide success. Although many in the 1970s regarded the four Swedes as a ”manufactured” band, very much along the lines of the groomed, styled and choreographed overnight sensations of the 21st Century, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only had the individual members spent a decade performing, touring and recording in earlier groups or as solo artists before they grabbed the world’s attention with ‘Waterloo’ in April 1974, by that time ABBA themselves had already been making pop music together for two years and four years had passed since they first attempted a collaboration.

In 1973, shortly after the group had completed their summer tour, they began work on their next album. Björn, Benny and Stig also had a goal: coming up with a brand new song that could give them another shot at the Eurovision Song Contest. They had to place this much importance on the contest, simply because this was about the only way they could hope to attract massive attention from an international audience. In the early 1970s, few pop or rock groups outside the English-speaking world were heard by the international music business. Trying to get attention through traditional channels; British or American record companies, publishers and media was virtually impossible for a Swedish band. Stig Anderson was well aware that winning the contest wouldn’t necessarily have to be their ultimate goal as previous years had proven that the runners-up often became bigger international hits than the victors, so the exposure was what they were after, the chance to use the contest as a platform from which they could take the next step.
However, it took a while before the songwriting team came up with a song that would be perfect for the Eurovision Song Contest. The first track to be written and recorded for the new album was “Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)”, which was very close to those early sixties popular Phil Spector type of songs. The sessions continued with “What About Livingstone”, and the ultra-catchy “Honey, Honey”, Then, later in the year “King Kong Song” and Frida’s showcase ballad were completed. Still, although there were a couple of really strong tracks in there, the Andersson/Anderson/Ulvaeus songwriting team were still not convinced that they had found the perfect song for the contest.
Björn and Benny retreated to their songwriting space on the Stockholm archipelago island of Viggsö, and quickly came up with a batch of new tunes. One of them, an uptempo, rocky number, seemed to be the right song with which to make an impression on the European television audience. Ready with a cassette tape demo of Björn and Benny humming and strumming their way through the tune, Stig Anderson set to work on the lyrics. The song was catchy, and Stig knew the importance of matching such a tune with equally catchy lyrics, above all, it was vital to find the right title. In the early hours of a Saturday morning, leafing through a book of familiar quotations, he finally found the word he had been searching for: “Waterloo.” The concept, of course, referred to Napoleon Bonaparte’s legendary defeat by British and German forces at the battle near the Belgian town on June 18, 1815. Stig used that historical event as a metaphor for a girl surrendering to the person called Waterloo, she is in love with to Napoleon’s surrender at the legendary Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Just a week before Christmas, the song was recorded at Metronome Studio in Stockholm and with an exuberant vocal performance from Agnetha and Frida added, ABBA had a track that was a winner in every sense of the word.

The early 1970s was a somewhat insecure period for Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida. Benny had left his previous group, The Hep Stars, and although Björn was still making records with his group, the Hootenanny Singers, he knew he couldn’t count on them for any future career advancement. Furthermore, Björn and Benny wanted to focus their attention on their partnership in songwriting and record producing, and perhaps not be performers anymore but at the time they could not afford to turn down the work opportunities that came their way, whether on or off stage. For their part, Agnetha and Frida were devoting themselves to their own careers, with varied success.

Björn and Benny had been doing a shows together with singers Svenne and Lotta, former members of The Hep Stars. This venture was fairly successful. Meanwhile, Björn got engaged to Agnetha, and Benny to Frida. In November 1970, the show Festfolk opened in Gothenburg in which all of them participated but the show was not a big hit so the idea of working together as a group was put on ice for the moment being.
It wasn’t until the spring of 1972 that the magic combination of the group’s talents was finally applied to a concept that was both stimulating and rewarding for them all. By this time, Björn and Benny were working as producers at Stig Anderson’s record company, Polar Music. They were also releasing records as the duo Björn and Benny. One of their songs, “She’s My Kind Of Girl”, had flopped in Sweden upon its release in but now it suddenly and unexpectedly became a smash hit in Japan a year later. Encouraged by this kind of success they started working towards pop music again. Although this was the kind of music they preferred, it was an area which they had largely abandoned for the past two years or so, simply because the Swedish audience seemed to prefer their easy listening material.

The starting point for the group we know as ABBA was a recording session that took place in Stockholm’s Metronome Studio on March 29, 1972. Björn and Benny had written a tune titled, “People Need Love”, their first English-language pop song in two years. It was a creation very much in the vein of the lighter side of the pop music of the times. The concept for the recording was largely inspired by UK-based group Blue Mink. On most of their records, lead singers Roger Cook and Madeline Bell traded vocal lines in songs that were optimistic pleas for harmony between people. Björn and Benny now applied the very same concept to their new composition. The title of the song, “People Need Love”, pretty much summed up the message of the lyrics, and the songwriters invited the singers to contribute their vocal talents to this call-and-answer style song. The result was a bright and sunny tune, a transitionary record between the so-called “schlager” music they were all doing as separate acts, and the pop music that was to be their future. Björn and Benny felt that it was the best thing they had ever done.

When “People Need Love” was released as a single it was credited to “Björn and Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid”, for the name ABBA had yet to be invented. And as yet there was no talk of starting a permanent group. Agnetha and Frida were still busy with their solo careers and had contracts with record companies, but they were all still unsure about their future. But they got direction when “People Need Love”, became a significant hit in Sweden. In August, the song reached #17 on the combined singles and albums chart used in Sweden at the time, having already hit #3 on the popular and influential Radio chart, Tio i topp (“The Top Ten”) the previous month. “We were surprised and insanely happy when it entered Tio i topp,” recalled Frida. The four group members thereafter decided, they should go on making records together. Whether that would lead to something permanent, however, remained to be seen. In the autumn of 1972 work was started on what was to become their first album, “Ring Ring”.

Although “People Need Love”, was released in a few other countries, it never became a hit outside Scandinavia. In America the song got no further than #114 on the Cash Box chart and although this wasn’t very impressive, it was still more successful than most Swedish songs in the US at the time.
Björn and Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid promoted “People Need Love”, on Swedish Television, and when the single was released in West Germany, they were invited to appear on the Television show Disco in January 1973. Later in 1973 after the group had scored a big hit with “Ring Ring”, they decided to make their collaboration permanent. Meanwhile, their manager, Stig Anderson, simplified their group’s name by taking the initials of their individual first names and coming up with the self-evident ABBA. Next up was, “Waterloo’”, and worldwide fame but “People Need Love”, was where it all started.

The success of the song, which is a happy and bright number and one through which the four singers seem to broadcast the need for peace, and harmony to the world with some yodeling to boot, gave them wings.

The men and women in the group took turns to sing, a style that they later on gave up. “People Need Love” was first telecast in April 1972 on the Swedish TV show “Vi I femman,” and was released shortly, but only with their second album did the group create music history!
ABBA applied to participate in the Grand Prix d’Eurovision de la Chanson, better known as the Eurovision Song Contest today and were sent to Brighton in the UK. With “Waterloo,” they won the competition for Sweden and the rest is history.

2. Ring Ring

“Ring Ring”, by ABBA is from the 1973, album, “Ring Ring”. It charted at #32 in the UK.

The title track to ABBA’s first album, this was written by group members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus along with their manager Stig Anderson. The first version had lyrics in Swedish, and for the English version, Phil Cody, who was Neil Sedaka’s co-writer in the ’70s, wrote the words. Says Cody: “It would have been Donny Kirshner or Wally Gold who would have come to me with the project. I was given the title: “Ring, Ring,”, and they said, ‘See what you can do with it. Do your magic”.

The group submitted this song for the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest, but it was not chosen to represent Sweden. The following year, however, the group won the whole contest with their song “Waterloo.”
Winning Eurovision was a jumping-off point and the band quickly progressed, with writers-producers, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson soon playing the recording studio like an instrument. The voices of ABBA, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid (‘Frida’) Lyngstad had a range of three octaves between them and were given all sorts of complicated vocal parts to sing by Benny and Björn, in what wasn’t their first language.

It was actually Eurovision that provided added incentive for the quartet to continue after what turned out to be a Top 20 hit. Andersson and Ulvaeus were invited to pitch for Sweden’s 1973 entry, and “Ring Ring”, with lyrical input by Neil Sedaka and writing partner Phil Cody was the outcome.

It still stands as one of ABBA’s masterstrokes, from its effervescent opening, which carves a circle in the air appropriate to the title, to its exuberant, unforgettable chorus.

Ring Ring was originally called Klocklåt (Clock Tune). The trio had been asked to submit a song for consideration for Sweden’s entry into the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest so the English lyrics were added by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody, and the song became Ring Ring. By Melodifestival  (the Swedish Eurovision heat), the quartet weren’t yet ABBA and performed as Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid. But the judges chose another song to go through to Eurovision, with “Ring Ring”, coming third to much outcry in the Swedish press. It went on to be a Swedish #1 and ABBA (as they soon became) had arrived!

3. Waterloo

“Waterloo” is from the 1974 Album: “Waterloo”, which charted at #1 in UK and #6 in US. ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with the same song.

ABBA burst onto the music scene with the annual Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in 1974, becoming overnight sensations. Like many early ABBA songs, the song was written by members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, alongside their manager Stig Anderson.
“Waterloo” was written specifically to be entered into the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, after ABBA finished third with “Ring Ring” the previous year, in the Swedish pre-selection contest, Melodifestivalen 1973.

Prior to this, Stig Anderson asked Ulvaeus and Andersson to write a song for Melodifestivalen, and the duo submitted their song ‘Säg det med en sång’ (‘Say It with a Song’) for the 1972 contest, choosing newcomer Lena Anderson to sing which finished third.

Ulvaeus, Andersson and Stig Anderson still believed that Eurovision could be their ticket for success.
In late 1973, they were invited by Swedish TV to submit another song for the Melodifestivalen 1974, and this time “Waterloo” was the one.
ABBA won the national heats in Sweden, and as this was their third attempt, they were already pretty prepared for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The Dome in Brighton was the site of the Eurovision contest, in April 1974, which ABBA won with a wide margin. The day became truly unforgettable in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest. In the midst of a polite and well-behaved line-up of artists, the group rushed on to the stage at The Dome in Brighton, England wearing the most glamorous, most glittering costumes. The sweet ballads and snappy Eurostompers that dominated the rest of that evening were swept aside as the group burst into a song that mixed an addictive beat with a catchy pop tune, with an irresistible energy. The group and the song? ABBA, of course, and “Waterloo”. Needless to say, the group were that year’s victors in the Eurovision Song Contest, and the breakthrough they achieved gave them a worldwide mega-hit, the first in a long row of international smashes.
That moment in Brighton was the culmination of a process that had been going on for the past year, ever since the group failed to qualify for the contest with their previous submission, the 1973 song “Ring Ring”, the song that gave the group a massive hit in their native Sweden. Björn and Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid, as they were known back then, certainly sold more singles and albums than any other artist that year, and were able to embark on a successful summer tour. The only problem was the group name: they needed something that was less of a mouthful and a little more snappy. A competition was held in a newspaper, but that didn’t seem to bring any usable results. It seems that it was Stig Anderson, the group’s manager, who found the best solution. He simply jumbled around the first letters in each of the member’s first names and came up with “ABBA”.

ABBA and “Waterloo”, sailed through the Swedish heats on February 9, 1974, scoring an overwhelming victory over the other contestants. And then, finally, came that day in April when the time had come to win over the Eurovision juries and, above all, the European television viewers. It was an irresistible package: a catchy song, unforgettably zany costumes created by clothes designer Inger Svenneke and a zestful performance that smashed right through the television screens. Once all the contestants had performed their entries, it was time for the voting ; a nerve-racking process. Stig rushed onstage to accept his songwriting award and proceeded to repeat the phrase “thank you” in the languages of several of the participating countries. He had rehearsed the phrases earlier in the afternoon when he thought he should prepare in some way for the eventuality of winning.
In the hours after the contest, most of the group were swept away as if in a hazy dream.
The triumph in Brighton achieved results beyond anything anyone had dared hope for. The “Waterloo” single charted highly everywhere including the United States, Australia and a host of other countries where Eurovision was a largely unknown event reaching #1 in at least seven nations. ABBA had scored their first major global hit, finally proving that it was possible to break the boundaries imposed upon them by the international record business.

The “Waterloo” album, first released in Sweden on March 4, achieved Top Ten placings in Europe and, at the height of Abbamania a few years later, it reached the Top 20 in Australia.
The door had been opened and ABBA certainly weren’t going to let anyone close it ever again.
“Waterloo”, was the first of ABBA’s nine UK #1 singles, topping the charts for two weeks.
It also topped the charts in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, West Germany, Ireland, Norway, South Africa and Switzerland, while reaching the Top 3 in Austria, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and ABBA’s native Sweden.
It also entered the charts outside Europe (a rarity for a Eurovision song), reaching the Top 10 in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Rhodesia and the United States.
In total, it sold nearly six million copies, making it one of their best-selling singles. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, handled the song’s production.
In 2005, on the 50th anniversary of the annual Eurovision Song Contest, Waterloo was voted as the greatest song in the entire history of the competition.
This was the song that catapulted ABBA into the public consciousness and it’s not often one gets a history lesson of surrender in a pop tune. Arranger Sven-Olof Walldoff joined in by conducting the orchestra decked out as Napoleon.
Originally recorded in Swedish, it was ABBA’s Swedish version that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, giving the band a huge career boost.
Even though this song constantly repeats the name of the battle that spelt the end of Napoleon’s empire, the French, like the rest of Europe, were more than happy to buy this song in large numbers. The single spent 12 weeks on the French charts, peaking at #3. In Belgium, where the Battle of Waterloo took place, this song spent five weeks at #1.
This song also reached #1 in Finland, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland and West Germany.
ABBA not only recorded this song in their native Swedish and then in English but they also recorded a version in French for the French markets and one in German for the German markets. There is also a version in both French and Swedish that is an overdubbing of both the Swedish and French versions.

4. Honey Honey

Honey, Honey, is from the 1974 album: “Waterloo”.
It charted #27 in the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. In the US this was released as ABBA’s follow-up single to “Waterloo” and it became their second Top 40 hit. In Europe ABBA reached the Top 5 in Germany, Austria Spain , Switzerland and Sweden with this.

“Honey, Honey”, was penned by Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Stig Anderson, with shared vocals by Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Ulvaeus. As well as the English version, ABBA also recorded a Swedish version in 1974, at the Metronome Studio, Stockholm. However in the UK this was not released as a single, instead “Ring, Ring”, was released as the follow-up to “Waterloo.”

In Sweden where it was the B-side to “Waterloo”, ABBA recorded this song in Swedish which was the last official recording by the group in their native language in Sweden.

The “Waterloo”,  album reveals an ABBA who still hadn’t quite figured out what sort of band they were. Half of the songs were clichéd rockers sung by Björn or Benny and didn’t sound much like the ABBA everyone is familiar with. Much more in the ABBA pop rocker style of the time, “Honey Honey”, was one of the tracks sung by Agnetha and Frida and could have been a Eurovision contender.

Over the past few decades, the tune has been revived through its inclusion in the Mamma Mia! hit musical. In that production it is sung by Sophie and her two friends, the lyrics functioning as extracts from her mother’s diary, written decades earlier. For the ABBA aficionado, the arrangement of “Honey, Honey”, in the musical is particularly interesting. On the original 16-track tape of ABBA’s original version, one can hear Benny playing chord riffs, which resemble rapidly repeated notes, on his Minimoog in the second half of all the verses but this feature was left out of the final mix. However, when the arrangement for “Honey, Honey”, as performed in Mamma Mia! was written, the original 16-track tape was consulted in order to find out how the songs had originally been arranged by ABBA, and so the synthesizer riff was resurrected for the stage versions as well as the film soundtrack.
Another behind-the-scenes fact about “Honey, Honey”, is that ABBA’s original version is speeded up just a little. There was also a little editing done towards the end of the song, with a section from earlier in the recording copied and moved to the end, in order to avoid repetition. None of this is unheard of in the world of pop music but merely shows just how much thought ABBA put into their songs, so that they would sound fresh to the listener. And as a pop recording, “Honey, Honey”, still sounds just as melodious today as it did when released in 1974.

5. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do

“I Do, I Do, I Do”, was a notable hit in a number of countries, and was the song that sparked “ABBA-mania” in Australia, becoming ABBA’s first chart-topper there. With “Mamma Mia” and “SOS” to follow, this gave the group a run of 14 consecutive weeks at the top of the Australian charts. It also topped the charts in France, New Zealand, Switzerland and South Africa and hit the Top 5 in Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Rhodesia (all in 1975). The song also reached #15 in the US in early 1976. A notable exception to the song’s success was in the UK Singles Chart, a market that ABBA was aiming to conquer, where the single peaked at #38. This marked the only time that an ABBA song had more success in the US than in the UK. Later in 1975, ABBA found success in the UK with “SOS”, which cemented the group’s success in Australia and elsewhere.
The richly textured vocals of the song give this sound shuffle an extra push along with the excellent horn riff.

Three songwriters are given songwriting credits for the song; Björn Ulvaeus, their manager Stig and Benny. The song was co-produced by Benny and Björn and the recording of the track took place in February 1975 at Glen Studio, and was inspired by the European music of the 1950s, as well as the saxophone sound of the American orchestra which was released in April. It was released from their third studio album called “ABBA”.

ABBA’s longtime music video director, Lasse Hallström, was responsible for directing the music video for the track.
This tune became a huge hit in a host of nations

After the release of “Waterloo”, ABBA were having some difficulty in establishing themselves as an act in a few countries and “I Do, I Do, I Do”, put ABBA firmly back in the spotlight. With a rousing saxophone tune , it made a significant improvement on the international charts, although it made little impact in Britain. The song’s popularity was boosted (particularly in Australia) by the release of a promo clip shown on television.

When the track finally began climbing the Australian charts in 1975, “Countdown”, the Top Of The Pops equivalent, asked RCA Australia whether a clip was available. The programme was rewarded with not just the I Do… video, but also promos for Mamma Mia, and SOS. All the videos were shot in April 1975 by Lasse Hallström at the breakneck speed on a miniscule total budget of 50,000 kronor (£5,500). Australian television had only recently crossed over to full-colour broadcasts and Hallström’s cheerful treatments received massive exposure, making ABBA the most popular act in Australia.

6. SOS

S.O.S. is from the 1975 album: “ABBA”.

Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida entered Glen Studio, located in the Stockholm suburb of Stocksund, in August 1974 to start recording their third album, at a time when their prospects for continued international success looked a little uncertain. Only four months had passed since their triumph with ‘Waterloo’ in the Eurovision Song Contest, and ABBA’s success in their home country of Sweden and the rest of northern Europe was continuing on its upward journey but their fortunes in Great Britain, the most important country for modern pop music as far as the group was concerned had taken a dramatic fall after “Waterloo” hit #1. This worried the group a little, although they never lost faith in their ability to create good music. And the song that would eventually turn their fortunes around in Great Britain was this one. At the time of this first session, “SOS” had not gained its final title, but only had a working title. The personnel playing on the track were Benny Andersson on keyboards and Björn Ulvaeus on guitar, along with session musicians who graced many ABBA recordings: Janne Schaffer on guitar, Mike Watson on bass and Brunkert on drums. Together, they laid down a solid backing track for the new song.
The final title of the song, “SOS”, was dreamed up by ABBA manager Stig Anderson, an experienced lyricist with an exceptional knack for coming up with just the right title: an art-form that is often the result of a much more complicated process than what the seemingly simple and self-evident titles would suggest. His first draft of English-language lyrics for the song, however, was almost completely re-written by Björn.
In hindsight, it seems self-evident that “SOS” was a surefire hit, but from ABBA’s perspective and that of the record companies that licensed their recordings all over the world , apparently this wasn’t so obvious. One reason why the hit potential of the catchy track of “SOS”, may not have been apparent to the group during the autumn sessions was that the recording may not have been one hundred per cent completed at the time. Although the exact order of recording is not known, according to ABBA’s usual way of functioning it is likely that the initial backing track session was followed by the overdub of the vocals, featuring Agnetha on the solo lead in the verses.
Only after those fundamental parts of the construction were in place would Björn, Benny and the sound engineer Michael B. Tretow go on to the soundscape of the recordings with various overdubs. In the case of “SOS”, the recording was in fact viewed as virtually completed when Benny and Björn came up with all the guitar and synthesizer riffs that start off the recording and which form such a vital part of its sound. For all we know, it wouldn’t have been the first nor the last time that ABBA returned to a recording months after its presumed completion.

But one thing is probably for certain: it would only have been after this additional work had been performed on the track that the full power of the song became clearly evident to the group.
By March 1975, the sessions for the new album simply titled “ABBA”, were drawing to a close, and with all recordings mixed and completed there were four tracks that crystallised themselves as having an exceptionally strong potential: “Mamma Mia”, “I Do, I Do” “Bang-A-Boomerang” and “SOS”. Thus, the production of promo clips for those songs were commissioned from director Lasse Hallström and filmed in April 1975. But when the choice for the second single from the album was made, “SOS” was again passed over, this time in favour of “I Do, I Do, I Do”. Although this single did much better in international terms, its slightly anachronistic sound wasn’t quite enough to restore the group’s fortunes in the UK, where it stalled at #38.
Then, finally, “SOS” was released as the third single from the album. In Scandinavia, it hit record shops in June and in fall for the British consumers As it turned out, this was the ABBA song that UK had been waiting for.

The descending chords and ominous synthesizer melody line of the introduction, set the tone for Agnetha’s vocals. Just those first 20 seconds of the song constituted the irrefutable proof that ABBA had mastered the art of creating pure pop, and, moreover, they were doing it on their own terms, within a soundscape that was all their own!

“SOS” reached #6 on the UK singles chart, starting off a string of 18 consecutive Top Ten hits in that country. As Björn later noted, “The strongest memory I have of “SOS” is that it was the song that brought us back in England.” The song’s success was no less convincing in other parts of the world. In Australia, it was part of the string of hits that started the “Abbamania” phenomenon, spending four weeks at #2 while “Mamma Mia’” was at #1 before finally reaching the top of the chart. “SOS” also hit #1 in Belgium, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as reaching the Top Five in plenty of other countries.
Years after it was first released on vinyl, “SOS” remains one of ABBA’s most-admired recordings. It was the first single to make the full use of each and every one of ABBA’s formidable strengths; the emotions, the captivating sounds of the group’s female vocalist(s), the classical keyboard flourishes, and the multi-layered soundscape. It’s more than just a triumph within ABBA’s body of work, as “SOS” deserves a place among the all-time classics in the history of pop music. This would also be the opinion of Pete Townshend, one of rock music’s most celebrated songwriters and greatest guitarists in rock history.

In a 2009 interview on the Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie show on BBC Radio 2, Pete Townshend declared that “ ‘SOS’ is the best pop song ever written” and their discernable fans worldwide are certainly more than happy to let Pete’s verdict stand unchallenged!

They undertook their first US promotional trip, spending two weeks making TV appearances and talking to journalists. This is the only Top 20 hit in history in which the title of the song and the name of the artist are both palindromes.
ABBA’s manager Stig Anderson coined the song’s title, though the lyrics that he provided were rewritten by Björn Ulvaeus.
This song reached #1 in Australia, Belgium, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and West Germany. Brian Higgins who has written and recorded a series of hit singles said “SOS” was the benchmark song we aspired to reach melodically.”

Agnetha Fältskog has recalled to The Sun May 10, 2013: “When we recorded S.O.S., Frida and I were very tired of the choruses. I don’t know how many times we had to sing them to make them big but we’d had enough of that song that day.”

On January 7th 1904, CQD was established as the international distress signal, then two years later on November 3rd, 1906 at the International Radiotelegraphic Convention it was changed to S.O.S, which became effective on July 1st, 1908.

“SOS” is a deceptively complex piece of pop music, a mix of rock and classical forms, acoustic and electronic tracks and of minor and major keys, with the melody driven entitirely by the harmony of the voices.

ABBA never was a one genré group and definitely not a disco-group. Some of their songs were well produced pop-songs of which some had a disco touch but they made songs in all genrés from rock (On and on and on, Waterloo) to ballads (Chiquitita, Happy New Year). Both Björn and Benny have said that they were highly influenced by Beatles, Beach Boys, etc. But they also had their roots in folk music which is evident if you listen to the instrumental Arrival, the experiments with “Hamlet” or to what Benny has been doing for years with Benny Anderssons orchestra.

7. Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia is from the 1976 Album: “ABBA”.
It charted: at #1 in  UK and #32 in US.

ABBA’s manager Stig Anderson would often come up with titles that musicians Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson would write lyrics around, and this is an example of that workflow. The phrase “Mamma Mia!” is an Italian saying that literally means “My Mother!” and is used as an interjection, and just like all interjections, it is used to express strong emotions.

Being a very famous song, Mamma Mia has been covered by numerous artists over the years.

It’s an example of lyrical dissonance, as this infectiously catchy tune contains attention to lyrics (at least the English ones) that was new for ABBA and was written to catch attention. Bjorn Ulvaeus explained: “In the beginning lyrics were a sort of necessary evil for us, just something you had to have to sing, usually it was about looking out for a hookline and then building something around that. But by the third album, when my grasp of English had got much better because we’d traveled a lot, I began to think that it would be fun to say something as well, and that people would listen to what we sang.”

The song that named a musical has come to symbolise the huge ongoing appeal of ABBA. Taken from 1976’s ABBA album, it was the band’s second UK #1 and established the outfit as a successful pop act in their own right. Mamma Mia! the musical is a standalone story not based on the song. It debuted as a stage production on 6 April 1999 and is still running in theatres, having played to 50 million theatregoers. Then, in 2008, it was made into a movie. Benny and Björn are credited as executive producers of the film and re-recorded their songs at Metronome Studios in Stockholm, with the cast supplying their own vocals.

Owing to a Musician’s Union ruling, ABBA were forced to perform the song live on Top Of The Pops when it hit #1, the only time they appeared live on the show.

The catchy Xylophone-like hook that sets up the song was played on a Marimba, an instrument of African origin similar to the Xylophone but with wooden bars. Benny found a Marimba in the studio and began playing it to see what it sounded like. He liked the sound it made and began using it with a tick-tock effect.

This was the last song to be written and recorded for the album.
The UK #1 single that preceded this was Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which also contained the words “Mamma Mia” in the lyrics!

In addition to the UK, this topped the charts in Ireland, Switzerland, West Germany and Australia.
In 1999, the musical stage production Mamma Mia! opened in London. The show was based on ABBA’s songs, which were used in the production. The show opened on Broadway in 2001 and was nominated for a Tony Award .

In 2010 the Danish right wing People’s Party reworked this song’s main lyric in honour of the organisation’s chief, Pia Kjaersgaard. Their revised version was played at the party’s rallies, and the organisation’s youth wing performed a live version. After Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus threatened to sue the party an out of court settlement was reached in which the Danes agreed to stop using the song.

The song “Mama Mia” entered Billboard’s Hot Top 100 chart on May 16th, 1976 at position #32. Between 1974 and 1982 the group had twenty Top 100 records; and four made the Top 10 with one reaching #1 (“Dancing Queen” in 1977).

8. Dancing Queen

“Dancing Queen” is from the 1976 album: “Arrival”. It charted at #1 in both US and UK.

ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson co-wrote the song, along with their manager Stig Anderson. It was recorded a full year before it was released, as they knew it would be a hit. They held it until the album “Arrival”, was on the way in summer 1976.

The demo was called “Boogaloo”

During the sessions, Benny Andersson brought a tape with the backing track, and played it to Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who is said to have started crying when first listening to it as it was soul stirring.

While working on the lyrics of the song, the first half of the second verse was removed and for their 1980 Spanish-language compilation Gracias Por La Música, ABBA recorded a Spanish version of the song, renamed “Reina Danzante”, with Spanish lyrics provided by Buddy Mary McCluskey.

“Dancing Queen”, topped the charts in more than a dozen countries including ABBA’s native Sweden, spending 14 weeks at the top there.
It also reached #1 in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Germany, the UK, the US, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway South Africa and Rhodesia. It was ABBA’s only #1 in the States, and sold over three million copies worldwide.

It’s Queen Elizabeth’s favourite song apparently as she is said to have told a famous guest of BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans, at a gathering when the song was being played at the Windsor Castle event , “I always try to dance when this song comes on, because I am the Queen, and I like to dance.”

Issued for the Arrival album, “Dancing Queen”, was ABBA’s third chart topper in a row, hitting #1 in a mere two weeks after its release, staying there for six weeks and selling 850,000 copies in the UK. Released in the US in early 1977, it was the first ABBA single to top the American charts.
A good, solid backing track was put together for the song, consisting of drums, bass, guitar and keyboards. As basic as it was, just this early stage of the recording was enough to provoke a strong emotional reaction from Frida. It would take several months before the recording was completed, however , few ABBA songs had such a long journey from start to finish. It was ABBA manager Stig Anderson who came up with the title “Dancing Queen”, writing the lyrics in collaboration with Björn, and Agnetha and Frida added their vocals to the track. But even as late as 1975, Björn and Benny were still fine-tuning the recording, adding further overdubs to achieve the dance feel they were after.

In early August 1975, ABBA were fresh off a summer tour of Sweden but there was very little time for rest, for one thing, there were new recordings to be made. After their breakthrough with “Waterloo”, the previous year, the group had released their third album, simply titled ABBA, in the spring of 1975. The album yielded hits like “SOS” and “Mamma Mia”. However, in the 1970s most major acts were expected to release an album every year, so the Andersson/Ulvaeus team was already working on new material.
On August 4, Björn and Benny entered Glen Studios, located in a Stockholm suburb, where they would spend two days recording backing tracks along with the session musicians. They brought with them the melodies for three new songs, all of which at this point had only lyrics and titles that were equally preliminary. One of the songs turned into the familiar “Fernando”. Another carried the working title ‘Olle Olle’, but was destined to remain unreleased. Composition number three, finally, was titled ‘Boogaloo’, suggesting that it had something to do with dance rhythms. And, indeed, this was the song that would eventually become “Dancing Queen”.

By coincidence, it happened that both “Fernando” and “Dancing Queen”, were completed around the same time. ABBA wanted to release a new single in March 1976, and were unsure which of the tracks to choose:they knew that both had a strong hit potential. However, Stig Anderson insisted that “Fernando” was the right song to go with at this point – a ballad seemed like a fresh contrast against the previous single, the uptempo “Mamma Mia” and Björn and Benny eventually agreed with him. “Dancing Queen” would have to wait another five months before it reached the record shops but the song was introduced in some parts of the world long before its release as a single. At the end of January 1976, ABBA recorded a television special in Germany, where “Dancing Queen” was one of the songs they performed. In March, on a visit to Australia, they taped a second performance of the song. This was included in a television special entitled ABBA In Australia, which was exported to other countries.
Finally, back in Sweden the song was also introduced to the public a few months before the release of the single and it was on a very special occasion. June 19, 1976, was the wedding date for King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Silvia Sommerlath. On the day before the wedding, June 18, a televised gala in their honour was held at The Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm. ABBA, as the only representative of pop music, were invited to appear, and chose to perform their upcoming single. For this occasion they dressed up in baroque outfits as an attempt to go suitably along with the atmosphere of the ceremonious gala.

On August 16, 1976, the ABBA single “Dancing Queen” was finally released in Sweden. On the B-side it featured a song called “That’s Me”, taken from the ongoing sessions for ABBA’s upcoming album, “Arrival”.

The record sleeve featured ABBA posing in white hats, a picture that became one of the most widespread images of the group worlwide. The photograph was taken by Ola Lager, who was responsible for many ABBA single and album cover pictures. The “white hats” photograph is said to be one of the group’s own favourite images of themselves.
The release of “Dancing Queen” was accompanied by a promo clip (or video, as these short ”music films” are known today), directed by Lasse Hallström. The clip had been filmed in the spring, the venue being central Stockholm.

It didn’t take long before “Dancing Queen” occupied the #1 spot on charts all over the world. Its jubilant sound, characterized by Benny’s trademark piano figures and Frida and Agnetha’s distinctive vocals, made it an instant classic hit. In April 1977, “Dancing Queen” became ABBA’s first and only #1 in the United States.
“Dancing Queen” is not only ABBA’s most famous recording, but is widely regarded as one of the all-time greatest pop songs. ABBA themselves never doubted that they were onto something good, as Agnetha remembered: “It’s hard to tell when a hit is being made, you don’t always sense it. ‘Dancing Queen’ was an exception, we knew immediately it was going to be massive.” ABBA came up with arguably the world’s first Europop disco hit. This was the only one of ABBA’s 14 US Top 40 hits to make it to #1 in the US.

U2 covered this during the band’s tour in 1992, and were joined onstage by Bjorn and Benny when the show hit Stockholm. “ABBA have a purer joy to their music,” Bono explains in the documentary ABBA: The Winner Takes It All, “and that’s what makes them extraordinary.”

9. Fernando

“Fernando” is from the 1976, Album: “Greatest Hits”. It charted at #1in UK and #13 in US.

The lyrics of Fernando by the pop group ABBA are about two friends, one of whom is called Fernando. These friends, who were once freedom fighters, on a starry night, share their memories of a guerilla war they fought several years ago in Mexico.

That said, it is worth taking note of the fact that the song, which was recorded in three different languages (Swedish, English and Spanish), has all different lyrics. The Swedish-language version of the song, which was the original version, has lyrics that deal with love. According to Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA, he wasn’t too impressed with that theme of the lyrics of the Swedish version of Fernando since he found it too “banal”. Owing to this, he decided to change it into something more profound, hence the birth of the very moving story of the two freedom fighters reminiscing about the war they participated in.
The lyrics of the Spanish language version of Fernando have the same meaning as the lyrics of the English language version of the song. The only difference is that the lyrics are in Spanish.

Fernando was written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA and the group’s manager Stig Anderson.

Stig Anderson wrote the lyrics of the Swedish language version of the song while Benny and Björn handled the production of the song.
The name “Fernando”, which eventually became the title of the song, was given by Peter Forbes who worked as their driver.

Fernando sold over 10 million copies across the globe, making it one of the most successful singles in the entire history of music. It is also one of ABBA’s biggest hits.

The song (the Swedish version) was first released by ABBA member Anni-Frid Lyngstad as a single from her second solo studio album titled Frida Ensam in 1975.

The song reached #1 in several countries across the world, including the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Australia. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at #13.

Originally a Frida solo track from her 1975 Frida Ensam album that had only been released in Scandinavia, written by Benny, Björn and Stig, “Fernando” had been recorded at the same time as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” sessions. The popularity of “Fernando” in Sweden quickly persuaded the group to turn the track into an ABBA release and it became the band’s third UK #1 in March 1976. The Swedish lyrics had been written by Stig, but Björn stepped in for the English language version and turned the song from a standard love ballad into a conversation between two former Mexican revolutionaries sitting outside reminiscing a theme that ABBA reprised for the video, with the quartet sitting around a campfire playing acoustic guitars.

Bjorn Ulvaeus (from 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh): “That love lyric is so banal, I didn’t like it but I inherited the word “‘Fernando” and I thought long and hard, what does Fernando tell me? I was in my summerhouse one starry evening and the words came, and I thought of two comrades from some guerrilla war in Mexico who would be sitting in the porch and reminiscing about what happened to them back then and this is what it is all about. Total fiction.”

This was the biggest selling single in Australian chart history until it was overtaken by Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind in 1997.”
This song also reached #1 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland and West Germany. 

ABBA’s manager, Stig Anderson, sold the song to electronics giant National for $1 million in 1976. It was adapted with a new lyric (“There’s so much more to National. So much more than just the many, many things we make for you”) and performed by the band for use in a series of five television commercials promoting the “National” brand. ABBA’s Benny Andersson was disgusted, “That did it for me,” he said. “We’ve never sold another song again.” (Source ABBA The Official Photo Book)

A Mexican man named Fernando Gongora claimed that he provided the title to this song. According to Gongora, in 1974 he was working at the El Matador in Acapulco when a minor earthquake hit. (These quakes are common to the area, but freak out tourists.) In Gongora’s account, Abba was staying there and ran to their balcony, where they were going to jump into the swimming pool below. Gongora told them that the earthquake had stopped, and they should not jump. “I told them ‘I’m Fernando,’ they told me ‘we’re ABBA,'” he said in the Long Beach newspaper Beachcomber. “They told me some day I’m going to hear from them. Many times, people would send you a postcard, thanks, we appreciate you or your service. A friend from Canada called me. ‘Fernando, did you hear the song ‘Fernando.” When I heard it, I knew they thought I helped save their life before they jumped. They were using my name, ‘can you hear those drums Fernando?’ That’s the noise of the earthquake.”

10. The name of the game

“The Name Of The Game” is from the 1977 Album: “The Album”.
It charted at #1 in UK & #12 in US.

It was the first song to be recorded for ABBA’s fifth studio album, following the band’s European and Australian tour and was their most complex composition yet; with Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad sharing the lead vocals but with solo passages from both and contained the influences of the laid-back California sound of the day.

Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson were both admirers of Stevie Wonder and had been listening to his then-current album, “Songs In The Key Of Life”. They began work on a new song, in which the bass line was similar to a slowed down version of Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.” This formed the core of the song and the rest was then built up as a 6-part harmony structure, becoming their most complex composition.
The opening riff on bass and synthesizer is inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” from the 1976 album Songs and both Andersson and Ulvaeus have acknowledged being inspired by Wonder’s music during this part of ABBA’s career.
A preliminary version of the song was worked into the 1977 feature film “ABBA: The Movie”, for which it was written. When it was eventually finished, it was released as the lead single from ABBA: “The Album” in 1977. The song was released with a live version on the B-side which was one of several songs written for the mini-musical, “The Girl with the Golden Hair”, written by Ulvaeus and Andersson and originally performed by ABBA on their 1977 world tour. The recording used on this song’s single was recorded at Sydney Showground, Sydney, Australia in March 1977. A studio recorded version of the song was included on ABBA: “The Album”.
The song also marks the last time Stig Anderson helped with the lyrics of a single.
When the band’s manager Stig Anderson heard the backing track, he suggested “The Name Of The Game” as the song’s new title. It topped the UK charts but in all the other territories where ABBA were at the time successful it fell short of the top spot.

Over their nine-year recording career, ABBA proved themselves masters of many musical styles. The song demonstrates that in addition to impassioned ballads and full-on Europop, they could also do restraint and subtlety.

ABBA were at the peak of their powers, and this was the lead single of a new album. It slinks in, with a bassline and a hint of soul but it doesn’t scream “ABBA!” right away. 
Musically, this is complex from the opening riff apparently inspired by Stevie Wonder to hard rock guitar flourishes and French horns. Since “Dancing Queen” basically perfected the pop song, this has been much more experimental. Still, at its heart there lies a classic ABBA chorus. Benny and Bjorn knew that that much was non-negotiable.

11. Eagle:

“Eagle” is from the 1977 abum: “The Album”.

Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus wrote most of their songs with an eye on the singles charts, including this heavily produced orchestrated track, although it was not marketed as such in the US or UK. The album version runs to 5 minutes 51 seconds, and is the longest ABBA song ever released.
To make the song more Radio-friendly it was heavily edited down from 5:51 to 4:25 by omitting an instrumental break and the third chorus. Australia and France got a further edit, with the song fading shortly after the 2nd chorus making it last just 3:33, 2:18 shorter than the album version. 
Unfortunately this edit left out a vital instrumental-only section at the end of the second chorus prior to the closing instrumental, thereby sounding disjointed. The original edit or at least an exact re-creation of it was finally issued again on the deluxe version of ABBA: “The Album in 2009”.

The theme of the song is similar to that of “Paloma Blanca,” “Skyline Pigeon” and countless other songs where birds feature in the title or the lyrics, though “Eagle” had a more specific inspiration.
In “Bright Lights Dark Shadows: The Real Story of ABBA” it is revealed as the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, of which Björn said: “I was trying to capture the sense of freedom that I got from reading that book.” 

Although this song could not match the success of the majority of ABBA’s hits, it managed to reach the Top 10 in Netherlands and West Germany and topped the charts in Belgium. 

The inspiration for this track was derived from two different sources.  The most-recognized one is the book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” (1970), which had a profound impact on ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, one of the writers of the song and the other is the strong admiration he and fellow co-writer Benny Andersson had of the popular 1970’s musical group, “The Eagles”. In one way or another, this track is meant to serve as a de facto tribute to that band.

These two factors have combined to help bring about one of ABBA’s most celebrated track in terms of lyrical content. The song finds the band recognizing the Eagle for certain attributes it possesses. For instance, it has come from afar with “stories to tell”. Moreover the bird is represented as being good and also for being extremely knowledgeable. As such, the singers liken themselves to an Eagle and by doing so are able to ascend to great heights. This is of course symbolic of the artists attaining a new sense of freedom through interactions with this bird.

Swedish video and film director Lasse Hallström directed the music video for “Eagle”. Hallström first gained international recognition through his collaborations with ABBA and directed the majority of ABBA’s music videos.

Even though “Eagle” was not as successful as the other songs by the band, this track managed to peak at #1 in Belgium. It reached #2 in South Africa, #4 in the Netherlands and #6 in Germany.
Many ABBA fans including me consider “Eagle” as one of ABBA’s most underrated songs. I just love the way the song feels on my ears, inducing a sense of weightlessness and euphoria.

12. Thank you for the music

“Thank You For The Music”,
is a compilation album by ABBA which released in 1983.

Issued as a single in November 1983, it charted at #33 in the UK. It was originally part of The Girl With The Golden Hair, the ‘mini musical’ that concluded Side Two of 1977’s ABBA: “The Album”.

Björn and Benny used the 1977 tour to try it out as a show-closer in front of their huge live audience. Lasting only 25 minutes, The Girl With The Golden Hair revolves around a girl leaving her small town in search of fame. The full musical remained unproduced, but “Thank You For The Music”,  became a classic track.

“Thank You for the Music”, (subtitled A Collection of Love Songs), a compilation album by the Swedish pop group ABBA, was released in 1983 in the UK by the record company Epic. The compilation features 14 tracks, including the singles “I Have a Dream”, and “Chiquitita”. It also contains the Spanish version of “Fernando”, which was the first time this version was released in the UK.
The album peaked at #17 on the UK Album Chart, breaking ABBA’s run of eight consecutive UK #1 albums from Greatest Hits in 1976 to The Singles: The First Ten Years in 1982. However, it was certified Gold for sales of over one million records.

Originally recorded in 1977 for The Album, it was re-released to promote ABBA’s compilation album of the same name in 1983. In many countries, this was the final ABBA song to chart.
The album has never been released on CD.
It combines the unmistakable harmonies, colourful costumes, and dazzling performances by the star cast.

I would like to thank my gracious host Kiran Misra ji for allowing me the creative freedom to choose the content. It was wonderful to present songs that I grew up listening to and jiving from my college days. ABBA was THE BAND for my generation and music which was absolutely de rigueur for every party, every evening out with any of my friends. In researching for this one program, I went back half a century through a time travel machine. It was a fun thing to do and I would definitely welcome further opportunities to go forward into the past. I would request you to poset your feedback on the blog itself. NOT SEND it on other platforms of social media

Stay healthy, folks and stay connected


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

4 replies on “A memorable team”

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