Although most people think of the iconic song as being the start of their long career, the first meeting of the band members had actually taken place many years earlier.
Entering the Eurovision Song Contest had been a means of making the rest of the world aware of their amazing song writing talents by performing on a worldwide platform.
So, where did it all begin?
The meeting of the supergroup can be traced back to the mid-1960s, when two young Swedish musicians, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, both 18, were playing the live music circuit in two different bands. Andersson was playing in pop-rock group the Hep Stars, while Ulvaeus fronted folk-skiffle group the Hootenanny Singers.
The two bands crossed paths while on tour and in 1966, Andersson and Ulvaeus decided to collaborate together on a single. The resulting song, Isn’t It Easy to Say, wasn’t a big hit for the Hep Stars.
However, the Hootenanny Singers’ manager Stig Anderson (who founded the Polar Music label) liked what he heard and encouraged the partnership to continue.
Meeting their future spouses
In 1969, Andersson wrote a song called Hej Clown for the national festival, Melodifestivalen, where Sweden’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen. His song was runner-up, but he met his future wife, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, for the first time, as she was also a contestant. Within a month, they were dating.
As the Hep Stars and the Hootenanny Singers were splitting up, Andersson and Ulvaeus began working together more in the late ’60s.
Meanwhile, Agnetha Fältskog was a successful solo singer when she was just 18, after recording a demo tape. She was offered a recording contract with Cupol Records and her first single, the self-penned Jag Var Så Kär, sold 80,000 copies, topping the Swedish chart in 1968.
While filming a Swedish television special in May 1969, Ulvaeus met Fältskog and they began dating. They married on 6th July 1971. Andersson and Lyngstad finally married on 6th October 1978, after a nine-year relationship.
Abba formed in 1972, taking the band’s name from the first initial of each of their Christian names. Although they had worked together prior to this (forming a band called Festfolk in 1970), their first successful record was People Need Love in June 1972, which reached number 17 in the Swedish charts.
After this, they changed their name to Abba and were chosen to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1974. Waterloo rocketed them to international superstardom overnight. It was number one in the pop charts across Europe and was the start of a long and glittering career as a supergroup.
During their 10-year career and managed by Stig Anderson, they released eight studio albums, two live albums, seven compilation albums, five video albums and 43 video singles.
Their biggest-selling album was the 1992 compilation Abba Gold after they had split up, which sold more than 29 million copies. Super Trouper was their biggest selling studio album while still active, in 1980. Their top single worldwide was Dancing Queen in 1976, as it was number one across Europe and in Australia, New Zealand and the US.
They won a host of top awards, including five-times winners of the Bravo Otto Silver Award for Best Pop Group in 1974, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1982 and the Radio Luxembourg Lion Award for best song, Waterloo, in 1974. They also won the Carl-Alan Award for Most Outstanding Group in 1977 and in 1979, Voulez Vous won the Best Album award from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
Despite splitting up as a band in 1982, the awards continued. In 2001, the Special International Ivor Novello Award was presented to Andersson and Ulvaeus to recognise their song writing talents. The following year, Abba was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. In 2010, the group’s record label, Universal, gave the band an award for having sold 375 million singles and albums.
Their songs have also contributed to the global smash hit film, Mamma Mia. The 2008 romcom starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Julie Walters is about a bride-to-be who tries to find out her father’s identity. The film has since become a hit stage show all over the world and Mamma Mia 2 hits the big screen in July.
Throughout 2018, the media has been buzzing with rumours Abba are reuniting and embarking on a new tour, after 35 years. Finally, on 14th May, the truth was revealed when the band said a high-tech avatar tour would be going ahead, with two new singles released to coincide with the event.
Ulvaeus explained that holograms (known as Abbatars) would resemble the Abba members in 1979. Thanks to amazing state-of-the-art technology, the band’s voices will come out of their mouths and it will look and sound exactly like a live stage show. He said no-one could tell they were not real human beings, adding, “It’s spooky!”
Two new singles have been recorded (the first releases in 35 years) to coincide with the tour. I Still Have Faith In You will debut in December this year and Don’t Shut Me Down will be played for the first time on the Abbatar tour – dates to be announced.
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