ABBA: Kings (and Queens) of Europop

The story of the greatest pure pop band ever

Who were ABBA?

Two married couples were responsible for bringing Europop -- a decidedly unbluesy popular music based on the native sounds of the European continent -- to the world, a feat which made them notoriously "bigger than the Beatles" (outside of America, that is) and created a fan base which stayed constant even as the two marriages that anchored the band came to a sad end. And like the Beatles with rock, their influence on dance-pop continues to this day.

ABBA's 10 biggest hits

Where you might have heard them Even in the US, it's almost impossible to not have heard their massive disco-era hit "Dancing Queen," used in entertainment whenever a female character breaks free from her she'll (i.e., "Ally McBeal"). But thanks to a strong gay following, you can also hear their music in films such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and TV shows like "Queen as Folk." Then there's the jukebox musical about the group, Mamma Mia, which is still very popular.

Formed 1971 (Stockholm, Sweden)

Genres Pop, Europop, Disco

Claims to fame:

  • The first group to bring Europop into the world rock mainstream
  • Brought Sweden to the forefront of the international pop scene
  • Brought a Phil Spector "Wall Of Sound" approach to Europop
  • Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus are considered two of the Seventies' finest pop songwriters
  • Frida and especially Agnetha are routinely hailed as strong interpretive vocalists

Members:

Anni-Frid Synni "Frida" Lyngstad (b. November 15, 1945, Narvik, Norway): vocals
Benny Andersson (b. Göran Bror Benny Andersson, December 16, 1946, Stockholm, Sweden): piano, keyboards, vocals
Björn Kristian Ulvaeus (b.

April 25, 1945, Gothenburg, Sweden): guitar, vocals
Agnetha Faltskog (b. Agneta Åse Fältskog, April 5, 1950, Jonkoping, Sweden): vocals

History

Early years

The reason behind ABBA's phenomenal popularity lay in their roots as a Swedish supergroup of sorts. In the late Sixties, Bjorn Ulvaeus was a member of the popular folk act The Hootenanny Singers, while Benny Andersson was already well-known as part of the Hep Stars, the country's biggest pop covers act. The pair met in 1966 at a party and collaborated on and off for five years, but it was during the late Sixties that they met their respective spouses: Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, both already established solo artists, fell in love with Bjorn and Benny (respectively) within months of each other.

Success

Oddly enough, the four didn't work together as a full-time unit until 1972, when "People Need Love," clumsily credited to "Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid," became a hit in their native country, signaling they should combine their talents permanently. Manager Stig Anderson had referred to them as "ABBA" in business dealings, and a nationwide poll also indicated fan preference for the acronym, so it stuck. The group finally achieved fame across Europe with two appearances at the Eurovision Song Contest -- "Ring Ring," which placed third in 1973, and "Waterloo," which won the grand prize the following year.

Later years

"Waterloo" also introduced them to the US, and although they remained much more popular in Europe, the group achieved monumental worldwide success throughout the decade. As might be expcted, however, the success took a toll on the group's two marriages, and by 1982, they decided to go their separate ways as performers. The two female leads went on to some solo success, while Bjorn and Benny created a popular musical (1984's "Chess") and continued to write and produce for other acts. Although they remain cordial, the four have declined any offers of a reunion, despite resurging popularity in the last ten years.

More about ABBA

ABBA facts and trivia:

  • Shared their name with a national fish-canning company, who graciously allowed them to use it
  • Only the Volvo car company made more money for Sweden during the group's existence
  • The group's 1981 hit "The Visitors" was later revealed to be written in response to grassroots movements to overthrow Soviet domination in European countries
  • The hugely popular Broadway musical Mamma Mia! is based around their songs
  • In 2000, business interests offered the group one billion dollars for one hundred reunion shows

ABBA awards and honors Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2010); Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2002)

ABBA hit songs and albums:

#1 hits
Pop "Dancing Queen" (1977)

UK "Waterloo" (1974), "Mamma Mia" (1975), "Fernando" (1976), "Dancing Queen" (1976), "Knowing Me, Knowing You" (1977), "The Name of the Game" (1977), "Take a Chance on Me" (1978), "The Winner Takes It All" (1980), "Super Trouper" (1980)

Top 10 hits
Pop "Waterloo" (1974), "Take A Chance On Me" (1978), "The Winner Takes It All" (1981)

UK "S.O.S." (1975), "Money, Money, Money" (1976), "Summer Night City" (1978), "Chiquitita" (1979), "Does Your Mother Know" (1979), "Angeleyes" (1979), "Voulez-Vous" (1979), "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" (1979), "I Have a Dream" (1979), "Lay All Your Love on Me (1981), "One of Us" (1981)

Movies and TV The romantic comedy Mururel's Wedding (1994) features a protagonist who's more or less obsessed with the group and its songs, a major factor in their revival; at the peak of their popularity, however, they starred as themselves in their own semi-fictional biopic titled, naturally, ABBA: The Movie (1977)

Famous covers Gay synthpop duo Erasure once recorded an entire hit EP of ABBA tunes called Abba-esque; a boy/girl group called A*Teens enjoyed sustained popularity in the late Nineties by covering only Abba songs; "Britain's Got Talent" discovery Susan Boyle covered "The Winner Takes It All" in 2002; the Sex Pistols were known for occasional ironic live versions of "Dancing Queen"