With record sales of over 370 million Abba is in the top ten best-selling artists ever. The songwriting talent of Bjorn and Benny can’t be denied.
Interesting Facts about the songs
This song has a chorus that hooks into your brain and never seems to let you go. Benny and Bjorn had written the music, and Stig Andersson approached Neil Sedaka to come up with English lyrics for this perfect three minute pop song. Neil loved the track and produced the result in a few days. It sold a half million copies worldwide, but filed to make the British charts. The layered vocal harmonies was thanks to their new engineer Michael Tretow, who worked with the band for many years. The sound of ABBA began to grow.
They won the Eurovision on April 6th 1974 although if several members of ABBA had their way, their entry would have been ‘Hasta Manana’ and then their history would have been very different. Who couldn’t fail to win with a song about Napoleon Bonaparte, very European and different! They were considered outsiders to win, and received no points from Britian! After their win, one journalist asked “ Do you realise that forty thousand men died in the Battle of Waterloo”, and an indignant Stig Andersson (who co-wrote the song) made the retort “Do you have to politicise everything?”. WATERLOO was the first of nine British chart-topping songs, shooting to number one for two weeks and glitz, glamour and fab flares were guaranteed for decades to come.
Hopes were high after the Eurovision Song Contest win and subsequent hit with ‘Waterloo’ , however as a follow-up single it failed to reach the mark peaking at only 27 in the British charts although it made the top 5 in several European countries. It’s simple melody appears to be inoccuous but subconciously you are singing this song in your sleep! The girls’ heavy breathing and cringe lyrics such as “Now I know what they mean, you’re a love machine” and “Honey, to say the least, you’re a doggone beast….oo you make me dizzy!” make this one of their sexiest songs.
There followed two chart flops including ‘So Long’ and ‘I Do I Do I Do’. ABBA desperately needed a sure-fire hit if they were to avoid being dubbed as “one-hit wonders” . Although S.O.S. was the third single from their album it was the first song that really mattered, and established them as the stars they really were as it reached number 6 on its own merits. Agnetha’s passionate and touching vocal reaches out as she could “cry with her voice”. The production, was a little more restrained than previous songs and Pete Townshend of The Who approached Bjorn in New York and said that “S.O.S.” was one of the best pop songs ever written. As he was one of Bjorn’s idols it was high praise.
After “S.O.S.”, this song again is full of hook lines and musical devices, making it a very tasteful production. Lyrically it was very similar to “S.O.S.” and at this stage we are maybe beginning to see Bjorn’s awareness of some cracks in his marriage to Agnetha, although the public image was still that they were very much ‘in love’. ‘Mama Mia’ was their second Number One hit in Britain although it wasn’t even considered as a single until the Australians went for it in a big way. Lasse Hallstrom was by this time getting into video production and so began the video age of ABBA which produced the lasting images of the supergroup we all still enjoy today.
This song had already been a hit for Frida in Sweden, proving that it was a strong song. They rushed to capitalise on their popularity in Australia and it was held it in the charts for fourteen weeks equalling the all-time record, set by The Beatles with “Hey Jude”. An ABBA TV special was viewed by more Australians than watched the 1969 Moon Landing , and broke all TV records. It was also a Number One hit in Britain, their third in a row. It was Bjorn’s idea to transform Stig’s bland storyline about a boy and girls love into something more interesting and it became a song about former revolutionaries in Mexico, reminiscing over their youth. It spawned a rash of copycat songs such as Brotherhood of Man who followed it with ‘Angelo’ and even ‘Figaro’!
This was always guaranteed to be a hit and the fact that it’s still being played today proves it’s appeal as the ultimate party track with it’s strong melody. It was the groups only American hit and Benny thought that this was ABBA’s finest moment. Frida also thought so, because when she heard the backing track for the first time she burst into tears. The original working title was “Boogaloo” and there was a rumour that they had written the words in honour of the King of Sweden’s new bride. This wasn’t the case, but it didn’t hurt their reputation back in Sweden. Queen Silvia was thirty something and not seventeen but it didn’t really matter, and we all still love to sing along with the fab seventies disco words such as ‘diggin’ and ‘jivin’. It was Number One for 6 weeks in Britain and Number One in more countries.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Frida’s voice is superb in this number. Her low vocal tones and stage presence shone through and it became a hit at Number Three in Britain although rejected in America. Bjorn wanted to re-name it “Gypsy Girl” but everyone else thought it was much better as “Money, Money, Money”. Benny’s ambitions to enter the world of stage musicals seemed to start here with the beautiful production and arrangment of this track. Rows were frequent in the studio at this time, and Frida’s sexy delivery may have been a result of their relations. At this time they were said to be almost a bigger Swedish export than Volvo!
KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU
This is one of the most moving pop songs of all time. It produces a dramatic start with Frida’s low rich voice and this is where ABBA start to grow up as a band. Bjorn’s poignant story of a love affair that was in its death throes may have been painfully close to home and lyrically it was better crafted than some of Stig’s twee lyrics. Suddenly the story of their personal lives was being played out on the world stage, although Bjorn has said that it was “ninety percent fiction”, he did admit that it came from “somewhere deep inside”. At this time Agnetha would have rather just been a mother, but Bjorn was more interested in band matters because he was something of a workaholic. Their marriage came under tremendous pressure and they both started to want different things out of life.
THE NAME OF THE GAME
It reached Number One in November 1977 and stayed there for four weeks. There was an American influence of bands such as The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Agnetha was, heavily pregnant with her and Bjorn’s second child, Christian, who was born in December. She began to prefer staying at home and there followed eighteen months of conflict inevitably leading to the split of their marriage. They produce a flawless production and ABBA start to believe in themselves as artistes and craftsmen. It did well everywhere except, strangely, in Australia!
TAKE A CHANCE ON ME
This song is a vocal masterpiece as the backing vocals keep on building and get bigger and bigger, interspersed with some breathy, sexy, lines sung by Agnetha. Benny thought that some of Bjorn’s lyrics were a little “lame” but Bjorn explained that he knew what worked in a pop song. However, Benny and Bjorn were always democratic and peace descended once more. It stormed to Number One in Britain in February 1978 and stayed there for three weeks, but was knocked off the number one spot by Kate Bush’s epic “Wuthering Heights”.
This was a masterpiece and again the American influence is clearly there with it’s big, dramatic arrangements and we are transported as high as they suggest in their lyrics. The vocals are clear and the song grows and grows on you. Many people say this is their favourite ABBA track of all. Bjorn’s lyrics were inspired by reading Jonathon Livingstone Seagull, the novel written by Richard Bach who was a forerunner of “New Age” philosophies. Bjorn was criticised for his lyrics but the song remained so haunting that it is still a show stopper wherever it is played.
THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC
This has become a mega “anthem” the world over and was written as a part of a mini-musical entitled “The Girl With The Golden Hair” which was featured on “The Album”. It shows Benny and Bjorn’s fledgling desire to write a musical and is strikingly “West End”. Agnetha tells the story of her life although, and the lyrics seem to be a little unkind “I’m nothing special, in fact I’m a bit of a bore….If I tell a joke you’ve probably heard it before”. However, the song is an essential part of an ABBA tribute and is a fitting climax to the show. It is probably one of their cheesiest songs, but they sure do it with style.
SUMMER NIGHT CITY
This song was generally considered a flop back in October 1978 only reaching Number Five in the British charts. ABBA was so disgusted with it’s ‘failure’ that they left it off their album, only putting it in a re-release later. It should be noted, however that it was their first Number One in Japan, and their biggest hit in Sweden since ‘Dancing Queen’.
This year saw the release of their album Voulez Vous which is known as ABBA’s sexy album. The title track was very heavily influenced by the disco beats of The Bee Gees. They were keen to re-kindle interest and make an impression, so they decided to put it back to back with Angel Eyes as a double A side which went to Number Three in Britain and remains is a firm favourite with disco-goers everywhere.
Benny and Frida had decided to get married in mid 1978 after 9 years of living together, but this year saw the separation of Agnetha and Bjorn. The media went into a frenzy with the news of the split, but the band didn’t split. Benny and Frida stated that things became a lot better as tensions were much less between Bjorn and Agnetha, and it took them only a short time for both to find new partners. The Voulez Vous period produced a risqué set of lyrics and perhaps reflect Bjorn’s new attentions
A double A side with Voulez Vous ABBA paired two big songs together, perhaps because of the lack of American interest the need to straddle both sides of the fence was in evidence. Voulez Vous’s disco beat was a risk, but Angel Eyes was typically ABBAesque. Both songs were very popular in Britain and once Angel Eyes was heard, it also entered the subconscious mind forever. One ah-ha after another weaves us into the main track and the arrangement is wonderful as Benny’s chord arrangement takes us up and up. The lyrics are the story of a lothario who is irresistible to women, but is not so innocent. Is Bjorn talking about himself?
This song went to Number Two in February 1979 and was just pipped for the Number One slot by Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass”. Chiquitita’s original title was “In The Arms Of Rosalita” and originally featured Frida more than Agnetha. Benny and Bjorn re-fashioned it before release and favoured Agnetha’s emotional performance as the main vocal. The United Nations had nominated 1979 as “The Year Of The Child” and ABBA donated the proceeds of this single to UNICEF. However, in Britain, teenagers sneered at it, for being ‘uncool’ as they were now more into rebellious songs and attitudes.
DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW?
Spring 1979 sees the release of this song with Bjorn as the lead singer. Nobody expected it to become one of the most loved ABBA songs the world over, with the riffs and rock base bringing a vibrancy to their music. It appears as totally fresh and exciting, although it only got to number four in the British charts. The famous “take it easy” section is known as a particularly fine example of vocal arrangements and was borrowed from an old composition “Dream World”. It’s soaring layered harmonies perfectly complimented the driving rock rhythms from Bjorn. Although, this track always fills the dance floor and is a great favourite, Bjorn never again sang lead vocals.
GIMME! GIMME! GIMME! (A MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT)
Released in October 1979, this song was written because they needed another hit. It became a huge success and is possibly their best disco song. Bjorn seemed to know how to bring the best out of Agnetha and provided her with lyrics that spoke of raw emotion using words like “depressed” and “gloom”. As she prowled her way across the stage, it was obvious that she was thoroughly enjoying the context of the sentiment.
I HAVE A DREAM
Just when we thought ABBA were becoming too risqué for and totally opposite to their wholesome family image, along came “I Have A Dream”, and it did the job of keeping middle-of-the-road listeners onside, although it sounded incongruous in the context of the entire Voulez Vous album. It was targeted at the Christmas market, and featured a Stockholm’s Children’s choir a la St Winifred’s Girls School hit single “Grandma”. It went to Number Two in Britain and featured Agnetha’s and Frida’s children on stage with the choir. Benny simply wanted to write a singalong song and this perhaps harks back to his folk roots
THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL
The release of ‘The Winner Takes It All’ in July 1980 revitalised ABBA’s career at the beginning of the eighties, but perhaps once again showed the heartache behind the bands public persona. Benny and Bjorn seemed to be running out of steam in their writing, and songs took longer to write. Benny and Frida were having problems and the relationships all seemed to be under a strain. The lyrics are possibly Bjorn’s greatest. He says that he wrote them when he was drunk, and completed them in under an hour. He has stressed that the lyrics weren’t a literal description of his and Agnetha’s break-up, but he had held in a lot of feelings about the divorce, and as they came pouring out they were the inspiration for the story of a ‘split-up’. Agnetha is said to have cried when she finished singing and she thinks it’s the greatest ever ABBA song. Many would agree with her, as she gave it perhaps her finest vocal performance. This song was the first in four successive hits in Britain and stayed as Number One for several weeks.
This was the last song to be recorded on their album of the same name. This was the second single off the album and was a huge success as after years of media criticism, the music journalists acclaimed the ‘Super Trouper’ album. In Britain, the advance orders broke records by selling 160,000 copies on the first day. However, the lyrics show how ABBA were no longer having the time of their lives, and it appears that they are now bored with fame. Benny and Frida were growing apart and as ABBA starts to fade, so does their relationship. In February 1981 they announced their divorce and by March 1981 Benny was living with another woman. It was ABBA’s last ever Number One hit.
LAY ALL YOUR LOVE ON ME
This was a minor hit but is regarded by many to be a big influence on the early Eighties synth-based bands. Benny was very pleased with it’s heavy sequencer driven synth chords and sounds and later it influenced many Eighties bands such as Erasure, Human League and Pet Shop Boys.
ONE OF US
This was another hit for the band but not that big as it only reached Number Three in the British charts. Although reaching Number One in West Germany and Holland, it marks the end of an era. They had recorded their last album ‘The Visitors’ but it seemed to have been a painful time. The atmosphere in the studios was not good, and Bjorn wanted to the girls to do solo performances. The boys had to tread very carefully in even suggesting that the girls re-sing a line in case it sparked an argument. Frida said that the joy had gone out of it. The group had grown apart and this made the recording sessions a drag. Bjorn simply said that the energy had run out. Benny wasn’t too sure about ONE OF US, but Bjorn and the record Company insisted it could be a huge hit, and they were right. It has become one of the most pogniant songs ever recorded.
So ABBA had come to the end, and it’s fitting that some of their best works came at the end. Not only has ABBA stood the test of time, but new generations are discovering them and the music lives on in many tributes who are all making a good living re-creating the songs for party-goers the world over. We hope that you will enjoy our version of ABBA’s music, which we’ve tried to keep as exciting and vibrant as the group would do themselves if they were still performing today. We are all professional musicians of many years standing, who want to play the best we can, and delight audiences with our selection of their brilliant songs.