3 September 2021-
You might have heard that legendary Swedish disco band is back after 40 years... and whether or not you do, here are a few tidbits about one of the greatest Swedish bands ever — and one of the greatest bands period!
It seems too good to be true, but it is — true: ABBA are back! And if you want proof, just check out this video for new single “I Still Have Faith In You”, one of two to surface in recent days, ahead of a tour featuring holograms of the band members looking like they haven’t aged a bit. That’s kind of the perk of holograms: you can make them look exactly how you want to. As long as the sound is right, we’ll go for it too!
Now, for the few among you who are too young to know the band’s name — yet probably know their songs — ABBA are the most successful band to ever come out of Sweden, and one of the most successful music making machines of the 20th century. For a while in the mid-1970’s, they released a string of hits that is near unparalleled in the history of popular music, eventually providing the basis for the musical “Mamma Mia” (one of their hits), which further promoted their work throughout the world. Not too shabby, huh?
While we — almost — all know about ABBA today, and Swedish pop in general, this was not always the case. Before there ever were artists like Roxette, Ace of Base or Robyn and, perhaps more importantly, producers like the unavoidable Max Martin (of Britney Spears fame, among a ridiculous list of chart-topping credits), Sweden was arguably more famous for its fishing exports than musical exploits. ABBA is the band that changed all that: founding members Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid (note the first letter of each name: clever, right?) all had a storied career before they ever started making music together. Each produced solo records, formed successful bands and achieved a certain level of fame before joining forces. But there is something magical about certain pairings…
Although that joining forces also took a bit of time to truly coalesce: over the span of a few years, the four musicians — who also became involved with each other, to make things even more intricate — tried a number of combinations and iterations, singing on each other’s records, occasionally performing together and writing songs for one another. The name was also a work in progress: their first 1973 album Ring Ring still featured all 4 first names instead of the admittedly catchier band name they eventually went for. There were a few reasons for that, including the fact that it actually belonged to a seafood company in their native Sweden… And the final spelling, with its mirroring B’s, actually came from a mistakenly held letter during a photoshoot. That is how legends are made.
Then came the 1974 Eurovision contest, which ABBA saw as an ideal stepping stone to crossing over internationally. And cross over they did, with their smash hit “Waterloo”, which won them the competition and first international recognition. The rest, as they say, is history: “Money, Money, Money”, “SOS”, “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”, “Dancing Queen”… the list of hit singles the quartet produced over the next few years is utterly remarkable. All the way to a timely 2005 sample by the Queen of Pop herself, Lady Madonna, and her now classic “Hung Up”. And now, a reunion — virtual — tour as well as new material, which sees the four musicians back together for the first time in 40 years.
This time, it will probably take less time for everyone to pay attention…