Left to right: Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus
It was very unfashionable to like Abba at that time. Their songs are beautifully crafted and the production was always immaculate, everything beautifully tuned in time, and the girls' voices were fabulous.
guitarist Brian May
ABBA was a Swedish
pop supergroup of The Seventies
and early Eighties
composed of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
There's quite a long story behind their name, actually. The band was originally known, rather awkwardly, as "Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid". This is the banner under which they released their first few singles and debut album "Ring Ring". Afterwards, the name "ABBA" was coined, partially as an acronym of the group's first names, and also as something as a joke, because Abba was also the name of a Swedish fish-canning company. Since the company was pretty much unknown outside of Sweden, it was thought that the name would work on international markets. The group had to ask for permission to use the name.
In 1970, the group traveled around Sweden and Denmark as a cabaret revue called "Festfolket" (Party People). Audiences preferred their singing to their comedy skits. They first shot to international attention in 1974 winning the Eurovision Song Contest
with 'Waterloo'. Rapid success followed over the next few years in Europe and Australia and (to a lesser degree) the United States with a run of huge hits like 'Dancing Queen', 'Fernando' and 'Mamma Mia'. The fact that the band consisted of two Creator Couples
didn't hurt. A European and Australian tour in 1977 led to a feature film
and massive sell-out concerts.
By the end of the decade, the group had matured artistically moving away from the light-natured songs of the early years and towards heavier themes. Internal affairs had turned Darker and Edgier
as well: Agnetha and Björn divorced in 1980, and Benny and Frida would follow suit a year later. 'The Winner Takes It All', a bittersweet ballad about the end of a romance (generally assumed to be based on Agnetha and Björn's divorce) is considered by many to be the artistic peak of the group.
ABBA never officially broke up, but by 1983 they had essentially dissolved. The former members would go on to have mixed careers and despite occasional public appearances together never did reunite despite a reported offer in 2000 of $1,000,000,000 (yes, you read that right, that's a billion dollars
) to do a reunion tour consisting of 100 concerts.
This was not however the end of ABBA in popular culture. The music remained popular, steady sellers and formed the background for the 1994 Australian Cult Classic Muriel's Wedding
- ABBA has always been especially huge in the Land Down Under
. More directly, Benny and Björn collaborated thrice in the realm of musical theater. First with lyricist Tim Rice
, and later in the creation of Mamma Mia!
, a stage musical based around the ABBA songs
. The musical, opening first in 1999 in London and in New York in 2001 has proved enormously popular with global audiences. In 2008 a movie version was released staring Meryl Streep
, Pierce Brosnan
and Amanda Seyfried
(who, at 22, was born well after the group dissolved). That film was such a smash hit it made $100+ million before
it opened in North America. Their third stage musical is called "Kristina from Duvemåla
" (or just "Kristina" for short) and is based on the literary epos by Vilhelm Moberg about a group of people who emigrate from Sweden to America in the mid-19th century. The musical was a massive success in Sweden and remains one of the most popular musicals of all time there. It's been translated into English but has not been performed other than in concert. Many fans of the original Swedish version are highly critical of the English translation, citing a huge decrease in the quality of the lyrics, which might have played a role in the show not being brought properly to an English speaking stage.
The compilation album 'ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits', first released in 1992 has just (as of August 2008) reached the number one slot in the UK album charts for the fifth time - a sign, if any were needed, of ABBA's enduring popularity.
They provide examples of: