ABBA

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ABBA
Years active 1972–1982
Status Inactive
Origin Stockholm, Sweden
Music genre(s) Pop, pop rock
Members Agnetha Fältskog
Björn Ulvaeus
Benny Andersson
Anni-Frid Lyngstad

ABBA was a musical group, famously Scandinavian, that enjoyed significant success during its decade-long career, becoming one of the iconic pop bands of the 1970s.

Origins

In 1972, four musicians released a single, 'People Need Love' under a rather unwieldy group name setting out each of their four names: 'Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid'.

The four members of the band were Swedes Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Agnetha Fältskog, and Norwegian-born Anni-Frid Lyngstad.

In 1973 the band's manager Stig Anderson became annoyed with such an extended nomenclature to refer to the band and began referring to the group using the first letters of each of their names to form an acronym, ABBA. The choice of the name ABBA was somewhat of an in-joke as people subsequently would associate the name with one of Sweden's largest fish canneries, now known as Abba Seafood, who permitted the band to refer to themselves as ABBA.

Success

In 1974 ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton (U.K.) with a song that became their first number one hit, 'Waterloo'. This was the biggest international hit of any Eurovision winners, and was later voted the best song of the first 50 years of Eurovision.[1]

Following several lesser selling singles, the group found chart success again in 1975 with the song 'SOS', followed later that year with another hit, 'Mamma Mia'.

1976 saw the group's career move ahead strongly with several singles, including 'Fernando' and 'Money, Money, Money', achieving strong sales. That year saw 'Dancing Queen' become ABBA's only song that would reach the number one position on the pop music charts in both the USA and in the UK, as well as in many other markets around the world.

In 1977 ABBA travelled to Australia for a series of concerts that caused levels of hysteria not seen there since the tour of the country by the Beatles more than ten years earlier. Each member of the group was said to be profoundly affected by the impacts of their growing fame, experienced on such a scale for the first time during this Australian tour.[2] The group were banned from performing in the conservative state of Queensland where they were deemed by the government as being 'a threat to morals', after a letter campaign by Christian groups highlighting ABBA's 'indecent costumes' and that the members 'freely admitted that two of them are living together without the blessing of God's holy matrimony'.[3]

A motion picture was filmed during the 1977 Australian tour, with actor Robert Hughes, and released as ABBA--The Movie, along with an accompanying release ABBA--The Album in 1978.[4]

Their 1979 world tour was the last occasion when the group toured on such an ambitious scale and over such an extended period of time, and included performances across North America and Europe. In 1980 a less extensive tour was mounted in Japan.

ABBA became one of the most successful pop groups ever, and their music continues to remain commercially popular 25 years after the release of their last studio album, The Visitors.

The end of ABBA

ABBA's impact on popular culture had begun to wane by the start of the 1980s. This has been claimed due to the change of the mood and lyrics of the songs, from the sunny and brighter tracks of their early career, to the more introspective and melodramatic of their latter career, which was losing the group most of their younger fans.

By 1981 the group was clearly moving apart.

The band's final album The Visitors was released in 1981 to much lower sales than most of the group's earlier recordings. An often hoped-for later album, Opus 10 which had been planned, has never materialized. Final studio recording sessions took place in 1982, with two final singles 'The Day Before You Came' and 'Under Attack' being the final ABBA records at that time.

The individual band members have continued to pursue careers in music, albeit sporadically in the case of the female members.

In 2004, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their own Eurovision triumph, that year's Eurovision preliminary final broadcast included an homage to the group and ABBA surprised many as they collaborated, to a limited extent, on a new project.

The Last Video, a short film featuring puppets telling the ABBA story backed by a storyline, comprised a story about ABBA auditioning in Stockholm and used lyrics from their music to tell the narrative. One of the more amusing aspects was the use of a lesser known lyric--'What's that noise? What's that dreadful rumble' from the track 'Soldiers'--said in the video by two other audition hopefuls sitting in the waiting room at the same recording studio to criticise the sound ABBA were making in their audition for the record producer (a character played by Rik Mayall of British TV comedy The Young Ones). Cher and Iron Maiden's Eddie made cameo appearances in The Last Video, as did all four members of ABBA, although not appearing in the same scene.

ABBA have never officially broken up, but have not performed together since a private function in 1986.

One of the most lasting impacts of their music has been the worldwide success of a musical theatre production called Mamma Mia!, which is based on ABBA music, not on the story of ABBA the group.

Continuing influence

The band's influence continues to be felt in popular culture.

One of these influences is the pervasive presence of ABBA songs, even though, in some markets, for example the US, they had only one Number One hit.

The Australian films The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding featured ABBA songs on the soundtrack. Australian film critic John Hinde noted that without the ABBA songs, both films would have become forgotten relics of the 1990s.

'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme' was used as the title song to the British comedy series of the same name.

An unmistakable indicator of popularity is the extent to which something can be referred to and be instantly recognized, without the need for explanation. The spoofing of ABBA and ABBA songs is an example. BBC comedy Not the Nine o'clock News parodied ABBA in the musical sketch Super Dooper, a play on the title song from the Super Trooper album.

In an episode of The Vicar of Dibley, a character called Jim, a perpetual ditherer who prefaces every answer by stuttering 'N..n...no...no...no....' raised uproarious laughter in the live audience by attempting to say the title 'Knowing me, Knowing you'.

The band has long had a following in the gay community.

In March 1987, when the band's popularity had faded as an influence on popular culture, a Sydney, Australia gay bar--'The Unicorn Hotel' in the heart of what was then the city's Oxford Street gay precinct--held an inaugural 'ABBA night', on the night of the 10th anniversary of ABBAs 1977 Sydney shows. An enthusiastic crowd of several hundred mostly homosexual people celebrated many of the band's songs. ABBA's slow pop culture credibility rehabilitation was already underway by then, and several of the tracks played that night included illegal dance remixes of lesser known ABBA songs by various disco DJs, for example the hard to find 'The Visitors (Crackin' Up) - Hot Tracks (remix)', indicating that by at least 1987 ABBA's music was once again reasserting an influence on popular culture. This ABBA Night at the Unicorn was one of the first events in years where ABBA was celebrated at a public event with a form of adulation, as they had previously been seen as very 'uncool'. This occurred long before the release in the 1990s of the very commercially successful compilations albums ABBA Gold and More ABBA Gold.

New York City's 'Gay ABBA Fest' prompted the tagline 'Talk about your Dancing Queens'.

Pop artist Madonna heavily sampled much of the music from 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)' for her hit single 'Hung Up' in 2005.

The band have inspired many successful tribute bands, most of whom, like 'Bjorn Again', involve some form of bad pun in their name. In 2010, lawyers for Universal Music in Sweden ordered all tribute acts to cease and desist in using the word 'ABBA' in their names, after complaints from fans they were being misled and that the brand name was being damaged and misused.[5]

References

  1. 'Abba win 'Eurovision 50th' vote,' BBC News, 23 October 2005. Retrieved 1 August 2007.
  2. ABBA Australian Tour: 30th Anniversary. 2007. Abbamail.com. Retrieved: August 1, 2007
  3. "Abba - A Threat to Morals", The Courier-Mail, W. & F. Pascoe, 18 October 1976, pp. 1.
  4. ABBA The Movie on DVD. June, 2005. ABBA The Site--The Official Site. Retrieved: August 1, 2007
  5. Staff writer. Abba tribute bands warned to change their names, The Daily Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 4 June 2010. Retrieved on 9 January 2014.