Sunday, December 28, 2008

ABBA - Mainland Europe's Most Iconic Pop Group

Thanks, Wikipedia.

ABBA was a Swedish pop group that was a worldwide sensation in the 1970s.

The band consisted of Benny Andersson (Sweden), Bjorn Ulvaeus (Sweden), Anni-Frida Lyngstad Fredrikson (Norway) and Agnetha Faltskog (Sweden).

They topped the charts worldwide from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.

The name ABBA is an acronym formed from the first letters of each group member's given name.

ABBA gained immense international popularity employing catchy song hooks, simple lyrics and a Wall of Sound achieved by overdubbing the female singers' voices in multiple harmonies.

As their popularity grew, they were sought after to tour Europe, Australia and North America, drawing crowds of near-hysterical fans, notably in Australia.

Touring became a contentious issue, being particularly unpopular with Agnetha, but they continued to release studio albums to great commercial success.

At the height of their popularity, however, both marriages of the band members (Benny with Frida, and Bjorn with Agnetha) failed, and the relationship changes were reflected in their music, as they produced more thoughtful lyrics with different compositions.

They remain a fixture of radio playlists and are one of the world's best selling bands, having sold over 400 million records worldwide.

ABBA was also the first pop group from mainland Europe to enjoy consistent success in the charts English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The music of ABBA has been re-arranged into the successful musical Mamma Mia! that has toured worldwide and had a movie version released in 2008.

All four of the former members of ABBA were present at the Stockholm premieres of both the musical (2005) and the film (2008).

Benny Andersson (born in Stockholm, Sweden on December 16, 1946) was a member of a popular Swedish pop-rock group, The Hep Stars, that performed covers of international hits, from the age of 18.

The Hep Stars were known as The Swedish Beatles.

Benny played keyboards and eventually started writing original compositions for his band, many of which became major hits including No Response and Sunny Girl.

Bjorn Ulvaeus (born in Gothenburg, Sweden on April 25, 1945) also began his musical career at 18 (as a singer and guitarist), when he fronted The Hootenanny Singers, a popular Swedish folk group.

Ulvaeus started writing English language songs for his group, and even had a brief solo career.

The Hootenanny Singers and The Hep Stars sometimes crossed paths while touring, and on one occasion in 1966 Ulvaeus and Andersson decided to write a song together.

Their first attempt was Isn't It Easy to Say, a song later recorded by The Hep Stars.

Stig Anderson was the manager of The Hootenanny Singers.

He saw potential in the collaboration, and encouraged them to compose more.

Both also began playing occasionally with the other's bands on stage and on record, although not until 1969 did the pair write and produce some of their first real hits together, Merry Sixties.

Andersson wrote and submitted the song Hej, Clown for the 1969 Melodifestivalen, the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest finals.

The song tied for first, but re-voting relegated Andersson's song to second place.

On this occasion, Andersson briefly met his future spouse, singer Anni-Frida, who also participated in the contest.

A month later, the two had become a couple.

As the two bands began to break up, Andersson and Ulvaeus teamed up and eventually recorded their first album together in 1970, called Lycka (Happiness in Swedish), that included original compositions sung by both men.

Agnetha Faltskog, (born on April 5, 1950 in Jonkoping, Sweden) had a number one record in Sweden when she was only 17, and was soon noted by the critics and songwriters as a talented singer and songwriter.

Her main inspirations were singers like Connie Francis.

Along with her own compositions, she recorded covers of foreign hits and performed them on tours.

She submitted an original song for Melodifestivalen at 17, titled Redeemed, but it was rejected.

She briefly met Anni-Frida during a TV show in 1968, and Bjorn at a concert a few months later.

During the filming of a Swedish TV special in 1969, Agnetha met Bjorn again, and they were married in 1971.

In 1973, Agnetha starred as Mary Magdalene in the original Swedish production of Jesus Christ Superstar and attracted favourable reviews.

Between 1967 and 1975, she released five studio albums.

Anni-Frida (born on November 15, 1945 in Bjorkasen in Ballangen, Norway) sang from the age of 13 with various dance bands, and worked mainly in a jazz-oriented cabaret style.

She also formed her own band the Anni-Frida Four.

In 1967, she won a national talent competition with the song A Day Off.

When Benny started to produce her recordings in 1971, she got her first number 1 single My Own Town, for which all four future ABBA members sang the backup vocals.

Frida toured and performed regularly and made appearances on radio and TV.

She met Bjorn briefly in 1963 during a talent contest and Agnetha during a TV show in 1968.

Frida finally linked up with her future bandmates in 1969.

She participated in the Melodifestivalen, where she met Benny for the first time.

Benny produced her single Peter Pan in 1969 – the first collaboration between her and Benny and Bjorn.

Later Benny produced Frida's self-titled debut album which was released in 1971.

Frida also played in several cabaret shows in Stockholm between 1969 and 1973.

After ABBA was formed, she recorded another successful album in 1975, Frida Ensam, which included the original Swedish rendition of Fernando.

It became a huge hit in Scandinavia before the English version was recorded.

An attempt at combining their talents occurred in 1970 when the two couples went on holiday together in Cyprus.

What started as singing for fun on the beach ended up as an improvised live performance in front of the United Nations soldiers stationed on the island.

Benny and Bjorn were recording their first album together, Lycka, which was to be released in 1970.

Agnetha and Frida added backing vocals on several tracks and the idea of them all working together saw them launch their own stage act, Festfolk, which translates from Swedish to mean both Party People and Engaged Couples.

After the 1970 release of Benny and Bjorn's album Lycka, two more singles credited to them were released in Sweden, No Doctor Can Help with That and Imagine if the Earth were Young.

Agnetha released her fourth album in 1971 and married Bjorn on July 6, 1971.

Benny, Bjorn and Agnetha started performing together on a regular basis during the summer of 1971.

Stig Anderson was determined to break into the mainstream international market with music by Benny and Bjorn.

He encouraged them to write a song for Melodifestivalen, and after two rejected entries in 1971, they submitted Say It With A Song for the 1972 contest.

The song won third place and became a huge hit in Sweden.

Their song She's My Kind Of Girl was released by Epic in Japan in 1972, giving them a top 10 hit.

People Need Love was released in 1972, featuring guest vocals by Agnetha and Frida.

Stig released it as a single, credited to Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida.

In 1973, the band and manager Stig decided to have another try at the Melodifestivalen, this time with the song Ring Ring.

Stig arranged an English translation of the lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody and in the Melodifestivalen, it placed third.

Stig subsequently named the group ABBA. The members had informally called themselves A. B. B. A. for a long time.

In 1974, ABBA performed Waterloo, its self-penned hit, at the Eurovision Song Contest in Britain and won.

The victory gave ABBA the chance to tour Europe and perform on major TV shows.

ABBA's subsequent hit songs included Honey, Honey and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.

ABBA's third album spawned the hit songs S. O. S. and Mamma Mia!

In 1976, ABBA released its Greatest Hits album which contained the hit song Fernando.

The group's next album Arrival was a number 1 bestseller all over Europe and Australia.

It contained the monster hits Money, Money, Money, Knowing Me, Knowing You and Dancing Queen.

ABBA's fifth album in 1977 contained the hit songs The Name of the Game and Take A Chance on Me.

In 1979, the group performed Chiquitita at the Music for UNICEF Concert held at the United Nations General Assembly to celebrate UNICEF's Year of the Child.

Agnetha and Bjorn were divorced in 1979.

The group's sixth album, Voulez-Vous, was released in the same year.

Besides the title track, it also contained the hit songs Does Your Mother Know, Angel Eyes, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and I Have A Dream.

ABBA's seventh album spawned the hit songs The Winner Takes It All, Super Trouper and Lay All Your Love On Me.

ABBA broke up in 1982.

Benny and Bjorn began collaborating with Tim Rice in 1983 on writing songs for the musical Chess, while Agnetha and Frida concentrated on international solo careers.

Among the songs in Chess were One Night In Bangkok and I Know Him So Well.

Frida recorded a duet with French singer Daniel Balavoine titled Belle.

In 1987, Benny released his first solo album Ring My Bells.

In the 1990s, he wrote music for the popular Swedish cabaret quartet Ainbusk Singers, giving them two hits, Lassie and Love Me.

He also wrote music for films.

Benny's band BAO released three successful albums in 2001, 2004 and 2007.

Bjorn had a reunion with his old band The Hootenanny Singers in 2005.

Benny and Bjorn are highly involved in the worldwide productions of the musical Mamma Mia! alongside Frida and Agnetha who attend its premieres.

They were also involved in the production of the successful film version of the musical, which opened in 2008.

Benny and Bjorn also made cameo appearances in the film.

In 1982, Frida launched her album Something's Going On produced by Phil Collins.

Frida's second solo album Shine was released in 1984.

Agnetha followed in 1983 with the album Wrap Your Arms Around Me. This included the hit single The Heat Is On, which was a hit in Europe.

In the US, Agnetha scored a Billboard Top 30 hit with Can't Shake Loose.

Agnetha released Eyes of a Woman in 1985 and it contained the hit song I Won't Let You Go.

In 1987 came I Stand Alone which was produced by ex-Chicago lead vocalist and bassist Peter Cetera.

They had a duet I Wasn't The One Who Said Goodbye.

In 1992 Frida became the chairperson of the environmental organisation Artists for the Environment in Sweden. She held the post for three years.

She also recorded Julian Lennon's environmental song Saltwater.

In the same year she married German prince Heinrich Von Plauen. He died at the age of 49 of cancer in 1999.

A year later, Frida lost her daughter in a car crash.

After ABBA, Frida became traumatised upon discovering that her real biological father was a Nazi German military officer Alfred Haase, who forcefully impregnated her mother during the Nazi German occupation of Norway during World War 2.

She has since made peace with Haase.

Roxette's Per Gessle has written songs for Agnetha and Frida.

U2 paid tribute to ABBA in a concert at Stockholm in 1992.

In 1994 two Australian movies focussed on admiration for ABBA - The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding.

Evan Dando of The Lemonheads recorded a cover version of Knowing Me, Knowing You, Sinead O'Connor and Boyzone's Stephen Gately have recorded Chiquitita, Tanita Tikaram has paid tribute to The Day Before You Came, Cliff Richard has covered Lay All Your Love On Me, while Dionne Warwick and Peter Cetera recorded their versions of S. O. S.

Swedish metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen covered Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! with slightly altered lyrics.

In 2008 all four ABBA members were reunited at the Swedish premiere of the film Mamma Mia!.