The History of ABBA

Formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972, ABBA consisted of keyboardist and vocalist Benny Andersson, guitarist and vocalist Bjorn Ulvaeus and singers Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog. After a few years of writing songs together, ABBA finally found success when they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. The world started to take notice of their pop and glam rock sound the next year, and thanks to "S.O.S.," the band would experience a series of hits around the world, particularly in the UK, the U.S., Australia and Sweden. Though ABBA issued their last album and made their last performances in the 1980s, they experienced a revival of their popularity in the '90s thanks to cover bands, a greatest hits compilation, and Broadway show. In this WatchMojo.com video, we take a look at the history of ABBA.
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Mamma Mia, these Swedes were huge! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re taking a look at the history of ABBA.

Formation


Pop group ABBA formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972. Keyboardist and vocalist Benny Andersson and guitarist and vocalist Bjorn Ulvaeus started writing songs together while still part of other bands in the mid-1960s. Soon, they met Swedish singer Agnetha Faltskog, who became Ulvaeus’ wife in 1971.

Foursome


Norwegian-born singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad started making music with Andersson, Ulvaeus and Faltskog in 1969. That same year, she started dating Andersson and he produced her 1971 solo debut.

Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid


Because Andersson and Ulvaeus were the main songwriters, the foursome’s recordings were initially credited to Bjorn & Benny. Before long, Faltskog and Lyngstad were given more opportunities to contribute vocals. This was evident in the Swedish top 20 single “People Need Love,” which was released under Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid by Polar Music founder Stig Anderson.

“Ring Ring”


They soon worked on harmonizing all four voices together. Though they weren’t chosen for the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest, the group found moderate success with their debut, Ring Ring, that same year.

Eurovision Song Contest


Now called ABBA, the quartet quickly crafted the glam rock track, “Waterloo,” which earned them a victory at the Eurovision Song Contest the next year.

“Waterloo”


Following a European tour and television appearances, “Waterloo” hit number one in the UK and charted within the U.S. Billboard Hot 100’s top ten. Its parent album of the same name later topped Swedish charts.

Stagnating Success


Unfortunately, ABBA had trouble maintaining this worldwide success: the first single from their upcoming self-titled album didn’t even enter U.K. charts.

International Success


Things changed in 1975. ABBA’s second single topped Australian charts and reached the American top twenty. It also paved the way for their next international hit: the top 10 UK track “S.O.S.” The eponymous LP eventually reached the UK top 20 and generated the chart-topping “Mamma Mia.”

Pop and Glam Rock


ABBA’s pop and glam rock sound really took off with the UK number one, Greatest Hits, as the compilation yielded the multiple chart-topper, “Fernando.”

“Dancing Queen”


1976’s pop and disco-influenced Arrival was their second UK number one. Thanks to several smashes, like their only U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number one, “Dancing Queen,” Arrival charted within the American top twenty.

UK and U.S. Success


The band released “ABBA: The Movie” in 1977. They also dropped the UK number one and U.S. top twenty record, ABBA: The Album, which contained two UK chart-toppers, including the popular American seller, “Take a Chance on Me.”

Romantic Ups-and-Downs


The next few months were marked by Andersson and Lyngstad’s nuptials and Ulaveus and Faltskog’s split. Reflecting such romantic ups-and-downs, 1979’s Voulez-Vous topped UK charts again and yielded a popular charity single. They also scored a top 5 hit off of their second greatest hits compilation later that year.

More International Success


ABBA unveiled the more synthpop Super Trouper in 1980, which became the year’s biggest-selling effort and spawned two chart-topping singles in the UK. They earned Latin American success with a Spanish-language compilation that same year.

Last Album


Despite Andersson and Lyngstad’s 1981 split, the foursome continued making music together: The Visitors topped UK charts, but only found significant international recognition with one single.

Breakup


After some unproductive recording sessions, ABBA released a double compilation of previously released material in 1982. The Singles: The First Ten Years also featured two new songs, including their last official single. Though they never publicly confirmed their breakup, ABBA’s television performances later that year were considered their last.

Other Projects


The members subsequently focused on other projects, like musicals and solo careers, though several collections were released in the 1980s. But it was in the ‘90s that ABBA’s music gained newfound popularity after bands covered their songs. Then, in 1992, the best-selling greatest hits compilation ABBA Gold put them on top of UK charts.

ABBA Revival


ABBA’s music further penetrated pop culture with two Australian comedy-dramas. After a 1999 London debut, the “Mamma Mia!” musical became one of Broadway’s longest-running productions. It was later adapted into a massively successful film with its soundtrack giving ABBA their first American number one album.

Musical Legacy



Thanks to their catchy mix of pop, disco and glam rock, ABBA became one of the most commercially successful groups of the 1970s. They appealed to a worldwide audience with their harmonized vocals and multilingual abilities and have remained a pop culture mainstay to this day.
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