ABBA was a pop music group formed in Sweden in November 1970. The band consisted of Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida), Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Faltskog. Anni-Frid and Benny were a married couple, as were Bjorn and Agnetha (both couples later divorced). The group topped the charts worldwide from 1972 to 1982.
The name "ABBA" is an acronym formed from the first letters of each of the group members' given names (Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, Anni-Frid), and the group took this name officially in late 1973. The group's name is officially trademarked with the first "B" reversed ( ), so that the left and right halves of the name are mirror-images of one another.
ABBA gained international popularity employing catchy song hooks, simple lyrics, sound effects (reverb, phasing) 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 ardent fans, notably in Australia. Touring became a contentious issue, being particularly unpopular with Faltskog, but they continued to release studio albums to great commercial success. At the height of their popularity, however, both relationships began suffering strain that led ultimately to the collapse of first the Ulvaeus-Faltskog marriage (in 1979) and then of the Andersson-Lyngstad marriage in 1981. In the late-70's/ early 80's these relationship changes began manifesting in the group's music, as they produced more thoughtful, introspective lyrics with different compositions.
ABBA remains a fixture of radio playlists and is one of the world's best-selling bands, having sold nearly 370 million records worldwide, making them the second best-selling band in history and the second best-selling pop artists in history. They still sell two to four million records a year. ABBA was also the first pop group from mainland Europe to enjoy consistent success in the charts of English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Rhodesia, Australia and New Zealand. Their enormous popularity subsequently opened the doors for other Continental European acts.
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 July 2008 (one of the highest grossing films in the UK). All four of the former members of ABBA were present at the Stockholm premieres of both the musical (2005) and the film (2008). The film premiere took place at the Benny Andersson-owned Rival Theatre at Mariatorget, Stockholm on 4 July 2008. A new museum devoted entirely to the pop supergroup was scheduled to open in Stockholm in 2009, but the project was postponed as of September 2008.
Before ABBA (1960s)
Benny Andersson (born 16 December 1946 in Stockholm, Sweden) became (at age 18) member of a popular Swedish pop-rock group, The Hep Stars, that performed covers of international hits. The Hep Stars were known as "The Swedish Beatles"; they even set up Hep House, their equivalent of the Apple Corps. Andersson played keyboard and eventually started writing original compositions for his band, many of which became major hits including "No Response" that hit #3 in 1965, "Sunny Girl", "Wedding", "Consolation", all of which hit #1 in 1966. Andersson also had a fruitful songwriting collaboration with Lasse Berghagen, with whom he composed his first Svensktoppen entry "Sagan om lilla Sofi" ("The Story of Little Sophie") in 1968.
Bjorn Ulvaeus (born 25 April 1945 in Gothenburg, Sweden) also began his musical career at 18 (as a singer and guitarist), when he fronted The Hootenanny Singers, a popular Swedish folk-skiffle group. Ulvaeus started writing English-language songs for his group, and even had a brief solo career alongside. The Hootenanny Singers and The Hep Stars sometimes crossed paths while touring, and in June 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 and founder of the Polar Music label. 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: "Ljuva sextiotal" ('Merry Sixties'), recorded by Brita Borg and The Hep Stars' 1969 hit "Speleman" ("Fiddler"). Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog were married on 6 July 1971.
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 that occasion Andersson briefly met his future spouse, singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who also participated in the contest. A month later, the two had become a couple. As their respective bands began to break up during 1969, Andersson and Ulvaeus teamed up and recorded their first album together in 1970, called Lycka ("Happiness"), which included original compositions sung by both men. Their spouses were often present in the recording studio, and sometimes added backing vocals; Faltskog even co-wrote a song with the two. Ulvaeus still occasionally recorded and performed with The Hootenanny Singers until the summer of 1974, and Andersson took part in producing their records.
Agnetha Faltskog (born 5 April 1950 in Jonkoping, Sweden) had a #1 record in Sweden when she was only 17, and was soon noted by the critics and songwriters as a talented singer/songwriter of schlager style songs. Faltskog's main inspiration in her early years were singers like Connie Francis. Along with her own compositions, she recorded covers of foreign hits and performed them on tours in Swedish folkparks. In 1967 she submitted an original song (Forsonade ("Redeemed")) for Melodifestivalen, but it was rejected. She briefly met Anni-Frid Lyngstad for the first time during a TV show in January 1968, and met Bjorn Ulvaeus at a concert venue a few months later.
During filming of a Swedish TV special in May 1969, Faltskog met Ulvaeus again, and they were married in 1971. Faltskog and Ulvaeus eventually got involved in each other's recording sessions, and soon even Andersson and Lyngstad added backing vocals to her 1970 album "Som jag ar" ("As I Am"). In 1973, Faltskog starred as Mary Magdalene in the original Swedish production of Jesus Christ Superstar and attracted favourable reviews. Between 1967 and 1975, Faltskog released five studio albums.
Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad (born 15 November 1945 in Bjorkasen in Ballangen, Norway) sang from the age of thirteen with various dance bands, and worked mainly in a jazz-oriented cabaret style. She also formed her own band, the Anni-Frid Four. In the summer of 1967, she won a national talent competition with the song "En ledig dag" ("A Day Off"), included in the EMI compilation Frida 1967-1972. The first prize was a recording contract with EMI Sweden and to perform live on the most popular TV show in Sweden. This first TV performance, amongst many others, is included in the 3? hour documentary Frida - The DVD. Lyngstad released several singles on EMI and had many hits in the Swedish charts. When Benny Andersson started to produce her recordings in 1971, she got her first #1 single, "Min egen stad" ("My Own Town"), for which all the future ABBA members sang the backup vocals. Lyngstad toured and performed regularly in the folkpark circuit and made appearances on radio and TV. She met Bjorn Ulvaeus briefly in 1963 during a talent contest, and Agnetha Faltskog during a TV show in early 1968.
Lyngstad finally linked up with her future bandmates in 1969. On 1 March 1969, she participated in the Melodifestivalen, where she met Andersson for the first time. A few weeks later they met again during a concert tour in southern Sweden and they soon became a couple. Andersson produced her single "Peter Pan" in September 1969 ? the first collaboration between her and Benny & Bjorn, as they had written the song. Later Andersson produced Lyngstad's debut album, Frida, which was released in March 1971 and praised by critics. Lyngstad also played in several revues and cabaret shows in Stockholm between 1969 and 1973. After ABBA formed, she recorded another successful album in 1975, Frida Ensam, which included the original Swedish rendition of "Fernando", which became a huge hit in Scandinavia before the English version was recorded.
=== First live performance and the start of "Festfolk" === style? An attempt at combining their talents occurred in April 1970 when the two couples went on holiday together to the island of 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. Andersson and Ulvaeus were at this time recording their first album together, "Lycka", which was to be released in September 1970. Faltskog and Lyngstad added backing vocals on several tracks during June, and the idea of them all working together saw them launch a stage act, "Festfolk", which translates from Swedish to mean both "Party People" and "Engaged Couples", on 1 November 1970 in Gothenburg. The cabaret show attracted positive reviews. The foursome performed the Andersson and Ulvaeus hit "Hej, gamle man" ("Hi, Old Man"); the first recording credited to all four ? and solo numbers from respective albums, but the foursome did not feel like working together, and soon concentrated on individual projects again....
First record together "Hej, gamle man"
"Hej, gamle man", a song about an old Salvation Army soldier, became the quartet's first hit. The record was credited to Bjorn & Benny and reached number 5 on the sales charts and number 1 on Svensktoppen, staying there for 15 weeks. In the first half of 1971, the four artists worked more together, adding vocals to the others' recordings. Faltskog, Andersson and Ulvaeus toured together in May, while Lyngstad toured on her own. Frequent recording sessions brought the foursome tighter together during the summer.
Forming the group (1970?1973)
After the 1970 release of Andersson's and Ulvaeus' album "Lycka", two more singles credited to 'Bjorn & Benny' were released in Sweden, "Det kan ingen doktor hjalpa" ("No doctor can help with that") and "Tank om jorden vore ung" ("Imagine if the Earth were young"), but clearly with more prominent vocals by Faltskog and Lyngstad - and with moderate chart success. Faltskog released her fourth album in 1971 and married Ulvaeus on 6 July 1971. Andersson, Ulvaeus, and Faltskog started performing together on a regular basis during the summer of 1971.
Stig Anderson, founder and owner of Polar, was determined to break into the mainstream international market with music by Andersson and Ulvaeus. "One day the pair of you will write a song that becomes a worldwide hit", he predicted. Stig encouraged Ulvaeus and Andersson to write a song for Melodifestivalen, and after two rejected entries in 1971, Andersson and Ulvaeus submitted their new song "Sag det med en sang" ("Say It With A Song") for the 1972 contest, and they chose newcomer Lena Anderson to perform. The song won third place, encouraging Stig, and became a huge hit in Sweden. The first signs of foreign success came as a surprise, as the Andersson and Ulvaeus single "She's My Kind of Girl" was released by Epic in Japan in March 1972, giving the duo a Top 10 hit. Two more singles were released in Japan, "En Carousel" (earlier version of "Merry-Go-Round") and "Love Has Its Ways" (a song they wrote with Koichi Morita).
First hit as 'Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid'
Ulvaeus and Andersson persevered with their songwriting and experimented with new sounds and vocal arrangements. "People Need Love" was released in June 1972, featuring guest vocals by the women, who were now given much greater prominence. Stig Anderson released it as a single, credited to Bjorn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid. The song reached #17 in the Swedish combined single and album charts, enough to convince them they were on to something. The single also became the first record to chart for the quartet in the United States, where it peaked at #114 on the Cashbox singles chart and #117 on Record World's singles chart. Billed as Bjorn & Benny (with Svenska Flicka), it was released there on Playboy Records. However, according to Stig Anderson, "People Need Love" could have been a much bigger American hit, but a small label like Playboy Records did not have the distribution resources to meet the demand for the single from retailers and radio programmers. The foursome decided to record their first album together in the autumn of 1972, and sessions began on 26 September 1972. The two women shared lead vocal on "Nina, Pretty Ballerina", on this day, and the two women's voices combined in harmonies for the first time gave the foursome an idea of the qualities of their combined talents.
For 1973, the band and their manager Stig Anderson decided to have another try at the Melodifestivalen, this time with the song "Ring Ring." The studio sessions were handled by Michael B. Tretow, who experimented with a "wall of sound" production technique that became the wholly new ABBA sound. Anderson arranged an English translation of the lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody and they thought this would be a surefire winner, but in the Melodifestivalen, on 10 February 1973, it placed third, and thus never reached the international contest. Nevertheless the proto-group put out their first album, called Ring Ring. The album did well and the "Ring Ring" single was a hit in many parts of Europe and also in South Africa, but Stig Anderson felt the true breakthrough could only come with a UK or US hit.
In early 1973, Stig Anderson, tired of unwieldy names, started to refer to the group privately and publicly as ABBA. At first, this was a play on words, as Abba is also the name of a well-known fish-canning company in Sweden (itself an acronym). However, since the fish canners were unknown outside Sweden, Anderson came to believe the name would work in international markets. As a coincidence, "abba" exists as a word in the Aramaic and Hebrew languages. It means "father", but in the more informal familiar sense that saying "dad" might connote. A competition to find a suitable name for the group was held in a Gothenburg newspaper. The group was impressed with the names "Alibaba," "FABB," and "Baba", but in the end all the entries were ignored and it was announced in the summer that the name "ABBA" was official. Later the group negotiated with the canners for the right to the name. "ABBA" is an acronym formed from the first letters of each group member's name: Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid (Frida). The first 'B' in the logo version of the name was "mirror-image" reversed on the band's promotional material from 1976 onwards and became the group's registered trademark. The first time the name is found written on paper is on a recording session sheet from the Metronome Studio in Stockholm, dated 16 October 1973. This was first written as "Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha & Frida", but was subsequently crossed out with "ABBA" written in large letters on top.
The official logo, using the bold version of the News Gothic typeface, was designed by Rune Soderqvist, and appeared for the first time on the Dancing Queen single in August 1976, and subsequently on all later original albums and singles. But the idea for the official logo was made by the German photographer Wolfgang Heilemann on a "Dancing Queen" shoot for the teenage magazine BRAVO. On the photo, every ABBA-member held a giant initial letter of his/her name. After the pictures were made, Heilemann found out that one of the men held his letter upside down. They discussed it and the members of ABBA liked it. In 1992 Polygram redesigned the logo for the ABBA Gold compilation, having a different font along with a crown emblem. Still, the classic logo is more commonly seen, for instance being used on the official ABBA website.
For their first Eurovision, ABBA entered with "Ring Ring" but failed to qualify as the 1973 Swedish entry; it came third in the preliminary round. Stig immediately started planning for the 1974 contest.
Ulvaeus, Andersson, and manager Stig Anderson believed in the possibilities of using the Melodifestivalen and Eurovision TV contests as a way to make the music business aware of the band and Andersson, Ulvaeus and Stig as composers. In late 1973, they were invited by Swedish television to contribute a song for the 1974 contest, and from a number of newly written compositions, the foursome chose the upbeat "Waterloo"; the group was now inspired by the growing glam rock scene in England. "Waterloo" was an unashamedly glam-style pop track produced with Michael B. Tretow's wall-of-sound approach.
ABBA won their national heats on Swedish TV on 9 February 1974, and with this third attempt were far more experienced and better prepared for the international contest. Winning the Eurovision Song Contest gave ABBA the chance to tour Europe and perform on major TV shows; thus the band saw the "Waterloo" single climb the charts in many European countries. "Waterloo" was ABBA's first number one single in big markets such as the UK, Germany and Australia. In the US, it reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, paving the way for their first album and their first trip as a group there. Albeit being a short promotional visit, it included their first performance on American TV, The Mike Douglas Show. The Waterloo album only peaked at #145 on the Billboard 200 album chart, but received unanimous high praise from the US critics: Los Angeles Times called it "a compelling and fascinating debut album that captures the spirit of mainstream pop quite effectively...an immensely enjoyable and pleasant project", while Creem characterized it as "a perfect blend of exceptional lovable compositions". However the win was by the smallest percentage of the votes ever recorded in the Eurovision history. A record still unbroken over 35 years.
ABBA's follow-up single, "Honey, Honey", reached #27 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and was #2 in Germany. However, in the UK, a cover version of the song by the act Sweet Dreams made #10 because ABBA's British record company, Epic, decided to re-release a remixed version of "Ring Ring" instead. It failed to reach the Top 30, increasing growing speculation that the group were simply Eurovision one-hit wonders.
In November 1974, ABBA embarked on their first European tour, playing dates in Denmark, West Germany, and Austria. It was not as successful as the band had hoped, since most of the venues did not sell out. Due to a lack of demand, they were even forced to cancel a few shows, including a sole concert scheduled in Switzerland. The second leg of the tour, which took them through Scandinavia in January 1975, was different. They played to full houses everywhere and finally got the reception they aimed for. Live performances continued during the summer of 1975 when ABBA embarked on a sixteen open-air date tour of Sweden and Finland, attracting huge crowds. Their Stockholm show at the Grona Lund amusement park was seen by an estimated audience of 19,200.
In 1974 So Long was released as a single in the UK but it received no airplay from Radio 1 and failed to chart. In summer 1975 they released I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do, which again received little airplay on radio 1 but managed to climb the charts, to #38. Later in 1975 the release of their next album ABBA and single "SOS" brought back their chart presence in the UK, where the single hit #6 and the album reached #13. SOS also became ABBA's second number 1 single in both Germany and Australia. Success was further solidified with "Mamma Mia" reaching the #1 spot in UK, Germany and Australia in January 1976. In the US, "SOS" reached #10 on the Record World Top 100 singles chart and #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, picking up the BMI Award along the way as one of the most played songs on American radio in 1975. The success of the group in the United States had been so far limited to single releases. By early 1976, the group already had four Top 30 singles on US charts, but the album market proved to be tough to crack. The eponymous ABBA album generated three American hits, but it only peaked at #165 on the Cashbox album chart and #174 on the Billboard 200 chart. Opinions were voiced, by Creem in particular, that in the US ABBA had endured "a very sloppy promotional campaign". The group, however, enjoyed warm reviews from American press. Cashbox went as far as saying that "there is a recurrent thread of taste and artistry inherent in Abba's marketing, creativity and presentation that makes it almost embarrassing to critique their efforts", while Creem wrote: "SOS is surrounded on this LP by so many good tunes that the mind boggles".
In Australia, the airing of the videos for "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" and "Mamma Mia" on nationwide TV in August 1975 started an immense interest for ABBA, resulting in #1 positions on both the single and album charts for months.
In March 1976, the band released the compilation Greatest Hits, despite having had only six Top 40 hits in the UK and the US. Nevertheless, it became their first UK #1 album, and also took ABBA into the Top 50 on the US album charts for the first time, eventually selling more than a million copies there. At the same time, Germany released a compilation named The Very Best of ABBA, also becoming a #1 album there whereas the Greatest hits LP followed a few months later to #2 on the German charts, despite all similarities with "The Very Best" album. Also included on Greatest Hits was a new single, "Fernando", which had first been written by Ulvaeus and Andersson in Swedish for Lyngstad's #1 1975 solo album Frida ensam (Frida alone). After Lyngstad's major success with the song in Scandinavia, the group decided to record an English version. With "Fernando" hitting #1 in twelve countries worldwide (including the UK and Germany), it occupied the top position in Australia for 14 weeks, tying The Beatles for longest number one for "Hey Jude", making it one of the best-selling singles of all time in that country. That same year, the group received its first international prize, with "Fernando" being chosen as the "Best Studio Recording of 1975". In the US, "Fernando" reached the Top 10 of the Cashbox Top 100 singles chart and #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, ABBA's first American number one single of any kind.
The group's next album, Arrival, a #1 bestseller all over Europe and Australia, represented a new level of accomplishment in both songwriting and studio work, prompting rave reviews from more rock-orientated UK music weeklies such as Melody Maker and New Musical Express, and mostly appreciative notices from American critics. Hit after hit flowed from Arrival: "Money, Money, Money", another #1 in Germany and Australia, and "Knowing Me, Knowing You", ABBA's sixth consecutive German #1 as well as another UK #1. The real sensation of all was "Dancing Queen", not only topping the charts in the loyal markets UK, Germany and Australia, but also reaching #1 in the US. In South Africa ABBA had astounding success with "Fernando" , "Dancing Queen" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" being among the top 20 best selling singles for 1976-7. In 1977 Arrival was nominated for the inaugural BRIT Award in the category "Best International Album of the Year". By this time ABBA were popular in the UK, most of Western Europe and Australia. In Frida the dvd, Lyngstad explains how she and Faltskog developed as singers, as ABBA's recordings grew more complex over the years.
Their popularity in the US would remain on a comparatively smaller scale, and "Dancing Queen" became the only Billboard Hot 100 #1 single ABBA had there (they did, however, get three more singles to the #1 position on other Billboard charts, including Billboard Adult Contemporary and Hot Dance Club Play). Nevertheless, Arrival finally became a true breakthrough release for ABBA on the US album market where it peaked at #20 on the Billboard 200 album chart and was certified gold by RIAA.
European and Australian tour
Agnetha Faltskog at the opening concert of ABBAs Europe & Australia Tour in Oslo, January 28, 1977.
In January 1977, ABBA hit the road. The group's status had changed dramatically and they were clearly regarded as superstars. They opened their much anticipated tour in Oslo, Norway, on 28 January, and mounted a lavishly produced spectacle that included a few scenes from their self-penned mini-operetta "The Girl With The Golden Hair." The concert attracted immense media attention from across Europe and Australia. They continued the tour through Western Europe visiting Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Essen, Hanover, Hamburg, and ended it with shows in the UK in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and two sold-out concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall. Tickets for these two shows were available only by mail application and it was later revealed that the box-office received 3.5 million requests for tickets, enough to fill the venue 580 times. Along with praise ("Abba turn out to be amazingly successful at reproducing their records", wrote Creem), there were complaints that "Abba performed slickly...but with a zero personality coming across from a total of 16 people on stage" (Melody Maker). One of the Royal Albert Hall concerts was filmed as a reference for the filming of the Australian tour for what became ABBA: The Movie, though it is not known exactly how much of the concert was filmed.
After the European leg of the tour, in March 1977, ABBA played eleven dates in Australia before a total of 160,000 people. The opening concert in Sydney at the Sydney Showground on 3 March before over 20,000 was marred by torrential rain and Frida slipped on the wet stage during the concert. However, all four members would later recall this concert to be the most memorable of their career. Upon their arrival in Melbourne, a civic reception was held at the Town Hall and ABBA appeared on the balcony to greet an enthusiastic crowd of 6,000 people. In Melbourne, ABBA played three concerts at the Melbourne Myer Music Bowl with 14,500 at each including the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and his family. At the first Melbourne concert, an additional 16,000 people gathered outside the fenced-off area to listen to the concert. In Adelaide, the group performed one concert at West Lakes Football Stadium before 20,000 people with another 10,000 listening outside. During the first five concerts in Perth, there was a bomb scare with everyone having to evacuate the Entertainment Centre. The trip was accompanied by mass hysteria and unprecedented media attention ("Swedish ABBA stirs box-office in Down Under tour...and the media coverage of the quartet rivals that set to cover the upcoming Royal tour of Australia", wrote Variety), and is vividly captured on film in ABBA: The Movie, directed by Lasse Hallstrom.
The Australian tour and its subsequent ABBA: The Movie produced some ABBA lore, as well. Agnetha Faltskog's blonde good looks had long made her the band's 'pin-up girl', a role she disdained. Many fans thought that this unfair focus on Agnetha detracted from the band's wholesome image, and also was unfair on the other members; especially Anni-Frid, who the fans viewed as equal to Agnetha, and some saw it as a vendetta against Anni-Frid. During the Australian tour, she performed in a skin-tight white jumpsuit, causing one Australian newspaper to use the headline "Agnetha's bottom tops dull show". When asked about this at a news conference, she replied: "Don't they have bottoms in Australia?" Frida is also pictured in this scene, looking particularly unamused; unsurprising, as the focus and comments made to Agnetha in this particular part of the movie are particularly embarrassing.
In December 1977, ABBA followed up Arrival with the more musically and lyrically ambitious fifth album The Album, which was released to coincide with ABBA: The Movie. Although the album was less well-received by the critics in the UK, it did spawn more worldwide hits: "The Name of the Game" and "Take a Chance on Me", both of which topped the UK charts, and reached #12 and #3, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US. Although "Take a Chance on Me" did not top the American charts, it has actually proved to be ABBA's biggest hit single in the United States, selling more copies than "Dancing Queen". The Album also included the ABBA signature tune, "Thank You for the Music", released as a single in the UK in 1983, and had been the B-side of "Eagle" in countries where the latter had been released.
Polar Music Studio formation
Polar Music Studios was situated in this building at 58 Sankt Eriksgatan Street in Stockholm until 2004.
By 1978, ABBA was a megagroup. They converted a vacant movie theatre into the Polar Music Studio, a state-of-the-art studio in Stockholm. The studio was used by several other bands; notably, Genesis' Duke and Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door were recorded there. During May, the group went to the US for a huge promotional campaign, and performed on Olivia Newton-John's TV show. However, a lot of effort was put into the new recording studio in Stockholm. The recording sessions for "Summer Night City" were an uphill struggle, but upon release the song became another significant hit for the group. The track would also set the stage for ABBA's foray into disco with their upcoming album.
Several years ago, the original Polar Music Studios (by that time renamed Polar Studios) were closed because the landlord of the building had increased the rent. The site is now a Fitness First gymnasium, and there is a display in its foyer acknowledging its history as Polar (Music) Studios.
On 9 January 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. ABBA donated the copyright of this worldwide hit to the UNICEF; see Music for UNICEF Concert. The single was released the following week, and reached #1 in ten countries.
North American and European tours
In mid-January 1979, Ulvaeus and Faltskog announced they were getting divorced. The news caused massive interest from the media, and led to speculation about the band's future. ABBA assured the press and their fan base they were continuing their work as a group, and that the divorce would not affect them. Nonetheless, the media continued to confront them with this in interviews.
The group's sixth album, Voulez-Vous, was released in April 1979, the title track of which was recorded at the famous Criteria Studios in Miami, U.S. with the assistance, among others, of recording engineer Tom Dowd. The album topped the charts across Europe and in Japan and Mexico, hit the Top 10 in Canada and Australia and the Top 20 in the US. None of the singles from the album reached #1 on the UK charts, but "Chiquitita", "Does Your Mother Know", "Angeleyes" and "Voulez-Vous" all charted no lower than #4. "I Have a Dream" was the exception, when the single reached #2 in UK and #1 on Eurochart Hot 100 singles. In Canada, "I Have a Dream" became ABBA's second #1 on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart, after "Fernando" hit the top previously. Later that year, the group released their second compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, which featured a brand new track: "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)", another number 3 hit in both, the UK and Germany. In Russia during the late 1970s, they were paid in oil commodities because of an embargo on the ruble.
On 13 September 1979, ABBA began their first (and only) North American Tour at the Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, Canada, with a full house of 14,000. During the next four weeks, they played a total of seventeen sold-out dates, thirteen in the U.S. and four in Canada. The last scheduled ABBA concert on U.S. soil, in Washington, DC, was canceled due to Agnetha Faltskog's emotional distress suffered during the flight from New York to Boston, when the private plane the group was on was subjected to extreme weather conditions and was unable to land for an extended period. They appeared on the Boston Music Hall stage for the performance ninety minutes late. The tour ended with a show in Toronto, Canada at Maple Leaf Gardens before a capacity crowd of 18,000. The shows also generated the same type of complaints that were expressed during the group's 1977 tour: many fans regarded ABBA as more of a studio group than a live band. On 19 October 1979, the tour resumed in Western Europe where the band played 23 sold-out gigs, including an unprecedented six sold-out nights at London's Wembley Arena.
In March 1980, ABBA travelled to Japan where upon their arrival at Narita International Airport, they were besieged by thousands of fans. The group played eleven concerts to full houses, including six shows at Tokyo's Budokan. This tour was the last "on the road" adventure of their career. The same year saw the release of ABBA's seventh album Super Trouper, which reflected a certain change in ABBA's style with more prominent use of synthesisers and increasingly more personal lyrics. It set a record for the most pre-orders ever received for a UK album after one million copies were ordered before release. Anticipation for the album had been built up by "The Winner Takes It All", the group's eighth UK chart topper (and their first since 1978). In the US, the single reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became ABBA's second Billboard Adult Contemporary #1. The song was allegedly written about Ulvaeus and Faltskog's marital tribulations. It was also re-recorded by Andersson and Ulvaeus with a slightly different backing track, by French chanteuse Mirielle Mathieu at the end of 1980 - as "Bravo Tu As Gagne", with French lyrics by Alain Boublil. The next single from the album, "Super Trouper", also hit #1 in the UK as well as in Germany, becoming the group's ninth and final UK chart-topper. Another track from Super Trouper, "Lay All Your Love on Me", released in 1981 as a 12-inch single only in selected territories, managed to top the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart and peaked at #7 on the UK singles chart becoming at the time the highest ever charting 12-inch release in UK chart history.
Also in 1980, ABBA recorded a compilation of Spanish-language versions of their hits called Gracias Por La Musica. It was released in Spanish-speaking countries as well as Japan and Australia. The album became a major success, and along with the Spanish version of "Chiquitita", this signalled the group's breakthrough in Latin America
Final album and performances (1981?1982)
In January 1981, Ulvaeus married Lena Kallersjo, and manager Stig Anderson celebrated his 50th birthday with a huge party. For this occasion, ABBA recorded the track 'Hovas Vittne' (a pun on the Swedish name for Jehovah's Witness and Anderson's birthplace, Hova) as a tribute to him, and released it only on 200 red vinyl copies, to be distributed to the guests attending the party. This single has become a sought-after collectible. In mid-February 1981, Andersson and Lyngstad announced they were filing for divorce. Information surfaced that their marriage had been an uphill struggle for years, and Benny had already met another woman, Mona Norklit, whom he married in November 1981.
Andersson and Ulvaeus had songwriting sessions during the first months of 1981, and recording sessions began in mid-March. At the end of April, the group recorded a TV special, Dick Cavett meets ABBA with the US talk show host Dick Cavett. The Visitors, ABBA's eighth and final studio album, showed a songwriting maturity and depth of feeling distinctly lacking from their earlier recordings but still placing the band squarely in the pop genre, with catchy tunes and harmonies. Although not revealed at the time of its release, the album's title track, according to Ulvaeus, refers to the secret meetings held against the approval of totalitarian governments in Soviet-dominated states, while other tracks address topics like failed relationships, the threat of war, ageing, loss of innocence, and a parent watching a child grow up. This change of content led to the release of the album The Visitors including the UK #3 single "One of Us", proving the last of ABBA's nine number 1 singles in Germany in December 1981; and the swansong of their sixteen top 5 singles on the charts in South Africa.
Although it topped the album charts across most of Europe, including the UK and Germany, The Visitors was not as commercially successful as its predecessors, showing a commercial decline in previously loyal markets such as France, Australia or Japan. A track from The Visitors, "When All Is Said and Done", was released as a single in North America, Australia and New Zealand, and fittingly became ABBA's final Top 40 hit in the US, while also reaching the US Adult Contemporary Top 10 and #4 on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart in Canada. The song's lyrics, as with "The Winner Takes It All" and "One of Us", dealt with the painful experience of separating from a long-term partner, though it looked at the trauma more optimistically. With the now publicised story of Andersson and Lyngstad's divorce, speculation increased of tension within the band. Also released in the US was the title track of The Visitors, which hit the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.
Last recording sessions
In the spring of 1982, songwriting sessions had started and the group came together for more recordings. Plans were not completely clear, but a new album was discussed and the prospect of a small tour suggested. The recording sessions in May and June were a struggle, and only three songs were eventually recorded: "You Owe Me One", "I Am the City", and "Just Like That". Andersson and Ulvaeus were not satisfied with the outcome, so the tapes were shelved and the group took a break for the summer.
Back in the studio again in early August, the group had changed plans for the rest of the year: they settled for a Christmas release of a double album compilation of all their past single releases to be named The Singles: The First Ten Years. New songwriting and recording sessions took place, and during October and November, they released the singles "The Day Before You Came"/"Cassandra" and "Under Attack"/"You Owe Me One", the A-sides of which were included on the compilation album. Neither single made the top 20 in the UK, though "The Day Before You Came" became a Top 5 hit in many European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The album went to #1 in the UK and Belgium, Top 5 in the Netherlands and West Germany and Top 20 in many other countries.
"I Am the City" and "Just Like That" were left unreleased on The Singles: The First Ten Years for possible inclusion on the next projected studio album from ABBA, though this never came to fruition. "I Am the City" was eventually released as a bonus track on the compilation album More ABBA Gold in 1993, while "Just Like That" has been recycled in new songs with other artists produced by Andersson and Ulvaeus. A reworked version of the verses ended up in the musical Chess. The chorus section of "Just Like That" was eventually released on a retrospective box set in 1994. Despite numerous requests from fans, Ulvaeus and Andersson are still refusing to release ABBA's version of "Just Like That" in its entirety, even though the complete version surfaced on bootlegs.
The group travelled to London to promote The Singles: The First Ten Years in the first week of November 1982, appearing on Saturday Superstore and The Late, Late Breakfast Show, and also to West Germany in the second week, to perform on Show Express. On 19 November 1982, ABBA appeared for the last time in Sweden on the TV programme Nojesmaskinen, and on 11 December 1982, they made their last performance ever, transmitted to the UK on Noel Edmonds' The Late, Late Breakfast Show, via a live link from a TV studio in Stockholm.
Andersson and Ulvaeus began collaborating with Tim Rice in early 1983 on writing songs for the musical project Chess, while Faltskog and Lyngstad both concentrated on international solo careers. While Andersson and Ulvaeus were working on the musical, a further cooperation between three of them came with the musical Abbacadabra that was produced in France for television. It was a children's musical utilising 14 ABBA songs. Alain and Daniel Boublil, who wrote Les Miserables, had been in touch with Stig Anderson about the project, and the TV musical was aired over Christmas 1983 on the British channel ITV.Boublil previously also wrote the French lyrics for Mirielle Mathieu's version of "The Winner Takes It All".
Lyngstad, who had recently moved to Paris, participated in the French version, and recorded a single, "Belle", a duet with French singer Daniel Balavoine. The song was a cover of ABBA's instrumental 1976 track "Arrival". As the single "Belle" sold well in France, Cameron Mackintosh wanted to stage an English language version of the show in London, with the French lyrics translated by David Wood and Don Black; Andersson and Ulvaeus got involved in the project, and contributed with one new song, "The Seeker". "Abbacadabra" premiered 8 December 1983 at The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in London, to mixed reviews and full houses for eight weeks, closing on 21 January 1984. Lyngstad was involved in this production as well, recording 'Belle' in English as "Time"; a duet with actor and singer B. A. Robertson: the single sold well, this time produced and recorded by Andersson and Ulvaeus.
All four members made their last public appearance, as four friends more than as ABBA, in January 1986, when they recorded a video of themselves performing an acoustic version of "Tivedshambo", which was the first song written by their manager, Stig Anderson, for a Swedish TV show honouring Anderson on his 55th birthday. The four had not seen each other for more than two years. That same year they also performed privately at another friend's 40th birthday: their old tour manager, Claes af Geijerstam. They sang a self-composed song titled "Der Kleine Franz" that later was to surface in Chess. The same year ABBA Live was released, featuring selections of live performances from the group's 1977 and 1979 tours. They were guests on the 50th birthday of Gorel Hanser in 1999. Hanser was a long-time friend of all four, and also former secretary of Stig Anderson. Honouring Gorel, ABBA performed a Swedish birthday song "Med En Enkel Tulipan" a cappella.
Benny Andersson has on several occasions performed old ABBA songs. In June 1992, he and Bjorn Ulvaeus appeared with U2 at a Stockholm concert, singing the chorus of "Dancing Queen", and a few years later during the final performance of the B & B in Concert in Stockholm, Andersson joined the cast for an encore at the piano. Andersson frequently adds an ABBA song to the playlist when he performs with his BAO band. He also played the piano during new recordings of the ABBA songs "Like an Angel Passing Through My Room" with opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter, and "When All Is Said And Done" with Swede Viktoria Tolstoy. Andersson and Ulvaeus both did an a cappella rendition of the first verse of "Fernando" as they accepted their Ivor Novello award in London in 2002. Frida Lyngstad performed and recorded an a cappella version of "Dancing Queen" with the Swedish group The Real Group in 1993, and has also re-recorded "I Have a Dream" with Swiss singer Dan Daniell in 2003.
ABBA has never officially announced the end of the group, but the group has long been considered dissolved. Their last public performance together as ABBA was on the British TV programme The Late, Late Breakfast Show (live from Stockholm) December 11, 1982. In January 1983, Agnetha started recording sessions for a solo album, as Frida had released her album Something's Going On some months earlier to great success. Bjorn and Benny started songwriting sessions for the musical Chess, and ABBA was shelved in the meantime. In interviews, Bjorn and Benny denied the split of ABBA ("Who are we without our ladies? Initials of Brigitte Bardot?" ) and Frida and Agnetha kept claiming in interviews that ABBA would come together for a new album repeatedly during 1983 and 1984. Internal strife between the group and their manager escalated and the group sold their shares in Polar Music during 1983. With this, the foursome did not come together publicly until all four members were reunited at the Swedish premiere of Mamma Mia! on 4 July 2008. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, following the premiere, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson confirmed that there was nothing that could entice them back on stage again. "We will never appear on stage again", Ulvaeus said. "There is simply no motivation to re-group. Money is not a factor and we would like people to remember us as we were. Young, exuberant, full of energy and ambition. I remember Robert Plant saying Led Zeppelin were a cover band now because they cover all their own stuff. I think that hit the nail on the head."
Andersson and Ulvaeus
Main articles: Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson
Bjorn Ulvaeus at Gothenburg Book Fair 2007.
In October 1984, Ulvaeus and Andersson together with lyricist Tim Rice released the musical concept double album Chess. The singles "One Night in Bangkok" (with vocals by Murray Head) and "I Know Him So Well" (a duet by Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige and later also recorded by both Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston) were both huge successes. In May 1986, the musical premiered in the West End of London, and ran for almost three years. On Broadway it opened in April 1988, but closed within two months due to bad reviews. The musical has since been staged regularly on a smaller scale to great success, and even the concert version is popular. In Stockholm, the composers staged "Chess pa svenska" ('Chess in Swedish') in 2003, with some new material including the musical numbers "Han ar en man, han ar ett barn" ("He's a man, he's a child") and "Glom mig om du kan" ("Forget me if you can").
What is considered to be Andersson's and Ulvaeus' masterpiece, however, is Kristina fran Duvemala, an epic Swedish musical which the composers premiered in Malmo in southern Sweden in October 1995. It was directed for the stage by Lars Rudolfsson and based on the The Emigrants tetralogy by Swedish novelist Vilhelm Moberg. The musical ran for five years in Stockholm, and an English version has been in development for some considerable time. It has been reported that a Broadway production is in its earliest stages of pre-production.
Benny Andersson during a performance in Minnesota 2006.
Since 1983, besides Chess and Kristina fran Duvemala, Benny Andersson has continued writing songs with Bjorn Ulvaeus. The pair produced two English-language pop albums with Swedish duo Gemini in 1985 and 1987. In 1987, Andersson also released his first solo album on his own label, Mono Music, called "Klinga mina klockor" ("Ring my bells"), all new material inspired by Swedish folk music ? and followed it with his 2nd album titled November 1989. In the 1990s, Andersson wrote music for the popular Swedish cabaret quartet Ainbusk Singers, giving them two hits: "Lassie" and "Alska mig" ("Love me"), and later produced Shapes, an English-language album by the group's Josefin Nilsson with all-new material by Andersson and Ulvaeus. Andersson has also regularly written music for films (most notably to Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor). In 2001, Andersson formed his own band, BAO!, which released three successful albums in 2001, 2004 and 2007. Andersson has the distinction of remaining the longest in the Swedish Svensktoppen charts; the song "Du ar min man", "You're My Man", sung by Helen Sjoholm is still there, presently in its 264th week as of July 26 2009. Andersson released his third album BAO 3 in October 2007 with new material with his band BAO! and vocalists Helen Sjoholm and Tommy Korberg, as well as playing to full houses at two of Sweden's largest concert venues in October and November 2007 with an audience of 14,000.
Bjorn Ulvaeus has not appeared on stage performing music since ABBA, but had a reunion with his co-members of The Hootenanny Singers on 16 July 2005 at a music festival in his hometown of Vastervik, singing their 1966 hit "Marianne".
Andersson and Ulvaeus are highly involved in the worldwide productions of the musical Mamma Mia!, alongside Lyngstad who attends premieres. They were also involved in the production of the successful film version of the musical, which opened in July 2008. Andersson produced the soundtrack utilising many of the musicians ABBA used on their albums and tours. Andersson made a cameo appearance in the movie as a 'fisherman' piano player in the 'Dancing Queen' scene, while Ulvaeus is seen as a Greek god playing a lyre during the closing credits.
Andersson and Ulvaeus are continuously composing new material; most recently the two wrote the title track for Andersson's first international release, The Benny Andersson Band - The Story Of a Heart, due to be released in July 2009. The album is a compilation of 14 tracks from Andersson's five Swedish-language releases, including five songs now recorded in English, and the new title song premiered on BBC2's Ken Bruce Show Monday on 25 May. A Swedish-language version, "Sommaren Du Fick" ('The Summer You Got'), will be released in Sweden prior to the English version, with vocals by Helen Sjoholm. In the spring of 2009, Andersson also released a single recorded by the staff at his privately owned Stockholm hotel Hotel Rival, titled "2nd Best to None", accompanied by a video showing the staff at work. Last year the two wrote a song for Swedish singer Sissela Kyle for her Stockholm stage show "Your Days Are Numbered", titled "Jag vill bli gammal" ("I Wanna Grow Old"); in 2007 they wrote "Han som har vunnit allt" ("He Who's Won It All") for actor/singer Anders Ekborg and "I Walk With You Mama" and "After the Rain" for opera singer Anne Sofie Von Otter for her Andersson tribute album "I Let The Music Speak".
Faltskog and Lyngstad
Main articles: Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad
Both female members of ABBA pursued solo careers on the international scene after their work with ABBA. In 1982, Lyngstad chose Genesis drummer and singer Phil Collins to produce the album Something's Going On and unveiled the hit single and video " I Know There's Something Going On" in autumn of that year. The single became a #1 hit in France, where it spent five weeks at the top, Belgium, Switzerland and Costa Rica. The track reached #3 in Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Poland, and was also a Top 10 hit in Germany, Italy, South Africa and Finland. In the United States, the single reached #13. In all, "I Know There's Something Going On" sold 3.5 million copies worldwide and is the biggest selling single any of the four members have had outside ABBA. Lyngstad's album sold 1.5 million copies internationally. Sveriges Television, documented this historical event, by filming the whole recording process. The result became a one-hour TV documentary, including interviews with Frida, Phil, Bjorn, and Benny as well as all the musicians. This documentary and the promotion videos from the album are included in Frida - The DVD.
Frida's second solo album after ABBA was the experimental Shine, produced by Steve Lillywhite. "Shine" was recorded in Paris and released in 1984. "Shine" reached the Top 10 on the album charts in Sweden, Norway and Belgium and the Top 20 in the Netherlands. The leadsingle was the title track "Shine". This album was Frida's final studio album release for twelve years. It featured "Slowly", the last known Andersson-Ulvaeus composition to have been recorded by one of the former female ABBA vocalists. The promotion videos and clips for "Shine" are included in Frida - The DVD.
Agnetha Faltskog 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 and Scandinavia, while the title track went to number 2 in South Africa. In the US, Faltskog scored a Billboard Top 30 hit with "Can't Shake Loose". In Europe, the single "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" was another successful hit, topping the charts in Belgium and Denmark, reaching the Top 5 in Sweden and the Netherlands and the Top 20 in Germany and France. Her album sold 1.2 million copies worldwide.
Faltskog's second post-ABBA solo album was Eyes of a Woman, released in March 1985, which reached #2 in Sweden and performed reasonably well in Europe. The first single from the album was "I Won't Let You Go". In November 1987, Faltskog released her third post-ABBA solo album, the Peter Cetera-produced I Stand Alone, (which also included the Billboard hit "I Wasn't The One (Who Said Goodbye)". The album sold very well in Sweden, where it spent eight weeks at #1. Later that year, however, Faltskog withdrew from public life and halted her music career for a while. In 1996, she released her autobiography, As I Am, and a compilation album featuring her solo hits alongside some ABBA classics. In 2004, she made a successful comeback, releasing the critically acclaimed album My Colouring Book, which debuted at #1 in Sweden (achieving triple-platinum status), #6 in Germany, and #12 in the UK, winning a silver award, and achieving gold status in Finland. The single "If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind" became Faltskog's biggest solo hit in the UK, reaching the #11 position. The single saw the #2 spot in Sweden and was a hit throughout Scandinavia and Europe. In January 2007, she sang a live duet on stage with Swedish singer Tommy Korberg at the after party for the final showing of the musical, Mamma Mia!, in Stockholm, at which Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus were also present.
In 1992 Frida was asked and chosen to be the chairperson for the environmental organisation "Artister for miljon" (Artists for the Environment) in Sweden. Frida accepted and became chairwoman for this organisation from 1992 to 1995. To mark her interests for the environment, she recorded the Julian Lennon song Saltwater and performed it live in Stockholm. She arranged and financed summer camps for poor children in Sweden, focusing on environmental and ecological issues. Her environmental work for this organisation led up to the decision to record again. Djupa andetag (Deep Breaths) was released towards the end of 1996 and became a huge success in Sweden, where it reached #1 and Scandinavia. The lyrics for the single from this album, "Aven en blomma" (Even a Flower), deal with environmental issues.In 2004, Lyngstad recorded a song called "The Sun Will Shine Again", written especially for her and released with former Deep Purple member Jon Lord. The couple made several TV performances with this song in Germany. Lyngstad lives a low-profile life but occasionally appears at a party or charity function. On 26 August 1992, she married Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen, of the German Reuss family. Von Plauen died of lymphoma at the age of 49. In addition to losing her husband, Lyngstad had also lost her daughter in a car crash a year earlier.
On November 15, 2005, due to Anni-Frid Lyngstad's 60th birthday, Universal released the Frida Box Set, consisting of the solo albums she recorded for the Polar Label. Included is also the 3 1/2 hour documentary Frida - The DVD. On this DVD, which covers Lyngstad's entire singing career, the viewer is guided by Frida herself through the years. From her TV debut in Sweden 1967 to the TV performances she made in Germany 2004, singing "The Sun Will Shine Again" together with Jon Lord of rock group Deep Purple. Many rare clips are included in the set and each performance is explained by Lyngstad herself. The interview with Lyngstad was filmed in the Swiss Alps, summer 2005.
The same year the members of ABBA went their separate ways, the French production of a 'tribute' show; a children's TV musical named Abbacadabra, using 14 of ABBA's songs, spawned new interest in the group's music. The London staging of the musical had stars such as Elaine Paige and Finola Hughes singing new lyrics to the old ABBA hits.
After receiving little attention during the mid 1980s, ABBA's music experienced a resurgence in the early 1990s due to the UK synth-pop duo Erasure who released a cover EP featuring versions of ABBA's songs which topped the charts in the spring of 1992. As U2 arrived in Stockholm for a concert in June of that year, the band paid homage to ABBA by inviting Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson to join them on stage for a rendition of "Dancing Queen", playing guitar and keyboards. September 1992 saw the release of ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits, a new compilation album, which became a massive worldwide seller. The album became the most popular ABBA release ever, selling more than twenty-eight million copies to date and setting chart longevity records.
The enormous interest in the Gold compilation saw the release of More ABBA Gold: More ABBA Hits in 1993. This collection also contained the bonus track "I Am the City", one of the unreleased songs from the 1982 recording sessions.
In 1994 two Australian movies caught the attention of the world's media, both focussing on admiration for ABBA: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding. The same year, Thank You for the Music, a four-disc box set comprising all the group's hits and stand-out album tracks, was released with the involvement of all four members. For this release, several demo versions and odd tracks were discovered in the Polar vaults.
ABBA were soon recognised and embraced by other acts: 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, and Blancmange paid tribute to "The Day Before You Came", Cliff Richard covered "Lay All Your Love On Me", while Dionne Warwick and Peter Cetera recorded their versions of "SOS". U.S. alternative-rock musician Marshall Crenshaw has also been known to play a version of "Knowing Me, Knowing You" in concert appearances, while legendary English Latin pop songwriter Richard Daniel Roman has recognized ABBA as a major influence. Swedish metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen covered "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" with slightly altered lyrics. Tribute albums were released both in Sweden and the UK.
Two different compilation albums of ABBA songs have been released. "ABBA: A Tribute" coincided with the 25th anniversary celebration and featured 17 songs, some of which were recorded especially for this release. Notable tracks include Go West's "One Of Us", Army Of Lovers "Hasta Manana", Information Society's "Lay All Your Love On Me", Erasure's "Take A Chance On Me" (with MC Kinky), and Frida's a cappella duet with The Real Group on "Dancing Queen". A second 12-track album was released in 1999, entitled "ABBAMANIA", with proceeds going to the Youth Music charity in England. It featured all new cover versions, notable tracks were by Madness ("Money, Money, Money"), Culture Club ("Voulez-Vous"), The Corrs ("The Winner Takes It All"), Steps ("Lay All Your Love On Me", "I Know Him So Well") and a medley entitled "Thank ABBA For The Music" performed by several artists and as featured on the Brits Awards that same year. This compilation was envisioned and executive produced by Pete Waterman of Stock, Aiken, & Waterman fame.
In Sweden, the growing recognition of the legacy of Andersson and Ulvaeus resulted in the 1998 B & B Concerts: a tribute concert (with Swedish singers who had worked with the composers through the years) showcasing not only their ABBA years, but even hits from the 1960s and after ABBA. The concert was a huge success, released on CD, and later toured Scandinavia and even went to Beijing in the People's Republic of China for two concerts. In 1999, Sweden saw the birth of ABBA Teens, later re-named A*Teens, recording techno-pop versions of ABBA songs to huge success worldwide: not only the English original versions, but ABBA's Spanish versions also.
An episode of Angry Beavers on Nickelodeon featured ABBA anthropomorphized as sheep and called "BAABAA".
In April 1999, the Mamma Mia! musical opened in London, and soon premiered in cities worldwide to huge success.
In 2000, ABBA were reported to have turned down an offer of approximately US$1,000,000,000 (one billion US dollars) to do a reunion tour consisting of 100 concerts.
For the 2004 semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest, staged in Istanbul thirty years after ABBA had won the contest in Brighton, all four members of ABBA appeared briefly in a special comedy video made for the interval act, entitled "Our Last Video Ever". Each of the four members of the group made a brief cameo role, as did others such as Cher and Rik Mayall. The video was not included in the official DVD release of the Eurovision Contest, but was issued as a separate DVD release, retitled "The Last Video" at the request of the former ABBA members. Although it was billed as the first time the four had worked together since the group split, each member was filmed separately.
In 2005 all four members of ABBA appeared at the Stockholm premiere of the musical Mamma Mia.
With Mamma Mia!'s huge success worldwide, and the 2008 film starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, there is a huge interest in ABBA's music. However, in a November 2004 interview with the German magazine Bunte, Ulvaeus said a reunion would not satisfy ABBA's many fans, even