Wednesday, November 12, 2008
ABBA was a Swedish pop music group active between 1972 and 1983. The origins of the superstars ABBA dated back to 1966, when keyboardist and vocalisist Benny Andersson, a onetime member of the popular beat outfit the Hep Stars, first teamed with guitarist and vocalist Bjorn Ulvaeus, the leader of the folk-rock unit the Hootenanny Singers. The two performers began composing songs together and handling session and production work for Polar Music/Union Songs, a publishing company owned by Stig Anderson, himself a prolific songwriter throughout the 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, both Andersson and Ulvaeus worked on projects with their respective girlfriends: Ulvaeus had become involved with vocalist Agnethha Faltskog, a performer with a recent number one Swedish hit, "I Was So in Love," under her belt, while Andersson began seeing Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, a one-time jazz singer who rose to fame by winning a national talent contest.
By 1971 Agnetha and Bjorn were married while Frida and Benny were living together, although they did not marry until 1978. It was at this point the foursome began performing together. By the Fall of 1972 they were ready to record their first album.
In early 1973, Stig Anderson, tired of unwieldy names, started to refer to the group privately and publicly as ABBA. The name "ABBA" is an acronym formed from the first letters of each of the 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 ("ABBAholics"), notably in Australia.
By the mid-seventies touring became a contentious issue, being particularly unpopular with Agnetha, but they continued to release studio albums to great commercial success.
By the early eighties, at the height of their popularity, however, both marriages of the band members (Benny with Frida, and Björn with Agnetha) failed, and the relationship changes were reflected in their music, as they produced more thoughtful, poignant lyrics.
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 program The Late, Late Breakfast Show (live from Stockholm) December 11, 1982.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in 2008, following the premiere of Mamma Mia, 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.”
ABBA were widely noted for the colorful and trend-setting costumes its members wore. The videos that accompanied some of their biggest hits are often cited as being among the earliest examples of the genre. Most of ABBA's videos were directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who would later direct the films My Life as a Dog, The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.
Still today ABBA remains a fixture of radio playlists and are one of the world's best selling bands, having sold over 400 million records world wide; they still sell two to four million records a year.