Abba begin their series of virtual concerts

Find out more about the Swedish band, from their greatest hits to their wild outfit choices.

Abba

by Katharine Wootton |

Abba are back! And with new music and tours on the horizon, we remember how four friends from Sweden changed the face of pop music for good.

Abba's new music and concerts

Following the release of their new album, 'Voyage', ABBA have begun their string of concerts, where we see the band in their 1970s prime.

The concerts are taking place at a brand new venue located at a at a custom-built venue near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in the East of London.

The concerts will see Abba performing in the style of digital avatars or 'Abbatars' as fans are referring to it.

The exciting news comes after Bjorn Ulvaeus confirmed that Abba's new music would definitely be coming out.

Abba at Eurovision

It’s April 6, 1974 and in the Brighton Dome, crowds of all nationalities gather excitedly for the Eurovision Song Contest.

At this moment, people in Britain are facing one of the most austere times since the war as workers’ strikes and three-day working weeks affect household incomes around the country.

Yet on this night, the super trouper lights shine on four extraordinary people, unknowns from Scandinavia clad in sparkly boots and shiny flares, set to bring hope, happiness and perhaps a touch of cheese for decades to come. From their Waterloo moment in Brighton, Abba went on to conquer the charts and become one of the most important bands of the Seventies.

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Abba
©Alamy

Although we’d never heard of Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida when they strode on the stage in 1974, all four members already had a strong musical pedigree in their native Sweden. Benny may have only got a B-minus for singing at school – as his report in the exhibition shows – but after meeting Björn at a Swedish folk park around 1966, they soon started writing songs together for their own bands – Benny’s Hep Stars and Björn’s Hootenanny Singers. In the meantime, they found love and invited their girlfriends Frida and Agnetha to sing backing for their songs, before realising they might want the girls to lead.

As a foursome, they took their song, Ring Ring to the Swedish Eurovision preliminary contest. Sadly it was a flop and they didn’t even make it through to the main contest. But determined not to fail, they tried again the following year with Waterloo...

For all that we in the UK surrendered entirely to the unique sound of Waterloo, the Scandinavians weren’t so keen. The newspapers following Eurovision night, denounced them for not showcasing traditional Swedish schlager music. But we didn’t care and as their next song, Honey Honey led into the likes of I Do, SOS and Mamma Mia, we were hooked.

At the height of their fame

By the late Seventies, Abba were at the pinnacle of their fame. But, unlike many chart-topping bands, they rarely toured, performing for a total of only three months during their ten-year career. One reason was because these now two married couples had young families to support. But they also didn’t need to tour but rather used television shows like Top of the Pops to promote record sales.

However, when Abba did tour it was an unsurprisingly extravagant affair. Two giant trucks toured with them packed with everything needed for the carnival of lighting, special effects and costumes.

Wild outfits and a penchant for Lycra became a trademark of Abba with the band’s costume designer, Owe Sandström, revealing that he planned their clothes on the lines of working on circus outfits after Bjorn once told him, “nothing is too wild”.

Along with the wardrobe team, Abba’s tours were usually accompanied by a staff of around 80, including two knocker-uppers employed to wake everyone up and a comedian to gee along everyone’s spirits! Charmingly, Abba always made sure at the end of any concert that every member of staff had finished their jobs before they would sit down to a post-show meal as one big group.

And this generosity of spirit extended to Abba’s fans, too, as the foursome always made an effort to reply to fan letters.

Abba costumes
©Alamy

Relationship break downs

After years of filling the music world with unbridled joy, real life eventually started to infiltrate Abba’s happy world of pop. The relationships that held them together sadly started to fray and the couples divorced.

On December 11, 1982, Abba played their final performance. After that there was never another song or proper reunion but thankfully their music lived on – played for important moments of our lives – through the likes of Mamma Mia the Musical on stage and on film, and through other artists who were influenced by their ground-breaking sound. So thank you, Abba, for the music and for the memories.

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