In the history of music, not many acts can compare to the success of ABBA. They are one of the best-selling musical groups of all time, Eurovision song contest winners, and have had both a hugely popular stage musical and two hit movie musicals adapted from their songs. The enormous success of the Mamma Mia! movie franchise has triggered an ABBA resurgence that is still ongoing today.
With new ABBA music being released after decades of silence, and Mamma Mia! having made the band arguably more popular now than ever, now is the perfect time to explore some facts that you might not have known about ABBA.
40. The UK gave ABBA no points in the 1974 Eurovision song contest
ABBA’s winning 1974 Eurovision performance is arguably the most iconic Eurovision performance of all time. In May 2020, their winning song – Waterloo – was even voted the best ever song to be performed on the European contest. However, it seems the UK were sceptical of the group at first, as they gifted the Swedish quartet 0 points – or ‘nul points’ – back in 1974.
Admittedly, the voting rules were different back in 1974. Each country had just 10 points to dish out, and the UK chose to divvy these up between Italy, Israel, Finland, Ireland and Switzerland. ABBA actually had no idea of this until relatively recently, and expressed their shock at the launch of an ABBA world exhibit in London in 2000. “All these years and I thought the Brits were our best friends,” Ulvaeus joked. Ultimately, it didn’t matter that the UK was stingy with their points, as ABBA went on to win the whole competition with an impressive 24 total points.
39. They almost did the Lion King soundtrack
The Lion King has gone on to become one of the most popular Disney movies of all time. After its release in 1994, the animated film was not only praised for its plot and stunning animation – but Tim Rice and Elton John’s contribution to the soundtrack was also met with acclaim. But when the film was first pitched in 1988, Rice wasn’t dead set on Elton.
Instead, Rice got in touch with ABBA to see if they’d be willing to write music for the film. Rice had already worked with ABBA frontmen Andersson and Ulvaeus on the 1986 musical Chess. But it wasn’t to be – the rest of the Lion King production team wasn’t convinced, and, in any case, ABBA politely turned the gig down.
38. Anni-Frid thought that her father was killed in the war and only discovered he was still alive when she was 30
Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s birth was the result of a liaison between her Nordic mother and German soldier father. Lyngstad was led to believe that her father, Alfred Haase, had died on his way back to Germany from Norway after reports that his ship had sunk. Lyngstad’s mother, Synni, then died of kidney failure at the young age of 21 – leaving Lyngstad to be brought up by her grandmother in Sweden.
Lyngstad believed herself to be an orphan. However, that all changed in 1977 when the German teen magazine Bravo published a complete biography of Lyngstad – including the names of her mother and father. Lyngstad’s half-brother, Peter Haase, saw this and asked his father if he’d ever been stationed in Norway during the war, who confessed that he had. A few months later, Lyngstad met Haase in Stockholm for the first time and the two reconnected.Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images
37. The Soviet Union paid their royalties in oil commodities during the Cold War
ABBA had worldwide acclaim pretty much from the beginning, but what’s surprising is just how far their reach went. Perhaps surprisingly, ABBA were hugely popular in countries behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Unfortunately, currencies from Soviet states were embargoed during the Cold War, and so ABBA could not accept any royalties in rubles.
Instead, ABBA struck up a deal with the Soviet Union which meant they were unusually paid their royalties with the union’s lucrative oil commodities. When ABBA: The Movie came out in 1977, it was shown for a limited period in a number of Eastern European countries as well as in Moscow. Thousands of Soviet teenagers turned up to watch the film – testament to the band’s popularity in the Eastern bloc.Credit: Peerapat Wimolrungkarat
36. Fans had to enter a lottery to get tickets for ABBA’s 1977 London tour
Even in the internet age, trying to secure concert tickets for popular bands can still feel a bit like a lottery. ABBA kicked off their 1977 UK tour at the Birmingham Odeon – however, tickets were like gold dust for this first show too. The venue fit 2,500 but 50,000 applied for tickets, leaving many fans unable to see the group perform.
Things were no better when it came to securing tickets for the group’s two dates at London’s Royal Albert Hall. 3.5 million people attempted to get tickets for the two Albert Hall dates – enough to fill the venue 580 times over. Not only that, but every person who wanted a ticket had to mail off an application, with only a fraction actually receiving a ticket.Credit: RB / Getty Images
35. In the 70s, ABBA were Sweden’s second biggest export
After ABBA took to the stage at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, David Vine made the point that Sweden had never won Eurovision before – but ABBA’s performance certainly put them in good stead. As we all know, ABBA did go on to win the competition for Sweden. Not only that, but they also went on to bolster their home country’s GDP.
Global demand for ABBA was so immense that during the peak of their fame in the 1970s, the group brought in millions of krona for Sweden. They came second only to Volvo, the popular Swedish car manufacturer and the Scandinavian country’s biggest money-maker. Speaking to the Financial Times in 2013, Björn Ulvaeus revealed what he believed was the key to the group’s success. “Swedish radio would play Italian ballads and French chansons and German schlager – a big huge mix. What comes out in Abba is a mix of all of that, which makes it exotic perhaps, and not what would have come out of a pen from England or America.”Credit: Peter Mazel
34. Their video director has been nominated for Academy Awards
The majority of ABBA’s promotional videos were directed by critically acclaimed Swedish filmmaker Lars Sven “Lasse” Hallström. Hallström also directed their 1977 documentary, ABBA: The Movie. Following the group’s dissolution in the early 80s, Hallström pivoted to directing feature films full-time. Hallström was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director in 1988 for his film My Life as a Dog.
He was nominated again in 2000 for directing American drama film The Cider House Rules. The Cider House Rules was nominated for six other Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Michael Caine went on to win Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film, while John Irving bagged the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Hallström’s other work has also been met with critical acclaim. Notably, his 2000 film Chocolat was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.Credit: AVRO
33. Their outrageous outfits were chosen for tax purposes
If ABBA are famous for anything other than incredibly catchy pop songs, then they’re famous for their signature on-stage costumes. Their glittery outfits, platform boots and flared trousers are instantly recognisable, and have made the band a beloved group Halloween costume for decades. The reason ABBA picked those costumes might surprise you, however, as it had nothing to do with standing out on stage or following a trend.
Instead, the band chose costumes that they could never wear in their normal lives, due to a unique clause in Swedish tax laws. Swedish law allows costumes to be written off for tax purposes as long as they could never conceivably be called daywear. In Abba: The Official Photo Book, Ulvaeus reflected on the group’s unorthodox outfits. “In my honest opinion we looked like nuts in those years. Nobody can have been as badly dressed on stage as we were.”Credit: VARA CC BY-SA 3.0
32. The boys once went on a scandalous night out with Led Zeppelin
When you think about popular 70s or 80s musicians who were definitely hanging out together in their spare time, you probably don’t think of ABBA and Led Zeppelin. With that said, Led Zeppelin recorded their last album at ABBA’s Polar Music Studios in Stockholm and the two groups went on to spend some time together in the late 70s. Speaking to Louder Sound in 2015, Jimmy Page expressed his regret at the fact he never got to meet Fältskog during this time. “I was rather hoping we were going to meet Agnetha, but that wasn’t part of the deal,” he said.
Lead singer Robert Plant also claims that he went out and partied with the ABBA during Led Zeppelin’s stint in Sweden. Speaking on a Swedish TV show, Plant claimed he took the two men to a sex club so that they could supposedly escape from their wives. Representatives for ABBA have always denied Plant’s allegations and insist that no members of the group ever went to a sex club with him.Credit: Sabrebd, CC BY-SA 3.0
31. Agnetha and Björn’s daughter was a baby model for one of ABBA’s many brand collaborations
Fältskog and Ulvaeus welcomed their first child, Linda, in 1973. It wasn’t long before Linda was a star in her own right. The proud parents were happy to pose as a family for Swedish baby food brand Semper as part of an advertising campaign. Linda Ulvaeus went on to make her musical debut at the age of eight, singing alongside her mother on a Christmas album titled Now A Thousand Christmas Candles Are Lit.
Ulvaeus has since established herself as a talented actress, both on stage and on screen. The Semper campaign wasn’t the last time ABBA leant their services to a brand’s advertising strategy. In 1976, ABBA featured in a hugely successful commercial for Japanese electronics manufacturer National. The commercial even won an award in 1977.
30. Anni-Frid cried when she heard Dancing Queen for the first time
For most people, Dancing Queen is the definitive ABBA song – it’s got lyrics that were made for singing along to, powerful piano riffs, and beautiful vocals from the group’s leading ladies. Music journalist Tim Jonze even dubbed the song “the best pop song ever” in The Guardian 2016. It’s enough to take anyone back to a 70s disco and bring a tear to your eye with its powerfully nostalgic feel.
It even made Lyngstad burst into floods of tears when Andersson played her the backing track for the first time. Speaking to The Guardian in 2014, Lyngstad recalled feeling overcome with emotion after hearing her bandmate and husband play the backing music to the track. “And that was before me and Agnetha had even sung on it! I knew it was absolutely the best song Abba had ever done.”Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer
29. Agnetha dated her stalker after divorcing Björn
Fältskog and Ulvaeus were married between 1971, but divorced in 1980. Ulvaeus met his current wife, Lena Källersjö, soon after he and Fältskog split. Fältskog took some time off dating before starting a new relationship. She married again in 1990, but again this ended in divorce in 1993. Fältskog then did something a little unorthodox – in 1997, she started a relationship with her stalker.
The singer got to know Dutch forklift driver, Gert van der Graaf, who had reportedly been obsessed with her since his childhood. Unsurprisingly, the relationship ended in 1999, although van der Graaf continued to obsessively stalk Fältskog. This led to van der Graaf receiving a restraining order and ultimately being barred from entering Sweden in 2003.Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer
28. The first group Benny worked with was dubbed ‘The Swedish Beatles’
ABBA wasn’t Andersson’s first experience of the Swedish music industry. Pre-ABBA, Andersson was a member of a popular group called The Hep Stars. He had been keyboard player and lyricist with the successful pop group since the age of 18. The group had bagged three No 1 singles in Sweden in 1966 alone, leading to them acquiring the nickname ‘The Swedish Beatles.’
Andersson then met future bandmate Ulvaeus on the music circuit and the two quickly became friends. Ulvaeus was eventually asked to join the Hep Stars after an economic downturn led management to push the band towards more mainstream, showband tunes. However, creative issues within the band led to several lineup changes – one of which was Andersson and Ulvaeus departing to form ABBA. The group would break up for good in the early 70s.
27. More Australians watched ABBA’s 1976 TV special than the Moon landing
Nowadays, ABBA are known worldwide as one of the most famous pop bands to ever exist. They have always had a large degree of international acclaim – in particular, the group found themselves enjoying incredible popularity in Australia. Amazingly, more people in Australia tuned in to watch ABBA’s 1976 Australian TV special than the 1969 moon landing.
One year later in 1977, the band were overwhelmed by the support they received when they touched down in Australia for a nationwide tour. “I remember being quite tired after a 20-plus-hours-long flight,” recalled Lyngstad in a 2017 interview with Good Weekend. Lyngstad was astounded at how many fans turned up at Sydney airport to greet them. “We could never have imagined it … overwhelming.”
26. The band’s original name was Party People
It’s hard to imagine ABBA going by any other name, but there was a long while at the beginning of their career when the name was in flux. Early on, the group that would become ABBA went by Festfolk, which means party people in Swedish. Later on, a competition was held that allowed fans to determine the group’s name, with Alibaba, FABB and Baba all being popular contenders.
In the end, the results of the competition were disregarded, and the group decided unanimously decided to go by ABBA. Famously, the group’s name is an acronym of each member’s first name: Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid. The group then got into a spot of difficulty when they realised that Abba was also the name of a Swedish fish company. Thankfully, though, this issue was quickly resolved and they were permitted to use the name.Credit: Terry Disney / Stringer
25. Rumours that Agnetha and Anni-Frid hated each other were untrue
Throughout ABBA’s time in the spotlight, one enduring rumour was that the two female members of ABBA, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, hated each other. However, when Fältskog and Lyngstad were interviewed in 2009 they denied that there was ever any animosity between them. Lyngstad said: “A lot has been written about how Agnetha and I fought and quarrelled with each other.”
“There is absolutely no truth in that. Of course we competed but to good effect.” She went on to compare her and Agnetha’s relationship to a marriage. “ABBA wasn’t just about two married couples, you know.” “It was a little as though Agnetha and I were also married to one another!” If anything, Agnetha and Anni-Frid might have grown closer after both of their marriages dwindled.Credit: RB / Staff
24. They share the name ‘Abba’ with a seafood company in Sweden
Everyone knows that ABBA got their unique name by combining the first letters of each member’s name – Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn, and Agnetha. But it turned out that the pop quartet weren’t the only group in Sweden to go by the name of ABBA. The band had to negotiate rights to their name with the Abba Seafood company, a longstanding Swedish business.
It’s safe to say that the seafood giants had first dibs on the name as the company was established in the 19th century. Abba products include spreads, tuna, soups, caviars, ready-made sauces, and a variety of tinned herring. The company is still going strong to this day – so if you’re in the market for canned fish (and who isn’t?) you can try Abba seafood for yourself.
23. They didn’t get an album number one in the US until after they broke up
As popular as ABBA were worldwide throughout the 70s, they never managed to conquer the American charts. Compared to the success that the band enjoyed in Europe and Australia, the impact in the United States was fairly modest. When ABBA: The Album was released, it only reached number 14 in the American album charts – the highest position that an ABBA album ever achieved in the US while they were together.
It was only after the release of Mamma Mia!, long after ABBA split up, that ABBA’s hits began to circulate again. The group finally reached number one in the American charts in 2008 after the release of their compilation album ABBA Gold. In the US the album has sold a total of 5.8 million copies and is currently the 19th biggest-selling greatest-hits album since 1991.
22. They’re incredibly selective about who gets to sample their music
Many artists and groups are protective of their work, but ABBA have developed a reputation for being particularly selective about who gets to use their music. In 1987, they famously sued The KLF over the unauthorised use of a passage from Dancing Queen. Furthermore, they only allowed Madonna to use a sample of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) after she sent the band a personal letter.
In the letter she politely asked to use the sample, outlining her admiration for the band and her intentions with their music. The Fugees also sampled ABBA’s song The Name of the Game in their own track Rumble in the Jungle. To this day, The Fugees and Madonna are the only two artists to gain permission to sample the music of the formidable Swedish band.
21. They have vowed never to get back together… but then they did
ABBA never announced an official break-up, but after their final performance together in 1982, most people considered the group disbanded. Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid later said in interviews that they had no interest in getting back together. But in 2018 they announced that they had been spending time recording new music and had big plans for a high-tech tour featuring avatars of their 70s selves.
The band released new music in 2021, including the acclaimed track I Still Have Faith In You. The release marked the first new music from the legendary Swedish band in over 35 years. This formed the basis of the album Voyage, which Agnetha described as the band’s last tour and likely last album. We’re hopeful there’ll be more music yet, so let’s wait and see.
20. Björn says ABBA do not make “happy music”
While many fans find ABBA’s music uplifting and inspiring, the band members themselves never really set out to make joyous music. In an interview with the Guardian in 2014, Björn said that the “secret” behind ABBA’s tunes was that they had a mournful undertone. “The music of ABBA is not that happy,” Björn said. “It might sound happy, in some strange way, but deep within, it’s not happy music,” he said.
“It has that Nordic melancholic feeling to it,” he noted. “What fools you is the girls’ voices.” Aspects of the band’s troubled personal lives often seeped into the music ABBA made. “Even when we were really quite sad, we always sounded jubilant,” Björn recalled. Part of this is due to ABBA’s roots in 70s disco music, with bright and clear synthesisers still sounding superficially happier than later genres such as punk and grunge.Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer
19. A $1 billion offer failed to persuade the band to get back together
In 2000, while ABBA continued on their unofficial break, Benny was back in the spotlight thanks to the 1999 opening of Mamma Mia! in London’s West End. In an interview with the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, he said the band had recently been offered an astonishing $1 billion to reconnect. The offer came from an unnamed American-British consortium that wanted to secure hundreds of new ABBA concerts.
Yet the band members were all in agreement that this wasn’t such a good offer as it sounded. “It is a hell of a lot of money to say no to, but we decided it wasn’t for us,” Benny told the paper. 13 years later, Agnetha told Radio Times that she still felt they made the right decision by turning down the money. “We said no because they wanted 250 shows or something, it was incredible. No chance! No chance,” she said.
18. Anni-Frid became a princess after ABBA
In the year after Anni-Frid’s high-profile divorce from her bandmate Benny in 1981, she decided to leave Sweden. Anni-Frid first lived in London, and then relocated to Switzerland to live with her new boyfriend, Prince Heinrich Ruzzo of Reuss. His ancestors were from the former sovereign House of Reuss in Germany. They lost power after the First World War but retained their royal titles.
The pair lived in the family’s castle in Fribourg. Aside from his royal duties, Prince Heinrich also worked as an architect. Prince Heinrich and Anni-Frid married in August 1992, and the ABBA star became Princess Anni-Frid Synni of Reuss, Countess of Plauen. Tragically, Prince Heinrich died of lymphoma five years into their marriage. The pair did not have any children together.Credit: Steve Wood / Express / Getty Images
17. Eminem and Duffy are among the band members’ favourite artists
While countless pop groups have taken inspiration from ABBA’s hits, the ABBA stars continue to take an interest in music today. In a 2014 interview with the Guardian, Anni-Frid and Björn both said how much they love the rapper Eminem. “Punk never got into my heart,” Anni-Frid noted. “You hear the anger now in rap, for example, but it’s different and I like that very much. Eminem is one of my favourites.”
Björn agreed, saying that Eminem’s Cleanin’ Out My Closet is a “great song!” At the Mamma Mia! tenth anniversary party in London, Björn elaborated on his modern tastes, describing the singer Duffy as “fantastic” and “very unusual.” “I always listen to Duffy’s hit Mercy when I’m in the car,” he said. “If Duffy asked to use ABBA’s music and did it cleverly in the way Madonna did, I might consider agreeing to it.”
16. You can stay in an ABBA-themed hotel in Sweden
Located on Djurgården island in Stockholm, Sweden, ABBA: The Museum offers an interactive experience for fans. It first opened to visitors in 2008, following the success of the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. You can don classic outfits and sing along to ABBA hits, dine in the ABBA-themed restaurant or watch ABBA documentaries in the museum’s cinema.
There’s also a self-playing piano that is linked to Benny’s piano at home; whenever Benny is playing his piano, the self-playing piano copies him, note-for-note. Fans can even book a holiday in the museum’s on-site ABBA-themed Pop House Hotel. The ABBA Gold Suite is adorned with gold and platinum records, while the Mamma Mia! The Party Room recreates the interior of the Greek villa seen in the famous films.Credit: Frankie Fouganthin
15. The group performed together for the first time while on holiday in Cyprus
Although ABBA didn’t form as an official group until 1972, the band members held their first live performance together in 1970. The two couples were on holiday in Cyprus, thanks to an advertisement deal with the travel agency Fritidsresor. Part of the deal was that the four singers would perform for the United Nations soldiers stationed on the island.
The proto-ABBA rehearsed its short set in the singers’ Twiga Tower apartments, which are now abandoned in Cyprus’ demilitarized zone. The band’s performance received poor reviews from the soldiers – although one song that stood out was Hej, Gamle Man (or Hello, Old Man.) This song became the first-ever tune that Björn and Benny recorded together with Anni-Frid and Agnetha.Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images
14. ABBA temporarily replaced Agnetha in 1973
ABBA’s Agnetha was very briefly replaced in the band while she took maternity leave in 1973. While Agnetha cared for her new-born daughter Linda, Inger Brundin stepped into her place on-stage. An established singer in her own right, Brundin won the maternity-cover position thanks to her friendship with Anni-Fred. She accompanied ABBA on an important promotional tour of West Germany, Belgium and Austria.
Since ABBA were not yet particularly familiar around Europe, Agnetha’s absence was barely noticeable to many of their audiences. Brundin was much better-known in her homeland of Switzerland, and outside of ABBA she was known for singing Christian music, a considerably more niche genre compared to the world-beating pop ABBA would later produce.Credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer
13. The band’s Greatest Hits record was only their fourth album
In a particularly bold move, ABBA decided they were ready to create a Greatest Hits album only two years after the band’s formation. Mamma Mia, Waterloo, SOS, Honey, Honey and all feature on Greatest Hits, as well as the then-new single Fernando. One of the reasons ABBA made this album so quickly was because various foreign record labels with the rights to ABBA’s music were already creating their own compilations of ABBA’s most popular songs.
The album cover art was an illustration of the band dressed up in Halloween outfits, with Björn dressed as a piano. Perhaps more easily recognisable is their compilation album ABBA Gold, which was released in 1992. ABBA Gold, released after ABBA had enjoyed far greater fame, is the 23rd best-selling album of all time and has remained in the charts for decades.
12. There’s an ABBA Monopoly
One of the more entertaining items of merchandise inspired by ABBA is a rare Monopoly set. In this unusual variant, rather than purchasing properties, players collect ABBA singles. Instead of buildings houses and hotels, you add recording studios as your fortune grows. Meanwhile, the classic Monopoly tokens are replaced by miniature ABBA-themed items.
These include a sack of money, a star-shaped guitar, a thigh-high platform boot, a record, a rotary phone and a Bicorne military hat alluding to the hit Waterloo. There’s also an array of personal ABBA memorabilia on the market, much of which was sold for charity by Anni-Frid Lyngstad. In 2001, Lyngstad auctioned off some of her stage outfits, a golden ABBA record and her blue Mercedes.
11. The ABBA hit Money, Money, Money has been voted the greatest song about currency
Originally entitled Been and Gone and Done It, the song Money, Money, Money became a number one hit in Australia, France and Mexico when it was released in 1976. The lyrics tell the tale of a woman wracked with debt despite her hard work. The song still resonates with many – in 2019, the website Ranker named it the general public’s favourite tune about personal finances.
Ranker compiled fan votes to create this list of the 100 best-loved songs about money. Among the financial songs Money, Money, Money pipped to the post were Kanye West’s Gold Digger (at number ten), Madonna’s Material Girl (at number seven) and the Pink Floyd hit Money (in third place). In the film Mamma Mia!, Meryl Streep famously sings Money, Money, Money as her character laments the shortage of funds at her Greek taverna.
10. Before ABBA, Björn and Benny provided the music for an adult movie
Among Björn’s and Benny’s earliest collaborations was a film soundtrack – though the movie met with such a poor reception it could have derailed their confidence entirely. In 1969, the pair penned the music for a Swedish softcore film first entitled Inga II, which was the sequel to the more successful 1968 adult film Inga. Starring Marie Liljedahl, Inga II was given the new title The Seduction of Inga when it reached cinemas in 1971.
This R-rated movie did not perform well at the box office, and it marked a disappointing start to Björn’s and Benny’s recording careers together. However, Björn and Benny shook off this early setback, and went on to record their demo album Lycka. This album featured a new version of Something’s On the Way, which was another tune from The Seduction of Inga.
9. Björn and Benny had a top ten hit in Japan before ABBA
While The Seduction of Inga was mostly a disappointment for the men of ABBA, it did spawn one successful single: She’s My Kind of Girl. Benny and Björn blended their Seduction of Inga theme tune with a song of the same title from the movie to create this folk rock single. It was released before the movie even came out, and it became hugely popular in Japan.
Half a million copies were sold in the country, and it reached Number One in the charts. Björn and Benny performed She’s My Kind Of Girl at the 1972 World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, bringing Agnetha and Anni-Frid along with them. ABBA later chose to include the song on the international edition of their 1973 debut album Ring Ring.
8. Björn started out in a band called the Hootenanny Singers
Björn first found stardom in a popular Swedish folk-skiffle group named the Hootenanny Singers. Aged only 18, he became the lead singer and guitarist of the group, which was renamed Northern Lights when it released an LP in the USA. The Hootenanny Singers were well known to friendly rival band the Hep Stars, where Benny Andersson was similarly setting up his career in music.
On several occasions, Björn performed alongside the Hep Stars, and likewise Benny joined the Hootenanny Singers onstage. It was Stig Anderson – manager of the Hootenanny Singers and creator of the Polar Music label – who first saw the star potential in Benny and Björn as a duo. He encouraged the pair to write some music together. Their first co-written song, Isn’t It Easy to Say, was recorded by the Hep Stars.
7. ABBA’s only US Number One single was Dancing Queen
Dancing Queen, the ABBA song of Eurovision fame, topped charts in the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK and Germany. But its popularity went far beyond Europe, as it also won the Number One spot in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Rhodesia and the USA. This 1976 hit was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015 for its international and enduring popularity.
Oddly enough, it remains the only ABBA song to ever take the coveted Number One spot in the USA. Perhaps one reason why ABBA didn’t win as much popularity in the USA is its distinct folk European style. “The key to Abba is their understated Swedishness,” said Carl Magnus Palm, the ABBA biography author, to the BBC in 2014. “Specifically it’s the importance to their music of Swedish folk songs and of a sound called Schlager, which means ‘hit’ in German.”
6. The band only completed three concert tours
ABBA: The Tour took place in 1979, and it marked the third and final tour by the iconic band. This tour saw the group travel around North America, Europe and Asia, closing in Tokyo in March 1980. ABBA performed a total of 52 concerts on this tour – but in general, the group shied away from such deals. The band was famously reluctant to be anything less than the headliner, meaning that they turned down many touring opportunities.
According to the official ABBA website, Australia hosted the “most hysterical and overwhelming reception” that the band had ever seen, on their 1977 tour. “Quite simply, during the two weeks spent in Australia fans and media besieged the group virtually around the clock, the streets were lined with people whenever they arrived in a new city, and in Melbourne they were even asked to step out on the balcony of the Town Hall to greet the ecstatic crowds,” the website states.
5. A fake bomb threat interrupted their 1977 show in Perth
Amid the overwhelming reception as ABBA came to Australia, the band arrived in Perth for their first concert in March 1977. Michael Chugg, a freelance tour promoter, was behind the scenes of the concert when he received a chilling warning. “A policeman came up to me backstage and said ‘We’ve got a problem, someone’s called and said they’ve put a bomb in the arena’,” Chugg later recalled.
At first, Chugg didn’t believe the threat, but he eventually interrupted the concert and began to evacuate. He recalled “walking on stage and tapping Benny on the shoulder” to shut down the performance. The threat proved empty, and within an hour the crowds happily returned to the audience to watch the rest of the show. The perpetrator is still unknown.
4. Agnetha was starring in Jesus Christ Superstar the year that ABBA formed
In the early 70s, Agnetha was embroiled in a plagiarism row over her song Om tårar vore guld (If Tears Were Gold). She settled the case out of court, as a composer was accusing her of copying a tune from his unpublished music that was written decades earlier. However, Agnetha wasn’t swayed from her musical career, and in 1972 she joined the Swedish cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
She played Mary Magdalene, who is the female lead of the musical and Jesus’ confidant. This show only ran for five days, but it was performed to a total of 74,000 people in Gothenburg. This Swedish show was one of the very earliest foreign productions of the now internationally famed rock opera, which has also starred Tim Minchin, Glenn Carter and Rick Mayall.
3. ABBA music features in over 200 films and TV shows
Mamma Mia is not the only franchise to bring ABBA’s pop hits to the big screen. Over 200 TV shows and movies have used music by the Swedish band, according to IMDB. Johnny English, the spy action comedy released in 2003, sees Rowan Atkinson dancing and lip-syncing to Does Your Mother Know? The 1999 comedy Dick includes a scene of characters roller-skating around the Oval Office to the tune of Dancing Queen.
With a disco soundtrack, The Martian 2015 also pays homage to ABBA, with Waterloo in its soundtrack. In this space film, the hero Captain Mark Watney is a huge fan of ABBA – leading one of his astronaut crew mates to complain, “Couldn’t you have packed anything from this century?” That sounds like the kind of interstellar trip we’d like to be on!
2. All members of ABBA were first-born children
Benny, Bjorn, Anni-Frid and Agnetha are all the first-born child within their families. Bjorn is the elder brother to Eva Margareta, who was born three years after him and was raised along with him in Gothenburg and Västervik. Benny Andersson also has one younger sister, named Eva-Lis Andersson, who was born a few years after the war in 1948.
Anni-Frid was an only child who spent her earliest years in Norway, before her family relocated to Sweden. Agnetha was raised in Jönköping, Sweden, along with a sister five years her junior. Agnetha taught her little sister, Mona Fältskog, how to play the piano. Mona later became a switchboard operator. Seems like a missed opportunity!Frankie Fougathin
1. Agnetha wrote her first song, Two Little Trolls, at the age of seven
Born in 1940, Agnetha showed early promise in music. Her father, Knut Ingvar Fältskog, was a department store manager with a keen interest in show business. Agnetha wrote her first ever song when she was six years old, and she named it Two Little Trolls. At the age of eight, Agnetha was taking piano lessons, and she joined her local church choir.
At 10, the aspiring singer even formed a trio named the Cambers with two of her friends, Lena and Elisabeth. The Cambers sang in a couple of locally venues, but stopped performing after a few years because they couldn’t book enough shows. Agnetha eventually dropped out of school at age 15, dedicating herself to a career in pop music.Credit: Keystone / Stringer