(AFP) – ABBA, a hit machine that has sold tens of millions of albums for half a century, made the whole world dance, marking the disco years with their catchy melodies, their sartorial exuberance and their kitsch clips.
In eight albums and forty singles, the four Scandinavians have gone from cheesy Swedish group to cult formation that has survived all fads, forming two glamorous couples now divorced.
The members of ABBA – an acronym for their first names – are now all in their seventies: Anni-Frid Lyngstad, 75, Agnetha Fältskog, 71, Björn Ulvaeus, 76, and Benny Andersson, 74.
The quartet, which helped make Sweden the world’s third largest music exporter behind the United States and the United Kingdom, was formed in the late 1960s.
The two “B’s” – Benny and Björn – met and started writing their first songs in 1966. Then in 1969 Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid – “Frida” – joined the two young men.
In 1973, the group, which did not take the name ABBA until a year later, did not pass the Swedish qualifications for Eurovision.
– “Waterloo” –
But the following year, the competition was organized in Brighton in England and the still unknown quartet caused a sensation with “Waterloo”, named after the famous English victory over the Napoleonic army. ABBA wins hands down, relegating Grease diva Olivia Newton-John to sixth place.
With their star-shaped guitar and tight-fitting satin pants, the ABBA phenomenon has just been born in front of millions of viewers. The tele-hook gives birth to a number one hit in Europe.
Several years of hits followed which brightened up the beginning of the years of economic crisis: Mamma Mia (1975), who sings the forgiveness of a deceived woman, even dethrones Queen’s “Bohemian Rapsody” from the British charts.
The album “Arrival” (1976) with “Money, Money, Money”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “Dancing Queen” consolidates the vogue and sells more than 10 million copies.
Performed for the first time on the occasion of the wedding of the King of Sweden in June 1976, “Dancing Queen” becomes the hit of the year. In 18th century costumes and playback, ABBA sings in front of King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden and the future Queen Silvia – to whom the song is dedicated – at the Stockholm opera.
“Take A Chance on Me” (1977), “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A man after midnight) (1979), lament of a lonely woman yearning for romance, complete the” feel good “boxes d ‘a group that reaches the rank of superstars.
– Two divorces and a separation –
The divorce of Björn and Agnetha in 1979 heralded the beginning of the difficulties, but also produced one of the most powerful titles with “The Winner Takes It All”, with a less sweet tone, just like “Chiquitita”.
In 1980, ABBA released the album “Super Trouper” and performed its last concert after a tour in Japan, then the following year Benny and Frida divorced.
In 1982, the group announced that it was taking a “break”, but actually broke up and would not release any titles for nearly four decades.
Despite many requests, few artists have the privilege of being able to cover one of the songs of the quartet. When Madonna asks them to sample “Gimme Gimme Gimme”, they demand to have a viewing right on the final version of the song “Hung up” released in 2005.