At their commercial peak in the late 1970s, Abba was apparently second only to Volvo in terms of contribution to Sweden’s profits. The demand for their music knew no boundary and the group’s management arranged for royalties from erstwhile Soviet Union to be paid in oil commodity rights rather than the embargoed rouble.
October 31, 2019. This date is marked on calendars across Europe. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Brexit will take place “whatever the circumstances”. ABBA member Bjorn once said: “It would really make me sad if Britain would leave and what that would mean. It’s like someone you love leaving you. It’s emotional.” In fact, the group’s discography began the same year as Britain joined the European Union — 1973, the year Ring Ring released.
Receptive to trends
The Nordic country has always been receptive to music from all over the world, so it was but natural that Beatles had a big part in the modern music history of the country. The Fab Four turned up in Sweden in 1963 for five gigs and they inspired ABBA. The knack for receptivity continues and is integral to two other brands from the country — IKEA and H&M.
A melancholic streak
A melancholic Nordic streak runs through many of ABBA’s songs, which results from their growing up years in postwar Sweden and when they became successful, Benny married Frida while Bjorn married Agnetha only to experience marital breakdowns and the sadness can be heard on their albums Super Trouper and The Visitors. For example, Dancing Queen is not a cheesy song that’s still played at weddings. The narrator — looking across the dance floor — realises she is (or will soon) no longer 17 years old and is no longer a “dancing queen”. Of course, it is also a great disco ballad.
After the members went their way in the 1980s, the band’s music not only enjoyed a revival in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it became a sort of a genre in itself. The band’s influence can be appreciated while watching the BBC documentary The Joy of ABBA. In it, the Sex Pistols’ founding bassist Glen Matlock admits to being influenced by the band — the Swedish quartet’s SOS inspired the English punk-rock band’s riff in Pretty Vacant.
They never gave up
Many thought it was all over after the release of The Visitors in 1981. But Sweden’s Fab Four is proving everyone wrong. Last year, they announced the intention to record new material — after more than 35 years they visited the studio together. Recently, Bjorn said at least one of the new songs — which are titled I Still Have Faith In You and Don’t Shut Me Down — will emerge “in September or October”. He has also said that the group “may do” another song together, according to a report in Variety.