ABBA is one of the most popular and best selling musical groups of all time. The four-piece first as a group between 1974 and 1982, and reunited in 2016. In 1974 they won the Eurovision Song Content with the song "Waterloo" which kick started their International Career. 
 
The song is recommended by the Model Music Curriculum. Our suggested activity links to preparing for performance based on ABBA's iconic stage presence. 
 
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ABBA 

The pop group ABBA was formed in 1972 in Stockholm by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngsta. Their name was formed from the first letters of their names, after previously being known as Björn and Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid. During the early years of the group, it consisted of two married couples, Fältskog and Ulvaeus, and Lyngstad and Andersson. However, the stress of fame meant both marriages broke down and the change in relationships was reflected in their music. 
 
All four musicians had successful careers before working together, in various groups and as solo singers. As with many successful bands, there was an additional person working in the background, and in ABBA’s case, this was Stig Anderson, their manager. He changed the group’s name to “ABBA”, wrote lyrics and helped develop their career. 
 
The group were starting to see success in Sweden, but it was difficult for groups outside of the UK or USA to develop careers on the international scene. The Eurovision Song Contest was seen as the gateway to worldwide success. 
 
In 1973, the group came third in the Swedish heats of the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Ring Ring” written by Andersson and Ulvaeus with Stig Anderson. The following year, ABBA were chosen to represent Sweden with the song “Waterloo”. As planned, this performance gained them recognition across the world. 
 
Songs such as “I Do I Do I Do”, “SOS” and “Mamma Mia” did well in some countries, but the release of their Greatest Hits Album in 1976 was perhaps the main turning point, becoming their first UK No. 1 album. It featured “Fernando” which reached No. 1 in the singles chart. 
The release of “Money Money Money” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” led to further chart success across the world, but “Dancing Queen” released on 16th August 1976, finally led to their first No. 1 in America, Canada, the Soviet Union and Japan as well as topping the charts in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Australia. 
This success led to a 1977 tour of Europe and Australia and the release of their fifth album ABBA: The Album featuring "The Name of the Game" and "Take a Chance on Me". A third single from the album was “Eagle” which was as popular, however the B-side, “Thank you for the Music”, became a big hit in the UK and Ireland. 
 
On 9 January 1979, ABBA performed "Chiquitita" at the United Nations General Assembly for the Music for UNICEF Concert held to celebrate UNICEF's Year of the Child. The group donated the copyright of this worldwide hit to UNICEF. 
In September 1979, after the release of their album Voulez-Vous and their second compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, the group began a tour encompassing Canada and the United States before heading to Europe. 
 
By the early 1980s, both couples had split and working together became difficult, particularly with interest from the media. In 1982, they gave what was expected to be their last performance together. 
 
Although the group split, their music remained popular and in 1992, ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits was released followed by More ABBA Gold: More ABBA Hits in 1993. Their songs were covered by leading artists. 
Image: Kåre Eide 
In 2005, Mama Mia! the jukebox musical, opened in Stockholm, paving the way for the 2008 film “Mama Mia!”. 
In November 2021, the group released Voyage their first new album in 40 years and in May 2022, ABBA Voyage, a concert residency opened in a custom-built venue at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. This featured a 10 piece band and made use of new technology with virtual avatars of ABBA in their prime. 

"Waterloo" 

The song “Waterloo” was released on 4th March 1974. It was written for the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. 
 
Originally called “Honey Pie”, the song is about a girl who is about to surrender to love with parallels drawn to Napoleon surrendering at Waterloo. Recording of the song began on 17th December 1973, with instrumental backing from Janne Schaffer (who came up with the main guitar and bass parts), Rutger Gunnarsson, and Ola Brunkert. 
 
The song won Melodifestivalen 1974, the competition to become the Eurovision entry for Sweden that year. 
 
In the main competition, the song beat Italy’s entry by six points, being the voted the top song by Finland and Switzerland, but also gaining “nul points” from a total of five countries including Italy and the UK. 
The song is notable for a Eurovision song in that it was sung in English, rather than Swedish. It is thought this might have been a factor in their success in the competition and in the future success of the song in the UK pop charts. The song was released in the UK on 12th March 1974 and entered the bestsellers chart on 20th April, reaching No. 1 on 4th May and spending two weeks in the top slot. 
 
“Waterloo” also topped the charts in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, West Germany, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, and Switzerland. It reached the Top 3 in Austria, France, the Netherlands, and Spain, and No.6 in America. 
In Sweden, the song peaked at No. 2 with the Swedish version and No. 3 with the English version, however ABBA’s album “Waterloo” reached the top of the Swedish chart, which took in a combination of singles and albums. 
 
The song’s legacy was highlighted in 2005, when a poll was carried out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest, and “Waterloo” was voted the most popular song of the competition. 
 
Björn Ulvaeus Guitar, vocals 
Benny Andersson Keyboards, vocals 
Agnetha Fältskog Vocals 
Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad Vocals 

Activity 

It has been suggested that ABBA won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest partly due to their performance: their sparkly costumes (created by clothes designer Inger Svenneke) and infectious energy. There are no big dance moves: the two lead singers just move in time to the music, at one point turning to sing to each other, but seeming to really enjoy themselves. 
 
Our activity for this blog is a focus on performance. Performing is an important element of music whether performing solo or in a group or ensemble. When preparing for a performance, there is lots to think about. When you are working on your next performance, here are some things to consider. 
 
Some important things to think of in terms of making you feel comfortable: 
Will you play with printed music / a tablet or from memory / improvised? 
Can you arrange to rehearse in the space before the performance? 
If you have control of where you perform in the programme, would you prefer to go at the beginning or end of the event? 
How will you prepare immediately before the performance? E.g. warm up 
Is the space likely to be warm or cold? This can impact instruments and voices and might influence what you wear. 
What will you wear for your performance? It is important to practise in your performance clothes if they are new to check you can breathe comfortably and if relevant play your instrument comfortably. 
 
Some important things to think about in terms of staging: 
Will you be sitting or standing? 
Where will you sit / stand in relation to other musicians? 
Where will you sit / stand in relation to the audience? 
Will there need to be movement of music stands / chairs / instruments before you perform? 
Will you use a music stand? If so, ensure it is at the correct height for you. Ask for help if it needs adjusting. 
How is the performance space being lit? Can you read the music? Are there lights shining in your eyes? 
How will you walk on and off for your performance? 
 
Remember to smile and acknowledge your audience (usually with a bow) at the beginning and end of your performance. 
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