After the recent news that ABBA have recorded a couple of new songs for the first time in more than 35 years, what better time to take a look at some of the lesser-known facts about this famous foursome?
Everybody knows that ABBA got their name from the initials of the first names of the four members: Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. However, less people realise that they had a somewhat less catchy name (at least to English ears) when they started out, going by “Festfolk” which is the Swedish word for ‘party people’.
Everyone in the UK loves ABBA these days – even those who prefer not to admit it – but when the Swedish band won Eurovision with Waterloo in 1974 the British reaction was rather less enthusiastic. In fact, ABBA received a big fat ‘nul points’ from the United Kingdom, although they still went on to take the crown. On the 50th anniversary of Eurovision in 2005, Waterloo was voted the best ever song in the history of the competition.
Oh, and about their being Swedish: in fact, Anni-Frid Lyngstad was born in Bjorkasen, Norway.
There can’t be too many pop acts out there who had to go through legal negotiations with a seafood company over the rights to use their name. That was the fate of ABBA though, who had to deal with the Abba Seafood company, which had been canning herring since the 1800s under that name.
ABBA cannily took advantage of a rather obscure Swedish law which stated that clothes were tax deductible if you were able to prove they weren’t used as ‘daily wear’. Given some of the flamboyant outfits worn by this quartet we can certainly assume that to be the case!
In their early years, ABBA weren’t necessarily too fussy about what products they would advertise. In 1973 they signed up to promote a baby food company, and Björn and Agnetha’s own baby daughter Linda featured in the advertisements.
All of their most famous music videos were directed by Lasse Hallstrom who was twice nominated for an Oscar as best director (for My Life as a Dog and The Cider House Rules).
Australia isn’t the only country to go crazy for these Scandinavian songsters. When ABBA first came to the UK on St Valentine’s Day 1977 there were 12,000 seats available at the London venue, but an unbelievable three and a half million applications were received.
For a period in the late ‘70s ABBA were paid for their tours in Soviet states with oil commodities instead of the worthless local currency. Over the course of the 1970s ABBA were second only to Volvo cars as Sweden’s biggest export.