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article imageReview: ‘The Joy of ABBA’ Special

By Alexander Baron     Dec 28, 2013 in Entertainment
This hour-long documentary traces the ascent of ABBA from the beginnings of Andersson and Ulvaeus as folk musicians to worldwide megastars.
By the time ABBA burst on the international scene with Waterloo in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest they had already paid their dues. This documentary covers their first songs: No Response and Sunny Girl written by Benny Andersson; Isn't It Easy To Say - the first of countless songs they wrote together to their first ABBA single, the cheesy People Need Love, and includes some rare archive footage in black and white from their pre-ABBA days.
According to Björn Ulvaeus here, Waterloo was definitely not Eurovision material. How wrong he was! Curiously, he was the only member of the group who spoke to the programme makers, although there are contributions from Mike Waterman, among others. And everyone herein Swedish or not speaks fluent English, the lingua franca of the known universe.
Like many of his contemporaries he was inspired by The Beatles; the first time he heard them he was playing covers with a Swedish folk group, and decided that he too must write his own songs. Andersson too was playing covers, in the Hep Stars along with Svenne Hedland.
ABBA entered Ring Ring for the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest, but it was not chosen (the Swedish entry was a song called You're Summer). The following year though they won in Brighton, England, and the rest as they say is history.
Surprisingly, after Eurovision the first place they scored was not the UK but Australia. There followed a string of hits including the abominable Dancing Queen and the quite magnificent S.O.S., which incidentally is the first and only time a palindromic group has scored a palindromic hit.
ABBA - their good looks were eclipsed by their  talent  and forty years on from the Eurovision song ...
ABBA - their good looks were eclipsed by their talent, and forty years on from the Eurovision song contest when they shot to international fame with "Waterloo", the song remains the same.
Creative Commons
Although both dream couples divorced and the group broke up at the start of the 1980s, the timeless music lives on; the girls went back to their solo careers, and the guys went on to write musicals together.
ABBA can be found on SongFacts, and there is still an official ABBA website. As enduring as the songs are their influence: the songwriting team of Andersson/Ulvaeus (supplemented occasionally with their manager Stig Anderson) have inspired some bands you wouldn't credit, including The Sex Pistols.
The Joy of ABBA is currently on BBC iplayer for those who can receive it; else watch out for it on YouTube.
More about Abba, benny andersson, Bjrn Ulvaeus, the hep stars, stig anderson
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