Monday, 28 June 2010

Veronica, May 1974: ABBA

An article from Dutch magazine Veronica, published one month after ABBA’s Eurovision win, stating that ABBA could very well turn out to be a keeper...
ABBA, or rather Swedish pop is conquering Europe. A well-deserved first place at the last Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘Waterloo’ was the last push that this group needed to dive into the European charts. There’s an album about to be released and therefore we are very curious about the follow-up to ‘Waterloo’.

The musical reputation of the Eurovision Song Contest is slowly changing. Up till now, the contributions were unimaginative compositions, most of the time far below average, that were known by the characterization of ‘true Eurovision songs’! Due to this lack of creative input, the interest in the contest was fading the past few years. Denmark even decided to end their participation and the purpose of this European music happening was put up for discussion everywhere. Luckily, this year’s contest was the incentive for a new development. The first two places were taken by songs, that one wouldn’t have dared to send to the contest in former times. Two countries, Yugoslavia and Israel, even had the courage to send a pop group. Only England missed the mark by sending an excellent singer, Olivia Newton-John, with a song of which she said herself that she would never have taken it in her repertoire voluntarily! Therefore, Olivia didn’t deliver the cracker of the evening, although an artist of her calibre was worth it. Instead, the honour went to the most original contribution that produced a breath of fresh air in the contest, the Swedish ABBA on a well-deserved first place.

ABBA’s success is an important occurrence in the Swedish music industry, that is slowly awakening. Although Sweden has a lot of excellent musicians, they don’t have much self-confidence. The public service broadcasting doesn’t give much opportunities to Swedish artists and especially artists at the beginning of their career have to go to great lengths for a bit of success. A breakthrough on an international level was completely out of the question. Last summer brought some change when ABBA, at the time known under the name Anna, Frida, Björn and Benny, scored an international hit with the song ‘Ring Ring’, for which Neil Sedaka had written English lyrics. It could have remained a stroke of luck if the Swedish public hadn’t decided to send ABBA to the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’. And the success didn’t fail to come. Right after the results had been announced, the offers were pouring in. Apart from a Swedish and an English version of ‘Waterloo’, German and French versions were rapidly recorded.
Almost simultaneously with ABBA’s success, another Swedish group delivered a chartbuster as well. Blue Swede reached the number one spot on the American charts with their version of the B.J. Thomas hit ‘Hooked On A Feeling’. Meanwhile, Blue Swede has started their conquest of Europe with a Veronica Alarmschijf and a placing in the Dutch Top 40. It’s still a little early to talk about a Swedish breakthrough, but the signs are there. One of the reasons for the success of both Blue Swede and ABBA is probably the fact that they record all their songs in English. Contrary to most Swedish artists that keep singing in their native tongue. Before ‘Ring Ring’, ABBA already had two local successes in English, with ‘People Need Love’ and ‘He Is Your Brother’.
The two ABBA men are the musical backbone of the group. Benny Andersson, with his thirteen years as a professional musician practically a veteran, started his career with the Hep Stars, the only Swedish pop group of any significance. Benny writes the most part of the ABBA repertoire together with Björn Ulvaeus, who originates from the Hootenanny Singers, a group that kept itself occupied with singing folk songs. Coincidentally, Benny and Björn ran into each other during a concert where they both performed. Björn was composing a song in his dressing room, Benny walked by and decided to lend a hand. They clicked straight away and an extremely fruitful collaboration was born. The idea to form the group ABBA didn’t come until years later. Björn got married to one of Sweden’s most popular singers, Agnetha Fältskog, while Benny managed to hook up with a singing girlfriend as well, the blonde Anni-Frid Lyngstad. Four vocalists together, it was only natural that they would work together. That happened in 1972. One year later, they scored an international hit with their third single and again one year later, they won the Eurovision Song Contest.
ABBA has every chance to become a keeper, provided that the group chooses the right repertoire. In any case, they have proven that music really can be made in the Swedish cold.

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