KOOL 98 Superstars – ABBA
There is a reasonably common phrase, “something has legs.” It means, figuratively, that something is strong, agile, or has endurance. It is usually said about an album, music, film, stories or other entertainment acts. Many times a film will open with strong ticket sales and if the ticket sales stay strong then the film is said to “have legs”-meaning the inherent goodness of the film can carry it instead of just a flash of curiosity.
One of the essential elements of anything “having legs” is transcendence. In essence it is the act of rising above something to a superior state. Transcendence comes from the Latin prefix trans-, meaning “beyond,” and the word scandare, meaning “to climb.” When you achieve transcendence, you have gone beyond ordinary limitations.
In the case of today’s KOOL 98 Superstars “something has legs” can be taken both figuratively and literally!
Of course the picture gives it away…Agnetha “Anna” Faltskog and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad-Fredriksson-Anderson, were two of the members along with Benny Andersson, and Bjorn Ulvaeus who formed the Superstar band ABBA. Each member was a solo star in Sweden before ABBA (an acronym of their first initials) was formed in 1972 and began recording together in 1973. Anna and Bjorn were married in 1971 and Frida and Benny were married in 1978. While both marriages ended in divorce, ABBA’s public image remained harmonious.
The band caught their first break in 1974, when the song “Waterloo” won the prestigious Eurovision Song Contest. “Waterloo” was ABBA’s first number-one single in big markets such as the UK and West Germany. In the United States, the song peaked at number-six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, paving the way for their first album and their first trip as a group there. Albeit a short promotional visit, it included their first performance on American television, The Mike Douglas Show. The album Waterloo only peaked at number 145 on the Billboard 200 chart, but received unanimous high praise from US critics. The Los Angeles Times called it “a compelling and fascinating debut album that captures the spirit of mainstream pop quite effectively … an immensely enjoyable and pleasant project”.
In 1975 ABBA released their self-titled third studio album ABBA and the single “SOS” gave them more chart presence in the UK, where the single hit number six and the album peaked at number 13. “SOS” also became ABBA’s second number-one single in Germany and their third in Australia. Success was further solidified with “Mamma Mia” reaching number-one in the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia. In the United States, “SOS” peaked at number 10 on the World Record Top 100 singles chart and number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, picking up the BMI Award along the way as one of the most played songs on American radio in 1975. The success of the group in the United States had until that time been limited to single releases. By early 1976, the group already had four Top 30 singles on the US charts, but the album market proved to be tough to crack. The eponymous ABBA album generated three American hits, but it only peaked at number 174 on the Billboard 200 chart.
In March 1976, the band released the compilation album Greatest Hits. It became their first UK number-one album, and also took ABBA into the Top 50 on the US album charts for the first time, eventually selling more than a million copies there. Also included on Greatest Hits was a new single, “Fernando”, which went to number-one in at least thirteen countries worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia, and peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single went on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide. With moderate success in the US now a reality the stage was set for a quantum leap. The group’s fourth studio album, Arrival, was a number-one best-seller in Europe and Australia. Hit after hit flowed from Arrival: “Money, Money, Money”, another number-one in Germany and Australia, and “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, ABBA’s sixth consecutive German number-one as well as another UK number-one. The real sensation was “Dancing Queen”, not only topping the charts in loyal markets the UK, Germany and Australia, but also reaching number-one in the United States. In South Africa, ABBA had astounding success with “Fernando”, “Dancing Queen” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” being among the top 20 best-selling singles for 1976–77. In 1977, Arrival was nominated for the inaugural BRIT Award in the category “Best International Album of the Year”.
In December 1977, ABBA followed up Arrival with the more ambitious fifth album ABBA: The Album, released to coincide with the debut of ABBA: The Movie. Although the album was less well received by UK reviewers, it did spawn more worldwide hits: “The Name of the Game” and “Take a Chance on Me”, which both topped the UK charts, and peaked at number 12 and number three, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US. By 1978 ABBA was one of the biggest bands in the world. The group’s, sixth studio album, Voulez-Vous, was released in April 1979. Voulez-Vous topped charts, across Europe, Japan and Mexico. It hit the Top 10 in Canada, Australia and the Top 20, in the United States. The singles, “Chiquitita”, “Does Your Mother Know”, “Angeleyes” and “I Have a Dream” were all UK Top 5 hits. “I Have a Dream” became ABBA’s second number-one, in Canada, on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart. The group, also released their second compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, which featured a brand new track: “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)”, another number-three hit in both the UK and Germany. November of 1980, saw the release of ABBA’s seventh album Super Trouper and the smash hit “The Winner Takes it All”, hit #1 on the UK charts, and peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
ABBA released their 8th and what would prove to be their final studio album, The Visitors in late 1981. The album was not as commercially successful as previous albums, however, “When All Is Said and Done”, fittingly became ABBA’s final Top 40 hit in the US, while also reaching the US Adult Contemporary Top 10, and number-four on the RPM Adult Contemporary chart in Canada. Some critics claim the song’s lyrics, dealt with the painful experience of separating from a long-term partner, though it looked at the trauma more optimistically. With the now publicised story of Andersson and Lyngstad’s divorce, speculation increased of tension within the band. Although ABBA never officially announced the end of the group, it has long been observed as dissolved with their final appearance coming in Dec of 1982.
With record sales estimated at 400 million copies worldwide ABBA are one of the best-selling music artists of all time. They are also the best-selling band from continental Europe and from outside the English-speaking world.In 1999, ABBA’s music was adapted into the successful musical Mamma Mia! that toured worldwide. A film of the same name, released in 2008, became the highest-grossing film in the United Kingdom that year. A sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, was released in 2018. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2015, their song “Dancing Queen” was inducted into the Recording Academy’s Grammy Hall of Fame. On April 27, 2018, it was announced that the band had recorded two new songs after 35 years of being inactive, the first of which, “I Still Have Faith in You” will be released in December 2018.
ABBA was easily the most commercially successful band of the 1970’s and had a massive revival when ABBA Gold topped the charts around the globe in the early 1990’s. ABBA’s wholesome image and catchy dance tunes made them international pop stars. Nelson Mandela once called ABBA his favourite pop band. Their massive financial success made ABBA the second most profitable corporation on the Stockholm stock exchange. Unfortunately it was this type of financial success that led to death threats and kidnapping scare that ultimately led to the ABBA disbanding in 1982.
To borrow a line from the iconic ZZ Top “She’s got legs, she knows how to use them”… suits ABBA to a T. Their music has transcended time, borders, gender and fashion for over 4 decades. They are truly KOOL 98 Superstars and the endurance over time is proof their music has legs!!