Their infectious pop tunes enthralled a worldwide audience. There were hit records, sell-out tours, and crowd scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania … except in the U.S.
The group never had a #1 album in the U.S. Only one single (“Dancing Queen”) topped the stateside charts. ABBA made a single North American tour, with a mere 13 dates in America. They never received a major American music award.
And now they’re set be inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.
Benny Andersson, ABBA’s co-songwriter (along with Björn Ulvaeus, both of whom are the “B”s in ABBA’s name; singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are the “A”s), admitted to Rolling Stone that the honor came as a surprise. “I didn’t think this would happen, because we were a pop band, not a rock band,” he said.
Certainly when one thinks of ABBA’s music, one thinks in terms of great songs, not albums; there’s no Pet Sounds or Dark Side Of The Moon in their catalog. ABBA were a true singles band; singles were invariably their best work, the albums rounded out with filler like “Bang-A-Boomerang.”
But those hit singles are pure solid gold. It’s no exaggeration to say that “Waterloo,” the group’s breakthrough hit, epitomizes the perfect pop song — catchy, instantly hummable and just plain fun. And even that’s only one side of ABBA. Though characterized as a group with an invariably sunny outlook, there are dark strains running throughout the group’s work.
The disco-flavored “Voulez-Vouz” and “Gimme, Gimme, Gimmie (A Man After Midnight)” were songs of unabashed lust. And “The Winner Takes It All” is one of the classic breakup songs of all time.
Despite repeated offers, ABBA has always declined to reform and have rarely even appeared together in public since their (the foursome did come out for the Swedish premiere of “Mamma Mia!”). Ulvaeus and Andersson have each said there is no motivation for a reunion, and that they’d prefer people remember the group “…as we were. Young, exuberant, full of energy and ambition,” as Ulvaeus put it.
It’s not even certain they’ll all appear at the Rock Hall’s induction ceremony. “Agnetha is not flying, so I don’t know how she’s going to get to New York,” Andersson told Rolling Stone. “And we haven’t done anything together in 30 years … but you should never say never, you know?”
So ABBA fans hoping for a reunion may have to content themselves with seeing ABBA impersonator acts like Bjorn Again (a favorite of Kurt Cobain’s, they opened for Nirvana at their landmark Reading Festival appearance in 1992). But it’s clear ABBA’s songs have cast a spell over the world that simply won’t let up. And the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame award is finally a way that fans can say to the group, “Thank you for the music.”