Music

Retrospective

Getting into… ABBA

As the world prepares for ABBA to return to the stage, here are the albums, films and experiences that will take you from casual fan to ABBA fanatic


If you’ve heard of music then chances are you’ve heard of ABBA. The Swedish band are one of the most successful acts of all time, and have had a huge impact on music and pop culture to the point that their influence is almost inescapable. But how well do you really know them?

The formidable foursome of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad were introduced to most of the world on the stage of the Eurovision song contest. Since then, the band has enjoyed an incredible career full of international hits, sell-out tours, huge films and even a West End musical. Now, as they turn their attention towards another industry-changing event with their London residency, which will feature the band as virtual avatars, it’s the perfect time to catch up on anything and everything you might have missed.

The Eurovision performance

ABBA Waterloo Eurovision 1974 (High Quality)

There’s no better place to start than with the performance that began it all. Taking to the Eurovision stage in 1974, ABBA were all smiles as they belted out upbeat pop track ‘Waterloo’. “How about that for an onstage performance?” asksthe commentator as the camera pulls away. They would go on to win the contest, making them Sweden’s first winners in history. ‘Waterloo’ would later be selected as the best Eurovision performance of all time, so it’s more than worth heading to YouTube to watch pop culture history being made. In particular, take time to enjoy Agnetha’s silver boots and the conductor dressed like Napoleon.

The music

There’s so much to sink your teeth into here that it can be difficult to know where to start. But if you’re looking for an easy route in, here are the three albums to get familiar with for instant ABBA expertise.

Arrival

Abba - Dancing Queen (Official Music Video Remastered)

ABBA’s most popular album is often considered to be 1977’s Arrival. The group were already experiencing some success internationally, but (the arrival of) Arrival thrust them into superstardom. The album contains several of their biggest hits including ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, ‘Tiger’, ‘My Love, My Life’, ‘Why Did It Have To Be Me?’ and the massive ‘Dancing Queen’. It’s a great way to dip your toe into ABBA’s discography and get to grips with some Euro disco classics.

Ring Ring

ABBA - Ring, Ring (Official Music Video)

Once you’ve listened to the hits, bolster your confidence as a scholar of ABBA with some deep cuts. Ring Ring, ABBA’s debut album, was released before the band’s global success, and its ten tracks are still relatively unknown – probably not songs you’ll likely hear at their Voyage residency, but an interesting listen nonetheless.

ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits

ABBA Thank You For The Music

The 1992 compilation album contains 19 of the band’s most popular tracks from across their discography. It’s essentially an ABBA starter pack. It’s also the second best-selling album ever in the UK, only beaten out by Queen’s Greatest Hits. Learn all the words to this one and you’re set for any ABBA club night that might come your way.

The live shows

ABBA’s brand revolved around performance, and the best way to experience their music is to hear it live. Here are the best opportunities to see their hits on stage.

ABBA Voyage

The best way to experience ABBA live is by… not? Confusing as it may sound, ABBA’s new London residency won’t see the band appearing physically on the stage at any point. The concert instead uses groundbreaking technology to host virtual avatars, whose vocals and movements are provided by the band’s original four members. The residency is hosted at a custom-built arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and promises to be an ABBA experience like no other.

Get tickets for ABBA Voyage.

Mamma Mia!

The ever-popular West End show has been running at London’s Novello Theatre for 23 years. Inspired by ABBA’s greatest hits, the show follows Donna as she prepares for her daughter Sophie’s wedding, unprepared for the fact that Sophie has invited all three men who mightbe her father. The soundtrack pulls directly from a list of ABBA classics and the choreography and costumes are everything you could dream of.

Get tickets for Mamma Mia!

The films

ABBA: The Movie

Official Trailer - ABBA: THE MOVIE (1977, ABBA, Lasse Hallström, Robert Hughes)

For a behind-the-scenes glimpse at one of the most famous groups of all time, try this 1977 documentary that follows the band on their mega-successful tour of Australia. There’s a slightly bizarre subplot in which a young reporter attempts to gain access to the group, but there’s also enough backstage footage and live performances to make it fascinating viewing.

Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! | Official Trailer | Screen Bites

Perhaps the easiest intro into ABBA is simply to stick on Mamma Mia! and let Meryl Streep take it from there. The star-studded cast delivers a fun, campy and highly engaging film with ABBA’s greatest hits sprinkled throughout – a great way to get to know the songs whilst also enjoying the melodic tones of Pierce Brosnan.

The book

ABBA The Book by Jean Marie Potiez

As with any band of their size and magnitude, there are plenty of books about ABBA, ranging from the definitive to the questionably unofficial. Among this ton of tomes, Jean-Marie Potiez’s book is the indisputable king (or should that be Dancing Queen?) Potiez traces the band from their roots as folk singers in Sweden to global superstars with the help of exclusive interviews and a treasure trove of colour photos.