Mamma Mia! 10 Amazing Facts About ABBA
Yeah, we know. The last few weeks, all of these facts blogs have been on cool, big-balled rock bands like the Doors, Queen, KISS and Led Zeppelin - your basic meat-and-potatos groups you get into from listening to too much classic-rock radio with your parents. But this week, we dive into a special group that still manages to enchant the world decades after their split in 1982. In fact, they seem to have only gotten stronger in their dormancy.
Hells yeah, Benny, get after it dawg!
Why ABBA? This week in 1976, the group was at the top of the UK singles chart with "Dancing Queen," which would be their only U.S. chart topper. Also, next Friday and Saturday at the Stafford Centre, you can catch ABBA: The Concert, with the ABBA tribute band Waterloo holding court for two straight nights of Swedish super-pop.
Yes, super-pop. ABBA was a pop force, unyielding in their dedication to hooks and harmonies, throwing down giddy singles like lightning bolts from Heaven itself. When those choruses kick in on a great sound system or in your car, they bump. It was all almost industrial, brutally poppy, in the best way possible.
From songs like "Money, Money, Money," "Fernando" and "Take A Chance On Me," you get the DNA of modern pop, sounding like it came from a military facility somewhere in northern Europe. When most people think of pop, they think boy bands, Britney Spears, and her ilk, but ABBA was those sounds in their purest form. Everything since is watered down. Plus you have that decadent, big dumb production, with a disco element that gets us every time.
One night Rocks Off drunkenly yelled between songs at one of our own Leon's Lounge DJ sets that we saw "no difference between Sabbath and the Bee Gees, (gurgle)" and, as the old saying goes, a drunk man's words are sober man's thoughts. There has been many a time we have gone from a Zeppelin or an AC/DC binge and snorted a whole bag of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack alone, only to put back on a platter of Van Halen and see nothing wrong in the slightest.
But back to ABBA and their Swedish machinations. The quartet - Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog - began germinating as The Hootenanny Singers, a folk group in the late '60s. It was the standard, flowery, mountaintop, post-hippie stuff that was sweeping the world. It would take the hands and ears of producer Michael B. Tretow turn them into the ABBA that we all know today.
Carl Magnus Palm's book, ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, is a great start for anyone looking into how Tretow created the band's catalog.
Skimming through it, you will see that a lot of the techniques used were heavily indebted to the tribal, drum-heavy sounds of glam rock in the late '60s and early '70s. He's a pedophile now, but Gary Glitter had some monster singles that aren't too far from ABBA's works.
Here are 10 facts about ABBA that you probably don't know. Super-fans, please bear with the newbies. Special thanks to our longtime friend Natalie for feeding me some of this information. She was a really sweet ABBA tattoo which we cannot find on Facebook right now, but rest assured she has one.