Why we still love ABBA - and the region’s favourite songs
PUBLISHED: 09:37 14 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:48 14 December 2019
It might be 45 years since ABBA won Eurovision 1974. But the Swedish superstars are still as popular as ever, as the launch of the Super Troupers exhibition this week showed.
Few bands have had such an amazing run - with the two Mamma Mia! films giving only a sample of their library of memorable songs.
BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Luke Deal is a superfan, and even holds an ABBA-related official Guinness World Record. He successfully named 15 ABBA songs from their lyrics in a minute, showing his in-depth knowledge of the band.
"It was live on air, no pressure!" said Luke, who is the station's early breakfast presenter and roving reporter. He was "volunteered" by other staff who knew of his love for ABBA.
So how did he first fall under the band's spell? "In the days of playing music cartridges in the car, my father took me to a shop in Colchester, and said, 'Choose which one you want.'
"It was 1976 and I was six years old. I looked through the cartridges and said, 'I want the one with the blonde lady on it.' So I had that one and I was hooked."
Over the following years, he realised how lucky he was in that choice, as his appreciation of their music grew. "They went on to be bigger and greater and even better than they were at the start," he said.
Luke found it almost impossible to choose just one favourite song by ABBA, but gave his personal top place to When All Is Said and Done, a track from the band's last album, The Visitors. He said he found it moving because it came against the background of the break-up between Benny and Frida. "It was ruined by Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia!, but it's a great song."
Luke's other favourites are another classic break-up song, The Winner Takes It All, and two more album tracks, If It Wasn't for the Nights, a moving song from the album Voulez-Vous, and Eagle, from their fifth album, ABBA.
'I remember dancing round the living room'
Donna-Louise Bishop also has many fond memories of the band. She writes: "From Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (my favourite) to The Winner Takes it All, I can sing along to pretty much any song by ABBA.
"I remember dancing around the living room as a child with my parents and sister after my dad recorded their concert from the telly, and would continue to watch that recording weekly until the fateful day my mum recorded over it with Neighbours.
"A friend even bought me that same concert on DVD for a 30th birthday present. I'm not sure if its nostalgia or genuine love and admiration, but you can be sure that I will be belting out ABBA classics for years to come."
Suffolk Twitter user Dawnie, who describes herself as a "massive fan", just couldn't choose her favourite. She said: "Waterloo (iconic), Does your Mother Know (Bjorn on vocals), My Love, My Life (beautiful and poignant, reduces me to tears every time). I have lots of memories!"
Paul Geater writes: "I was a huge fan of the group and had many of their vinyl albums. I recently bought a CD box set of all their studio albums (including rare Swedish language recordings of their hits).
"There are a couple of minor singles/album tracks from their early album Waterloo that I really like - Hasta Manana and "Dance (While the Music Still Goes On)".
"Of their well-known singles, their last number one, Super Trouper, is a particular favourite (despite a brilliant Not the Nine O'Clock news parody) which seemed to sum up their impact on the music scene.
"And their last few songs had a melancholy intensity that was also very special.
"They weren't singles in the UK, but When All Is Said and Done and Slipping Through My Fingers from The Visitors album did get a great deal of airplay (quite justifiably). The latter features as part of the Mamma Mia! musical and stage show."
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Stephen Foster of BBC Radio Suffolk chose The Day Before You Came as his favourite. He described it as, "A magnificent pop song that rarely gets heard. Blancmange did a wonderful version - quite possibly the finest cover of an ABBA song."
Seeing ABBA live - and their tribute bands too
ABBA sadly didn't do a huge number of live performances in the UK, but they did play a few concerts in London which some fans from our region were lucky enough to see. Michael Briggs, a member of the Norwich Remembers Facebook group, said: "My parents took me to see them at Wembley Arena in the late 70s. I remember lots of shiny pink and purple material. Oh, and a day off school the next day."
Of course, though, while only a small number of ABBA fans may have seen the original four live, many great tribute bands have performed their hits around the region over the years.
Björn Again, one of the best-known, have now been going for more than 30 years, far longer than the original group did. They performed at the UEA LCR in Norwich this week, with a festive programme of ABBA hits.
Sadly, you are too late to book for the sell-out ABBA-themed party night at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds on December 20. But tickets are already available to book for performances by ABBA Revival in Cottingham and Gorleston in July and August 2020, and there will be plenty more events celebrating the Swedish legends over the year ahead.
Maybe even over the next 45 years!
Just some of ABBA's top songs - which is your favourite?
-Dancing Queen: This dance classic is ABBA's top-selling UK single of all time, according to the Official UK Charts Company. It also came out top in our snap Twitter poll this week, where fans were asked to choose their favourite out of the four top ABBA songs,
-Super Trouper: This is Abba's second best-selling single - and it also came second in our Twitter poll. Sarah Barber, an Ipswich nurse and borough councillor, said: "I find the song romantic, it reminds me of my long- distance relationship with Luke (her husband) when I was doing my nurse training." She added that she was also a fan of Benny.
-Take a Chance on Me: Another hugely successful number one hit. Randall Bevan, of Ipswich, related this top ABBA song to the General Election. He commented: "Take a Chance on Me has never been more apposite in these 85 years on this earth."
-Knowing Me, Knowing You: This haunting song about a break-up rings so true that it's surprising to realise it was recorded before the ABBA divorces. Anyone who watched Top of the Pops back in the 1970s will remember the early video, with band members against coloured backdrops. This was one of their videos to be directed by Lasse Hallström, who went on to receive two Oscar nominations. On a lighter note, the song also became known as the theme tune of Alan Partridge, giving it a tenuous Norwich link!
- The Winner Takes It All: Another great song about a broken relationship, this was appropriately the winner of our second Twitter poll, which asked fans to choose between four more ABBA number ones. The song is often thought to be inspired by the divorce of Björn and Agnetha, though Björn himself has denied this. It has won a whole string of awards, twice being voted as Britain's favourite ABBA song in TV polls, and also being voted Britain's favourite break-up song.
- Mamma Mia: Thanks to the smash hit show and films, this song has become if anything even more popular than it was originally, and was the runner-up in our second Twitter poll. Reportedly, ABBA didn't originally intend to release this one as a single and offered it to British group Brotherhood of Man... who turned it down.
- Waterloo: The one which started it all. Fran Nantongwe, a teacher at Reepham High School and College, said: "I remember watching Waterloo' on the Eurovision Song Contest when I was 10, and knowing it would win. It felt like a real moment. I still watch that clip on YouTube, from time to time."
- Thank You for the Music: Judy Rimmer writes: "I never regarded myself as a big ABBA fan in the 1970s, but, looking back, I do like many of their songs and know quite a few off by heart. This one has always been my favourite - it has a fantastic tune and quite humorous and yet poignant lyrics."
- Fernando: Another top-selling number one, this song with two veterans reminiscing about a long-ago battle spent longer in the UK Top 10 than any other ABBA song. Cher did a great version of it in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
- The Name of the Game: ABBA's sixth number one in the UK, this is a very atmospheric song, said to have been influenced by Björn and Benny's admiration for Stevie Wonder.
- Chiqitita: In case you wondered, the name of this song is from the Spanish endearment "little one". Written for a UNICEF concert, it has a warm message of hope which helped to make it one of their all-time top-sellers.
- Eagle: Although this wasn't actually a single in the UK, it has a lot of fans, with its refrain "Flying high, high like a bird in the sky." Lee Johnson, of Diss, said on Twitter: "It's one of their lesser-known songs and sounds really mature."
- And not forgetting... Other iconic ABBA songs include Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), Money Money Money, I Have a Dream, Voulez Vous... and the list goes on.
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