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Updated: April 9, 2010 16:28 IST

A heavenly enchantment called ABBA

Inumella Sesikala
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In this June 14, 1974 file photo, Swedish pop group ABBA, Bjorn Ulvaeus, back left, Benny Andersson, back right, Agnetha Faltskog, front left, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are shown.
AP In this June 14, 1974 file photo, Swedish pop group ABBA, Bjorn Ulvaeus, back left, Benny Andersson, back right, Agnetha Faltskog, front left, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are shown.

Inducted into the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the Swedish pop quartet ABBA stand well etched in the minds of music lovers

On March 15 this year, the Swedish pop quartet ABBA was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honour bestowed upon the most influential artists of music industry. Die-hard fans, who celebrate March 11, as International ABBA Day, continue their fervent prayers for one last performance by all four of them that could be beamed around the world. Considering that they sold 370 million records and are still selling, this comes as no surprise! After all, they topped the worldwide charts of popular music from 1972 to 1982.

The group's name ABBA was coined by taking the first alphabet of the quartet's names – Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida). While the first half of the group began with the meeting of Bjorn and Benny in mid 1966, it became a quartet in 1969 when they met their (future) better-halves, Agnetha and Frida, respectively.

Music caught each of them at a very early age. To everyone of them, it was the firm belief, “I have a dream, a song to sing,” that drew them to music.

The Climbing of Charts

It was in 1972 that they began performing as a group. Encouraged by the success of their first single People Need Love, ABBA sang Ring Ring in the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest. That they won only the third position did not stop Ring Ring from becoming a hit in Sweden and many other European countries. But the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest catapulted them and their entry Waterloo to number one position all over Europe and a place in US Top Ten. Later, they once again tasted phenomenal global success with SOS from the third album ABBA. Mamma Mia from the same album swept Australia off its hopping feet. In the years that followed, many captivating songs like Fernando, Dancing Queen, Money Money Money, Summer Night City, Chiquitita, I Have a Dream, Voulez-Vous, Hastamanana, The Winner Takes It All, and One of us ensured a firm place for them in millions of hearts. Winning several top awards of many countries, this pop group has done their motherland, Sweden, proud by carving an enviable niche for them in the world of popular music.

After a total of eight albums, towards the end of 1982 they decided to break-up. By then both couples had divorced.

However, the CD compilation ABBA Gold, More ABBA Gold, and Thank You For The Music released in the early 1990s sold millions of copies, indicating that ABBA magic is still on.

In the 28 years that have passed since the group last performed together, many singers have dotted the scene, but the charm of ABBA's music continues to capture the imagination of fresh admirers.

It is interesting to note that today's younger generation is discovering ABBA on their own.

Since its opening in London in 1999, Mamma Mia, the musical based on ABBA's songs became the world's most popular show, with umpteen staging all over the world and more than 30 million people having seen it. The movie version of the same in 2008 with Merly Streep and Pierce Brosnan also became a grand success. All the four members of the group attended the Swedish premiere – of the musical in February 2005 and of the film in July 2008. Also, ABBA the Museum in Stockholm, Sweden would be opening this year with the band members donating their clothes, instruments, handwritten lyrics and so on.

Early this year, ‘ABBAWORLD', a unique and memorable interactive multimedia experience of the group's music opened in London. People of Down Under will have their own ‘ABBAWORLD' in Melbourne from June 2010. Both are fully endorsed by the quartet.

What makes them click

On the technical side, in addition to wonderfully played instruments, judicious employment of different techniques like reverberations, echoes, phasing, Wall of Sound resulted in mind-blowing sound effects. But the real credit for this band's success should go to simple and straight from the heart lyrics, melodious tunes, and the mellifluous voices of the singers. Together, the effect was magnetic. Whether it was soul-stirring or foot-tapping, it transported the listener to a different world of tranquillity and joy.

Sample the following lyrics- can anyone deny their relevance in today's chaotic times?

“People need hope, people need loving

People need trust from a fellow man

People need love to make a good living

People need faith in a helping hand.”

Or for that matter the spirit of Nina, Pretty Ballerina with which many stressed-out working women can identify.

Countless couples with relationship difficulties have found expression in The Winner Takes It All. As its lead vocalist Agnetha herself commented, “The lyrics are deeply personal, and the music is unsurpassed.”

Perhaps there is a song to suit every mood in ABBA's repertoire – whether to be played in full blast at a party or listen in solitude at night as faint strains from far away places.

It's Never Goodbye

All four of them are sexagenarians now (Agnetha, the youngest turned sixty this April 5). Although ABBA fans are all ears for yet another performance, Ulvaeus said, “We will never appear on stage again….we would like people to remember us as we were – young, exuberant, full of energy and ambition.” But music lovers across the globe can never say goodbye to this wonderful group; from them comes only a sincere “Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing”.

The Hindu presents the all-new Young World

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