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ABBA’s Global Conquests

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Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns

The incredibly creative and commercial achievements of the most famous Scandinavian pop group ever are about to reach another new generation, as ABBA’s celebrated concert at Wembley Arena in 1979 comes to CD, digibook and vinyl at the end of September. It’s a great time to draw breath and view the scope of ABBA’s global conquests.

It’s fascinating to examine where the group had their big international successes and with which songs, especially in their early days. As we all know, the quartet’s huge international breakthrough came when they won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo,’ which topped the charts in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Holland and Norway, among other countries. But ABBA had international fans before that.

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Their early single ‘Ring Ring’ became their first Swedish No. 1 in its local language version, ‘Bara Du Slog En Signal.’ The English translation reached No. 2 there and the same peak in Norway and Austria, also travelling to the top ten in Holland, South Africa and what is now Rhodesia. But the UK gave it the thumbs down late in 1973, and even a reissue of ‘Ring Ring’ after the ‘Waterloo’ sensation only took it to No. 32. A later re-release in Australia, when ABBA mania was at its height in 1976, went to No. 7 there.

After ‘Waterloo,’ ABBA’s ‘Honey Honey’ went top five in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but wasn’t released as a UK single, allowing the duo Sweet Dreams, comprising widely-travelled pop vocalist Polly Brown and Tony Jackson, to nip in with a No. 10 hit in the summer of 1974. In the US, where ‘Waterloo’ reached No. 6, the story was reversed: Sweet Dreams charted first with ‘Honey Honey’ but only reached No. 68, overtaken by ABBA’s version as it climbed to No. 27.

Interestingly, the song that broke ABBA wide open in Australia was not so much ‘Waterloo’ (a No. 4 success) but ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do,’ which became the first of six No. 1s in short order there. It also topped the bestsellers in South Africa and Switzerland, but British fans still weren’t convinced, and the song ran out of steam at No. 38.

Trivia fans will know that ‘SOS’ is the only chart hit where both the title and the artist names are palindromes, i.e. reversible. The song became a post-‘Waterloo’ staging post for ABBA in both the US, reaching No. 15, and the UK, at No. 6. It opened the door to six UK No. 1s from their next seven singles, including ‘Mamma Mia, ‘Fernando’ and ‘The Name Of The Game.’ The major hits continued in Britain until the last year or so of the group’s active life, when ‘Head Over Heels,’ ‘The Day Before You Came’ and ‘Under Attack’ all missed the top 20. ABBA’s Dutch fans stayed true, though, making all three of those titles top ten singles and ‘Head Over Heels’ their tenth No. 1 in Holland.

There are other mysteries in the group’s international scorecard, such as why Australians didn’t take to ‘I Have A Dream’ (No. 64) while the Canadians, Dutch and Swiss took it to No. 1; or why New Zealanders didn’t go for ‘Summer Night City’ (No. 37) while the Irish made it a chart-topper.

But all in all, it’s a global chart record with very few rivals, more No, 1s to its name than almost any other, and a legacy that continues to this day.

“George
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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Dehmchi Farouk

    September 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Abba is Wondeful.

    • Chandra

      February 20, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      I love Most of the most song from ABBA

  2. Reinhard Beskers

    September 4, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    ABBA is magic. ABBA is mysterious. There are mysteries, there are secrets.
    Check out my website and discover what was the secret of their succes.

  3. Blandinières

    September 8, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Divorcés séparés pas d’accords ou pas REVENEZ nous il y a des manques dans cette vie de fous.même sans corégraphie peu importe vos chansons nous envoûtent merci bises à TOUS.

  4. Laszlo Jakabfi

    September 8, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Abba’s hits are pure magic. The Beatles may have dominated the sixties, but Abba definitely dominated the second half of the seventies and early eighties with their divine vocal harmonies, creative composing skills and human warmth.

  5. klaus Mohr

    September 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    LÄSST ABBA nicht STERBEN !!. Holt alles raus aus euren SPEICHER MEDIEN !!!. Hochachtungsvoll Klaus Mohr

  6. Roger Jacobs

    September 8, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Abba is top altijd mijn favoriete groep geweest en hoor ze nog altijd graag,krijg er soms kippenvel van bij sommige liedjes zelfs na al die jaren

  7. Debbie Hamilton

    September 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    My biggest wish in the whole world is that ABBA would reunite for one huge concert! The world would be in a frenzy, and my dream would become a reality!!! I love ABBA!!!

  8. RITA

    September 8, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    mi juventud.

  9. James

    September 8, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Fantastic ABBA, Greatest in my opinion

  10. Paize Usiosefe

    September 9, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Great songs! What a thrill!

  11. Sylvestre Kisite

    September 9, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    ABBA is wonderful. I Love ABBA. A lot of congratulations.

  12. Nayagara Karunaratne

    September 15, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I like your songs, and they are very beautiful and daily I am listing to your songs. My favourite songs are DANCING QUEEN and FERNANDO. I love you all. 🙂

  13. Myriam Peeten

    September 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Ik ben al mijn hele leven ABBA-fan en zal dat ook blijven !

  14. Nelson

    April 25, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Mesmo aos sessenta e tantos anos eu ainda amo demais a Agnetha

  15. ale

    April 26, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    the greatest one all over the world
    That’s me
    cassandra

  16. jan

    April 26, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    waar was mijn tijd ho die glorie . van muziek mijn fans abba
    de best op de world .
    danks

  17. ale

    April 30, 2015 at 4:40 am

    I would like to see please in the track list
    Nina pretty ballerina
    Cassandra
    People need love
    Hey, Hey, Helen
    Elaine
    Suzy – Hang – around
    One man One Woman
    Eagle
    Move On
    The Piper
    Another town Another train
    I’m A Marrionette

  18. ale

    May 5, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    A. If it wasn’t for the nights
    B. Lovers live a littel longer

  19. Александр

    June 3, 2015 at 1:20 am

    Агнета АббА-моялюбовь с восьмого класса школы

  20. gabriela

    May 9, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Because of ABBA I’ve learned English so well, to understand what are they talking about in their music, 36 years ago….! It was a serious reason…!

  21. Romualdo Abbade da Cruz Neto

    February 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    I am a ABBA’s fan since I was a little boy.

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