x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The Instant Expert: ABBA-cadabra

We take a chance on them ahead of the Abu Dhabi concert by the tribute band Bjorn Again

THE BASICS ABBA was a Swedish pop group formed in 1970, made up of Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog. They are one of the most successful pop bands in history, with global record sales approaching 400 million.

WHY ABBA? Why not? The clue is in the first letters of their Christian names. The band had to ask permission from the Swedish fish-canning company Abba Seafood AB to use it.

WHO WAS MARRIED TO WHOM? Björn and Agnetha were married, as were Benny and Anni-Frid. But not for long. In fact, the band lasted longer than the marriages, just.

THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS SWEDES? Probably. Except that Anni-Frid is actually half-Norwegian and half-German, but was brought up in Sweden by her maternal grandmother after her mother died aged just 21.

BUT THE BOYS WERE THE BRAINS BEHIND THE BAND? Some would argue that the boys really made the group with their incredible hit-writing talent. Stig Anderson, a Swedish songwriter and music publisher, went on to become ABBA's manager after telling the boys: "One day the pair of you will write a song that becomes a worldwide hit." That said, we all know who looked better in those silver platform boots.

AND THEY DID WRITE A HIT? Yes, in fact they wrote several hits, most of which you probably know the words to. The first one to make it big on the international music scene was the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest winner Waterloo. It went to no. 1 in the UK, Germany and Australia. It got to no. 6 in the US. Go on, you know the words...

TONGUE TWISTER If you really want a challenge, try the Swedish version. All together now: Jo, jo, vid Waterloo Napoleon fick ge sig...

THEN WHAT? The hits just kept coming; 1975 saw the release of I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do. Then later that year SOS, followed by Mamma Mia. In 1976, they released Fernando; the following year, Knowing Me, Knowing You and The Name of the Game and in 1978, Take a Chance on Me. Are you singing yet?

SUPER TROUPER? You said it. By 1976 ABBA were truly global superstars. That year saw the release of a Greatest Hits compilation album, which became their first UK no. 1 album and sold more than a million copies in the US.

SO WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE SONG? Too many to relate, but who hasn't fallen in love to Chiquitita, or made a fool of themselves on a dance floor to Dancing Queen, got the words wrong to Does Your Mother Know? or crooned with the best of them to The Winner Takes It All. And don't be embarrassed if you're a secret ABBA maniac. The group still sells around three million albums a year, every year. They're never out of style. And nor are those silver platform boots.

VOULEZ-VOUS? For Björn and Agnetha the answer was no by 1979. Their split led to speculation about the band's future, but they promised to play on. In 1981, Benny and Anni-Frid followed suit and got divorced.

THE END? The dissolution of the band was never officially announced, but their last public performance was on UK television in 1982.


Life after ABBA

CHESS Benny and Björn's first major project after ABBA, a musical that debuted in 1986 and tells the story of a love triangle in the Cold War. Lyrics by Tim Rice.

ANNI-FRID THE PRINCESS? Yes, from pop star to princess, it's the stuff of fairy tales. She is officially known as Her Serene Highness Princess Anni-Frid Synni Reuss of Plauen, following her marriage to a German prince, who died in 1999. The Instant Expert feels a musical coming on.

MAMMA MIA! The musical that no one (well, almost no one) can resist. Let's face it, 42 million punters can't be wrong. Then there was the film, also a mega-hit, the most successful British film ever. There is now a version in Mandarin, so another few billion people won't feel left out.

THE ABBA LEGACY An exhibition called ABBA WORLD tours the globe offering fans the "music, memories and magic". An ABBA Museum is planned in Stockholm. Until then you can enjoy the ABBA City Walk, all two hours of it.

ANY CHANCE OF A REUNION? None at all. They got together briefly for a picture when the film version of Mamma Mia! came out, but that's all, folks.

Björn Again will perform at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company on Friday night (October 7). Tickets are priced at Dh75-Dh400. For more information go to www.adnec.ae.