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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Apr-18 > SO MUCH TO ANSWER FOR

SO MUCH TO ANSWER FOR

FOLLOWING IN THE WAKE OF ABBA, SWEDISH BANDS AND ARTISTS HAVE INCREASINGLY MADE THEIR WAY TO THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
Swedish pop may be dominated by ABBA, but Roxette also made waves across the world in the 80s and 90s
© Mike Prior/Getty Images

Sweden

It’s easy to define the moment that Swedish pop music crashed into the wider world’s consciousness. On 6 April 1974, Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, collectively known as ABBA, took to the stage at the Brighton Dome to perform a stomper called Waterloo, Sweden’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest.

“How about that for an onstage performance?” gushed a clearly impressed David Vine, who that year provided commentary for BBC One, before opining that ABBA had to be “in the reckoning.” He was right. The likes of Olivia Newton- John, representing the UK and destined to finish fourth with the now largely forgotten Long Live Love, didn’t stand a chance. Not only did Waterloo win, but it went on to sell six million copies worldwide and top the UK charts. In 2005, Eurovision’s 50th birthday, it was voted the best song in the contest’s history.

Waterloo’s success was something of a false start for the band, as they wouldn’t truly achieve international superstardom until Mamma Mia which was released towards the end of 1975. “If you look at the singles we released straight after Waterloo, we were trying to be more like The Sweet, a semi-glam rock group, which was stupid because we were always a pop group,” Björn told The Guardian in 2014.

In the UK alone, between 1974 and 1981, ABBA had nine No.1 hit singles, a run of pop classics that included Mamma Mia, Fernando and Knowing Me, Knowing You. By 1992, the group’s place in the popular culture canon was such that, when U2 played Sweden, the Irish band not only invited Björn and Benny up on stage to guest on Dancing Queen, but Bono felt moved to bow to the duo and declare: “We are not worthy.”

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