➤ Fab Abba, a far cry from the days of Ward-ahloo

❚ ON THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY of Abba winning the Eurovision song contest with their Waterloo wall of sound and their self-selected kitsch costumes from the age before stylists had been invented we celebrate how this deeply uncool Swedish group turned into a much-loved cult. From the vaults we’ve dug out The Sunday Times’s assessment of Abba published in its encyclopedic Abba-to-Zappa partwork 1000 Makers of Music in 1997 – the decade of Britpop in which they were suddenly rehabilitated by music’s opinion formers.

FROM 1000 MAKERS OF MUSIC, 1997

Abba, pop music, Eurovision

1000 Makers of Music: Abba assessed by The Sunday Times

Abba
Swedish, 1973-82, vocal group
As cheesy now as when they won the Eurovision song contest singing Waterloo, Abba embody a perennial contradiction: you may make the quintessential pop music of the decade but you must remain for ever a bad joke if that era proves as tasteless as the 1970s. Abba’s lovingly coupled foursome – the acme of glitz in their satins and flares – were derided because Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, as journeymen songsmiths, wrote singalong melodies epitomising Europe’s dreaded folkloric tradition. Worse, their sentimental lyrics about love and money – in English – nauseated purists who preferred Anglo-American guitar heroes who mouthed youthful dissent.

Yet Abba scored eight consecutive No 1 albums in Britain and 25 Top 40 singles so catchy that everybody can hum one. In 1992 Abba’s hits were revived ironically by Erasure and ingenuously by a tribute band called Björn Again. Today Abba enjoy cult status in Britain as new generations, numbed by the joylessness of techno, recycle yesteryear’s kitsch to discover ecstasy in pure pop.

Keywork: Knowing Me, Knowing You (1977)

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