It was one of the truly unforgettable moments in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest. In the midst of a polite and well behaved line-up of artist, two men and two women rushed on stage, wearing the glammest, most glittering costumes this side of The Sweet, Gary Glitter and David Bowie. The nice ballads and snappy Eurostompers the rest of the evening were brutally swept aside as the group burst into a song that forged a rocky beat with a catchy pop tune, all wrapped in a package of irresistible energy. -- Carl Magnus Palm

Abba was formed in 1970, although it was not until their huge success in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, that they become a success. In 1982, they split up due to personal difficulties within the group.

Prior to the big split, Abba were on the go for a little under a decade, although it may have seemed much longer.

At the time they were seen as awful, bad music, appalling dress sense. Their muzak was everywhere.

Two decades on, their music seems good, Abba Gold sits in the album charts. Mamma Mia! a West End musical in London based on their music has proved to be a smash hit. Or is it simply a reflection of how bad the music scene has become, that even Abba stands out as good?

What is it that makes Abba stand out? At a guess, the vocal harmony and the instrumentation. And the sheer energy they seem to radiate.

Abba had a string of hits: 'Waterloo', 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', 'Money, Money, Money', 'Fernando', 'Dancing Queen', 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme', 'I Have a Dream', 'Super Trouper', 'The Winner Takes it All', 'Thank You for the Music'.

Kylie perfomed 'Dancing Queen' at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Abba spawned a number of rubbish carbon-copy bands, for example Bucks Fizz and The Brotherhood of Man. The one characteristic that tied together the me-too copies, was their complete lack of talent.

Abba have also spawned a number of tribute bands. The original Bjorn Again (they in turn have spawned copies), have now been touring for over 15 years, longer than the original group.

Apart from the tribute bands, there has also been techno and house remakes of many original Abba hits which were released under the name Abbacadabra.

In 2000, Abba were reported to have turned down an offer of approximately one billion dollars to do a reunion tour.

Abba was a phase, a genre of music popular in Germany, and still popular. Members of the group have since moved on.

Whilst still together Abba built a state-of-the-art recording studio in Stockholm, and it was in demand from numerous other bands, for example, Led Zeppelin recorded In Through the Out Door there.

Björn and Benny wrote the music for the West End show Chess in partnership with lyricist Tim Rice, fomer partner of Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Chess was followed by the Swedish musical Kristina från Duvemåla.

Agnetha and Frida also went on to do their own thing. Frida together with the Phil Collins produced Something's Going On, and Agnetha returned to her solo career with Wrap Your Arms Around Me.

Agnetha subsequently turned into a recluse, refusing all requests for interviews.

Frida released Shine, then her Swedish-language recording, Djupa andetag, a great success in Sweden, but unknown internationally.

Abba have sold over 370 million albums worldwide. Only the Beatles and Elvis Presley have sold more.

Abba Gold has in itself an interesting history. It was not possible to release this compilation until 1992, due to complex licensing agreements on the various Abba songs. Its release coincided with a 1970s revival. That summer, U2 had invited two members of Abba on stage in Stockholm to join them in a performance of 'Dancing Queen'. Abba was suddenly the coolest of cool. It shot to No 1 in the UK album charts. No 1 slots followed in several other countries. Following the premier of Mamma Mia!, Abba once again shot to the top of the charts. In 2004, a special edition, 24-bit remastered edition of Abba Gold was released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the arrival of Abba with their first hit 'Waterloo' which won them the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest staged in Brighton on the south coast of England. Abba were once again back in the album charts.

The musical Mamma Mia!, written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, featuring music by Abba, revolves around Sophie and her mother, Donna. Sophie is about to be married and wants her father to give her away at her wedding, only Donna isn't too sure which of three possible men he might be. Since Mamma Mia! premiered in London's West End at the Prince Edward Theatre in Old Compton Street (1999), it has, like Abba, become an international sensation. The Broadway production of Mamma Mia! was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical (2002).

Björn and Benny wrote the music for the West End musical Chess in partnership with lyricist Tim Rice. Until their acrimonious split, Tim Rice was the lyricist on the early Andrew Lloyd-Webber successes.

(c) Keith Parkins 2005 -- February 2005 rev 0