Songs of 74: Waterloo / ABBA

This year Radioinfo will take you back 50 years to songs released in 1974. It was a mighty fine year for music.

With ABBA announcing this week that there will be a new documentary and vinyl reissues to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their Eurovision win (on April 6, 1974) it feels apt to share the song, ‘Waterloo’, that won them the title.

They’d tried once before, in 1973 with ‘Ring Ring’, but hadn’t made the main competition, finishing third in Swedish heats. At the 50th Anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest, in 2005, ‘Waterloo’ was voted the best song in the competition’s history. It beat our Olivia Newton-John, representing the UK with ‘Long Live Love’. She’s got a song turning 50 that we’ll feature later on. My favourite Australian entry is Kate Miller-Heidke, who I saw in concert last week. She represents everything Eurovision now stands for.

It wasn’t always kitsch and glitzy. ABBA, and their costumes, started Eurovision’s the over-the-top styling and design with ‘Waterloo’. And 1974 was the first year that artists were allowed to sing in a non-native tongue.

ABBA were, and are, Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anna-Frid. They are all still alive and have weathered divorce and frosty periods to enjoy a rejuvenation starting in the 90s with the wonderful Australian film Muriel’s Wedding.

I say rejuvenation, but really, in Australia they were probably the most successful band of the 70s. ‘Fernando’ held the record here for consecutive weeks at No 1 (14) until Ed Sheeran‘s ‘Shape of You’ was No 1 for 15 weeks in 2017. We saw potential in them that they didn’t see in themselves.

Countdown, the pioneering live music show hosted by Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, commenced in Australia in November 1974, just as Waterloo was leaving our charts. ABBA would release, shortly after the Waterloo album, a self titled third album where Countdown played ‘I do, I do, I do, I do, I do’ so much it reached No 2, higher than anywhere else.

The very last song recorded for that third album was ‘Mamma Mia’. Benny, Bjorn and third songwriter Stig Anderson never planned to use the song themselves and offered it to The Brotherhood Of Man for them to potentially record and release, but they turned it down. ABBA must have created a promo clip for it and somehow it got played and then requested so often on Countdown that ABBA’s Australian record label RCA asked if they could release it as a single. The overseas record label said no, but Stig, Benny and Bjorn said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Apparently Mamma Mia, the film that is a celebration of ABBA music, is so popular in the UK that one in every four people own a copy.

The ABBA documentary is due out in the UK in May with reissues of Waterloo the album on vinyl, and Waterloo, the song, in multiple languages.

By Jen Seyderhelm – Radioinfo Writer, Editor and Music Trivia Buff.


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