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Flashback: ABBA Break Through With ‘Waterloo’ at Eurovision in 1974

In honour of the Swedish pop group reuniting for the first time in 40 years, we revisit the beginning of their global takeover

It finally happened: ABBA announced they’re reuniting for the first time in 40 years, with a new album and a digital concert on the way. If the pair of singles they’ve released prove anything, it’s that they’ve been bottling up disco-pop lightning for years. They picked the perfect time, too: We could all use some of that glittery Swedish energy to get us through the darkness right now.

In honor of the group returning, let’s revisit their breakthrough at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, where they took home first place for “Waterloo.” Following their introduction, where each member — Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus — pose within the leaves of a large plant, the video turns to the contest.

Producer Sven-Olof Walldoff appears dressed as Napoleon (a logical choice, given that the song’s title comes from the 1815 Battle of Waterloo). Walldoff conducts the orchestra as the band appears onstage, kicking off the track in flamboyant outfits. Lyngstad and Fältskog trade vocals, with the latter decked out in royal blue velour and a matching crochet beanie.

“Waterloo” marked the first time the band charted in the U.S. The song hit Number Six on the Billboard Hot 100, while its B side, “Honey, Honey,” landed at Number 27 later that fall. Following its success, the group became influenced by glam rock. “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,” Ulvaeus told The Guardian in 2014. “Which was stupid because we were always a pop group.”

ABBA’s upcoming album, Voyage, marks their first new album since 1981’s The Visitors, and in the past four decades they’ve come in and out of the pop culture orbit, most recently with 2018’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and Cher’s subsequent tribute album. Hopefully, this reunion will give them the full resurgence they deserve.

“The music of ABBA is not that happy,” Ulvaeus said. “It might sound happy, in some strange way, but deep within it’s not happy music. It has that Nordic melancholic feeling to it. What fools you is the girls’ voices. You know, I do think that is one of the secrets about ABBA. Even when we were really quite sad, we always sounded jubilant.”

From Rolling Stone US