Every year Europe is brought together by music in the form of the Eurovision Song Contest. On May 23rd 2015 the 60th contest will take place in Austria. In 1974 a Swedish group by the name of ABBA appeared in Brighton, England and won with a pop song which after over 40 years is still regarded as one of the contests best songs ever – Waterloo.
The Band members were Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvæus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
During late 1973 and early 1974 ABBA recorded some songs for their second studio album and considered a couple of these for being put forward for the Swedish heats of the Eurovision Song Contest, finally selecting Waterloo which ultimately won. This album was released around Europe, but really wasn’t successful in the UK limping to #28 with just a 2 week run on the chart. This early album contains some very good work and often overshadowed by their later offerings.
Side 1 opens with the classic title track “Waterloo”, 2:46 of pure catchy pop with a Tenorsax provided by Christer Eklund. Vocals by both girls.
The next track is somewhat of an oddity “Sitting In The Palmtree” a sort of calypso style has lead vocals by Björn with the girls providing backing vocals but having a spot of their own up to the bridge. Lots of percussion on this including Congas played by Malando Gassama.
On the third track “King Kong Song” Björn and Benny attempt some rock pop, lots of growling and screaming but the vocals shared by all.
The spanish titled “Hasta Mañana” brings a lighter pop song with acoustic guitars and plenty of strings with Agnetha taking lead with a song all about breaking up but with the possibility of making up. There is a spoken section in the middle. This was considered for the Eurovision Song Contest.
Track 5 is a more funky sound. The bass played by Rutger Gunnarsson runs the entire track holding everything together. A song about a young girl wanting to be with “Fred”, but still at home without independence she feels trapped and wanting to go out and make her own way but restricted by what “My Mama Said”. Great percussion work and electric guitar riff throughout. Lot’s going on vocally with Frida’s voice given more prominence.
Track 6 is “Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)” opens with a verse by Agnetha, but first chorus is sung by Björn and Benny, then they all sing together a repeat of the chorus. A second verse leading to a repeated chorus with 2 key changes brings the first side to a close. The Bass is played by Per Sahlberg.
Side 2 begins with “Honey Honey” one of the few songs written by Björn and Benny and their manager Stig Anderson to be a hit single without ABBA’s name being on the label. “Honey Honey” was a big European hit for Sweet Dreams where it reached #10 in the UK. Abba’s version is a harmonised piece of pop with Frida and Agnetha taking lead and backing responsibilities, with a spot for Björn and Benny. A
nice string arrangement by S.O.Walldoff.
Track 2 “Watch Out” is straight out rock. This was the B Side for the single Waterloo, probably the most un-Abba song of all time, but one of my favourites because it has a live performance feel about it.
Track 3 is pure pop again. Both girls contributing with the vocals. “What About Livingstone” is about trail blazers, an unusual subject, but bubble gum pop at its best.
Which brings us to one of the finest and underrated ABBA ballads ever. “Gonna Sing You My Lovesong”. Frida takes the lead on this one, the girls harmonise the chorus. The ebbs and flow of this song gets you caught in the story of a what appears to be a man confiding in a woman who in turn then responds by wanting to tell him she could probably offer more than the woman he is agonising about.
The fifth song is an unusual one as it’s lead by Benny. Almost Beach Boys in sound (Benny was influenced by them) it is a story about a young boy aged ten being pestered by a similar aged girl. His message was to say “look for a friend of your own” – “Suzy Hang Around”.
The album closes with another Eurovision Song Contest entry. In 1973 ABBA attempted to win the Swedish national contest but came third with a Swedish language version of “Ring Ring”. In 1974 the rules changed to allow an artist to sing in English if they so wished. Today 85% of countries sing in English. Here it is included in English with the lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody. Very “Waterloo” in style, and as the title says – give me a call – so – Ring Ring.
My pressing is probably from early 1977 as it is on the then new “Orange” logo label. All songs were written by Ulvæus and Andersson except Waterloo, Hasta Mañana, Honey Honey and Ring Ring which have an additional writing credit to Stig Anderson. Drums played by Ola Brunkert, Guitars by Janne Schaffer and all held together by the engineering skills of Michael B. Tretow.
At the time Agnetha also had a solo career contract with Cupol Records a swedish part of CBS, and there is a footnote on the cover that reads “Anna by courtesy of CBS-Cupol AB.
The group name on the front cover also has Björn, Benny, Anna, Frida in brackets.