ABBA at 40 & Eurovision

40 years of ABBA! ABBA Gold author Elisabeth Vincentelli and Eurovision expert John Kennedy O‘Connor speak with Jim and Greg on the 40th anniversary of the sequined Swedes’ breakthrough and Eurovision victory.

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iTunes Radio debuted with a great deal of fanfare last summer and was expected to be a dominant player in the streaming wars. According to a recent Billboard report, that fanfare might not have been deserved. Downloading, once a staple of the music consuming diet, is on the decline and streaming, for better or for worse, is up. iTunes plans on overhauling its strategy to compete with the market leaders of Spotify and Pandora, the latter of whom has grown by nine percent since the launch of iTunes Radio.


John Kennedy O'Connor on Eurovision

The Eurovision Song Contest is largely unknown to most Americans, but for much of the world, the annual songwriting contest is one the biggest (and occasionally, one of the most controversial) cultural events of the year. Like the Superbowl meets American Idol on steroids, the nearly 60-year old televised contest has grown to include more than 35 countries from in and around Europe duking it out to decide who has best original song. Each year an estimated 125 million people tune in to watch and it's their votes which determine who comes out on top.

Despite the fervor before and during the contest, most Eurovision winners rarely go on to further success as artists - with few exceptions. Chief among those is ABBA, who arguably wouldn't have become a pop music powerhouse for 40 years if it weren‘t for their big break at Eurovision. To learn more about their musical birthplace, and just why it’s so darn popular, Jim and Greg recruited John Kennedy O'Connor, author of The Eurovision Song Contest: The Official History, to share the storied, and oftentimes strange, history of the annual music phenomenon. They‘ll all be tuning to watch this year’s contest in Denmark on May 6th.


Elisabeth Vincentelli on ABBA

ABBA Forty years ago this month, Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Agnetha Fältskog took the stage at Eurovision 1974, decked out in platform shoes and sequined suits, to perform a new song called "Waterloo." ABBA would become the first Swedish act to win the song contest. And while Eurovision winners rarely stay relevant, ABBA proved a huge exception, cranking out hit after hit in the 1970s before disbanding in 1983. But their legacy is complicated, explains Elisabeth Vincentelli. By day, she's the chief drama critic for the New York Post. But by night she's an ABBA superfan who wrote a 33 1/3 book on ABBA Gold, the group's definitive best-of collection (and one of the top-selling albums in European history).

As Elisabeth reveals to Jim and Greg, there's way more to this band than just "Dancing Queen." Both Agnetha and Frida were well-known performers in Sweden before they married Benny and Björn and started ABBA (Agnetha was also an accomplisehd songwriter). Unfortunately, the two couples struggled to maintain their relationships in the limelight, leading to a downward spiral that Elisabeth likens to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac (with less tabloid coverage). Things finally fell apart in the early '80s. But a decade later, ABBA saw a strange resurgence among punk and gay subcultures, then among mainstream crowds, thanks to the Australian dramedy Muriel's Wedding and Broadway smash Mamma Mia!. The four members have all found success on their own, but Elisabeth has a bold prediction to make… Could an ABBA reunion could be in the works?

Featured Songs

  1. Neon Trees, First Things First, Pop Psychology, Mercury, 2014
  2. Detritus, The Very Idea, The Very Idea, Ad Noiseam, 2014
  3. Marko Kon & Milaan, Cipela, Eurovision Song Contest Moscow 2009, EMI, 2009
  4. Teddy Scholten, 'n Beetje, Single, Phillips, 1959
  5. Lara Fabian, Je t'aime, Pure, Polydor, 1997
  6. Bonnie Tyler, Believe in Me, Rocks and Honey, ZYX Music, 2013
  7. Domenico Modugno, Nel blu dipinto di blu, Single, Decca, 1958
  8. Aram MP3, Not Alone, Single, Digital download, 2014
  9. Mariya Yaremchuk, Tick-Tock, Single, Digital download, 2014
  10. ABBA, Waterloo (Live on 1974 Eurovision Song Contest), Waterloo, PolyGram, 1974
  11. Erasure, Lay All Your Love on Me, Abba-Esque, Mute, 1992
  12. ABBA, The Name of the Game, ABBA: The Album, Polar, 1977
  13. Agnetha Fältskog, Jag Var Så Kär, Agnetha Fältskog, Cupol, 1968
  14. ABBA, Disillusion, Ring Ring, Polar, 1973
  15. ABBA, S.O.S., ABBA, Polar, 1975
  16. Metalium, Thank You for the Music, A Tribute to ABBA, Nuclear Blast, 2001
  17. Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia! The Movie Soundtrack, Polydor, 2008
  18. ABBA, If It Wasn't for the Nights, Voulez-Vous, Polar, 1979
  19. Fleetwood Mac, The Chain, Rumours, Warner Bros., 1977
  20. ABBA, Money, Money, Money, Arrival, Polar, 1976
  21. Murray Head, One Night in Bangkok, Chess (Original Cast Recording), RCA/BMG, 1984
  22. Helen Sjöholm, Du Måste Finnas (Live at 1996 Plymouth Music Series), Kristina Från Duvemåla: Den Kompletta Utgåvan, Mono Music, 1996
  23. ABBA, Fernando, Arrival, Polar, 1976
  24. De Limburgse Toppersj, Dancing Queen, Dancing Queen (Single), Marlstone/EMI, 2012
  25. ABBA, The Winner Takes It All, Super Trouper, Polar, 1980
  26. ABBA, When All Is Said and Done, The Visitors, Polydor, 1981
  27. ABBA, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, ABBA, Polar, 1975
  28. Jodeci, My Phone, Forever My Lady, Universal, 1991
  29. Frankie Knuckles, Waiting on My Angel, Waiting on My Angel (Single), Persona, 1985
  30. Sparks, My Other Voice, No 1. in Heaven, Repertoire, 1979
  31. Johnnie Taylor, Please Don't Stop (That Song from Playing), Eargasm, Columbia, 1976
  32. Donna Summer, I Feel Love, I Remember Yesterday, Casablanca, 1977

Footnotes Eurovision Song Contest iTunes Radio Lacks Luster ABBA at Eurovision Elisabeth Vincentelli at NY Post Vincentelli on ABBA Gold ABBA Gold sales Rumours' Rumors ABBA Reunion? Muriel's Wedding Mamma Mia! on Broadway ABBA Fashion