ABBA at 40 & Eurovision

ABBA

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.

Download Subscribe via iTunes

Music News

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?

Dear Listeners,

For more than 15 years, Sound Opinions was a production of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Now that the show is independent, we're inviting you to join the band and lend a hand! We need your support more than ever because now we have to do all the behind-the-scenes work that WBEZ handled before (like buying insurance and paying for podcast hosting, ugh). Plus, we have some exciting ideas we'd like to try now that there's no one to tell us no!