‘The Beatles will be remembered long after Abba have been forgotten.’

It was an assertion with which it would have been hard to argue.  It was the late 1970s and Abba were at the height of their popularity, but the point was made that The Beatles were a cultural phenomenon while Abba were just a pop group.

However, while Abba broke up in a manner as rancorous as the break-up of The Beatles, the pop nature of their music seemed to allow it to endure.

In 1999, it was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the success of Abba’s song Waterloo at the Eurovision Song Contest.  There were wishes expressed that the band might re-form for a concert.  Hopes were immediately crushed. band members commented that they were now middle-aged and not the twenty-somethings they had been a generation before.

The lack of any prospect of them ever playing again did not seem unduly troubling, it would only have been an exercise in nostalgia for those who were middle aged themselves.

But an odd phenomenon seemed to be emerging. Abba were not going away, it might have been more than twenty years since they had last recorded a song or performed a concert, but their popularity seemed undiminished.

The musical Mamma Mia! highlighted the music of Abba, but it would not have enjoyed such success if the songs were not already in the hearts and minds of those who went to see the film.

Why did their success endure?

In conversation one day with a friend who was a DJ and whose love was Northern Soul music, Abba came up in conversation.  He was unstinting in his praise of them, ‘They were pure professionals. Pure pop, but pure professional. It’s a pity the broke up in the way they did. Everyone of their songs was rehearsed and re-rehearsed, recorded and re-recorded until it was exactly right’.

Pure professional. Perhaps that was the secret for the songs are both diverse and distinctive and yet they have a discernible Abbaesque quality about them.

The assertion that The Beatles would long outlive Abba was contradicted in our school sports hall last Saturday morning.  A sponsored 24 hour rowing marathon was taking place. The young women of 5th year had been present since 5 a.m, they were tired and physically drained from turns on the rowing machines. Suddenly, around 7.30 am, the sound of the opening bars of Abba’s Voulez-vous? filled the hall and every one of those girls who were not rowing ran to the centre of the hall and joined in a joyous dance, loudly singing the lyrics of the song.

It was a moment of pure happiness, a sense of something indefinable. Abba forgotten? You should have seen them when Dancing Queen began.


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