I take a pride of sorts in writing this news report, having speculated quite forcibly last year (though not, unfortunately in this publication) that ABBA might “reform”, if only to record new material, having been the recipient of a ‘tip-off’.
That appears to be the case, with the news today that the members of ABBA announced that they have recorded new material for the first time in 35 years; two songs, with one of them titled ‘I Still Have Faith in You.’
All four members – Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog were included in an Instagram statement. This is no partial reformation. They said “it was like time had stood still and that we had only been away on a short holiday. An extremely joyous experience!”
However, it appears that there will be no tour. Several of the members hated it; and especially Agnetha Faltskog, and had said they would never perform live again. Instead, they plan a virtual tour featuring digital avatars. ‘I Still Have Faith in You’ is to be performed by the group’s holograms in a December TV special broadcast by the BBC and NBC. It is not known when the second track will be released.
In fact, we really shouldn’t be surprised by this news. As long ago as October 2016 it was announced they would reunite to work on “a new digital entertainment experience.”
ABBA’s history is well-known by anyone with the slightest interest in popular music. After winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’ they had a string of hits including ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Take a Chance on Me’, ‘Thank you for the Music’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Super Trouper’ and ‘S.O.S’ (my favourite) before splitting up in 1982. They sold 500 million records, one for every 16th person in the world, and spawned a musical film – Mamma Mia – which generated $610 million in receipts off a $52 million budget. In March 2010, ABBA was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
ABBA’s last recording was one of their most enigmatic, ‘The Day before you Came’, a relatively unknown song which did not chart well but one that was selected by British TV viewers as their third best in one of those ‘top 50’ type programmes you often see on ITV. It concerned the banal day to day life of a woman before the arrival of her lover, who changes everything, though there are several other interpretations; it has become something of an academic challenge being as it was their final recording.
It was quite different in style, too. In a clean break with their previous tradition of trying to cram as much stuff into a song as they could, it meanders along like heartbreak in slow motion, almost mesmerising, with only synths and Agnetha Fältskog’s vocals for company (unusually, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, or ‘Frida’ only added backing vocals on this song). What’s more, there is no clear ending; it is more like a mystery tour.
Ulvaeus wrote the lyrics, and has never denied they were influenced by his divorce from Fältskog, as was also the case with ‘Winner takes It All’. ABBA’s sound engineer recalls that Fältskog performed the song with the lights dimmed, the mood was gloomy and everyone knew the band had reached its endpoint. Fältskog removed her headphones and walked solemnly out of the studio, never to return.
Now, over 35 years later, they’re back, and a whole new generation is about to learn what songwriting is about.
‘Voulez-vous’, ABBA? On attend votre retour.
Photo: Allstar Picture Library