Thirty-five years ago this week ABBA’s classic single ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘That’s Me’ was released.
Today ‘Dancing Queen’ is recognised as the most popular ABBA song, and ABBA’s biggest selling single. It’s been described as a chart topper in most countries it was released; it was ABBA’s only number 1 on the US pop single charts.
‘Dancing Queen’ had its public debut in June 1976 at a televised gala concert commemorating the wedding of Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf to German-born Silvia Sommerlath. This led to a widely held assumption that ‘Dancing Queen’ was written specially for the occasion. But Ms. Sommerlath at 33 was hardly “young and sweet, only 17″, and in fact ABBA had started work on the song over 10 months earlier.
Another modern myth is that the ‘Dancing Queen’ was rush-released after the wedding, but it was long scheduled as ABBA’s next single, for an August release. Recording started in August 1975, around the same time as ‘Fernando’. In early 1976 ABBA and their manager Stig Anderson had the difficult choice of which song to release as a single first. ‘Fernando’ was selected because it was a ballad that was different from the previous international single (the upbeat ‘Mamma Mia’), and because ‘Dancing Queen’ was considered such an advance for ABBA.
I first heard about ‘Dancing Queen’ just after ABBA’s first visit to Australia in March 1976. Newspapers reported that while the group was in Australia filming the television special The Best of ABBA (aka ABBA in Australia, ABBA Down Under) they filmed “under strict security” a performance of the next single ‘Dancing Queen’, which would be released the following August. The reports described the song as “disco-influenced”, that it was the best thing ABBA had recorded so far and predicted it would be a huge hit.
Many fans outside Sweden (including me) heard ‘Dancing Queen’ for the first time on the German TV special The Best Of ABBA (a different programme from the Australian special of the same name; the German special was renamed ABBA in Europe for Australian viewers), which was screened in June and July in some countries.
The B side ‘That’s Me’ was another new song from recording sessions earlier in the year. Both songs would be included on the Arrival album, released in October 1976. ‘That’s Me’ would go on to be a hit in Japan as a single in its own right. ‘Dancing Queen’ became ABBA’s signature song, and was used as the encore song in ABBA’s concerts in for the rest of their career together.
‘Dancing Queen’ was released on 6 August 1976 in the UK, 9 August in Australia, 16 August in Sweden, but not until early 1977 in the USA.
See the rest of the entry for various TV performances of ‘Dancing Queen’ mentioned in this post.