ABBA Gold at 30

Thirty years ago this week, on 21 September 1992, ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits was released. It led to a reappraisal of ABBA’s music ten years after the group had come to an end, and spurred a great revival of interest in ABBA that continues to grow to this day.

The revival had been building up underground for quite a while. The Agnetha Benny Björn Frida Fan Club, now the Official International ABBA Fan Club, was founded in the Netherlands in 1986, and started holding annual fan gatherings (gatherings continue to this day, with the next International ABBA Day on 1 October). Fans in Australia celebrated the tenth anniversary of ABBA’s Australian concert tour in March 1987, which led to venues (primarily gay ones) hosting ABBA nights, which continued semi-regularly into the mid-90s. The tribute act Björn Again started playing in venues across Melbourne in 1988, expanding to the rest of Australia and the world over the next few years. And in June 1992 British synth duo Erasure released their EP Abba-esque, featuring four ABBA classics done Erasure style, which topped the charts.

It was the release of ABBA Gold, and its teaser single ‘Dancing Queen’, that saw the underground ABBA revival go overground, as the single and album raced up the charts around the world, with Gold topping the album charts in 11 countries.

ABBA Gold had been researched by Polydor in London, looking to capitalise on their new acquisition (parent company PolyGram having purchased Stig Anderson’s Sweden Music publishing and Polar Music record companies in 1990). They came up with a single CD featuring 19 of ABBA’s most popular hits, in a simple dignified sleeve featuring just the group name and album title, though until 2002 it had a bastardised version of the ABBA logo.

The album included most of ABBA’s most popular songs: ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘SOS’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ etc, closing with the Eurovision Song Contest winner ‘Waterloo’. Though the tracklist did favour British hits, missing a few major international hits such as ‘Ring Ring’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, and ‘Summer Night City’ (all of which appeared on the sequel CD More ABBA Gold the following year), and included ‘Thank You For The Music’, which had never been a major hit single, but was popular and seen as one of ABBA’s signature songs.

After Gold was released the ABBA revival was further spurred along in 1994 by the two Australian films that prominently featured ABBA music, Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Five years later the stage musical Mamma Mia! opened in London, featuring 22 ABBA songs propelling the story, and by then ABBA was back and here to stay. The musical was turned into a Hollywood movie in 2008, with a sequel in 2018, and also inspired the immersive dinner experience Mamma Mia! The Party. And of course, the new ABBA album Voyage was released in November 2021, with the ABBA Voyage concert featuring digital ABBA avatars opening in London in May 2022.

ABBA Gold itself has been rereleased on many occasions, often coinciding with significant anniversaries: in 1999 and 2014 for the 25th, 30th, and 40th anniversaries of ABBA winning the Eurovision Song Contest, and the 10th and 25th anniversaries of the album’s release, plus other versions packing the album with additional discs or DVDs featuring the music videos of the album’s 19 songs. It has appeared on multiple formats: CD, vinyl, cassette, DCC, VHS, Laserdisc, Video CD, and DVD, as well as streaming and download services. This week the 30th anniversary of Gold‘s release is celebrated with new vinyl, CD, and cassette versions plus a range of merchandise.

I initially ignored Gold‘s charms. To me it seemed another in the long line of cheap compilation CDs that had been issued over the previous ten years. I don’t remember exactly when I purchased the original copy – somewhere between the Australian release date of 12 October and Christmas 1992. Now of course I have multiple copies on CD, DVD, vinyl, CD/DVD packs, and soon to have it on cassette as well.

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Celebrating the 30th anniversary of ABBA’s Gold

This morning I appeared on The Morning Show on the 7 network in Australia, talking about all things ABBA, my book ABBA: Song By Song, and of course the 30th anniversary of ABBA Gold.

A new record for ABBA GOLD

ABBA Gold - Greatest HitsJon from Southend-on-Sea in the UK wrote to me on August 15th:

Can we start some sort of campaign for the UK release of ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits ?

Currently it stands at No. 68 with 484 weeks in the Top 100 and 807 weeks in the Top 200 album charts.
The longest stayer in the Top 100 Albums is Queen’s Greatest Hits with 486 weeks.
So just 3 more weeks in the UK Top 100 and ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits will be the all time champion and that’s surely something to celebrate ??
That is indeed something to celebrate. Despite complaints that ABBA Gold has been re-released so many times, especially in the UK, it is the flagship of the ABBA catalogue and it is ABBA’s biggest seller ever. It’s even among the 30 biggest selling albums worldwide.
So if you’re in the UK do what you can to get some more copies sold. Encourage your friends to buy a copy, buy additional copies as gifts, and let’s see ABBA Gold become the longest running album in the UK top 100 ever!

ABBA Gold 2010

When the release of ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits CD/DVD Special Edition was announced last year the most common question among ABBA fans was “why?”

The simple answer is that ABBA Gold continues to sell, with reported sales of 28 million copies so far. As much as we fans would love more archival material, unreleased songs, or DVDs of television specials, the fact is that ABBA Gold and other hits collections are the only thing that sell. The Deluxe Editions of the studio albums, though a boon for fans, don’t sell in huge numbers. Worldwide sales of music DVDs are falling. Benny and Björn won’t sanction the release of any unreleased songs “from the vaults”.

In December 2010 when this new version was released the previous version (released 2004) had only just left the UK top 100 albums. In Australia 18 Hits (released 2005)  has been a fixture in the catalogue album charts for the past 15 months.

Most of the re-releases that make fans think ABBA Gold has been reissued endlessly have been limited to certain territories, mostly the UK. The USA has never had a re-release until now. Canada’s only re-release was the 10th anniversary version in 2002. In Australia ABBA Gold wasn’t available from 2000 (the 1999 signature edition) until 2008. The UK has had the most reissues, but none since 2004 (the 30th anniversary gold cover version).

The new version of ABBA Gold features the latest remasters of the songs on CD, with an accompanying DVD of the clips for the songs on the DVD, newly remastered. The DVD also includes spilt screen versions of five of the clips, comparing the new remastering with the old clips, plus the first ever release of the 1977 Australian-made cartoon for ‘Money, Money, Money’, very rarely seen in full and long thought to be lost.

The booklet features a new essay by Elisabeth Vincentelli, author of the books ABBA Gold (2004) and ABBA Treasures (2010). The essay manages to cover ABBA history, the ABBA revival, and the history of ABBA Gold itself in just a few short pages.

Gracias Por La Música – the lost ABBA album

In 1980 ABBA released two albums. Most famous is Super Trouper, released in early November and freely available today on CD and in several box set.

And then there was Gracias Por La Música, released in June and today an antique, hard to find relic. Unavailable except as a second-hand LP or CD, if you can find it.

The history of Gracias Por La Música goes back to early 1979. In January ABBA had released ‘Chiquitita’, which was roaring up the single charts in many countries. One part of the world where ABBA had not been as successful as elsewhere was South America. Buddy McCluskey of RCA Argentina, ABBA’s local licensee, suggested to Stig Anderson and ABBA that a Spanish-language version could be a big hit and break ABBA in Latin America.

McCluskey and his wife Mary wrote Spanish lyrics, ABBA recorded it, and within months it was topping the charts across the Spanish-speaking world. It was said to be the biggest hit in Argentina for 25 years!

Later in the year ABBA recorded a Spanish version of ‘I Have A Dream’ entitled ‘Estoy Soñando’.  This too became a hit, and inspired the idea to release an album of Spanish versions of ABBA hits.

The ideal time came in January 1980. Benny and Björn were planning a trip to Barbados to inspire their songwriting energies for the next ABBA album. Agnetha and Frida were staying behind in Stockholm. They convened at ABBA engineer Michael B. Tretow’s home studio to record new vocals to eight ABBA songs. The McCluskey’s again wrote the lyrics, and Stockholm-based Spanish journalist Ana de Martinez del Valle assisted with the pronunciation.

The selected songs included those with an obvious latin feel or title (such as ‘Fernando’, ‘Move On’ and ‘Hasta Mañana’), recent singles (‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’) and big ABBA hits (‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’).

The gamble paid off, and upon release in June the album was a big seller in many South American countries and Spain. It was also a surprise hit in Japan, and saw limited release in the UK, USA, and eventually Australia.

Since the advent of the Compact Disc in the early 1980s Gracias Por La Música has not had a widespread release. It was released on CD in Japan in 1986, Argentina in 1993, and a limited US release in 1989.

In 1993 PolyGram International released ABBA Oro – Grandes Exitos, a ten track CD which included all the songs from Gracias Por La Música, in a rearranged order. The title and cover fit in with the previous year’s mega-selling ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits. The following year saw the release of ABBA Más Oro – Más ABBA Exitos (More Gold – More ABBA Hits), which compiled ABBA’s five remaining Spanish-language recordings – two songs each from 1980 and 1981, and the Spanish version of ‘Ring Ring’, recorded in 1973 but unreleased until this CD.

In 1999 ABBA Oro was re-released with all 15 Spanish recordings. This has since become part of the regular ABBA catalogue. When ABBA’s albums have been re-released in box sets such as The Complete Studio Recordings, and when ABBA’s studio albums have been released as Deluxe Editions, the Spanish recordings have been added as bonus tracks on the appropriate albums.

And Gracias Por La Música remains the lost album of the ABBA catalogue, forgotten except to the most ardent ABBA fans who still lament its disappearance.

(Thanks to ABBA The Worldwide Chart Lists and ABBA on CD for some information)

2008 in review

Benny, Agnetha, Frida, Björn, Stockholm 4 July 2008 (fantasy photo, thanks to turned into one of the most phenomenal years in ABBA’s 36 year history, another peak in the ongoing ABBA revival.

Of course, this was mainly due to the film version of the musical based on the songs of ABBA, MAMMA MIA!

Following its premiere in London on 30 June, the movie became the number one film in many countries, even up against such blockbuster fare as the Batman sequel The Dark Knight. MAMMA MIA! has gone on to break box office records, becoming the highest-grossing film ever in the UK.

The movie divided critics and fans, but there’s no denying that it propelled ABBA back into the limelight. To date it has grossed more than US$570 million.

The Stockholm premiere of MAMMA MIA! on 4 July saw that rarest of events, the four former ABBA members at the same place at the same time. Agnetha and Frida danced together with actress Meryl Streep on the red carpet, and for the first time in over 22 years the four were photographed together, albeit alongside the film’s cast and crew. This disappointed many, but within hours Photoshopped pictures of “the ABBA reunion” (like the one above) were spread around the world.

The movie’s soundtrack CD was also a huge hit, topping the Billboard Album chart – the first ABBA-related album to top the US charts. The recently released DVD has already broken sales records in less than two months.

ABBA’s original recordings also made an impact this year, with the flagship compilation ABBA Gold topping the chart again in the UK, becoming the oldest number one album ever, and  it also topped the Billboard Pop Catalogue chart for the first time.

Other compilations including The Definitive Collection, Number Ones, 18 Hits and even the new box set ABBA – The Albums made chart appearances.

Updated versions of ABBA Gold, More ABBA Gold and the box set Thank You For The Music attracted new buyers, as did The Albums box set. A vinyl reissue of ABBA – The Album commemorated the 60th anniversary of the 12 inch 33⅓ rpm long-playing record.

Agnetha released a new double CD compilation of her Swedish and English solo songs, My Very Best.

Many unique ABBA books were released during the year, including ABBA & Me (a Dutch fan’s story), Historia de ABBA en ArgentinaMade in Suécia: o paraíso pop do ABBA (from Brazil), ABBA Let The Music Speak (a musician’s guide to ABBA), ABBA: The Scrapbook (a pictorial history), ABBA – The Story (the first full-length ABBA biography in Swedish, also in Norwegian and Danish versions), plus an updated version of the definitive English biography Bright Lights Dark Shadows.

Stig Anderson’s daughter Marie Ledin wrote a memoir of her father, Min pappa hette Stikkan. Benny denounced the anticipated tell-all, but in reality it was a loving tribute without the expected salacious gossip about the split between Stig and ABBA.

ABBA also joined the lucrative games market, with Singstar ABBA for PlayStation.

For a group that came to an end 26 years ago, that’s a lot more action than could be expected over many years, let alone all in one.

In sad news, drummer Ola Brunkert died in March at the age of 61 following an accident, and photographer Bengt H. Malqvist died in November at the age of 80.

And what of the future? There are those, including Benny himself, who see ABBA as over after this year.

2009 sees the 10th anniversary of the stage musical MAMMA MIA! along with the 35th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win; no doubt there will be commemorations for the twin anniversaries. ABBA’s Voulez-Vous album was released 30 years ago in April, and if past history is anything to go by, we may get a Deluxe Version of the album.

ABBA the Museum was to open in Stockholm in June, but due to problems with the site the opening has been postponed indefinitely. In the meantime the museum’s collection will be touring the world.

Benny Anderssons Orkester (Benny Andersson’s Orchestra, or BAO) will tour Sweden again in the northern Summer, and will also perform its first-ever concert in London in July. There is also talk of an English-language album – some songs have already been recorded.

Björn, Frida and Agnetha will probably remain as they have for the past few years, mostly maintaining their private lives with the occasional public appearance.

And while the music lives on, so will ABBA.

ABBA CD reissues

ABBA Gold, More ABBA Gold, Thank You For The MusicJust in time for the July opening of the MAMMA MIA! movie, Universal Music is re-releasing the popular compilations ABBA Gold, More ABBA Gold and the 4 CD box set Thank You For The Music.

ABBA Gold and More ABBA Gold will be repacked in Super Jewel Boxes. Both have updated liner notes and booklets, especially More ABBA Gold, which was last available in 1999, still in its original 1993 format.

Thank You For The Music will be repackaged in a similar format to 2005’s Frida 4xCD 1XDVD box set. It will contain new photographs and the same essays as the original 1994 set, with some “gentle” corrections.

The disc contents will feature the latest remastered versions of the songs.

Reaction to the news is typically split – some fans see the reissues as a “rip off of loyal fans”, while others see them as repromoting ABBA for new markets.

ABBA Gold has reportedly sold 26 million copies to date, while MAMMA MIA! (the stage musical) has been seen by 30 million people – that’s several million who have seen the musical who haven’t bought ABBA’s most popular CD. Many millions more will be seeing the movie in coming months, and may be inspired to go in search of the original ABBA songs.

I think that anything that spreads ABBA music to new audiences is a good thing.

ABBA Gold and More ABBA Gold are released at the end of May. Thank You For The Music is released in early June.

More information at ABBA – The Site.


ABBA GOLD - Greatest HitsThis month marks the fifteenth anniversary of the original release of ABBA GOLD – Greatest Hits.

At the time the CD was released, it had been almost ten years since ABBA had come to an end. General interest in the band had declined, though a dedicated worldwide fan base continued to love ABBA and enjoy their music.

It’s astounding that this simple compilation CD, which at the time seemed to be just another in a long line of quickly thrown together ABBA CDs that had flooded the market over the previous ten years, would kickstart a global revival and reevaluation of the band, and would become not only ABBA’s biggest selling album, but one of the biggest selling albums of all time.

The revival had actually been building up over the previous five years, with ABBA music playing in trendy clubs, theme nights, and a growing fan club. But the release of the compilation, along with Erasure’s cover EP Abba-esque and the international break-through of tribute band Björn Again, saw the revival explode to the general population.

The premise is simple – 19 ABBA hits on one single CD.

I’ve never been a particular fan of the compilation. The running order seems fairly random and arbitrary. There are at least two songs that don’t really belong as they don’t fit into the context of “ABBA’s greatest hits” – ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ (a limited release 12 inch single) and ‘Thank You For The Music’ (a single A side in just a few countries, mostly to promote compilation albums in 1983). International chart-topping hits ‘Ring Ring’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ or ‘Summer Night City’ seem better qualified for inclusion.

Still, ABBA GOLD has been a phenomenal success, having sold something like 26 million copies and introducing a whole new generation of ABBA fans.

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