Posts Tagged ‘Greatest Hits’

ABBA Gold at 30

24 September, 2022

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.

ABBA Greatest Hits

16 June, 2012

ABBA’s Greatest Hits (1975) has become an accepted part of the historical ABBA catalogue, along with the eight studio albums, the Spanish recordings on Gracias Por La Música, compilations Greatest Hits Vol. 2, The Single – The First Ten Years, and ABBA Live.

But did you know that Greatest Hits was not a worldwide release? And in many countries where is was released the album did not feature the same tracklist?

The story starts somewhere in the middle of 1975. Polydor in West Germany and Vogue in France put out ABBA compilations The Best Of ABBA and Greatest Hits respectively. Both albums featured the same 12 songs, though in different running orders. Both albums were also released in countries covered by these companies: Polydor in Austria and The Netherlands, Vogue in Belgium.

The two companies may or may not have colluded on the track list. But by accident or design, though each album featured songs that had not been hit singles in their own territories, all songs bar one had been single A sides somewhere in the world; the remaining track had been a B side in a few countries.

Worried that import copies may affect local sales of ABBA records in Scandinavia, Polar Music put together its own Greatest Hits album, released in November 1975. This 14-track album featured the same 12 tracks as the German and French compilations, plus two more. The gatefold cover featured a painting by fantasy artist Hans Arnold – the original painting had been presented to ABBA earlier in the year, and they liked it so much they used it for the album.

Also in November RCA in Australia released The Best Of ABBA, with the same tracklist as the West German album but a new locally-designed cover (this album will be the subject of a future blog post).

In March 1976 Epic Records in the UK released Greatest Hits, with the same tracklist as the Scandinavian album but a new cover, featuring the iconic photograph of ABBA on a park bench; Benny and Frida in passionate embrace, Agnetha staring forlornly into the camera, and Björn reading a newspaper seemingly ignoring his wife (the same photo had been inside the gatefold of the Polar album). Inside the gatefold was another photo from the same parkland session. The photos were taken by Bengt Malmqvist, on a bright autumn day in 1975 during an epic session all over the Stockholm island Djurgården.

Almost immediately after release Epic added the current single ‘Fernando’ to Greatest Hits, as did Polydor and Vogue to their albums. Polar added ‘Fernando’ in Denmark and Norway, but not in Sweden. RCA however did not add ‘Fernando’ to its compilation, instead adding that hit to Arrival later in the year.

During the rest of the year and into 1977 other licensees around the world released variations of Greatest Hits, some using the Polar sleeve design, some using the Epic one. Some included 14 tracks, some 15, all the same selection of tracks as the Polar and Epic albums, but almost all in different running orders. A few other countries copied the 12/13 tracks from the West German and French albums.

In many countries Greatest Hits/The Best Of ABBA became one of the biggest selling albums of 1976; in the UK and Australia their respective albums actually were the biggest sellers of the year, remaining at number one for many weeks.

In the CD age the album has had limited re-release. The US version of Greatest Hits was released on CD by Atlantic Records around 1984. RCA in Australia re-released The Best Of ABBA  in 1988. Finally the Scandinavian 15-track album was released as a 30th Anniversary Edition in 2006, in a replica of the original gatefold sleeve.

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