Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – ABBA – Part Three – Mid-1970s

Last week William Price King took us through the early 1970s as ABBA is formed and their first hits make it into the charts.. This week the 1970s continue with even more sensational music. Time to hand over to William to take us through the most popular tracks to be released.

“Honey, Honey” was released as the second single from their second studio album, “Waterloo,” after the success of the title track which won the 1974 “Eurovision Song Contest.” This was the last official recording by the group in their own language, and was released as a double A-side with the Swedish “Waterloo” single.

In its English format, “Honey, Honey” was released with “King Kong Song” as the B-side. “Honey, Honey” spent 4 months in the top 5 in West Germany and also reached the top 5 in Austria, Spain, and Switzerland. In the U.S. “Honey, Honey” was moderately successful compared to the group’s later singles. It reached No.27 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts; the 1st ABBA single to reach the AC chart.

In November 1974, ABBA embarked on their first European tour, playing dates in Denmark, West Germany and Austria. It was not as successful as the band had hoped, since most of the venues did not sell out. Due to a lack of demand, they were even forced to cancel a few shows, including a sole concert scheduled in Switzerland. The second leg of the tour, which took them through Scandinavia in January 1975, was very different. They played to full houses everywhere and finally got the reception they had aimed for. Live performances continued in the middle of 1975 when ABBA embarked on a fourteen open-air date tour of Sweden and Finland. Their Stockholm show at the Gröna Lund amusement park had an estimated audience of 19,200. Björn Ulvaeus later said that “If you look at the singles we released straight after Waterloo, we were trying to be more like the Sweet, a semi-glam rock group, which was stupid because we were always a pop group.”

So Long” was the first single from the album “ABBA.” This song is quite similar, musically, to “Waterloo.” ABBA performs parts of the song “live” in the film “ABBA: The Movie,” 1977. “So Long” was released as a single in the United Kingdom but it received no airplay from Radio 1 and failed to chart, which based on its ongoing popularity is surprising.

“I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” was ABBA’s next major worldwide hit after “Waterloo.” It was the second single to be released from their “ABBA” album, and one of the last songs to be recorded for the album. This song was inspired by the European “schlager” music* of the 1950s, and also by the saxophone sound of American 1950s orchestra leader Billy Vaughn. “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do”, put ABBA firmly back in the spotlight.

* Schlager music is a style of popular music which is generally a catchy instrumental accompaniment to vocal pieces of pop music with easy to understand, happy-go-lucky and often sentimental lyrics.

“SOS” is unique among pop songs of the period, opening with an unaccompanied classical keyboard in a subdued D-minor key. Unlike most ABBA tracks that preceded it, the vocal begins with an emotional solo performance by Fältskog.Lyricist Ulvaeus has said that, after three years of trying to figure out what style would define them, ABBA found its identity as a pop group with the release of “SOS.” The song was the subject of one of the first pioneering music videos produced by directorLasse Hallströmfor the band. Much of the video is filmed from an overhead camera, as if from a tower or lighthouse, with the bandmates’ faces sometimes distorted, as though shot through a prism.

“Mamma Mia” was the last track recorded for the album “ABBA.” However, “Mamma Mia” was never intended to be a single. The distinctive sound at the start of the song is the marimba which was incorporated at the last minute, after Benny Andersson found it in the studio and decided its “tick tock” rhythm was perfect for the track. “Mamma Mia” reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in January, 1976, the second of ABBA’s 18 consecutive Top 10 singles there.

“Fernando” was not originally released as an ABBA song but by band member Anni-Frid Lyngstad. It was featured on her No. 1 Swedish solo album “Frida ensam” (1975). The song, composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, carried the working title of “Tango.” The suggestion of the name “Fernando” was given by their limousine driver Peter Forbes. “Fernando” was the group’s first non-album single, released in March, 1976 through Polar Music. The song became one of ABBA’s best-selling singles of all time, with six million copies sold in 1976 alone. It is one of fewer than forty all-time singles to have sold 10 million (or more) physical copies worldwide, making it one of the best selling singles of all time.

Additional sources: Wikipedia ABBA

ABBA’s Music: Amazon USAnd: Amazon UK

Next week we will be moving into the 1980s with more music for you to enjoy.

My thanks to William for his continued contributions bringing the best music to the blog and we hope that you will take the opportunity to buy ABBA music and at the very least get up and have a dance to these iconic tracks..

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – ABBA Part Two – The hits start rolling in.

In   ABBA – Part One -Meet the Group. William Price King introduced us to the band members of ABBA and shared some of their solo tracks before forming the group.

ABBA Part Two – The hits start rolling in.

In April 1970 the two couples went on holiday together on the Island of Cyprus. They began singing as a group for fun on the beach but that turned into an unexpected live performance for the UN soldiers who were stationed on the Island. At the time Benny and Bjorn were in the process of recording their first album “Lycka” which was due to be released in the September, Agnetha and Frida added backing vocals on some of the tracks and following their improvised gig in Cyprus they put together their first stage act under the name of “Festfolket” which is the Swedish for both Party People and Engaged Couples.

The cabaret show attracted generally negative reviews, except for the performance of the Andersson and Ulvaeus hit “Hej, gamle man” (Hello, Old Man)–the first Björn and Benny recording to feature all four. They felt that the foursome was not working at the time and went off to concentrate of their individual projects.

Hej, gamle man” (Hello Old Man), was the ABBA’s first hit. Composed by Björn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson, the song is about a soldier in the Salvation Army. The track peaked at #5 on the sales chart and #1 on Svensktopopen*, staying there for 15 weeks.  *Sweden’s record chart.

During 1971 the group began working together more on each other’s recordings and then Agnetha, Benny and Bjorn toured together whilst Frida toured on her own. However, eventually the recording sessions with the four of them brought them closer to forming a more permanent performing group.

After the 1970 release of “Lycka,” two more singles credited to ‘Björn & Benny’ were released in Sweden, “Det kan ingen doktor hjälpa” (No Doctor Can Help with That) and “Tänk om jorden vore ung” (Imagine If the Earth Were Young), with more prominent vocals by Fältskog and Lyngstad–and moderate chart success.

Stig Anderson, founder and owner of Polar Music, saw a huge future for Benny and Bjorn and persuaded them to write a song for one of the countries prominent music festivals Melodifestivalen. It took a couple of attempts before their song “Säg det med en sång” (Say It with a Song) performed by Lena Anderson achieved third place and became a hit in Sweden.

“She’s My Kind of Girl” was written for the Swedish movie “Inga II: The Seduction of Inga,” by Björn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson and was originally released in March, 1970 as the first Björn and Benny single. Two years later it was released in Japan, hitting #1 and selling half a million copies.

“People Need Love” was recorded in March, 1972 on the group’s first album “Ring Ring.” This single was set out to promote the “Björn & Benny” duo. The women were simply “guest stars” on the new “Björn & Benny” single. “People Need Love” made the Top 20 of the combined Swedish singles and albums chart, and reached No. 3 on the popular Swedish radio chart show, “Tio i topp” (The Top Ten). Interestingly, it was the foursome’s first charting record in the U.S., where it peaked at No. 114 on the Cashbox singles chart and No. 117 on Record World singles chart.

In 1973, Stig Anderson, tired of unwieldy names, started to refer to the group privately and publicly as ABBA. At first, this was a play on words, as Abba is also the name of a well-known fish-canning company in Sweden, and itself an acronym. However, since the fish-canners were unknown outside Sweden, Anderson came to believe the name would work in international markets. A competition to find a suitable name for the group was held in a Gothenburg newspaper and it was officially announced in the summer that the group were to be known as “ABBA.” The group negotiated with the canners for the rights to the name. “ABBA” is an acronym formed from the first letters of each group member’s first name: Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid. During a promotional photo, Benny flipped his “B” horizontally for fun, and from 1976 onwards the first ‘B’ in the logo version of the name was “mirror-image” reversed on the band’s promotional material and ᗅᗺᗷᗅ became the group’s registered trademark.

Their official logo, distinct with the backward ‘B’, was designed by Rune Söderqvist, who designed most of ABBA’s record sleeves. The logo first appeared on the French compilation album, Golden Double Album, released in May 1976, and would henceforth be used for all official releases.

But the idea for the official logo was made by the German photographer Wolfgang “Bubi” Heilemann (de) on a “Dancing Queen” photo shoot for the teenage magazine “Bravo.” On the photo, the ABBA members held a giant initial letter of his/her name. After the pictures were made, Heilemann found out that one of the men held his letter backwards, which resulted in this style, “ᗅᗺᗷᗅ”. They discussed it and the members of ABBA liked it.

“Nina, Pretty Ballerina” was recorded in 1973. It was issued on 7″ vinyl record in Austria and France to promote the band’s debut album “Ring Ring,” and later in the Philippines. It reached #8 on the singles chart in Austria. The song was also the theme song of “Sirius” talk-show hostess Lynn Samuels who only played “Nina, Ballerina,” as she called it, on Fridays, to reward herself for working all week, when she was on “Sirius Radio” in New York.

“Ring Ring,” recorded in 1973, gave ABBA their first big break in several European countries. The song was written by Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and their manager Stig Anderson with the original title being “Ring Ring (Bara Du Slog En Signal)” “Ring Ring (If Only You Called)”. This song was initially written for the 1973 “Eurovision Song Contest.” Afterwards, the song was retitled “Ring Ring.” To make it more accessible to a universal audience, Anderson asked American songwriter Neil Sedaka, together with his songwriting partner, Phil Cody, to pen the lyrics for an English version. The Swedish version reached #1 in the Swedish charts.

“Waterloo” is the first single from ABBA’s second album “Waterloo.” This was also the first single to be credited to the group performing under the name ABBA. On the 6th of April, 1974 the song was the winning entry for Sweden in the 1974 “Eurovision Song Contest.” This victory began ABBA’s path to worldwide fame. The single became a No.1 hit in several countries and reached the U.S. Top 10. “Waterloo” went on to sell nearly six million copies, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Additional sources: Wikipedia ABBA

ABBA’s Music: Amazon USAnd: Amazon UK

Next week the second half of the 1970s and more of ABBA’s iconic hits.

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.

In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.

William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION

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You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory: William Price King Music Column

My thanks to William for the amazing artists he has brought to the blog and thank you for dropping in today.  As always your feedback is very welcome.