Rewinding the Charts: 40 Years Ago, Mamma Mia! ABBA-Mania Began
On Sept. 21, 1974, the Swedish pop quartet's debut U.S. album, 'Waterloo,' peaked at No. 145 on the Billboard 200, but its title track became a smash single.
The world began to fall in love with ABBA in 1974, when the Swedish pop group, which began singing together on a beach vacation in Cyprus four years earlier, won the Eurovision Song Contest with its oh-so-catchy "Waterloo."
The ebullient tune soon became the act's first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 6 in August. ABBA's two 20-something couples – Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad – later saw the Waterloo album, their first American release, peak at No. 145 on the Billboard 200 dated Sept. 21, 1974.
Massively greater success would follow, including five top 40 albums and 14 top 40 Hot 100 singles. Powered by its immaculate harmonies and pristine pop hooks, ABBA has sold 380 million albums worldwide, according to the band's management.
Though the foursome hasn't performed together since 1986, ABBA lives on through its enduring music, thanks especially to the lucrative Mamma Mia! stage show. The jukebox musical, based on the act's songs, opened in 1999 in London and later became the eighth-longest-running show in Broadway history. In 2008, the musical was adapted into a hit movie starring Meryl Streep and yielded its own No. 1 soundtrack.
ABBA hasn't released a studio album since its 1982 breakup, but on Sept. 30, the group will release ABBA – Live at Wembley Arena, recorded in 1979.
A version of this article first appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of Billboard magazine