From the opening keyboard glissando, "Dancing Queen" is pure pop elegance. It was debuted in 1976 on Swedish TV at a live gala in honor of the upcoming wedding of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Silvia Sommerlath. The song went to #1 around the world including both the US and UK. One of the inspirations for writing and recording the song was George McCrae's disco smash "Rock Your Baby."
"Take a Chance On Me" is instantly memorable for the "take a chance, take a chance, take a chance chance" rhythmic backing vocals. The song was one of the group's most successful on pop charts landing at #1 for three weeks in the UK and reaching the top 3 in the US. The group Erasure brought "Take a Chance On Me" back to #1 in 1992 in the UK with their cover version.
This is perhaps the most elegant of ABBA's breakup songs. It was actually recorded before relationship issues between the members were made public. The song is filled with the gloom of an empty house, no more laughter, and bad days. "Knowing Me Knowing You" was a top 20 pop hit in the US and a #1 smash in the UK.
4. "SOS" - 1975
"SOS" is one of ABBA's songs that has been highly praised by peers. In particular, John Lennon and Pete Townshend publicly stated their esteem for the song. There is an ominous sound in the rhythm and chord structure that led to more sophistication in the sound of ABBA's pop hits. "SOS" reached the top 10 in the UK and the top 20 in the US.
This song was not intended to be released as a single at all. However, a remixed version of "Lay All Your Love On Me" soared on the American dance charts resulting in a commercial 12-inch single. The song landed at #1 on the US dance chart and reached the top 10 in the UK becoming the biggest selling 12 inch single there to date. The descending sound of the vocals at the end of each verse coupled with a hymn-like chorus make "Lay All Your Love On Me" the most memorable of ABBA's songs to not be released as a standard single.
"Waterloo" brought ABBA their first worldwide fame when it won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden. It was one of the first upbeat pop songs to win the contest. "Waterloo" shot straight to the top of the UK pop singles chart and also became the group's first top 10 hit in the US.
"Fernando" was originally written and recorded in Swedish by ABBA member Anni-Frid Lyngstad as a solo effort. Due to the success of that version in Sweden, the group decided to record it in English as an ABBA record. The nostalgic feel of "Fernando" helped the song to become one of ABBA's biggest hits. It spent an incredible 14 weeks at #1 in Australia remaining one of the biggest pop hits of all time there. "Fernando" reached #1 in the UK and climbed to #13 in the US.
ABBA created a rock disco approach for "Does Your Mother Know." Unlike most ABBA classics, the lead vocal is taken by Bjorn Ulvaeus instead of the women in the group. Perhaps because of the deviation from the classic ABBA song, "Does Your Mother Know" only reached #4 in the UK instead of topping the pop singles chart. It was also a top 20 hit in the US.
Although many fans believe "The Winner Takes It All," in its depiction of the bitter end of a relationship, was written to reflect the divorce of members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog, Ulvaeus himself says the song is fiction and only depicts the experience of divorce. The song has a nearly overwhelming feeling of sadness and pain. "The Winner Takes It All" was a #1 hit in the UK and one of only four top 10 hits for the group in the US.
Many consider "Mamma Mia" a song that "saved" ABBA. Following the Eurovision success of "Waterloo," many dismissed the group as a bit of a one-hit wonder. However, in 1975 the single "SOS" hit the top 10 and then it was followed by "Mamma Mia" that became the group's second #1. Today it is best known as the title song for the phenomenally successful musical Mamma Mia based on ABBA's songs.