Sussex

Abba's Eurovision win in Brighton remembered 40 years on

  • 6 April 2014
  • From the section Sussex
Abba after their win in Brighton
Image caption Abba have gone on to sell more than 400 million albums worldwide after their Eurovision win 40 years ago

It is 40 years since Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton - a victory that started their meteoric rise to super group status with millions of fans around the globe.

When the four-piece stepped on to the stage accompanied by a man dressed as Napoleon to deliver their country's entry for the competition, they were virtually unknown.

The audience at the 1,700-seat Brighton Dome on 6 April, 1974, had no idea how huge the Swedish group, which performed Waterloo, would become. Most of them were concentrating on the UK entry - Olivia Newton John with her song Long Live Love.

John Henty, who lives in Lewes, East Sussex, was one of those watching and describes the instant impact the band had on the crowd.

He said: "Nobody knew Abba. Who were Abba? They were an unknown quantity.

"But clearly the moment they went into the number and the style of it and the outrageous costumes and the guy wearing Napoleon gear and you suddenly thought, 'this is something'."

Image caption Abba appeared at the Brighton Dome for the 19th Eurovision Song Contest

"The Abba performance was absolutely knockout, we were instantly hit by it.

"It was brilliantly colourful, the characters were new to us, the girls were gorgeous, the guys were very trendy."

But Mr Henty, who, at the time worked as a producer for the then BBC Radio Brighton, said no-one had any idea what the band would go on to achieve.

He said: "It was just a great song and they put it over with terrific style."

Now, 40 years on, the group has sold almost 400 million albums around the world.

Claire Swift, from Brighton Dome, said: "It is a landmark, not only for the Dome but for Abba as it has been said it marked the beginning of their fame across the world."

"To have had it at the Dome was just an amazing thing to have happened."

After their win in Brighton, the group topped the charts with hits such as Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia and Money Money Money until they split up in the early 1980s.

John Ingham, who conducted the UK entry and now has recording studios in Rye, East Sussex, said: "It was a double whammy because they looked extraordinary, and as a musician, I could tell they were the ultimate hook band, because they started off with the hook of the song which is just so catchy."

Abba are one of the only Eurovision acts, as well as 1988 winner Celine Dion, to achieve international superstardom.

Waterloo was voted best Eurovision song of all time at a 50th anniversary show of the contest in 2005, although it also received the lowest percentage of votes ever recorded for a winning entry in a final.

Music journalist Colin Irwin, who wrote an Abba biography The Name of the Game, said Abba would not have become so successful without their Eurovision win.

He said: "It gave them a platform that they would not have had - I think it changed everything in terms of their profile.

"It gave them the confidence to go on to become a great song-writing team and a great act."

Image caption Winning the Eurovision Song Contest was the start of Abba's rise to super group status

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