How ABBA won Eurovision 50 years ago: 7 facts about the group’s star song

50 years ago, on April 6, 1974, ABBA achieved a triumphant victory at the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, United Kingdom, with the song «Waterloo.»

1. The first working title of the song was «Honey Pie,» a term of endearment for a partner. But the lyricist Stig Anderson wanted to find something more suitable for the catchy melody composed by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. Once the word «Waterloo» was found, Stig wrote the lyrics in one day about a girl who surrenders to love, akin to Napoleon at Waterloo.

2. Waterloo became the first song performed by the quartet not under their own names but under the famous acronym ABBA. For this, they obtained permission from the Swedish brand of canned fish, Abba, who, according to legend, responded, «You can keep the name, just don’t disgrace us.»

3. The iconic costumes were designed by Inger Svenneke, often referred to as the Swedish Vivienne Westwood, and Frida (Anni-Frid Lyngstad) from ABBA, who had always been interested in fashion.

4. ABBA broke many unwritten rules of Eurovision at the time by performing a rhythmic dance song instead of a typical power ballad, and in English instead of their native language.

5. The album cover was shot at Gripsholm Castle in Sweden. In the background dressed as Napoleon is ABBA’s bass guitarist Mike Watson, who was of short stature.

6. The music video for the song was directed by the group’s friend Lasse Hallström, a three-time Oscar nominee for films such as «Hachi: A Dog’s Tale» and «The Cider House Rules.»

7. Waterloo has been repeatedly recognized as the best Eurovision song of all time, including in BBC viewer polls in 2005 and 2020.

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