“Waterloo” is the first single from the Swedish pop group ABBA’s second album, Waterloo and their first under the Epic and Atlantic labels. This was also the first single to be credited to the group performing under the name ABBA.
On 6 April 1974 the song was the winning entry for Sweden in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. The victory began ABBA’s path to worldwide fame. The Swedish version of the single was a double A-side with “Honey, Honey” (Swedish version), while the English version usually featured “Watch Out” on the B-side.
The single became a No. 1 hit in several countries. It reached the U.S. Top 10 and went on to sell nearly six million copies, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.
At the 50th anniversary celebration of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, it was chosen as the best song in the competition’s history.
“Waterloo” was written specifically to be entered into the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, after the group finished third with “Ring Ring” the previous year in the Swedish pre-selection contest, Melodifestivalen 1973.
The original title of the song was “Honey Pie”. “Waterloo” was originally written with simultaneous rock music and jazz beats (unusual for an ABBA song).
Recording of the song commenced on 17 December 1973, with instrumental backing from Janne Schaffer (who came up with the main guitar and bass parts), Rutger Gunnarsson and Ola Brunkert. The song’s production style was influenced by Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound”: prior to recording “Ring Ring”, engineer Michael B. Tretow had read Richard Williams’ book Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector, which inspired him to layer multiple instrumental overdubs on the band’s recordings, becoming an integral part of ABBA’s sound. Subsequently, German and French versions were recorded in March and April 1974 respectively: the French version was adapted by Claude-Michel Schönberg, who would later go on to co-write Les Misérables.
“Waterloo” is about a woman who “surrenders” to a man and promises to love him, referencing Napoleon’s surrender at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The band considered submitting another song to Eurovision, “Hasta Mañana”, but decided on “Waterloo” since it gave equal weight to both lead vocalists Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, while “Hasta Mañana” was sung only by Fältskog.
ABBA performed the song at Melodifestivalen 1974 in February, singing it in Swedish. The song won, and therefore advanced to Eurovision.
The song differed from the standard “dramatic ballad” tradition of the Eurovision Song Contest by its flavour and rhythm, as well as by its performance. ABBA gave the audience something that had never been seen before in Eurovision: flashy costumes (including silver platform boots), plus a catchy uptempo song and even simple choreography. The group also broke from convention by singing the song in a language other than that of their home country; prior to “Waterloo” all Eurovision singers had been required to sing in their country’s native tongue, a restriction that was lifted briefly for the 1974 and 1975 contests (thus allowing “Waterloo” to be sung in English), then reinstated before ultimately being removed again in 1998. Compared to later ABBA releases, the singers’ Swedish accents are decidedly more pronounced in “Waterloo”.
The song won the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 final on 6 April by six points.
Gisterenavond was de eerste halve finale van het Eurovisie Songfestival, altijd één van de hoogtepunten in mei (voor sommige mensen dan). Aanstaande donderdag mag Waylon voor Nederland proberen om de finale te bereiken. Ik heb er niet zo heel veel vertrouwen in, maar dat ter zijde.
Persoonlijk heb ik niet zo heel veel (meer) met die songfestivals, ook niet met al die talentenshows zoals The Voice en weet ik wat al niet meer. Er was een tijd dat er best leuke liedjes uit voort kwamen en Waterloo van Abba is daarvan toch nog altijd één van de toppers. Later zou trouwens blijken dat die Zweedse Abba’s behoorlijk wat meer in hun mars hadden dan een leuk songfestivalliedje…….