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8 awesome facts about ABBA to make you say "Mamma Mia!"

The Swedish pop sensation blew up four decades ago, with a little help from the oil and fish industries.

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Image: The Everett Collection

Forty years ago, at the start of 1977, ABBA set forth on its first major tour. It was hardly a case of overnight success for the Swedish act, especially in the United States. Even after winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with "Waterloo," ABBA struggled on the charts, as singles like "Honey, Honey" and "King Kong Song" failed to make an impact on radio. The quartet dabbled with glam rock and folk sounds before finally finding its sweet spot of perfect disco-pop.

It took off like a rocket in 1977. ABBA: The Movie hit theaters, while a fifth full-length, ABBA: The Album, achieved the band's highest peak on the Billboard charts. By 1982, it was all over.

Today, the Scandinavian foursome remains a global phenomenon. As ABBA remained retired, several successful tribute acts raked in cash playing those beloved songs. The group has reportedly turned down $1 billion to reform and tour again.

A few months ago, the BBC announced that Agnetha Fältskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad would come together in 2017 for a vaguely explained "groundbreaking venture that will utilise the very latest in digital and virtual reality technology." While we wait for further news, let's look at some fascinating facts about Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid.

1

The four recorded their first hit together years before ABBA.

Benny and Björn had been kicking around the Swedish rock scene for ages, having respectively played in beat groups the Hep Stars and the Hootenanny Singers. In 1970, the two teamed up to record an album, Lycka, and headed on holiday to Cyprus with their girlfriends, Anni-Frid and Agnetha. The women sang backup on Lycka, and the four first came together as a quartet on the single "Hej, gamle man" (Hello, Old Man).

Image: Polar Records / Discogs

2

They made their first American TV appearance on 'The Mike Douglas Show.'

After the Eurovision win in 1974, ABBA hit the States for some promotional appearances. The band's first American television gig came on The Mike Douglas Show. A year later, they would appear on the fifth episode of the upstart sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live.

3

The band released a greatest hits compilation after only three albums.

By the end of 1975, ABBA had released its Greatest Hits. It was perhaps a bit premature, as the group had only scored a handful of hits from its first few records. The original album artwork, seen here, was uncharacteristically surreal for the band, and was replaced here in the U.S.

Image: Polar Records / Discogs

4

Abba is also the name of a seafood company in Sweden.

The pop act had to negotiate rights to the name ABBA with the Abba Seafood company, a canned herring giant which had been around since the 19th century.

Image: chicagoimporting.com

5

Their video director was nominated for an Oscar.

Lasse Hallström directed ABBA: The Movie and most of the band's promotional clips. Years later, he would twice be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, for My Life as a Dog and The Cider House Rules. He also helmed films such as What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Chocolat.

Image: getabba.com

6

3.5 million people applied for tickets to their 1977 London tour dates.

If you managed to score tickets to those U.K. gigs forty years ago, you were in luck. Tickets for the two shows at the Royal Albert Hall were available only by mail application. Around 3.5 million folks sent in requests to the box office. ABBA could have sold out the venue hundred and hundreds of times.

Image: The Everett Collection

7

They were paid in oil commodities from Russia.

During the Cold War, currencies from behind the Iron Curtain were embargoed. However, ABBA was quite popular in the Soviet states. As they could not accept rubles, the band instead received royalty payments from the Soviet Union in oil commodities, according to the BBC.

Image: The Everett Collection

8

It took until 2008 for the band to score a No. 1 album in America.

Despite being a global phenomenon, ABBA was never a major chart success here at the time. Their highest charting album, ABBA: The Album, climbed only to No. 14. Just four out of the band's eight studio albums managed to barely crack the Top 20. However, three decades later, on the back of the hit movie Mamma Mia!, the film's soundtrack went to No. 1 on Billboard in 2008. At last, ABBA had its first chart-topping album in America.

Image: Discogs

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