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Power Trio: 3 Artists You Wouldn't Expect to Be ABBA Fans

12/11/2019 12:00 PM

By: Dan Amrich


It's hard to underestimate the popularity of ABBA – hell, it's hard to even describe it. The Swedish quartet – at the time, two married couples -- sailed to victory in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest and then dominated the charts for the next eight years. Hundreds of millions of records later, the band's catalog inspired the hit musical Mamma Mia!


Abba's performance at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest was Sweden's first win.

With omnipresence like that, ABBA's infectious pop harmonies and disco anthems influenced and entertained multiple generations of musicians. Metallica's James Hetfield says it's the perfect soundtrack for his family car rides. According to Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, "One of the first records I bought was an ABBA record when I was 10 years old -- huge impact." Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde cited them on her 2014 solo album Stockholm, saying, “I think there was a darker side to ABBA they didn’t really show." Hmm – could there be more to the Swedish superstars than meets the ear? You might be very surprised to see who counts themselves as fans – or students! – of Stockholm's most famous musical export.

Kurt Cobain

According to Dave Grohl, Nirvana's bio once suggested they'd be the result "if Black Sabbath and ABBA had a love baby." Songwriter/guitarist Kurt Cobain frequently cited ABBA as a favorite, and photographer Charles Peterson said Kurt "loved pop music more than most of us did. He sort of curated that last day of [England’s] Reading Festival in ’92 […] There was L7 and Screaming Trees and Mudhoney, but also the ABBA cover band Björn Again. He was really into that ABBA cover band. It was genuine. I remember standing on the side of the stage and he looked up at me with this huge smile and was like, 'What do you think?'"

Pete Townshend live in 2008

 

Pete Townshend

The Who's main hooligan offered only kind words when Kurt Loder brought up the band in a 1982 interview with Rolling Stone: "I remember hearing 'S.O.S.' [...] I just thought it was such a great sound, you know – great bass drum and the whole thing. They make great records. Also, what’s quite interesting is that Abba was one of the first big, international bands to actually deal with sort of middle-aged problems in their songwriting. And it was quite obviously what was going on among them – that song, "Knowing Me, Knowing You.'"

One of Ghost's Nameless Ghouls playing at Rockavaria 2016.

 

Ghost

“ABBA has always been a very, very strong part of our modern musical heritage," said a Nameless Ghoul in 2013. "ABBA basically took a few hundred years of traditional Swedish music and made it into pop songs. I'm talking about folk music from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. I think anyone from Scandinavia is easily infatuated with that sort of music, so ABBA has a deeper meaning to us." When Ghost covered ABBA's lesser-known "I'm a Marionette," the band slowed the tempo, leaned into the ominous chord changes, and embraced the theme of lost control to make it their own.

"ABBA Rotterdam 1979" by Fernando Pereira/Anefo/Dutch National Archives is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 NL.

"Kurt St. Thomas" by Julie Kramer is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

"Pete Townshend" by kubacheck is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

"Ghost Rockavaria 2016 (4 von 14)" by pitpony photography is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Dan Amrich started his music journalism career at Guitar World and Country Guitar magazines and is the co-creator of Princess Leia's Stolen Death Star Plans. He joined the Rocksmith team in 2014.

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