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MAMMA Mia! looks set to be this summer's box office smash. And the movie, based on the legendary musical of the same name, has catapulted ABBA back into the limelight again - 26 years after they last recorded together. But how much do you know about the foursome who stormed the charts with hits like Waterloo, Knowing Me, Knowing You, Dancing Queen and Super Trouper? MATT GLASS gives you the ultimate ABBA lowdown...

MORE than 30million people have watched Mamma Mia! the musical. It has taken more than EUR2billion at the box office, and played in 160 cities around the world.

THOUGHT ABBA were a Swedish band? Not all of them were. Anni-Frid was actually born to a Norwegian mother and amarried German soldier, who was par to f Nazi Germany's occupying forces during the Second World War. Because of prejudice towards children born to German fathers after the war, she was sent to Sweden to live with her grandparents... and that's how she met the rest of ABBA.

ABBA were the perfectly-formed pop group. Both the boys - Bjorn and Benny - were exactly the same height at 5 ft 9 ins, and both Anni-Frid and Agnetha were exactly 5 ft 71/2 ins.

AT the height of their fame in 1977, Abba played two concerts at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London. When tickets went on sale, a staggering 3.5MILLION fans applied for them - enough to fill the venue 580 times over.

ANNI-Frid is the oldest member of the band - she is now 66. The youngest is Bjorn, who is just 63.

EVEN ABBA tribute bands are raking in the cash. Australia's Bjorn Again (above) began their act in 1989, and their career has outlasted the Swedish originals. They've played more than 4,000 shows and now have five versions of the group touring the world. In London, a band called GABBA perform the hits in the style of The Ramones.

SUPER Trouper is actually about a type of huge spotlight that's used to highlight the members of the band on stage. ABBA had to take four Super Troupers on tour with them, while most bands need only one for their singer.

ABBA never split and are officially still together. Their last new songs came in 1982, after which Bjorn and Benny took a break to record solo material. Their musical Chess became a huge hit in 1984 and the band's break became longer and longer. But they've never officially split even though they've not recorded music together for 26 years.

AFTER ABBA, Agnetha started a relationship with a Dutch fan called Gert van der Graaf (left). It ended with her having to issue a restraining order against him to stop him "stalking" her.

THE name ABBA came from the first letters of their names: Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.

BUT ABBA also happened to be the name of a company of FISH PROCESSORS in seafood-loving Sweden. As the fish-canners were unknown outside Sweden, they allowed their name to be used for the group's Eurovision entry in 1973. When Waterloo won the contest, the company said ABBA could keep the name forever.

ABBA won their last award in 1992, an honorary Grammy - although Benny and Bjorn were nominated in 2002 for a Broadway award for their orchestration on Mamma Mia!

ABBA had their fair share of unlikely celebrity fans, too. John Lennon named ABBAas the band most likely to succeed The Beatles' popularity.

THEY were offered a staggering ONE BILLION DOLLARS to follow in the footsteps of Take That, the Spice Girls and The Police and play a 100-city worldwide tour - their first since Japan in 1980. Benny said in 2000: "It was a hell of a lot of money to say no to, but we decided it wasn't for us."

THE guys were famous before ABBA. Benny was in The Hep Stars from 18, and Bjorn was frontman in the skiffle group The Hootenanny Singers - one of Sweden's top folk groups. Their single Omkring Tiggarn Fran Luossa (Around The Beggar From Luossa) was in the Swedish charts for a YEAR.

MAMMA Mia! was the first film to be shot on the new 007 stage at Pinewood Studios that was destroyed by a fire after Casino Royale was made. The huge 59,000sq ft stage was used to film song and dance numbers that couldn't be shot in Greece.

ABBA's video for Knowing Me, Knowing You was voted the 59th greatest music video of all time in a Channel 4 poll.

ABBA'S all-time greatest success was their album ABBA Gold, which wasn't released until AFTER they'd stopped playing together in September 1992. To date it has sold more than 22 million copies worldwide.

ABBA's success began right here in Britain. They won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in April 1973 with the song Waterloo.

THEY made an album in Spanish in 1979 to try to break into the South American market. Called Gracias Por La Musica (Thank You For The Music), it includes Spanish versions of Chiquitita and I Have A Dream.

BENNY and Bjorn met their future wives Anni-Frid and Agnetha while singing solo on a TV show in Sweden.

LIKE the Beatles and Spice Girls, ABBA made a movie. Robert Hughes starred as a hapless radio journalist trying to track down the foursome for an interview during their Australian tour.

AN ABBA museum will open in Stockholm next year.


YOUNG ONES: Bjorn and Benny; SWEDE SUCCESS: (from the left, ringed) Bjorn, Agnetha, Anni-Frid and Benny with the cast of the film Mamma Mia!
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jul 13, 2008
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