Goal Achievement – The Road To Waterloo!

ABBA Ring RingApril 1974, 40 years ago, and Sweden win the Eurovision Song Contest. Simply a lucky break that they rode for all it was worth? Well, not quite as easy as that…

I remember watching a documentary about Agnetha, and learnt a lot more about her story, and since April also sees her birthday, let’s take a closer look.

She had been into music from an early age, writing songs as a young child. At 16 she was working a day job and performing in a band at night. When she collapsed at the day job from exhaustion, her mother told her to choose between the day job or the music. No surprise that she went for the music, and having a supportive parent should be noted as an important factor in facilitating that decision.

The band sent a tape to a talent scout, but he was only interested in the singer, not the band. Her first single, written by herself, was released, and at just short of 18 she found herself at the top of the Swedish charts.

You can already see the success lessons – following a passion, hard work, making choices, taking opportunities.

Agnetha then became well known in Sweden doing lots of shows, and travelling around on the circuit she got to know various people, including Bjorn Ulvaeus who she started a relationship with. The two of them started performing around the cabaret tour in a group with 2 other friends, with the rather clunky name of Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid.

Agnetha had entered to Swedish competition to find their Eurovision entry back in the late 60s, as had Benny Andersson, and also Anni-Frid Lyngstad. When the group was offered a chance again in 1973, they wrote ‘Ring Ring‘, translated into English by Neil Sedaka.

Despite confidence in the song, it didn’t even win the Swedish selection event. End of the road? Er, no! They tried again the next year with another song you might have heard of, ‘Waterloo’.

That song won both the Swedish event and the main event, and that’s the moment when people would say ABBA got lucky. It did give them huge exposure, yes, and it did provide a launch pad for a worldwide phenomenon, yes, selling nearly 400 million albums – not 4 million, not 40 million, nearly *400* million.

It wasn’t just a lucky break that came out of nowhere though, there was a lot going on up to that point.

In fact the massive global success proved a hard strain for Agnetha, finding the travelling and punishing schedules difficult to balance with a young family. People often don’t realise the workload that goes into keeping a pop group at the top of the tree.

Eurovision can be easily dismissed as nothing more than a meaningless sequin-fest, and although it’s certainly a different beast than it was 40 years ago, it provides entertainment for millions of people, and the goal achievement lessons sparkle along with the sequins right up to today.

Think about Agnetha’s story, and look to your own goals – are you putting in the work to create your own ‘luck’ just as she did 40 years ago?

Let me know what you think!
‘Til Next Time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S. You may enjoy this article Goal Achievement – Mama Mia!
p.p.s. Don’t forget to take a look at my book ‘Transform Your Life in 21 Days!’

Do leave a comment!

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  • Interesting history of the group. I knew nothing about that – only that they seemed to come out of nowhere and be an overnight hit! Lesson for us all just to keep on going until we succeed. Thanks!

  • I remember that Eurovision win. It was the year before we went to live in Malaysia so not long before I lost touch with British popular culture. But at 12, I still thought the Eurovision Song Contest was important – we grew up more slowly then! I liked your post particularly because I am one of those supportive parents of a musician. My view is that now is the time to focus on music and the dream, rather than doing the ‘sensible’ thing and then looking back decades later and wondering what could have been. And yes, it is very hard work and takes persistence and commitment. It just doesn’t always look like it when the musicians have long hair and ripped jeans!

    • I was 8, so not far behind you! Yes, that point about her parents being supportive was sort of thrown in there, because it wasn’t the central point, and since I only knocked up the article finding out today was the 40th anniversary, it occured to me that it would be a good point to use for another article. I can’t say I had quite the same support unfortunately, but your son certainly can, and your attitude of do it now rather than regret not doing it later is spot on in my opinion!
      P.S. Not much coverage of Eurovision in 1970s Malaysia I imagine?

  • I’m not a fan of ABBA, but SOS is a tune though.

    What I find most interesting about them is the amount songs they wrote in a short period of time.

    • Hi Nick,
      yes, prolific writers, and part of their long term success is that no fans like yourself will know and enjoy a song or two! nearly 400 million album sales is impressive and puts them right at the top, those royalties must be tasty!

  • I really enjoyed reading that. I feel very inspired now. We do tend to forget that the majority of successful bands have worked hard to get where they are. They are often brave, taking chances that many of us wouldn’t take. I feel inspired to take a few more chances no. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Hi Kama,
      ‘Brave’ is a often a good word to use. There is no guarantee for success. In Agnetha’s case, she was always *likely* to be able to earn a living at the very least from her singing – no gurantees though, and the choice of the maybe more secure office job was dangling in front of her. I’ve been through phases of seeming to have the bravery, and sometimes not!
      Cheers, Gordon

  • As I once heard a writer say…
    “My overnight success only took me *insert number of choice* years to achieve.”

    As a writer myself, I’m currently about seven years into achieving mine… 😉

    • Ha yes!
      Although the success in that quote refers to others definition of success – I look at success as the journey just as much if not more so than end results!
      Cheers, Gordon