"Waterloo"
Waterloo by ABBA US single side-A.png
US single of the English version
Single by ABBA
from the album Waterloo
B-side
  • "Honey, Honey (Svensk Version)" (Swedish-language release)
  • "Watch Out" (English-language release)
Released4 March 1974[1]
Recorded17 December 1973
StudioMetronome Studios, Stockholm
Genre
Length2:42
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Benny Andersson
  • Björn Ulvaeus
ABBA singles chronology
"Nina, Pretty Ballerina"
(1973)
"Waterloo"
(1974)
"Honey, Honey"
(1974)
Audio sample
Waterloo (English version)
Music videos
"Waterloo" on YouTube
"Waterloo (Eurovision Performance)" on YouTube
Eurovision Song Contest 1974 entry
Country
Artist(s)
As
Language
English
Composer(s)
Lyricist(s)
Conductor
Finals performance
Final result
1st
Final points
24
Entry chronology
◄ "You're Summer" (1973)
"Jennie, Jennie" (1975) ►

"Waterloo" is the first single from the Swedish pop group ABBA's second album of the same name, 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. The title and lyrics reference the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, and use it as a metaphor for a romantic relationship.

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 backed with the Swedish version of "Honey, Honey", 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.

At the 50th anniversary celebration of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, it was chosen as the best song in the competition's history.[5] It received the same honour in a 14-country open vote in the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 in Rotterdam, placing first above Loreen's "Euphoria" and Måns Zelmerlöw's "Heroes".[6]

Writing, recording and meaning

"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 Alain Boublil, who would later go on to co-write the 1980 musical Les Misérables.[7]

The song's lyrics are metaphorical and are about a woman who "surrenders" to a man and promises to love him, likening it to Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.[citation needed]

At Eurovision

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 rarely 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 being the first winning entry in a language other than that of their home country; prior to 1973, all Eurovision singers had been required to sing in their country's native tongue, a restriction that was lifted briefly for the contests between 1973 and 1976 (thus allowing "Waterloo" to be sung in English), then reinstated before ultimately being removed again in 1999. Compared to later ABBA releases, the singers' Swedish accents are decidedly more pronounced in "Waterloo".

The song scored 24 points to win the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 final on 6 April, beating runner-up Gigliola Cinquetti of Italy's entry "" by six points.

Reception

The song shot to No. 1 in the UK and stayed there for two weeks, becoming the first of the band's nine UK No. 1's, and the 16th biggest selling single of the year in the UK.[8] It also topped the charts in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, West Germany, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, and Switzerland, while reaching the Top 3 in Austria, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and ABBA's native Sweden. (The song was immensely popular in Sweden, but did not reach No. 1 there due to Sweden having a combined Album and Singles Chart at the time: at the peak of the song's popularity, its Swedish and English versions reached No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, while the No. 1 spot was held by the album Waterloo.) The song also spent 11 weeks on Svensktoppen (24 March – 2 June 1974), including 7 weeks at No. 1.[9]

As of September 2021, it is ABBA's eleventh-biggest song in the UK, including both pure sales and digital streams.[10]

Unlike other Eurovision-winning tunes, the song's appeal transcended Europe: "Waterloo" also reached the Top 10 in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Rhodesia, and the United States (peaking at No. 6, their third highest-charting U.S. hit after No. 1 "Dancing Queen" and No. 3 "Take a Chance on Me"). The Waterloo album performed similarly well in Europe, although in the US it failed to match the success of the single.

ABBA had originally cited the song "See My Baby Jive", by English glam rock band Wizzard, as a major influence; in the wake of their Eurovision victory, they were quoted as saying that it would not surprise them if artists such as Wizzard would consider entering the Eurovision in the future.

Cash Box said that this "is not a brash rocker, it's just solid rock with a very competent lady up front."[11]

Legacy

"Waterloo" was re-released in 2004 (with the same B-side), to celebrate the 30th anniversary of ABBA's Eurovision win, reaching No. 20 on the UK charts.

On 22 October 2005, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Eurovision Song Contest, "Waterloo" was chosen as the best song in the competition's history.[5]

Harry Witchel, physiologist and music expert at the University of Bristol, named "Waterloo" the quintessential Eurovision song.[12]

In 2017, Billboard ranked the song number 9 on their list of the 15 greatest ABBA songs,[13] and in 2021, Rolling Stone ranked the song number 10 on their list of the 25 greatest ABBA songs.[14]

Track listing

Swedish version

a. "Waterloo" (Swedish version) – 2:45
b. "Honey Honey" (Swedish version) – 2:55

English version

a. "Waterloo" (English version) – 2:46
b. "Watch Out" – 3:46

Official versions

Charts

Certifications and sales

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Belgium 200,000[49]
France 500,000[50]
Kenya 10,000[51]
Portugal 20,000[52]
United Kingdom (BPI)[54]
Original release
Silver 489,000[53]
United Kingdom (BPI)[55] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States 800,000[56]
Yugoslavia[57] Gold 100,000[57]
Summaries
Worldwide 5,000,000[58]

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Release history

Region Date Title Label Format Catalog
Sweden 4 March 1974 "Waterloo" (Swedish) / "Honey, Honey" (Swedish) Polar Single POS 1186
Sweden 4 March 1974 "Waterloo" (English) / "Watch Out" Polar Single POS 1187
UK 1974 "Waterloo" / "Watch Out" Epic Single EPC 2240
US 1974 "Waterloo" / "Watch Out" Atlantic Single 45-3035
West Germany 1974 "Waterloo" (German) / "Watch Out" Polydor Single 2040 116
France 1974 "Waterloo" (French) / "Gonna Sing You My Lovesong" Vogue Single 45. X. 3104

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again version

"Waterloo" was released on 1 June 2018 as the second single from the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again soundtrack, by Capitol and Polydor Records. The song is performed by Hugh Skinner (Young Harry) and Lily James (Young Donna) and was produced by Benny Andersson.

Charts

Chart (2018) Peak
position
Hungary (Single Top 40)[59] 40
Scotland (OCC)[60] 70

Certifications

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Other cover versions

Live cover performances

Appearances in other media

References

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