Waterloo by ABBA (Atlantic, 1974)

We had four 8-tracks that got rotated in our van when I was a kid: Cat Stevens Greatest Hits, Saturday Night Fever, ABBA’s Greatest Hits & Greatest Hits Vol. 2. We had other 8-tracks, but those would be played over & over until the tape was see-through. (I still have a few of them in a box.) Outside of the radio, these tapes were our primary source of music. This lasted from 1978-1983. For that reason, I have memories of this music well into the 80s.

ABBA releases, especially, were entirely out of whack with my timeline, outside of Dancing Queen, which was huge. Playing SOS or Mamma Mia in 1981 did not seem unhip or out of place to me. I could go from hearing the Human League on Z100 to playing something like Waterloo in the tape deck without it seeming weird. I never felt like I was listening to 70s music as much as I was listening to a sound. Any time I listened to ABBA, I felt like I was in a European village after a long trip through the countryside, a world away from my suburban life.

I don’t have a distinct memory on how ABBA stacked up against the hits of its time, but I’m guessing Waterloo really stuck when it was released. It had a very catchy chorus, and it kinda rocked. And we still weren’t used to hearing women rock yet even if it was on a glam pop record. This song had won the 1974 Eurovision Song contest and was slowly making its way around the world. Also though the two couples had recorded an album together, this was the first single to be credited to ABBA rather than the wordy and less-catchy Bjorn & Benny, Anna & Frida.

ABBA had set the US has their goal for world domination. But they were handicapped by not knowing or speaking English very well. They actually hired Neil Sedaka & Phil Cody to translate a few songs from their first LP in English and then learned how to sing them phonetically. This may be why we got a song from them called Ring Ring, Honey Honey, Money Money Money and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.

So you would think that Waterloo would make as much sense as a fortune cookie written by a Russian 4-year old. But they do a pretty good job, better than a lot of English-speaking songwriters out there. Can you sing me the first line of the chorus?

Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war.

Never knew that was the line. I always thought it was I was defeating you on the road.

I also like the fact that she (they) are comparing the reluctance of falling in love with a 19th-century French bloodbath. Whereas Napoleon’s Waterloo was his crushing defeat in battle, her ‘waterloo’ is finally letting some dude knock her boots. By the way, the phrase is used as in one’s failure after one has been successful, such as Francis Ford Coppola met his Waterloo by filming The Godfather Part III. In this context, then, the song makes no sense.

But I digress…it’s fun. And who can forget that video… ABBA was built to entertain, so just enjoy…

Here’s the homage from Muriel’s Wedding...

Leave a comment


  1. "Pokey"

     /  June 1, 2012

    The copy that you have above is a DJ copy. Steve C.

  2. W.B.

     /  March 15, 2021

    It was also the second time that a song relating to Waterloo made the charts – the first, in 1959, by Stonewall Jackson, co-written by Marijohn Wilkin and John D. Loudermilk. In that song, three historical examples – Adam (of the apple and “… and Eve” fame), Napoleon at the Battle of you-know-where, and Tom Dooley – were cited in having “met their Waterloo.”

    As for this one, it won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 – and in Britain was their first of a total of nine Number Ones there. (The British entry was one Olivia Newton-John, with a piece of dross called “Long Live Love” that to this day she absolutely hates – while her US label MCA spared everybody the agony by not releasing it anywhere, although timewise it fell in-between her U.S. hits “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” and her first topper, “I Honestly Love You.”)

    Also, as some had printed their name as a word (“Abba”), how many at the time thought they were named after veteran Israeli politician Abba Eban?

  3. macsnafu

     /  February 28, 2023

    Well, at least they toned down the outfits over time. Their early glam period was just a bit painful to look at.


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