Brighton Dome - Celebrating ABBA – Gathering memories
ABBA’s epic Eurovision win took place in the Brighton Dome Concert Hall in 1974 – 49 years ago!
Next year we'll be celebrating and remembering the 50th Anniversary, and we need your help.
Were you at any of the Brighton Dome Eurovision shows?
What was it like to live in Brighton when Eurovision came to town? Do you remember the Eurovision flags on the Steine?
Do you remember the Wombles visiting the Pavilion Gardens and their film that was used in the Eurovision interval? Perhaps you took part?
If you were you living and working in Brighton, what was that week like?
Whatever your ABBA memories, please send them to us to include in our archive and audio bank. We're very proud of our ABBA story and hope you are too!
How can you get involved?
Please send your Eurovision memories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please say who you are and if you are happy for us to include your memories in our archive. Please let us have your contact details, as we might like to get in touch to find out more.
Examples of what to send:
- Short written pieces no more than 1 A4 page – memorabilia or photos
- Short recordings (no more than 3 mins long)
- Short videos telling your story
If you'd prefer to tell your stories in person, look out for Brighton Dome’s Heritage Stand at Brighton Dome events.
We will have our Heritage stand available at different times throughout this year and our volunteers will be on hand to capture your memories in person.
Keep an eye out for exciting events coming next year to celebrate the anniversary! You can subscribe to the Brighton Dome newsletter to stay up to date.
Image credit: The Argus Photographic Archive
Read on to find out more about ABBA's performance at Brighton Dome
Abba had already had a degree of success in Sweden before entering the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson had met in June 1966 when they were both in rival pop bands. They wrote their first song together a few weeks later and and soon established a successful songwriting partnership.
In 1969, they met Agnetha Faltskog, a successful solo singer in her own right, and Anni-Freid Lyngstad. Although they weren't initially successful as a pop act, in 1972 the group recorded the single People Need Love which made an impact on the Swedish charts. Encouraged by this success they entered the 1973 Melodifestivalen, the Swedish selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, with the song Ring Ring. They finished third, but the single and the album of the same name were the biggest hits of the year in Sweden and also became a hit in several other European countries. However, Abba were still convinced that they needed to take part in Eurovision to achieve international exposure.
In late 1973 Abba were invited by Swedish TV to enter the Melodifestivalen again in 1974, this time with Waterloo and were voted clear winners by the 300 strong Swedish voting panel. As they prepared for their trip to Brighton, Stikkan ('Stig') Andersson, Abba's legendary manager, kick started a huge PR campaign and released Waterloo in twelve countries. It made the charts in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. He later remarked 'Even if we slipped at the last hurdle and did not win, it was not going to be a waste for us... It was only the beginning but a firm start which we were going to build on'
The Eurovision Song Contest was held at Brighton Dome on 6 Apr 1974. This was the second time in three years that the UK had hosted the competition without having won the contest in the previous year. The Luxembourg broadcast service, RTL, did not wish to host the event again for financial reasons. The BBC embraced the possibility of televising the contest once more. Hosting the event was also a huge boon for Brighton, and the contract for the event had been doggedly fought for by Tony Hewison, the then Director of Tourism and Leisure for Brighton Council. The production arrangements at Brighton Dome were overseen by Douglas Reeve, then General Manager.
Rehearsals were held in the Concert Hall the day before, and Benny later noted his first impressions of Brighton : 'the relaxation I felt strolling around Brighton, breathing all that beautiful, fresh, spring air was something fantastic. The town had a fascinating look, and is like I always dreamed a British coastal town should look. I've promised myself that one day I'll spend some time there and get to know the place really well.'
However, their rehearsals at Brighton Dome did not run smoothly. Abba had provided a backing tape for Waterloo but when it was played through the Concert Hall PA the band was dismayed. Benny noted 'It was a very hairy moment. It sounded so weak when we played it through the loudspeakers ...We were all worried about it, and crowded around the engineer, looking like four worried men. The engineer tinkered about with the equipment for what seemed ages, then told us that he was sure he could sort out the problem. We hoped he was right.'
At 2pm on the day of the final, the engineer announced that he had fixed the problem just in time for their 2pm dress rehearsal on stage.
The dress rehearsal would also be the first time that Abba could display their now world famous Waterloo outfits to a worldwide audience. But what was the reason behind the flamboyant stage costumes? Abba revealed years later that the band's style was influenced in part by laws that allowed the cost of outfits to be deducted against tax – so long as the costumes were so outrageous they could not possibly be worn on the street.
On the day of the competition, after the votes had been cast, Waterloo had scored 24 points, 6 points clear of the Italian entry Si, and had pushed the Dutch entry - the bookies favourite - into third place. It was the first ever Eurovision win for a Scandinavian country. The UK came in fourth and, incidentally, awarded no points to Sweden.
Benny later noted, 'We had won, and I couldn't believe it! We jumped around and hugged each other in our excitement. Anni-Frid looked like she was going to faint. Bjorn started frantically searching for his guitar, the one that looked like a five pointed star, because we had to go back onstage for the traditional repeat of the winning song'. After endless press interviews and posing for photos, the Mayor of Brighton then beckoned Abba back to Brighton Dome stage and offered the group a free week's holiday in Brighton. 'We must take him up on that one day' said Benny 'Just as soon as we have the time'.
ABBA quotes takes from ‘ABBA -the Lovers Whose Music Conquered the World’ by Harry Edgington, Everest Books, 1977