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What makes this song great?
As a band, one of our favourite songs to perform is the classic “SOS”, which was recorded by the fab four in Långängen, Sweden in 1974, and was the band’s first major hit following the success of “Waterloo”. The song was written by Benny and Björn with the manager of the band Stig, and was identified by Benny as being fundamental in forging the group’s musical identity.
In the charts, the song reached number 6 in the UK, topped the charts in Austria, Germany and New Zealand and made the top 10 in several other countries
Released as the 3rd track in the band’s self titled album in 1975, the track is very melody driven, with Benny’s piano initially taking the lead at the start of the song with a classical style interlude in D minor, which was an adventurous song introduction in a time where punk rock was beginning to dominate the airwaves. The song is then complimented by a solo vocal from Agnetha, who reportedly had bad memories of recording this song, telling The Sun in 2013: “Frida and I were very tired of the choruses. I don’t know how many times we had to sing them to make them big, but we’d had enough of that song that day”.
The chorus then kicks in with a crash of a cymbal, changing the song from a mournful, passionate ballad into an upbeat, driven pop track. As with most ABBA choruses, multiple overlays of each vocal was recorded, each being EQed narrowly in order to create multiple layers to the same line, an innovative technique which helped to pioneer the band’s unique sound. After this, the song once again transforms into another genre - rock, with a stellar chord progression of Bb, Db, Eb and F complimented by the uproar of a distorted electric guitar sounding like a plane taking off to new, and exciting musical ground.
To this day, the song remains a firm fan favourite and a really great track to perform live due to the vocal dynamics and variation, from the sadness in Agnetha’s voice at the start, to the mesmerising harmonies of the band in the chorus and refrain; it’s just one of those songs that you can start at any point and instantly find a catchy hook.
For us performing this song after “Waterloo” and “Mamma Mia” in our set really changes the atmosphere of a room from a calm hush in the first verse, until the chorus kicks in - from then, it’s as if the audience has been electrocuted! We love that!