Waterloo (ABBA song)


A-side label of the Swedish vinyl release of the English-language recording
Single by ABBA
from the album Waterloo
B-side "Honey, Honey" (Swedish-language release)
"Watch Out" (English-language release)
Released 4 March 1974[1]
Format 7" single
Recorded 17 December 1973
Metronome Studios, Stockholm
Length 2:42
  • Benny Andersson
  • Björn Ulvaeus
ABBA singles chronology
"Another Town, Another Train"
"Honey, Honey"
Music sample
Waterloo (English version)
Music video
"Waterloo (Eurovision Performance)" on YouTube
Music video
"Waterloo (Swedish Version)" on YouTube
Sweden "Waterloo"
Eurovision Song Contest 1974 entry
Finals performance
Final result
Final points
Appearance chronology
◄ "You're Summer" (1973)   
"Jennie, Jennie" (1975) ►

"Waterloo" was the first single from the Swedish pop group ABBA's second album, Waterloo 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.

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 featured "Honey, Honey" (Swedish version) on the B-side, 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 and went on to sell nearly six million copies, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.

"Waterloo" is the quintessential Eurovision song, according to Dr Harry Witchel, physiologist and music expert at the University of Bristol.[4] 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]


"Waterloo" was originally written as a song for the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, after the group finished third with "Ring Ring" the previous year in the Swedish pre-selection contest, Melodifestivalen 1973. Since it focused on lead vocalists Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson chose "Waterloo" in place of another of their songs, "Hasta Mañana".

"Waterloo" is about a girl who is obliged to surrender to the demands of her conqueror, as Napoleon had to surrender at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, as referenced in the song.

The song proved to be a wise choice. It won Melodifestivalen 1974 (in Swedish) in February and won the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 (ESC) final on 6 April by six points.

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). The song broke the "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 never 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 singing the song in a language other than that of their home country; prior to "Waterloo" all Eurovision singers had been required to sing in their country's native tongue, a restriction that was lifted briefly in the 1970s (thus allowing "Waterloo" to be sung in English), then reinstated a few years later before ultimately being removed. Compared to later ABBA releases, the singers' Swedish accents are decidedly more pronounced in "Waterloo," as their understanding of the English language was limited.

Though it isn't well-known, Polar accidentally released a different version of "Waterloo" shortly after ABBA's Eurovision win before replacing it with the more famous version. The alternative version had a harder rock sound, omitting the saxophones (played by Christer Ecklund), plus an additional "oh yeah" in the verses. The alternative version was commercially released in 2005 as part of The Complete Studio Recordings box set. However, it was this version that ABBA performed during their 1979 tour of Europe and North America.


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.[6] 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 tune did not reach No. 1 in their home country, its Swedish (No. 2) and English (No. 3) versions were beat out for the top spot by the Waterloo album due to Sweden having a combined Album and Singles Chart at the time.) The song also spent 11 weeks on Svensktoppen (24 March - 2 June 1974), including 7 weeks at No. 1.[7]

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). 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 Wizzard song "See My Baby Jive" 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.

In 1994, "Waterloo" (along with several other ABBA hits) was included in the soundtrack of the film Muriel's Wedding. It 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]

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

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

Chart performance

Weekly singles charts

Chart (1974) Peak
Australia (ARIA) 4
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[8] 2
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[9] 1
Canada (RPM)[10] 7
Denmark (Danish Top 20)[11] 1
Finland (Mitä Suomi soittaa) 1
France (SNEP) [12] 4
Germany (Official German Charts)[13] 1
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 1
Italy (AFI) 14
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[15] 1
New Zealand (Listener)[16] 3
Norway (VG-lista)[17] 1
Rhodesia 2
South Africa[18] 1
Sweden (Topplistan) 2 (Swedish)
3 (English)
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[19] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[20] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[21] 6
US Cashbox Top 100[22]

Year-end charts

Chart (1974) Rank
Australia[23] 36
Canada (RPM)[24] 67
UK [25] 16
US (Billboard Hot 100)[26] 49
US (Cash Box Top 100)[27] 84

Chart succession

Preceded by
"Devil Gate Drive" by Suzi Quatro
Norwegian VG-lista Singles Chart number-one single
8 April 1974 – 27 May 1974
Succeeded by
"Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks
Preceded by
"Tchip Tchip" by Cash & Carry
Swiss Singles Chart number-one single
24 April 1974 – 19 June 1974
Preceded by
"The Most Beautiful Girl" by Charlie Rich
Belgian Flemish VRT Top 30 number-one single
27 April 1974 – 25 May 1974
Preceded by
"Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks
Irish Singles Chart number-one single
30 April 1974
Succeeded by
"Any Dream Will Do" by Joe Cuddy
UK Singles Chart number-one single
4 May 1974 – 18 May 1974
Succeeded by
"Sugar Baby Love" by The Rubettes
German Singles Chart number-one single (first run)
7 June 1974
Succeeded by
"Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks
German Singles Chart number-one single (second run)
21 June 1974 – 7 July 1974
Succeeded by
"Sugar Baby Love" by The Rubettes
Preceded by
"Sommaren som aldrig säger nej" by Malta
Melodifestivalen winners
Succeeded by
"Jennie, Jennie" by Lasse Berghagen
Preceded by
"Tu te reconnaîtras" by Anne-Marie David
Eurovision Song Contest winners
Succeeded by
"Ding Ding-A-Dong" by Teach-In

Cover versions

  • In 1974, both Seija Simola and Ami Aspelund each recorded a Finnish-language cover version of "Waterloo" whose lyrics were written by Simola; that summer Simola's recording of "Waterloo" reached the Top 10 in Finland during the same period the ABBA original was at No. 1.
  • In 1974, Danish duo Lecia & Lucienne covered the song with Danish lyrics written by Gustav Winckler. These lyrics were largely a direct translation of the original Swedish lyrics written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson.
  • In 1978, a Swedish country band called Nashville Train (which included some of ABBA's own backing band members) covered the song on their album ABBA Our Way.
  • 1970s Hong Kong pop band The Wynners recorded a cover of the song. It was last included on their 2007 compilation Stars on 33.
  • In 1986, a cover version of the song was recorded and released by Doctor and the Medics,[28] with special guest Roy Wood on saxophone and backing vocals, reached No. 45 on the UK chart.
  • In 1995, Swedish metal band Nation recorded a version for their album Without Remorse. It would later be released on the compilation ABBAMetal (also released as A Tribute to ABBA).
  • In 1995, New Zealand alternative rock band Cloth recorded a version for the compilation Abbasalutely.
  • Spanish rock band Los Enemigos recorded an English cover of the song for their 1995 album Por la Sombra Hermana Amnesia.
  • In 1998, the original line-up of UK girl group Bananarama reunited to record "Waterloo" for the Eurovision parody A Song For Eurotrash on Channel 4. Their music video featured the girls waking up from a hang-over, dancing around in wedding dresses at an altar (with male back-up dancers in military uniform), and getting into a food fight at a wedding reception. The song was included on the 1999 compilation, ABBA - A Tribute: The 25th Anniversary Celebration.
  • In 1998, Swedish heavy metal band Black Ingvars covered "Waterloo" in Swedish on their 1998 album Schlager Metal.
  • In 1999, ABBA tribute pop group Arrival released a version on their album First Flight.
  • Dance versions of the song have been recorded by Abbacadabra (released through Almighty Records), Tiny T on the Lay All Your Love On ABBA tribute album, German Eurodance group E-Rotic on their 1997 Thank You For The Music album and the 1998 compilation Dancemania Covers 2, Baby Dolls (in 1991), and the Golden Queens.
  • Singer/songwriter Pamela McNeill covered the song on her album Tribute To ABBA, which was produced by her husband Dugan McNeill.
  • In 2001, an instrumental electronica version by Motor Industries can be found on the compilation The Electronic Tribute To ABBA.
  • In 2004, the song was performed by Michelle Hardwick, Vickie Gates, and Will Mellor for the tribute album ABBAMania 2.
  • German pop group Banaroo covered the song for the German ABBA Mania compilation, which coincided with a TV special.
  • In 2004, The song was covered by Edie on the compilation Abbalicious, performed by various American drag queens.[29]
  • In 2005, The Dan Band recorded a cover of Waterloo as part of an ABBA medley for his album The Dan Band Live.
  • In 2006, a cover of the song by Finnish a cappella choral ensemble Rajaton was released on their ABBA tribute album Rajaton Sings ABBA With Lahti Symphony Orchestra.
  • In 2006, the song was covered by the Hong Kong children's T.I.V.C. (The Innocent Voices Choir) for their album Let's Dance You Jump Over the Day.
  • In 2006, German AC/DC tribute band Riff Raff recorded a cover in AC/DC style for their album Rock 'N' Roll Mutation Vol. 1: Riff Raff Performs ABBA.
  • California indie band Popdudes, featuring Kenny Howes, included a cover of the song on their album Maximum Rock Stupidity. It is also featured on the 2006 power pop compilation International Pop Overthrow - Volume 9.[30]
  • Tribute band Gabba recorded a cover of the song, in the style of The Ramones.[31]
  • In 2008, the song was covered in a jazz/lounge music style by American group BNB on their album Bossa Mia: Songs of ABBA.[32]
  • Australian rock band Audioscam covered the song on their 2008 album Abbattack. Samples from the album can be heard on their official MySpace page.[33]
  • Dutch group Mrs. Einstein recorded a cover of the song for the Eurovision music contest.
  • Tribute rock band No Matter What recorded a cover of the song.
  • An electronica version recorded by indie music artist Phil Glanville was available for download on the Net.
  • German band Marty & His Rockin' Comets recorded a cover of the song in swing music fashion. It can be heard on their official website.[34]
  • Danish duo Olsen Brothers (winners of the Eurovision contest in 2000) covered the song on their 2010 album Wings of Eurovision.
  • Lenna Kuurmaa and Tanel Padar recorded a cover of the song in Estonian.

Live cover performances

Appearances in other media

  • ABBA perform parts of the song live in the film ABBA: The Movie (1977).
  • The Australian film Muriel's Wedding (1994), features "Waterloo" in a pivotal scene in which lead Toni Colette bonds with the character played by Rachel Griffiths. The film's soundtrack, featuring five ABBA tracks, is widely regarded as having helped to fuel the revival of popular interest in ABBA's music in the mid-1990s.[35]
  • "Waterloo" features prominently in the 2015 science-fiction film The Martian.[36] The song plays as the film's lead, played by Matt Damon, works to ready his launch vehicle for a last-chance escape from Mars.[37]


  1. "Album waterloo « Waterloo | ABBA". Abbasite.com. 4 March 1974. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  2. Shahriari, Andrew (28 September 2010). "Europop and Folk Fusions". Popular World Music. Routledge. ISBN 978-0136128984.
  3. Raykoff, Ivan; Deam Tobin, Robert (eds.). "Camping on the borders of Europe". A Song for Europe: Popular Music and Politics in the Eurovision Song Contest. Routledge. p. 1.
  4. "Waterloo named best ever Eurovision song". Manchester Evening News. 19 May 2005. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  5. 1 2 "Abba win 'Eurovision 50th' vote". BBC News. 23 October 2005. Retrieved 20 July 2006.
  6. Scott, Robert (2002) 'ABBA: Thank You for the Music - The Stories Behind Every Song', Carlton Books Limited: Great Britain, p.42
  7. "Svensktoppen - ''1974''". Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  8. "Austriancharts.at – ABBA – Waterloo" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  9. "Ultratop.be – ABBA – Waterloo" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  10. "RPM Volume 21, No. 24". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 3 August 1974. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  11. "Waterloo on Danish Top 20 - 1974". Danskehitlister.dk. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  12. "Tous les Titres par Artiste: A". SNEP. Infodisc.fr. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  13. "Offiziellecharts.de – ABBA – Waterloo". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  14. "The Irish Charts – Search charts". Irish Recorded Music Association. 2008. To use, type "Waterloo" in the "Search by Song Title" search bar and click search. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  15. "Dutchcharts.nl – ABBA – Waterloo" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  16. "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  17. "Norwegiancharts.com – ABBA – Waterloo". VG-lista. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  18. Brian Currin (25 May 2003). "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Number 1s". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  19. "Swisscharts.com – ABBA – Waterloo". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  20. "May 1974/ Archive Chart: 4 May 1974" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  21. "ABBA – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for ABBA. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  22. Downey, Pat; Albert, George; Hoffmann, Frank W (1994). Cash Box pop singles charts, 1950–1993. Libraries Unlimited. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-56308-316-7.
  23. Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
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  26. "Billboard Top 100 - 1974". Billboard. Longbored Surfer. 1974. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  27. "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1956". Cash Box Magazine. 1957. Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  28. Oldham, A, Calder, T & Irvin, C: "ABBA: The Name of the Game", page 209. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1995
  29. Archived 24 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. "International Pop Overthrow 2004, Vol. 9 - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  31. "GABBA The Discopunk Sensation - MEDIA". Gabba.co.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  32. Archived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  33. "Audioscam | Gratis muziek, tourneedata, foto's, video's". Profile.myspace.com. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  34. "Willkommen auf der Homepage von Marty and his Rockin' Comets". Rockincomets.de. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  35. Snetiker, Marc (13 October 2015). "How ABBA (and that 'Waterloo' scene) made it into 'Muriel's Wedding'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  36. Newman, Melinda (2 October 2015). "The Martian Soundtrack Filled With Disco Classics". Archived from the original on 11 October 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  37. Pahle, Rebecca (6 October 2015). "The Very Best Moments in 'The Martian' (Including the One Ridley Scott Wanted to Cut)". Pajiba.com. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
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