Of all the bands you ever wished had recorded a Christmas album Abba would probably be near the top. They had the kitch, they had the glamour but most of all they had the melodies that would have ensured a classic Christmas release. Abba might have recorded 'Happy New Year' but it hardly counts given that that occasion symbolises, for most people, the end of the Christmas break and the start of the bleakest month of the year. Amongst ABBA fans 'Arrival', which opens the 1976 album of the same name, is often regarded as having a Christmas spirit. The instrumental certainly has a celestial quality thanks to the girls la-la-la's and the instrumentation almost sounds like bagpipes but they are probably more electronic in origin. The closest thing we've got to an ABBA Christmas song is a decidedly ropey affair that they sang on a West German radio show hosted by Mal Sondock in 1981. 'Nu Ar Det Jul Igen' ('Now It's Christmas') is a perennial Swedish Christmas favourite and ABBA's version eventually made it onto an official release in 2011. 'Carols for The Cure, Vol. 13' (lucky for some) is part of an ongoing series featuring Christmas songs from cast members of various Broadway shows and it included 'Nu Ar Det Jul Igen' as sung by ABBA on that radio show in 1981.
Once you get over the disappointment of the lack of tinselled ABBA tunes you'll be glad to discover that pre and post the band several members did commit to the season of goodwill. The first of these was Benny Andersson's 'Christmas With The Hep Stars' which came out in 1967. It included a Swedish Christmas song called 'Nu Tandas Tusen Julejus' that would later be recorded by both Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog in a solo capacity. A year later in 1968 the Bjorn led group the Hootenanny Singers released 'Fem Ar' and it included a cover version of 'Mary's Boy Child' (made famous by Boney M). The LP has been out of print for quite some time so we can only imagine how good it sounded.
A dedicated Christmas album containing various artists called 'När Juldagsmorgon Glimmar' ('When Christmas Morning Is Shining') was released in 1972 and featured the Hootenanny Singers with Frida Lyngstad on a solo run. There were some very familiar Christmas songs on show including 'Ballerklang' ('Jingle Bells') and 'Jag Sag Mamma Kyssa Tomten' ('I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'). Frida herself sang two songs 'Nar Det Lider Mot Jul" and 'Glans Over Sjo Och Strand' while Bjorn's contributions with the Hootenanny Singers were 'Gå Sion, Din Konung Att Möta' and 'Nu Tandas Tusen Juleljus'. Smelling the chance to reap some serious rewards 'När Juldagsmorgon Glimmar' was finally reissued in 1994 as 'Julens Musik' which translates in English to 'Christmas Music'.
Agnetha has been perhaps the most prolific producer of Christmas material. She released an 18 song Christmas album called 'Nu Tandas Tusen Julejus' ('A Thousand Candles Are Being Lit' - the cover of which had Agnetha surrounded by thousands of candles!) in 1980 with her daughter Linda and a choir of children providing additional backing vocals. The album was sung entirely in Swedish and went top 10 in the Swedish charts that year. 'Nu Tandas Tusen Julejus' was later reissued in 2005 and can be picked up online without too much trouble. Agnetha repeated the trick with her son Christian 7 years later, called ‘Kom Folj Med I Vår Karusell’, but the results were a little more mixed this time
Moving much closer to the present Benny and Bjorn joined forces in 2010 to write a song for the employees of Benny's Hotel (Hotel Rival) to sing in December called 'Merry Christmas, My Friend'. Benny's multi-person group Benny Andersson Orkester also recorded a new Christmas album in 2012 called 'Tomten Har Akt Hem' ('Santa Has Come Home') which included 4 originals. 'Vinterhamn', which was the primary single on the album, was co-written by Benny (music) and Bjorn (words)!
Now it's Yule again,
Abba, Nu Är Det Jul Igen
And now it's Yule again,
And Yule will last until it's Easter:
Then 'tis Eastertide,
And then 'tis Eastertide
And Easter lasts until it's Christmas!