SOS (ABBA song)

"SOS" was the third single from Swedish pop group ABBA's self-titled 1975 album, their third for Polar Music and their second for Epic and Atlantic. It was released with "Man in the Middle" as the B-side. Agnetha Fältskog, who sang lead, recorded the song in Swedish on her 1975 solo album Elva kvinnor i ett hus. "SOS" was ABBA's first major worldwide hit since "Waterloo".

SOS - Man In The Middle.jpg
Single by ABBA
from the album ABBA
B-side"Man in the Middle"
ReleasedJune 1975 (Sweden)
8 September 1975 (US)
20 September 1975 (UK)
Recorded22–23 August 1974
StudioGlen Studio
LabelPolar (Sweden)
Epic (UK)
Atlantic (US)
Mushroom/Warner Bros. (Oceania)
  • Björn Ulvaeus
  • Benny Andersson
ABBA singles chronology
"Rock Me"
"Mamma Mia"
Music video
"SOS" on YouTube


"SOS" (working title; "Turn Me On") was written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson and was recorded at Glen Studio in Långängen, Sweden on 22–23 August 1974.[1] The title itself was coined by Stig, though the lyrics he provided were re-written by Ulvaeus. "SOS" was among the first of three songs recorded for the group's 1975 album, ABBA and the opening track of their classic Greatest Hits LP released at the end of the same year.

The song is unique among pop songs of the period, opening with an unaccompanied classical keyboard in a subdued D-minor key. Unlike most ABBA tracks that preceded it, the vocal begins with an emotional solo performance by Fältskog. The descending chords and ominous Minimoog synthesizer melody line of the introduction set the tone for Fältskog’s vocals, sounding almost as if she were breaking down in tears. The song then transitions to a rock chorus in a major key, dominated by a distorted electric guitar and full vocals.[citation needed]

Despite the song's catchiness, it was passed over as the lead single from the album; the track "So Long" was chosen instead. "So Long" was chosen primarily because it had the same uptempo beat as their 1974 hit single, "Waterloo".[citation needed]

Lyricist Ulvaeus has said that, after three years of trying to figure out what style would define them, ABBA found its identity as a pop group with the release of "SOS".[2]

During the band's first visit to the United States, ABBA performed "SOS" on the long-running television program American Bandstand on 15 November 1975.[3]

ABBA performs the song live in the concert film ABBA: The Movie, director Lasse Hallström's first English-language feature film, filmed during the band's tour of Australia in 1977.

ABBA performed the song on its 1979 tour of Europe and North America. While the track does not appear on the filmed record of that tour—released on DVD as "ABBA in Concert"—it is featured on the 2014 audio release, Live at Wembley Arena. For the first time on that tour, vocalists Fältskog and Lyngstad traded the line "when you're gone" responsively at the song's climax.[citation needed]

Music videoEdit

The promotional video was directed by Lasse Hallström and released in the same year, along with the single.[4] The music video features the quartet miming to the song outside and utilizes distortion effects achieved by mirrors. Much of the video is filmed from an overhead camera, with the bandmates' faces sometimes distorted.[5] The video, and three others (for "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do", "Mamma Mia" and "Bang-A-Boomerang"), were completed in two days for a total cost of Kr50,000 (£5,500).[6]

The video was uploaded to YouTube on 8 October 2009, on the AbbaVEVO channel, and has almost 59 million views as of June 2020.[7]


I remember hearing "S.O.S". on the radio in the States and realizing that it was Abba. But it was too late, because I was already transported by it. I just thought it was such a great sound, you know – great bass drum and the whole thing..

Pete Townshend,
Rolling Stone Magazine, June 1982

"SOS" marked a significant turnaround in ABBA's fortunes, most notably in the UK and Ireland, where it returned the group to the Top 10 for the first time since "Waterloo". Reaching #6 and #4 respectively, "SOS" started a run of 18 consecutive Top 10 hits for ABBA in the UK and Ireland.[8][9] "SOS" reached #1 in Australia, Belgium, France, West Germany (where it spent 7 weeks at the top), New Zealand and South Africa, and was a Top 3 hit in Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy (where it became ABBA's most successful hit), Mexico, Rhodesia and Switzerland. The song also became ABBA's second Top 20 hit in the United States, peaking at #15 (due to the single charting in the U.S. before "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do", whereas elsewhere "SOS" charted afterwards).[10]

Chicago radio station WLS, which gave "SOS" much airplay, ranked the song as the 61st biggest hit of 1975.[11] It peaked at number six on their survey of 22 November 1975.[12]

"SOS" is one of the most-covered of ABBA's songs. It has been recorded and performed in concert by several prominent artists, including John Frusciante, Peter Cetera, Chris deBurgh, Cher, Portishead, Fozzy, and Canadian rock group Headstones. Erasure covered SOS and three other Abba songs on their 1992 E.P. "Abba-Esque", reaching number one in the UK singles chart.

The track has a number of music industry devotees. The Who guitarist Pete Townshend has said "SOS" is one of the best pop songs ever written,[1] adding that when he first heard the song he "was transported by it".[13]

Ray Davies of The Kinks said that he was taken with the song after seeing the group perform it on the BBC television show Seaside Special.[14]

American singer-songwriter and former Czars frontman John Grant has called "SOS" "one of the greatest pieces of music ever made", adding that Agnetha Fältskog's "perfect" lyrical interpretation and emotional delivery is "a beautiful thing".[2]

British conductor and producer Charles Hazlewood called the song's "supersonic" transition from an acoustic D-minor key to an electric rock motif "absolutely genius".[2]

Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock has claimed to have been inspired to write the main riff of Pretty Vacant after hearing "SOS" on a jukebox.[15]

ABBA's performance of "SOS" on American Bandstand in 1975 has been included on lists of the most significant performances in the show's 31 seasons by several reviewers and critics. Bill Lamb put the song at number five,[16] as did Alicia Diaz Dennis[17] and Andres Jauregui.[18]

ABBA performed "SOS" on episode five of the inaugural season of the long-running comedy-variety show Saturday Night Live (SNL) on 15 November 1975. SNL head writer Michael O'Donoghue staged the performance on a set of the deck of the Titanic, but failed to tell the band the set was rigged to tilt and sink while they were performing. According to bandleader Paul Shaffer, "They kept on singing like the pros that they are."[19]

To date, the song is the only Hot 100 single (or #1 single in Australia[20]) in which both the title and the credited act (and also the musical genre) are palindromes.[21]

Track listingEdit

  • Andersson
  • Ulvaeus
  • Anderson
2."Man in the Middle"
  • Andersson
  • Ulvaeus


Chart performanceEdit

Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Japan (RIAJ)[38]
2001 release
Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[39]
digital sales since 2004
Silver 200,000 

^shipments figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Agnetha Fältskog versionEdit

Agnetha Fältskog's version was the second single from her fifth Swedish solo-album Elva kvinnor i ett hus (Eleven Women in One House). It was the only song from this album not to have been composed by Fältskog herself. Despite the fact that Fältskog never promoted the single in Sweden, it peaked at No. 4 on the singles chart on 1 January 1976 during a 20-week chart run, and it also became Fältskog's third No. 1 on radio chart Svensktoppen, entering the chart on 22 November 1975 and spending a total of eleven weeks on the listing. The B-side of the single, "Visa I Åttonde Månaden" (Song in the Eighth Month) was a song written from a very personal perspective, as it was composed during Fältskog's pregnancy with daughter Linda Ulvaeus in 1973.

Cher versionEdit

Single by Cher
from the album Dancing Queen
Released23 August 2018
LabelWarner Bros.
Producer(s)Mark Taylor
Cher singles chronology
"Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)"
"One of Us"
Music video
"SOS" on YouTube

American singer Cher's version was the second single from her 2018 album Dancing Queen. It was released on 23 August 2018.[40] The song peaked at number 56 in the Scottish singles chart in August of that year.[citation needed]

Critical receptionEdit

Writing for Rolling Stone, Brittany Spanos felt that "working with producer Mark Taylor who helped seal Cher’s legacy with the game-changing "Believe" in the late Nineties, she finds subtle changes that update ABBA classics without totally stripping them of the catchiness that made those songs beloved hits well beyond their heyday. "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)," "SOS" and "Mamma Mia" are given just enough of a knob turn that they're transformed from upbeat FM radio pop into club bangers, pulsating with every beat."[41]

Music videoEdit

An accompanying music video for "SOS" was directed by Jake Wilson, and was premiered through Cher's official YouTube channel on 18 September 2018. The video features a slew of women like actress Rumer Willis, singer Betty Who, Transparent star Trace Lysette, comedian Sabrina Jalees, Elena of Avalor voice cast Aimee Carrero and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cast member Vella Lovell, styled by fashion director William Graper in a similar style to the original ABBA video.[42]

SOS was also listed as the 18th best music video of 2018 by Paper. Roytel Montero said that "in a studied homage to the original ABBA classic from 1975, [the] interpretation of the video renders it a poignant call to female solidarity".[43]

Live performancesEdit

Cher appeared on The Ellen Show on 7 September 2018, to promote her ABBA tribute album, Dancing Queen. During her appearance on Ellen, Cher also performed her rendition of ABBA’s "SOS" and discussed her upcoming world tour.[44] During her Here We Go Again Tour she performs "SOS" together with "Waterloo" and "Fernando".[45] On 31 October 2018 "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" and "Take Me Home" were cut from her Classic Cher concert residency and "Waterloo", "SOS" and "Fernando" were added.[46]

Track listings and formatsEdit

Digital downloadEdit

  • "SOS" – 3:22

Credits and personnelEdit

Credits for Dancing Queen adapted from AllMusic.[47]


  • Published by Universal Songs of PolyGramInt., Inc. (ASCAP) and EMI Grove Park Music Inc. (BMI)
  • Recorded by Mark Taylor and Paul Meehan at Metrophonic Studios, London
  • Mixed at by Matt Furmidge and Mark Taylor at Metrophonic Studios, London
  • Mastered by Sthephen Marcussen Mastering, Hollywood, CA



Chart (2018) Peak
CIS (Tophit)[48] 688
Scotland (OCC)[49] 56
UK Singles Sales (Official Charts Company)[50] 78


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External linksEdit