SE­QUINS AND SHAD­OWS

40 years of ABBA.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT -

For decades the ABBA camp has staunchly in­sisted there will never be a re­union of the Swedish supergroup and, When All Is Said And Done, they haven’t. How­ever, the re­lease last year of Agnetha’s un­ex­pected solo project, A, seemed to sig­nify a ma­jor shift in the ABBA land­scape. Here was pop’s Greta Garbo fi­nally re­turn­ing to the charts, mak­ing videos, hap­pily do­ing in­ter­views and seem­ingly at ease with the adu­la­tion she’d once ap­par­ently shunned. In fact, it was more like, “I was never re­ally that lonely old woman hid­ing out on a Swedish is­land that you made me out to be!”

The next sig­nif­i­cant shift came when Agnetha ap­peared on stage with Take That’s Gary Bar­low for a ren­di­tion of one of her new tunes, I Should’ve Fol­lowed You Home, at a char­ity con­cert in Lon­don. This re­ally did seem to sug­gest that, af­ter all these years and all the de­nials about a re­union, the pos­si­bil­ity that the fab four might per­form on the same stage to­gether at the same time might ac­tu­ally oc­cur. Agnetha ap­peared con­fi­dent and thrilled to be on stage (even though it also seemed like she was lip-sync­ing) and a lot of wish­ful think­ing among ABBAphiles be­gan.

Next month marks 40 years since ABBA won the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test in Brighton, Eng­land with Water­loo and their global dom­i­na­tion of the pop charts be­gan.

Over the past four decades the awe­some four­some have not only achieved a lot for them­selves but also for Swedes and Euro­peans. In the English-speak­ing world, Swedish pop mu­sic is now taken very se­ri­ously. That ABBA were in­ducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame in 2010 (by the sur­viv­ing mem­bers of the Bee Gees, no less) shows the breadth of their im­pact and in­flu­ence.

It’s fair to say that pop as we know it would be quite dif­fer­ent with­out the four Swedes who brought not only a sense of folksy melody to their songs, but a pen­chant for Swedish melan­choly. This com­plex qual­ity has found its way into much of the bal­lad work that Swedish song­writ­ers and pro­duc­ers have since cre­ated for the likes of Brit­ney Spears, Kelly Clark­son, Ce­line Dion and, yes, One Di­rec­tion, to name but a few.

Post-ABBA, Swe­den is con­sid­ered pop cen­tral. From Rox­ette to Robyn, also con­sider the likes of Ace Of Base, Icona Pop, Al­cazar, and the pow­er­house DJ/pro­duc­tion out­fit Swedish House Mafia (with spe­cial men­tion of the oh-so-gay Army Of Lovers). While some of the acts haven’t trans­lated as well in­ter­na­tion­ally, their song­writ­ing teams have and the coun­try is re­garded as a one-stop­shop if you want a pop hit. Head straight to Stock­holm for a #1 – and do pass go!

An­other legacy of ABBA is one that al­most hap­pened by ac­ci­dent: Mamma Mia! the stage mu­si­cal. This hugely suc­cess­ful show, then movie, which strung to­gether their hits in a flimsy plot about a Greek three-way set the bar very high for fu­ture juke­box mu­si­cals. Some did well ( We Will Rock You, fea­tur­ing the hits of Queen or Movin’ Out with those of Billy Joel) while oth­ers fal­tered ( Viva For­ever fea­tur­ing the hits of the Spice Girls). Mamma Mia! The Movie was also a huge box of­fice hit. Such was its ABBA­tas­tic ap­peal, it over­took Ti­tanic as the high­est gross­ing movie of all time in the UK.

There are other rea­sons why ABBA’s legacy looms so large – the out­landish glam-rock cos­tumes, ground­break­ing videos (most by renowned Swedish di­rec­tor Lasse Hall­ström) and their abil­ity to churn out an al­bum a year dur­ing their 10-year reign.

That’s not to over­look the im­por­tant part Era­sure played, cov­er­ing four ABBA songs in their 1992 ABBA-es­que EP, which helped to re-hip the ABBA brand. And lest we for­get Aus­tralia’s own ABBA cover mer­chants Björn Again, who took up the ABBA man­tle in 1988 and turned their live act into a ca­reer that

The four Swedes brought not only a sense of folksy melody to their songs, but a pen­chant for Swedish melan­choly.

has out­lasted ABBA’s own. They re­ceived the ul­ti­mate com­pli­ment in 1999 when Benny said, “Björn Again are the clos­est you can get to see­ing ABBA. ABBA will never re­form!” With Björn Again pay­ing a li­cens­ing fee for the mu­sic and rak­ing in the roy­al­ties for them, why would an ag­ing ABBA ever want to hit the boards again?

Their im­i­ta­tor’s prove that the mu­sic lives on. Björn and Benny wrote some of the finest pop songs in his­tory. Even Su­san Boyle couldn’t mur­der angst-clas­sic The Win­ner Takes It All, al­though she tried her very hard­est.

At least two-dozen ABBA songs should be con­sid­ered es­sen­tial property for ev­ery home (copies of the com­pi­la­tions ABBA Gold and More ABBA Gold can eas­ily fix that), but away from the hits there were some amaz­ing high­lights, too. The fi­nal track on their fi­nal al­bum ( Like An An­gel Pass­ing Through My Room on The Vis­i­tors) was so eerie and odd that Madonna recorded it, then sur­rep­ti­tiously let it fil­ter out on the in­ter­net as a free down­load on her 50th birth­day. Madonna is one of only two artists to have ever legally sam­pled ABBA. She nicked Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man Af­ter Mid­night) to bril­liantly weave into her #1 hit Hung Up in 2005, while The Fugees sam­pled 1977’s The Name Of The Game for their 1996 hit Rum­ble In The Jun­gle.

That ABBA are so pos­ses­sive of their legacy is ad­mirable and per­haps an­other rea­son why their mu­sic has gone on and on and on. The fact that the gays have al­ways loved them is pos­si­bly also an­other rea­son for their longevity.

Very few bands can claim to have their own mu­seum, but ABBA now have one in Stock­holm. Af­ter only a short time in oper­a­tion it’s one of the big­gest tourist at­trac­tions in Swe­den. Ex­pect there to be lots of fan­fare and ex­cite­ment about 2014 be­ing the 40th an­niver­sary of their Water­loo vic­tory.

It would be fit­ting if Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida did man­age to wad­dle out of their var­i­ous re­tire­ment cot­tages and dress up to give a one-off per­for­mance at the Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test. That may be too much to ask (they re­jected a £600 mil­lion of­fer to tour), but it would be a good time to have the four of them on­stage to­gether so that the world can truly say to ABBA, thank you for the mu­sic. >>

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