Tomorrow morning I’m being interviewed about ABBA – The Movie for the Saturday night Nostalgia programme on Sydney radio station 2UE 954 for broadcast tomorrow night. Listeners outside Sydney can hear the programme streamed online. The ABBA portion should be between 8.00-9.30 p.m Australia EST (7.00-8.30 p.m. Japan; 12.00-1.30 p.m Europe CEST; 11.00 a.m-12.30 p.m. GB BST; 6.00-7.30 a.m. USA EDT; 3.00-4.30 a.m. USA PDT. ).
Archive for June, 2007
NEWSFLASH! ABBA Intermezzo reports that Universal Music UK has announced the ABBA – The Album Deluxe Edition for release in the [northern] Autumn.
Today the worldwide media have been reporting on the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the compact disc, or CD. Some of the stories (such as this video report from Reuters) have reported that ABBA’s The Visitors was the first commercially released CD.
The origin of today’s media story is this press release from Bayer MaterialScience, which reports that 25 years ago The Visitors was the first CD pressed as a test using a new high tech plastic, Makrolon®, during the development phase of the new audio standard.
The Visitors was indeed the first ABBA CD released, and is thought to be one of the first (if not the first) pop music CD released by PolyGram in Europe. But it wasn’t the first CD ever – that honour apparently goes to Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, released in Japan in October 1982, along with 15 other CDs in that first batch.
Benny & Björn were introduced to the new format in late 1982, when they were surprised to hear the tape hiss on analog-recorded tracks on The Visitors (most audible in the ticking between ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ and ‘Like An Angel Passing Through My Room’ on the original 1983 CD, but not on later remastered versions).
The Visitors was the first CD I ever bought, sometime in 1983, probably 18 months before I bought my first CD player. It cost a whopping $30, which is close to the full price CD in Australia today. My copy was on the Polar label (POLCD 342), manufactured by PolyGram in West Germany, but actually came from the UK where it had been distributed by Epic, and so had a label attached to the spine with the UK catalogue number (EPC CD10032). But I peeled off that sticker many, many years ago – maybe it could have been a rare collectors item?
It became a tradition for that very same CD to be the first one played everytime I bought a new CD player.
I loved the CD from the outset. The improved sound quality and the ease of playing. But I missed the full 12 inch album sleeve, and even the action of turning over the record to side 2.
In early 1982 it was time for a second single from The Visitors album. ABBA and Polar Music had selected ‘Head Over Heels’ backed with the album’s title track, with many of ABBA’s licensees around the world following suit.
RCA in Australia instead chose what many have long thought was the obvious single from the album, ‘When All Is Said And Done’, which had actually been the lead single from the album in North America at the end of 1981.
‘When All Is Said And Done’ had in fact been the first song from the album heard in Australia, when the film clip was played on the ABC-TV music show Countdown the week before the album was released.
Unlike the previous two Australian singles (‘Super Trouper’ and ‘One Of Us’), RCA decided to put the single in a picture sleeve. Through an unfortunate error with the artwork, the first print run gave the song title ‘When All Is Said Is Done’.
RCA’s initial reaction was to just release the picture sleeve as is. But wiser heads prevailed, and the sleeve was reprinted with the correct title before the single made its way to the nation’s record shops. However, an unknown quantity of the misprinted sleeves appeared on sale. From available evidence, it seems to have been available in some regional cities in the state of New South Wales.
Sadly, all this effort was for naught. The single peaked at number 81, with a chart life of just three weeks.
But it did give ABBA collectors a most unusual rarity.
FYI, the popular website ABBA Picture Gallery (also known as Maggott’s ABBA Gallery) has moved and can now be found here.
I first saw Priscilla not long after it premiered in Sydney in October last year. It was interesting to see the show again. There have been some cuts in dialogue and music, which tightens up the story.
The show is very funny, with the best moments and lines from the movie, and more faaaaaaaaaabulous songs along with some of those that featured in the film. Priscilla will be playing in Sydney until late September, and will then move to Melbourne, opening in October.
As I’m sure you know, there were many ABBA references in the movie, including Bernadette’s infamous interjection quoted as the title of this post, the controversial “ABBA turd”, and the “grand finale” featuring a performance of ‘Mamma Mia’ by Mitzi and Felicia.
The stage version removes all references to ABBA. Some of the dialogue references have been changed to Kylie Minogue (and a couple of her songs are included) while others are simply gone from the storyline.
The producers have said that there were “international rights issues” that stopped them from using the ABBA songs, but it’s more than likely that permission wasn’t given because ABBA’s songs are in their own musical Mamma Mia!
These changes actually makes sense for today’s audience. When the movie was filmed, ABBA was extremely popular in the gay community, with the ABBA revival of the 1990s dating back to ABBA theme nights in gay clubs in the late ’80s.
But to a new generation of young gay men, Kylie has taken the place that ABBA once held (especially since the revival of her own career with 2000’s Light Years CD). Someone of Adam/Felicia’s age is more likely to be a life-long Kylie devotee than an ABBA fan.
So Bernadette’s wish in the movie for “no more fucking ABBA” has, in the stage version, finally come true!
Blair Martin, an ABBA fan from Brisbane, Queensland, is currently the champion on the TV quiz show Temptation (Channel 9, 7 p.m. weeknights).
Having won his seventh night on Friday, on Monday (June 11th) he plays his final night for the full prize package plus the cash jackpot.
If you went to one of the many ABBA fan events in Australia in the early 1980s, you’ve probably met Blair. He was always there, always a lot of fun.
During the introduction to Wednesday night’s show, he declared to all the world that he was a proud ABBA fan!
Best of luck, Blair. And if you see this, it would be great to hear from you again.
Some media stories about Blair:
… that The Beatles landmark album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released.
Sgt. Pepper has, for all the years since 1967, been considered by music critics and music fans as a peak of pop/rock music, something for all other artists to aspire to. It was the album that changed the focus of popular music from the single to the album, that lasted up to the download era of the Naughties.
Björn and Benny have both said that The Beatles, particularly the song-writing partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, inspired them first individually, and then together, to compose their own songs.
In some interviews in the 1970s, Björn and Benny had said that many expected them to create their own Sgt. Pepper with each next ABBA album.
There are a remarkable number of similarities between Sgt. Pepper and ABBA’s Super Trouper album:
- Both front covers show the group surrounded by a crowd – The Beatles, by life-size cut-outs of various friends and heroes; ABBA, by friends and circus performers.
- Both album covers involved elaborate staging.
- Both title tracks refer to a band performance.
- Both title tracks cast a thematic aura over the whole album.
- Both albums have several songs with a nostalgic air.
- Both albums have the final two tracks cross-faded as a “grand finale”.
- Both have sound continuing into the run-out groove, so that those whose record players didn’t have automatic lifting arms would hear sound infinitely (on Sgt. Pepper, specially recorded gibberish; on Super Trouper, the applause following ‘The Way Old Friends Do’). [the CD of Sgt. Pepper recreates this effect; no CD version of Super Trouper does this]
- Both albums came at the popular peak of each group’s career. Afterwards, both groups fell into a downward spiral.
- Both albums were each group’s first after their final concert tours.
- Both are considered by many fans and critics as the group’s finest achievement.