ABBA tribute bands have become a booming industry, ever since Björn Again started performing at pubs in Melbourne, Australia in 1989.
I’ve never been a fan of tribute acts. I don’t need a facsimile. I can enjoy the real ABBA at any time on a multitude of CDs and DVDs. But that’s just me. For those people who do want to get that live-on-stage ABBA experience, because they may be too young to have seen the real thing, or they may want to relive it, these dozens of tribute acts give something more that you can’t get from CDs and DVDs.
I have to admit that I’ve seen a few tribute band performances: I saw Björn Again’s first ever performance in Sydney in 1989 (I didn’t enjoy it at all), and I saw Arrival from Sweden when they toured Australia a few years ago (an enjoyable night and a very good recreation). I’ve also seen Australia’s FABBA and BABBA, and I wasn’t too impressed with either.
Tribute acts generally fall into three broad categories:
- Those attempting a faithful replication of an ABBA performance.
- Those that are part homage, part parody.
- Those that cater for the party crowd, often just two girls in ABBA-style costumes with a backing tape.
Many of these acts use the name “ABBA” in some form – ABBAlanche, ABBA Again, ABBA Alive, ABBA Gold, ABBA-cadabra, ABBA Girls, ABBA Babes, ABBAesque, ABBA Forever, Gimme ABBA, ABBAsolutely FABBAulous. You get the idea.
What’s surprising is that these tribute acts are allowed to use the word “ABBA”, which was once upon a time noted as being “a registered trademark of Polar Music International AB”. When the ABBA*Teens released their first single in 1999, Benny himself requested they stop using the name ABBA, because “there is only one ABBA, and they are not it” (though Björn had previously given his permission, and the group had been created by Stockholm Records specifically as an “ABBA” for the late-90s teen market). At another time, Björn Again was sued to stop using a logo featuring a reversed B.
What peeves me (and I know I’m not alone) is those tribute acts whose advertising can be seen to be misleading, that doesn’t make it clear it’s a tribute act, not the real ABBA.
For the last few summers, the USA has had “ABBA – The Tour (or The Show or The Music or The Whatever) featuring members of the original ABBA band”. To those not in the know, this would suggest that the act features at least one of the original ABBA members, not the musicians who backed ABBA in the studio or on tour. In previous years, this tour featured Swedish band Waterloo; this year it’s Arrival.
Several years ago Australian newspapers carried advertisements for something called “ABBA Thank You For The Music 25th Anniversary Tour”, complete with a photo of ABBA circa 1977. Nowhere did the advertising mention that it was tribute a act, ABBAsolutely FABBAulous, performing.
One of the most frequent search terms of this very blog over the past month or more has been “ABBA tour USA 2007”, which indicates to me that there are still people out there who think that it’s ABBA, not a tribute act, that is touring.
Of course, the real ABBA continue to refuse to reunite for anything less than “something special” – even that infamous alleged billion-dollar offer. They’ve proved what they mean by “something special” by singing a song together at friend and business associate Görel Hanser‘s 50th birthday party in June 1999.