Read vintage ABBA articles

Join Agnetha and Frida in reading vintage ABBA articles @ ABBA WorldNew on ABBA World. You can now read a selection of vintage articles about ABBA. The articles cover the years from 1976 to 2004, from magazines and newspapers around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. Articles from such publications as Variety, Billboard, Reader’s Digest and even Playboy! (yes, that Playboy)

Go to ABBA World, then click on Years to access the Articles page. More articles will be added soon, so come back again for more from ABBA’s history.

Many thanks to my friend Samuel Inglles for transcribing many of the articles and sharing them with ABBA World and ABBA fans everywhere.

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3 Responses to “Read vintage ABBA articles”

  1. Samuel Inglles Says:

    Hi Ian

    Here’s more articles from everything in relation to ABBA’s music, such as Mamma Mia!-The Movie, Muriel’s Wedding, Björn Ulvaeus, Meryl Streep and so on.

    Kind Regards
    Samuel Inglles

    Time (Australia) – 22 October 2007 (Page 10)

    Women’s dues

    ‘It would be nice to have a woman President. I think half the Senate should be women, half of Parliament, half the ruling mullahs. But that will never happen, darling!’

    Meryl Streep: Oscar-winning actress, on her views on government.

    The Times (UK) – Thursday, 3 July 2008 (times2 Pages 6 & 7)

    Why I’m such a super trouper

    Julie Walters tells Hugo Rifkind how a nun and a nurse inspired her to defy her Irish family and take to the stage

    It all comes down to a nun and a nurse, says Julie Walters. There was Sister Patrick, a tyrant giantess at St. Paul’s preparatory school in Birmingham, and Sister Island at the Queen Elizabeth nursing home, also in Birmingham. The young Walters wanted to act, and didn’t want to be a nurse, and these two were the reason. “Sister Patrick was very, very frightening,” trills Waters. “She was 6ft and obviously menopausal and Irish. We had miming class on a Friday afternoon. One week I mimed this gossiping housewife-type thing. And she hooted with laughter and I will never forget the power. We were all terrified of her, and she said, ‘You should go on the stage’. And every week she would say, ‘Julie, come on’ and I’d do some other thing, and that was it.”

    The words of this nun are declaimed, obviously, in a strident Irish accent. Think Charlton Heston playing Moses as a menopausal Irish nun, Walters has many accents. In our hour in this room in the Soho Hotel, she does Irish nuns, her Irish mother, American talk-show hosts and Michael Caine. She also has an accent that she uses only to do impressions of herself. The usual Walters is comedy Birmingham. Walters on Walters is more nasal, stretched out and parodical. Julie plays Julie as a clown.

    “I was the little, funny one,” she says of her schooldays. “I felt I was the child among grown women.” She says something similar about being on the set of ‘Mamma Mia!’, playing the quirky friend of Meryl Streep and Christine Baranski. “I was very aware of their cool American accents,” she says. “And I’d hear mine, a bit sort of Midlands. And I’d think, oh no. Should I be American as well?”

    Actually, in ‘Mamma Mia!’, Julie plays Julie. It is the publicity drive for the film that brings us together. Julie dressed down is Julie dressed up; stylish clobber and funky, highlighted hair. ‘Mamma Mia!’ is a glorious riot of colour and song and, in my view, is going to be a hit.

    Walters hasn’t seen it yet but says it was a lot of fun to make. “At first I was intimidated meeting Meryl,” she says. “I was sort of scared. I can’t think of many others I’d be like that with. I certainly wasn’t with Pierce Brosnan. I was all, ‘Cooo-eee! Pierce!’. But it passed. We shot loads of early scenes in Greece and by then we’d all been out and got drunk and had meals and been wild together. She’s very unstarry, Meryl, once you know her.”

    Streep, Baranski and Walters are a triumph, downing ouzo, leering at men and attempting to relive their supposed past (as a girl band called Donna and the Dynamos) in a manner that stays just the right side of grotesque. Walters cackles at the memory. “We said this is probably the last time we’ll ever get parts like this, where you can be a bit pretty and can actually pull a bloke. We’re all knocking 60. It gets a bit ooon-seeem-illy.”

    How is it that Walters has managed to remain one of us as opposed to one of them? From ‘Educating Rita’ (1983), through ‘Buster’ (1988) and up to ‘Billy Elliot’ (2000), ‘Calendar Girls’ (2003) and ‘Harry Potter’ (ongoing) she has always been the human touch. She’s British to the core, but in a different way from Judi Dench or Helena Bonham Carter. Is it just a class thing? Why is she so adored?

    “Oooh,” she says. “You’re embarrassing me. I’m getting a hot flush. I dunno. People do feel they know me. They come up to me and talk to me in the street in a manner they wouldn’t do with other actors. It’s the parts that I play, partly. And maybe there is something in me that wants that. I don’t like to feel remote from people. I like people.”

    Walters is 58 now and she has been acting, more or less continuously, since the age of 19. Expelled from school at the end of her second-last year, apparently for being generally indolent, she told her mother that she had left voluntarily because she wanted to be a nurse. So, she ended up training at the Queen Elizabeth nursing home. That was where she met Sister Island. The nurse. “She was on my ward,” says Walters, still with a trace of pleading in her voice. “She was 67 and she had never moved from the nursing home. I remember thinking (accent): “This is a sign. I’ll be here for ever…’ Seeing your name indelibly printed on your laundry bag, stuff like that. I was too immature. Too lacking in confidence. So I got out of it after the intermediary exams.”

    Not so easy to do. Walters recalls both of her brothers and her father having to stand between her and her mother when she broke the news in the family kitchen. “’Oh great God, what have I reared?’ ” she trills, Irishly. “She was just frightened. It’s not like there were actors in the family. She’d come from Ireland. She had this thing that, ‘You’ve got to succeed otherwise we’ll starve’ When I had a pension, she came around.”

    Theatre came first, and then a spot of television. Then, at what by today’s standards would be the relatively veteran age of 33, she landed her first film role, in ‘Educating Rita’ with Michael Caine. She played Rita, the aspirational housewife who demands an education.

    After ‘Educating Rita’, in a sense, came Educating Julie. “Michael took me to loads of places,” she chuckles. “He’d point out famous people. I’ll never forget him taking me to Elaine’s, in New York. We’d be sitting in the corner and he’d nod and say (accent): “There’s Henry Mancini. ‘Moon River.’ I needed the toilet, and he said, ‘Turn left at Woody Allen’. They have all these pictures on the wall. I was looking out for one of them, then I fell over Woody Allen’s legs. Actually him! Woody Allen! It was very … sweet.”

    A short stint in Los Angeles followed. She appeared on chat shows, and was offered a contract with Disney, but opted to return home. “They didn’t really know what to do with me,” she says. “They were all ‘Ooh, luvaduck’ sorts of parts, or romantic comedies with no substance. And the writing back here was so good. Hollywood is all about escape, whereas Europe is about let’s have a look underneath. Well, except for ‘Mamma Mia!’”

    Walters meet her husband, Grant Roffey, in a bar “full of Hooray Henrys” in the mid-1980s by asking, in a loud voice, “is anybody here a member of the Labour Party?” He was with the AA at the time. They now have a 20-year-old daughter called Maisie, and he runs the couple’s organic farm in Sussex. You can buy Roffey’s sausages, often from the man himself, at Twickenham market. Farming, says Walters, is not an easy life. “Blue tongue!” she says. “Soil Association. Fill in this form, that form, there’s always something.”

    They have cows, sheep and pigs, and their 1,000 chickens, she says, are properly free range. “People say free range,” she sneers.

    The farm also offers privacy, with woods she can walk in, and a two-mile track to the nearest road. “My husband says to me, your shoulders drop on holiday, once we get into France,” she says. “I remember Michael saying, ‘Rich and famous? It’s much better to be just rich’.” I didn’t quite get it to begin with. But he’s right. You lose anonymity. I say to my family that you’ve no idea until you lose it how precious anonymity is.”

    Walters sounds anxious when she speaks like this. You sense that she doesn’t like to speak ill of her fans in case they go away. There is an autobiography coming out at the end of this year. Walters is agonising. She doesn’t want to be nasty, but she doesn’t want to be dull. She’s going to mention Sister and Sister, the nun and the nurse.

    Post ‘Mamma Mia!’ we can expect to see Walters in the remaining Harry Potter films, in which she plays Ron Weasley’s mother. She speaks of al the young Potter stars, specially Rupert Grint, with real fondness. Daniel Radcliffe, she reckons, will probably end up directing. ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ is due out this year, and the next two, both based on the final book, are yet to be filmed. “I’m in them loads!” says Walters, and her eyes narrow. Then she does a new accent, which is basically herself, but evil. “I think I have to kill Helena Bonham Carter,” she says. Then she cackles again, like your favourite witchy aunt.

    “Mamma Mia!’ is out on July 10.

    WATCH Pierce Brosnan discuss crooning on camera and the terror of singing in front of Benny and Björn at timesonline.co.uk/film

    The Times (UK) – Thursday, 3 July 2008 (times2 Page 7)

    MICHAEL SIMKINS: We had the time of our lives 387 shows (and a power cut)

    My agent had called, back in 2000. ”You’ve got an audition for a new musical,” he said. “Twenty-five of ABBA’s greatest hits shoehorned into a new story about a woman running a bar on a Greek island.” We tittered privately at such a ludicrous idea.

    Boy, were we wrong. There are few sensations in life more wonderful than striding out on a stage dressed in gold spandex to a couple of thousand ecstatic fans. During my stint in the production (as one of the possible dad’s) I did 387 performances (it would have been 388 had Westminster Council not drilled through power cables one evening, thus throwing the stage into darkness). But even on Friday matinee in darkest November to auditoriums full of uncomprehending German businessmen, the show never failed to work its magic.

    The Littlestar management are legendary, in a business not always noted for its philanthropy, for looking after their actors, a commitment that has been repaid in that it is known as one of the best gigs in the West End. They also throw great parties, usually with a free bar, always a useful tool in keeping the troops happy.

    Of the original group, Björn, Benny and Frida all joined us on stage on various occasions, each time to an ovation that could have been heard back in Sweden. Heady days.

    Watching Pierce Brosnan playing my part in the movie reminded me how different life could have been if I’d ever got a shot at ‘Remington Steele’. As the old theatrical saying goes, it’s not enough that you succeed – your rivals also have to fail; but Brosnan was having none of it, with a nice understated quality to his portrayal, and looking a million dollars, damn him.

    In fact the film cast are obviously having as much fun as we all did. Or, to quote a well-known lyric, they’re having the time of their lives…

    The Weekly Telegraph (UK) – Wednesday 9 July-Tuesday 15 July 2008 (Page 24)

    DANCING QUEEN MERYL

    Meryl the singing and dancing queen: Meryl Streep couldn’t resist the lead role in a film version of the stage show Mamma Mia! John Hiscock met her in Greece

    Meryl Streep has written only one fan letter in her life, but it landed her what she calls her “dream role”. The Oscar-winning actress was moved to write to the cast of the musical ’Mamma Mia!’ shortly after it opened on Broadway to thank them for bringing joy to New York in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

    She had taken her 10-year-old daughter and some of her friends to the new show in 2001 to take their minds off the tragedy. “We left floating on air,” she recalls.

    “We were so elated. It couldn’t have been a better tonic for the city and I wrote the cast a note thanking them for the music and what they gave us because it was something that meant a lot at that point. It was a gift not just to my little girl and her dispirited friends but it was a gift to the whole city.

    “I never imagined the cast would make copies of the letter and send it to England and everybody would have it on their refrigerators, which I was told much later is what happened.”

    Her role was not forgotten, and seven years later director Phyllida Lloyd, producer Judy Craymer and writer Catherine Johnson, contacted her when they were casting the movie version of the show and asked her to portray Donna, the owner of a Greek island hotel who is confronted by three former lovers on the eve of her daughter’s wedding.

    “I just about died,” says Streep. “I kept saying, “Are you sure you want me, because I’m not the likeliest choice, you know.’ But I was thrilled because I love the music and it meant a lot to me.”

    Streep is talking in a private bungalow at a resort hotel on the outskirts of Athens. She has an infectiously naughty laugh, is totally unpretentious and seems refreshingly normal. An electric fan, placed by an attentive publicist, whirrs beside her, and outside the patio doors, the Aegean Sea, which plays a large part in the film, glistens in the hot midday sun.

    Her co-stars, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård, who play her former lovers, and Amanda Seyfried, who plays her daughter, had earlier joined her for some promotional photographs and interviews. They were all clearly enjoying their reunion and separately they all insisted they had never had more fun on a film set.

    Streep took opera singing lessons as a child and had previously sung in the movies ‘Postcards From The Edge’ and ‘A Prairie Home Companion’, and ‘Mamma Mia!’ allows her to give full rein to her singing and dancing talents, although she admits the dancing presented some problems.

    “The singing and dancing was just like being invited to play every day, and even when I couldn’t dance as well as I wanted to, I could justify it by saying, well, Donna’s not a dancer, she’s running a hotel,” she laughs.

    “When I was in high school I started doing musicals so it was like a dream come true to do it again. It was so much fun. I knew that nobody was ever going to ask me to do this again, so I savoured every day.

    “Wearing those overalls for four months was a bit of a trial and the platform shoes and the spandex jumpsuit that took seven men to get me into – that was painful, but it was fun to dress up in those silly clothes. There’s a freedom of expression that women of my age are not normally asked to portray, so it was wonderful to have that musical, physical and emotional opportunity to release everything in one character.”

    Streep, 59, who grew up listening to Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, the Beatles and ABBA, worked closely with the ABBA stars Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, who composed all the quartet’s songs, dating back to their first hit, ‘Waterloo’ which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974.

    The two men, who have since composed the musical ‘Chess’ together, were initially reluctant for their songs to be used in a musical. But producer Craymer persisted, and they finally agreed on conditions that the story was strong enough to carry the songs.

    Johnson came up with the story of a single mother who invites three of her mother’s ex-boyfriends to her wedding, hoping to find out which one is her father. The musical made its debut on the London stage in April 1999 and since then has become a global phenomenon. More than 30 million people have seen it and it takes in £4 million a week around the world.

    The other two ABBA members, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog, who had both married and divorced Andersson and Ulvaeus respectively, are not involved in the stage productions or film because the songs are solely Andersson’s and Ulvaeus as well as the late Stig Anderson’s, but they have both given their approval to the projects, according to Andersson.

    Craymer teamed up with Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson to produce the £35 million film version which was shot mainly at Pinewood studios with four weeks of location filming on the Greek islands of Skopelos and Skiathos and on the mainland.

    When it came to singing the ABBA hits ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Voulez-Vous’ and ‘The Winner Takes It All’, Streep discovered that the lyrics were trickier than she had expected. “I thought I knew every ABBA song that was ever written but the lyrics are very specific and the littlest thing can catch you out,” she said.

    “Everybody thinks they know all the words to ‘Dancing Queen’ but then they find they don’t. But Benny was very generous with us all and we recorded ‘Dancing Queen’ in Stockholm and, oh gosh, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

    “There we were in the recording studio where ABBA had recorded the song in the 1970s and I was standing at the same microphone that Agnetha had used and I swear to God no one had changed the shag carpet from the 1970s.”

    Unlike some Hollywood stars, Streep is no fitness fanatic and does not have an exercise schedule, but she went into training for three weeks before filming began because the role was physically, as well as vocally, demanding.

    The script called for her to scale the side of a 40ft building and sing ‘Mamma Mia!’ while balancing on a rooftop, and she had to sing ‘Dancing Queen’ while sliding down banisters, jumping off a jetty and into the sea.

    “I was told I was going to climb up the goat-house wall while singing ‘Mamma Mia’, she recalls.

    “I thought, ‘How big could a goat-house be?’ It turned out to be a sheer wall and I was doing a Spider-Man up it.” The story of Sophie’s determination to find the identity of her father before she gets married strikes a chord with Streep, who has three daughters and a son with her husband, a sculptor Donald Gummer, to whom she has been married for 30 years.

    “I think about them getting married a lot and it’s very emotional,” she says. “I just hope when the time comes I don’t weep through it, because it’s such a gigantic step and you realise that more when you’re a mother than when you’re the bride.”

    Streep was due to fly on to London for the film’s premiere before returning to her home in New York.

    She has just finished portraying Julia Childs in the film ‘Julia and Julia’ and she has a long list of projects lined up. With 14 Oscar nominations and two wins, she can pick and choose her roles to fit in with her family life and she counts her blessings.

    “As time goes on I’m just more grateful to be alive,” she says. “I have so many friends who have been ill and I’m really grateful for everything I’ve been given, and I’ve been given a great deal.”

    ‘Mamma Mia!’ opens in the UK this week.

    Photo: ABBA fan Meryl Streep: “The singing and dancing was just like being invited to play everyday.”

    The Newcastle Herald (NSW) – Friday, 11 July 2008 (Page 12)

    Small Talk

    A grey, Wintry Melbourne night forced super troupers Meryl Streep and Colin Firth into a sprint along the red carpet at the Australian premiere of their ABBA songs-inspired musical film, ‘Mamma Mia!’ on Wednesday night. Thousands of fans clambered for a glimpse of the red carpet arrivals at the premiere at the Melbourne Central shopping centre in the city. Academy Award-winner Meryl Streep, who breezed by the media and fans lining the red carpet, said she could not nominate a favourite ABBA song. “I don’t have a favourite. I love them all,” she said, lingering on the final words as she strode.

    Sunday Tasmanian – 13 July 2008 (Page 13)

    SUNDAY MOVIES

    Mamma Mia! is saved by its ABBA songs

    Mamma Mia! – Score: 3 out of 5 stars
    Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård
    Now Showing: Village Cinemas

    Sophie’s wedding is only a day away and to help her celebrate her best friends have arrived on the beautiful Greek island where Sophie has grown up under the watchful eye of her single mother Donna.

    But it is not her friends Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is most desperate to see. Sophie has never known who her father is and this has always felt like a great hole in her life.

    Then she found Donna’s diary and discovered that instead of just one, she has three potential fathers. Unknown to Donna (Meryl Streep), Sophie has written to Sam, Harry and Bill (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) to invite them all to the wedding. Sophie’s plan is to discover which one of the trio is her father so she can get him to walk her down the isle.

    Given that Donna has cut all three men out of her life and would be distraught if Sophie knew about them, Sophie has to try to keep her three fathers secret until the surprise of the big moment.

    Adding to the mix is that in her youth Donna was lead singer in a girl group and to round off the wedding party she has invited her best friends and former band mates Rosie and Tanya (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski) to the wedding as well.

    Such is the basic plot of ‘Mamma Mia’ but, as the title suggests, the story is only the thin frame on which to hang a massive body of ABBA songs.

    If the songs and music of the 1970s Swedish super group have never done anything for you, ‘Mamma Mia! will definitely not be the movie to see. But I suspect you will be in the tiny minority.

    The audience at the preview screening I attended looked like a pretty good cross-section of Australia. Gay, straight, young, old and from a broad range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, they all just loved it.

    Another group who may have some problems with ‘mamma Mia!’ are dedicated movie lovers.

    ‘Mamma Mia!’ started out, and continues, as an enormously successful stage show. Phyllida Lloyd, one of the directors of that show, has been given directorial duties for the movie.

    This is a shame because Lloyd demonstrates little ability in movie direction and understanding of cinema language.

    But because of the bullet-proof nature of ABBA’s songs, the movie manages to remain fun.

    While Streep, in particular, and Seyfried handle their songs with ease, the music even manages to survive – only just – the vocal mangling of Brosnan.

    SD

    The Times (London) – Monday, 14 July 2008 (Page 22)

    OPINION

    These dancing queens can be high art too

    If you don’t get the point of Mamma Mia! you are blind to the fact that greatness can also be accessible. By Melanie Reid

    Meryl Streep is one of the most cerebral film actors alive; a professional of effortless intellectual calibre. A true measure of her greatness is that she does not feel remotely threatened by taking accessible or entertaining roles.

    Hence the pleasing story of how the queen of intelligent movies came to be involved in ‘Mamma Mia!’, the new film based on the musical, in turn based on ABBA songs – which opened four days ago and which, if it does not quite infect the world at the speed of Spanish flu, will probably be experienced by as many millions.

    It was in the dreadful days just after 9/11, Streep explained to BBC Radio 4, that she decided to take her daughter and friends to see ‘Mamma Mia!’ the musical to cheer them up. By halfway through they were seduced – stomping and cheering along with the rest of the audience. Afterwards Streep, thrilled at how the evening had worked such life-enhancing magic on sad families, wrote a fan letter to the cast. And, such is the way of these things, when they came to make the film version, they asked the great one if she would play the lead role. She agreed.

    The result is an uninhibited, fun, cheesy, hugely tongue-in-cheek women’s film that has, as few others have done, parted the critics like the Red Sea. The highest-browed men, poor things, entirely missing the irony, have struggled to cope with Streep in a popular role, or to find words hate-filled enough to describe the result: “absolute cack”; “silliness unredeemed by wit or polish”; “super pooper…soulless panto”; “hideous…a crock of hooey”; “Streep meets her Waterloo”. My colleague James Christopher, the ‘Times’ film critic referred to “Hollywood blancmange” and said that the “sight of a Greek conga of local scrubbers vamping to ‘Dancing Queen’ on a wobbly wooden pier is a truly terrifying spectacle.”

    And there was me thinking what fun it would be if I was part of it.

    Never have the posh male critics been marooned higher or drier. They have missed the joke, you see. Almost everyone else in the world, it seems – especially women – got it. People love this movie despite its flaws. They love that it celebrates middle-aged women; that it laughs at itself continuously; that it is shamelessly silly and heart-warming.

    The city centre audience with me on Friday night cheered, laughed and clapped; when I got home, even the erudite guests on ‘Newsnight Review’ proclaimed it as an entirely new genre of post-post-postmodern ironic cinema, describing it as perniciously effective, and confessing that they loved it too. All of which is proof, were proof needed, that few mortals can withstand the power of the music of ABBA, which is the pumping heart of ‘Mamma Mia!’ and remains the most phenomenally enduring back catalogue of pop music in the world: the soundtrack, in fact, to the lives of most of us.

    There is brilliance here – classical craftsmanship of a level that has proved itself again and again. ABBA are not the Beatles, but only because they are, in many ways, bigger and better. But there is something more going on here than a critical schism over a cheesy movie; it is an authentic question about the time that it takes great popular culture to be recognised as real art – and the prejudice that persists over it even then. Are we so blind that we cannot see the greatness – and cleverness – in accessible entertainment? Why can’t we be confident enough to ignore the snobbery that decrees anything with mass appeal (apart from football) is simply awful?

    Matthew Parris put his finger on it acutely on these pages last week when he saluted the brilliance of Dolly Parton, a singer sneered at for years at some kind of ridiculous hick.

    Instead, as he so rightly pointed out, she is a hugely talented artist (and a rather wonderful person too, I think) whose voice had the power to move him to tears. Forget the kitsch – Parton is a singer with immense, life-enhancing power whose art bears comparison with the great opera performances. But it has taken a 20-year time lag for us to realise this. Twenty years of snobbery and condescension.

    Who rated ABBA 25 years ago? Few people that I knew. They preferred Tom Waites. Enjoying anything as easy or as sentimental as ABBA meant that you had to join the masses; you were not part of an elite. And so, to appear cool, we pretended to despite some of the best music written. But the music endured, and its rhythms and combination of sad lyrics and uplifting tunes – lyricist Tim Rice calls true genius – has proved us all wrong. This is not dumbing down. This is remembering that the true purpose of art should be to entertain, not to prop up some kind of exclusive club. One is not stupid or compromised if one is uplifted by popular music or drama; nor should one be cowardly in admitting it.

    Had Shakespeare or Joyce or Dickens or Puccini been sitting in Cineworld with me watching ‘Mamma Mia!’, they would have nodded thunderously with approval and left the cinema muttering: “I want a piece of that.” Had Ibsen been there, he would have been up on his seat applauding Streep for empowering middle-aged women. Which other stars and artists, once sneered at, will be recognised as true cultural classics? It’s already started with Ian Fleming, once derided as a writer of pulp fiction, now recognised as one of the best novelists of the past 50 years.

    Here are a few more suggestions. Simon Cowell, a genius of entertainment, and his whole ‘Pop Idol’ genre. Robbie Wiliams, whose ‘Angels’ will feature in singalongs in old folks’ homes for the next two centuries. Elton John. ‘Coronation Street’, future course material for sociology undergraduates. ‘Friends’, ditto for its portrayal of a terminally narcissistic society. Katie Price, aka the model Jordan, the closest we have to a modern day Wife of Bath.

    For Meryl Streep is right. In a world so crippled by anxiety about how we should live our lives and uncertainty about where we are going, there is no shame, and much benefit in simple, unpretentious fun.

    Photo: As Meryl Sreeep knows, there is no shame in simple, unpretentious fun.

    Illawarra Mercury – Thursday, 17 July 2008 (Page 32)

    Mamma Mia! (PG) – Score: 4 out of 5 stars

    Thank you for the music. By Ilsa Cunningham

    Screening: Greater Union Wollongong and Shellharbour, Hoyts Warrawong, Gala Warrawong, Roxy Nowra

    This colourful, feel-good romantic comedy is the perfect pick-me-up.

    ‘Mamma Mia!’ is bursting with fun, humour and energy, and is sure to get the feet tapping.

    The movie is based on the popular stage show musical inspired by the songs of ABBA.

    Little is changed with old favourites like ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Super Trouper’ and ‘S.O.S.’ staying true to the original takes.

    Told through song, dance and dialogue, the story concerns 20-year-old bride-to-be Sophie who wants to find out who her father is. Sophie secretly invites her single mum Donna’s past three lovers to her wedding hoping one will give her away.

    It’s a special movie that brings a smile to your face almost the entire way through.

    When you’re not laughing at the one-liners and silly antics of Donna, you’re laughing at her good friends, her former backing singers from her act Donna and the Dynamos. There’s practical Rosie and multi-divorcee Tanya who add plenty of zest to the dancing and singing.

    While the singing could have been better – Seyfried and Streep were yards ahead of the limited range of Brosnan, Firth and Skarsgård – you make allowances. Very few singers have been able to reach the multi-octave range of ABBA singers Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog.

    A movie jam-packed with ABBA’s biggest hits could easily have become tedious, but director Phyllida Lloyd ensures this doesn’t occur. She skilfully merges song with dialogue, adeptly enacted by the actors. Each lead character was well-played, Streep a stand-out.

    Her performance was captivating – the energy and passion that lit up her face and sparkled from her whole being ensured she nailed whatever emotion she portrayed.

    A highlight was the ‘Dancing Queen’ number where Streep jumps in the air and touches her toes while having a laugh with her Elvis impersonating, banister-sliding friends.

    The trio call the village women to arms to release their inner dancing queens by the wharf’s sparkling azure waters.

    The attention paid to detail also added great atmosphere to the film.

    The greenery and turquoise waters of the Greek island enhanced the vibrancy of the movie, and glowing lanterns and scattered flower petals added to the romanticism.

    Although light and loads of fun, there’s also some underlying messages about being true to yourself, the bond between mothers and daughters, and the changing face of family, which are subtly interwoven into the script.

    Photo: Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep and Julie Walters make a great team in the lively and entertaining ‘Mamma Mia!’

    The Sunday Times – 20 July 2008 (Page 14)

    Focus

    What links a cheesy musical, lipstick and a pickled cow?

    The success of ‘Mamma Mia!’, a rise in cosmetics sales and a flowering of the arts are just a few of the upsides of a downturn, reports Richard Woods

    Sit back, let the lights dim and forget the recession. Feel the soundtrack bathe away your sub-prime worries, fuel fears and negative equity nightmares. Escape instead to the poptastic tune of:

    ‘I have a dream, a song to sing,
    To help me cope with anything.’

    Yep, the super-troupers of ABBA are once again riding to our rescue in times of trouble. People are flocking to see the film ‘Mamma Mia!’, based on the band’s music. Among those seeking the feelgood factor at the Vue cinema in Finchley, North London, last week were Richard and Maria Collins.

    “We hardly ever go to the cinema,” said Richard. “But when you are feeling the pinch, its an uplifting thing to do, and its an enjoyable film. Compared to going on holiday, its good value for money.”

    Maddy Cullen, a shop worker, felt the same way. “We’re suffering the effects of the credit crunch at work…I’ll be going to the cinema lots this Summer, it’s fun and cheap.”

    The ABBA economic index, a little-known financial measure with an uncanny correlation to tough times, is on the up again. It first entered a bull phase in the mid-1970s, when the band rocketed to stardom amid the three-day week and raging inflation. Britain was an economic basketcase, yet we couldn’t get enough of ‘Waterloo’, ‘Fernando’, and ‘Dancing Queen’.

    When the recession struck in the early 1990s, where did we seek solace? In ‘ABBA Gold-Greatest Hits’, which was released in 1992. It topped the UK charts.

    Now ‘Mamma Mia!’, here we go again. While banks are disappearing up their own collatoralised debt obligations, the latest ABBA-fest will help Hollywood defy the recessionary gloom. The film factory’s box office take for June was up 17.3% over the same month last year.

    “The cinema business tends to do very well during challenging economic times,” said John Fithian of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “We always need good movies to do well. But history shows that the industry is recession-resistant.”

    In most recent downturns, Hollywood revenues and cinema attendances have risen. Reinforcing the point, ‘Mamma Mia!-The Movie’ Soundtrack was last week ranked second in Amazon’s top 10 albums and ‘ABBA Gold’ was number eight.

    Other sectors such as camping, home cooking and affordable luxuries such as cosmetics are also faring well as boom turns to bust. Inside every downturn, it seems, is an upside waiting to get out.

    Nobody denies that failing employment and house prices hit hard, nor that the turmoil in the financial system could get a lot worse. However, contrary to many headlines, there are slivers of light amid the gloom. Economists, a gloomy breed at the moment, admit that a downturn can have benefits, at least for some people. “It’s certainly not the case that every company in the whole economy is going to do badly,” said Paul Dales of Capital Economics, the consultancy firm. “We have seen anecdotal evidence that supermarkets such as Asda, Aldi and Lidl are doing well.

    “I was in Pizza Express recently and it was jam-packed: if people start feeling the pinch, they don’t stop going out entirely, they go to what might be deemed more reasonable areas.

    “There are other good things. The fall in house prices is generally seen as a bad thing – but it’s only bad for people who own a home.” In many ways, it’s only bad for those who want to sell a home. “It’s certainly not bad for those who want to buy.”

    Tough times in the property market can also open up unexpected opportunities, as the late 1980s demonstrated. It was in empty office space in the East End of London that young artists held the Freeze exhibition that set Damien Hirst with his pickled animals on the road to stardom.

    Indeed, recessions often bring a flowering of the arts. Jazz prospered in America in the Great Depression of the 1930s as people stayed in and listened to their radios. That period also saw the rise of the movie musical. The chorus girls may have sung “We’re in the money” in Gold Diggers of 1933, but they certainly weren’t.

    Our health and that of the environment can also benefit from the squeeze. According to recent studies by Lightspeed Research, 6% of people are driving less because of higher fuel prices and 14% are flying less. As well as being good for the environment, less traffic on the roads means quicker commutes.

    We are also cycling more and holidaying closer to home, thus keeping our spending in Britain. Among people who have changed their holiday plans this year, 20% have cancelled altogether, 34% have switched to a cheaper option and 34% are staying in the UK, according to Lightspeed.

    Riding the Hawaiian waves may be out this Summer, but we are rediscovering the simpler pleasures of camping. Last week Blacks Leisure revealed a slide in sales of surfing and snowboarding gear, but healthy sales of camping equipment.

    “Camping is really strong at the moment because of the economic slowdown,” said Neil Gillis, the chief executive. “A lot of people are switching from Europe to the UK for their holidays.” Bookings at UK campsites are up about 10%.

    Matthew Harris, a 34-year-old anaesthetist from Birmingham, is among the happy campers. “Rather than the usual European getaway, we all went on a camping trip with the family and some friends in the British Isles instead. It was only a couple of pounds per night per person and it’s a great family activity. The kids love the outdoors.”

    Harris has adopted a similar attitude at home. “I do a lot more home cooking from scratch rather than cooking from packs or getting takeaways, which are probably more expensive than they should be. It is a good way to spend an evening, is relaxing and you can make it into a social activity.”

    The flipside of cutting back on nights out and creating one’s own entertainment at home is a return to a healthier family life and more engagement with your children. And, as some US bloggers have pointed out, for couples looking for free entertainment there’s always sex. Watch out for signs of a baby boom in the next nine months.

    While we may give up big ticket extravagances, we often compensate with smaller luxuries. The “lipstick test” is one reflection of hard times: if sales of lipstick and similar items go up, say some financial experts, it’s an indicator of recession. Sure enough, sales at the cosmetic firm L’Oréal were £3.4 billion in the first quarter of 2008, well ahead of the same period last year.

    Another area where simple pleasures are being revived is children’s toys. Hamleys reported yesterday that its sales of wooden toys, teddy bears and spinning tops are up. “With all kinds of negative news, people are moving towards buying things that last longer,” said Keane Herman, operations management of the London toy store.

    Ties are also in demand, apparently because executives are smartening up in the hope of hanging on to their jobs. At the same time they are rediscovering frugality in their expense accounts. Despite the downturn, low-cost operators such as Travelodge and Premier Inn are adding thousands of rooms.

    In business, other winners include insolvency experts, vulture funds gobbling up assets on the cheap and “short sellers” betting on share prices going down. Divorce lawyers may also do well.

    In the US the credit crunch is being blamed for a rising number of trophy wives dumping husbands whose wealth is plummeting. Raoul Felder, a top divorce lawyer, has seen his firm’s business jump by 20%.

    As one leading UK lawyer put it: “The trophy wives who married for money are starting to cash in their chips. When money looks like flying out the window, love walks out the door.” And for the divorce lawyers, the fees walk in.

    To some observers the biggest potential upside of the downturn is cultural. After years of cheap credit, we know the price of everything and the value of nothing – and a correction would be no bad thing.

    “People have been spending what they don’t have,” said Dr Joan Harvey, a psychologist with an interest in economic behaviour. “They’ve lost sight of the longer term.” We are not born with a natural grasp of the idea that it can often be better to save first and get rewards later. Harvey cites research that shows if you offer a child one sweet now or three later, they will tend to take the first option.

    Rethinking the instant gratification of the boom years is wise, she says. “People of my age were brought up with the idea that you don’t spend what you don’t have,” she said. “But the idea that you save up for something has gone. It might be a good thing if a recession brings it back.”

    In the US one unexpected upside of the downturn has been a sharp reduction in junk mail, especially from credit card companies. In Britain there’s not much sign of delayed gratification yet, judging by recent figures for high-stress sales that were surprisingly buoyant. We are being much more discriminating about what we buy, however, forcing retailers to cut prices and increase special offers. Last week Marks & Spencer was offering a man’s suit for £24.

    Ultimately such retrenchment in the economy will add to the existing woes of City bankers and financiers. In its own way that may deliver – in many consumers’ eyes – another upside of the downturn.

    As one victim of the credit crunch said: “Look on the bright side. This year the bonuses of City bankers are going to be a lot lower. Which is no bad thing, since they’re the ones who got us into this mess in the first place.”

    Photo: The Abba Ecomonic Index

  2. Samuel Inglles Says:

    The Weekly Telegraph (UK) – Wednesday 23 July-Tuesday 29 July 2008 (Page 29)

    End Column

    9 Things you didn’t know about ABBA. By Craig Brown (Way of the world)

    1) When they started, the four members – Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog – had the brilliant idea of creating a name for the group by combining their four initials into an acronym. After five years LUAF had still failed to catch on, so they went back to the drawing-board and used their Christian names rather than their surnames. However, early attempts – they toured for four months as AABB – were to prove equally unsatisfactory.

    2) ABBA first shot to worldwide fame when they won the Eurovision Song Contest in April, 1974 with ‘Waterloo’. “We knew if we had any chance of winning we had to write a song about a major London rail terminal,” recalls Björn Ulvaeus. “So we had a go with everything – St Pancras, King’s Cross, Euston, London Bridge, Paddington, even Fenchurch Street. But, try as we might, we couldn’t make any of them rhyme with: ‘Couldn’t escape if I wanted to’.

    “Then, with only three minutes before we took to the stage, someone suddenly came into our dressing room brandishing a ticket and said, ‘Hey Björn – do you want to go to Waterloo?’ and all our prayers had been answered.”

    3) Björn and Benny have never been photographed together, leading many to believe that they are, in fact, the same person. But some forensic scientists argue that if you study their pictures carefully, Björn has his hair parted to the left and Benny has his parted to the right.

    4) Though two members of the group were once married and underwent a painful divorce, even the four members of the group now cannot remember who was married to whom. There are four key possibilities: either a) Benny being married to Anni-Frid, or b) Benny being married to Agnetha, or c) Björn being married to Anni-Frid or d) Björn being married to Agnetha. Needless to say, each faction has its own supporters, and the controversy came to a heated climax with a two-day debate on the subject in the Swedish parliament earlier this year. On a trip to Stockholm in 2003, British revisionist historian David Irving was sentenced to two years in prison for arguing a clandestine meeting that Björn had once been married to Benny.

    5) Björn Ulvaeus is just under five foot tall in his platform boots. He is said to wear a beard, under the impression that it lends him height.

    He will only ever be photographed with small celebrities: luckily the late Queen Mother was his biggest fan. After a raucous night at Glamis Castle, he wrote ‘Dancing Queen’ especially for her.

    6) Hearing that ABBA was a group made up entirely of Swedes, leading pop svengali Simon Cowell hit upon the idea of forming a rival group made up entirely of turnips. The group reached number 34 in the charts in May 1975, but disbanded soon after.

    7) It is estimated that 18 per cent of all marital breakups worldwide have occurred while ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ was playing in the background. “As a tune, it is so particularly irritating that it has caused even the strongest marriages to crack,” says leading socio-psychologist Professor Hans Grudellmeir from the Institute of Domestic Strife in Oslo. In controlled experiments conducted at the Institute, 50 happily-married couples were placed in a closed room and forced to listen to ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’. Before the music had stopped, six of the couples were screaming abuse at one another, six were in tears and a further two had already made appointments with local divorce lawyers.

    8) Björn and Benny first achieved prominence in 1972, as leading characters in the number 1 hit ‘The Smurf Song’ by Father Abraham. “I was walking along the main street in Amsterdam one day,” recalls Father Abraham, “and I saw these two – how you say? – ‘gee-zers’, and I thought to myself: ‘At last! I have found my Smurfs!” Björn and Benny acknowledge their debt. “Father Abraham is the true fifth member of ABBA,” they say.

    9) In ‘Chiquitita’, a desert village in New Mexico, a 200-strong religious cult of Abbastians occupy an abandoned farm, where they wear pudding-basin hairdos, dress in garish skintight silks and worship the god Fernando.

    Abbastian-weddings take place in groups of five couples, and are conducted according to their own unique liturgy. To the question, “Do you take this man…?” the synchronised answer comes: “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.”

    (Sam’s note: The above article is not to be taken seriously. The author is only joking with the information stated.)

    The Age (Melbourne) – Saturday, 26 July 2008 (Pages 12 & 13)

    TRAVELLER – Destination: Greece

    How can I resist you?

    Some fret that the hype over ‘Mamma Mia!’ will spoil the island of Skopelos. Paul Kalina says there’s no need to worry.

    Skopelos is receiving the kind of publicity money can’t buy. A Greek island in the northern Sporades group, it is the principal location for ‘Mamma Mia!’, the film version of the ABBA-inspired musical, starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper and Colin Firth.

    On the postcard-perfect waterfront of Skopelos Town, a café named in honour of the film has just opened. Its owner, a Greek-South African who has moved his family back to the island, is less worried about the onslaught of tourists predicted by Streep than with the apparent indifference of the locals to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by the film. Other than the Mamma Mia cafe and a couple of posters around the waterfront, there is no promotional campaign.

    Unlike Greece’s better-known islands, Skopelos has no airport, five-star resorts or Mykonos-style party scene. Its authenticity is what attracted the film’s producers, who spent a month filming there as well as on neighbouring Skiathos.

    “It’s a sentimental island,” says one of the cafe’s frappe drinkers. “It’s everything one imagines a Greek island to be.” When he goes to Skiathos, he comes away feeling it’s the real world”. He’s an Englishman who has been coming here with his wife for 15 years.

    Unlike many Greek islands, Skopelos is green rather than arid. It has agriculture – olive oil and world-famous white plums; its wine industry was wiped out by phylloxera in the 1940s – and enjoyed centuries of wealth from shipbuilding, trade and a merchant navy. There’s also a thriving craft and artisan scene, which includes pottery, jewellery and a model shipbuilder who receives worldwide commissions.

    The island’s permanent population is estimated to be 5000. The Summer tourist trade is mainly Greek, with a sprinkling of Britons and Scandinavians.

    Skopelos Town is a textbook island setting, with its half-moon harbour, taverna-lined waterfront, labyrinthine streets, Byzantine churches and geranium-filled balconies.

    In the heat of the day, it radiates the irresistible and seductive glow of the Aegean. At night, it’s filled with holidaymakers and locals eating at the restaurants, families parading on the paralia and the occasional pony plying the tourist trade. There are no cars in the lower old town and the narrow streets even manage to keep the kamikaze scooter drivers in check.

    The folklore museum in Skopelos is well worth a visit. It has a small but rich collection of costumes and furnishings and there are photos of the waterfront from the 1920s. What’s remarkable is how little it has changed.

    There are no addresses or street signs here, but it’s impossible to get lost. The biggest mistake one can make is to walk the same street twice. Wander off any of the main thoroughfares and you’re likely to stumble upon Byzantine churches, some tucked away in unlikely gaps between homes. (It’s estimated there are 150 churches in the town, though most presumably are private chapels built by the town’s well-to-do.)

    The whitewashed church of Panagitsa. You Pirgou rests on the hill at one end of the harbour, just beneath the remains of a 12th-century castle. The low wall on the church’s terrace is the place to watch the sun setting over the town. On the steep hills around the town is a handful of old monasteries that are open to the public. Entering Evagelismo Monastery, one of only two nuns still living here offers visitors a piece of loukoum (known elsewhere in the Mediterranean as Turkish delight). Built in 1712, the church is filled with beautiful icons and religious art.

    However, most travellers come to the island for the beaches and unexpected scenery. Most of the island is covered in dense pine forests, interrupted here and there by ancient olive groves and terraced orchards. The sought-after beaches are on the island’s western side, protected from the wind and with the best sunsets. Stafilos and the tiny Agnondas are a 10-minute bus ride from the ferry terminal in town but further on, at and beyond Panormos, lie some of the best beaches, including Kastani, used for several scenes in “Mamma Mia!’

    Further along, the road skirts inland through thick forests to the island’s second-largest town, Glossa, whose charm is somewhat more elusive than that of Skopelos Town. The road abruptly ends at the port of Loutraki, a sleepy village on the main ferry route where a handful of tavernas serve up honest fare at lunchtime at laughably modest prices.

    But if there’s one single landmark that ‘Mamma Mia!’ will put on the map, it’s the breathtaking monastery Agios Ioannis. Perched on top of a craggy promontory that looks like it’s about to topple into the sea, this tiny, whitewashed church is the setting of the film’s finale.

    Flick through the visitors’ book inside the church and you’ll find the signatures of several of the film’s actors, including Streep and Brosnan.

    In the film, Streep’s character sprints to the top of the monastery in full flight. It’s pure movie make-believe: the climb up the almost vertical staircase is arduous, particularly in the heat of a Summer afternoon, but worth every drop of sweat. A dip in the azure seas at one of the two tiny beaches that surround the monastery is suitable recompense for the climb.

    As a holiday destination, Skopelos has a laid-back attitude. Unlike the film, it doesn’t feel like it’s preparing for a Big Final Act. Its charm is unpolished, unrehearsed. Hopefully, not even an all-singing, all-dancing Hollywood musical can alter that.

    FAST FACTS
    Getting there:
    There will be at least one stop en route to Athens. Singapore Airlines flies with a change of aircraft in Singapore for $1670. The cheapest fare ($1300) is with Air France, flying Qantas to Hong Kong or Singapore and then Air France via Paris. (Fares are low-season return from Melbourne and Sydney, not including tax.) There is no direct ferry between Athens and Skopelos. There are hydrofoil services between Skopelos and Skiathos and the mainland cities of Volos and Agios Konstantinos. Take a bus – about 5½ hours, €61 ($100) – from Athens to Agios Konstantinos, then a hydrofoil to Skopelos. Or fly from Athens to Skiathos, then catch a hydrofoil to Skopelos.

    Photo: Aegean Abba…charming Skopelos Town. (Photo: Photolibrary)

    The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) – 24 August 2008 (Page 109)

    Music – Star Watch

    How swede it is as September reigns

    Perhaps there’s something in the water or maybe it’s just good timing, but there seems to be a special vibe right now running through the Swedish music scene.

    Stunning Stockholm blonde September – real name Petra Marklund – is the latest in a string of top-class dance-pop singers to emerge from Sweden in recent months.

    Other Swedes doing great things internationally include Emilia de Poret, Lykke Li and the more established Robyn, all of whom are well and truly putting the Scandinavian country back on the music map.

    “I think it’s time for some of us Swedish artists to spread out again,” September said from Stockholm. “Artists like ABBA and Roxette are very typical Swedish, so now we’re getting more of us out there.”

    Signed to Central Station Records in Australia, September took her stage name from the month of her birth.

    The 23-year-old is enjoying massive success internationally with her catchy dance track ‘Cry For You’, which has been in the UK singles charts for 15 weeks and recently reached number one on the US Billboard dance airplay charts.

    “I think in Sweden we’re developing the dance and electronic side of music very much,” she said.

    ‘Cry For You’ is the first single from September’s forthcoming self-titled album, which will be released on November 1. She is scheduled to tour Australia for the first time in October.

    Photo: Massive success – Swedish dance-pop singer September

    The Daily Telegraph – Thursday, 29 August 2008 (Page 3)

    Mamma Mia! goes karaoke

    ABBA fans have reason to sing, with a special karaoke edition of the hit film ‘Mamma Mia!’ about to arrive in Australian cinemas.

    Universal music yesterday announced that “due to overwhelming demand” a sing-a-long version of ‘Mamma Mia!’ The Movie with lyrics on screen, would be released in theatres so audiences could join in.

    The Weekend Australian– Saturday, 18-19 0ctober 2008 (Page 30)

    Review
    Movie: ‘MURIEL’S WEDDING’
    Saturday, 18th October 2008
    6:45 pm, Movie Greats

    Thankfully, Muriel is still gloriously terrible. By Ian Cuthbertson

    Before ‘Mamma Mia!’, the musical, and long before the film of the same name (2008), which starred Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, who gave all there was of their singing voices – and that wasn’t much – there was ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ (1994), which also flew on the wings of an ABBA revival.

    But, thankfully, there weren’t a lot of singing. Instead, this entirely charming film, which certainly has its joyfully mimed ABBA moments, brought more to the picture than the producers of the relentlessly feelgood ‘Mamma Mia!’ ever dreamed of.

    It also launched the career of director P.J. Hogan and made bankable stars of Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths. Where ‘Mamma Mia!’ seemed content merely to find excuses to write ABBA songs into its script and set performances of them against admittedly stunning Greek island backdrops, ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ has an actual story arc, with all its characters on journeys.

    The film has moments of real darkness, which make its lighter side all the more palatable.

    Small-town girl Muriel Heslop (Collette) just wants to be married. That she has never even had a boyfriend, as her bitchy pals, led by Tania Degano (Sophie Lee, in a ferociously bogan portrayal of suburban pulchritude) never tire of pointing out, does not deter her one whit.

    I suppose if someone as sophisticated as Joni Mitchell could sing in ‘Song for Sharon’ from 1990’s ‘Hejira’, “The ceremony of the bells and lace still veils this reckless fool here”, we can accept Muriel’s hungry suburban dream as representative.

    Thankfully, the film is not all wedding dresses and ABBA.

    Muriel’s dysfunctional family is a sad little group she desperately needs to escape.

    Her slothful but cheerful sister Joanie (Gabby Milgate) first mouths the film’s catchphrase “You’re terrible, Muriel”, which still turns up in the speech of Australians 14 years later. Muriel’s dad Bill (Bill Hunter) seems insightless and heartless, yet he is instantly recognisable. We know this guy, even if he’s not our dad. “You’re useless,” he tells his kids constantly, setting up ineradicable self-esteem issues.

    Finally, Muriel’s heartbreaking mother, Betty, played with great dignity by the wonderful Jeanie Drynan, is perhaps the saddest portrayal of the lost suburban mum to be found in our cinema.

    Griffiths, stunning as Muriel’s faithful friend Rhonda in the great face-off denouement with Tania, is equally mesmerising in the scenes following the tragedy that lands her in a wheelchair.

    Like ‘Kath & Kim’, there is something curiously and uniquely Australian about ‘Muriel’s Wedding’. And we really shouldn’t care whether or not the rest of the world can get anything out of either.

    The Australian Women’s Weekly– 0ctober 2008 (Pages 80 & 84)

    RACHEL GRIFFITHS

    “I’ve been lucky to have had success early on in my career,” Rachel explains. “I was 25 when I did ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ and the world told me I can act, and it was confirmation to keep the dream alive, so I’ve succeeded beyond my wildest expectations in terms of my dream of becoming an actor.” Today, the 39-year-old mum of two has an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe and two hit US TV series, ‘Six Feet Under’ and ‘Brothers & Sisters’, to her credit. Yet home is where the heart is, so that’s where Rachel’s headed. “I want my kids to grow up in Australia,” she says. “I really want them to know their cousins. That’s important to me.”

    TONI COLLETTE

    She may be an Oscar-nominated actress, accomplished singer and songwriter, and now, children’s author, but Toni never forgets that it was only 20 years ago, before her AFI-winning role in ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, that she was delivering pizzas.

    “I know how lucky I am,” she says. “I’m very lucky that I get to work in parts of the world that I would never travel to, when I have a lot of friends in Australia who don’t work very often.” It is this self-deprecating charm which ensures the 35-year-old mother of nine-month-old Sage Florence will not only remain one of the most respected actresses working today, but also one of the most liked.

    The Weekend Australian Magazine – Saturday, 1-2 November 2008 (Page 28)

    Mining ABBA Gold: This year’s hit film ‘Mamma Mia!’ has put Björn Ulvaeus back in the spotlight, 30 years after ABBA’s heyday. So, asks freelance writer, Jane Cornwell, any chance of a band reunion?

    At the end of the film ‘Mamma Mia!’, as the credits roll and the song ‘Thank You For The Music’ blasts a final tribute, Björn Ulvaeus makes a cameo appearance as a Greek god showering mortals with gold dust. It’s a fitting image; as one half of the songwriting partnership behind ABBA – probably the most successful pop group of all time – Ulvaeus is regarded with awe by pundits of popular culture and anyone, basically, who has ever used a hairbrush as a microphone. The fact that he’s still around, still wielding his Midas touch some 30-odd years on, is indeed rather miraculous.

    “Ha-ha.” Ulvaeus’s eye twinkle behind his fashion-forward glasses. “Yes, that cameo came very naturally,” says the 63-year-old Swede, sitting upright on a sofa in a central London hotel in a bespoke grey suit and patterned tie. “Benny [Andersson] was a mere Greek fisherman, playing a bit of a piano during ‘Dancing Queen’. I got to strum a lyre and float on a cloud.” He sighs good-naturedly.

    ‘Mamma Mia!’, of course, is the smash-hit screen adaptation of the smash-hit stage show based on the songs of ABBA. It tells of a young bride-to- be (Amanda Seyfried) who is living on a mythical Greek island with her ex-hippie mum Meryl Streep) and trying to figure out who among Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Sweddish heartthrob Stellan Skarsgård is her father. The songs drive the narrative along, Bollywood-style; anthems such as ‘Does Your Mother Know’ and ‘Money, Money, Money’ spark the sort of OTT exuberance among the cast that ABBA did in their hit-filled heyday (1972-1982).

    Ulvaeus is in London to promote the DVD release of this delightfully daggy comedy, a hen-night-in-box that he and Andersson executive-produced and is now one of the highest-earning film musicals ever. Tomorrow night he’s off to the British National Movie Awards to accept the gong for Best Musical from Nicole Kidman. (“This is very emotional for me, getting this fantastic prize, from an Australian lady here in the UK,” he’ll say, looking more diminutive than ever next to the statuesque actor. “The two countries, more than any other countries, which have taken ABBA to their hearts.”)

    “In the beginning,” he says now, “Australia was very important to us. Our success there alerted Britain and then the rest of the world caught on.” After winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’, ABBA was expected to vanish into obscurity. They nearly did: Britain seemed to decide that the image of Ulvaeus at Eurovision (“I wore a black jacket with pearls and satin trousers tucked into silver boots and looked like a fat Christmas tree”) was best blocked out. Australians, however, threw their heads back and sang along.

    It was the 1975 single ‘Mamma Mia’ that first grabbed our attention. Back then we were listening to prog rock and toying with homegrown punk; the arrival of four jolly Swedes (OK, three; Frida was Norwegian) singing catchy tunes and wearing matching jumpsuits was either appalling, enthralling or both. Suddenly there they were each week on ‘Countdown: blonde Agnetha Fältskog and brunette Frida Lyngstad, mouthing “My my, how can I resist you” in alternating close-ups, inspiring a thousand school recess routines and making innumerable blokes (and a few girls) swoon.

    Which one you fancied said something about who you were. The sexy blonde one was a bit obvious. The brunette had hidden depths. No one fancied the guys: bear-like Benny on keyboards; pixie-ish Björn on guitar. “The girls gave us glamour, that’s for sure,” agrees Ulvaeus, who was married to Fältskog at the time. (I’m quite superficial,” he quips.)

    He and Andersson had met in 1966 and started writing songs together, bringing in their wives as occasional backing vocalists. In the early 1970s they hit on a win-win formula – memorable melodies, simple but telling lyrics, a “wall of sound” achieved by overdubbing the female singers’ voices in multiple harmonies – and ABBA was born. For the next decade, for six hours each weekday, Andersson and Ulvaeus churned out song after song, the former composing the music, the later writing the lyrics. Both of them hammering away until something came. “I’m resigned to the fact that every songwriter has a period in his life when his most creative,” says Ulvaeus, when asked if he tires of constantly looking backwards.

    “Benny and I suddenly had the right vehicle. We had written for other people before but we suddenly realised that, hey, you know what? These are our wives and they are wonderful singers and we sound great together. Then we just, you know, burst out.”

    ABBA visited Australia twice, in 1976 and 1977. The ensuing hysteria in 1977 was captured on ‘ABBA-The Movie’, a documentary led by the man behind their promo-clips, Swedish film director Lasse Hallström. “It was a bit much, I think.” Ulvaeus sips his coffee. “But then it was never easy for the girls. Sometimes it was even a little bit dangerous, because you could be cornered.”

    When the band split they all thought that was that. Andersson and Ulvaeus, who had both remarried, went off to write the patchy stage musical ‘Chess’ with Tim Rice. The women started solo careers that didn’t quite take off. Fältskog was rumoured to have become a recluse after a series of failed love affairs (“Not true!” Says Ulvaeus. “She just hates travelling!). Lyngstad sang on her ex-husband’s album and threw herself into charity work.

    But ABBA burst back. Their revival began towards the end of the 1980s as tribute band Björn Again was founded. By 1992 a spontaneous momentum was built swift as popsters Erasure released their ABBA-esque LP and the compilation album ‘ABBA Gold-Greatest Hits’ was released and topped the charts around the world. In 1994, Australian films ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ and ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ came drenched with ABBA soundtracks. In 1997 Andersson and Ulvaeus agreed that their songs could be used for a London West End musical; there are now nine productions of ‘Mamma Mia’ in different countries including, of course, Australia. The pair were involved in this year’s film from the beginning: “We knew Meryl Streep could sing but we didn’t know she could sing that well,” says Ulvaeus. “All of a sudden the lyrics took on something new, went a step further than ever before.” But what of Pierce Brosnan, whose vocals one critic likened to that of a wounded water buffalo? Ulvaeus grins. “No! It’s not true! He is Bruce Springsteen … Tom Waits! We loved that kind of Irish folky quality.”

    It’s been a long time coming – Ulvaeus returned to Melbourne in 2001 to oversee final auditions for the stage show – but he is finally at the end of the long and hectic ‘Mamma Mia!’ (the musical and the film) period. “Something else is on the way,” he says. It’s not the musical ‘Kristina’, which he and Andersson co-wrote in Swedish and plan to introduce to America, in English, next Autumn. “Something else…” he muses. “I just don’t know what it is yet.”

    In the meantime he’s happy at home in Stockholm, Sweden, in the house he shares with his wife, Lena Kallersjö, not far from the houses of their two children, and the two children from his marriage to Fältskog. “I’ve got three grandchildren aged from eight to seven months and I see them often, which is wonderful. Though I still feel too young to be a grandfather. Physically I’m very well. Mentally I cannot understand that I am 63. When I think about it, yes I am. But then again…” He looks incredulous. “No, I’m not.”

    Ulvaeus seem to have moved smoothly into his senior years. Was there a midlife crisis along the way? He shakes his head. “I’m aware that my time is more limited but if I want to, say, go climbing in the mountains, I do. I run and I love it. I have my intellectual passions.” An active member of the Swedish Humanist Association, Ulvaeus has a stake in an independent publishing company that translates books from English to Swedish in “the spirit of enlightenment”.

    As for an ABBA reunion, forget it. “It’s so silly when old bands go back on the road. Isn’t it better to listen to the records, watch the videos and remember us as we were?” The songs sound just as good as they ever did, he says, because they were created with care, craftsmanship and sincerity. It’s for these reasons that people come up to him in the street or the supermarket to shake his hand and thank him, sincerely, for the music.

    Thank you for the music, I say. Ulvaeus stands and bows. “Thank you,” says this most affable of deities, “for the interview.”

    ‘Mamma Mia!’ is released on DVD on November 6, 2008.

    Photo: Ulvaeus, 63, recalls of his ABBA days: “I wore a black jacket with pearls and satin and satin trousers tucked into silver boots and looked like a fat Christmas tree.”

    The Courier-Mail – Tuesday, 4 November 2008 (Page 11)

    Mamma Mia!, here we won’t go again. By David Murray, in London

    Audiences will be disappointed, but critics relieved – the creators of ‘Mamma Mia!’ don’t want a movie sequel.

    The musical’s big screen version has been a smash hit, defying lukewarm reviews to take a reported $830 million at the box office worldwide.

    Now studio bosses want to make more money, money, money with a follow-up at the cinema.

    Universal Pictures International, which distributed the film, has confirmed they see the potential to cash in.

    “That could be a sequel, a prequel or simply spin-offs,” president David Kosse said. “When you have a film of this size, you want to exploit the franchise.”

    The proposals, however, have not won over producer Judy Craymer, director Phyllida Lloyd and writer Catherine Johnson.

    “The history of sequels is littered with corpses,” Ms Lloyd said. Also, I have this fear that a sequel would be done for financial reasons when it’s the creative point of view that should be paramount.”

    In the UK, where the women are based, ‘Mamma Mia!’ has taken $163 million and is expected to become the highest grossing movie of all time.

    The movie starring Merryl Streep, weaves ABBA songs into a story about a wedding on a Greek island.

    The Age – Thursday, 6 November 2008 (green-guide Page 15)

    DVD reviews by Craig Mathieson

    Mamma Mia! – Universal, 104 min, PG – musical 2007. Score: 3 out of 5 Stars.

    A bright, often batty, adaptation of the hit West End musical, ‘Mamma Mia!’ bathed in the sunshine of the Greek islands and the soundtrack of ABBA’s 1970’s and 1980’s pop songs/hits. Refusing to be typecast as she ages beyond leading lady range, Meryl Streep sings and dances – yes, that’s her doing the splits – her way through a story of confused identity that’s incidentally reminiscent of Shakespeare at his lightest. Streep plays Donna, a single mother whose daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) arrives to get married with three middle-aged men in tow, played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård, one of whom may be her father. The narrative is a romp advanced by Swedish melodies, which are delivered with varying degrees of capability by the ensemble cast (Brosnan can be thankful that he has a decade of James Bond to his name, because he is no song-and-dance man). Making her feature debut, the original stage show director Phyllida Lloyd keeps the story bolting along, with the communal atmosphere of cast and audience transferred to the screen with the extra feature of having the lyrics available for every song so those at home can sing along. “Thank You for the Music” indeed.

    DVD extras include: Director’s commentary, deleted scenes, out-takes, making of featurette and sing-along lyrics to all songs.

    The Weekend Australian – Saturday, 8-9 November 2008 (Page 25)

    DVD Reviews

    Mamma Mia! The Movie (PG) – Universal (108 minutes) – $39.95. Score: 3 out of 5 Stars. Review by Kerrie Murphy

    Jukebox musicals, which take an established body of music and weave a narrative out of it, rank somewhere just above sticking my hand in a bucket of used syringes as an entertainment art form (just under if the musicals is ‘We Will Rock You’), but ‘Mamma Mia!-The Movie’ is a surprisingly fun adaptation of the successful stage show. Of course, it helps that the show, which uses the music of ABBA, has a coherent story and uses the songs effectively. Well, apart from having the main character sing ‘Honey, Honey’ about her father (Love machine? Ewwwww). Bride-to-be Sophie (‘Big Love’s Amanda Seyfried) is the 20-year-old daughter of Donna (Merryl Streep) a free-spirited owner of a crumbling resort on a Greek island. Sophie wants to meet her father, so she secretly invites the three potential candidates (played by Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Pierce Brosnan) to the wedding, figuring that she’ll work out which one he is. The movie is far from being perfect – and yes, Brosnan’s singing is as terrifying as you’ve heard, slightly dimming the torch I’ve carried for him since ‘Remington Steele’ – but everything is executed with such joyous fun that it’s easy to be swept away. Streep does goofy while still remaining a class act, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski are playing characters they’ve done before, but they’re a hoot and what the choreography lacks in skill it makes up for in enthusiasm. As with ABBA, you can sneer at the flaws or go with the flow for the fun of it.

    Extras: Deleted scenes, out-takes, making of documentary, sing-along feature and Björn Ulvaeus cameo.

    The Courier Mail – Wednesday, 12 November 2008 (Page 41)

    Mamma Mia! (PG). Score: 4 out of 5 Stars. Out now! DVD Review by Jane Chudleigh

    If you’re up for some infectious toe-tapping tunes, dazzling costumes and non-stop fun, this is the movie for you. Sure, there’s a lot of silliness going on but that’s what you’d expect from a story told through ABBA music. Pierce Brosnan’s singing voice can at best be described as “authentic” but Meryl Streep shines in this musical winner.

    Special features: Sing-along edition.

    The Sun-Herald (Sydney) – Sunday, 16 November 2008 (Page 24)

    What you loved: The top–five list

    DVD Rentals

    1. Mamma Mia! ( – )
    2. Chaos Theory ( – )
    3. You Don’t Mess With The Zonah ( – )
    4. Timber Falls ( – )
    5. Indiana Jones – Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull ( 1 )

    The Age (Melbourne) – Friday, 21 November 2008 (Business Day, Page 1)

    Piracy Action

    Film:
    Mamma Mia!, I Am Legend; Speed Racer; Happy Feet; The Invasion; Ocean’s 13; The Reaping; No Reservations; The Brave one; Forgetting Sarah Marshall; American Gangster; The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor; Wanted; Atonement; The Kingdom; Baby Mamma; Spiderwick Chronicles; Cloverfield; Stop-Loss; Shooter; Transformers; Hot Rod; Stardust; The Heartbreak Kid; Things We Lost in the Fire; Batman Begins; 300; Blood Diamond; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Enchanted; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End; College Road Trip; Hancock; 21; Spider-Man 3; Made of Honour; Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; Vantage Point; Surf’s Up; Superbad; The Pursuit of Happyness; Pineapple Express; Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who!; Night At The Museum.

    Television:
    Heroes; Life; Gossip Girl; Supernatural; One Tree Hill; Smallville; Two and a Half Men; The Closer; The Simpsons; Family Guy; Prison Break; Bones.

    (Source: Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft)

    Hollywood fires salvo at iiNet, file sharers. By Jesse Hogan (Telecommunications Reporter)

    Seven of the world’s biggest film studios have launched legal action to punish internet providers that do not block customers from downloading pirated movies and TV shows.

    The studios have alleged Australia’s No.3 internet provider, iiNet, has “flagrantly” allowed piracy on its network and are seeking unspecified damages in the Federal Court.

    The action stems from a five-month investigation of iiNet customer use by industry lobby group the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), which claims to have uncovered “tens of thousands” of customers sharing pirated content.

    It comes 3½ months after AFACT unsuccessfully lobbied for internet service providers (ISPs) to abide by a three strikes policy, which would compel them to send warning notices to customers suspected of illegal downloads, primarily using peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as BitTorrent.

    iiNet has been the most vocal opponent of the plan, complaining that studios ignored their rights to prosecute users – which would require the alleged piracy to be proved in a court – and were “only interested in going after the ISPs”.

    “I think they deeply believe that ISPs have a secret magic wand that we’ve been hiding from them that we can just wave and make illegal P2P go away,” iiNet chief executive Michael Malone said.

    The studios that launched the civil claim are Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film and Disney Enterprises, along with Seven Network, whose television network owns the Australian broadband rights to some of the allegedly pirated programs.

    iiNet has reached agreements with Fox Sports, the ABC and Apple to provide copyright content legally to its customers and Mr Malone queried why the studios had instead decided to take action.

    “All the names that are listed there are parties we’ve been in talks with this year,” he said.

    Roadshow Entertainment managing director Chris Chard said the main impediment to such agreements was that legitimate online business models “can’t compete in a world where illegal files are freely traded”.

    AFACT executive director Adrianne Pecotic said iiNet’s terms and conditions prevented customers from downloading illegal content, which allows it to act against customers without police involvement.

    “They have a legal responsibility to stop these copyright infringements and they can’t pass off that legal responsibility to anybody else under the law,” she said.

    Although the studios have not specified damages for the matter, which is scheduled for December 17, they are asking the Federal Court to “find that the infringements occurred on a commercial scale”.

    The internet industry Association is worried ISPs are being turned into internet police.

    Link: Read about the AFACT action at tinyurl.com/5zg64q

    The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) – Friday, 21 November 2008 (Page 21)

    Web piracy legal fight. By Marcus Casey (Media writer)

    Australia’s third-largest internet provider was accused by seven leading film companies yesterday of allowing TV and movie piracy to flourish on its website.

    The companies have launched legal action in the Federal Court against Perth-based provider iiNet, which has 700,000 customers.

    The Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) accused iiNet of ignoring 18 official complaints that tens of thousands of customers were illegally sharing files on it’s network.

    In all, it identified 68 pirated movies and TV shows, including ‘Happy Feet’, ‘I Am Legend’, ‘Ocean’s 13’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Prison Break’, ‘Blood Diamond’, and ‘Batman Begins’.

    AFACT stated that the complaints it had issued were ignored by the internet provider.

    “iiNet refused to address this illegal behaviour and did nothing to prevent the continuation of the infringements by the same customers,” AFACT executive director Adrianne Pecotic said. “iiNet has an obligation under the law to take steps to prevent further known copyright infringement via its network.”

    AFACT launched the action on behalf of Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox, owned by News Corp, publisher of The Daily Telegraph.

    The legal action will seek to find iiNet did infringe the law, imposing a major financial penalty.

    iiNet’s chief operating officer Mark White said the company opposed piracy but it was customers, not iiNet, which committed the offences.

    The company’s defence would be outlined when the case goes back to court on December 17.

    Roadshow Entertainment managing director Chris Chard said such piracy threatened the livelihoods of 50,000 legitimate film, TV and rental store employees.

    “Our titles including ‘Happy Feet’, ‘No Reservation’, and ‘I Am Legend’ have been pirated by iiNet’s customers via its network using ‘bit torrent’ technology,” he said.

    “Piracy impacts our film production business, but also our cinemas, DVD business and our studios.”

    While iiNet and not its customers was the target of this action, individuals could be similarly pursued in the future, Ms Pecotic said.

    The Courier-Mail (Brisbane) – Tuesday, 30 December 2008 (Page 16)

    Disease fear meant dashing Mr Darcy didn’t do the dive

    LONDON: The scene made women swoon and transformed Colin Firth into a household name.

    Playing the brooding Mr Darcy in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, he apparently dived into a lake before emerging with his wet clothes clinging to his body.

    It has been revealed, however, that the actor’s dashing display was not all it seemed.

    Health and safety concerns meant a stuntman instead took the plunge amid fears that Firth, might catch a water-borne disease.

    The footage of him under water was filmed at Ealing Studios in London, far from Lyme Park in Cheshire where the rest of the scene was shot.

    It was one of a string of problems producers faced when creating the scene in which Mr Darcy takes an impromptu swim before he meets Elizabeth Bennet, the object of his desire.

    The original plan was for Firth to leap into the water naked but the BBC decided nudity would be too racy for a Jane Austen costume drama.

    Producers even considered making him dive in wearing underpants but this was ruled out because it would be historically inaccurate and could also look ridiculous.

    Ultimately they opted to make Mr Darcy jump in fully clothed but had to use a stuntman.

    “We didn’t want our leading man to catch Weil’s disease, from rat urine in the water,” said director Simon Langton.

    Daily Mail

    Guinness World Records 2009 (Page 259)

    Nordic Countries

    Most concurrent Musical Productions

    As of February 2005, 12 productions of ‘Mamma Mia!’ (music and lyrics by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Stikkan Anderson, all three from Sweden) were playing at one time: nine resident productions (London, UK; Las Vegas, USA; New York City, USA; Madrid, Spain; Osaka, Japan; Stockholm, Sweden; Stuttgart, Germany; Toronto, Canada; and Utrecht, Holland) and three tours in Europe, South Africa and the USA.

    The Courier-Mail (Brisbane) – Weekend Edition, 3-4 January 2009 (Page 16)

    ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) Top Ten Albums 2008

    1. Only by the Night – Kings of Leon
    2. Funhouse – P!nk
    3. Black Ice – AC/DC
    4. Viva La Vida – Coldplay
    5. Apocalypso – The Presets
    6. Mamma Mia! – Soundtrack
    7. Exclusive – Chris Brown
    8. Death Magnetic – Metallica
    9. Good Girl Gone Bad – Rihanna
    10. We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. – Jason Mraz

    The Courier-Mail (Brisbane) – Thursday, 15 January 2009 (Page 54)

    Go – What’s on today with Laura Stead.
    Email: godirectory@qnp.newsltd.com.au

    Top choice

    Head to the Globe Theatre tonight for an authentic ABBA experience to beat all imitations.

    Host Kristian Fletcher will screen ‘ABBA-The Movie’ at 7pm before leading an ABBA-themed dance party.

    Made at the height of ABBA-mania, ‘ABBA-The Movie’ documents the Swedish pop group’s 1977 Australian tour.

    The group performs a selection of their hits including ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Dancing Queen’, and ‘SOS’.

    Where: Globe Theatre, 220 Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.
    When: 7pm
    Cost: $10 (18+)
    Info: http://www.kristianfletcher.com

  3. Boughan Says:

    cool picsxxx

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