Facebook or MySpace?

I wrote about MySpace and Facebook for ABBA fans in the March issue of the Official International ABBA Fan Club Magazine.

I don’t get MySpace. Its entire purpose seems to be how many “friends” you can collect. There doesn’t seem to be much interactivity there. Sure you can post photos and videos and blogs and comments, but is that it? I can’t see what else you can really do there.

There are a few ABBA groups on MySpace, but they’re all very quiet, most of them with only a few members. ABBA-related acts Ella Rouge and Nanne have official MySpace profiles, previewing music and videos. That seems to be what MySpace does best, as a portal between artists and fans.

But on Facebook there are other applications – games, quizzes and whatnot (as annoying as some of them can be, and that stupid requirement to invite 20 friends is crap) – that can be added to a profile, and there seems to be a lot more interaction between friends. There are lots of ABBA groups, and some of them are quite active. Maybe not as active as some other forums out there, but they seem to be picking up.

ABBA World has presences on both MySpace (profile and group) and Facebook. So far, Facebook has attracted many members, while MySpace has attracted just a few friends.

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7 Responses to “Facebook or MySpace?”

  1. Samuel Inglles Says:


    Kristina Performance and Special Reception in NYC
    Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009

    This fall, the American Swedish Institute offers you the opportunity to join us in New York City for an exciting evening with Benny Andersson. Attend the musical Kristina at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, Sept. 24, followed by a special reception hosted by ASI at Carnegie Hall after the performance. We have invited composer Benny Andersson and cast, and this is an exclusive event available only to those who book their tickets through ASI.

    Tickets for the Performance and Reception Package come at two price levels:

    1.$215 per person – seats on the main floor Parquet
    2.$180 per person – seats in the Second Tier/Dress Circle

    Kristina, with music by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus, premiered as a musical at the Malmö Music Theatre in Sweden in 1995 and came to Minnesota as a Swedish-language concert in 1996. It played everywhere to great acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Based on the novels by Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg, Kristina tells the epic story of an extended family’s migration from Sweden to Minnesota in the mid-19th century. The concert presentation at Carnegie Hall this September will be the first presentation in English with lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus and Herbert Kretzmer. Helen Sjöholm, who originated the title role in the Swedish production of Kristina, and internationally renowned tenor Russell Watson will headline the performance.

    All travel arrangements to, from and in New York City, including flight and hotel, will be each participant’s own responsibility. Registration for the Performance and Reception Packages will be taken through ASI. Neither performance nor reception tickets will be sold separately through ASI. Space is limited, and reservations must be received before Wednesday, July 15. Reservations are nonrefundable. For more information, e-mail Karin Krull at karink@americanswedishinst.org. To make reservations call ASI at 612-871-4907.

  2. Samuel Inglles Says:


    Australia, New Zealand are gaga for ABBA
    David Pearce

    Nov 4, 2008, 10:15 AM ET
    ABBA has always been very popular in Australia. Two very successful tribute groups, “Bjorn Again” and “ABBAlanche,” were created in Australia and have had been successful in taking their acts global. It is, therefore, no surprise that Mamma Mia! has been one of the year’s biggest successes Down Under. It has amassed more than A$31 million, the equivalent of a US$310 million hit in America. In New Zealand and some Pacific Islands, it did even better—it is the year’s top-grossing film to date.

    Following on from Mamma Mia!, local exhibitors are eagerly looking forward to summer and the six-week December-January school holiday season, with High School Musical 3, Quantum of Solace and Australia among the most anticipated releases. There were some red faces at Fox after an error was found on the local posters for Australia. The posters were pulped and reprinted after it was discovered that the southern island state of Tasmania had been left off the map of the continent. Baz Luhrmann’s film is the focus of the next Tourism Australia campaign. The director has filmed a series of commercials highlighting many locations used in the film.

    The Sydney IMAX theatre recently celebrated its 12th birthday with the Australian premiere screening of a restored version of the first IMAX film, Tiger Child, directed by Roman Kroiter. Tiger Child first screened as part of the Expo in Osaka in 1970. This IMAX cinema claims to have the largest screen in the world, and the reason behind this is quite interesting. The planners, naturally, wanted to seat the largest number of patrons possible. After designing the optimum seating plan, they discovered that they would have to install a larger-than-normal IMAX screen. Screen size was limited by the strength of the bulb in the projector, so this IMAX cinema uses a bulb that was originally designed by the U.S. Army to light up nighttime combat areas.

    Four New Zealand cinemas have recently joined the ever-growing number of Australasian cinemas showing Bollywood films Down Under. SkyCity Cinemas tested a few films, and being pleased with the results, have now decided to show them on a regular basis at three Auckland cinemas and one in Hamilton. They have especially high expectations for the upcoming Christmas with Chajni.


    20th June 2008

    Abba get royal seal of approval

    Any guesses as to what The Queen’s favourite dance tune is? Well, it’s been revealed Her Majesty is quite partial to Abba’s Dancing Queen, Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans announced. “I always try to dance when this song comes on because I am the Queen and I like to dance,” she is said to have told guests at a Windsor Castle dinner after strutting her stuff to the Scandinavian floor-filler.


    #2: Famous fans
    There’s no shame in admitting a love for Sweden’s pre-eminent pop maestros. Noel Gallagher has admitted he’s a fan, as have dance-rock outfit Primal Scream (in fact, they recorded part of new album Beautiful Future in the Stockholm studio where ABBA recorded S.O.S and Money, Money, Money). New wave icon Elvis Costello has admitted the piano melody in his hit Oliver’s Army was based on Dancing Queen. And none other than The Who’s Pete Townshend told Ulvaeus that S.O.S was one of the greatest pop songs he’d ever heard.

    Sam’s note: a link to Sweden as a country to travel to.



    “MAMMA MIA!” is coming to New Zealand
    Wednesday, 22 April 2009, 10:14 am
    Press Release: Skip

    Press release, Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    The world’s biggest show “MAMMA MIA!” is coming to New Zealand this September, October & November 2009.

    This theatrical extravaganza — that continues to smash box office records around the world — will open in Christchurch on September 10, Auckland on September 23 followed by Wellington on October 22. All seasons are strictly limited.


    Info on insulation funding

    3 Mth Term Deposit: 4.50%

    Search New Zealand Business


    Inspired by the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs, writer Catherine Johnson’s enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago…

    Tickets on sale to general public this Friday.

    Booking details below

    Bryan Pearson, chief executive of Christchurch’s Westpac Arena, says it’s exciting to be hosting such a hugely popular, world-class show.

    Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker is equally thrilled: “We’re delighted that Christchurch has been chosen for the opening of the international tour of MAMMA MIA! We will celebrate this event in true Christchurch style and roll out the red carpet for a show that has captivated audiences worldwide. The opening of this show in our city demonstrates yet again that Christchurch is a major destination for world0-class events. It is very exciting.”

    Greg Innes, chief executive of Auckland’s THE EDGE® says, “I’m delighted that MAMMA MIA! is returning to The Civic five years after a spectacular season which saw nearly 200,000 tickets sold. The show and the music of ABBA remain as popular as ever and I’m sure that fans will be thrilled that MAMMA MIA is coming back to Auckland.”

    Auckland Mayor John Banks QSO says he is looking forward to welcoming this incredibly popular musical back to Auckland city. “The show was a major hit when it came to Auckland in 2004. The mayor says, “I am sure that the citizens of, and visitors to Auckland, will once again embrace the opportunity to experience what over 30 million people worldwide have seen on stage.”

    Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast says: “It’s fantastic to see MAMMA MIA! come to Wellington. I loved the movie and anticipate the stage production to be even more exciting – I’m sure you’ll be singing in the aisles before the night is over!”

    Neville Brown, general manager of the Wellington Convention Centre says he is “delighted that the production team is bringing this show to Wellington. It will provide yet another reason to visit this city famous for its diverse range of events and we look forward to working with the cast and crew to create a fantastic entertainment experience.”

    Producer Judy Craymer was first inspired to create a musical using the music of ABBA to tell an original story in 1987. On April 6, 2009, the production celebrated 10 fabulous years on the West End, having been seen by over 5 million people, grossing over £185 million at the UK Box Office.

    From West End smash hit to global phenomenon, “MAMMA MIA!” has already been seen by more than 40 million people in over 190 cities across North America, Australia, Europe and Asia. It has already grossed over $2 billion at the box office worldwide.

    The International Tour is in its fifth year of touring, having been seen by over 3 million people in cities as diverse as Cape Town, Zurich, Dublin, Beijing, Taipei, Berlin, Paris, Lisbon, Pretoria, Dubai, Copenhagen, Tel Aviv, Riga, Shanghai, Helsinki, Bratislava, Prague, Glasgow and Budapest.

    Judy Craymer anticipates the show’s success in New Zealand: “It’s fantastic that the MAMMA MIA! International Tour is coming to Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. These are vibrant, modern cities, well known for their love of arts and culture. We hope that New Zealand takes MAMMA MIA! to its hearts as has happened all over the world.”

    With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, “MAMMA MIA!” is directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast. The production is designed by Mark Thompson with lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce & Bobby Aitken and musical supervision, additional material & arrangements by Martin Koch.

    The International Tour is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal, Stage Entertainment and NGM.

    Booking details:


    September 10-19, 2009


    Jack Hinton Drive, Addington, Christchurch

    Bookings: Ticketek


    September 23-October 18, 2009


    corner of Queen Street and Wellesley Street, Auckland

    Bookings: The Edge ticketing

    0800 BUY TICKETS (0800 289842) or (09) 357-3355


    October 22-November 1, 2009


    Jervois Quay

    Bookings: Ticketek

  3. Samuel Inglles Says:

    Sam’s note: Go to this lionk to view ABBA photos.



    ABBA reunite for gay rights
    By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk • March 7, 2006 – 0:00

    Abba are the most well known celebrities to have made donations to the auction so far

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    Legendary Swedish pop group, Abba, have come together for the first time in ten years to sign souvenirs in support of gay rights in Poland.

    Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are offering signed posters, photos and music on auction site eBay to raise money for Warsaw Pride in Poland, which has come under attack by president Lech Kaczynski.

    The memorabilia is being auctioned by the organisers of Stockholm Pride, “As arranger of a Pride festival in a neighbouring country that is so privileged by comparison it is impossible to be aware of what is happening in Poland without doing something,” said Stockholm Pride chairwoman Ulrika Westerlund.

    Mr Kaczynski banned last summer’s gay pride celebrations in Warsaw after saying that homosexuals were “not a natural part of Poland’s culture,” and told gay people to repress their sexuality.

    Abba are the most well known celebrities to have made donations to the auction so far.


    Greek property continuing to benefit from Abba effect
    Andy Collier discovers that a combination of the big screen and new flights are keeping Greece at the forefront of property buyer’s minds
    In 2008, Mamma Mia became the highest grossing film of all time in the UK. As a result, the popularity of the Greek Islands soared as scores of property investors and visitors arrived to walk in the footsteps of Meryl Streep and co.
    This year, the pull of Greece as a popular property choice looks set to continue as several low-coat flight companies have announced that they are adding extra flight to many Greek mainland and island destinations.
    Low-cost airline EasyJet announced that it will be flying to popular Greek destinations such as Santorini and Corfu three times a week from Bristol, Manchester and London Gatwick.
    It’s not just the islands that are basking in the glow of all the Hollywood success, though. Mainland Greece is also getting a look in with new flights announced by Monarch to Volos from Manchester and London Gatwick every Friday between 15th May and 9th October. New flights from Manchester to Athens are also slated to start in August.
    Despite the economic downturn affecting the property market at the moment, the continuing popularity of Greece has pushed up the demand for rental properties on both the islands and the mainland.
    Deputy Manager of Piraeus Bank UK, Irini Tzortzoglou comments: “Greece is fortunate to have been a focus on the big screen in 2008, which I believe, has further positively profiled this diverse and beautiful country. Whether it has been the Mamma Mia effect of other factors leading airlines to increase flights to Greece, it is certainly bright news in what can only be described as a very grey time.”

    Search for property overseas
    Read the new World of Property i-mag

    Further reading
    Laying all their love on Greece
    Greek property and tourism markets reviewed

    Article published: 28th February 2009


    Win with ShowbizNZ.co.nz
    2:53PM Thursday Aug 21, 2008

    To celebrate the launch of ShowbizNZ.co.nz, The New Zealand Herald is giving 2 lucky readers the chance to win an ABBA MANIA and John Mellencamp prize package.

    The ABBA MANIA prize package includes;
    -2 tickets to ABBA MANIA’s Auckland show on Wednesday, October 8, 2008
    -2 glasses of wine, beer or soft drink to enjoy at the show
    -Dinner for 2 people at Zest Restaurant in Auckland – valid for night of the show
    -Overnight accommodation for 2 people at City Life Hotel in Auckland -valid for night of show

    The JOHN MELLENCAMP prize package includes;
    -2 Tickets to John Mellencamp’s Auckland Show on Wednesday, December 3, 2008
    -Dinner for 2 people at Zest Restaurant in Auckland – valid for night of show
    -Overnight Accommodation at City Life Hotel in Auckland – valid for night of show

    ShowbizNZ.co.nz offers you access to premium tickets and packages to shows and events in New Zealand.

    For entry details see The New Zealand Herald from Tuesday, August 26 – Saturday, August 30, 2008.

    Terms of Entry for the Showbiz Promotion

    1.Information on How to Enter and all details on the competition ad form part of these Terms. To the extent of any inconsistency, the Terms below prevail. By entering, readers accept these Terms.

    2.Entry is open to NZ residents only. Anyone employed by (and any immediate family member of someone employed by) APN, Federation and Cavalier Bremworth Carpets are ineligible to enter. APN is APN New Zealand Limited (and its related companies). Entries close Friday, September 5, 2008 at 5pm.

    3.There is two prizes to be won and the prizes consists of&
    ABBA MANIA prize package:
    -2 tickets to ABBA MANIA’s Auckland show on Wednesday, October 8, 2008
    -2 glasses of wine, beer or soft drink to enjoy at the show
    -Dinner for 2 people at Zest Restaurant in Auckland – valid for night of the show (Wednesday, October 8, 2008).
    -Overnight accommodation for 2 people at City Life Hotel in Auckland -Valid for night of show (Wednesday, October 8, 2008).
    JOHN MELLENCAMP prize package:
    -2 x Tickets to John Mellencamp’s Auckland Show on Wednesday, December 3, 2008
    -Dinner for 2 people at Zest Restaurant in Auckland
    -Overnight Accommodation at City Life Hotel in Auckland

    4.Winners will be notified by phone in the first instance and then by post in the form of a winner’s confirmation letter. If the prize is not claimed within 7 days of the draw, APN may re-draw a new winner of the prize. APN’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

    5.Neither APN nor ShowBiz are liable for any loss, damage or injury (including without limitation indirect or consequential loss) suffered by any person in connection with the promotion or any prize, except for any liability under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 or other liability that cannot be excluded by law.

    6.Late, lost, stolen, misdirected, illegal, incomplete, illegible, damaged, reproduced, or altered entries are invalid. APN is not responsible for such entries or for any error, technical malfunction, loss, omission, communications delay or failure.

    7.APN reserves the right to vary these Terms or to modify, suspend, terminate or cancel the promotion.

    8.APN reserves the right to verify the validity of any entry. APN may disqualify any person who tampers with the process or fails to comply with these Terms.

    9.Entries become the property of APN. In accordance with the Privacy Act 1993, APN collects and holds personal information to conduct the promotion, notify prizewinners, and verify prizewinners’ identities. Individuals have rights to access and request correction of their personal information held by APN by calling 0800 100 888. Failure to provide all requested personal information might result in the entry being invalid.

    10.By accepting the prize, the winner consents to the promoter using his/her details and photographs for promotional and media publicity purposes.

  4. Samuel Inglles Says:


    Home News South Wales Valleys
    Cynon Valley RCT Mayor hosts charity Abba-themed night
    Jan 1 2009 by Gary Marsh, Cynon Valley Leader

    MAMMA Mia has become the biggest-grossing movie of all time.

    And an Abba theme party, held to raise funds for the Rhondda Cynon Taff Mayor’s chosen charities, has also proved to be a huge hit.

    The Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd was filled with the sounds of singing, laughter and dancing as hundreds of people from across the region arrived at the venue in 1970s and Abba-themed fancy dress for an evening of fun that raised significant sums of money for good causes.

    Organised by Rhondda Cynon Taff Mayor Margaret Davies, on behalf of her three chosen charities for the year, the evening proved a huge success.

    From Money, Money, Money to Fernando and Take A Chance On Me, there was not a still foot in the room as tribute act Mamma Mia belted out the Swedish group’s much-loved toe-tapping hits.

    Some 200 people raised an impressive £1,000 for TEDS, British Heart Foundation and the special care baby unit at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital.

    “What an amazing way to raise money and increase the profile of the charities,” said Coun Davies.

    “Everyone has had an incredible evening and, as well as having a lot of fun, we raised a lot of money.”

    Coun Davies wishes to thank all those who supported the event.


    Napster Offers Complete ABBA Catalog In MP3 Format

    LOS ANGELES, CA. (Top40 Charts/ Napster) – Napster (Nasdaq:NAPS), the pioneer in digital music, today announced the debut of the complete catalog by the Swedish disco-area pop sensation ABBA in MP3 format.
    ABBA achieved greater commercial success than any other international band of the 1970s. With its instantly recognizable synth-pop, light-hearted sound and vocals, ABBA scored a string of international hits like “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” and “Take a Chance on Me.” The Swedish foursome took the pop-music world by storm with its debut its album, Waterloo, in 1974.
    The group released six more albums over the next seven years, each of which enjoyed immense popularity in the United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavian countries.

    In 1999, ABBA’s music was popularized for a new generation in the musical Mamma Mia! The theatrical hit was recently released as a major motion picture. Mamma Mia! fans can stream the movie’s soundtrack through Napster’s award-winning music service, and both subscribers and non-subscribers can buy the original tracks and albums that inspired the movie at Napster’s new MP3 store (www.napster.com/store). The world’s largest and most comprehensive MP3 store with more than 6 million tracks, Napster is the best place to listen and buy ABBA’s entire catalog without DRM restriction.

    “We are pleased to make the complete ABBA catalog available both for streaming and for purchase in MP3,” said Napster Vice President of Music Services Matthew Adell. “We strive to give music lovers the best experience and most options for enjoying digital music.”

    “ABBA’s music touches every possible music consumer,” said Mike Davis, General Manager, Universal Music Enterprises. “So, it’s exciting to have their timeless music up in a way that allows those same consumers a chance to purchase their favorite music in their favorite way.”

  5. Samuel Inglles Says:


    Fiona Bruce, Sophie Raworth to perform ABBA songs for Children in Need
    November 10th, 2008 – 5:26 pm ICT by ANI –
    London, Nov 10 (ANI): BBC presenters Fiona Bruce and Sophie Raworth are all set to perform an ABBA song and dance routine for Children in Need.

    The two ladies will be wearing flared cat suits to recreate a scene from Mamma Mia! the hit musical and movie starring Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and Pierce Brosnan.

    I went to see the film with my seven-year-old daughter Mia and we absolutely loved it, the Telegraph quoted Bruce as saying.

    For our television tribute, I”m probably playing the Meryl Streep role. We will also have three senior newsmen taking part and some dancers from the West End show.

    We didn”t set out to look like the two Abba women but I am flattered that anyone would think I resembled Frida. I was a great Abba fan and she was my favourite, she added.

    Kate Silverton another BBC presenter was supposed to join them, but was forced to pull out when she suffered a slipped disc during rehearsals, and BBC organizers are now trying to find a replacement.

    I am certainly no dancing queen. Thankfully we have very simple steps to do but there’’s still a danger one of us could stumble and fall of these skyscraper platforms, Raworth added.

    Children in Need began life as a radio item on Christmas Day 1927 when listeners raised 1,143 pounds, and last years televised event raised 37 million pounds. (ANI)


    Remembering ABBA

    By Harald Horgen Issue 60 / Saturday, 1 May, 2004

    Print this page Email to a Friend

    Young tech companies don’t have the resources to go after all major markets at once. For many, the choice comes down to the US or the rest of the world. If they’re smart, they’ll choose the latter.

    The US is often seen as a tempting target because it’s big, English-speaking, and is the largest consumer of just about everything from technology to pop culture. But its very size makes it extremely competitive, and it’s not easy for foreign companies to succeed. (It’s a little-known fact that the Swedish pop group ABBA never had a number one single in the US. In 1978 it invested $10 million in a PR and marketing campaign to increase its profile and produce a chart-topping hit. It didn’t work.)

    Yes, the US is different. Consider this: most American technology companies fail in their own market and go out of business. So non-US companies have to ask themselves why they think they are more likely to succeed, and, if they don’t have a good answer, they should take a serious look at where they should be focusing their attention.

    What’s your exit strategy?
    The exit strategy is a term used by investors to define how they are going to get their money back, with a significant return. But, even if you’re an owner­-operator and have no outside investor, it’s still a question you should ask yourself. How does your business become your retirement fund?

    Traditionally there are three possible outcomes for a company:
    • It can go bankrupt, which is what happens to a majority of technology firms
    • It can grow quickly, get listed on the stock exchange, and become a sustainable, long-term business, but this is a fate reserved for a very few companies
    • It can be acquired in a trade sale — the most logical outcome.

    A trade sale is something you can and should plan for. Done properly it will give you a clear objective to work towards, and you can build your business into something that would be attractive to a buyer. So, what are the elements that could make you a good acquisition target? Why should someone pay you an indecent amount of money for your business?

    For a technology firm the most spectacular returns are achieved when they have a hot technology that attracts the attention of an industry heavyweight. Cisco, for example, is famous for buying technology and brains. Instead of hiring its own team of PhDs to develop the next cutting edge device, it paid top dollar for smaller companies with a proven technology. This saved Cisco the time and risk involved with doing it itself. But times have changed and these days it’s rare to see an emerging firm command an enormous multiple of revenues.

    A different acquisition model was pursued by Computer Associates (CA). CA was interested in revenues. It purchased dozens of companies with mature technology and strong maintenance revenues streams. Through a process of rationalisation it was able to consistently grow revenues and profits.

    Does your company fit either of these profiles? Do you have hot ­technology that will help a major player to dominate a new niche or market segment? Do you have a large and stable client base? For many emerging technology firms the answer is going to be “no”. So, if you aren’t large enough or growing fast enough to justify a listing, and you don’t have the technology or the revenues to make you an attractive acquisition, how do you build value that can lead to a trade sale?

    Now, back to ABBA
    The best way is to build a strong, international distribution channel for your product. And this brings us full circle to the ABBA strategy, because now your choice of markets becomes critical to your success.

    The US is home to the overwhelming majority of technology companies, which means that a potential buyer will probably be an American firm. If you are positioning yourself to be purchased, there would be very little value to a potential acquirer if you have an established position in the US — they can handle their own market by themselves, thank you very much. In addition, they will usually have better funding than a New Zealand firm, which will make it that much more difficult for you to compete for clients on their home turf.

    But, what of the oft-repeated view that the US is such a big market, it shouldn’t be ignored? This argument is based on the “Chinese market share principle” — all you need is 1%. The problem is that there are lots of strong, well-funded companies that are going after the same 1%, and foreign companies invariably underestimate the cost of marketing in the US. It is not uncommon for American VC-funded firms to spend 50–200% of their revenues to build brand recognition, just to get ­sceptical IT buyers to look at products they’ve never heard of.

    Going after smaller markets might not be as glamorous as pitching in the US, but it’s a far better strategy for creating value. Most readers would be hard-pushed to name five emerging New Zealand technology companies that have enjoyed meaningful success in the American market.

    So ABBA rules forever?
    Not exactly. If a company really is part of that exclusive club that has developed breakthrough technology, and where a quick sale to an industry giant is a possibility, being in the US early makes a lot of sense in terms of creating visibility. They can’t buy you if they don’t know who you are.

    Entering the US is also a good idea if the company has established a presence in multiple markets and is positioning itself for a sale. From the standpoint of maximising the price, having even a token presence in the US will increase the value of the transaction, because now the price has to include something for the “lost opportunity”. By this we mean that you should position your operation in the US as the first step in a serious market entry effort, even if it is only intended to be a beachhead. A buyer would have to factor in something for the revenues and profits that you would be forgoing by selling your company before you have had a chance to succeed in the US. As it’s the largest market in the world, you can demand a premium for selling early, but you can only do this if you are physically present.

    Finally, going into the US can make a lot of sense if a company has been able to build a strong business in other markets, and then enters the US from a position of strength. Many of their clients will be subsidiaries of American companies, and having these existing accounts as references will accelerate the sales process in the US.

    But, those exceptions aside, if you’re in business to make money and retire wealthy, the ABBA strategy is a good way to make it happen.

    Harald Horgen is founder and president of the York Group, New York, and a regular visitor to the Icehouse business incubator.


    Youngsters take a chance to shine

    Published Date: 24 June 2009
    By Dave Barry
    ABBA MANIA returns to the Futurist on Friday, not long after Mamma Mia became the longest running film ever screened there.
    The show, which recently toured Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, is back in the northern hemisphere and spending the summer in Britain.

    A promoter says: “Abba’s timeless songs were written to be enjoyed live and Abba Mania gives you exactly that – two hours of uplifting, dance-inducing and sometimes heart-breaking songs, fully live with fantastic staging, lighting and effects.”

    Twenty local children from the Stagecoach drama school will join the cast for two numbers, I Have a Dream and Fernando.

    Futurist leaseholder Brenda Stead says: “This will not only give the budding stars the opportunity of working on a local stage but the chance to appear alongside a talented, award-winning cast who have travelled the world and performed in London’s West End.”

    The promoter adds: “The show recreates Abba’s sound not only perfectly, but respectfully too. Abba Mania is not only for lifelong, die-hard Abba fans but the new generation of fans, who never had the opportunity to see Abba live.”

    Abba hits featured in the show include Dancing Queen, Waterloo, Mamma Mia, The Winner Takes it All, Super Trouper, Fernando and Take a Chance On Me.

    “If you’re looking for an excuse to party, reminisce or simply be entertained by the best music there has ever been, then Abba Mania is for you,” the promoter adds.

    Abba Mania starts at 8pm.

    The full article contains 252 words and appears in Scarborough Evening News newspaper.


    Mamma Mia, here we go again; Your Final 9 Perform ABBA!
    Sunday, 5 October 2008
    Your Idols pay tribute to one of the World’s greatest pop sensations; ABBA!
    They are one of the world’s most recognizable foursomes, and tonight your Final Nine would be doing their very best to interpret, channel or simply pay tribute to the all-singing, all-dancing sensation that is Abba!!

    The film Mamma Mia has been taking the box office by storm, and Chrislyn was hoping the song of the same name, which was a worldwide smash in 1975, would continue its lucky streak for her. Dicko thought she delivered the pop hit with double cheese, but now Chrislyn had to focus on refining what she did, adding some criticisms about her wardrobe choice. Kyle said it was well-sung, and a nice, fun start to the show.

    Last week her ‘return to roots’ stripped-back performance saved her from the Bottom Three, which meant this week the stunning Sophie was back reinterpreting the ’79 disco classic “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)” in her own folky Sophie way. Marcia was glad the old Sophie was back, while Dicko liked her ‘slow-hand trip-hop’ vibe, but said she lacked focus.

    Talented Thanh was intent on conveying to the peeps at home the sadness inherent in “The Winner Takes It All”. His no-holds-bar performance absolutely electrified the judges, with Kyle saying it was spot-on perfect, Dicko deciding it was bloody fantastic, while an ecstatic Marcia declared the emotional ballad a touchdown!

    Bubbly Roshani explained she wanted to give the upbeat “Money Money Money” a musical theatre/cabaret vibe, and she more than cashed in on that promise! Dicko said he was nervous when he heard about her intention with the song, but he thought she really carried it off well. Marcia said she found the fun in the song, while Kyle loved her song choice, but hated the corset she was wearing!

    Bondi boy Wes picked up the Performance and a Half award last week, and tonight he was back with a ballad that was Number One in 12 countries, “Fernando”. Marcia said it sounded like it was written just for him, while Dicko commented it was like a modern rock song you could hear on the radio today.

    Mark was told last week he looked like he was “cruising” through the competition, so this week the hunky Melbourne boy was determined to shine with his take on Abba’s second single, “Waterloo”. Kyle said Mark’s lack of enthusiasm for Abba week came out in the performance, while Dicko said it was horrible to watch, and the cheeky chappy was outrocked by Abba.

    “Dancing queen… Young and sweet, only 17…” C’mon you know the words! And so does Madam, with the song that reminded her of her aunties back in New Zealand. Dicko said the ’70s classic should have suited her and it was one of the more apprehensive performances they’ve seen of hers, while Kyle said she could have lost more of her inhibitions, but he really enjoyed it.

    He’s come close to ending his Idol journey twice so this week Teale was hoping the addition of a guitar to “Thank You For The Music” would be the extra oomph needed to secure his place in the competition. Marcia said it was the happiest and most comfortable she’s seen him, while Kyle and Dicko both called him a real contender.

    The sheep shearer who’s won over the nation, Luke Dickens, was taking on “Knowing Me, Knowing You”. Kyle said he hated the first 20 seconds, then he got into it, but missed the ‘ah-has’! Dicko joked it was like Abba meets Wolf Creek, and Marcia advised to show light and shade when singing.

  6. Samuel Inglles Says:


    Is Abba’s Agnetha Faltskog finally ready to forgive her bandmates for years of misery?
    By Alison Boshoff
    Last updated at 4:30 PM on 13th July 2008

    Comments (6) Add to My Stories
    Mamma Mia: Abba’s Agnetha Faltskog in her musical heyday

    Given she has a visceral dread of crowds, noise and open spaces, attending the Swedish film premiere of Mamma Mia! last week must have been torture for Agnetha Faltskog.

    Indeed, until the moment she turned up, even Abba’s die-hard fans were dubious that Agnetha – pop’s ultimate sex symbol – would make the journey from her self-imposed exile on one of Stockholm’s rural outlying islands.

    In the event, she looked wonderful, displaying a shock of platinum hair and that gap-toothed smile which makes her instantly recognisable.

    Although she is now a 58-year-old grandmother, she sported the tightest of rock-chick trousers and a white vest – rather rebellious given that her bandmate Anni-Frid was in an evening gown, as were all the cast members.

    She girlishly linked arms with Anni-Frid and the film’s leading lady Meryl Streep. The three of them whirled around on the carpet outside Stockholm’s Hotel Rival, in full glare of the onlooking paparazzi.

    But there the joy stops. Agnetha didn’t pose with her other bandmates, Benny Andersson or Bjorn Ulvaeus – who also happens to be her former husband. And when it came to appearing on the hotel balcony with the cast, Agnetha kept her distance from the men who wrote the songs that made her famous.

    According to a Swedish source: ‘She refused to do the picture which everyone wanted, which was the four of them together.’

    It’s been 21 years since the Abba foursome were seen together in public – and the sticking point has always been Agnetha.

    Admittedly, she came when Mamma Mia! opened in Stockholm three years ago – but walked alone into the theatre, and then alone out of it. She also refused to show up at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the Abba song Waterloo winning Eurovision.

    Agnetha’s spokesman, Steffan Linde, told me bluntly that, apart from Bjorn and Agnetha bumping into each other at the odd family event, there was really no contact between the band members on any level.

    ‘They do not socialise with each other,’ he snorted. ‘They just happened to come to the same premiere. It was nothing they organised themselves.’

    Leading ladies: Agnetha Faltskog, Meryl Streep and Frida Reuss pose at the premiere of Mamma Mia! in Stockholm

    Mr Linde added that there was no chance of Agnetha being involved with making music with Abba again, and added: ‘The movie people invited all the Abba members separately and all members decided to come.’
    It seems, bizarrely, that Agnetha hates to acknowledge her part in pop history – so much so that she’s known as ‘Garbo the second’ in Sweden. She is reclusive, and told an interviewer that she doesn’t like to go out, doesn’t have many friends and likes to talk to her horses.

    The nickname, though, infuriates her. ‘They spread that I am hiding, that I am the new Greta Garbo. It’s not the way it is. I just want to live in peace and quiet.’

    So why would she turn up to such a public media event, finally – but then refuse to cooperate with the rest of the band? Can she really have conquered her demons after so long?

    Make no mistake, the past 25 years have been difficult for Agnetha. She was emotionally ‘ mangled’ by the split with Bjorn in 1979. They had two children, but divorced while the band was at the peak of its fame. Within a week, Bjorn had a new girlfriend and Agnetha had counselling.

    ABBA’s great, deeply bitter song The Winner Takes It All was written during this period – and she had to find the emotional strength to sing: ‘Tell me does she kiss/Like I used to kiss you?’ After a tour, the band returned to the studio in 1982, but realised that, with both couples now divorced (Benny and Anni-Frid split in 1981), it was no longer any fun being Abba.

    Thank you for the music: The original cast of Abba, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad

    Agnetha now admits she found the closing years miserable. Terrified of flying, after being caught in a storm on a private jet, she was still obliged to tour the world by plane. Today, she hasn’t taken a flight in more than 20 years and is terrified when she knows her family are flying.

    She also found the Abba fans alarming and would have terrible daydreams in which they set upon her and consumed her alive.

    More prosaically, she was troubled by guilt at being away from her children, Linda and Christian, when they were so young. And she was never as at ease socially as the others – her English was not as good, so she sometimes struggled.

    So while Anni-Frid partied, her rival on stage, Agnetha, was in hell: anxious, shy and overwhelmed. No wonder the girls were not always the best of friends. A substantial amount of time has had to pass for Agnetha to forgive her bandmates for their part in her torment.

    Gorel Hanser, who works for Benny and Bjorn, confirms there was no personal appeal to Agnetha to come to the premiere – despite gossips suggesting it was down to Benny, because he owns the Rival Hotel where the event was held. Ms Hanser, who managed the group until it split in 1982, said: ‘Agnetha came because she was invited by the film company. She comes to certain events, but not many, because she does not like to fly, and you just respect that.

    ‘As far as a photo of the four of them together, I don’t know that it was requested or that anyone said “no”. But this was not an Abba event, it was a Mamma Mia! event. They are not pictured as a group for obvious reasons, to not upstage the film.’

    Ms Hanser went on to say that Agnetha attended with her children and some friends, and that her granddaughter Tilda, eight, also came along. ‘They sat at the table next to Bjorn at the party afterwards and everything was fine. It was a great, relaxed evening, everyone had a glass of champagne.’ Indeed, speaking to friends and associates of Agnetha in Stockholm, what becomes clear is that she is finally, but slowly, emerging from her ultra-private existence.

    The influence behind this move, says everyone, is urbane socialite Bertil Nordstrom whom many expect will be her third husband.

    Nordstrom, 64, a close friend of King Gustaf of Sweden, has been dating Agnetha on and off for three years. Not that he will admit it – he told me yesterday: ‘We are not together in any way.’ But pictures of the two of them arm-in-arm at a society party this summer tell their own story, as do eyewitness accounts of them smooching in nightclubs.

    They have been seen out increasingly, with Nordstrom chaperoning her with evident pride. Swedish gossip magazines describe them as ‘love-birds’ and say that they are ‘fascinated’ by one another.

    They are even reported to have bought a £300,000 love nest in Bastad, the seaside resort which hosts the Swedish Open tennis championships.

    ‘Don’t tell me Aggie is going to marry that old fart!’ said one fan on an Abba site, but in truth no one could begrudge her some romantic happiness, especially since under the influence of this wealthy and well connected man she is breaking free of two decades of self-confinement. As for the secrecy and denial? Well, that’s just the way Agnetha likes to do it. One source in Sweden says she is fearful of having her private life exposed, and insists any boyfriend pretends there is no romance.

    It wasn’t always so complicated: Agnetha Faltskog was a shy little girl born in Jonkoping in April 1950. Her father worked in an electrical factory, her mother was a shop cashier.

    Agnetha fell in love with Bjorn Ulvaeus at 19, after meeting him in a cafe. They were married in 1971 and Abba won Eurovision in 1974. They sold 350 million records, and their recent greatest hits compilation album, Abba Gold, stayed in the charts for more than 400 weeks. (Despite this, Agnetha is worth £4million – whereas Bjorn and Benny are worth more than
    £100 million each, thanks to royalties and Mamma Mia!).

    The success was so extreme that Agnetha still has difficulty believing it. ‘It’s nice to look back on it and sometimes I can’t comprehend it.

    It feels like another life.’ After Bjorn came a succession of lovers – including psychiatrist Hakan Lonnback, who had tried to save her marriage. She even had an affair with Stockholm detective Thorbjorn Brander, who had been assigned to her case after kidnap threats towards her children.

    In 1990, Agnetha married for a second time – to divorced surgeon Tomas Sonnenfeld. The marriage was conducted, at Agnetha’s insistence, in secrecy, and became public knowledge only as it disintegrated three years later.

    At this time Agnetha also had to cope with the suicide of her mother Birgit, who threw herself from their sixth-floor flat. A year later, her father died, too, and she felt very alone.

    Again, Agnetha kept everything secret. Her biographer was told her mother died in an accident. Those who are close to her say everything changed from this point, and her reclusiveness became more pronounced. Certainly she must have been troubled as the oddest chapter of her life now followed: an affair with a man who had been stalking her.

    Overweight Dutch forklift truck driver Gert van der Graaf was an Abba fan who had pursued her for two years. She complained to the police, but in 1997 they started a romantic relationship. ‘It was a very intense attention from him and after a while I felt I could not resist any more. I wanted to know him,’ Agnetha said. Two years later, they had split up and by 2000 Agnetha was seeking an exclusion order.

    After the disaster of her dalliance with Gert, she moved deeper into the forest, building a smaller house around a private courtyard garden. Neighbours say she barely exchanges greetings with them.

    For years Agnetha hadn’t sung or even listened to music. But, to general astonishment she released a record in 2004, a collection of Sixties covers, and embarked on some limited publicity for it, saying she yearned to find lasting love.

    The album, My Colouring Book, spent 25 weeks in the charts in Sweden, and then it and she dropped out of public view again. But in 2005, that all seemed to change when a 20-year friendship with Bertil Nordstrom blossomed into romance.

    Nordstrom, a successful businessman, may not look glamorous – permanently besuited, tall, with grey hair and glasses – but he is seriously wealthy. A few weeks ago the happy pair arrived together for a high-society party in Stockholm.

    ‘Agnetha and Bertil are very much in love and it is expected they will marry soon,’ said a source in Sweden.

    Pictures from the party show them looking absolutely the contented couple. But, given Agnetha’s avoidance of the spotlight, you wouldn’t lay bets on Hello! doing the wedding pictures. And Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid probably shouldn’t hold their breath for an invitation.


    Rumors Swirl Over Who Will Fill Jackson’s O2 Dates

    Updated 7:00 PM CDT, Thu, Jul 2, 2009

    Rumors Swirl Over Who Will Fill Jackson’s O2 Dates

    Updated 7:00 PM CDT, Thu, Jul 2, 2009

    An all-star Michael Jackson tribute show? A Jackson family concert, minus Michael? An ABBA reunion?

    The death of the King of Pop has left 50 empty nights at London’s 23,000-seat O2 Arena — and a heady mixture of business hope, hype and wishful thinking is already filling the gap. One week after his demise, however, there is still no firm plan for how to fill one of London’s biggest and most important music venues.

    “At the moment we’re just waiting for the funeral to be out of the way and we’ll let people know in due course,” Lucy Ellison, a spokeswoman for O2 operator AEG Europe, said Thursday. “We’re thinking about Michael Jackson now. We’re just a very small part in this very tragic story.”

    In the absence of firm facts, rumors are swirling about what will fill the dates Jackson was set to perform, starting this month, taking up most of the summer, and even stretching into 2010.

    The Sun newspaper reported Thursday that AEG was talking to 1970s super group ABBA about reuniting to play the O2.

    That seems likely to remain a pop fan’s dream. AEG said the Sun’s story was without foundation, and songwriters Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson have long said the Swedish foursome, who still sell millions of records a year a quarter century after they split up, will never perform together again.

    But, music fans from around the world were full of other suggestions about whom they’d like to see take Jackson’s place onstage.

    Maria Mertzani, 37, a bank teller from Athens, Greece, suggested Whitney Houston, “because they suffer the same pain and deal with the same demons: drugs.”

    Chloe Ego, 22, a T-shirt sales assistant from Milan, Italy, wanted to see Elton John, because “he’d adapt Michael Jackson’s songs to his kind of music.”

    “I’d say Marilyn Manson because he’s really good on covers,” said Novella Ciceri, 22, a leather goods trader, also from Milan.

    The most tenacious report is of a star-studded tribute concert featuring Jackson’s siblings and other music stars.

    Randy Phillips, chief executive of promoter AEG Live, told Britain’s Sky News on Tuesday that such a show was in the works, likely featuring members of Jackson’s family and other stars and using dance routines, sets and costumes created for the singer’s O2 shows.

    No details have been announced, but industry experts say it would be logistically impossible for a tribute show to play more than a few nights at the venue.

    “Fifty nights is absolutely out of the question,” said music writer John Aizlewood. “Nobody in the Jackson family is capable of selling out the O2 for even one night, not even Janet.

    “Bands who are capable of selling out the O2 have a huge turning circle — they have to be booked well in advance.”

    The O2 opened as a concert venue two years ago with a performance by Bon Jovi. In a previous incarnation, the big white tent beside the River Thames was the Millennium Dome, an unloved and unlamented tourist attraction. As a concert venue, it has been a roaring success.

    Prince played 21 dates there in the summer of 2007, a stint that helped inspire Jackson’s marathon run of shows. In December 2007, Led Zeppelin reunited for a one-off gig at the O2, the group’s first concert in more than 25 years.

    Britney Spears, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen have all played the arena, and Madonna is due to open the final leg of her Sticky and Sweet tour at the O2 on Saturday.

    Even without the Jackson shows, the venue will be full for 170 nights in 2009, up from 150 last year.

    “I think for autumn there are artists out there that AEG can find,” said Chris Cooke, editor of British music-business bulletin CMU Daily. “I can’t believe they won’t fill those spaces from September onwards.

    “But it leaves it pretty empty between now and then. For one of the country’s biggest venues, that’s obviously not ideal. … It’s obviously a lost opportunity to have a space that big sit empty for three months.”

    Copyright Access Hollywood


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    editor’s insight
    Nevil Gibson
    Top films of 2008: Abba hits box office high note (updated)
    Nevil Gibson | Monday December 22 2008 – 02:09pm
    (End of year update) A steady stream of blockbusters and the surprise hit of the Abba-based musical Mamma Mia! have boosted the local cinema industry to better than expected year.

    Mamma Mia!, which followed the earlier staging of the musical in Auckland, emerged as a popular favourite with both critics and audiences, bringing in more than $7.6 million, well above 2007’s top favourite, Shrek The Third.

    Two others in the top 10 also pleased the critics – the Batman thriller The Dark Knight, which is headed for Oscar status, and Pixar’s animated Wall-E (see table below).

    The box office takings are likely to exceed last year’s $151.7 million, helped by some end-of year blockbusters, including the latest James Bond, Quantum of Solace, which has grossed $4.8 million since its release in November, The Day the Earth Stood Still, a remake of the 1950s science fiction classic, and the romantic epic Australia.

    Others doing good holiday business are Twilight, based on the popular teen vampire book, and the cartoon Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (both were among the 10th largest grossing films in the US in 2008).

    Boxing Day releases The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Disney’s Bedtime Stories, which both took around $US40 million on their opening weekend in the US at Christmas, are also expected to do well.

    The biggest Christmas release in the US, Marley and Me, took more than $US50 million on its first weekend, a figure that guarantees its blockbuster success.

    In a poor year for New Zealand films, by far the most popular was Second-Hand Wedding, which took $1.9 million. Of the others, Apron Strings did best at $230,000 while the end-of-year Show of Hands did less than $100,000.

    New Zealand admissions for the year are expected to be steady at around 15 million. As with last year, some of the likely Oscar winners are not expected to hit local screens until after the event in late February, though this year is looking better for timelier releases.

    Apart from already released The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, leading Oscar contenders are Doubt (Jan 15), Revolutionary Road (Jan 22), Frozen River (Jan 22), Milk (Feb 5) and the current favourite, Slumdog Millionaire (Feb 5), an Indian set take on TV’s Millionaire quiz shows by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting).

    Clint Eastwood has two front runners, The Changeling (Feb 12) and Gran Torino. Other contenders are Mickey Rourke’s comeback, The Wrestler, Rachel Getting Married and The Reader.

    The awards season kicks off with the Golden Globes on January 11 with the Oscars on February 22.

    Those interested in more challenging fare can also look forward to W, Oliver Stone’s early life of George W Bush, and further general releases from this year’s festivals, such as Hunger and, one hopes, The Wave, from Germany.

    TOP 10 NZ BOX OFFICE 2008
    Place Title Gross revenue
    1 Mamma Mia! $7.6m
    2 The Dark Knight $6.7m
    3 Indiana Jones/Crystal Skull $5.0m

    4 Quantum of Solace* $4.8m
    5 Kung Fu Panda $4.6m
    6 Hancock $3.9m
    7 I am Legend $3.5m
    8 Iron Man $3.5m
    9 Death at a Funeral $3.4m
    10 Wall-E $3.4m
    * Still in release
    Figures to week ending Dec 28
    Source: mpda.org.nz

    US BOX OFFICE 2008

    1 The Dark Knight $531m

    2 Iron Man $318m

    3 Indiana Jones/Crystal Skull $317m

    4 Hancock $228m

    5 Wall-E $224m

    6 Kung Fu Panda $215m

    7 Madagascar/Africa $175m

    8 Quantum of Solace $164m

    9 Twilight $160m

    10 Dr Seuss/Horton $155m

    Source: boxofficemojo.com

    (in alphabetical order)
    Charlie Wilson’s War
    I Served the King of England
    No Country for Old Men
    Burn After Reading
    The Savages
    Un Secret
    There Will Be Blood
    The Visitor

    (based on critics’ ratings)
    4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
    The Dark Knight
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    In Bruges
    Lust, Caution
    Mamma Mia!
    Married Life
    Then She Found Me

  7. Samuel Inglles Says:


    The joke’s ABBA-solutely lost on me
    July 20 | Damian Bathersby

    About a hundred years ago my parents bought my brother an ABBA album for Christmas.

    Remember the one with Benny and Bjorn and Freda and the blonde one (I never could remember her name) standing in front of a helicopter?

    I think they were wearing jump suits, which was a very cool thing back then. In fact, the whole ABBA thing was very cool.

    So when my wife suggested we go to see Mamma Mia at the moviesthe other night, I wasn’t totally opposed to the idea.

    I mean, how bad could it be?

    And if it scored me a few brownie points, all the better.

    Looking back, I should have make a run for the nearest exit the moment I saw the make-up of the audience.

    For a long time after we found a seat, I was the only bloke in the entire cinema.

    A small boat of testosterone lost in a sea of estrogen.

    But was I embarrassed?

    Not on your life. Because I am a sensitive new age man.

    I am comfortable enough with my masculinity to sit through a chick flick.

    I don’t care about sexual stereotyping for I am … oh for god’s sake, who am I kidding?

    I was as embarrassed as all hell and should have had the brains to make break for it then and there.

    Eventually a few other blokes arrived, skulking through the shadows at the last minute in the desperate hope they wouldn’t bump into anyone they knew.

    Most of them were obviously men who’d agreed to accompany their wives because, like me, they were chasing brownie points and had no idea what awaited them.

    A few were young bucks – 18 and 19-year-olds with their girlfriends of their arms and keen to show they were committed enough to their fledgling relationships to sit through a girlie movie.

    If I knew then what I know now, I would have yelled a warning.

    But I had no idea.

    Half an hour later, as Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan broke into yet another ABBA classic, I was contemplating cutting my wrists with a shard of my polystyrene coffee cup.

    Meryl’s character was trapped on a Greek island with three men, each of whom could have been the father of her grown daughter because years earlier she’d been a complete harlot and slept with all of them in a short space of time.

    An hour into the movie, as a bunch of Greek extras launched into Money, Money, Money and the plot surrounding Meryl’s promiscuity deepened, I wanted to yell “just take a DNA test and put me out of my misery!”

    Oh sure, I can look back and laugh now but it was agony.

    I saw some bloke make a run for the door just as Meryl launched into The Winner Takes It All.

    He almost got there before his wife brought him down with a copybook tackle.

    While she held him in a half-Nelson, insisting he serenade her with Fernando, another bloke took advantage of the confusion to slip out the side door just as Pierce began a stirring rendition of something which sounded vaguely like a cat being strangled.

    (Trust me, the man should not sing … even in the shower.)

    “Take me with you,” I yelled.

    But it was too late. He was already halfway to the pub and wasn’t coming back for anyone.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think 95% of the audience enjoyed the movie.

    And I really, truly tried.

    But women all around me were were laughing their heads off and I didn’t know why.

    So I tried to concentrate harder, thinking I was missing the jokes.


    Maybe the entire movie was in some sort of code which only women could understand.

    Eventually the credits rolled to put me out of my misery and, just to rub salt ino my wounds, the audience clapped.

    The lights came up and I turned to my wife, determined to maintain a brave face.

    “Well, there you go,” I said.

    “That was … well that was …”

    She just looked at me like I was an idiot.

    “That was a complete load of crap,” she said.

    “Take me for a drink before I physically hurt someone.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever loved her more than I did at that moment.


    Primal Scream hook up with ABBA

    Scottish rockers Primal Scream have been in Australia touring their latest album Beautiful Future.

    Some of the album sessions were done in Stockholm. Singer Bobbie Gillespie revealed to triple j this gave him the opportunity to hook up with a true legend of Swedish music..

    “The studio that we recorded at I think ABBA recorded some of the big hits in the seventies. Dancing Queen, Knowing Me Knowing You. The studio engineer Jan who’d been there since the seventies, his wife is real good friends with Agnetha. And she said do you want to speak to Agnetha, I’ll call her up, she’s my best friend. And I spoke to her and she was really sweet.”

    Primal Scream finish their Australian tour with shows in Adelaide and Fremantle this week.

    10/02/2009 10:54:00 AM


    Super troupers reunite for Abba musical

    Published: 12:01AM GMT 14 Feb 2005

    Reclusive Agnetha joins Anni-Frid, Benny and Björn for the first time in public for 23 years at the Swedish premiere of Mamma Mia! Matt Born reports

    She came. She smiled. She waved. And then she left without saying anything.

    But the adoring Abba fans camped outside Stockholm’s Cirkus theatre didn’t care. The bare fact that Agnetha – “the blonde one” – had turned up for the Swedish premiere of Mamma Mia!, the hit musical based on the band’s songs, together with Anni-Frid, Benny and Björn, was reward enough.

    The opening on Saturday night was only the second time in 23 years that the quartet who put skin-tight Spandex jumpsuits on the musical map have been in the same room together. And the first time they have done so publicly.

    “It’s like seeing the Beatles reforming,” said one fan excitedly. “No, it’s bigger than that,” corrected another.

    “I meant it’s like seeing the Beatles being reformed even though two of them are dead,” said the first. Indeed to Abba fans, and Swedes, just seeing Agnetha Faltskog in public is tantamount to a resurrection.

    The comparison is not as far-fetched as it might seem. Agnetha, who was married to Björn Ulvaeus, has been a virtual recluse since the band split up in 1982 amid acrimony and divorce. In Sweden, she is known as “Garbo the second”.

    Hopes that she would come to London last year for Mamma Mia’s fifth anniversary – an event that brought the city centre to a standstill – were dashed when she failed to appear, citing a long-standing fear of flying.

    Still, if anything was going to get her out of the house, the local production of Mamma Mia! was it.

    The show, created by Judy Craymer and written by Catherine Johnson, tells the story of a single mother and her daughter on a Greek Island through the hits written by Benny Andersson and Björn. It is the most successful musical in the world and has racked up more than $1 billion in box office takings around the globe.

    It is now playing in more than 14 locations, including Las Vegas, Japan and South Korea, with Milan later this year. In all, more than 20 million people have now seen the show.

    Nevertheless, for Benny and Björn, Stockholm is special. The pair, who oversee each new production, have been particularly hands-on this time, arranging and fine tuning the score to recreate the Abba sound. They even hired their former Abba bassist to play in the pit orchestra.

    “We didn’t want anyone else to do it,” Benny said. “We feel like we’re doing this as a service to the Swedish people. Thousands of them have travelled to London or New York to see the show. Now it is here for them at home.”

    Björn admitted that they had been under “tremendous pressure” to bring Mamma Mia! to Sweden. “But I felt strange revisiting lyrics I wrote 25 years ago,” said the former guitarist, who turns 60 next month. “Emotions change. It was tempting to rewrite them. But I couldn’t.”

    The effort appears to have paid off. The Stockholm show is already sold out until Christmas. And, speaking moments after the premiere, Björn said he was “overwhelmed” by the crowd’s reaction.

    During their eight years together, Abba sold more than 360 million albums, including nine British number-one singles, becoming Sweden’s second biggest export after Volvo cars. Such is their enduring appeal that they still shift more than 3,500 CDs a day.

    Yet their fellow countrymen take the success in their stride. “The Swedes are much more down to earth,” Björn said. “There is none of the hysteria we get elsewhere.”

    So the reaction of the Cirkus audience was “phenomenal”. “They were clapping every song.” By the encores – Dancing Queen and Waterloo, the song with which they won the Eurovision Song Contest 31 years ago – the black-tie audience of Sweden’s great and good were on their feet, arms aloft, dancing and stamping their feet.

    Even Agnetha, seeing the show for the first time, was on her feet bopping along.

    So could there be a reunion? A few years ago, Abba were offered $1 billion to reform but turned it down. Björn insists nothing has happened to change their minds. “People want to remember us as we were – youthful and energetic. Not four sixtysomethings.”

    He still sees Agnetha at family occasions (they have two children, “and now a grandchild together”). And Benny and Björn are working together on an English version of their musical Kristina.

    But even a 10-minute standing ovation failed to persuade Anni-Frid – who, after her divorce from Benny, married a German prince – and Agnetha to join their former husbands on stage for one last curtain call. Let alone a song.

    Not that that bothered Tara Newell or Sarah McSharry too much. The two teenagers from Lutterworth in Leicestershire had flown to Stockholm specially for the show and had camped outside the theatre for 12 hours in the snow,

    “It’s too much to ask for them to sing together,” said 16-year-old Tara. “It’s enough just to see them alive. Together. In the flesh.”

    “They are just so great,” said Sarah, 17. “The music, the stories, the personalities. There’s a song for every mood.”

    So, as they say in Sweden: “Tack för alla sånger.” Thank you for the music.


    Arts & Life
    ABBA Appeal
    Fans of pop group still saying, ‘Thank you for the music’
    Sunday, July 5, 2009 3:17 AM
    By Kevin Joy

    For Joan Shaffer and millions of others worldwide, something irresistible is found in dancing queens and super troupers, a friend named Fernando and a Waterloo surrender.

    Almost four decades after the world took a chance on a Swedish pop group called ABBA, the harmonic, hook-filled music of the kitschy quartet endures.

    “Their songs are undeniable, just awesome,” said Shaffer, of Lewis Center — co-director of the Columbus Crewzers dance team, which will perform an ABBA-themed show on Aug. 15.

    First, though, ABBA will fill the air this month at events in central Ohio: a fourth run of the hit Broadway musical Mamma Mia! — opening Tuesday — and a July 25 collaboration between the Columbus Symphony and the Swedish band Waterloo, an ABBA tribute act.

    My, my; how can we resist?

    The group, which was formed in 1972, consisted of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Faltskog. Their music became a worldwide sensation, spawning seven studio albums and 73 radio singles.

    Yet the dynamic is one that hardly seems commercially viable today: Two married couples. Cheesy lyrics (sung by vocalists who could barely speak the English language). Oh, and those stage outfits.

    “They approached American pop music with a kind of naive enthusiasm that is infectious,” said Jeremy Wallach, associate professor in the Popular Culture Department at Bowling Green State University. “There was this obliviousness . . . to how ridiculous they were.”

    Still, again having Mamma Mia! — a colorful paternity tale strung together by the band’s hit songs — at the Ohio Theatre was a no-brainer, said Allison Thomas, spokeswoman for the Columbus office of the presenting group, Broadway Across America.

    The show, she said, consistently fares well.

    This time around, despite its exclusion from season-pass packages, it is close to selling out its six-day run.

    Although the ABBA songwriters were initially reluctant to release their songs for a theatrical vehicle, the “jukebox musical” succeeded instantly.

    It has earned $2 billion worldwide since its 1999 debut in London and inspired a hit film in 2008 starring Meryl Streep (England’s highest-grossing movie to date, surpassing Titanic).

    Later, a bouncing-ball sing-along version of the $600 million-grossing movie was released in theaters and included as a bonus feature on the DVD.

    “So many people connect with the story and the music,” said Grandview Heights native Samantha Eggers, who left Columbus for New York at age 17 and has since performed in both national tours of Mamma Mia! and a Las Vegas residency of the show.

    “The songs get stuck in my head for days.”

    Eggers, who grew up to her mother’s ABBA tunes while riding in the car and cleaning the house, plays the role of Lisa in the show’s permanent Winter Garden home in New York — where, despite the recession’s toll on Broadway, the show is booming.

    “It’s standing-room (only) every night,” the 24-year-old said.

    ABBA, however, hasn’t performed since 1982. The group never announced an official breakup but for decades has been assumed dissolved.

    It toured North America once, in 1979, and its members dismissed any notions of a reunion, reportedly turning down $1 billion for a 100-date tour. Nonetheless, the group reportedly still sells 2 million to 4 million records a year.

    The tunes remain a staple at karaoke nights, on VH1 countdowns and at wedding receptions.

    “It’s really hit or miss — you can play Dancing Queen and it’s the biggest song of the night, or 200 people will be suddenly staring at you,” said Mark Dantzer, a disc jockey at WVMX (107.9 FM) and a wedding DJ. “But the reason they endure is because they made good, well-produced songs.”

    An ABBA museum was scheduled to open last month in Stockholm, Sweden, but construction delays have stalled its debut.

    ABBA music was featured prominently in the kitschy 1990s flicks Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.

    The TV comedy 30 Rock borrowed from the Mamma Mia! story line in an episode in which Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) interviewed three strangers in hopes of finding his father.

    Even disc jockeys at Columbus indie-rock station WWCD (101.1 FM) last month warbled ABBA tunes on the air as part of a Mamma Mia! ticket giveaway.

    A handful of recent recording artists, meanwhile, have mirrored the group — most notably the ’90s Swedish pop foursome Ace of Base, which mimicked the catchy disco-pop beats and boy-girl dynamic.

    Another was the A*Teens, a Swedish teen quartet specializing in ABBA cover songs that caught Katie Wenner’s attention in the late ’90s.

    The 25-year-old Columbus resident has since come to embrace the original material (and purchase an all-ABBA version of SingStar, a karaoke-game series for the PlayStation).

    “I’m a sucker for Euro-pop,” said Wenner, who already has her ticket for Mamma Mia! this week at the Ohio Theatre.

    As for the Waterloo tribute band — to accompany the 65-piece Columbus Symphony — everything from the wigs to the flashy costumes is meant to evoke the ABBA spirit.

    “The most important thing is, getting it right . . . to give the audience the right feeling,” Waterloo vocalist Camilla Hedren told the Waco (Texas) Tribune last year.

    What keeps ABBA mania going, though, is the generation-bridging quality of the music. The method of delivery is less paramount.

    Shaffer, who’s in her 60s, will take her granddaughters from Indianapolis this week to see Mamma Mia! — a show she has seen 20 times and considers the highlight of a quarter-century of theatergoing.

    “There’s nothing about it that’s a downer,” she said. “Everyone’s on their feet, dancing and singing.”

    Jessica Greer, meanwhile, will celebrate her 15th birthday at the symphony’s Waterloo production. The Gahanna teen knows ABBA isn’t on most of her friends’ iPods, but she has been hooked on the tunes since seeing Mamma Mia! on the big screen.

    “I didn’t even know the music was from a band until later.”


    ‘Mamma Mia!’ songs

    Dancing Queen

    Does Your Mother Know

    Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

    Honey, Honey

    I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do

    I Have a Dream

    Knowing Me, Knowing You

    Lay All Your Love on Me

    Mamma Mia

    Money, Money, Money

    The Name of the Game

    One of Us

    Our Last Summer

    Slipping Through My Fingers


    Super Trouper

    Take a Chance on Me

    Thank You for the Music

    Under Attack


    The Winner Takes It All


    • will open Tuesday and continue through next Sunday in the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. For tickets, call the box office (614-469-0939); or visit the Broadway Across America office, 10 W. Broad St. (www.broadwayacross america.com). • “ABBA the Music: The Symphonic Hits” will be performed by the Columbus Symphony and the tribute band Waterloo on July 25 at Picnic With the Pops on the lawn of Chemical Abstracts Service, 2540 Olentangy River Rd. For tickets, call 614-228-8600 or visit www. picnicwiththepops.com.


    Happily ABBA after
    July 6 2002

    Only years after the group broke up did it become clear how well-loved they were. Peter Paphides speaks to Benny and Bjorn as the hit musical based on their songs heads for Sydney.

    The glass-fronted kitchen units are bright yellow and filled with many different kinds of crispbread. On the work surface there is a wooden block on which sits a large Plopp and a knife with which to cut it up – Plopp, of course, being a popular Swedish chocolate bar. When Benny walks in, though, it’s a circular disc of crispbread that he goes for. But for the greying whiskers and an expensive suit, he’s barely aged since his pop group ABBA dissolved in 1982.

    Five minutes later, Bjorn pulls up outside. Given that he and Benny employ everyone in the building, it’s worth noticing that Bjorn makes his own coffee. Along with the communal Plopp and an office dog named Bjork, all the signs suggest that the Stockholm headquarters of Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson must be a nice place to work.

    It’s only after a few minutes that the nagging sense of something missing dawns. But for a poster proclaiming the 1999 premiere of Mamma Mia! – the Australian production of which opens in Sydney in September – there are no gold discs or awards to suggest that Bjorn and Benny’s 1970s might have been unusually productive. It can’t just be modesty, either, because you can’t move for posters and discs relating to Chess, the 1985 musical they wrote with the British lyricist Tim Rice – and who remembers that?

    “Actually,” says Bjorn, deploying that precise English in which Scandinavians seem to specialise, “there aren’t as many ABBA awards as you might imagine. For the main part of the group’s lifespan, the critics despised us.”

    Maybe that’s why, aged 57, he seems so happy to receive them now. At this year’s Tony Awards, he and Benny, 56, received two awards for the Broadway production of Mamma Mia! They then arrived in London to pick up this year’s Ivor Novello Special International Award, and treated the throng to an impromptu chorus of Fernando.

    Bjorn Ulvaeus has two abiding memories of the ABBA years. The first goes back to the group’s Eurovision Song Contest victory in 1974. In the preceding years, Bjorn and Benny, along with the group’s manager, Stig Anderson, had become obsessed with the contest – reasoning that it would be the only chance the group had of getting recognition beyond their own country. “Stig rightly suggested that the song should have an international theme, so we all came up with Waterloo. It’s the feeling of having won that I remember more than anything else. Just sitting in a room the day after, discussing what we were going to do worldwide. Suddenly we had a sense of something beginning.”

    Everyone remembers the footage, of course – especially Bjorn’s stage costume. Sporting a sparkling, skintight satin jumpsuit with what appeared to be knee-length Cuban-heeled wellington boots, he looked so bizarre that security guards refused to let him pick up his composer’s award at the end of the show. “They couldn’t believe that someone who looked like that could have had a hand in the composition,” he explains.

    In truth, Bjorn had waited a long time to jump about on stage looking like that. To understand why ABBA were so brilliant in the ’70s, we need to grasp just how bad it was for them in the ’60s. Bjorn spent the most exciting decade of the 20th century in the Hootenanny Singers, clean-cut, short-haired purveyors of indigenous wholesome campfire fare like Song of the Birch. In 1963, just as the Singers scored their first Swedish hit, Bjorn heard the Beatles. “In my guts, I instantly knew that was what I would rather be doing, but we were beginning to have some success, so we kept repeating the formula. I would have much preferred to have been in a band like Benny’s.”

    Benny also had a fairly clear idea of what he wanted to do in 1963 – and the fact that, at 18, he already had two children with his girlfriend, Christina, wasn’t going to stop him. He grew his hair long and joined Sweden’s nearest equivalent to the Beatles, the Hep Stars. He shifts uncomfortably when recalling his first brush with fame.

    Benny was not a frequent fatherly presence. “I felt very immature at the age of 16, but clearly I was mature enough to get a girl pregnant. I chose to keep on working instead of being with my family which, as you can imagine, was a disaster for them. But I’ve been talking to the kids through the years and, for some reason, they feel that I made the right choice.

    “When Bjorn and I finally met, our bands were staying in the same hotel. We figured it would be a good idea to try to write a song together.”

    By the time they got around to it, it was more in an atmosphere of desperation than glory. The Hep Stars had split, but the Hootenanny Singers hadn’t. “I remember,” says Benny, “thinking it would be great to make a record like Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys.” Instead, they recorded the soundtrack to a Swedish soft-porn movie, Inga, and plotted their next move.

    The details of what follow read more like the synopsis of an unmade early Woody Allen film than the genesis of a supergroup. Agnetha Faltskog, who married Bjorn in 1971 and had already scored a string of self-composed hits in Sweden, had the most to lose from the arrangement. Bjorn convinced his new wife that a cabaret run might arrest his and Benny’s sliding fortunes. With Benny now dating aspiring Norwegian jazz singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad (known as Frida), the two couples decided to put together a comedy revue. Hidden away in Bjorn and Benny’s personal archive, there is a picture of them dressed as schoolboys with lollipops and little helicopter propellers on their hats.

    After a year of playing half-empty nightspots to Swedish businessmen, Bjorn and Benny wisely put their school uniforms away. It wasn’t until 1972, a year later, that they had the idea of making a record as a quartet. Given that the couples were near neighbours and spending all their time together, this seems incredible. And even then, People Need Love – an unsexy beer-hall clomp (with yodelling!) – was a world away from the breathless pop majesty with which they later became synonymous. Also, the group, which had so far traded as Bjorn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid, had yet to think of a proper name.

    That came a year later when Stig Anderson ran a competition for Swedish radio listeners. With the best names on the shortlist Alibaba, Friends And Neighbours and Baba, Anderson took things into his own hands. The fact that ABBA was also the name of a Swedish brand of canned fish didn’t seem to bother him; nor did Bjorn and Benny’s initial lack of enthusiasm.

    Time spent with Benny and Bjorn is like time spent with a married couple, as befits two people who have been working together for 36 years. Benny is the alpha male – taciturn and vaguely intimidating. He borders on truculent when asked about his private life. Bjorn often seems to direct his answers at Benny, as if keen not to misrepresent him. In Bjorn’s head, you suspect, Benny is still “the cool one”.

    Benny recalls the writing of Money Money Money: “It was originally called Been And Gone And Done It. I said, ‘Do you think this is really the best you can do?”‘

    Bjorn seems both embarrassed and flattered that Benny remembers the episode. Bjorn’s second abiding ABBA memory focuses on their co-operation, too: “It has to be the day Benny and I were working on two separate song fragments. I was playing guitar and he was at the piano, just like we always were. Then we realised that if we slightly changed one of them, they formed a complete song. That was such a kick! I’ll never forget it. That was when we got the melody to The Winner Takes It All.

    “The songs became something of an obsession for us,” admits Bjorn. “Each song had to be different,” says Benny, “because, in the ’60s, that’s what the Beatles had done. The challenge was to not do another Mamma Mia or Waterloo.”

    From SOS it was something that seemed to come incredibly easily to them. Not only had they mastered what people refer to as the ABBA sound, they were writing songs especially for it. Bjorn eventually took sole responsibility for the lyrics. “I wrote a few stinkers,” he recalls.

    Benny: “I’ve told the record company that instead of releasing ABBA Gold, they should put out ABBA Wood but, you know, they’re not so keen on it. I don’t know why.”

    “I’d like to nominate Dum Dum Diddle for ABBA Wood,” smiles Bjorn. He improved, though. Also featured on 1976’s Arrival album was Dancing Queen. Five years ago, when the Sex Pistols’ 20th-anniversary reunion tour arrived in London, John Lydon decided that the band should enter to the strains of Dancing Queen – the plan being to remind people how terrible music had become when the Sex Pistols arrived. The idea backfired when the entire audience cheered and broke into spontaneous dancing.

    Bjorn: “The day that Benny and I finished mixing the instrumental track of Dancing Queen, I was so excited, I just could not rest. Agnetha was asleep and I just had to share it with someone, so I drove all over Stockholm looking for someone to play it to. Finally I ended up at my sister’s house. We couldn’t believe how good it sounded.”

    Benny: “It’s nice if you can like a backing track, you know? But by the time it appears on vinyl, it’s gone. You have no connection with it. You know that it’s you, but you don’t sit around thinking, ‘Oh boy! Am I good or what?'”

    Bjorn has gone uncharacteristically silent, indicating it may have been a bit like that for him.

    It’s impossible to talk about ABBA without talking about the darkness that pervaded Bjorn’s writing from 1977. It’s in the Bergmanesque shadow-world of I Have A Dream. It’s in Knowing Me, Knowing You, in which two estranged lovers survey the debris of their relationship. At this point, Bjorn must have had an inkling that family life was not compatible with ABBA.

    “We all hated touring,” he says, “and we were always careful never to be away from Linda and Christian [their daughter and son] for more than a few days. But for Agnetha, it was really hard.”

    That became clear to all on the 1977 Australian tour, when the group was greeted with adulation of Beatles proportions. Benny recalls: “If you look at ABBA: The Movie [the film shot on that tour], you’ll see that she was never quite able to let go on stage. She was always a bit fearful – whereas Frida is clearly having a whale of a time.”

    In her 1997 co-authored autobiography, As I Am, Agnetha writes, “Sometimes it was awful. I felt as if [the fans] would get hold of me and I’d never get away again. It was as if I was going to be crushed.”

    The year the ABBA movie came out, 1977, Benny and Frida finally married. Three months later, Bjorn and Agnetha divorced. Bjorn is keen to emphasise that “my and Agnetha’s divorce was never acrimonious. We just felt that we had grown apart.” Agnetha is more elliptical. Referring to their marriage as “destructive”, she says, “We all know that there is no such thing as a happy divorce.”

    A week after the couple spent their last family Christmas together, Bjorn met his current wife, Lena Kallersjo, at a party. “I think,” he avers, “that divorce can produce a very positive creative energy.”

    Most people, I tell him, find it hard to imagine why the group wanted to continue in such circumstances. “Well, I agree, it was odd in the beginning. I would come into the studio and I didn’t know what she had been up to for the last two weeks, that kind of thing. But we were very professional about it.”

    ABBA’s final two albums portrayed a man buried deep in the doubts and recriminations of his own world. Happy New Year, from 1980’s Super Trouper album, was set at the end of a party where the “dreams we had before are all dead/like confetti on the floor”. On The Winner Takes It All, Bjorn wrote the lines, “But tell me does she kiss/Like I used to kiss you?/Does it feel the same/When she calls your name?” Then, in one of the greatest acts of sadism in the history of pop, he got his ex-wife to sing them. “I wrote that one very quickly,” he says.

    “As a matter of fact,” admits Bjorn, “I was quite drunk [which] never works. Whenever you write drunk, whether it’s music or lyrics, you look at it the next day and it’s bullshit. But that was a good one. I remember presenting it to the girls, and there were tears, you know?”

    As Frida’s new punky haircut confirmed, her marriage to Benny was now on the rocks. Writing sessions at the group’s summer retreat were yielding worrying results. The Piper saw Bjorn imagining the rise of some charismatic dictator in a distant land – with Agnetha and Frida’s harmonies on the chorus treated to a sound like a procession of Nazi oompah-loompahs beating tin drums.

    By the time the group’s final album, The Visitors, appeared at the end of 1981, they had given up trying to pretend everything was rosy. Frida and Benny had divorced. Slipping Through My Fingers articulated Bjorn’s regret at having prioritised work over Linda and Christian’s early years. The title track sounded like Joy Division. In terms of mood and psychosis, these songs were on a par with Pink Floyd’s Animals or Radiohead’s OK Computer. Bjorn: “Yes, but it really reflects what was happening. Basically, we’d had enough.”

    At the time of ABBA’s demise, the extent of their legacy was unclear. The group never formally split. They released a masterful farewell single, The Day Before You Came, and promoted it in Britain with a couple of glum TV appearances. Benny and Bjorn, of course, started hanging out with Tim Rice and decided that by using the tactical high tension of a chess tournament in the Cold War as a metaphor for failing relationships, they might attain some of the critical acclaim owed to them.

    In the 1980s, Bjorn and Lena moved to Henley-on-Thames and sent their children to a nearby school. Benny remarried, developed a passion for breeding racehorses and released two albums of instrumental folk music. He and his wife also had two children. “This time,” he says, “I was ready for it. It felt more relevant.”

    Imagining ABBA would gradually fade into insignificance, they licensed their back catalogue to a host of budget price record labels “for next to nothing”. Throughout the 1980s, you could buy ABBA compilations at petrol stations and newsagents for loose change. “That was it as far as we were concerned.”

    For a decade, only postmodernists and pranksters seemed to ally themselves to the group’s music. On their 1987 What The F—‘s Going On? album, the KLF, in their early guise as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, sampled the entire intro and chorus to Dancing Queen for their track The Queen And I. When ordered to destroy all copies by ABBA’s publishers, they travelled to Sweden in an unsuccessful attempt to find Benny and Bjorn. This, it transpires, is the first B1 and B2 heard about it.

    Understandably, Benny and Bjorn seem sensitive to the derision of others. Their first reaction to the success of tribute bands like Australia’s Bjorn Again was annoyance. Says Benny: “I thought I was being sent up at the beginning. But when bands like U2 get in touch with you and ask you to appear on stage with them, you realise that it’s just degrees of affection.”

    “I think it’s kind of sad, actually. When you hear those songs being covered by young pop groups. I mean, hasn’t anything happened in the last 20 years?”

    Max Martin, the Swedish songwriter-producer who penned Britney Spears’s biggest hits, seems to be a case in point. The strange hymnal harmonies of Oops! I Did It Again and Baby One More Time have ABBA’s DNA.

    These days, it’s unadorned Swedish music that forms the basis of Benny and Bjorn’s work. They’re working on an English version of Kristina from Duvemla, their three-hour musical based on Vilhelm Moberg’s 2,000-page epic about Swedish emigrants in the early 20th century.

    “It would be nice,” says Bjorn, “if we could take it to London, but we’re not sure at the moment.” He doesn’t say so, but you get the impression that backers might not be falling over themselves to invest in such a project.

    Could it be that post-Mamma Mia! musicals based on the back catalogues of established pop groups are all the rage? Bjorn smiles. “Ironic, isn’t it? But you either accept it or give in to it. And for me, that’s not what life’s about. You know, last year an American promoter offered $US1 billion to reform for an ABBA tour. When an offer like that comes along, you have to seriously consider it, because for that kind of money you can build hospitals. But then the four of us ended up thinking what kind of a year that would be – all the stress of disappointing people night after night. I could imagine the looks on the faces in the audience as they realised we had grown old.” He shivers at the thought. “Really, there’s no amount of money in the world that could persuade me to do that.”

    What Agnetha and Frida did next

    Agnetha Faltskog

    Agnetha’s first solo album following the demise of ABBA, Wrap Your Arms Around Me, met with limited success, and the promotional duties associated with it seemed to traumatise her. When she appeared on British television on Noel Edmonds’s Late Late Breakfast Show, she fell over on stage and injured her arm – an incident that bothered her so much she devoted a chapter to it in her book, As I Am.

    Another solo album fared no better and, by the end of the 1980s, she withdrew from public life and was briefly married to a surgeon. As I Am, written with Swedish journalist Brita Ahman, contained chapters on the ABBA years with titles such as “ABBA’s Last Tour Was a Success But Awful For Me” and “There Was a Fever, There Were Ovations, There Were Sweaty Obsessed Crowds”.

    Agnetha’s bad luck with men took a sinister turn in 1997 when she entered a liaison with a 34-year-old Dutchman, Gert van der Graf. Unbeknown to her, he was a fan who moved near her home in Ekero just to get to know her. She sought a restraining order, which was granted when police visited his house and found a bucket of faeces and a dead turtle. Bjorn still seems protective of her: “People say she is a recluse, but I see her four or five times a year. I don’t think she is unhappy.”


    Like Agnetha, Frida’s solo career fizzled out by the end of the 1980s. In the early 1990s she joined an environmental organisation, The Natural Step, and reinvented herself as a high-profile lobbyist. By this time, she was also a princess as a result of her marriage to Germany’s Prince Ruzzo Reuss.

    Of all ABBA’s members, Frida has done the least to dissociate herself from the band. In 1993, she performed an a cappella version of Dancing Queen for Swedish monarch Queen Silvia’s 50th birthday. In 1995, she approached Agnetha to record a duet but Agnetha declined.

    In 1998, Frida’s 30-year-old daughter, Lise-Lotte, died in a car crash in the US. The following year, Prince Ruzzo died, aged 49, following a battle with cancer. Frida re-emerged a few months later to accompany Benny and Bjorn to the Canadian premiere of Mamma Mia!

    Mamma Mia! opens September 26. Tickets go on sale Monday.


    McCain’s musical taste: Pre-ABBA?
    Posted August 15, 2008 5:30 PM
    by Aamer Madhani

    Sen. John McCain has gotten a lot of ribbing about his confounding — in this Swamp thing’s opinion — affection of the 1970s Scandinavian pop band ABBA.

    On Thursday, Walter Isaacson was the latest pundit to publicly call out the Mama Mia-loving presumptive Republican presidential nominee during an interview at the Aspen Institute in Colorado.

    “If there is anything I am lacking in, I’ve got to tell you, it is taste in music and art and other great things in life,” McCain said in his own defense. “I’ve got to say that a lot of my taste in music stopped about the time I impacted a surface-to-air missile with my own airplane and never caught up again.”

    But wait a minute…As the liberal blogger Spencer Ackerman points out, ABBA hadn’t yet formed in 1967 when the fighter pilot McCain was shot out of the sky and taken prisoner of war.

    The Scandinavian foursome’s debut album Ring Ring was first released in Sweden on March 26, 1973, according to the band’s official web site. Recording sessions began in March 1972 and continued until March 1973.

    Perhaps, McCain was thinking of one of Björn’s Benny’s, Agnetha’s and Frida’s earlier projects such as The Hep Stars or the Hootenanny Singers.

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