One of the big ticket items in this ABBA 40th anniversary year is ABBA The Official Photo Book (see previous blog posts here and here for more details)
This week I received the Super Trouper Edition, a limited edition numbered boxed set (number 847) including the book, a set of postcards, and documentary DVD. The book features over 600 photographs from the ABBA members as children, through their early careers in music, the ABBA years and beyond, right up to a photo of Benny, Frida and Bjorn together at Mono Music in May 2013, the day after the opening of ABBA The Museum. The deluxe version also features an extra section of photos of ABBA in concert.
The book, and indeed the box set, are beautifully presented and well laid out. Of the 600+ photos 100 are said to have never been published before. To my eyes many more of the photos have been rarely seen, if ever. Even those all-too familiar images are welcome, making the book a tribute to ABBA’s lasting legacy.
Browsing through the book the first time I did have a moment of déja vu, during the later ABBA years. There are quite a few Anders Hanser photos at this point, as he took so many photos of ABBA during that period, which makes the section feel similar to the Hanser photo book From ABBA To Mamma Mia! (2000), with the same images presented in a similar manner. It’s not a complaint, just an observation.
The text tells an abbreviated version of the ABBA story, with comments from Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida on events or the photographs themselves. I haven’t read the text yet, but from the bits I have glanced at show signs of being translated from original Swedish text – Stig Anderson is always referred to as Stikkan, a stage name he took in the 50s that became the nickname he was known by in Sweden for the rest of his life, but never outside of Sweden, and there are references to “the ABBAs”. But that’s just a personal gripe, it doesn’t detract from the book at all.
Curiously, I notice that some of the record cover images throughout the book have been sourced from the internet -I’ve spotted my scan of the Australian 1973 ‘Ring Ring’ single from ABBA for the record.
As always fans have been polarised. First over the price of the special editions, then over the contents of the book, the handling of the release by the publisher and distributor.
Some complaints of manufacturing faults and damage in transit are indeed valid. But to complain about the contents not meeting expectations (whatever they might have been) or “too many photos that have been seen before” just seems petty. The publishers have posted a message with an email address to report any problems with the book, though that hasn’t stopped fans venting online, as if that would fix things.
I do think it’s strange that after it seemed that the release would coincide with the Eurovision anniversary in early April, suddenly the book was made available a month earlier. It has led to those who ordered the deluxe editions, who were promised delivery before the bookstore edition, are now getting their copies late.
A very cute but small detail: the four ABBA figures (below) from the opening of ABBA – The Movie on the barcode label on the delivery box and the back of the presentation box.