Archive for the ‘Ian’ Category

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Celebrating the 30th anniversary of ABBA’s Gold

23 September, 2022

This morning I appeared on The Morning Show on the 7 network in Australia, talking about all things ABBA, my book ABBA: Song By Song, and of course the 30th anniversary of ABBA Gold.

The ABBA Phenomenon in Australia at 25

24 July, 2022

Twenty-five years ago this week, my first website The ABBA Phenomenon in Australia was launched.

In the mid-1990s I’d been thinking about writing a book about ABBA’s phenomenal success in Australia. Around that time a local music collectors’ magazine published a discography of ABBA’s local releases. There were many errors in the article, not least that the records were listed in the order that they’d made the charts, rather than by release date. I wrote a letter to the magazine, pointing out the many errors. I don’t remember if my letter was ever published.

Then the internet came along, making it easy for anyone to publish anything. So I took the idea about writing a book, used that letter as a base, expanded it, and created the website, which was launched on 19 July 1997. In addition to the full Australian discography, I wanted to detail ABBA’s two visits to Australia, plus other parts of the ABBA story specific to Australia, including the commercial for National electronics, and the feature film ABBA – The Movie, filmed during the Australian tour in March 1977.

The site has grown from the basic start, with the addition of vintage articles from local media, the various tours of the Mamma Mia! musical, and the ABBAWORLD touring exhibition in 2010 and 11, and a lot more.

Over the years I’ve been adding more detailed information as it came available. Not least including actual release or broadcast details where I’ve found them. So many sources, especially Wikipedia, list the first chart date as the release date.

Unfortunately in the last few years I haven’t been able to keep the site as up to date as I’d like, due to many conflicting factors (not least the research and writing of my book ABBA: Song By Song). I only added details of ABBA’s 2021 album Voyage a few months after it was released. Any other gaps in the recent discography will be updated very soon.

If you want to relive the excitement of ABBA’s extraordinary success in Australia, pay a visit today!

ABBA Voyage – a concert like no other

9 June, 2022

Photo: 30 May

“People everywhere, a sense of expectation hanging in the air”

WARNING: this post contains major spoilers about ABBA Voyage, including the full set list.

As any reader of this blog would be aware. ABBA’s spectacular Voyage concert opened at the purpose-built ABBA Arena in London on Thursday 26 May to critical acclaim, fan rapture, and near universal five star reviews. And it brought ABBA together on the red carpet, and later for a brief appearance on stage.

Photo: @abbavoyage 26 May

I had intended to write this blog the day after the premiere, but between being overwhelmed by what I’d just seen, an extremely busy two weeks in the UK, and seeing the show several times from different viewpoints, it has taken till now to get it together.

ABBA Voyage defies description. It’s not a concert but it is. It’s not a sound and light experience yet it is. It’s definitely not old-style holograms.

Photo: 3 June

The avatars are seen on a screen that wraps around almost half of the arena. The illusion is amazing – the avatars look, move, and feel like the real ABBA. They interact with each other and also the audience with some pre-recorded dialogue. Most often they are portrayed life size, sometimes also projected in larger-than-life close-ups, just like any modern concert.

At times there are larger scale projections, which doesn’t actually detract from the conceit that the avatars are real. The entire arena is filled with lighting and sounds enveloping the entire space, not just focused on the stage. The arena is rarely fully dark, and seeing the rest of the audience becomes part of the experience.

Photo: 3 June
Photo: 4 June

The set list is a surprise, with several album tracks mixed in among the expected big ABBA hits. As announced last September, the first two new ABBA songs recorded in 2017, I Still Have Faith In You and Don’t Shut Me Down, are a highlight.

Vocals are from ABBA’s original studio recordings, remixed at times. A few songs appear to feature live vocals from the 1977 and 1979 concerts (discussion is still ongoing in fan forums on exactly what vocals may be live). A major shock is the inclusion of the previously unreleased fourth verse of When All Is Said And Done. Another surprise is a choir that joins in at the end of The Winner Takes It All, which sings new lyrics to the backing vocal melody.

Music is provided by a ten piece band on stage, which gets its own feature spot during the show. Though personally while I think it is worthy to introduce the band to the audience, I feel this goes on half a song too long.

Photo: 30 May

I was lucky enough to see the show a total of six times from different locations in the arena, including opening night on May 26th and the first performance on the 27th. A couple of personal highlights: seeing Agnetha clapping along during Chiquitita, and watching the King and Queen of Sweden, plus their security and military escorts, up and dancing during Dancing Queen.

There really are no bad views, though if I were to suggest best locations it would be either dance floor, towards the centre but about halfway back from the stage, or the centre block of seats. What I found to be the worst spot was front and centre on the dance floor. Way too close, the avatars almost lose that sense of reality, while it’s impossible to see anything else in the arena without turning.

Photo: 3 June

Once the show has bedded in and proven to be a long-running hit, there is no reason that ABBA Voyage could not spread to other parts of the world. I think it would be the ideal show for Las Vegas, where artist residencies have been big for over a decade, and The Beatles Love with Cirque du Soleil (a spiritually similar show to Voyage) has been playing since 2006.

Hopefully some time in the near future the ABBA Voyage will be released on audio formats, so listeners around the world can experience the brilliant new arrangements of the songs.

Photo: 30 May

ABBA Voyage is amazing, brilliant, beguiling, astounding.

Tickets are now on sale to the end of May 2023 at abbavoyage.com

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Abba fans in London: Unreal to see the show

27 May, 2022
The Australian Abba fans at the newly built stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London are looking forward to the “Abba voyage”. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Among the thousands of Abba fans gathered in London, excitement is rising ahead of the premiere of “Abba voyage” – and the most faithful have travelled across half the globe to see the Abbatars on stage.

TT 08:01 – 26 May, 2022

“It feels unreal to finally see the show,” says Roxanne Dickson, who along with a group of Australian Abba fans meets TT’s emissaries in front of the stadium in east London.

Despite persistent rain, feverish activity is taking place in front of the newly built stadium in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park area of east London, where a collection of construction workers are trying to make sure everything is in place ahead of the premiere of “Abba Voyage”.

Even a crowd of curious fans have gathered at the venue in the hope that a living member of the Swedish group will unannounced appear – and some of the fans who have come to the British capital to see the historic performance have travelled further than others.

Opposite the stadium, a group of Australian Abba fans have sought shelter from the rain – and despite the classic British weather, the mood in the group is at its peak.

For Roxanne Dickson, wearing a yellow t-shirt, adorned with the Abbas – also the owner of one of the world’s largest Abba collections – it was also obvious to travel to London – despite the long and expensive journey.

“Absolutely – and now it feels unreal to finally see the show. This is all a very emotional experience for me,” she told TT’s broadcaster.

Even for Ian Cole, who has written a book on Abbas’ songs, it was obvious to travel to London as soon as the news of the Abbatar show was released – but just going to a concert wasn’t enough for the Australian superfan.

“I’m going to see four shows, which I’m very much looking forward to. And it will be exciting to say the least to see how it turns out – we don’t know what awaits us,” he says.

Beloved in Australia

The Australian fan base gathered outside the stadium in east London is also a testament to the special standing Abba has in the country. Ever since the 1970s, the group in Australia has been loved by loyal fans, praised by the band Bjorn Again – who at their concerts play Abba songs in front of cheering fans – and celebrated every year during a multi-day festival in the small town of Trundle.

One reason for the love affair is Abbas’ legendary tour in 1977, when 160,000 people watched the 11 concerts the group performed over 13 intense days.

The tour’s most legendary gig was the so-called “rain concert” in Sydney, where a huge downpour, followed by a mass invasion of insects that caused Benny’s white piano by the end of the concert to be dyed black, did not prevent the group from playing in front of an audience of 30,000 people.

For Roxanne Dickson, who at the age of six was one of the spectators on that wet Sydney night, it is also extra emotional to soon see the Abobes in London – albeit in digital form.

“My mother, who was a big Abba fan, had taken out a loan to take me and my sisters to that concert. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and now it feels like being back there again,” she said.

“Have given me friendship!

Many of the motley group gathered outside the stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on this rainy May day also testify that the love for Abba is about so much more than just music.

Fans Louise, Cotton and David tell us that they met back in 1989 at a gig with Bjorn Again – and that they have since remained close friends.

And according to Cotton, who not only wears a T-shirt that reads “I love Abba,” but whose cap is also adorned with the group’s name, it’s also the friendship between the fans that makes Abba so unique.

“I’ve been longing for this concert for 40 years – and it feels great to experience it together with all these friends. Because Abba has given me friendships that last a lifetime,” she says.

“In other places, people look at me obliquely if I wear an Abba print t-shirt, but in Australia I’m always met with smiles. Because there we are not ashamed because we like music that makes you happy.

Roxanne Dickson is one of the Australian fans in London. “It’s going to be a very emotional experience,” she said. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
Ian Cole is set to see four of the performances of “Abba voyage.” “I hope to hear both the biggest hits and more unknown songs,” he says. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
The Australian fans testify to how much Abba means to them. “We have a special relationship with Abba,” Cotton said. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Facts: Abbas’ relationship with Australia

Abbas’ 1977 tour of Australia began the country’s special relationship with the Swedish group. In her autobiography, Agnetha Fältskog has described the experience: “There was fever and hysteria. There was an ovation and sweaty and obsessive crowds. Sometimes it was horrible. I felt like the audience could grab me never to let me go.”

The 90s films “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Muriel’s Wedding” gave the relationship a revival.

In “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” three drag queens embark on a tour in a ratty bus in the Australian wasteland, delivering Abba interpretations in front of a not infrequently unsympathetic audience.

In “Muriel’s Wedding” from the same year, Toni Collette’s awkward Abba fan delivers lines like: “Now my life is as good as an Abba song. As good as ‘Dancing queen'”.

In the Australian resort of Trundle in New South Wales with about 600 inhabitants, an Abba festival has been held since 2012. The event attracts thousands of people every year, many wearing classic Abba outfits, who participate in singing competitions, party and listen to bands such as the Australian cover band Bjorn Again.

Source: Abbafans i London: Overkligt att se showen

Meet Australia’s biggest ABBA fans who are preparing for the event of a lifetime – the first ‘concert’ in more than 40 years

5 May, 2022

This week 7 News Australia published a story on Australian fans who are travelling to London for the opening of the ABBA Voyage concert later this month, including yours truly.

Read the story here.

Interview on Australian TV: new music, Song by Song, and ABBA festival

7 September, 2021

This morning I appeared on Australian TV on Studio 10. I joined Gary Crowley as we discussed the new ABBA songs, plus my book ABBA: Song By Song and the annual Trundle ABBA Festival.

Interview on Australian radio about new ABBA music

4 September, 2021

On Friday morning, just hours after the announcement of the ABBA Voyage album and digital concert, I was interviewed on Perth radio station 6PR talking about the new music and my book ABBA: Song By Song.

ABBA: Song by Song

22 February, 2020

On 6 March 2020 my first book ABBA: Song by Song is published.

Writing a book about ABBA has been a long-time dream of mine. I’ve had a few ideas over the years, including writing a book about all of ABBA’s songs. Not just the 98 songs released on record between 1972 and 1982, but those they performed in concert, on TV, and radio that were never released, and those few that they tried to hide but were released years after ABBA ended.

I was approached by a British publisher, seeking someone to write such a book about ABBA for their expanding Song by Song series. After submitting a couple of test entries, they accepted me to write the book for them. Though it contains no direct input from ABBA themselves, it does contain a wealth of facts and quotes gathered over the past 44 years.

I’ve even been able to include details of the new songs announced by ABBA in 2018, to be included in the new digital ABBA-tar experience. At the time of writing, the songs have yet to be heard by the world.

ABBA: Song by Song is published by Fonthill Media. It is available in both paperback and ebook. See here for more about the book, plus links to order.

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Fernando – 40 years as Australia’s biggest hit

8 March, 2016

fernandosleeveForty years ago this week, in the middle of ABBA’s promotional trip to Australia, the brand new single ‘Fernando’ was released.

This was the first new music from ABBA since the phenomenal breakthrough with ‘Mamma Mia’ and the other singles from the ABBA album the year before. The single’s release was highly anticipated, especially coming with ABBA’s first visit to the country.

‘Fernando’ had its Australian television premiere not on a pop music show, but on the news program A Current Affair on Friday 5 March, when Lasse Hallström’s now famous film clip was shown as part of a report on that day’s press conference at the Sydney Hilton Hotel.

‘Fernando’ hit record shops and radio stations from Monday 8 March. On that day, in the singles chart ‘Ring Ring’ was at number 14 (on the way up), ‘SOS’ was at 16, and ‘Mamma Mia’ was at 29 (both on the way down); the ABBA album was at number 4 (on the way down), The Best Of ABBA at 12, Ring Ring at 40, and Waterloo at 76 (all three on the way up). ABBA had travelled to Melbourne to perform ‘Fernando’ and ‘SOS’ on The Don Lane Show.

‘Fernando’ entered the singles chart at number 75 the following week, on 15 March. Three weeks later, on 5 April, it reached number 1, where it stayed for the next 14 weeks. It replaced Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ at the top spot. ‘Fernando’ equalled the previous longest running number 1, The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ in 1968 (Note: There was no standard national Australian chart until ARIA in 1983. Some charts quote different weeks at number 1 for both songs. These figures are from the generally accepted authoritative chart, the Kent Music Report).

‘Fernando’ was a highlight of the locally-made TV special The Best of ABBA, which was the prime reason for ABBA’s visit to Australia. In fact, both sides of the single were featured in the special, with Frida dedicated the B side ‘Tropical Loveland’ to Australia, “that is, when the cyclones aren’t blowing of course”. On both the Don Lane Show and The Best Of ABBA, Agnetha and Frida wore the same folk-style dresses they had worn in the film clip.

The screening of the special not only helped push ‘Fernando’ and The Best Of ABBA to number 1, but also several older singles and B sides into the chart, to the point where for two weeks (19 and 26 April) there were 5 ABBA singles in the top 40 (‘Fernando’, ‘Ring Ring’, ‘Rock Me’, ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’; ‘Hasta Mañana’ would enter the chart on 10 May, by which time ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘SOS’ had left the top 40, but were still in the top 100), and for 12 weeks (26 April to 12 July) all four ABBA albums were in the top 40 albums.

During ‘Fernando”s run at number 1 there was some criticism that it had remained at the top for so long. Popular TV music show Countdown didn’t play the clip as the number 1 song every week, instead sometimes replacing it with another top 10 entry or predicted future chart hit.

One week when ‘Fernando’ was actually shown, that week’s guest host John Paul Young, whose ‘I Hate The Music’ had been stuck at number 2 for several weeks, donned a long blonde wig and emoted to camera when the show cut to him during the clip. That footage has never surfaced, but I’m sure I’ve seen footage from the same episode in recent documentaries on Countdown. If there is a starting point to the backlash over ABBA’s overexposure that led to the alarming drop in ABBA’s popularity after the 1977 tour, this would be it.

‘Fernando”s last week at number 1 was 5 July. The following week it was replaced by Sherbet’s ‘Howzat’, which led to many newspaper stories gloating that a local act had knocked the mighty ABBA off the top. But really, ‘Fernando’ couldn’t stay number 1 forever, so something was going to replace it eventually. ‘Fernando’ remained in the singles chart for a total of 40 weeks, until 13 December, its last placement at number 93.

RCA reported that ‘Fernando’ sold 400,000 copies during 1976. This was the highest selling single ever in Australia to that point, a record that would remain for a little over twenty years, until Elton John’s ‘Candle In the Wind 97’, which sold over 980,000 copies. Today in the age of cheap music downloads, sadly a few dozen songs have now outsold ‘Fernando’, but the population of the country has increased by over 70% since 1976.

‘Fernando’ entered the Australian vernacular, with the phrase “Can you hear the drums <insert name here>?” often quoted or used as a headline for instant recognition to this day.

Personally, ‘Fernando’ was the first newly released ABBA record I got that I had never heard. I’d missed that first TV screening of the clip (I was out at the roller skating rink), and it hadn’t had any radio airplay before the record hit the shops.

(Originally written for A.B.B.A : The Music Goes On And On And On)

Portrait of the artist as a young ABBA fan

25 December, 2015

Susan and Ian, Xmas Day 1975Forty years ago today I got my first ABBA record, the self-titled album released in 1975.

The photo shows my sister and I on Xmas Day 1975. I’m holding the ABBA album, not that you can tell. Our father liked to take candid snaps, rather then posed photos, so sadly there’s no photo of me holding the album properly. The following year there is a photo of me with an ABBA bag  in the foreground.

Having fallen for ABBA after hearing ‘Mamma Mia’, I’d asked my parents for the ABBA album for Xmas. I’ve written before about getting the album before here, and how I first fell in love with ABBA here.

Getting the album was the start of my ABBA fandom. From this point I collected every album and single, newspaper and magazine clippings, watched every ABBA special on TV, listened to the radio waiting for ABBA songs. A highlight of course was going to ABBA’s first concert in Sydney in March 1977.

Twelve-year-old me had no idea that forty years later I’d still be loving ABBA, have made so many friends (sadly lost a few along the way), and experienced so much through the love of ABBA.

 


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