Posts Tagged ‘ABBA revival’

The ABBA revival – 25 years and counting

8 March, 2012

To many people the “ABBA revival” seemed to emerge spontaneously yet fully blown in 1992, with several almost simultaneous events: UK band Erasure’s ABBA-esque EP of ABBA covers topping the charts; Australian tribute band Björn Again playing big-ticket gigs around the world; and of course the release of the compilation CD ABBA Gold.

But in truth the revival had been building up for at least five years before that. If there was a time when it could be said that the ABBA revival really started, then early 1987 is probably it. And it was mostly led by the fans, those who had remained loyal to ABBA while the rest of the world, and even the former ABBA members, had seemingly forgetten ABBA.

In early March a group of ABBA fans in Sydney, Australia hosted an event celebrating the tenth anniversary of ABBA’s Australian tour, with a replicated version of the 1977 concerts; fans playing the parts of ABBA and the band, miming to a combination of audience tapes from the concerts and some songs from ABBA – The Movie. The night attracted quite a bit of media attention, including this report on morning television.

This event inspired a bar in Sydney’s “gay ghetto” Oxford Street to hold an ABBA night at the end of the same month. This led to ABBA nights, predominantly in gay venues, in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities – in Sydney they were held every six to eight weeks until the mid-90s (and in a way served as some inspiration for the 1994 movies Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). The ABBA nights got a lot of press, not just in the gay media – in 1988 one daily newspaper column wrote of “Bjorn again” fans attending an ABBA night in Melbourne.

In April the Agnetha, Benny, Björn, Frida Fan Club in the Netherlands (formed in 1986, now the Official International ABBA Fan Club) hosted its first ever ABBA Day in Hoek van Holland, attracting fans from across Europe, and a few from beyond. The day went on to become an annual event; today the International ABBA Day, now held in Roosendaal, is a weekend-long event that attracts fans from around the world.

The above mentioned events in Australia directly led to the release of ABBA 1977-1987 The Tenth Anniversary Celebration videocassette (actually a copy of the 1982 Swedish video release Music Show 1+2), the first ever ABBA video release in Australia. In the UK ABBA – The Movie had a high-profile VHS re-release during 1987.

Meanwhile British group Doctor & The Medics had released a cover version of ‘Waterloo’ in 1986. Thanks to its humorous video parodying ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest performance it got a lot of airplay on television, particularly in Australia in the lead-up to the March 1987 fan event, but wasn’t a big hit – it peaked at number 45 in the UK.

Over the next few years further events contributed to a growing renewed interest in ABBA. In 1988 the UK compilation album Absolute ABBA was advertised on TV. In 1989 tribute band Björn Again played its first gig in Melbourne, Australia, the first of a zillion tributes. Screenings of ABBA – The Movie became a staple of revival and art-house cinemas. The 1992 Swedish film Änglagård (aka House of Angels) was advertised as featuring “the music of ABBA”.

And then in late 1992 the revival went mainstream, bringing ABBA back to the world’s attention.

2008 in review

1 January, 2009

Benny, Agnetha, Frida, Björn, Stockholm 4 July 2008 (fantasy photo, thanks to turned into one of the most phenomenal years in ABBA’s 36 year history, another peak in the ongoing ABBA revival.

Of course, this was mainly due to the film version of the musical based on the songs of ABBA, MAMMA MIA!

Following its premiere in London on 30 June, the movie became the number one film in many countries, even up against such blockbuster fare as the Batman sequel The Dark Knight. MAMMA MIA! has gone on to break box office records, becoming the highest-grossing film ever in the UK.

The movie divided critics and fans, but there’s no denying that it propelled ABBA back into the limelight. To date it has grossed more than US$570 million.

The Stockholm premiere of MAMMA MIA! on 4 July saw that rarest of events, the four former ABBA members at the same place at the same time. Agnetha and Frida danced together with actress Meryl Streep on the red carpet, and for the first time in over 22 years the four were photographed together, albeit alongside the film’s cast and crew. This disappointed many, but within hours Photoshopped pictures of “the ABBA reunion” (like the one above) were spread around the world.

The movie’s soundtrack CD was also a huge hit, topping the Billboard Album chart – the first ABBA-related album to top the US charts. The recently released DVD has already broken sales records in less than two months.

ABBA’s original recordings also made an impact this year, with the flagship compilation ABBA Gold topping the chart again in the UK, becoming the oldest number one album ever, and  it also topped the Billboard Pop Catalogue chart for the first time.

Other compilations including The Definitive Collection, Number Ones, 18 Hits and even the new box set ABBA – The Albums made chart appearances.

Updated versions of ABBA Gold, More ABBA Gold and the box set Thank You For The Music attracted new buyers, as did The Albums box set. A vinyl reissue of ABBA – The Album commemorated the 60th anniversary of the 12 inch 33⅓ rpm long-playing record.

Agnetha released a new double CD compilation of her Swedish and English solo songs, My Very Best.

Many unique ABBA books were released during the year, including ABBA & Me (a Dutch fan’s story), Historia de ABBA en ArgentinaMade in Suécia: o paraíso pop do ABBA (from Brazil), ABBA Let The Music Speak (a musician’s guide to ABBA), ABBA: The Scrapbook (a pictorial history), ABBA – The Story (the first full-length ABBA biography in Swedish, also in Norwegian and Danish versions), plus an updated version of the definitive English biography Bright Lights Dark Shadows.

Stig Anderson’s daughter Marie Ledin wrote a memoir of her father, Min pappa hette Stikkan. Benny denounced the anticipated tell-all, but in reality it was a loving tribute without the expected salacious gossip about the split between Stig and ABBA.

ABBA also joined the lucrative games market, with Singstar ABBA for PlayStation.

For a group that came to an end 26 years ago, that’s a lot more action than could be expected over many years, let alone all in one.

In sad news, drummer Ola Brunkert died in March at the age of 61 following an accident, and photographer Bengt H. Malqvist died in November at the age of 80.

And what of the future? There are those, including Benny himself, who see ABBA as over after this year.

2009 sees the 10th anniversary of the stage musical MAMMA MIA! along with the 35th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win; no doubt there will be commemorations for the twin anniversaries. ABBA’s Voulez-Vous album was released 30 years ago in April, and if past history is anything to go by, we may get a Deluxe Version of the album.

ABBA the Museum was to open in Stockholm in June, but due to problems with the site the opening has been postponed indefinitely. In the meantime the museum’s collection will be touring the world.

Benny Anderssons Orkester (Benny Andersson’s Orchestra, or BAO) will tour Sweden again in the northern Summer, and will also perform its first-ever concert in London in July. There is also talk of an English-language album – some songs have already been recorded.

Björn, Frida and Agnetha will probably remain as they have for the past few years, mostly maintaining their private lives with the occasional public appearance.

And while the music lives on, so will ABBA.


27 September, 2007

ABBA GOLD - Greatest HitsThis month marks the fifteenth anniversary of the original release of ABBA GOLD – Greatest Hits.

At the time the CD was released, it had been almost ten years since ABBA had come to an end. General interest in the band had declined, though a dedicated worldwide fan base continued to love ABBA and enjoy their music.

It’s astounding that this simple compilation CD, which at the time seemed to be just another in a long line of quickly thrown together ABBA CDs that had flooded the market over the previous ten years, would kickstart a global revival and reevaluation of the band, and would become not only ABBA’s biggest selling album, but one of the biggest selling albums of all time.

The revival had actually been building up over the previous five years, with ABBA music playing in trendy clubs, theme nights, and a growing fan club. But the release of the compilation, along with Erasure’s cover EP Abba-esque and the international break-through of tribute band Björn Again, saw the revival explode to the general population.

The premise is simple – 19 ABBA hits on one single CD.

I’ve never been a particular fan of the compilation. The running order seems fairly random and arbitrary. There are at least two songs that don’t really belong as they don’t fit into the context of “ABBA’s greatest hits” – ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ (a limited release 12 inch single) and ‘Thank You For The Music’ (a single A side in just a few countries, mostly to promote compilation albums in 1983). International chart-topping hits ‘Ring Ring’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ or ‘Summer Night City’ seem better qualified for inclusion.

Still, ABBA GOLD has been a phenomenal success, having sold something like 26 million copies and introducing a whole new generation of ABBA fans.

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