It was a scene to thrill the heart of Dancing Queens all over the world. After decades of no-speaksies, the four members of spangled Swedish supergroup, ABBA, have appeared in public together for the first time in more than 20 years.
Oh joy! Oh bliss! Oh Fernando! It’s more than any of us could have wished for; the four ABBA-maniacs, full of their old ABBAloney, smiling at the cameras and waving regally at the adoring throngs. Thank you for the music, you glorious quartet of Scandinavian songbirds! What a bunch of Supa-pa Troupa-pa’s.
The reason for this historic event was the world premiere of the movie Mamma Mia! Based on the incomprehensibly popular stage musical of the same name, Mamma Mia! tells the idiotic story of some vapid British bird and her trashy mother who are vacationing on a Greek island, or something. Featuring nearly two dozen ditties from the ABBA songbook, this cut-and-paste piece of theatrical nonsense has been playing on the West End for years and toured around the world, making lots of Money, Money, Money for the already unfathomably wealthy members of the group.
Now, it has been made into a movie, starring those two musical greats, Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. Sounds like a winner to me. Especially when you read stories about how 59 year old Meryl ‘instinctively’ did the splits during a dance number, and how it took seven people to shoehorn her into a white spandex jumpsuit. It all makes your mouth water, like it does just before you throw up.
So, anyway, there they were on the balcony of the theatre in Stockholm – the fabulous four, Beardie, Shortie, Blondie and Ugly, in the flesh. Could this apparent reconciliation be the start of something big? Will one of the planet’s best-selling pop sensations take a ch-ka-ch-ka-chance by slipping back into their stripey leotards for the first time since 1982?
Well, don’t you all go getting your hopes up. The reunion seems to be little more than a photo-op, and there is nothing to suggest a thawing of the fraught personal relationships that ended the group’s 10 year string of chart successes. It seems that this incestuous little foursome still haven’t gotten over their respective marriages and divorces to one other. Too much knowing me, knowing you, methinks – not to mention a bit of ‘ah ha!’
So, ABBA will not be reuniting. Lower the flag to half mast, put on the black armbands, don the sackcloth and ashes. Fans of Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anna-Frid have truly met their Waterloo. Despite the happy scene on the balcony, the group’s garish shoes and sequins are going to remain firmly in the closet (unlike most ABBA fans).
The reason for this, according to Bjorn Ulvaeus, is that there is ‘simply no motivation to regroup’. Rejecting pleas from fans who want to be Bjorn again, he continued by saying they want fans to remember them as they were, ‘young, exuberant and full of ambition’. I think my mouth’s watering again.
Now, I was never an ABBA fan. True, I admired the crisp, clear vocals of the two ladies, and I have to admit a grudging respect for the maddeningly catchy melodies and lush harmonies that seemed to embed themselves effortlessly into the global zeitgeist. But I always found the ABBA cult to be somewhat bizarre, much like the Australian movies that resurrected the group’s music in the mid 1990s.
But I think the most peculiar thing about ABBA’s phenomenal success is that they are Swedish. I mean, this is a country that’s most famous for Ingmar Bergman, herring and suicide. How did this solemn nation produce the chirpiest pop group this side of the Carpenters?
I guess we’ll never know. But one thing’s for sure. Despite all the sarcasm, ridicule and scorn that may be heaped upon them by the likes of miserable sods like me, ABBA’s musical legacy is going to live on – whether you like it or not. As they say, the winner takes it all and ABBA is certainly emerging victorious from the post-modern slagheap of popular culture. Besides, you can’t argue with success, my little Chiquitita. IMHO.
[Originally posted 06/07/2008]