Four years ago I rescued a feral kitten who subsequently developed an obsession with my iPad. Maybe playing with his reflection, he would move his paws rapidly across the screen for ages, as though frantically scrolling to find something. When he managed to locate the music app and activate the ABBA playlist I found it a cute coincidence... until he started doing it regularly.
I would sometimes hear ABBA music suddenly strike up in another room and, sure enough, it would be the kitten DJ. He even accessed ABBA once via iTunes on my laptop. Of course, I named him ABBA.
As children, my sisters and I adored the Swedish super group and their catchy, harmonious music. In our eyes, who could not love them? We cried upon seeing the ABBA movie for the first time and knew all of their songs by heart. We would sometimes spend hours playing ABBA records, singing along loudly and prancing around the dining room table.
I was thrilled when I got a "Big Blue Marble" pen pal from Sweden ("the land of ABBA"). Imagine my delight when she casually mentioned that her father worked with ABBA, and that she sometimes visited Frida, who would give her milk and cookies.
Whether this was true or not, it impressed me, especially as Frida was our favourite of the four. When pretending to be ABBA, my sisters and I often "fought" to be her.
I feel prehistoric saying this, but in those days there was no internet, no social media, no Google for easily sourcing images, videos and information on our idols; so my sisters and I joined an international ABBA club. We were excited to receive (via "snail mail") ABBA magazines packed with images, glossy centrefold posters and updates on what we considered (and still consider) to be "the best group ever."
One day, while up in Daddy’s study listening to music charts on the radio, my sister Kathryn and I started blasting Super Trouper as it came in at number one. Overcome with joy, we decided to wave a long red piece of fabric from the window while screaming, pretending to be fans at an ABBA concert. One of our neighbours, hearing loud screams and seeing us frantically waving long red cloth from the upper window, thought that we were in danger.
How relieving, yet confusing, it must have been for her to discover that we had simply been celebrating ABBA’s number one.
A few days ago I asked Kathryn how she feels about ABBA’s 2021 comeback.
“It’s a blessing that they are all still alive,” she responded. “It was a long time ago and so much has happened in the world. It’s not just us...so many people know and love ABBA, all the songs, all the words. This is a great comeback at a time when the world needs uplifting music that is safe and clean and familiar. Comforting.”
After ABBA broke up in the early 1980s, they refused to reform, admirably turning down a US$1 billion offer to do so. Now, four decades later, the timing is right for their reunion. Their hugely anticipated new album, Voyage, due out on November 5, broke a Universal Music UK record when over 80,000 copies were pre-ordered in just three days. Their two new singles, I Still Have Faith In You and Don’t Shut Me Down, entered the UK charts at numbers 14 and nine respectively, with the latter giving the band their first top-ten single in four decades.
In 2022, for a series of revolutionary concerts entitled ABBA Voyage, digital technology will be used to create "ABBAtars,"realistic-looking younger versions of the group members which will be projected onto a transparent screen at a specially-constructed 3,000-capacity ABBA Arena’ in London. Nightly, these "younger" versions of Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid (Frida) and Agnetha, will "perform," accompanied by a ten-piece live band. Tickets are surprisingly reasonably priced for this historic event.
ABBA’s timeless, masterful music has been capturing the hearts of people of all ages all over the world since they first burst into the global spotlight with their 1974 Eurovision Waterloo victory. Few artistes and groups can hope to achieve ABBA’s phenomenal track record.
“This is what the world needs now,” a pandemic-worn friend said recently. “When I heard their new music I lifted. Everything lifted!”
Welcome back, ABBA. In your words: "What would life be? Without a song or a dance, what are we?"