I never bought an Abba record, not one single but I do know most of their songs and can sing along to nearly every one of them. This is not because I am a fan, but I do have a grudging respect for their enduring appeal, not to mention their ability to make some of the sweetest and catchiest music ever.
I was, like most people young and alive in the ‘70s unable to escape them. This was the era of the transistor radio for teenagers, not Walkmans or iPods – we couldn’t take our record collections with us wherever we roamed so we took our trannies to the beach, on the bus and to bed and for most of my teenage years the dominant noise was Abba, sad but true.
I went to parties – such tame, sweet affairs in retrospect, at friends’ houses, in their rumpus rooms built by dads under the house. The most outrageous thing was Dean Coleman (and Tim Brown?) lighting farts. Yes, we had tame little kisses and furtive feels and there might have been a bottle of beer somewhere but mostly we chatted and danced. To Abba. I remember very well dancing on my sloping front lawn in a large Zorba like circle shouting along to the Abba songs on the record player, slowly falling down the hill.
Abba seemed to infect Australian culture. They were forever on Countdown, famously mocked by Norman Gunston and his unique rendition of Fernando.
Then there were the movies – Muriel’s Wedding
and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
It was as if with these iconic movies from the 90s that our love affair with Abba came out of the closet. Australians seemed finally able to celebrate their love for the only thing worthwhile to come out of Sweden – other than Volvo and Nobel.
We could love Abba now and so the world took them on too and Mamma Mia – stage play and film is the latest in our on-going affair with the Swedish wonder-band, long since rent asunder by the forces of fame and touring and expectations. I was always saddened by the demise of the relationships within the band, but who could blame them?
Mamma Mia is an odd concoction of Abba songs and a plot based on… what, exactly? But I did enjoy the film – once I got to watch it on my own, without my beloved moaning about the inanity of the plot, Meryl Streep’s odd acting, the convenient way all three ‘fathers’ were happy to ‘own’ Sophie, and Pierce Brosnan’s attempt at singing. I like the setting and the songs and I like watching Pierce, even if listening to him was a bit tricky.
Never-mind they’ve made millions from it, so the Abba juggernaut rumbles on. The fans grow old but new ones grow up to take their place. What next – I guess eventually there’ll be a 100 years of Abba, but I won’t be around for that, fortunately.
I confess, SOS is my favourite Abba song: Fernando my least. And I do find myself still singing along when they come on the radio. Age shall not weary them or the radio forget. (Images courtesy Google Images)