As if the world wasn’t already hurtling to hell in a handbasket, along comes this: ABBA is threatening humankind with new songs.
Yes. They sold enough records back in the day to lay a path of vinyl to the moon and back. Yes. They generated enough money from the hundreds of millions of albums they sold globally to rival the gross domestic product of many small nations. Yes. They brought happiness and joy, a smile to the face and a jump in the feet to their armies of followers on each and every continent on Earth, including possibly to the penguins of Antarctica.
‘‘We have all got favourite ABBA songs but it’s the classic, it’s hard to beat Dancing Queen, isn’t it?’’ – Malcolm Turnbull
But that doesn’t mean I liked them then in 1970s. Their popiness was everything I loathed about modern music and its osmotic relationship to the charts. ABBA were all shine and no substance, from costumes to lyrics. Perhaps, and I’ll concede it’s entirely possible, I was playing the contrarian, basing my green knowledge on the firm belief that if it’s that successful then it cannot possibly be great art. And I was then just starting to dig down into the roots of rock/folk/blues looking for the deeper meaning.
When I heard ABBA, there was no deeper meaning. It was glitter and be gay. Even the sorrowful moments were like a breeze across the water.
And it was an Australian, Melbourne’s Molly Meldrum, who helped pluck ABBA from what might have been a middling career in Europe, after they won Eurovision in 1974, to the world stage. The group didn’t look back. No. 1 after No. 1 after No. 1, both singles and albums. The song Waterloo was recently named best song ever in Eurovision’s competition. They are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 2010. It’s a wonder they haven’t usurped the Swedish royal family and manufactured a palace revolution.
It seems entirely fitting, and pathetically symptomatic, that they will tour the songs as holograms.
And now The New York Times reports that after 35 years, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus have recorded two new songs for a tour featuring digital versions of themselves.
It seems entirely fitting, and pathetically symptomatic, that they will tour the songs as holograms. It’s not that hard to get back on the boards. They could all travel in their own Lear jets if they didn’t want to spend too much time together. There will also be a television special. On Instagram the group wrote: “The decision to go ahead with the exciting Abba avatar tour project had an unexpected consequence. We all felt that, after some 35 years, it could be fun to join forces again and go into the recording studio. So we did.”
For heaven’s sake, even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has felt compelled to comment. ‘‘We have all got favourite ABBA songs but it’s the classic, it’s hard to beat Dancing Queen, isn’t it?’’ he said on Saturday. One can make of that what one what wishes. Ooh/You can dance/You can jive/Having the time of your life. Well he did say once it was a great time to be alive, but who knew he was into disco? Perhaps it was the mirror ball. Perhaps he secretly channels John Travolta’s Tony Manero.
ABBA are like the creators and performers of nursery rhymes set to music.
An ABBA avatar tour is not supposed to happen. People connected to other dead acts have tried it. Elvis just doesn’t seem to want to leave the building, for instance. But really, this one is Futurama meets Frankenstein. Yes, yes, yes. Millions will surely flock to see Avatar Benny, Avatar Agnetha, Avatar Anni-Frid and Avatar Bjorn glide across the stage. Lives will be relived, literally. Bjorn again anyone? Memories will be reignited. Innocence regained. How Swede it will be.
But ABBA are like the creators and performers of nursery rhymes set to music. They really did perfect the merging of adult and kid song into one confection. All it took was a hook, line and sinker. And after all what was the harm of ABBA? No one died, everyone sang and everyone danced along.
Everyone but me and my mates. So now, when I thought – after 36 years – it was safe to assume there would be no rising from the dead. Two new songs are coming.
Stay strong, my sinking heart.