Thank you for the museum

8 06 2013

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By Felicity Glover.

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Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!: The famous foursome in the bench scene.

It is 1976 and a cool, cloudy day in Sydney. My friends and I have been practising all day for an impromptu neighbourhood performance of Dancing Queen, the signature song of Swedish pop group Abba that found its second and third winds thanks to Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Mamma Mia! (the movie).

We knew the words by heart and had the dance routine down pat. But we couldn’t decide on our roles. With two blondes and one brunette in our schoolgirl trio, it was inevitable that an argument would break out.

Sure, our brunette friend was a no-brainer: she would be Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad. But who would be Agnetha Faltskog, or Anna as the Western press dubbed her because they couldn’t pronounce her name properly? I was standing my ground. No way was I going to be Benny Andersson. Or Bjorn Ulvaeus, for that matter (no offence, guys). I was always Agnetha, as was our other blonde friend.

In the end, we settled for two Agnethas and one Frida. Ten-year-old logic at its best. Our performance, of course, was atrocious and nobody turned up to watch us strut our stuff in the front yard, unless you count a few sniggering boys from down the street.

Our concert was a far cry from the glamour of the real Abba, who had performed Dancing Queen in front of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and his fiancee, Silvia Sommerlath, on the eve of their wedding just a few months earlier, on June 18, 1976.

Still, it was a thrill to pretend that we were our favourite pop stars. And it was a scenario that was being played out by tens of thousands of other kids across the suburbs of Australia. A band of children and teenagers I call “Generation Abba” – the ones not quite old enough to have been influenced by the likes of  the Rolling Stones. Or perhaps couldn’t quite remember the day that Elvis’ heart finally gave out after a life of excess and too many fried peanut butter sandwiches.

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Photos and recording gear. Photo: AFP

Fast-forward 30-plus years and I am in Stockholm, the home of Abba and one of the most beautiful, historically rich cities in the world. I might be a long way from home – more than 15,000 kilometres – but I have been transported back to when Abba ruled my world. To a time when I fought with my siblings over whose turn it was to get that week’s coveted Abba iron-on transfer from one of the Sunday papers. A time when I became a proud, card-carrying member of the Official Abba Fan Club, knew the lyrics to all of their hits and was devastated when my parents decided I wasn’t old enough to go to their concert at the Sydney Showground on March 3, 1977 – torrential rain and all.

But that is all in the past as I walk across town from the upmarket Ostermalm district to the island of Djurgarden, home to such venues as Skansen, the world’s oldest outdoor museum; Tivoli Grona Lund, a charming amusement park built in 1883; and Nordiska museet, a museum devoted to the country’s cultural history.

For once, I’m not here for the usual, ancient culture and history that Stockholm is renowned for. This time, I am heading to Abba: The Museum, the newest kid on the tree-lined Djurgardsvagen block that opened on May 7, to relive my childhood.

A modern building next to Grona Lund, the museum is the first permanent exhibition for all things Abba, including paraphernalia such as concert guides and tickets, fan letters and de rigueur merchandise of the day.

There’s a room devoted to every album they released, as well as their gold records, flamboyant costumes, musical instruments and the helicopter used on the cover of Arrival.

Their recording studio at Polar Music has been re-created, while the office of the late Stig Anderson, their manager and co-writer of many of the band’s lyrics, is tucked away in a corner. There’s the famous park bench where Benny and Frida were photographed kissing as Agnetha looks ahead and Bjorn reads a brochure about, wait for it, antibiotics! (look closely for this one).

Ingmarie Halling, the museum’s curator and Abba’s former hair and make-up artist, says it was an easy exhibition to put together, not only because she knows the members of the group but also because she had kept so many items from their touring days, including their trip to Australia in 1977.

“I, for one, had quite many items as I used to work with them on tour doing their costumes, hair and make-up,” she says.

“Since I know these people very well, I don’t have to do so much research. It has not been difficult collecting the items for the museum. Frida donated her gold records, Benny the accordion, Bjorn a guitar. Everyone has contributed. And they were all very helpful when I was calling them.” But it is the interaction opportunities that are the star attraction of the show, such as allowing diehard fans to become the fifth member of Abba, a feature after my own (10-year-old) heart.

With the help of holographic images, you can perform “live on stage” with the supergroup and download your effort on your way out. Then there are the karaoke suites, where you can lay down your favourite Abba track, or even see what you would look like dressed as your favourite band member.

There’s a piano connected to Benny’s studio. When it starts to play, you know that Benny is at work, real time. Then there’s the Ring Ring phone. Only four people in the world have the number. If it rings when you are standing by it, make sure you answer – it could be Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny or Anni-Frid on the other end.

“All people are interested in most things with Abba as they have seen them in photo shoots and in films,” Halling says.

“As a visitor, you walk through their career from the beginning in 1966.

“By doing this, I think we help people to understand more about the group. The aim was to understand these people; they had a 10-year career [as Abba] and [have] sold 379 million records [so far]. You want to be true to the story.”

And true it is. From when they first met, when Benny and Frida fell in love, then Agnetha and Bjorn, to winning the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo in 1974 and tracking their journey as they took the world by storm with such hits as Fernando, S.O.S, Honey, Honey, Rock Me, Ring Ring and Mamma Mia, not to mention everybody’s favourite, Dancing Queen.

“As naturally as we came together, we came to the end,” Agnetha once said.

And while we thank them for the music and memories, Abba, at least for the fans, will always live on through this museum.

Five more Abba must-sees in Stockholm

1. The park bench where Benny and Frida are kissing while Agnetha stares ahead and Bjorn reads a brochure on antibiotics, apparently because that was all there was to read when the photo was being taken. Where: Rosendalsvagen (about 50 metres from the Ulla Winbladh restaurant at Rosendalsvagen 8 and within walking distance of Abba: The Museum).

2. Sheraton Hotel. Some fans might be surprised to learn that the hotel room featured in Abba: The Movie wasn’t actually in Perth, Australia, as claimed. Rather, it was filmed at the Sheraton in Stockholm because Agnetha was pregnant and she wanted to hide her stomach. Where: Sheraton Hotel, 6 Tegelbacken — the heart of Stockholm’s business district.

3. Frida and Benny’s apartment. According to The Abba Guide to Stockholm, Frida and Benny moved in to this apartment in Gamla Stan, or the Old Town, in 1974. Here the couple was filmed for a Japanese commercial in which Benny is vacuuming and Frida is taking it easy, reversing the traditional male/female role and causing a sensation in Sweden, despite its progressive policies towards women. Where: 21 Baggensgatan, Gamla Stan.

4. Kungliga Operan (Royal Opera). On the eve of the wedding of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden to his fiancee Silvia Sommerlath on June 18, 1976, Abba performed at a gala for the couple at Kungliga Operan, which was built in 1898. Who knows what the future queen of Sweden thought of the lyrics, in particular: “You’re a teaser and you turn them on.” However, she appears delighted at the end of the performance, which can be seen on YouTube. Where: Gustav Adolf torg.

5. China Teatern (China Theatre). The premiere of Abba: The Movie took place here, with all band members attending. Just three weeks before the launch, Agnetha had given birth to her son, Christian. She was pregnant with him during the making of the movie. Where: Berzelii Park, a small park in central Stockholm.

Source: The Abba Guide to Stockholm; 40 kronor ($6.30) from the Arlanda Airport Visitor Centre.

Abba: The Museum

Address 68 Djurgardsvagen, Stockholm.

Telephone +46 8 12 13 28 66.

Email info@abbathemuseum.com.

Adults 195 kronor ($30.50).

Children (up to 15 years) 145 kronor.

Children (accompanied by adult) 50 kronor.

Opening hours 10am-8pm.

Website abbathemuseum.com/en.

Abba city walk

When Saturdays at 2pm in English

Meet City Hall Courtyard, 1 Hantverkargatan.

Tickets From Stockholm City Museum or through Ticnet (ticnet.se).

Staying there

The Hotel Rival, owned by Benny Andersson, is a must-stay for fans of Abba. The hotel hosted the premiere of Mamma Mia! in 2008 and it is the only time all four members of Abba have been pictured together since they split in late 1982. Prices start from 2395 kronor ($375) a night for a standard room in June.

More information

3 Mariatorget, 11891 Stockholm, Sweden.

+46 8545 78900, www.rival.se.

 

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ABBA THE MUSEUM SvD

28 04 2013

Svenska Dagbladet

Kultur

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Björn pictured at ABBA The Museum for Svenska Dagbladet – Photo: Lars Pehrson

Svenska Dagbladet 28 April 2013 – Björn opens the door on ABBA’s history:

After months of construction it is not long now until ABBA The Museum finally opens. The modern ‘blonde wood’ building on Djurgården, Stockholm that will house the world’s first permanent ABBA exhibition is nearing completion.

As opening day looms, convoys of trucks roll up to the site to deliver the furnishings, costumes and many rare items of authentic memorabilia that will make up the exhibition. So what can fans expect to find at the museum?

“We’re going to offer visitors a unique experience,” said ABBA The Museum director Mattias Hansson. “The museum will showcase ABBA’s collected works, in a contemporary, musical and interactive exhibition that allows the audience to get closer to their favourite band.”

The museum will naturally pay homage to ABBA’s music, and in this respect the team behind the museum have installed the best sound isolation system in the world and commissioned specially designed sound absorbent wallpaper, to enable them to simultaneously play different tracks in each room.

Last December, ABBA The Museum and Spotify (the digital music service), announced a unique collaboration to integrate and extend the museum experience both through Spotify’s various platforms and within the actual museum.

Hansson doesn’t expect visitors to flock to the museum to hear the group’s hits, however. Rather, they will get to relive the band’s journey all the way from their pre-ABBA solo careers in the 1960s, through to their split in 1983 and get a sense of their lives behind the scenes.

As visitors tour the exhibition, the four ABBA members will each recant their stories via the museum’s audio guide, which has been written in collaboration with the band by Catharine Johnson, who wrote the musical Mamma Mia!.

Some fans may even get a chance to speak live with one of the ABBA members…

In a room dedicated to the song Ring Ring, a chunky red 1970s telephone will be on display. This phone is connected to an outside line to which only four people know the number – Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. Next to the phone there is a sign telling people that if it rings they should answer it because it will be a member of ABBA calling. “It will be a real phone call and they have all promised to call regularly,” Mattias Hansson confirmed.

“It was Frida’s idea, so of course she’ll call!” says museum curator Ingmarie Halling.

As ABBA’s stylist from 1976 to 1980, an era she describes as “fun and magnificent”, Halling was the person behind many of their glitzy and flamboyant costumes, and she has been instrumental in collaborating with them to ensure that some of those outfits are included in the exhibition.

As well as the costumes, Halling has managed to secure Björn’s star-shaped ‘Waterloo’ guitar, Benny’s very first accordion, gold discs, and much more besides.

“They’ve lent us lots of stuff,” Halling confirms, and whenever I call them to tell them my ideas they say, “sure, go ahead!”.

Many of the exhibits in the museum, including the Hep Stars tour camper van and the iconic helicopter featured on the Arrival album cover have been installed to provide fans with wonderful photo opportunities.

Visitors will also be able to experience a little of how the ABBA members lived their lives through the museum’s painstaking recreations of Benny and Björn’s song-writing hut on the island of Viggsö, manager Stig Anderson’s office, their on-tour dressing room and the Polar recording studio.

In the studio is the original mixing console, instruments and other equipment. Within this exhibit, visitors can try their hand at remixing classic ABBA tracks and also record their own versions of the hits in the row of ‘singing booths’.

You can try on iconic ABBA costumes virtually thanks to a motion-sensing device that adds them digitally to your image on a screen, while fans that have dreamt of becoming the fifth member of the band will be able to sing and dance on stage with computer simulated life-size holograms.

Back in the days before social media, visitors might have been happy just to try these activities. However, today many people want to share their efforts with friends and this is where ABBA The Museum is different. For each interactive exhibit the museum allows you to share the results through your social media accounts, or simply keep them for later.

Mattias Hansson explains how this works: “When you arrive at the museum you give your booking code and are given a printed ticket. At the same time we automatically create a personal page for you on the museum website. On this ticket there is a bar code. You simply present this bar code to a reader at each exhibit and the clip you create goes to your web page. You can then share the clips using standard sharing buttons or download them.”

With so many interactive exhibits based on technology there is always a danger that the museum could look dated after a few years. But ABBA The Museum says they have built a strategy to review all the exhibits at least every two years. “Some things will need to be replaced but history tells us that we will be able to use some things for 20 years.” Linked with this strategy is the decision to focus today on the Stockholm museum. “Though there are so many opportunities for virtual visits we are not going to do that for now. And the only travelling exhibitions will be to promote the museum. You really have to be here,” says Hansson.

Although advance tickets for the first few weeks, which are time-slotted in a bid to cut queues, are almost sold out, for those who prefer to make a spur-of-the-moment visit during May there will be a limited number of tickets on sale at the venue. Please note that you will need to take your credit card as it will not be possible to buy your ABBA The Museum admission ticket or purchase any of the merchandise available in the museum shop with cash.

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Svenska Dagbladet 28 April 2013 – Björn opens the door on ABBA’s history

Talking with SvD ahead of the museum opening, Björn was asked about the journey to a museum, which of course started with winning Eurovision all those years ago. “I never thought we would win. We chose Waterloo and Hasta Mañana as possible entries. But Waterloo was more fun to perform,” says Björn Ulvaeus when I meet him in a restaurant on Djurgården.

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Ingmarie Halling with a rather large copy of ‘The Visitors’ album! Photo: Lars Pehrson

He has recently turned 68. He usually gets compliments that he looks younger. He is definitely slimmer than during the ABBA years, which is because he trains. When he goes through the menu to see what he’ll order he dismisses dishes with too many carbohydrates.

We’re talking about the transparent mini helicopter from the cover of the Arrival album. And Polar Studios, of course. And then the bench where Benny and Anni-Frid are kissing while Björn and Agnetha sitting next to them are stony-faced.

“It’s a fun picture, iconic. The whole story of ABBA is a real Cinderella story,” says Björn Ulvaeus.

Ingmarie Halling has worked as a stylist with ABBA intermittently for 36 years and still meets all four privately. Thus, she is also well suited to describe the members.

“Agnetha is incredibly grounded, a small-town girl who enjoys a simple life. It hurts me that people talk about her as a Garbo for she really is not. Rather, she is a little naïve and does not think that people recognize her.

“Frida is the nomad, a globetrotter who puts down roots and then it is her home. She is worldly-wise and street smart.

“Björn is curious and open to new ideas and arguments. A strange combination of businessman and poet. A contractor by God’s grace.

“Benny meets all the criteria for a musician. When he has a piano or an accordion around, he can survive everyday life. At a party, he can almost be apologetic if he disturbs, but he must sit there and play. On tours he cared a lot for us who worked around him. He had an inherent understanding that everyone mattered and was needed. All four are very down to earth and no divas anywhere.”

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Ingmarie Halling with the puppets from The Last Video – Photo: Lars Pehrson

Originally an ABBA museum would be situated in the old Customs House on Stadsgården. In 2008 the ticket sales began but the site was in poorer condition and the costs were higher to renovate than anticipated. The contract with the property owner Stockholm Hamnar fell through.

Instead of an ABBA museum in 2009, a photographic museum opened in the building in 2010. For a couple of years ABBAWORLD toured with many of the gadgets that will be available in ABBA The Museum.

Benny Andersson has said about the new museum that “I have nothing against it at all, but think that maybe they could have waited for 30 years.” He will not say much more than “the museum will stand on its own feet.” Björn Ulvaeus however says that he feels that there is now a lot of space between when ABBA split up in 1982 and now and so sees himself as a flag waver for ABBA The Museum.

“Yes, when one has gone into this, then it is to do it from start to finish. It is not enough to create content, but also getting word out that it exists. Therefore I have or will visit England, Russia, Germany, Finland, Norway and Poland to do promotion.

But earlier ABBA did not want to hear about a museum?

“Yes, that was the case. There is something strange about creating a museum about yourself. Usually a museum is for dead people.”

And the other three in ABBA are more passive supporters but not you?

“No. That’s because it takes place in my hometown, where I live. If someone else was doing it, maybe it would not be so good. Here on the island of Djurgården, I go with my grandchildren and they will point and say “look here grandpa, we want to go in.”

I also want to be proud of an ABBA museum. As it has been so long since ABBA, I can do this as if it were someone else, investigate why ABBA’s reach was so terribly wide,” says Björn Ulvaeus and smiles.

Just where he puts his finger on the crucial issue. How could a Swedish group defeat an entire world, something not done before and that almost everyone saw that completely unrealistic?

“An ingredient is the amazing story of us, that we so organically became a group. In a natural way. Benny and I met and started working together. Quite apart from this fact, we got together with two women who happen to be great singers, a blonde and a redhead who are also beautiful. We hang out, sing for the fun of it and have no intention to start a group. Eventually it becomes apparent that we should do something together. It happens to be so genuine and organic that it is hard to put your finger on.

“Then there was Stig Anderson and his breadth of knowledge and indomitable will to create something great outside Sweden. He convinced us to think “why not?”. We saw that the only way out was the Eurovision Song Contest, otherwise the route was blocked. The Anglo-Saxon world was not listening to anything that came from here, it went directly into the trash. But we would be so big, no one could imagine. After Waterloo, it id not go so well and there were moments when I thought ‘there´s no more than this’.”

When S.O.S was released in Australia, ABBA made a video that they sent to the other side of the earth.

“Then it all started with a bang, and the British realized that there was life in that Eurovision group that should have been dead long ago. We took off. It seems that many of our songs have become part of contemporary life. They are there all the time. Or as Phyllida Lloyd, the director of Mamma Mia! said: “The songs are part of our cultural heritage.”

Are you proud?

“Absolutely. Greatly proud, amazed and humbled. Otherwise, I would not get involved with this museum. It is not entirely possible to emotionally embrace the journey that ABBA made , that we have sold 380 million records and touched the hearts of people…or that 50 million people have seen Mamma Mia!

The biggest financier of ABBA The Museum is Björn Ulvaeus himself, who will not tell you how many millions he coughed up, but says the museum costs “several tens of millions of Crowns.”

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Getting the final pieces in place – Photo: Lars Pehrson

After the opening ceremony on May 7, Björn Ulvaeus will scale down his involvement, even if he is still the largest shareholder, and attends the board meetings.

“We have a CEO who will take care that it rolls on.”

Just how the museum will do, is another major issue. If it is a success or not. Björn Ulvaeus think it may be problematic for example, during the cold season.

“We’ll adapt to to it and see how we can attract people. But if you are a foreign tourist, you know the Swedish brands like Ikea, ABBA and others. Locals I believe are not interested in ABBA.”

In the 1970s in Sweden, it was not socially acceptable to like ABBA. Culture pages printed articles where the progressive left side complained about commercial brainwashing and how detestable ABBAs ‘simple’ pop music was. The contempt – or even hatred – sometimes bordered on the kind of hate that Palme attracted.

Ingmarie Halling recently chatted with Anni-Frid Lyngstad about that time.

“She said it still is a thorn in her side when people say that they thought ABBA’s records were good but they hid them.”

Björn Ulvaeus does not think that the ‘Prog Rock’ movement (Proggen) was something that at the time he got upset about.

“We were not affected by it because we were so totally focused on what we were doing. Proggen was never ever something important, it was a marginal phenomenon. There was not a single innovative thing that came from it aside from a few songs by Nationalteatern and Hoola Bandoola that was a good band. But of course we knew that some of them were horrified and said that the fact “they sell so many records, it is somewhat suspect.” But do not forget that there was another Sweden – we had advance orders of 760,000 copies of The Album. The criticism was so peripheral.

But of course you did just create products to make money?

Björn laughs as he responds: “Haha, yes, we had a formula, a hit factory! And we were two couples who married each other as a gimmick! All those things we were accused of. But the claims have no basis other than in their own absurdity. If you listen to the songs today, they are so different from each other. We tested all sorts of styles, not knowing what it was that made people liked it. It was hurtful to hear that we did the songs on pure speculation.”

Nationalencyklopedin, the National Encyclopedia writes, among other things, that ABBA “is characterized by the carefully crafted style blends of 1970´s pop and dance music.” But not a word about the lyrics.

“Benny was the musical engine but we always wrote together. I wrote thye lyrics when there was a basic track with stuff on top, so you had a sense of what the song actually was. Lyrics have always been unfairly treated, but the songs that pervade often have high quality lyrics as well.

Björn Ulvaeus does not always remember how the lyrics came about. In recent years, he complained that many of his memories of the ABBA period have been forgotten. But it has noticeably improved in working on the ABBA Museum project, and he has been able to dig back into the past.

As with the song Fernando: “There was something in the air tonight, the stars were bright, Fernando They were shining there for you and me, for liberty, Fernando…”

I remember Frida and Benny first did it in Swedish and I thought it was such a fussy lyric when it referred to a “Latin lover”. But one night I was lying on the dock in Viggsö and looked up at the stars. And there was something in the air. Fernando had suddenly turned into an old freedom fighter!”.

MuseumWorks

Translation abba fanatic





ABBA The Museum to open in Stockholm soon

24 04 2013

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FANS of the legendary Swedish disco group ABBA can hardly wait: in just a few weeks, Stockholm will open the doors to the world’s first museum dedicated to the iconic foursome.

After ABBA The Movie in 1977, the Mamma Mia! musical and movie, and a 2010 travelling museum exhibit, the world’s first permanent ABBA museum will open in central Stockholm on May 7.

“We’re going to offer visitors a unique experience,” said museum director Mattias Hansson. Visitors may even get a chance to speak live with a band member.

After months of construction, the modern, blonde wood building in the leafy Djurgarden neighbourhood is nearing completion.

As opening day looms, convoys of trucks roll up to the site to deliver the furnishings and items that will make up the collection: flamboyant sequined costumes, gold records, and recreations of their recording studio and dressing rooms, among other things.

Workers bustle to finish what will be a temple to the creators of some of the biggest hits of the 1970s, including Voulez Vous, Dancing Queen and Waterloo, the song that won the band the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest and thrust them onto the international scene.

Through the museum’s big windows, passersby can catch a glimpse of a large main room. Few people have been authorised to enter the premises, as organisers are intent on keeping things under wraps until the official opening.

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But they have let slip a few details.

For example, fans who have dreamt of becoming the fifth member of the band will be able to appear on stage with the quartet and record a song with them thanks to a computer simulation.

And in another room dedicated to the song Ring, Ring, a 1970s telephone will be on display. Only four people know the phone number: ABBA members Agnetha Faeltskog, Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, Benny Andersson and Bjoern Ulvaeus, who may occasionally call to speak live with museum visitors.

“It was Frida’s idea…so of course she’ll call,” says curator Ingmarie Halling.

The museum will naturally pay homage to ABBA’s music.

“We have to have the best isolation in the world to be able to play different music in each room,” Mr Hansson jokes.

But he doesn’t expect visitors to flock to the museum to hear the group’s hits, since fans already know them by heart.

Rather, they will get to relive the band’s active years and get a sense of their lives behind the scenes.

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ABBA last appeared on stage together in 1982, and split a year later.

They have repeatedly refused to reunite.

“We will never appear on stage again,” Ulvaeus said in a 2008 interview with Britain’s The Sunday Telegraph.

“There is simply no motivation to regroup. Money is not a factor and we would like people to remember us as we were,” he said.

After the split, the band members each went their own way and they’ve rarely appeared in public together – in 2008, they attended the Stockholm premiere of the movie Mamma Mia! – so getting all four involved in the making of the museum is a coup.

Halling – the band’s stylist from 1976 to 1980, an era she describes as “fun and magnificent” – has been instrumental in collaborating with them.

“They’ve lent us lots of stuff and I call them to tell them my ideas and they say, ‘sure, go ahead!’,” Halling explains.

As the person behind some of their glitzy and flamboyant costumes, Halling has made sure that many of their outfits are included in the exhibit.

Visitors will also be “able to experience how the ABBA members’ lived their lives,” she says. The four will recount their own side of things in the museum’s audio guide.

The 1999 musical Mamma Mia!, and the 2008 film of the same name starring Meryl Streep, brought their music to a whole new generation of fans who weren’t alive in the 1970s.

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The group has sold some 378 million albums worldwide, outdone only by Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

“Our office is right next to Benny Andersson’s. When I tell people in other countries that, and that I pass him on the street sometimes, people are like: ‘No! Really? He walks in the street just like that?’,” says Jeppe Wikstroem, an editor working on a book of previously unpublished ABBA photographs.

The museum’s website says it expects to attract a quarter of a million visitors in 2013.

“It’s very exciting,” says Micke Bayart, a 45-year old who headed the band’s official fan club in the 1980s.

“ABBA is part of Sweden’s musical history, it’s only right that there be a museum dedicated to them: they deserve it,” he said.

Tickets for the museum – which cost 23 euros ($29) – are almost sold out for the first few weeks, going primarily to tourists from abroad, museum director Hansson said.

Those who can’t get their hands on a ticket will have to be content with a glimpse of some of the band’s costumes on display at the arrival hall of Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.

 





Björn On UK Breakfast TV Tomorrow

15 04 2013

Bjorn will be on BBC Breakfast tomorrow morning around 9am. He will be talking about the ABBA museum and some great plans for next year’s 40th Anniversary celebrations!

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Sweden thanks Abba for the music with an all-singing, all-dancing museum – The Observer, Saturday 29 December 2012

30 12 2012

atmgardian

Group members back new interactive project, donating costumes and 70s memorabilia. Richard Orange reports

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A boxy, four-storey structure of Scandinavian pine is rising out of the snow on Stockholm’s Djurgården Island, sandwiched between the city’s largest funfair and a restored 17th-century warship.

“Obviously, from a Swedish state point of view it should have already been around for many years, because it’s one of the most famous Swedish brands ever,” said Mattias Hansson, the museum’s managing director, as he showed off the site before Christmas. “We know from the tourism office in Stockholm that each and every year they receive thousands of questions from tourists about where to go to see something about Abba, and for years they have been forced to say, ‘nowhere’.”From its opening day, on 7 May, Abba The Museum, the city’s first monument to the Swedish supergroup, is expected to lure hundreds of thousands of tourists a year to belt out versions of hits such as Super Trouper, Dancing Queen and Waterloo, alongside holographic images of the group in all their spangly 70s glory.

“We weren’t entirely sure if there was going to be one, whether we wanted one – to become artefacts and relics while we are still alive,” said Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus, explaining the group’s previous reservations when he announced his involvement back in October. But, he said: “I realised someone had to take the full responsibility and it gradually dawned on me that I was the one.”

He is now the project’s main backer, having taken a majority financial stake in December by buying shares from the three main investors – Universal Music, Live Nation, and Parks & Resorts Scandinavia. “He’s taken a much bigger stake in the company, and that means also intellectually, when it comes to putting his creative mind and time into this,” Hansson said.

Ulvaeus is by far the most entrepreneurial of the four members. He had completed a degree in law and business before he launched his pop career and he has a portfolio of property ventures. It was Ulvaeus who gave his backing in 1999 to Mamma Mia!, the London stage musical. He then worked as a producer on the 2008 film version, starring Meryl Streep, for which Benny Andersson, Ulvaeus’s songwriting partner, wrote some new songs.

Hansson says Ulvaeus’s involvement has made all the difference. “For certain, Björn Ulvaeus is the brightest creative mind I’ve ever been in the same room with.” The two are trying to make the museum as interactive as possible, drawing on Hansson’s experience as an internet entrepreneur. Every visitor will receive an Abba ID with their ticket, which will generate a page on the museum’s website when they enter the building. Everything they do inside will be recorded, from singing on the holographic stage to entering a booth where Abba costumes will be projected on to them. Later, they will be able to share photos and videos of their experiences on Facebook and other social media.

Hansson said this all justifies the price of the tickets which, at 195 Swedish kronor (£18.50), aren’t cheap. “Given the experience we will provide, it’s a pretty fair price.” It’s also a sign of how the business model of Universal Music, which holds the rights to Abba, is evolving. Abba The Museum has done a deal to “integrate and extend the museum experience” into Spotify, the Swedish music-streaming service, and has tied up with a list of corporate sponsors.

Mamma Mia! has generated revenues of well over $2bn – it is the longest-running musical ever on both Broadway and in London’s West End, and the film is the highest-grossing musical ever, generating well over $600m at the box office on a budget of $52m. That success has limited the hit that Abba and Universal might otherwise have taken during a decade when music piracy flourished.

But according to Hansson, it wasn’t the prospect of additional royalties that finally won the band round to the museum project; it was Ulvaeus and Andersson’s decision last year to insist that the museum be part of a wider Swedish Music Hall of Fame, with Abba sharing the glory (but less than 30% of the floorspace) with 400 other acts.

The band agreed to a 2006 plan to build an Abba museum in Stockholm, which failed when its main backer, Iceland’s Kaupthing Bank, collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis. This time around, though, they’re all more involved. Even Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who these days prefers a quiet life in Switzerland with her husband, heir to the WH Smith chain – has helped out. According to Hansson, she has “cleaned out her closet”, bequeathing old costumes and memorabilia. Also on show will be the costumes the band wore when they won the Eurovision song contest in 1974. “In some way, all four of them will give each and every visitor an extraordinary take on the history of Abba,” Hansson said. “They’ve all been filmed and interviewed for the exhibition.”

The interviews are being used by Catherine Johnson, the British playwright who wrote Mamma Mia!, to make an audio guide which will tell the band’s story from the 1960s, when each member was a musical success in their own right, through their marriages and Eurovision victory, to their divorces and the band’s breakup in 1983.

“There’s a built-in Romeo and Juliet thing here, with four individuals who all had their own careers, then became lovers and then won the Eurovision song contest,” said Hansson. “It’s a 10-year saga which you can follow from the first love affairs to the bitter end.”

Ulvaeus has been keen to downplay the glamour and emphasise the more melancholy side to the band, the darker aspects of the lyrics, the frequent use of plaintive minor keys and the two divorces. However, that hasn’t stopped Hansson trying to market the museum with the slogan “Walk In, Dance Out!”

Hansson said he did not know whether any of them would come to the museum opening. “I will be wondering about that until 10 minutes before the opening ceremony, because they don’t usually do things together… But I cross my fingers.”





MORE ABBA at Arlanda Airport.

18 12 2012

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Above: ABBA The Museum Managing Director Mattias Hansson and curator Ingmarie Halling.

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Credit: ABBA INTERMEZZO /Photos:  Micke Bayart





ABBA at Arlanda Airport.

18 12 2012

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The Iconic Waterloo-dresses on public display untill early next summer, at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport.

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Inside Terminal 5 #3, Stockholm Arlanda Airport.

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Below: Inside Terminal 5 #1, Stockholm Arlanda Airport.

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Below: Inside Terminal 5 #2, Stockholm Arlanda Airport

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