Thank you for the museum

8 06 2013


By Felicity Glover.


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.


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.


Adults 195 kronor ($30.50).

Children (up to 15 years) 145 kronor.

Children (accompanied by adult) 50 kronor.

Opening hours 10am-8pm.


Abba city walk

When Saturdays at 2pm in English

Meet City Hall Courtyard, 1 Hantverkargatan.

Tickets From Stockholm City Museum or through Ticnet (

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,


ABBA: Bang a Boomerang: sneak peek

19 01 2013



Watch a 2 min preview of the upcoming Australian documentary on ABC

logo_abc1_48ABBA: Bang a Boomerang
8:30pm Wednesday, January 30 2013


ABBA: Bang a Boomerang tells the inside story of Australia’s colossal 70s crush on the Swedish supergroup ABBA and their music, and how this unequalled and enduring fan-worship changed them and us forever.

ABC’s innovative music program Countdown and its host Molly Meldrum were instrumental in bringing ABBA to a burgeoning mid-70s television audience looking for something different. It was due to Countdown that Mamma Mia was released as a single, first in Australia and then the world, and the ABBA phenomenon was born. Viewers were going into record shops wanting to buy the single. Molly rang RCA records asking about the release of Mamma Mia and was told there were no plans to do so.

“We then played it again in defiance and they had no option but to release it… it was lucky, it went to number one,” Meldrum said.

ABBA: Bang a Boomerang digs deep into heartfelt memories, cardboard cartons of memorabilia, face-to-face encounters, local pop icon recounts, lavish personal and public ABBA museums and Australia’s rich media archives to relive a moment of collective national ‘craziness’, when we did literally go ABBA mad. The result is a warm, bright, captivating engagement with ABBA’s time Down Under that will remind us all of the band’s impact and how our open-hearted embrace of all things ABBA would eventually define us. One in three Australian households owned an ABBA record – from Prime Minister Fraser to eight year olds around the nation, we were hooked even if some of us didn’t want to admit it back then and we didn’t realise the crush would be for keeps.


27 04 2012

ᗅᗺᗷᗅ celebration! Will be a night of ᗅᗺᗷᗅ music for fans and anyone who loves ᗅᗺᗷᗅ  in Sydney.  The event will be held at RAILZ on Regent,  on May 26th, from 7 pm. 

for more details click on the link below

1 day to go!

26 02 2012


19 06 2010

What a Swede sensation it was.

14 06 2010

For a few dizzy days in March 1977, four charismatic Scandinavians were the toast of Australia. Thousands of us wanted to see them or be seen with them.

And as Benny, Bjorn, Frida and Agnetha criss-crossed the country, singing their humungous hits, there was only one word on everyone’s lips: ABBA.

“We have probably never received such a rapturous reception anywhere,” Agnetha said later. “It seemed the ovation would never end.”

This week, with the opening of Abbaworld at Federation Square, that mad, far away time is vividly recalled through costumes, videos and memorabilia.

The monster-sized exhibition – direct from London to Melbourne – is crammed with super-trouper treasures. And some of them relate directly to ABBA’s legendary Australian tour.

“It was very profitable for everyone,” promoter Paul Dainty remembers.

But the man who brought ABBA Down Under – and is now hosting Abbaworld – got more out of the experience than just money, money, money.

“What I learnt from that trip was how to deal with a tour that was an event, not just a tour,” he said.

Australia’s love affair with ABBA started in 1975 when three of their songs – I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, SOS and Mamma Mia! rocketed up the charts.

Exposure on Countdown turned the Swedes into stars and by 1976, when they visited Australia to record a ratings-breaking TV special, Dainty sensed a wave of interest was turning into a tsunami.

“I met (ABBA band managers) Stig Anderson and Thomas Yohansen and we hit it off straight away and worked out a deal pretty much in that meeting,” he said.

The deal was perfectly timed. In early 1977, Australians of all ages were humming Fernando and Dancing Queen and the scene was set for pandemonium on a scale not seen since the Beatles hit town in 1964.

“It was almost Beatlemania all over again,” Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum remembers.

Dainty says “it was mayhem. Good mayhem”.

The madness began as soon as Abba landed at Tullamarine Airport and climbed into a black Rolls-Royce. The road into the city was lined with fans and thousands swirled around Melbourne Town Hall where they attended a civic reception.

ABBA fan Michael McAlpine, 16 at the time, was up the front and remembers: “All four of them turned and waved to us. The screaming was just out of this world.”

Abba played three concerts at the Myer Music Bowl and Dainty says “it turned out to be the right choice. The shows were magical.”Abbaworld at Federation Square officially opens on Saturday

Simon Plant From:

ABBA still feels the love in Australia

31 05 2010

If ABBA ever were to reform, Australia would be top of the list on their comeback trail.

But don’t get your hopes up, because the chance of pop music’s most anticipated reunion happening is ‘‘absolute zero’’, singer Bjorn Ulvaeus says.

Instead the man behind disco floor fillers like Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen is inviting fans to soak in the nostalgia of Sweden’s most famous foursome at ABBAWORLD in Melbourne. The interactive exhibition arrives in June after a successful opening in London and Ulvaeus says there was never any doubt about the choice of its second location.

‘‘Australia was the first country that took ABBA to heart and we never forgot about that. We always felt a lot of love from audiences there,’’ Ulvaeus said from Stockholm.

‘‘The chances of ABBA reforming are absolute zero. That’s something all four members agree on completely, because people remember us as young, energetic and exuding ambition and that’s the way it should be.’’

While ABBA are warmly regarded as one of the greatest pop bands of all time, it wasn’t always that way.

Despite winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with Waterloo, the spandex wearing quartet were originally written off as one-hit wonders.

‘Britain and America didn’t take us seriously and it wasn’t until S.O.S became a huge hit in Australia that other countries took notice,’’ recalled Ulvaeus.

Australia’s love for ABBA blossomed on a string of follow up hits, including Mamma Mia and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.

The band were so blown away by the reaction of fans at their early live shows, they returned in 1977 to film ABBA: The Movie.

‘‘I remember arriving in Melbourne and fans had lined the streets and were waving and screaming. They waited outside our hotels so we were pretty much locked in.

‘‘We experienced a feeling of coming home and it was as if Australia felt ‘ABBA is ours’ and we loved that.

‘‘It was the obvious choice for the movie and if ABBA ever were to reform we’d be back, but the chances are zilch.’’

Ulvaeus and fellow founding members Anni-Frid ‘‘Frida’’ Lyngstad, Benny Andersson and Agnetha Faltskog have previously been offered $US1 billion ($A1.18 billion) to reform.The four have never officially split but instead opt to live off the royalties of their hit songs and albums, as well as pursuing other projects like the smash musical Mamma Mia!

They famously gave their blessing to tracks being used in two 1994 Australian films, Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.

‘‘We usually say no to things like that but these two films were so touching that we agreed, and I’m happy today that we did,’’ said Ulvaeus.

ABBAWORLD looks set to be the latest chapter in Australia’s love affair with the legendary pop act.

‘‘It should be interesting to Australian audiences because much of it focuses on our humble beginnings,’’ explained Ulvaeus.

‘‘It’s very entertaining and fun and has a warm, playful tone.’’

And what of relations between his former band mates, are they warm?

‘‘We certainly speak and are the best of friends really. I don’t see the girls that much but me and Benny work together.

‘‘We were under the same ceiling for the first time in ages when Mamma Mia opened in Stockholm. The feelings came back very quickly and it was just like it used to be.’’

Sydney Morning herald

ABBAWORLD, the Official Interactive Exhibition approved and supported by ABBA, opens at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Saturday 19 June.


23 05 2010

MY, my … can it really be 36 years since Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo?

Yes, it’s true and two of the stage outfits worn by the Swedish supergroup on that famous occasion in April 1974, are going on display in a new multimedia exhibition at Federation Square.

Abbaworld, opening on June 19, features Agnetha Faltskog’s midnight blue tunic and knitted cap alongside Frida Lyngstad’s folkloric shirt and skirt.  “To me, the Abba costumes are works of art,” Abbaworld project manager Judith Penrose said yesterday.

Mamma mia: ABBA fans can get their fill at the Federation Square show. Source:

Abba’s Eurovision success is a legendary pop story. In 1973, Agnetha and Frida joined band mates Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson in presenting Ring, Ring as a Swedish entry for the competition.

A year later, the foursome were known as Abba – an acronym of their first names – and blitzed the competition at Brighton with Waterloo. This infectious song shot to No. 1 around the world and an album of the same name paved the way for Abba fever.

“For some, Waterloo was a defeat, but for Abba, it was the beginning of an empire,” the group’s costume designer Owe Sandstrom said.

Exclusive to Melbourne, Abbaworld takes visitors on an interactive journey through Abba history.


5 03 2010

Melbourne , March 5 – 1977

Australia! The Tour.

4 03 2010

It’s hard to believe that it’s 33 years ago that ABBA toured Australia and from that famous tour came ABBA THE MOVIE.  On this day 33 years ago  The group performed their second Sydney concert before flying to Melbourne.

Benny and Bjorn will be interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s FRONT ROW programme starting at 19:15 (7:15pm) If you miss the show you can listen to it on the BBC iPlayer.