Tag Archives: ABBA

A Euro-evening with Mr Norton

We should have more of this. It was actually both fun and enjoyable. Unless that’s the same thing?

Last night’s replacement for Eurovision was far better than the real deal. I’d thought it would be, but it was good to be proven right. There was no avoiding Graham Norton, or Mr Norton, as he was addressed by the polite ladies in Rotterdam.

He behaved much better, most of the time. (But there is still room for improvement.) First we had the reminiscing of the past, playing an odd and partly predictable selection of oldies and occasionally goldies from the last 60+ years of Eurovision. It was nice to see [some of] them again. I remembered what my problem with ABBA in 1974 had been. Embarrassingly large group, embarrassing clothes, and the surprise of them suddenly singing in English. Plus the winning, except that wasn’t bad so much as a surprise. Katie Boyle looked like Mrs Thatcher’s prettier sister.

And then they won again, in Saturday’s ‘contest’. Daughter was torn between ABBA and Måns Zelmerlöw but luckily she was allowed to vote for more than one.

Then came the more ‘real’ Eurovision, with two hours of this year’s hopefuls, directed by three nice people in Rotterdam. It was lovely! I feel I got to know them so much better than through the ‘postcards’ they usually have. We saw many of them in their homes, and we enjoyed counting the pieces of IKEA furniture, or noting who seemed to have none.

We fell in love a couple of times; the lovely young Italian man and the charming cheeky chap in Austria among them. We’d not have seen any of this without the worldwide calamity that caused the change of programme.

Björn Ulvaeus appeared and spoke wise words as Eurovision’s grand old man. We discovered a UK winner from 1997 that neither of us remembers ever having heard or seen. It was good. And wow, hearing it sung by all the 2020 singers at the end..! Discovered a UK non-winner wearing an interesting dress, or vest, as I would call it. Again, a good song.

To finish a great evening, we had an hour of Eurovision A to Z presented by someone who looked like a Russian millionaire, with good teeth. That was fun, too. More memories to be revisited, and new ones made.

Four and a half hours later we rose from our armchairs, with some difficulty. Even the Resident IT Consultant had remained, and looked like he enjoyed it too. That’s never happened before.

Here we go again

Mamma Mia! ten years on, or five if you consider the plot. We’re all ten years older, but we – mostly – don’t look it. Do we? And a person can always have a young self, like they do in the new Mamma Mia! film. I adored the young Harry especially.

So, Donna is dead. Maybe this was for the best, as it left all of us crying, and it meant there was for the most time only two almost identical young women to be confused by. Sophie, and her mother Donna as a young woman, and made more confusing by shifting quickly between the two. Now we know what it was like for Donna and Sophie’s three dads, even if some of the continuity might not actually work. Who cares?

It’s like a family party. You’re just so happy to see everyone again. This time there were fewer old ABBA hits, and possibly less music too, but you’re happy, crying both sad and happy tears, and a film has to be pretty good to achieve that, and I don’t care if the film critics are still a little sniffy about it. Although they learned their lesson ten years ago, and now take Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again much more seriously.

There were the expected cameos from Björn and Benny. I suppose many of the appearances were somewhat cameo-like, really. I love Cher, but am not sure she was the right grandmother for Sophie, even if great. And ABBA songs are less well suited to a deep voice.

Lots of laughter, quite a bit of crying, both from me and Pierce Brosnan, not to mention from Julie Walters. I could watch the film again tomorrow, if only life didn’t need me for other things.

And thanks to Daughter who saw the film in Pasadena 20 hours before me, I knew to stay for the scene after the credits. I waited and I waited and everyone else left and the cleaners came, giving me funny looks, but eventually, there it was; the extra scene. I took a chance on it!

A very long time ago

I was at the dentist’s yesterday morning, and managed to pay some attention to what was on the radio, while also being crowned and glued and whatnot.

They were looking back on the long career of Terry Wogan. Radio Two, not the dentist. So there were snippets from Eurovision, with a pretty hilarious voting commentary between Norway and Sweden.

And then Terry was heard to reminisce on the big changes to Eurovision after ABBA won in 1974. They played Waterloo, and while I didn’t quite lie there singing along, it was still fun.

The dentist asked me if I could remember this. I said that yes, of course, I could. I didn’t tell him exactly where I was or what I was doing, but I do remember. I wasn’t an ABBA fan in those days. (My dentist, who is a very lovely dentist, won’t have been born then.)

And the next thing he asked was whether the members of ABBA were well known in Sweden before Waterloo. I said they were, but didn’t dare point out I’d been a fan of BB almost ten years earlier. And more recently one of the As. He’s very good with general knowledge stuff and irrelevant facts, and can manage a long conversation on exoplanets if he has to. But clearly not ancient ABBA facts.

You had to have been there.

Wallander is the new ABBA

Coincidence being what it is, when we went to Space school on Sunday to retrieve Daughter, we met a second cousin of the Resident IT Consultant’s. He was there to retrieve his daughter, a third cousin to Daughter, who is also into space.

When you meet people they usually say how much they love ABBA. That’s because they want to be kind about my country of origin. Now that has changed to people saying how much they enjoy the Wallander on television. Especially the Swedish version, currently on BBC 4. This was the case with he second cousin, as well.

Take that, Kenneth Branagh! They like the ‘foreign’ original better than the foreign (to me) BBC version.

If you are one of my faithful followers, you may have noticed my complete lack of success in getting to a cinema showing Män som hatar kvinnor (The girl with the dragon tattoo). My last failed opportunity was in July, when I ended up eating Norwegian waffles instead. I consoled myself with the thought that I could watch it when it comes to Britain, later.

That was until I read this: ‘cinema distributors in the US and Britain remain reluctant to bring over a low-budget, Swedish film of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that already exists. In parts of Europe this film has pushed the second Dan Brown film, Angels and Demons, off the top of the box-office chart. But why squander the chance to make really big money by screening a subtitled version before the book receives the full treatment from a top US studio?’

The Americans want to make big money by making their own. Which they of course think will be better than that sad ‘low-budget’ film. It’s not low-budget! It’s just not Hollywood! But taking a leaf out of the Wallander v Wallander, erm, book; maybe the low-budget solution is the best one?

So, looking at the possibility of not seeing the blasted film at all any time soon, I even instructed Son to see if I could download it on the internet. Very illegal, but what’s a witch to do when her money can’t be spent? But you can’t. There was a Spanish version floating about, I understand.

He said ‘why not buy it?’, thinking that was a practical option. Because it’s not out yet. That’s why. But the good news is – I hope – that it’s out next week. And in a useful sort of way Son is going in that direction, so one of his first tasks will be to pop into a shop and then to pop a DVD in the post home to mother.

ABBA – The Story

It’s June 1975 and I’m working on a passenger ferry. It’s not my shift, so I have lots of time to sit around doing nothing. The muzak in the restaurant consists of a not very long loop of Abba songs, and I groan as I hear “Mamma Mia, here I go again…”.  I wish they wouldn’t go again. And again. I’m a not very cool teenager, but at least I’m cool enough not to be into Abba. Hence the groans.

It’s some time in 1993 and I’m in my neighbour’s car, and Abba Gold is playing on the radio. My (English) neighbour sings along happily, and I feel a little sorry for her. Then I realise she is so much younger than I, and will have been at a very impressionable age in 1974. I can’t blame her for being a fan.

Soon, of course, I grow up and realise that Abba are quite good. Actually. I start to feel proud. Offspring who have no unwanted baggage about being cool, like the music, and Daughter picks out Super Trouper on the piano without help, because she is keen. Balance is eventually achieved when she asks her Chinese piano teacher for help with Mamma Mia. She has never heard of Abba. I’m almost affronted, but she is only 21 and comes from Shanghai.

I give Daughter tickets to see Mamma Mia! in London with me for her eighth birthday. We soon return, with the rest of the family, the disdain I felt when my fellow Swedes here talked about having seen the show several times, gone. So much for that early cool.

ABBA – The Story by Carl Magnus Palm makes me a little bit nostalgic. It was nice to find myself back in the sixties, way before cool. Not much of the early years of Abba is new to me. That kind of information is something you just know, somehow. But it was good to get back to the Swedish pop scene of forty years ago. The Hep Stars were my absolute favourites, I quite liked the Hootenanny Singers, and I admired Agnetha Fältskog from the start.

Reading a book by a Swede, for Swedes, means that not much has to be explained. The author can concentrate on what happened and what people did. Though it’s worth noting that Carl Magnus was barely born in those days, so didn’t experience it himself. He’s done a great job, and from what I gather he’s the authority on Abba, and has several other Abba books, including ones in English, already out.

This book deals competently with all that happened, starting with each of the four, plus Stikkan Anderson, as children, and taking the reader along their varied routes to stardom. For me it was the early years of Stikkan and Anni-Frid Lyngstad that were particularly interesting. The other three had more ordinary beginnings, whereas these two really had to pull themselves up with their boot straps. Very admirable.

It’s quite normal reading about the way up, because you sort of know what happened. And even though you also know how it ended, it’s much harder reading about that, but it’s logical. Things can’t stay the same forever. And Carl Magnus knows why I wasn’t so keen on Abba in those days. He also knows why I like them now, so it would appear I’m not unique at all.

There is a lot on the composing of all the famous songs, quite a bit about the possibly dubious business ventures which made Abba so unpopular with many. Background to the Abba tours, and even a snippet on why the American Maffia might be after one of their helpers.

This is a fascinating read, and very much a history of Sweden in the second half of the twentieth century. Lots of photos, both well known ones, as well as new pictures. Let’s hope it gets translated eventually.

The girl from down the road

I had my old school friend Lena in the kitchen just now, singing Silent Night. She was only present on the iPod, but that’s good enough. I decided for the umpteenth time that her voice is really very good. It was always great, even when singing American spirituals over the skipping rope, which isn’t the most normal thing for a twelve-year-old to be doing.

Lena Andersson was “discovered” in 1971 when she was fifteen, and was a star almost overnight, with hits and tours and the whole circus. Remembering what she used to sing before fame hit, I’m not convinced Lena was given the best songs to record.  Är Det Konstigt Att Man Längtar Bort Nån Gång was her first hit.

By 1972 we hoped she’d get to represent Sweden in the Eurovision song contest with Säg Det Med En Sång, but she didn’t quite make it.

A couple of years later some other Swedes became Eurovision winners, and as they had been involved in writing songs for Lena and producing her records, it’s not altogether surprising that her career didn’t do so well after this. They had other things on their minds.

As I’ve been reading in ABBA – The Story, Lena wasn’t the only victim of Abba’s success, but singing Abba covers in German isn’t one of the greatest things to end up doing, when two years earlier it was Abba singing back-up for Lena. Though she did get to go to Australia with them and you can almost catch a glimpse of her in ABBA – The Movie.

Though, looking at what happens to many child stars, maybe it was just as well. I don’t know. Lena found God at the age of thirty, and more recently she found love online, and married and moved to California. I worried a little when I read about this in a magazine, but a chance encounter with Lena’s best friend a while back, reassured me that she is fine and happy. And that’s what matters.

Abba v Wallander

I’ve been living in Abba-land for a while. Yes, I know I was born there, but that’s not what I mean. Have been reading the new ABBA – The Story, and feel immersed in Abba-ness. Will report fully on this later.

This evening we forced the Resident IT Consultant to put his newspaper aside and watch Mamma Mia! on DVD. (He’d seen the stage production, and that was enough, thank you very much.) Anyway, my smile stretched from ear to ear, again. Maybe GPs should consider prescribing the DVD to people who feel depressed. The Resident IT Consultant reluctantly agreed that the film was “OK”.

Immediately afterwards BBC4 had a Swedish version of Wallander on offer, which I believe he started watching. Probably felt he needed depressing after all that singing. I’ll watch it later.

Seeing Agnetha

April 1979, Terminal 2, Heathrow. “Do you see who that is?”, I whispered to my friend, wanting to be as discreet as possible. She glanced in the same direction, and said “Yes, and by the way, she heard you. She made a face.” So much for discretion.

This being during my years as a cool, young person, I had no interest in ABBA, and neither did my friend. So we left Agnetha alone, but most of the other travellers in the departure lounge didn’t. They traipsed over to the shop and bought an ABBA LP, and then they trotted across to Agnetha for an autograph. I had heard she was scared of flying, so I rather suspect it wasn’t a good time for her to meet fans, but she signed and smiled gamely anyway.

I remembered this, as I started browsing through a new book which has just arrived. Carl Magnus Palm is the ABBA expert, and he has a new book out (ABBA The Story, and that’s in Swedish, believe it or not) about the group. The part I happened to read first was about the premiere of Mamma Mia! in Stockholm a few years ago, with the audience speculating like mad about Agnetha. Will she come, or won’t she? She has become a real recluse over the years, but, yes, she did come.

Mamma Mia!

I’m not late. This was the second viewing of the film, following three trips to the theatre for the stage version. I am generally a very disappointing mother, but have vowed not to fail in the ABBA department, so the “summer” had to finish with more Mamma Mia!, and to be honest, I did wonder if it made sense to go again.

Mamma Mia dance

The answer is I could easily go again tomorrow (but I won’t). Anything that puts a grin on your face so quickly, and makes sure it remains there all the way through, is good. It is very silly, really, but so is the stage musical, and none of it makes much sense. But it entertains.

I think of it as leftovers. I get everything out of the fridge and look at the food until it becomes clear what I can make with this particular mix of ingredients. And as Son often says, leftovers for dinner can be better than something carefully planned. To write the story of Mamma Mia! I imagine that Catherine Johnson must have got all the ABBA songs out of the fridge and looked at them too, until a pattern emerged. Like the dinner, the result is slightly weird, but so good.

Mamma Mia dads

Even on a second viewing Pierce Brosnan still can’t sing, but his bare chest is worth seeing. Colin Firth is always adorable, and let’s face it, Stellan Skarsgård covers the Swedish connection nicely. Son claims not to like Meryl Streep, but I do, and the film is good enough to make Dominic Cooper bearable, but no more.

Mamma Mia Streep and Brosnan

Maybe I should just settle down and wait for the DVD to be available, and not spend more money in what’s a very tatty and rundown local cinema. We’ll see.