News of a forthcoming interactive exhibition based on the lives, music and total bangers of ABBA instills me with much joy. Sure, the David Bowie and Pink Floyd exhibits at the V&A over the past few years were critical smashes, but the newly announced ABBA: Super Troopers, which will open at London’s Southbank Centre later this year, is the one that will get me running to the museum and spending money that I don’t have in the shop.
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Here’s hoping the ‘interactive’ element includes the chance to try on Agnetha’s shiny blue pantaloons from Eurovision 1974.
ABBA, you see, were my first musical love and I’m still pretty convinced that they are the greatest band to have ever existed. As an eight-year-old girl, a friend of my mum’s insisted on schooling me on the beauty of pop’s most triumphant act. It was an easy job. I was smitten from the start. It didn’t matter that the band had long since split and the members were not all living in obscurity somewhere expensive and scenic in Sweden. What mattered was a beat-up VHS of ABBA: The Movie that I watched over and over, and a taped copy of ABBA Gold, which was my sonic bible. Made up of wall-to-wall hits, it is all killer and no filler and one of the best selling records ever released. 19 flawless tracks, from ‘Dancing Queen’ through to ‘SOS’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ and glam rock oddity ‘Does Your Mother Know’ and, of course, Eurovision winner ‘Waterloo’, aka the best Eurovision song of all time. Joint frontwomen Agnetha and Frida quickly became my heroes; two impossibly glamorous women singing ridiculously catchy songs about love, loss and 19th century warfare in skin-tight spandex. They could do heartbreak (‘The Winner Takes It All’) as well as they could do loved-up (‘Take A Chance On Me’), proving that pop is just as good a medium for all the big emotions as poetry. Take that, Keats.
It meant nothing to me as an eight-year-old, but the fact that the band also boasted Fleetwood Mac levels of scandal, with rumours of partner-swapping between the two married couples, adds an extra level of intrigue. The traumatic divorces which informed some of their greatest, saddest songs also go to show that it wasn’t just iconic 1970s rock bands who had to deal with heavy shit while crafting legendary records.
Now, listening to ABBA years after I first heard the songs, which I must have heard hundreds if not thousands of time since, I still feel the same way; joyful, giddy and a bit like I want to shower myself in glitter and make up dance routines all day long. Thank you for the music, ABBA.