I came across this last night; truthfully I forgot that I had written it. Never having been a major ABBA fan, I guess I scraped that corner of my brain clean so I could reuse it for something else. Not even the recent film Mamma Mia rekindled the memory from eight years ago. I guess Bowie was right.
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
But I do like documentaries, and when they’re well done it doesn’t have to be about aliens or 9/11 conspiracies or even how Enron screwed the country in broad daylight. I found that although I still am not an ABBA fanatic, I do have a new respect for the band.
If you are a fan, you should get this. If you’re ambivalent about the band, perhaps a rental or a trip to the library might give you the same reward that I had…
This ninety-one minute documentary provides an excellent overview of ABBA’s career and boasts a wealth of performance clips and interviews. Bookended with early history and recent postscript, the bulk of the program focuses on their recording years, from their beginnings (winning the Eurovision song contest with “Waterloo” in 1974) through their final ironic songs of failed relationships. Although many thought their gaudy stage show and chipper pop catalogue were tackier than bubblegum cartoon bands, in retrospect it’s hard to argue with their amazing string of chart-busting singles.
The recent interview clips with Bjorn and Benny prove them to be a focused and determined songwriting team who slaved over the melodies until they exhausted the possibilities. I never knew they did this during mammoth sessions in an island cabin, but then I learned a lot about the band from this DVD. I didn’t know that they targeted using the English language for American success because radio refused to play their songs in their own country.
Sure, I could have imagined Anni-Frid having a successful solo career or Agnetha performing the role of Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar. But Bjorn in a Kingston Trio-like skiffle band? Benny manning a Vox Continental in the garage band The Hepstars? Clips of Bjorn and Benny’s sixties bands looked like the phony “early years” videos from This Is Spinal Tap, but they’re authentic…
Read the rest of my review at Cosmik Debris.
R.I.P. (Will) Owlsley - whether you knew him as a sideman for your favorite musician, or savored his incredible solo work, his death at such a young age is a tragedy.