Gimme, Gimme, Gimme: All Bow To ABBA in Stockholm

ABBA The Museum, Stockholm, Sweden

ABBA.  Love ’em or hate ’em, they are one of the most influential bands in the history of modern music.  From 1974 to 1982, the group topped charts all around the world, and in the last few decades they’ve re-emerged and caught up a whole new legion of fans.

Even though I love many of ABBA’s songs, I may not have visited ABBA The Museum if it weren’t for Big-Sister Chickpea.  Big-Sister Chickpea had basically two things she wanted to see in Stockholm: an Ikea, and the ABBA experience.  Anyway, I was a little put off by the price, but I liked the museum’s catchphrase: ‘Walk in, dance out’.  That sounded good.

As it happens, the ABBA thing was more than just an experience.  It was actually a bit of a bonding exercise for the girls in my family.  Until we went round, I don’t think any of us had realised just how important ABBA’s music has been in our lives.

And it’s all thanks to four Swedes:  Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.

And yes… yes those are four giant platform shoes you see on that roof.  Let’s say, it sets a tone for the rest of your ABBA experience…

‘MAMMA MIA! Behind The Movie Magic’ Exhibit

Not being very interested in the film, this initial room you enter didn’t do anything for me.  The only thing which struck me was how unattractive most of the costumes they had on show were.  And what a shame it was that Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan weren’t there instead of their mannequins.  Can’t the team at ABBA do something about that?

Before ABBA

The first room tells the story of Björn, Benny, Frida and Agnetha before they formed ABBA.  This was a cute room – but when we visited, absolutely packed with a group of Americans who somewhat dominated the room.  I managed to get the odd peek at the displays, and saw some of the footage that was shown on the little screens.  What I thought was interesting was how each of the members of ABBA had varied careers before they formed their group in 1972.

Waterloo!

Then, we get the excitement of Eurovision – and Waterloo.  In 1974, the band stepped out on stage in glitzy Brighton and became the most successful act to have represented any country at that event.  What also comes across is the fact that ABBA really earned that success: they had tried to represent Sweden at Eurovision for a number of years, and they just kept trying.  Thanks to their savvy manager at Polar Records, Stig ‘Stikkan’ Andersson, they were successful in various European countries prior to the competition, but breaking the English and American markets was always going to be tougher.

What I found quite interesting was the fact that the song was a bit controversial.  The use of lyrics referring to Waterloo and Napoleon is justified by Stikkan Andersson on a video clip you can watch in the room.  Since he helped write the song with the ABBA boys, it’s fun to see him brushing the whole thing off.  Their wonderful command of colloquial, idiomatic English is one of the element that makes ABBA songs such a joy.

ABBA’s World

Now that the band is on the road to world domination, we have some evocative little sets that give an idea of different aspects of life for the ABBA quartet.

The Public’s Love

One of the cutest aspects of the exhibition was the array of memorabilia that had come from fans around the world.  The amount of love that was out there for this band is just incredible.  I thought it was also sweet to have some of the fan mail on show, including the card from Tracie Jones.  Does she still love them, I wonder?

Odds and Ends

The next section had a few odd bits to do with the band, but the highlight was the fab wax statues of the band.  They really do look frighteningly authentic in pictures – and what a choice of outfits for them to wear!

Costumes and Records

The section on the awesome costumes worn by the band during tours and promotional photoshoots was good fun.  I mean, they wore some epic outfits alongside some pretty good ones.  Still, it’s always more amusing to look at those ones which make you go, ‘what?’, although I was also surprised by the amount of detail on the Waterloo outfits, in terms of their badges and chains.  Never really noticed them before.

After ABBA

The post ABBA section was a mish-mash which demonstrated the projects that the four members launched themselves into from the 1980s.  The boys have perhaps had more commercial success as songwriters, but the girls obviously kept working for as long as they wanted to, embarking on endeavours which they were interested in.  I think it was good for this section to be included, but perhaps it had less of the sparkle of the previous rooms…

So In Summary

For me, ABBA The Museum was fantastic.  I think they did a great job of celebrating the band, while showing their influence and continued impact, culturally as well as musically.  It was also great to see just how happy other visitors were – young kids were singing along with the songs and taking part in the interactive aspects with gusto.  Even Mama-Chickpea, who wasn’t too bothered about going, enjoyed the experience.

It also inspired Big-Sister Chickpea to plan a trip for us to see the Mamma Mia! musical in London.  Honestly, I think the musical is rubbish, with a non-story and performances that were generally pretty uncommitted, but it was a fun experience, if only to see all the gleeful faces of the young audience and hear ABBA’s music live… and wish that I could have seen the real quartet live in the 1970s.

Further Information

The fee to get into the museum is quite hefty – but if you’re intending to take part in all the fun elements, then it’s definitely worth it.

The museum has decided, very cleverly, to invest in digital technology.  I’m not always a fan, but in this case all the interactive bits help to enhance the visit, if you want to do it.  Each ticket can be scanned and then when you take part in various interactive bits’n’pieces, you get scored.  For example, you can sing ABBA songs in little booths, and then get a score based on your performance.  That is picture number 1 below.  Nailed it.

You can also become the 5th member of ABBA in a neat hologram set up – but you need to be brave to do that, as there will be an audience.  You can also conduct, remix, and play music in various set-ups.  Sometimes you can actually record your performance, and download it at home – but the quality of that wasn’t great, so be sure to record it on your phone yourself if you’re keen.

There is a good website – naturally also in English: www.abbathemuseum.com

Be aware that if you want to take advantage of all the interactive bits, you may have to wait around, so you might want to factor that into your plans.  We ended up by being there for two hours.  Just a heads up.

Finally, their gift shop is good fun – you may, like my self-professed 70s girl Sister-Chickpea, feel the need to buy a platform shoe pendant necklace.  Or maybe you have more self-control…

… or taste.

How To Get There

Cleverly, the museum is situated on the main touristic tram route – the one you use to get to Skansen drops you off here too.  The wonderful transport information for Stockholm is in English and available here:  www.sl.se

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