50th Anniversary News and Speculation


Rowena? From Kuwait?
Feb 3, 2004
From the Independent a few days ago

If you hate Abba, 2024 is really not going to be your year…​

Fifty years after the Swedish Fab Four won the Eurovision Song Contest, rumours are circulating – about yet more new music, a third ‘Mamma Mia!’ film, even a zombie horror flick about an Abba covers band. But there’s only one thing that superfans are really crying out for, says
Paul Clements

If you’re one of those fun sponges who doesn’t leap to their feet on New Year’s Eve when someone puts on “Dancing Queen” (and, oh, they will…), brace positions, please: I’m afraid 2024 is not going to be your year.

In case you somehow hadn’t noticed, Abba are having an extraordinary, and unexpected, late-period revival. Abba Voyage, their futuristic concert series that uses digital trickery to conjure up the band in their late-1970s pomp, is still attracting sellout crowds in east London’s purpose-built ABBA Arena, a good year and a half after opening.

Having contributed a third of a billion pounds to the economy in its first year alone, the show – which is pure sensory and nostalgia overload – has also spawned an entire new entertainment art form, opening the way for other “heritage” acts to take to the stage again without having to actually take to the stage. US rockers Kiss recently announced they are now planning their own avatar show.

Abba have always had good heads for business, at their most imperious they famously rivalled Volvo as Sweden’s biggest export. Next April marks 50 years since “Waterloo” won the Eurovision Song Contest, a moment that sent the Swedish Fab Four into the stratosphere. Over the years, the band has racked up almost 400 million album sales, nine UK number ones, the longest chart run of any greatest hits compilation in UK history, a jukebox stage musical that’s broken records in the West End and on Broadway, and been translated into almost two dozen languages – as well as spawning a billion-dollar film franchise (about which, more later…).

For a group that broke up in 1982 (before reuniting to release one last album in 2021), the Abba bandwagon has been revving for a while, and isn’t in danger of tailing off. In fact, it’s about to step up a whole new gear.

It’s almost too perfect that Eurovision is to be held next May in Sweden. Abba have turned down the inevitable offers to take part – but fans refuse to believe they won’t be press-ganged to appear… somehow. And there’s good reason to think there’s something going on.

Around the time Malmö was unveiled as the 2024 host city, tickets for Abba Voyage on April 6, 2024 – 50 years to the day from their famous song contest triumph – disappeared from sale. Given Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Bjorn don’t actually perform in person, only as “Abbatars” (that pun wearing thin for anyone else yet…?), why pull the shows? Might the Abba Arena be needed for something else? Might the live backing band that accompanies the pop apparitions be needed for a live link-up performance or announcement? What could it all mean?

Online message boards (certainly the ones I hang around) are abuzz with possibilities for Abba’s big anniversary year – many of them plain wishful thinking, but some alive with possibility.

In 2024, a special TV documentary about the band is to be released. Another Mamma Mia! film is in the offing, too. The franchise’s producer, Judy Craymer, recently told a Hollywood newspaper that a third outing “will happen”, saying: “I don’t want to over-egg it, but I know there’s a trilogy there” – one in which Meryl Streep might even be persuaded to return, “if the script is right”. Again, which songs will feature? (My fingers are crossed for “The Day Before You Came”.)

There’s even a horror movie in production, called Bjorn of the Dead, about a covers band, Abbatoir, who find themselves trapped in a nightclub as a zombie apocalypse begins. Even more remarkably, Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson has signed up for a lead role.

Bjorn and Benny have also confirmed that the band have readied “five or six” songs not yet in the Abba Voyage concert, telling Newsnight that “Super Trouper” and “Take A Chance On Me” have been given the Abbatar treatment. Might 2024 be the year they join a refreshed setlist?

The most solid rumour is that, in 2024, Abba Voyage will be going on a world tour. The lease on the Abba Arena site in east London runs out in a couple of years, and as the stadium has a timber frame and was designed as a flatpack – so Swedish… – it can, in theory, be rebuilt anywhere. The only question is: who’s first?

Will it be Las Vegas, where global pop acts get vast sums to play in residence (or virtually, in Abba’s case). Except the band only ever topped the US charts once and remain something of a curio there.

Instead, how about Australia, where 1970s Abbamania hit hardest? It was reported earlier this month that Victoria’s state government is in “advanced conversations” to bring the show to Melbourne, but that New South Wales had also lobbied hard for it to go to Sydney. For an outsider bet, I’d take a chance on Singapore.

However, there’s one persistent rumour above all others getting Abbaologists really excited – that new Abba tracks are on the way.

When Catherine Tate appeared on Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 show, said she had it on good authority (from *cough, cough* Russell T Davies, the Doctor Who screenwriter and friend of Bjorn’s) that new Abba tracks are to be unveiled at a “special event”.

The recording sessions for their 2021 comeback album Voyage yielded at least two new songs: “They’re good sort of stuff, but not really finished,” Benny once told a German radio station. “It takes more work, from me, at least, in the studio.” (Something got lost in translation there, but you get the gist.)

Now, the new song titles have leaked – “Hit By A Train” and “My Story Ends With You” – and messageboard discussions are at full shriek.

And then there’s the small matter of all the songs that Abba recorded in the heyday, some only in part, but never got round to releasing. When I spoke to Benny and Bjorn a decade or so ago, they insisted there was simply nothing left in the vaults. But then “Just A Notion”, an abandoned 1978 demo, was polished up to feature on Voyage.

As any fan with Google access knows, there are several other gems still to be had. While working on the Chess musical in the early 1980s, Bjorn’s car was broken into and a demo tape stolen. It contained one of the last tracks the band had recorded before splitting in 1982 – and it might be their greatest as-yet unreleased song.

“Just Like That” has mythic status among Abba fans. An uptempo ballad with Agnetha on lead vocals, it already exists in several distinct versions, including an almost-finished one with a saxophone solo by Raphael Ravenscroft, who performed on “Baker Street”; all that’s missing are Frida’s backing vocals. Despite protestations from Benny and Bjorn that it doesn’t “work” (see for yourself on YouTube – it really does…), they must be fond of it: it was scheduled to feature in the original Mamma Mia! stage musical, as a duet between Sophie and Sky, but was pulled from the running order so close to opening night, it featured in the souvenir programme.

So, B&B, as a 50th anniversary gift to the fans, how about gussying up “Just Like That” once and for all – perhaps as a “final” single, or a bonus track on a deluxe Voyage reissue? It might just be the greatest way to thank us for the music.

Although I've not seen it posted anywhere official yet.
The Official International ABBA Fan Club Magazine #157 December 2023 advises (from Görel Hanser) that “ABBA themselves will not be involved in anything on the day, so please feel free to celebrate the day as you wish.”

BBC One and iPlayer commission feature documentary ABBA: Against The Odds to celebrate 50 years since ABBA's Eurovision win

European broadcasters to broadcast documentary, directed by multi-award winning director James Rogan, in time for Eurovision Song Contest 2024

Telling the epic story of ABBA’s greatest period of musical achievement framed between the albums ‘Arrival’ (1976) and ‘Super Trooper’ (1980), this is the story of ABBA’s deeply personal and perilous journey through the band’s most transformative years and rise to global fame. In the UK the film will be shown on BBC One and iPlayer this May.

ABBA: Against The Odds will see a host of European broadcasters including BBC, ARD/WDR, France Télévisions, SVT and DR unite and come together to fund the feature film detailing the incredible story of the renowned group featuring rediscovered archive, exclusive never-before-seen stills and previously unheard stories. The film is set to be a roller-coaster journey of love, struggle, fame and – of course – epic songs.

The documentary features unprecedented access to SVT (Swedish public television) archives including rare footage that capture the band’s rise to fame and the intense negativity they faced at home. With privileged insights from sources close to the band complete with exclusive photographic memories, rare footage, deleted and unreleased audio, unique band archive from behind the Iron Curtain and several exclusive access interviews that have either never aired or were thought lost since transmission; this is the untold story of ABBA.

Michael Jochnowitz, BBC Commissioning Editor, Factual Entertainment & Events says: “ABBA: Against All Odds is a truly special documentary, formed by a unique collaboration of broadcasters about one of the world’s greatest ever bands…And if you thought you knew the story behind the music, think again.”

James Rogan, Director, Rogan Productions said: “To be able, as a director, to dive into the ABBA story through the extraordinary archive of their voyage through the tumultuous 70s has been a jaw-dropping experience. The sheer joy of working on a documentary about ABBA cannot be understated, as their bitter-sweet songs remain as resonant in our confused times as they did when they were first recorded. This film will capture the scale of the challenge they faced as a Swedish band gaining success and respect on the global stage, and how the unique combination of four talents produced music that defined the decade and changed pop music forever.”

Tom Young, Head of Indie Partnerships, Factual at BBC Studios said: “ABBA are a truly international phenomenon, and we are honoured to be working with Rogan Productions on what will be another global hit with our clients, following on from highly successful collaboration on Freddie Mercury: The Final Act, both a commercial and critical hit.”

Axel Arno, Head of Documentaries, SVT said: “The documentary will be a celebration of not only the iconic music of ABBA but also the power of storytelling to unite us across Europe. In times of division, this documentary serves as a reminder of our shared cultural heritage and the vital role it plays in fostering unity and cohesion across the continent.”

Anders Bruus, Commissioning Editor, DR said: “ABBA's timeless appeal transcends borders, languages, and generations, proving that storytelling, art and music are universal languages that can bring us together, even in challenging times.”

Christiane Hinz, Head of Documentaries, ARD/WDR said: “ARD/WDR is thrilled to be part of this epic broadcasting and platform event that will unite different generations of European audiences in front of their screens. ABBA has shaped the sound of Europe and of course also in Germany this pop myth is kept alive till today. Younger people know the songs, now they will discover the story behind them. ABBA - twelve points! Europe - twelve points!”

Caroline Behar, Head of International Coproductions, Factual, France Télévisions said: “As the historical broadcaster of the Eurovision song contest, France Télévisions is proud to be part of the project ABBA: Against All Odds. We are honoured to celebrate ABBA’s unique talent, and get closer to the women and men behind the iconic band. We are convinced that ABBA’s commitments still resonate today within the young generation.”

Abba: Against the Odds has been commissioned for BBC One and iPlayer by Catherine Catton, Head of Commissioning, Factual Entertainment and Events and the BBC Commissioning Editor is Michael Jochnowitz. It is produced by Rogan Productions and Directed by BAFTA and Emmy-winner James Rogan, whose directing hits include the multi-award-winning Freddie Mercury: The Final Act, 1971: The Year that Music Changed Everything, BAFTA award-winning Uprising and Monty Python: The Meaning of Live. Produced by Dan Hall, an Emmy and Rose d’Or award-winner, recent credits include Freddie Mercury: The Final Act, Cher and the Loneliest Elephant, and Gay Under the Taliban. Made in partnership with SVT and the European Broadcasting Union. Executive Producers are: Jan Younghusband and Soleta Rogan.

BBC Studios will distribute the series internationally and will present the programme to buyers at BBC Studios Showcase, taking place in London from 26 to 27th February 2024.

Further news about transmission dates will be released in due course.
On one hand, it's ANOTHER Abba documentary.

On the other, it does sound potentially very good indeed.
More info about the documentary, which premieres at a film festival in Copenhagen this weekend, is 90 minutes long, and is the biggest ever collaboration between EBU members on a documentary.

I assume this will be shown to tie in with the actual contest.
The interview above is audio from BBC World Service.

Then this is this Saturday (the 50th anniversary) on BBC2


And this Sunday on BBC4

Actually, there's a lot more on radio

BBC Radio in the UK celebrates the occasion with many programmes. On 6 April Radio 2 broadcasts ABBA at the BBC, as part of the BBC Loves Eurovision series.

At 20.00 BST the same day is the new programme ABBA: Inside the Music on Radio 4, “exploring ABBA’s songwriting and musical craft across their studio albums – from Ring Ring in 1973 to The Visitors in 1981”.

BBC radio’s Eras series premieres four new programmes on Radio 2 from 7 April. Episodes 1 and 2, The Road to Waterloo and The Arrival are broadcast from 7 April, episodes 3 and 4 follow a week later, on 14 April. The Eras series has previously broadcast acclaimed programmes on The Beatles and Kylie Minogue. The four episodes will be available on BBC Sounds from 6 April.

On 7 April ABBA and Beyond: The Story of Eurovision 74 with Scott Mills (a repeat programme from 2014) will be broadcast on Radio 2, another instalment of the BBC Loves Eurovision series.

Also on 7 April Boom Radio presents ABBA – The 50 Year Voyage at 21.00, hosted by lyricist Tim Rice, who wrote lyrics for Benny and Björn’s 1980’s musical Chess. This programme promises “interviews with ABBA, album tracks, live recordings and some of the key songs from their catalogue.”

On 12 April RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage hosts Michelle’s Mood is…ABBA Forever! Celebrating the 50th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision victory, a “half-hour of non-stop bops is packed with classic ABBA classics for all dancing queens” on Radio 2 at 20.30 BST.

Finally, broadcast on 13 April is Sophie Ellis-Bextor: ABBA, My Supergroup. The ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ singer shares her love of the group.
I believe Radio 2 will be launching a vote this week to find the nation’s favourite ABBA songs too (similar to what they did with Kylie) but no word on when the results will be broadcast.
I could really go watching an ABBA documentary - assuming what is scheduled up there is not new, which one of them would be it, or is there a better one elsewhere?
I could really go watching an ABBA documentary - assuming what is scheduled up there is not new, which one of them would be it, or is there a better one elsewhere?
I'd recommend waiting for the new one in post #6 above.
This Morning dug up some mardy gay who was on the UK jury that infamously failed to give Sweden any points. He seems rather defensive about the whole thing :D

NO, we didn't award ABBA nul points, we simply awarded our ten points to other countries! :evil:

Just watching the 1974 show now.

Hard to believe how much Katie Boyle looks like Gillian Anderson playing Thatcher.
On Swedish TV last night. I've had a quick whizz through it, and it's... rough. I assumed I'd recognise or know the names of quite a few of the acts, but Molly Sandén is I think the only one I did, unless I've skipped through someone else significant.

I quite enjoyed Oscar Zia doing So Long.

He's not much of a talent, but it's was good to hear such a banger of a deep cut.
I quite enjoyed Oscar Zia doing So Long.

He's not much of a talent, but it's was good to hear such a banger of a deep cut.
Missed that, although I'd recognise the name rather than him.

Who was the guy who did the appalling version of I Still Have Faith In You?
Oscar is on at the end at the 1:54 mark.

It made me think how So Long would have been a complete Frida showstopper if they were still performing live.
So Long got a surprise airing at the ABBA Gold thing I was at last night. Maybe it’s due a revival.

And (for those recognising the name but not much else) Oscar Zia is a former MF contestant turned (quite good) host who basically queened out and did a (rather good) cover of Lena Anthem in the final a few years ago, together with a delightful home video of child Oscar queening out to the original:

For this, he will forever be in my GOOD BOOKS.

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