|Fabulous Frida In Melbourne|
ABBA Tight-Lipped Over Name Of Their Comeback Game
by Neil McMahon
Forty years on from the legendary visit that stands as ABBA's biggest and Australia's craziest concert tour, band legend Frida Lyngstad says the Swedish icons will be back. But is it a reunion? She calls it "a new ABBA creation" – but if history is any guide, we'll lap it up whatever it is.
In a rare interview with Good Weekend to mark the anniversary of the 1977 tour, Lyngstad confirms she and bandmates Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson are busy with … something.
"We have just started to explore a new technological world, with virtual reality and artificial intelligence at the forefront," Lyngstad says. "Our fans are always asking us to reform and so I hope this new ABBA creation will excite them as much as it excites us."
Lyngstad reveals nothing else about the new project, but it's safe to say nothing in the virtual realm will ever match the flesh-and-blood fervour of that 1977 tour, in which the band played 11 concerts in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth across two weeks remembered for fan and media hysteria wherever they went.
Lyngstad remembers the fortnight in fond detail, including the first concert in Sydney that was nearly abandoned due to torrential rain. Lyngstad famously panicked fans and promoters when she fell over on the wet stage, which was also invaded by bugs.
An "unforgettable" concert, says Lyngstad, while also recalling quiet moments away from the tour spotlight.
"We had a few days off, and were taken to a beautiful national park outside Sydney, and enjoyed a boat trip on the waters outside Melbourne, even swimming together with seals in a bay I do not remember the name of. A very special experience, to say the least."
The Melbourne leg of the tour is remembered for fan crushes on the streets at their hotel, the Old Melbourne Motor Inn in Flemington Road, and in Swanston Street where they greeted fans from the Town Hall balcony.
Tony Johnson, manager of the hotel at the time, remembers the constant crush of fans. "There was literally thousands of people at the Old Melbourne to welcome them when they arrived. We had the mounted police out the front to stop the crowd. We had additional security because there were so many people trying to get access to their suites. They were captive … because there was so many people outside."
Promoter Michael Chugg, then a tour manager for Paul Dainty, remembers the chaos of the Sydney show. "The Sebel Townhouse got the shits with us because we took every white towel they had to keep drying the stage. But they played in the rain, the audience turned up in the rain, they just absolutely loved it. It affected everybody from toddlers to grandma and grandpa. It was incredible to look into the audience and see the spread of the demographic."
That generation-crossing devotion is confirmed by musician Kate Miller-Heidke, who wasn't even born during ABBA's heyday but who is working on a keenly awaited ABBA-related project – writing a stage musical production of the ABBA-laden movie Muriel's Wedding, which premieres for the Sydney Theatre Company in November.
"They have basically formed part of the soundtrack to my life, their music is everywhere," Miller-Heidke says. "The songs are undeniable. As a songwriter I would never say that they were of no lasting value … just the way they put lyrics and melody together in a way that burns into people's minds."