Sunday, September 11, 2011
Music DVD/Book Review: ABBA: Thank You For The Music
This is a strange package, a four-DVD and 116-page oversized book combination which celebrates the Swedish supergroup of the seventies. It goes without saying that their popularity has remained high over the years, so a tribute like this makes perfect sense. However, the content is a not quite what I'd expected.
First of all there is the disclaimer on the back cover: “This independent book and DVD set was made with complete editorial freedom. It is uncensored and not in any way associated with members of ABBA.” To me, this implies that there is lots of juicy information inside. Come on now, salacious gossip about these squeaky clean and formerly married two couples — how could one resist? A quick glance disabused me of that notion completely. Of course, this being a book and DVD combo, it is sealed, so the curious are forced to purchase it first to find out just what it is all about.
The only thing the members of ABBA could possibly object to is the level of adulation lavished upon them. This is no mere acknowledgment of the group’s impressive achievements; it is a bid for rock immortality. Throughout the book author John Tobler repeatedly compares ABBA to The Beatles. While both groups did have four members, both were active for seven years, and both acts sold millions of records, the similarities end there. Yes, ABBA were a major international success. But putting them on par with The Beatles? Please.
Being completely unauthorized, the set relies on outsiders to offer their perceptions of the group. These include members of the ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again, as well as other musicians and industry figures. By making this a four-DVD collection, one is given the impression that there is a ton of material contained within. Not quite. Each DVD clocks in at about a half an hour. This means that everything could have been put onto one disc, with room to spare.
The first two DVDs are volumes one and two of “ABBA: Rock Case Studies.” They feature interviews with various ABBA-related authorities who discuss the merits of songs such as “Dancing Queen,” “Fernando,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” among many other classics. The other two DVDs are concerned with ABBA Gold, the 19-song greatest hits collection released in 1992 that reignited interest in their career.
There are three parts to the book. The first (and lengthiest) is an essay by Tobler titled “Thank You For The Music.” In it he recounts the history of ABBA, from 1973 to 1981, and their subsequent breakup and activities afterwards.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the makeup of ABBA, the group was composed of two married couples: Bjorn and Agnetha, and Benny and Anni-Frid (Frida). By 1981, both marriages were over, but everyone seemed game to continue on anyway. Solo albums from Agnetha and Frida, and Benny and Bjorn‘s work on the musical Chess came first, however. When the various projects were completed and it came time to reconvene, though, it seemed nobody had any interest in working on another ABBA album.
“In Their Own Words” is a section of interviews with ABBA insiders and Frida herself. The Frida interview dates back to 1982, when she was promoting her solo album, Something’s Going On. The third and final section of the book is “ABBA Track By Track.” In this portion, Tobler breaks down all eight studio albums plus ABBA Live, song by song.
ABBA: Thank You For The Music is a celebration of this quintessential seventies band. It is an appealing package, although a little misleading. In any event, it is something that I am sure big-time fans will not be able to live without.
Article first published as Music DVD/Book Review: ABBA: Thank You For The Music on Blogcritics.