Monday, 29 October 2007

ABBA and the power of imperfection

I’ve just spent the afternoon watching an ABBA DVD and now I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

I’ve always loved ABBA. I loved them, unashamedly, even when all my friends were into Golden Earring and Black Sabbath, and so much as acknowledging ABBA’s existence made you unutterably naff.

I remember watching many of the videos now collected on this DVD when they were originally flighted on SATV, on Pop Shop; in some cases, I even remember what I was wearing at the time and what the weather was like.

Then, I thought Agnetha and Frida the pinnacle of female flawlessness, and the videos the last word in creative camerawork. Now, aside from wallowing in happy nostalgia, I’m so charmed at how very imperfect the members of ABBA were, and how clunkily the videos were made.

Reading the sleeve notes and counting on my fingers, I was surprised to find that Frida was in her 30s at the height of the band’s popularity – only five years younger than my mother was then. But that would explain why, in many of the videos, she appears to have just got out of bed after a night on the tiles. At 16, I didn’t see the puffiness under her eyes, her wrinkles, her harshly dyed hair; I didn’t notice, then, that her teeth were crooked and stained. And neither, evidently, did the cameraman, whose favourite focus was, long and lovingly, on her mouth.

Agnetha, ‘the girl with the golden hair’, had lovely teeth (I’d guess she was the non-smoker), but very small boobs and a generous bottom, both of which she stuffed into Latex of various colours and shimmied with wonderfully sexy self-confidence.

(I also don’t recall Bjorn being so outrageously camp, yet there he is, on the DVD, a leatherette-clad prototype Captain Jack Sparrow. And Benny, his entire head save his tiny eyes practically obscured by hair, grins into camera with a gormlessness that is frankly disturbing.)

Nowadays, of course, no female pop star would be seen dead with anything less than a porn star’s tits and a boy’s bum. If ABBA were performing today, the women’s teeth would have been straightened (Agnetha’s famous gap would be no more) and bleached, Frida’s hairdresser would have been fired, and the director of the videos would have been relegated to producing high-school plays.

Watching the DVD (and particularly ‘Chiquitita’, featuring an unruly wind machine that continually blows Frida’s hair into her eyes, to the extent that she finally clamps it down with a hand; and a technician who scurries onto the set halfway through and disappears mysteriously behind a giant snowman – no retakes there) I realised what an age of innocence ABBA represents. Aside from the fact that both couples married and divorced during the 10 years of the band’s glory days, there was never any hint of scandal – no drugs, no irate hotel managers wondering where to send the bill for damages, no panty-less appearances on the red carpet, no falling drunkenly out of nightclubs, no sleazy dalliances with unsuitable people… (And little or no paparazzi, I suppose.) It was all just so breathtakingly naïve.

I miss it.

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Juno said...

Oh yes, dear, wonderful ABBA. Your post bought back so many happy memories Muriel. And don't get me started on the ABBA bits in 'Muriel's Wedding'....

Talking of Scandinavia, have any of you see the extraordinary and brilliant Swedish movie 'As It Is In Heaven?'. I was so moved and shaken by this film that I wept and wept afterwards. In fact, there was not a dry eye in our house after we rented the DVD on Sunday. My son, who just mad about music, was so overcome by the film that he couldn't speak about it for about two hours afterwards. It starts off rather dour and dark, and then builds up to this unforgettable climax... well, rent it and see for yourself.

meggie said...

I liked ABBA & so did my kids. Now my Granddaughter still likes the music.
Good post!

tonypark said...

Ah yes, I can hear the drums as I read the post, softly strumming my air guitar.

Correct me if I'm wrong (though I'm not, because every school boy knew this fact at the time), but I believe Agnetha's derriere was once voted the sexiest in Europe.

What nice times they were, when more was more.

And what schoolboy was watching hair and teeth when those kitty kat skirts were ripped off in unison?

(Re Bjorn - couldn't agree more. He now owns and runs a boutique hotel in whatever town he lives in and when a travel show in Oz did a story on him they flashed back to some of the old videos. How gay was his wardrobe man?)

angel said...

i actually saw a video just the other day and i was just as amazed at how things have changed...