ABBA The Museum – it’s all singing, all dancing
The international media and Swedish press concur that the Swedish super group’s latest hit fulfils all its promises to deliver hi-tech innovation and the ultimate interactive ABBA experience. Lets just be clear here, they all agree that ABBA The Museum is the hottest destination in Stockholm right now.
Which is why this former hardcore fan is somewhat perplexed to arrive at a low-rise, low-key building with a modest entrance through the gift shop. The only real giveaways of its existence are three smallish ABBA banners and a wooden poster that induces fans from far and wide to pop their heads through removable ABBA faces for their first photo “with the group”.
Hup. This portal to the past does not tally with the media hype.
Nor does the whitewashed stairwell that leads down to the basement, and I’m suppressing a real sense of anti-climax here when we suddenly see the famous ABBA logo in flashing bright lights outside a big black door. It immediately evokes a flora of perfectly appetising memories and exactly the same brand of anticipation it evoked when I first saw the same logo setting the London skyline ablaze above Wembley Arena back in November 1979.
We pull open the door and find ourselves in a room set up as a mini cinema with a huge screen. Fragments of ABBA The Movie and other ABBA videos create a kaleidoscope of blasts from my Top of the Pops past. It’s a clever mood setter and also let’s the casual visitor know just how huge ABBA were around the world – from Australia to the US. We hurry on through the next black door.
Stepping into what is best described as a late ’60s scrapbook, I’m instantly enthralled. This room is chock-a-block with early career and pre-ABBA memorabilia. Each member – Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Annifrid – has been designated an own area and this first section is packed to its concrete rafters with an intriguing assortment of private keepsakes, significant items, press cuttings, posters and even new old photos. There is so much to see and read, so much to listen to as ABBA themselves tell their stories via the audio guide handheld, it’s all deliciously overwhelming.
Moving slowly through the exhibition, we follow ABBA’s chronological career. It’s all here. Everything from their original stage clothes and mock-ups of the Polar Music recording studio, the Polar Music office, Agnetha’s home kitchen and the tiny cottage by the sea where they famously wrote many of their early hits, to the helicopter from Arrival’s sleeve and the park bench from ABBA Greatest Hits. Each section boasts relevant film footage and original exhibits reinforced by rolling screen interviews and audio commentary by the requisite 5th, 6th or umpteenth member of ABBA.
And as we slowly make our way back to the present and final tributes to the Mamma Mia movie, we scan our tickets in machines designed to keep track of our quiz results, sing-a-long recordings and cool hi-tech live stage performances with “ABBA” – achieved by a clever screen that displays the lyrics and actions for performing visitors to follow while remaining invisible to onlookers – so we can log in later and relive our ultimate ABBA experience at leisure.
Because we do have an ultimate ABBA experience. We laugh, we play and we marvel. And I remember how it was, returning briefly to my teenage persona as I nod smugly at fan souvenirs I have owned and feel brief indignation over those I never knew existed.
And when all is said and done, we buy a fittingly gaudy ABBA umbrella as we exit through the gift shop.
Then sing and dance all the way home.