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ABBA

Abba – tracing the steps of the giants of disco

The wide flares and glam beats of disco's heyday are here to stay, The Local's Clara Guibourg discovers, as she tags along on an Abba City Walk, and brings us along for the ride on a trip through 1970's Stockholm.

Abba - tracing the steps of the giants of disco

A Tuesday evening in mid-June, and in true Swedish style, rain is absolutely bucketing down upon the intrepid little crowd gathered outside Stockholm’s City Hall.

Guide Eva Palmqvist apologizes that her outfit isn’t more historically accurate.

“I was planning to go for a more 1970s look – but with this weather a rain coat seemed more appropriate!”

Thirty or so of us braved the torrential downpour to convene for a two-hour walking tour through Stockholm, in a bid to learn more about Abba, Sweden’s most successful music group of all time.

The meeting point is aptly chosen: Stockholm City Hall was the location of band member Benny Andersson’s very first gig.

Following the popularity of similar themed walks in other tourist destinations, Stockholm’s City Museum (Stockholms stadsmuseum) has given the concept a whirl.

Thus far the museum has reaped great commercial success and now have a range of city walks, including the ever popular Stieg Larsson walks, now running in their fourth year.

This summer the turn has come for Swedish disco kings and queens, Abba, to get a city walk of their own.

“‘Location’ walks are incredibly trendy right now,” Eva Palmqvist explains. She is one of four guides employed by the City Museum who’ll be taking turns to show audiences the way to Abba’s 1970s Stockholm this summer, with tours offered in both Swedish and English.

“New York has Sex and the City walks, and London has Beatles walks,” she says. “Why shouldn’t we tag along?”

Abba, inventively named using the initials of band members Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, was active during the seventies and early eighties, reaching worldwide superstardom as pop hits such as “Dancing Queen”, “Mamma Mia” and “S.O.S.” filled teens around the globe with disco fever.

With a whopping 400 million albums sold to date, they outsell all other Swedish musical acts by a wide margin.

Considering Abba’s overseas success, Eva Palmqvist is counting on the tours attracting a large number of foreign tourists. In fact, the walk has been designed with visitors to Stockholm in mind.

“In planning the route, we’ve tried to present a look at 1970s Sweden for foreign visitors,” she explains.

“Some things which may seem perfectly natural for a Swede may seem exotic and interesting for foreign tourists.”

Even so, the walk doesn’t disappoint even if you’ve been living in Stockholm for quite some time.

When The Local tried out the Abba tour, all but one of the attendees turned out to be from Stockholm.

Not necessarily for tourists alone then, the tour offers a chance to see some well-known city spots in a whole new light, flavoured by the guide’s factoids and anecdotes.

Some of the connections between Abba and the locations visited are tenuous at best.

For instance, the stop outside Sheraton Hotel, chosen purely because one scene in the film “Abba – The Movie” was filmed in one of the hotel’s suites.

But perhaps that is precisely what the City Museum intended.

“This walk is more than just Abba facts,” says Eva Palmqvist.

On top of being navigated through disco-sparkling Abba flashbacks, attendees are also given a history lesson on some events that formed the decade’s political scene.

Topics introduced include the demolition of central Stockholm’s old Klara district, and 1971’s vicious dispute over Kungsträdgården’s elm trees.

These serious anecdotes are mixed up with some more light-hearted elements, as Eva Palmqvist intersperses her tour with trivia questions about the band – “With which song did they win Melodifestivalen?” as well as the odd musical number or two.

At the end of tonight’s tour, the audience is drenched, but definitely better-informed, and possibly even infected with a touch of that old disco fever!

Starting on July 1st, the English-speaking Abba City Walk will take place on Fridays and Saturdays in July, August and September at 4 p.m. The meeting point is Stockholm City Hall’s courtyard. Tickets cost 120 kronor ($19), and can be bought at the Stockholm City Museum or Ticnet. The duration of the tour is approximately two hours.

Editor’s note: Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, UK in 1974 with their hit song Waterloo.

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ABBA

ABBA’s first album in 40 years shoots to the top of the UK charts

ABBA's first studio album in nearly 40 years has made it to the top of the UK charts, becoming the fastest seller of the year so far, the Official Charts Company said on Friday.

ABBA's first album in 40 years shoots to the top of the UK charts
ABBA's new album, 'Voyage' for sale in Stockholm at the start of this month. Photo: Jonatan Nackstrand/AFP

“Voyage” by the Swedish quartet of Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid racked up 204,000 chart sales in the seven days since it was launched last Friday.

Sales gave the supergroup the biggest opening week on the UK album chart in four years since Ed Sheeran’s “Divide”, and fastest-selling album by a group in eight years.

The last fastest-seller was One Direction’s “Midnight Memories” in November 2013.

READ ALSO: Abba’s new album has arrived – tell us, what do you think?

ABBA, propelled to global fame by their 1974 Eurovision Song Contest win with “Waterloo”, split in 1982, a year after their last album, “The Visitors”.

“Voyage” is their 10th number one album in the UK: only seven other acts — The Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie — have had more.

The group said in a statement: “We are so happy that our fans seem to have enjoyed our new album as much as we enjoyed making it.

“We are absolutely over the moon to have an album at the top of the charts again.”

The 204,000 sales comprise 90 percent physical copies, including 29,900 on vinyl, making it the fastest-selling vinyl release of the 21st century.

The previous record holder was the Arctic Monkeys’ “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”, which sold 24,500 vinyl copies in 2018.

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