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ABBA-less R&R Hall of Fame Induction: ABBA-solutely Anticlimactic

Stop The Presses!

What do you call a two-person ABBA reunion? Besides "AB," that is? How about a big whiff? The news that only two out of four ABBA members will be attending the group's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tonight in New York is gravely disappointing news. "The winner takes it all," but, of course, the winner has no obligation to actually show, much less reunite and make all of our most pop-tastic dreams come true.

Adding insult to injury, Peter Gabriel will not be attending to take part in Genesis' induction. Between these two sets of no-shows, it's clear that the Rock Hall is failing in its greatest responsibility... which is to publicly shame geezers who otherwise have no inclination to put aside rancor with their old bandmates into getting it together one last time.

ABBA disbanded in 1983, though Bjorn and Benny stayed together as a musical-theater songwriting team (preserving the "BB" part of the equation). Cause of death: two divorces and too much dough. In the intervening decades, they have been offered more money than God owns to do a reunion tour or even one-off, but their 401ks have apparently not been as ill-affected as the rest of ours have. Apparently Noah Cross in Chinatown was wrong: You can have enough assets. Still, there was the hope that if they wouldn't do it for money, they would do it for love... or the respect of being in the Rock Hall, at least.

But no. Benny Andersson, who will be on hand, has explained that buddy Bjorn Ulvaeus can't make it because of "a big family thing" and Agnetha Faltskog won't be there because she "doesn't like to fly." Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad will be on hand, but probably won't sing. "I don't think she wants to," Andersson, her ex-husband, said. "It's been so long."

Does anyone remember that Phil Collins produced Frida's first English-language solo album, Something's Going On, in 1982? If Frida won't sing with her former spouse, how about a Frida/Phil reunion, since the Genesis drummer-cum-frontman will also be inducted tonight? We'll take what we can get.  

"I may play something on the piano, with someone else singing," Andersson said. That someone could well be country-pop star Faith Hill, who is said to be singing a selection of ABBA hits, so we can hear how "Voulez-Vous" sounds with a Mississippi accent. 

With few other acts of yore able to resist the cash grab that a reunion represents, there is something to be said for the integrity of these last remaining holdouts. Or is it vanity? "Let people remember us as an ambitious, energetic young group," Ulvaeus said in USA Today. "A wonderful memory." Presumably, reenacting the scene in the musical Mamma Mia! where the four women trot out their old white disco suits for laughs is not the final impression these folks want to leave in anyone's mind. Better to be preserved in the perfection of amber than go out on a knowing guffaw, right?

Still, I couldn't help but hope for the moment when one of the ABBA-sters would grab the mike, and—with a nod to Bono in Rattle and Hum—defiantly proclaim, "Pierce Brosnan stole this song, and we're stealing it back!"

I cast a ballot for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame every year, and, while allowing for greatness, I have to admit I sometimes throw my vote toward whomever I most want to see forced onto the stage together. But bands are proving more and more resistant to the lure of putting on a happy face even for one night. When Creedence was inducted, John Fogerty refused to perform with his old bandmates. When Elvis Costello & the Attractions got in, the group that performed was Elvis Costello & the Imposters—which is basically the Attractions minus Bruce Thomas, the one ex-member Costello can't stand. When Van Halen was inducted, we were sure we'd see Diamond Dave and Sammy Hagar both performing with Eddie Van Halen, but got none of the above. Historicity is easily trumped nowadays by rancor... or family commitments or fear of flying.

Induction attendees will at least get a Hollies reunion tonight, apparently, and the Stooges have already been doing the reunion circuit for a while. But ABBA and Genesis owe us better. And Faith, you're a fine girl... but you're no Frida. "I Have a Dream" in which all four members—that would be A, B, B, and A—surprise us and show up after all, even though these kinds of no-shows are beginning to look like the Rock Hall's Waterloo.

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