ABBA is back

If you thought Swedish supergroup ABBA died out with white leisure suits and feathered haircuts, take a second listen to your radio, because everybody’s favorite pop-music palindrome is bjorn again. Earlier this year, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra released an album filled with classical reworkings of such sweet, glossy greats as ”Fernando,” ”Knowing Me, Knowing You,” and ”Waterloo.” U2, known for more serious fare, has been performing an acoustic version of ”Dancing Queen” on their latest tour. The synth duo Erasure has released Abba-esque, an EP of four ABBA covers, which de-buted at No. 1 in England last month and is currently climbing the U.S. charts. And, to satisfy America’s deep craving for the real thing, PolyGram Label Group (which owns the ABBA catalog) will release ABBA Gold, a greatest-hits package, at the end of this year.

Why are people taking a chance on ABBA again? ”ABBA’s music, in its own way, is perfect,” says Alexander Bard, of the Swedish neo-disco trio Army of Lovers, one of several Scandinavian acts contributing to an ABBA tribute album for release there in October. ”They were a horrible live act, and they had terrible dress sense, but I couldn’t name any other act that has influenced us more, because they made us dream of becoming pop stars.”

After selling more than 240 million records worldwide, ABBA melted down in 1982. (No surprise, as Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog divorced in 1978, and Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad did likewise in 1981.) Now, after less-than-successful solo careers, Faltskog has given up platform shoes for the remarried life and Lyngstad devotes much of her time to a European environmental group. Ulvaeus and Andersson, who collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on the 1985 stage musical Chess, are currently prepping a new musical, about 19th-century Swedish immigrants in the U.S., for the Stockholm stage.

”I doubt we will ever reunite — that’s why there’s such a resurgence of interest in our music,” says Ulvaeus, now living in England. ”Once our popularity peaked, we broke up, and we never even tried to get back together.” Yes, but if the world sends out an SOS for even more ABBA, will the foursome be able to resist?