ABBAWorld, How Can We Resist You? The music of four small-town Swedes has endured for nearly 40 years. Now, a new theme park open in London extends the appeal of the 1970s supergroup to a new generation.
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ABBAWorld, How Can We Resist You?

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ABBAWorld, How Can We Resist You?

ABBAWorld, How Can We Resist You?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

If there is one 1970s band that has managed to kick off its platform boots and transcend the era in which it was born, that band is ABBA. The Swedish supergroup has sold some 400 million records worldwide. A movie and a stage play of Mama Mia have kept the ABBA flame alive for a new generation. Now there's a whole new exhibit on their lives and their music, a theme park almost. It's called ABBAWORLD. But it's not in Stockholm, it's in London.

NPR's Rob Gifford went to take a look.

ROB GIFFORD: It's a mystery to some - how the music of four small-town Swedes has managed to endure for nearly 40 years. But last week, two of them, Bjorn -the one who wasn't bearded but now is, and Anni-Frid - the dark one who's now blonde, turned up to officially open ABBAWORLD, and they seem to like it.

Mr. BJORN (Member, ABBA): It's very true to what we were, you know. Fact is, it's quite moving, as well.

Ms. ANNI-FRID (Member, ABBA): And you know, it's like looking in a photo book. You remember lots of details that you have forgotten, you know. So when you see the clothes, you know, where did we wear them? Which TV show? Which tour?

Unidentified Man: Do you want it in Swedish or English?

GIFFORD: I think I'll have it in English. My Swedish is a little bit rusty.

Unidentified Man: Oh, okay then.

GIFFORD: The language options on the audio guide that you're offered give a hint of the smorgasbord of Swedishness that awaits you.

(Soundbite of music)

ABBA (Swedish pop group): (Singing in Swedish)

GIFFORD: There are videos of the early days, singing in Swedish and lots of high-tech interaction as well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GIFFORD: And sure enough, there's a group of middle-aged Swedish ladies wandering through the exhibit having the time of their lives. One of them is Ingrid Grantquist - beside her, her friend, Pierre Lindquist.

Ms. INGRID GRANTQUIST: Very proud to be here. We were touched by what they have achieved, for themselves, but also for Sweden.

GIFFORD: Do you kind of dance around the kitchen, occasionally, when you put on an ABBA song?

Ms. GRANTQUIST: No.

GIFFORD: No?

Mr. PIERRE LINDQUIST: Not really, no.

GIFFORD: They don't seem to know either, why, since many years, Fernando hadn't held a rifle in his hand. Other questions emerge too, as you wander through the exhibit, navigating between the gay anthems and the long forgotten B-sides, like why did the song Bang a Boomerang never become a hit.

Unidentified Woman: (unintelligible)

GIFFORD: Beachy family is visiting from Essex. Eleven-year-old Hannah loves ABBA and so does her 40-something father, Paul.

Ms. HANNAH BEACHY: They're great.

GIFFORD: Why what do you like about them especially?

Ms. BEACHY: Because, well, because it's got girls and boys and their singing. They've got the old-fashioned songs, but nowadays it's all about rapping.

GIFFORD: Even better than rapping. There's a recommendation.

Mr. BEACHY: Although, it is older music, I think it is still quite relevant to a lot of today's music. It doesn't sound out of place.

GIFFORD: Organizers say the exhibit will likely go to New York next year and end up on permanent display in Stockholm. If you go, like the Swedish ladies visiting today, you too can dance up on stage with four holograms of the band members.

Unidentified Woman 2: You just go in there.

GIFFORD: What is there? A video?

Unidentified Woman 2: A video.

GIFFORD: So you're going to dance?

Unidentified Woman 2: Yes.

GIFFORD: And it films you and what happens?

Unidentified Woman 2: And then you can go on, go into the Web site when you come home and look what you have done.

GIFFORD: Fantastic, and show all your friends in Stockholm.

Unidentified Woman 2: Yes.

GIFFORD: That you danced with them at ABBAWORLD.

Unidentified Woman: Yes.

GIFFORD: And there, there's the intro. I'll leave you to it.

It's Rob Gifford from NPR News at ABBAWORLD in London.

(Soundbite of song, Dancing Queen)

ABBA: (Singing) You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life, ooh, see that girl, watch that scene, diggin' the dancing queen...

And from NPR News, this is MORNING EDITION world. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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