Sweden’s past and present on the move. By Adam White

Take a chance on them: New life for ABBA catalog.

London

Björn again, indeed. Current U.K. enthusiasm for the ABBA heritage – with Erasure’s four-song single, ABBA-esque, at the top of the charts here for a second week – may soon spread.

PolyGram is planning a definitive ABBA boxed set for European release later this year, while its Swedish affiliate is recording a tribute album to the long-disbanded supergroup. The later, inspired by the Elton John/Bernie Taupin Two Rooms concept, will feature top acts from Sweden, but no active participation by ABBA members.

PolyGram International Music Publishing chief executive David Hockman says the ABBA catalog of songs and masters – which it acquired in 1989 – is a consistent income source. The repertoire is most popular in Australia, home of ABBA cover band Björn Again (their name is taken from ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus). Next is Germany, where an album of ABBA hits performed by the Munich Symphony Orchestra recently sold about 130,000 copies.

Hockman has met with Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson – the onetime writing and performing core of ABBA – to discuss ways of remarketing their catalog. Terms of their publishing deal require PolyGram to clear all use of the songs with the pair.

The chart-topping Erasure EP (on Mute) features Take A Chance On Me, S.O.S., Voulez-Vous, Lay All Your Love On Me. Ingemar Bergman, GM of PolyGram’s Swedish publishing affiliate, says Ulvaeus and Andersson are flattered by the attention. Further flattery is evident in England: a non-commercial megamix of other ABBA songs, currently airing on London’s Capital Radio.

Bergman is overseeing the tribute project, and says six of the intended 12 covers have been finished. He is reluctant to name artists yet, but does note that Army Of Lovers is tackling Hasta Mañana.

Bergman estimates the ABBA heritage produces more than $US4 million a year in publishing and mechanical income (PolyGram is thought to have paid some $US25 million for the package in 1989). And the Swedish executive also notes, with some satisfaction, that U2 performed Dancing Queen during its recent tour stop in Stockholm – and that Andersson and Ulvaeus joined them on stage.

For all this activity, however, Bergman sees little likelihood of an ABBA reunion. “No one expects it,” he concludes. Transcribed for ABBA World

Billboard (USA) · 27 June 1992 (Page 37)  


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