Boogie with Abba

Be a dancing queen on stage or in recording booths while singing along to the band's tunes at their museum

Growing up in Singapore in the 1970s, I was a vision in a shag haircut and Poly-blend bell bottoms. Needless to say, the soundtrack of my youth was disco: the first French words I spoke might have been "voulez vous", the first Italian, "mamma mia". And while good taste and other musical genres eventually prevailed, disco remained my first love - even if it was a love that increasingly dared not speak its name.

Yet when I found myself in Stockholm late last month, a mere two weeks after the Abba museum opened, I felt a familiar stirring in my 40something hips. I had already gazed dutifully at Viking artefacts and the Old Masters when a passing bus advertised this new shrine to Sweden's fabulous foursome, and there was Agnetha Faltskog batting her take-a-chance-on-me eyes. Who was I to resist? I may not be young and sweet, or 17, but I can still feel the beat from the tambourine.

It quickly became clear I was not the only one. The Abba museum (see sidebar for visitors' information) is located in the basement of the boutique Melody Hotel - perhaps the only time Abba's populist music might be described as "underground".

Despite the steep admission, the lines were long, compounded by the museum's no-cash policy that required credit cards and checking of identification. There were entire clusters of middle-aged women who came dressed like Anni-Frid Lyngstag and Agnetha. But all that waiting merely heightened the thrill when you finally step into the darkened warren of rooms, and that slinky music bursts forth in full voice.

Like many museums, this one parcelled out its share of history and nostalgia: There were early adolescent photos of Agnetha, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and

Anni-Frid before they became Abba, faithful recreations of recording studios, backstage changing rooms, hand-written sheet music, walls of album covers and enough spandex, satin and sequins to blight the eyes.

There is even new footage of the quartet - now looking older and more wistful -discussing their music, marriages, divorces and dissolution ("As naturally as we came together, we came to the end," said Agnetha).

But the museum is not content to stop there. What it really wants is for visitors, according to its mission statement "to experience what it's like to be a fifth member of Abba".

In that sense, it is a modern interactive museum. There are recording booths where you can sing along to their jiggly hits and an entire stage where you can belt out, karaoke style, their oeuvre to a live audience of other museumgoers while a hologram instructs you just how exactly to shake your bootie.

I had my picture taken in the helicopter from the cover of their iconic 1976 album, Arrival.

In a nod to their early hit Ring, Ring, there is even a real telephone where one of the four can randomly call museum visitors (I hovered hopefully, but it did not ring while I was there).

Here and there, strobe-lit and crystal- balled rooms beckon you to sing along to their raucous music videos. I could not decide what was more fun: Watching 50-year-old matrons shed their reserve and inhibition to boogie down, or the sheer terror and embarrassment on the faces of their accompanying children.

Not all its songs have aged well. Abba sold more than 379 million records and was the first pop group from a non-English speaking country to find mainstream global success with English hits. Some of their lyrics now sound trite - there is none of the poetry of Paul Simon or the droll wit of the Pet Shop Boys.

But Abba wrote some of the sunniest, major-chord melodies this side of Cole Porter, and these remain glorious and infectious enough to withstand a serious mauling by the likes of Pierce Brosnan (in the 2008 film, Mamma Mia!).

Songwriters Bjorn and Benny - the two Bs of Abba - clearly subscribed to the notion that if hips had to be coaxed into sashaying, then the melody must provide the propulsion.

When that unmistakable introduction to Gimme, Gimme, Gimme came on, a sullen teen who recognised the sampling perked up enough to exclaim, "Hey, that's Hung Up by Madonna!" It was a history lesson worthy of a more traditional museum.

As wonderful as the museum was, the gift shop may be the real altar at which fans can worship. Abba's genius was always in marketing themselves, and here are T-shirts, hats, fridge magnets, keychains, postcard booklets of album covers. But unlike conventional museum gift shops, there are also walls of CDs, Abba iPhone covers, juice glasses emblazoned with the foursome, even Wii games for Abba dance moves.

As a child, I had always imagined there was nothing better than winning Wimbledon, but now I wonder if it might be more fun to win the Eurovision Song Contest.

I spent entirely too much time and money at the Abba museum. But by the time I finally left, I swear there was a little wiggle in my walk, along with the delicious conviction that there was something in the air that night, the stars were bright.

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