So we say thank you for the mimics

Abba are wrong to take legal action against the tribute bands who gave their music a new lease of life, says Chris Mugan

Come in, Abba Mania, Abba Queens and AbbaDabbaDoo, your time is up. Lawyers representing the original Swedish foursome's label have told tribute bands it is time to stop making money off their good name, threatening to sue those that continue to perform under some derivation of Abba.

Universal Music in Sweden seems to have realised – 22 years after the group split up – that Abba is a valuable trademark and they should do more to defend their charge's intellectual copyright. These ersatz groups are in a rather lucrative game – apparently there are around 40 in the UK alone, all making money from tickets to their shows and possibly even selling merchandise.

Yet this is hardly stealing food from the children of Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who have repeatedly made clear they would never reform; it is not as if audiences prefer to see copycats rather than the real thing. A spokesperson for Universal claims the label has received complaints from fans that felt they had been misled. How? Were the tribute acts too tasteful? Were the costumes not ridiculous enough?

Tribute bands have been around for decades, originally becoming live fixtures in Australia, a nation that rarely gets to see even global names, hence the Australian Pink Floyd and Björn Again, another Abba-derived group that could well dodge a writ given the cleverish pun of their band name. While name-changing could be a necessary option, it does seem unfair of the lawyers to start sharpening their quills now.

When tribute bands first emerged, Abba were hardly the fêted band they are nowadays. Through the Eighties, disco and Seventies pop were dismissed as the most egregious facets of the decade that style forgot. Pop had become massively self-important thanks to the world-saving evangelism of Live Aid and snobbishly self-regarding thanks to the rise of the style magazines The Face and i-D.

Maybe a change had to come at some point, but it is telling that, as Björn Again helpfully point out on their website, in 1988 the compilation Absolute Abba stalled at number 70 in the UK album charts. A year later, the Aussie parody group formed and soon became a major force in their home country and then around the world. Once Erasure got in on the act – their "Abba-esque" EP of covers topping the singles chart in 1992 – it was clear there had been a sea change in people's perceptions of the Eurovision winners.

When Abba Gold came out in September of that year, the greatest hits set reached the No 1 spot in Australia, UK and a number of other European countries. From then on, the Scandinavian quartet were rarely far from the public's consciousness. Their songs started appearing in major films. The romcom Muriel's Wedding centred on a daydreaming character obsessed with their music, with various hits emerging at key moments, including "Waterloo" in a karaoke contest.

Abba's music was also integral to the more arch Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, soundtracking that film's finale, and thus the path was laid for the Mamma Mia! musical that premiered in 1999 and toured the world before the movie version came out nine years later. Thanks to that cash cow and their own back catalogue, the original group's members need never tread the same nostalgia circuit as Bucks Fizz and Boney M.

But maybe it is not about that at all. Post-Abba, Björn and Benny found immediate success with the musical Chess. The female members themselves pursued eclectic, sometimes leftfield, solo careers, hinted at in the sophisticated adult themes of later Abba albums, when their divorces provided lyrical inspiration; something that might not be reflected in the shiny outfits and party vibe of a tribute act. Perhaps these groups take their craft seriously, but don't take Abba seriously enough.

Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event

music
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In my grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel