Thursday, 12 July 2012

Abba: The Soap

I have plenty of regrets about missed opportunities but only a few of them are purchase-related...

In 1978 I hated Abba. They seemed to me then the essence of manufactured, packaged pap music. Today I hate them less. We can all be terribly post-modern. Sir Ian McKellan choosing "Dancing Queen" as one of his Desert Island Discs (40:42). Otherwise respectable, sensible actors all seeming to have rather a good time in Mamma Mia. A  lumpish Toni Colette in the Muriel's Wedding  miming "Waterloo" dressed in a shiny white jumpsuit and managing to produce mingled joy and embarassment. And after all their songs are polished, memorable and singable. But in 1978 I hated them.

It's St Felix Middle School's final performance at the Tattersalls show ground next week. Mister Tatts, Tim Young, has put together a programme covering nearly 40 years of school history. The year 6 dance is to an Abba Medley. We've been making Animoto Slideshows to project as punctuation points of the show. While helping students collect images for their 70s slideshow I suddenly remembered sitting in a staffroom leafing idly through a toiletries leaflet left by hopeful visiting retailers and, to my delight finding Abba: The Soap. At the time Abba: The Movie and Abba: The Album seemed to be advertised everywhere. The rather delicious irony of an audio-cassette shaped bar of soap appealed to my sense of humour and I contemplated buying several as presents for friends who would enjoy the joke too. But I forgot and the opportunity passed.  My regret at failing to buy one is probably only surpassed by my regret at not buying a marzipan Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan - made by Simmons our local baker in St Albans for one of Reagan's visits in the early 80's.

It is remarkable how potent a key to memory emphemera is. Reminiscence therapy is a proven method for helping slow the advance of dementia. In Norfolk there were several boxes of objects used for beginning discussions of the past. They contained items that were everyday in the early and middle years of the last century. One item that brings the memories flooding back for is Brasso metal polish - helped of course by the pungent smell.

 I haven't yet visited The Robert Opie Collection but I've been delighted by his Scrapbook series of large format volumes. Fairly recently I discovered The Retronaut (The past is a foreign country. This is your Passport). The Hitler pincushion image on the right is borrowed from there. To my generation images from History were a few line drawings or half a dozen black and white plates in the middle of the book, and all chosen by someone else. How much can we learn about the dreams and daily realities of past cultures from the extraordinarily specific wealth of images, recordings and music that are now available in our classrooms and homes.