Sunrise over rural Australia. Kangaroos stretch, horses graze in the early morning mist, as we hear the twanging steel guitars of Nashville Train playing 'Please Change Your Mind'. Ashley Wallace, the midnight-to-dawn disc jockey for country radio station 2TW is signing off for the air at the end of his shift.
"ABBA. The hottest property on the pop scene today" declares the station manager, who has called Ashley to his office for a special assignment. He wants Ashley to produce a two hour radio special on ABBA, to be broadcast on the night of their departure following their concert tour. He wants Ashley to get to know them find out what they feel, what they think. He doesn't want an interview, he wants a dialogue. He pronounces "This is gonna be world-wide!"
As a QANTAS jet flies across the city of Sydney, three cartoon figures drag the letters A, B and A onto the screen. But where is the other B? Chasing the fourth figure across the screen until the letters spell out ABBA. As the plane lands the opening titles appear on screen.
Sydney Airport is filled to capacity with thousands of screaming ABBA fans, all waiting to see their favourite group. Ashley is also at the airport, struggling to get through the crowd so that he can get to meet ABBA. Unfortunately for him and the fans, the group arrives, but are ushered out a back exit, away from the crowd. The announcement comes over the public address system, "ABBA regrets that they cannot see their fans". Ashley asks another of the many journalists present where ABBA are going to next, so that he can catch up with them to get his interview, and is told that their press conference starts in half an hour.
Ashley hires a fast car to get to ABBA's hotel for the press conference. As the press conference starts he gets caught in the wrong traffic jam. At the press conference ABBA answer questions from the assembled media representatives. When asked about touring, Björn says that "it kills creativity" while Frida says that "it's fantastic to be on stage". Benny fears that the fans won't like the concert, saying that he'd "hate the sound of thirty thousand people booing". Some young girls representing a youth magazine ask about drugs, to which Benny responds "we're not clean, but we don't do drugs". When asked the inevitable question about having the sexiest bottom in Europe, Agnetha wittily answers "How can I answer to that? I don't know, I haven't seen it!"
After speeding through heavy traffic and down narrow city streets Ashley finally arrives at the press conference but it has finished and ABBA have left.
ABBA's first scheduled concert coincides with a torrential rainstorm. Tense negotiations are held back stage between Björn, Benny, ABBA's manager Stig Anderson and tour promoter Paul Dainty as to whether the concert should go on. Being assured that the stage is safe, the decision is made for the concert to go on.
ABBA are standing backstage waiting for their cues. As the music starts Frida and Agnetha test their voices one last time, then ABBA take to the stage. Benny, Björn, Frida then Agnetha run onto the stage to be greeted by tumultuous applause, and burst into 'Tiger'.
Ashley tries to buy a ticket, but is told that the concert is completely sold out, and he won't be able to get in without a Press Card. Meanwhile on stage Björn greets the crowd with a rousing "Hello, Sydney!", and tells the crowd "you make us forget the rain, hope we can make you forget it too" as Benny plays the introduction to 'SOS'. Outside Ashley is cornered by a ticket scalper, who offers to sell him a ticket for $50. Of course Ashley doesn't have the money, so as ABBA sing 'Money, Money, Money' he's still stuck outside the concert venue. A huge fireworks display is an appropriate end to the concert.
The next day ABBA are participating in a photo call on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. Ashley speeds to the scene, this time arriving in time. He pushes through the crush of photographers, calling out to ABBA that he'd like to go for a quiet drink to talk to them. Of course ABBA look quite bemused at this strange, pushy person, while their bodyguard tells Ashley that there's no interviews today.
Back in concert ABBA sing one of their earliest hits, 'He Is Your Brother'.
Ashley phones his boss to tell him that he has to follow ABBA to Perth. The station manager is astounded: "That's two thousand miles and a very expensive airfare away!" Ashley explains that by going to Perth only then will he be able to glean the "personal side" to ABBA that he needs for the radio special.
Before embarking to Perth Ashley runs around Sydney, gathering up ABBA magazines, t-shirts and other paraphernalia, so that he can study up on ABBA during his long flight. Meanwhile we see Benny in his concert highlight, 'Intermezzo no 1'.
After spending the flight reviewing ABBA's biographies, Ashley arrives in Perth, where he starts to gather interviews with people on the street for their opinions of ABBA. Many Australians say that they like ABBA's clean image when compared to other groups of the day, though one young girl thinks they're "boring". As if in defiance of this charge ABBA charges into 'Mamma Mia'.
Ashley manages to bluff his way backstage. He hears music and laughter coming from one of the rooms, where a top hat-clad Benny is playing a Swedish folk tune, "Polkan Går" on his accordion, while many members of the backing band clap and laugh along. The bodyguard catches Ashley and escorts him out of the backstage area, as Björn launches in 'Rock Me'. Dejected, Ashley walks along a nearby beach flocked seagulls, as Agnetha sings 'I've Been Waiting For You'.
Later he goes to ABBA's hotel to try to get in to see them. Upon arrival several other journalists exit the elevator, advising him that there's "no chance" that he'll get to see ABBA, but they tell him which floor they're on anyway. Ashley assures them that he's "a professional!". ABBA are sitting in their room reading reviews of their first concert during the rainstorm in Sydney with such headlines as ABBA RISKED THEIR LIVES and AGNETHA'S BOTTOM TOPS SHOW. Reading another headline, Björn asks the bodyguard what "kinky" means. The bodyguard explains that it's like perversion Reading the headline ABBA'S KINKY VELVET BED prompts the bodyguard to comment that it's the journalists that are perverted. Ashley's attempts to get to ABBA are thwarted this time by a giant Swedish guard with seemingly a one word vocabulary ('nej'). The bodyguard hears the disturbance and escorts Ashley back into the elevator and out of the building.
Returning to his hotel, Ashley reads an ABBA magazine as he goes to sleep. With ABBA on his mind so much, it's no surprise that he dreams of them. To the soundtrack of the song 'The Name Of The Game' Ashley dreams that the girls sing to him as the rest of the press are held back by the bodyguard. Ashley is then playing therapist to Agnetha and Frida. ABBA then welcome him to dinner, toasting him as the girls vie for his attention. Next he's playing cards with Benny and Björn in a seedy western bar (where the barman looks very familiar). Suddenly he is woken by the ringing telephone, and realises it was all a dream. The station manager wants to know how the interview is going, and when Ashley tells him that he has to tag along to Adelaide, the exasperated manager cries "everlovin' Adelaide's taking a chance with you!"
An exercise class full of very young girls in leotards are dancing and singing to 'Ring Ring'. Meanwhile, the stage is being constructed for the next concert, and ABBA are in discussion with tour coordinator Thomas Johansson.
Ashley is conducting more interviews with the public. A music critic talks of taking an ABBA song apart, and only being able to put it back together the way it was originally constructed. Back at the preparations for the next concert Benny pronounces the audience seats to be "very comfortable".
As the time for the next concert approaches, merchandise sellers outside the concert venue are making a fortune selling licensed ABBA merchandise. To the never-ending chants of "we want ABBA", the group romps into 'Why Did It Have To Be Me'.
Recording the thoughts of a couple of young girls, Ashley is amused to find that one of these pre-pubescents likes ABBA because "one of the man's sexy" [sic]. Back on stage again ABBA are singing 'When I Kissed The Teacher'.
Gathering more interviews with people in the street, an elderly gentleman tells an amazed Ashley that "ABBA's in the Bible. It means 'Father'". Listening to these interviews frustrates Ashley further, and he mutters "I just gotta get that interview" as he slams down the cover of his tape recorder.
The backing singers, lit in dark, moody reds and greens are belting out the chorus to 'Get On The Carousel'. Agnetha and Frida, dressed identically with matching blonde wigs, gyrate across the stage singing this song about the torments of being trapped inside fame. Intercut with the song we glimpse behind the scenes on the tour, including a tense confrontation with a film crew in a hotel corridor.
The next morning Ashley is on the phone with his boss again. He says he must travel to Melbourne with ABBA to get the right sort of dialogue that the station manager seeks. The station manager is at the end of his rope. Nervously lighting a cigarette he informs Ashley that the radio special is to be aired tomorrow at 6 o'clock.
Dejected Ashley is sitting in the courtyard of ABBA's hotel in Melbourne, when who should he spy coming towards him but ABBA's manager, Stig Anderson. He approaches Stig and tells him that he must get an interview with ABBA. Against the protestation of the bodyguard, Stig agrees, telling Ashley to be at the hotel reception at 10 the next morning.
Back at the concert the next song is introduced by the Narrator, dressed in top hat, cape and heavy theatrical make up: "She feels like a marionette!" as the spotlight hits Agnetha and Frida, standing back to back and dressed identically, and they sing 'I'm A Marionette'.
Back at their hotel Frida is exercising with Richard Norton, one of the Australian tour bodyguards. As Richard takes Frida through the exercises, Frida's son Hans and Benny's son Peter watch from the pool.
ABBA travel to the concert venue through crowds of adoring fans, waving through the windows of their Rolls Royce. At the venue Ashley has finally gained access. Cheekily he winks at the bodyguard as he heads toward his front row seat. Gloating, Ashley informs the man in the neighbouring seat "I'm gonna talk to them tomorrow!"
ABBA take to the stage singing their biggest local hit 'Fernando'. As a treat for the assembled fans they encourage the audience to sing along with the chorus, which Frida pronounces "very good!". The Björn announces that it's time "to get up, 'cause we're gonna play a dancing number for you now........ 'Dancing Queen'". The audience goes wild as Benny hits the keyboard and the song starts. Backstage Frida and Agnetha rush to make it in time, and of course don't miss their cue. The whole audience is on their feet, screaming and dancing.
The next morning Ashley awakes to the sound of a highland band. Realising he's slept in, he hurriedly dresses and rushes to ABBA's hotel, but he knows even before he gets there that ABBA have left, telling the receptionist rather than asking her, "I suppose they've left already". Exasperated, he leans over and kisses the receptionist on the cheek.
Meanwhile as their final appearance of the tour ABBA are making an appearance on the Town Hall balcony as part of Melbourne's Moomba Festival. Ashley tries unsuccessfully to push through the thousands of fans that have come to see ABBA. Ashley returns to his hotel, to be informed by the desk clerk that his Press Card has arrived. Disgruntled, Ashley informs the clerk to "keep it, it's yours". Walking down a crowded city street, Ashley tests, then screams into his microphone as ABBA swing into 'So Long'.
Returning to his hotel, packing up is microphone, Ashley enters the elevator only to find four people already in it: Björn, Agnetha, Benny and Frida! As he hurriedly tries to plug his microphone back into the recorder he mumbles that he'd like to get an interview. As the lift doors close the song 'Eagle' starts, and as the lift rises we see Ashley deep in conversation with ABBA.
Thanking ABBA as he exits the lift, Ashley rushed back to his room to call the station manager and inform him that he's got the interview. Excited, the station manager tells Ashley the he knew he could do it. Now all Ashley has to do is get back to the radio station, and it's already after 5!
As ABBA greet fans at the airport and sign autographs, Ashley jumps into a taxi and rushed back to the radio station, editing his tape in transit. When the driver finds out what Ashley is doing, he starts criticising ABBA's concert, talking about Agnetha's bottom and questioning what sort of a song is "I am a tiger"?
As ABBA board their plane, farewelling those that have travelled with them during the tour, Benny says "this is a crazy thing to do, you know, leaving". Meanwhile Ashley has arrived at the radio station, and he rushed down the corridor to the studio, getting the tape of his special on the spool with seconds to spare. As promised at exactly six o'clock Ashley's special goes to air, and as ABBA's plane takes off the introduction to 'Thank You For The Music' starts. We see ABBA performing the song in the recording studio, on a darkened stage and in concert. At the end of the song the screen fades to black, then as the chorus starts again we see ABBA in the cottage on the island of Viggs' in the Stockholm archipelago, and as the camera pans back the credits scroll up the screen.
© 1997 by Ian Cole, Sydney Australia