Bjorn Again have a performing career longer than the act they pay tribute to. These days its composed of multiple line-ups based in Europe and Australia, but the world’s oldest Abba tribute act began life at The Tote in Collingwood in 1989.
Helen Nicholson has been playing Frida with Bjorn Again for the last 12 years. “When Bjorn Again initially came together in 1989 Abba were on the wane,” she says. “People didn’t admit to liking Abba. It was a daggy thing and even they themselves have talked about how Bjorn Again’s initial success got them thinking ‘hey, maybe we’re still popular’ and they put out Abba Gold after that.”
Those early gigs were a far cry from the slick theatrical shows the tribute act perform today. “They’d get bikies coming to the gig and singing along to Abba,” says Nicholson. At one show the entire merchandise stand was bought out by an American drummer by the name of Dave Grohl, and it turns out he and his bandmates were such big fans that when Nirvana played the Reading Festival in the UK they insisted Bjorn Again play too. “You can imagine the bill: Nirvana, the Beastie Boys, Bjorn Again.”
In recent years the act have toured with the Village People and Culture Club and Nicholson has found herself performing impromptu renditions of Chiquitita after running into the President of Chile in an airport. “I’ve walked out on a field in India for the cricket and you have 40,000 people, Bollywood dancers behind us, Lionel Richie’s playing and you look at yourself in an Abba costume and think ‘how did I get here?'”