Statement from ABBAMAIL Founder, Graeme Read
I was an ABBA fan for almost 35 years.
From the time I first heard 'Waterloo" on a radio station in my home town, Adelaide, South Australia, when I was fourteen years old. Two years later I began a club called "The ABBA Appreciation Club" which later became "The Official Australian ABBA Fan Club."
Throughout the 80s and early 90s I was involved in organising ABBA fan events and then ran the incredibly popular ABBA nights at the Unicorn & Flinders hotels in Sydney for 6 years. In 1997, along with Grant, I began ABBAMAIL - an internet mailing list and fan juggernaut that went on to become a major force in ABBA fandom around the world.
All of it was bloody hard work but much of it was fun. It's hard to believe I've spent the biggest part of my life promoting ABBA and providing services for ABBA fans. It has been a constant theme in my life. More than anything, the major thing that has kept me involved was a passionate belief in what I was doing - a belief in ABBA the group, the individual members of ABBA and even Stig & Görel. And, most of all, in ABBA fans themselves - it's always felt like some kind of mission that I had to do for ABBA's fans.
Today, as I write this, I am no longer an ABBA fan. The last few years for me have been hell, a living hell that there has been no escape from. The legal action taken against ABBAMAIL by Universal Music in Sweden and approved of by the members of ABBA themselves was devastating. Devastating both emotionally and financially. It has left me wrecked and exhausted. Trying to keep the ABBAMAIL organisation going through all of this has been a nightmare. It certainly isn't the only reason that has caused us to close down ABBAMAIL but it has certainly been the catalyst.
Voluntarily undertaking the work involved in maintaining the website, the mailing list, the forum and the day-to-day administration of the whole organisation is a mammoth task that is hard enough when you are passionate about what you are doing. When you no longer believe in the people you're supposed to be promoting, it becomes...I don't know...a senseless hell perhaps?
I don't play ABBA music anymore and, in the last couple of years, I have stopped buying the re-re-releases of their CDs and DVDs. Yet I've had this lifestyle - and that's what it is - not a "hobby" or an "interest" - but a lifestyle that has meant spending part of every day on work that promotes ABBA and ABBA products. But I don't even like "the artists formerly known as ABBA" anymore, let alone believe in them.
I know the services ABBAMAIL provides, particularly the website, are in higher demand than ever - but I have had to ask myself: "Why I am I doing all of this work? Why am I subsidising ABBAMAIL with my own hard-earned money when I'm no longer a fan? Why am I continuing to contribute to the money in ABBA's pockets when I struggle to pay my own bills?"
Until now, the answer has been about the ABBA fans themselves. Because there are a lot of you who have continued to really enjoy and, in some cases, rely on ABBAMAIL's website, mailing list and other services. So I kept on doing it.
And there have been some terrific fans I've met - both in person and via the net - over the ABBAMAIL years. A big shout-out, hug and thanks go to those that have actually contributed to ABBAMAIL - both financially and by supplying news, website content etc. that we been able to share with the rest of ABBA fandom. They say there's an 80/20 rule but, in the case of ABBAMAIL, it's really a 95/5 rule: 95% of the fans that use ABBAMAIL's services have benefited from the work of just 5% of the people that contributed. It's those 5% that have kept us going as long as we have.
I also want to say a special thanks to the members of ABBAMAIL's Internet Mailing List - some of whom have become wonderful friends over the years. I want to particularly acknowledge and thank those list members that contributed to all of the wonderful acknowledgements, celebrations and practical gifts for Grant and myself around ABBAMAIL's 10th Birthday in January 2007. When we couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel in the annus horribilis since Universal & ABBA's legal action, they came along and gave us both practical support and hope. Quite simply, it helped us survive.
For all the good people I met and became close to over the 12 years of running ABBAMAIL, there were also others that made things very unpleasant. Some of the people that benefited from ABBAMAIL the most - and some people that Grant and I were closest to - turned their back on ABBAMAIL around the time of the legal action against us. When the going got tough, these people simply walked away from Grant and myself and ABBAMAIL.
If there's one thing that I am looking forward to in my post-ABBAMAIL, post-ABBA Fan life, it is that I won't have to acknowledge, deal with or associate with these "friends"/"fans" again.
What does the future hold for me? I don't know. The next 6 months or so is going to be all about sorting out the mess that the ABBAMAIL organisation has left for Grant and myself - financially and bureaucratically. It's like a Pandora's Box of bills, papers, statements, administration etc. that have to be addressed and brought up to date. But I hope, at the end of that time, I can have a fresh start.
Telling the story of ABBAMAIL to a non-fan the other night, they commented "it's so sad that something you've loved and devoted your life to has ended up like this." And it is sad in a way.
Since I was 15 years old people have always referred to me as "the ABBA guy" as if I somehow didn't exist without ABBA. Even my parents saw me in terms of ABBA. It'll be interesting in future to just be "the guy".
Statement from ABBAMAIL Founder, Grant Whittingham
In some ways, this is a very difficult thing to do but in other ways, it is quite easy. Regardless of that, both Graeme and I know it's the right thing to do and the right time to do it. It is 100% our decision and has nothing to do with Universal, Mono Music, MIPI, ABBA themselves or the myriad of nay sayers who no doubt will come out of the woodwork to celebrate the news and rewrite history.
ABBA has been such a large part of my life for over 30 years. I have had such great experiences, travelled the world, developed skills, made lasting friendships and even met a couple of lovers thanks to ABBA. ABBA was always the thread underlying it, the one constant, and the source of much of the joy. It was fun to be an ABBA fan.
Well, it just isn't fun anymore and hasn't been for quite a while. It has got in the way of us living our lives to our full potential. Although I still get some enjoyment from the music from time to time, I don't enjoy all the trappings involved with it. I can't get excited over "ABBA The Movie" on DVD, "Mamma Mia The Movie", the constant regurgitation of ABBA's hits, "ABBA Gold" hitting number one in Swaziland, the museum, interviews with Björn, interviews with Benny, Frida turning up at yet another Polar Prize Ceremony or whatever. I hate that Frida and Agnetha are being written out of the ABBA story, even by some fans. About the only genuine sense of enjoyment I've got out of ABBA in the last few years was seeing Frida and Agnetha enjoying each other's company at the Stockholm premiere of "Mamma Mia the Movie". I don't even care that all four of them didn't pose for a photo since it is ultimately meaningless. The pictures of Frida and Agnetha (and Meryl) are priceless enough.
For me it really hit home when I realised that I can honestly say that ABBA are not my favourite group anymore. There are other groups and singers that give me so much enjoyment and fulfilment than ABBA do.
A lot of how I feel does relate to the four former members of ABBA. Their personal values conflict with mine and I find it very difficult to reconcile this. For them, it seems to be all about the money - buying hotels, racehorses, boats, private jets and elaborate tax avoidance schemes. I just don't want to contribute to that anymore by supporting The Artists Formerly Known As ABBA and Universal, either financially or with my time and energy.
Fandom is a strange beast. As already mentioned, I have made some lasting friends and in fact, the two most important people in my life came about thanks to ABBA fandom. But at the same time, there are many bad people in fandom who for one reason or another, try to tear down what you do. Both Graeme and I have experienced this many times in the last 12 years. I just don't want or need to be around people like that anymore.
I am very proud of what we have achieved with ABBAMAIL. ABBAMAIL has made a real difference to many people's lives and has facilitated many of the improvements in the ABBA catalogue and the ABBA legacy.
I am looking forward to reinventing my life without ABBA. Having the time finally to get involved in worthwhile activities and building friendships that align with me and my values. I will still play ABBA music from time to time along with other artists but ABBA won't be ruling my life anymore.
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