Review: Abba…Zappa by Gijsbert Hanekroot


Book Reviews, Photobooks

There is a period in your life when you’re not old enough to fully realize what’s going on, so that you’re still reduced to taking it all in, maybe wondering why things are so ajar. I’ve always thought this is a good explanation for the “Eighties” craze that we witnessed a little while ago - most of the people who really enjoyed the re-enactment hadn’t lived through the 1980s (if they had, they would have surely noticed that it was a hideous time). Since I was born in 1968, for me the 1970s are the period where things just kept happening, with me just noticing but not understanding. I remember driving in my dad’s car, listening to Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” being number one in the US and then walking on those same Autobahns, which were closed down for traffic because oil was too expensive. I thought that all was kind of neat, but then what six-year olds find neat, most adults might not enjoy all that much.

And I do remember seeing lots of weird people on German TV playing music. Back then, Germany didn’t allow privately own TV channels, a side effect of which was that public TV stations were more willing to show a wider range of stuff. That included various music programs with, or so I thought back then, was the weirdest stuff. Just imagine being six years old and seeing this! (OK, that might not be from an actual German show, but it is the Seventies, man! Oh, and keep watching, it gets more and more absurd…) I am pretty sure my parents would have switched the channels had they come across this or this (even though the latter would have been on TV when I was three, and at that young an age I wasn’t even allowed to watch TV).

So, yeah, the 1970s. What can I say? Well, for those looking back to those days, and for those who love looking at music photography, there’s now Gijsbert Hanekroot’s Abba…Zappa (Seventies Rock Photography) (which you can order either directly through the publisher or via Amazon). In a nutshell, Abba…Zappa contains classic music photography, a lot of it shot during concerts. All b/w, a bit gritty, a lot of long hair, a lot of the usual (and some unusual) suspects - even just to get an idea of what music photography used to be like (and, to a fairly large extent, still is), it’s a great book.

It might take a little while getting used to the book, though, since the pages have different sizes. So for example, when you have a portrait-style photo, it fills the frame outlined by the covers, and the following landscape-style photo then only covers the width of the page, but not the height. Sounds confusing? That’s right. To flip through the book you need the kind of clear head that most of the people in the photographs do not necessarily appear to have. There also are no page numbers, but then the index shows thumbnails of the photographs (in this household, the jury is hung over whether that’s a good idea or not). But then it’s actually quite refreshing to have a book that strays from standard photography books - and maybe it’s a bit of the spirit of the Seventies (but then, as I noted above, I wouldn’t really know).

As a compendium of 1970s music, Abba…Zappa (Seventies Rock Photography) might be as good as it gets, and yes, there is a photo of Abba in it (there even is a photo of pre-robot Kraftwerk, where one of the musicians is wearing an incredibly nerdy sweater). Let the good times roll! Oh wait, that’s from the Forties.