When pictures of Vladimir Putin wading bare-chested into a river were published in 2007, the Russian people were very impressed. One newspaper published the picture under the headline "Be Like Putin", complete with a guide to building up a torso just like their leader's. Whether Russians will feel the same about their prime minister allegedly waving his hands in the air to the tune of Mamma Mia, we'll find out in the next few days.

The prime minister's enthusiasm for the music of Abba was exposed during a concert by the tribute band Bjorn Again organised for him by the Kremlin. It was reported yesterday that the band were flown out to Moscow before being driven to a remote location and asked to perform for one of the most powerful men in the world. Aileen McLaughlin, aka Agnetha, aka The Blonde One, said: "Putin was dancing along in his seat to Super Trouper and raised his hands in the air during Mamma Mia when we asked the audience to."

Truth is, Mr Putin may be one of the last people on the planet to see Bjorn Again. Who hasn't been to one of their concerts? They may not have created the tribute band phenomenon, but the Australian tribute to Swedish greatness has certainly encouraged others to follow their spangled success. The band was founded in the late 1980s in Melbourne by musician Rod Stephen. So successful is the idea now that there are many Bjorn Agains made up of a pool of British, European and American singers.

If there was any tribute band that might rival Bjorn Again for worldwide fame it would be the Bootleg Beatles. Which student has not watched this band while clutching warm lager in a plastic cup during freshers' week? The group's reputation grew through relentless gigging at universities across the country - in fact, their first concert was for students in Tiverton in Devon in 1980. As with Bjorn Again, as a tribute band grows in success and fame, the line between the worshipped and the worshippers can get fuzzy: this happened for the Bootlegs when they signed to an agency run by one Brian Epstein.

The tribute-band phenomenon has now grown so much that with most of the big British bands, you have a choice of tributers. Take The Smiths, for example. There are dozens of them in America and Britain. Take your pick from Bigmouth, Girlfriend In A Coma, Louder Than Bombs, The Other Smiths, The Ringleaders, The Salford Lads and probably lots of others.

One of the most successful and lavish bands on the tribute scene is The Australian Pink Floyd Show. Like Bjorn Again, they also emerged from down under in the 1980s and were the first Pink Floyd tribute band to tour the UK in 1993. Since then they have become famous for a big sound and a big budget.

Of course, the key to a successful tribute band is the title. Preferably it should be a punny one based on one of the artist's original song titles. And preferably it should be fabulously bad. How about the all-female AC/DShe? Or the all-male tribute to the Queen of Pop: Mandonna? Or Donna Huber as Shania Twin? Or the Glasgow boys who toured as No Way Sis? And then there's the totally obscure ones such as Nivram, a tribute to The Shadows (Nivram? Marvin backwards as in Hank Marvin. No, I don't understand why, either).

So where will the tribute band phenomenon turn next? We think the only next logical development is the tribute band to the tribute band. So don't be surprised if in a few years we will have fans of Bjorn Again launching a tribute band to the tribute band. The title? Bjorn Again Again, of course.

Click here to comment on this story...