The anticipation for Agnetha’s new album A, and the staggered release of her new songs (not to mention the leaking of other songs), made me recall the anticipation in late 1976 for ABBA’s album Arrival, and it shows what a different place the world is today.
Here in Australia Arrival was the anticipated event of the latter half of 1976. In the months leading up to its release we got our first taste in July when ‘Dancing Queen’ was shown on the television special ABBA In Europe (the German Musikladen special The Best Of ABBA retitled). The single ‘Dancing Queen’/’That’s Me’ followed soon in August, though it seemed an eternity.
During the next few months there were many reports in the newspapers telling us about the songs recorded for the album, including “a Hawaiian-sounding song”, an instrumental entitled ‘Ode To Dalecarlia’, and other intriguing titles such as ‘I Am The Tiger’ and ‘Money, Money, Money’.
In October we had back-to-back television specials featuring songs from Arrival. First we had ABBA In Sweden (a repackage of the Musikladen special), which previewed ‘Money, Money, Money’, followed a couple of weeks later by ABBA From The Beginning (an edited version of the Swedish special ABBA-dabba-doo!!), which included nine songs from Arrival.
We all recorded the songs on cassette from the TV, often by holding a microphone in front of the speaker. We had no other option to get these songs we had not heard before that had not been released. My friends and I would get together and listen to these low-fi cassettes over and over, engrossed in the new ABBA songs. We would copy these cassettes for other friends who had not recorded them from the TV themselves.
A week or so before Arrival was released a local radio station played all the songs from the album, one every hour for an entire day. But this was on a school day!!! How would I get to hear the songs? I hid my transistor radio in my coat pocket, running the earphone up through a hole in the lining, so I could surreptitiously listen during school. Luckily some songs were played during recess and lunch breaks, which made it easier to listen, and a group of us would huddle around the radio. No teachers questioned why I was wearing a heavy coat on a hot November day!
I kept note of each song played in each hour. I’d already heard ten eleven of the eleven songs by then (in Australia and New Zealand ‘Fernando’ was added to Arrival on side B, between ‘Why Did It Have To Be Me’ and ‘Tiger’), but this was the first time I heard “the title track”, as it was referred to every time it was played. I probably still have that piece of paper somewhere.
But where were the Hawaiian-sounding song and ‘Ode To Dalecarlia’ that we’d heard about? As it turned out ‘Happy Hawaii’ wasn’t included on Arrival, but released as the b-side to ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ in February the following year, and ‘Ode To Dalecarlia’ had been retitled ‘Arrival’.
There were no leaks of songs, and if unheard songs were broadcast overseas we would only hear them if we were lucky enough to have a pen friend who could send a cassette, but that would take weeks by mail.
Arrival was released in Australia on Monday November 15th. I had the album pre-ordered from my local record shop, which got its delivery of albums on the Friday before, and put them on sale immediately! So I was lucky and got the album three days earlier than expected. Finally I got to hear all the songs in the proper stereo glory, not on those buzzy mono cassettes recorded from TV.