Archive for the ‘History’ Category

ABBA Gold at 30

24 September, 2022

Thirty years ago this week, on 21 September 1992, ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits was released. It led to a reappraisal of ABBA’s music ten years after the group had come to an end, and spurred a great revival of interest in ABBA that continues to grow to this day.

The revival had been building up underground for quite a while. The Agnetha Benny Björn Frida Fan Club, now the Official International ABBA Fan Club, was founded in the Netherlands in 1986, and started holding annual fan gatherings (gatherings continue to this day, with the next International ABBA Day on 1 October). Fans in Australia celebrated the tenth anniversary of ABBA’s Australian concert tour in March 1987, which led to venues (primarily gay ones) hosting ABBA nights, which continued semi-regularly into the mid-90s. The tribute act Björn Again started playing in venues across Melbourne in 1988, expanding to the rest of Australia and the world over the next few years. And in June 1992 British synth duo Erasure released their EP Abba-esque, featuring four ABBA classics done Erasure style, which topped the charts.

It was the release of ABBA Gold, and its teaser single ‘Dancing Queen’, that saw the underground ABBA revival go overground, as the single and album raced up the charts around the world, with Gold topping the album charts in 11 countries.

ABBA Gold had been researched by Polydor in London, looking to capitalise on their new acquisition (parent company PolyGram having purchased Stig Anderson’s Sweden Music publishing and Polar Music record companies in 1990). They came up with a single CD featuring 19 of ABBA’s most popular hits, in a simple dignified sleeve featuring just the group name and album title, though until 2002 it had a bastardised version of the ABBA logo.

The album included most of ABBA’s most popular songs: ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘SOS’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ etc, closing with the Eurovision Song Contest winner ‘Waterloo’. Though the tracklist did favour British hits, missing a few major international hits such as ‘Ring Ring’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, and ‘Summer Night City’ (all of which appeared on the sequel CD More ABBA Gold the following year), and included ‘Thank You For The Music’, which had never been a major hit single, but was popular and seen as one of ABBA’s signature songs.

After Gold was released the ABBA revival was further spurred along in 1994 by the two Australian films that prominently featured ABBA music, Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Five years later the stage musical Mamma Mia! opened in London, featuring 22 ABBA songs propelling the story, and by then ABBA was back and here to stay. The musical was turned into a Hollywood movie in 2008, with a sequel in 2018, and also inspired the immersive dinner experience Mamma Mia! The Party. And of course, the new ABBA album Voyage was released in November 2021, with the ABBA Voyage concert featuring digital ABBA avatars opening in London in May 2022.

ABBA Gold itself has been rereleased on many occasions, often coinciding with significant anniversaries: in 1999 and 2014 for the 25th, 30th, and 40th anniversaries of ABBA winning the Eurovision Song Contest, and the 10th and 25th anniversaries of the album’s release, plus other versions packing the album with additional discs or DVDs featuring the music videos of the album’s 19 songs. It has appeared on multiple formats: CD, vinyl, cassette, DCC, VHS, Laserdisc, Video CD, and DVD, as well as streaming and download services. This week the 30th anniversary of Gold‘s release is celebrated with new vinyl, CD, and cassette versions plus a range of merchandise.

I initially ignored Gold‘s charms. To me it seemed another in the long line of cheap compilation CDs that had been issued over the previous ten years. I don’t remember exactly when I purchased the original copy – somewhere between the Australian release date of 12 October and Christmas 1992. Now of course I have multiple copies on CD, DVD, vinyl, CD/DVD packs, and soon to have it on cassette as well.

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Celebrating the 30th anniversary of ABBA’s Gold

23 September, 2022

This morning I appeared on The Morning Show on the 7 network in Australia, talking about all things ABBA, my book ABBA: Song By Song, and of course the 30th anniversary of ABBA Gold.

The ABBA Phenomenon in Australia at 25

24 July, 2022

Twenty-five years ago this week, my first website The ABBA Phenomenon in Australia was launched.

In the mid-1990s I’d been thinking about writing a book about ABBA’s phenomenal success in Australia. Around that time a local music collectors’ magazine published a discography of ABBA’s local releases. There were many errors in the article, not least that the records were listed in the order that they’d made the charts, rather than by release date. I wrote a letter to the magazine, pointing out the many errors. I don’t remember if my letter was ever published.

Then the internet came along, making it easy for anyone to publish anything. So I took the idea about writing a book, used that letter as a base, expanded it, and created the website, which was launched on 19 July 1997. In addition to the full Australian discography, I wanted to detail ABBA’s two visits to Australia, plus other parts of the ABBA story specific to Australia, including the commercial for National electronics, and the feature film ABBA – The Movie, filmed during the Australian tour in March 1977.

The site has grown from the basic start, with the addition of vintage articles from local media, the various tours of the Mamma Mia! musical, and the ABBAWORLD touring exhibition in 2010 and 11, and a lot more.

Over the years I’ve been adding more detailed information as it came available. Not least including actual release or broadcast details where I’ve found them. So many sources, especially Wikipedia, list the first chart date as the release date.

Unfortunately in the last few years I haven’t been able to keep the site as up to date as I’d like, due to many conflicting factors (not least the research and writing of my book ABBA: Song By Song). I only added details of ABBA’s 2021 album Voyage a few months after it was released. Any other gaps in the recent discography will be updated very soon.

If you want to relive the excitement of ABBA’s extraordinary success in Australia, pay a visit today!

ABBA at 50 celebration on Instagram

9 January, 2022

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the first ABBA record, ‘People Need Love’. Each week for the next 50 weeks we’ll post one of 50 landmark ABBA singles at https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/abbaat50/

#ABBAat50 #ABBA50 #ABBA

ABBA: Song by Song

22 February, 2020

On 6 March 2020 my first book ABBA: Song by Song is published.

Writing a book about ABBA has been a long-time dream of mine. I’ve had a few ideas over the years, including writing a book about all of ABBA’s songs. Not just the 98 songs released on record between 1972 and 1982, but those they performed in concert, on TV, and radio that were never released, and those few that they tried to hide but were released years after ABBA ended.

I was approached by a British publisher, seeking someone to write such a book about ABBA for their expanding Song by Song series. After submitting a couple of test entries, they accepted me to write the book for them. Though it contains no direct input from ABBA themselves, it does contain a wealth of facts and quotes gathered over the past 44 years.

I’ve even been able to include details of the new songs announced by ABBA in 2018, to be included in the new digital ABBA-tar experience. At the time of writing, the songs have yet to be heard by the world.

ABBA: Song by Song is published by Fonthill Media. It is available in both paperback and ebook. See here for more about the book, plus links to order.

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Fernando – 40 years as Australia’s biggest hit

8 March, 2016

fernandosleeveForty years ago this week, in the middle of ABBA’s promotional trip to Australia, the brand new single ‘Fernando’ was released.

This was the first new music from ABBA since the phenomenal breakthrough with ‘Mamma Mia’ and the other singles from the ABBA album the year before. The single’s release was highly anticipated, especially coming with ABBA’s first visit to the country.

‘Fernando’ had its Australian television premiere not on a pop music show, but on the news program A Current Affair on Friday 5 March, when Lasse Hallström’s now famous film clip was shown as part of a report on that day’s press conference at the Sydney Hilton Hotel.

‘Fernando’ hit record shops and radio stations from Monday 8 March. On that day, in the singles chart ‘Ring Ring’ was at number 14 (on the way up), ‘SOS’ was at 16, and ‘Mamma Mia’ was at 29 (both on the way down); the ABBA album was at number 4 (on the way down), The Best Of ABBA at 12, Ring Ring at 40, and Waterloo at 76 (all three on the way up). ABBA had travelled to Melbourne to perform ‘Fernando’ and ‘SOS’ on The Don Lane Show.

‘Fernando’ entered the singles chart at number 75 the following week, on 15 March. Three weeks later, on 5 April, it reached number 1, where it stayed for the next 14 weeks. It replaced Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ at the top spot. ‘Fernando’ equalled the previous longest running number 1, The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ in 1968 (Note: There was no standard national Australian chart until ARIA in 1983. Some charts quote different weeks at number 1 for both songs. These figures are from the generally accepted authoritative chart, the Kent Music Report).

‘Fernando’ was a highlight of the locally-made TV special The Best of ABBA, which was the prime reason for ABBA’s visit to Australia. In fact, both sides of the single were featured in the special, with Frida dedicated the B side ‘Tropical Loveland’ to Australia, “that is, when the cyclones aren’t blowing of course”. On both the Don Lane Show and The Best Of ABBA, Agnetha and Frida wore the same folk-style dresses they had worn in the film clip.

The screening of the special not only helped push ‘Fernando’ and The Best Of ABBA to number 1, but also several older singles and B sides into the chart, to the point where for two weeks (19 and 26 April) there were 5 ABBA singles in the top 40 (‘Fernando’, ‘Ring Ring’, ‘Rock Me’, ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’; ‘Hasta Mañana’ would enter the chart on 10 May, by which time ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘SOS’ had left the top 40, but were still in the top 100), and for 12 weeks (26 April to 12 July) all four ABBA albums were in the top 40 albums.

During ‘Fernando”s run at number 1 there was some criticism that it had remained at the top for so long. Popular TV music show Countdown didn’t play the clip as the number 1 song every week, instead sometimes replacing it with another top 10 entry or predicted future chart hit.

One week when ‘Fernando’ was actually shown, that week’s guest host John Paul Young, whose ‘I Hate The Music’ had been stuck at number 2 for several weeks, donned a long blonde wig and emoted to camera when the show cut to him during the clip. That footage has never surfaced, but I’m sure I’ve seen footage from the same episode in recent documentaries on Countdown. If there is a starting point to the backlash over ABBA’s overexposure that led to the alarming drop in ABBA’s popularity after the 1977 tour, this would be it.

‘Fernando”s last week at number 1 was 5 July. The following week it was replaced by Sherbet’s ‘Howzat’, which led to many newspaper stories gloating that a local act had knocked the mighty ABBA off the top. But really, ‘Fernando’ couldn’t stay number 1 forever, so something was going to replace it eventually. ‘Fernando’ remained in the singles chart for a total of 40 weeks, until 13 December, its last placement at number 93.

RCA reported that ‘Fernando’ sold 400,000 copies during 1976. This was the highest selling single ever in Australia to that point, a record that would remain for a little over twenty years, until Elton John’s ‘Candle In the Wind 97’, which sold over 980,000 copies. Today in the age of cheap music downloads, sadly a few dozen songs have now outsold ‘Fernando’, but the population of the country has increased by over 70% since 1976.

‘Fernando’ entered the Australian vernacular, with the phrase “Can you hear the drums <insert name here>?” often quoted or used as a headline for instant recognition to this day.

Personally, ‘Fernando’ was the first newly released ABBA record I got that I had never heard. I’d missed that first TV screening of the clip (I was out at the roller skating rink), and it hadn’t had any radio airplay before the record hit the shops.

(Originally written for A.B.B.A : The Music Goes On And On And On)

The Best Of ABBA

29 November, 2015

The Best Of ABBAForty years ago this month Polar Music released ABBA Greatest Hits in Scandinavia. In the same month, RCA in Australia released its own compilation, The Best Of ABBA.

Polar had been motivated to release its album when copies of compilations from West Germany (The Best Of ABBA) and France (ABBA’s Greatest Hits) started appearing in Swedish record shops, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

The Australian album took the same title and track list as the West German album, but with a different sleeve, though the designer is uncredited. It was possibly F.H. Booth, who designed the cover for the re-release of Ring Ring, released in the same month, and other RCA sleeves in that era.

Initially The Best Of ABBA was released only in the states of South Australia and Western Australia. Though these two states had about 15% of the nation’s population at that time, the album entered the national charts at number 72 in December.

In February 1976 the album was released in the rest of the country. After ABBA’s visit to Australia in March, when the group made the tie-in TV special The Best Of ABBA, the album reached number one and stayed there for 16 weeks. It remained in the top 100 albums chart until April 1977.

The album went on to be the first album ever to sell over one million copies in Australia, selling 1,010,000 copies during 1976 alone. For many young ABBA fans in the 70s, this was their first ABBA record. It was my third ABBA record, after the ABBA album and ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ single.

Despite these amazing figures, for many years The Best Of ABBA had been forgotten in media reports about the biggest selling records in Australia; primarily because writers based their figures on ARIA accreditations, which only covered the period from 1984.

In recent years The Best Of ABBA has reclaimed its place in the list of biggest-selling albums in Australia. But unlike the other biggest sellers – Bat Out Of Hell, Whispering JackBrothers In Arms, Thriller, and <ahem> ABBA GoldThe Best Of ABBA has not had multiple re-releases, and is no longer available, having been out-of-print for over 25 years. A 1988 re-release on LP and CD barely counts, adding just over 10,000 copies to its total sales.

An unusual ABBA record #7

8 September, 2015

ABBA & RubettesOne of the most unusual ABBA records ever released is this one, imaginatively titled ABBA & Rubettes, featuring hits by, you guessed it, ABBA and British group The Rubettes. 

It’s quite a strange album, with seven songs by each band. The cover is a not particularly attractive mash-up of ABBA’s 1975 self-titled album and Rubettes’ album We Can Do It released the same year, bisected with a diagonal yellow band with the song titles ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ and ‘I Can Do It’, plus the apparent random phrase ‘Stop Stop Stop’, which isn’t an ABBA title and doesn’t seem to be a Rubettes title.

Five of ABBA’s seven songs come from the ABBA album, but only two Rubettes songs come from We Can Do It, the others from other albums and singles. The album was released in 1975 by Polydor In West Germany through the record club Club-Sonderauglage.

I’d seen images of this record on the net many times, but had never seen the record itself until I found a copy a few weeks ago at my favourite local record shop.

Trivia: The Rubettes hit ‘Sugar Baby Love’ which is on this album also  featured in the 1994 Australian movie Muriel’s Wedding, alongside ABBA hits ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Fernando’ and ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’.

More trivia: Rubettes’ creators and songwriters Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington wrote the English lyrics for Lena Andersson’s 1972 single ‘Better To Have Loved’ (Säg det med en sång) and ‘Cecilia’, written by Benny, Björn and Stig Anderson. ‘Säg det med en sång’ was their submission for that year’s Melodifestivalen. Bickerton also produced the Swedish and English recordings.

 

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40 years of ABBAMANIA

2 August, 2015

ABBA, 1975The 40th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win and international breakthrough was widely celebrated last year, with new releases and commemorative events. As it should be.

This year there’s another 40th anniversary that’s just as important to the story of ABBA, but less celebrated.

On Sunday, August 3rd 1975, Australian TV programme Countdown played the promotional film clip for ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’. Countdown was a nationally-broadcast weekly music programme on the government-owned ABC network that ran from 1974 to 1987. The show’s producers were always in search of popular music to play. They found that a song called  ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ by ABBA was in the top 20 in Brisbane, the capital of the state of Queensland.

Countdown‘s producers approached RCA, ABBA’s Australian record company, requesting any footage they could play. RCA provided four film clips from the group. Countdown was impressed with the clip for the single ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, but were even more taken with another song, ‘Mamma Mia’.

‘Mamma Mia’ was apparently also broadcast at the end of the show on August 3rd, in Melbourne (the capital of Victoria) only. But the following Sunday evening, ‘Mamma Mia’ was broadcast nationally, and something amazing happened. Though the song was not scheduled to be released as a single, public demand on record stores, radio stations, RCA and Countdown led to RCA requesting from Polar Music in Stockholm permission to release ‘Mamma Mia’.

Stig Anderson initially refused, claiming that “the Australians had released so many damn singles”. In a way he was right: in the 16 months since ‘Waterloo’ had been released, RCA had put out ‘Ring Ring’ (its second local release, in remixed form), ‘Honey, Honey’, ‘So Long’, ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ (separate singles released simultaneously), and ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, plus a four-track EP. After ‘Waterloo’s peak at number four in August 1974, ABBA’s highest chart position had been ‘Honey, Honey’s number 30 peak in January 1975.

Eventually Polar relented, and ‘Mamma Mia’ entered the singles chart at number 52 on September 22nd. In the meantime, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ was rushing up the national chart, reaching number one on October 13th. After three weeks at the top, it was replaced by ‘Mamma Mia’, which remained at the number one for ten weeks. The songs’ parent album, ABBA, was caught in the slipstream, entering the album chart on September 8th and reaching number one on December 8th.

The public reaction and quick chart success caught the attention of overseas media. Contemporary UK news programmes reported on the astonishing Australian success of this almost-forgotten Eurovision-winning group, whose latest domestic single ‘SOS’ was gaining international attention thanks to interest in what was happening in Australia. ‘SOS’ went on to reach number six in the UK in November, followed by ‘Mamma Mia’, which topped the UK chart in February 1976.

Back in Australia, ‘SOS’ replaced ‘Mamma Mia’ at number one on January 12th, and a compilation album The Best Of ABBA had been released, topping the chart on March 28th and becoming the first album to sell over one million copies in Australia (ABBA’s Arrival later in the year would be the second).

I didn’t see ‘Mamma Mia’ on Countdown. I wasn’t a regular watcher then. I became aware of the hubbub over the song, but I didn’t really hear it until a party sometime in late 1975. I wrote about that experience here a few years ago.

Interest in ABBA had been waning after after the initial rush of the Eurovision win. But after the events in the last third of 1975, they were never to be forgotten. 

Thanks to Matti Crocker and Trent Nickson (ABBA Charts) for details.

ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions (revised & expanded)

29 January, 2015

ABBA - The Complete Recording SessionsTwenty years ago Carl Magnus Palm’s ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions was the first book to take a serious look at ABBA’s music. At the time there had been just a few books published on ABBA, mostly lightly-researched biographies or picture books.

Today, with a couple of hundred ABBA books published, it remains a firm fan favourite. But it’s been out-of-print for many years, and only high-priced second-hand copies are available.

All being well, that will change within the next couple of years. Carl Magnus Palm is planning a brand new, updated, revised and expanded edition. Pictured is the proposed new cover.

Since the original book was published in 1994, Carl Magnus has continued his research on ABBA and the group’s music, and unearthed much more information about their recordings. Some has been used in CD and DVD booklets, other details have appeared in books such as the biography Bright Lights Dark Shadows -The Real Story of ABBA.

Benny and Björn have also authorised Carl Magnus to listen to more unreleased recordings in the Polar Music archive, which will provide much more detail that can be included in the book.

To fund the research and self-publishing of the new edition, Carl Magnus has started a Kickstarter campaign (see below for the link). Pledgers will receive a copy of the book when it’s completed, estimated for late 2016 or early 2017.

However, if the Kickstarter campaign does not reach its target, the book will not be written. So if you’d like a new, updated and expanded version of this excellent book, please support it by pledging money. The campaign is open now, until 28th February.

I’ve had the honour of reading the first few draft chapters. Already there is a lot more detail in those early chapters, which are likely to be further expanded as more research is done (not to mention hearing those archived recordings!)

For much more information about the new edition (and the original edition), see Carl Magnus Palm.com

To pledge for the new edition, see Kickstarter


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