Meldrum's Humdrum - ABBAMANIA BIGGER THAN BEATLEMANIA
by Ian Meldrum - TV Week 17 April 1976
March '76 has proved without a doubt that ABBA is the hottest act to hit the Australian music scene since The Beatles.
The Swedish group, who last year were virtually unknown to Australian record buyers, is now selling so many records it has become a major problem for RCA to keep up with demand.
The ABBA magic began in Australia in April last year when Countdown previewed a film clip of the group performing 'Mama Mia'.
At this stage, ABBA had only one hit, 'Waterloo'. That was in 1974, and they had been quiet ever since.
What broke the ice was that Countdown had been informed that 'I Do, I Do, I Do' [sic] was a prediction in the Brisbane charts.
RCA was contacted to find out if there was a film clip available of the song and the answer was 'yes'.
The can of film arrived presented ABBA performing not only 'I Do, I Do, I Do', but also 'Mama Mia', 'SOS' and 'Bang-A-Boomerang'.
Instead of programming 'I Do, I Do, I Do', Countdown decided to slot 'Mama Mia' into the show because it seemed the more commercial number.
The following week, 'I Do, I Do, I Do' was shown.
By popular demand 'Mama Mia' was repeated the next week.
The audience response to the showing was amazing. Requests flowed in from all over Australia for Countdown to screen it again.
Countdown in turn contacted RCA to see if 'Mama Mia' was going to be released as a single.
The answer was "no", it was only a track off the album, There were no plans for a single.
Because of the continued response, 'Mama Mia' was screened again, and by this time record buyers from all over the country were going to their local record bars asking for it.
RCA then contacted ABBA's recording company in Stockholm to ask permission to lift the song off the album as a single.
The answer was "no", but now 'Mama Mia' fever had caught on.
RCA telexed back to Stockholm about the demand for the record. The reply was "yes, release it".
The rest is, of course, history. 'Mama Mia' shot to number 1 on the national chart in 3 weeks, and the odd thing is that I Do became its follow up.
Soon after, with the release of 'SOS', ABBA became the first group since The Beatles to have 3 singles on the Top 40 chart at the one time.
But that's not all. Because of the success of 'Mama Mia' in Australia, ABBA's recording company in Stockholm decided to release it as a single in England.
Within three weeks it had shot to number 1. It did likewise in Europe, and it will probably be a single released in America.
Back in Australia, the groups album was scaling the album charts like wildfire.
In February of this year Bandstand, in association with Channel 9 and RCA, brought the group out for a promotional tour.
On arrival, the press sand television coverage equaled that of The Beatles tour.
To herald the arrival, the group released a single titled 'Fernando'. Within two weeks it had shot to number 1 on the Melbourne top 40 charts. Number 2 in Sydney, and number 1 in Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth.
The Best Of ABBA has now become the biggest album seller in the country.
But perhaps the most satisfying thing is that the group are fully aware of how the Australian record buyer has influenced their career.
IT has been announced that ABBA will tour Australia in November of this year for Paul Dainty and, with ABBA mania rising, I have a feeling that the tour could prove bigger than that of Neil Diamond.
It's nice to know that the world may have been aware of ABBA, but that we - the Australian record buyers - are partly responsible for their world fame.
Photo: ABBA…the group that sparked a single and album gold-rush.
©1976 TV Week