Chart Action

By Derek Johnson - RAM 7 May 1976

ABBA’s recent promotional tour and bandstand T.V. appearances have done the group’s sales a powerful lot of good.

This fortnight they’re comfortably resting at No.1 on both the albums and singles charts 

And it doesn’t stop there. In all, they have three albums and three singles on the charts. And when the accountants tot up the sales achievements for groups in Oz for the financial year 1975-1976, ABBA are going to be so far ahead of anyone else that they’ll probably even out-total the combined sales of Led Zeppelin and Sherbet 

The question is why?

I mean ABBA are an almost totally anonymous proposition. Can you remember anything interesting about Benny? What’s Agnetha said recently that’s fascinated you?

In truth, all you know about the band is that they look clean and they’re all good friends and they have a jolly good time singing their songs.

At least, this is what comes across in the film clips of the band which, after they’d been shown on the top T.V. shows Countdown and Sound Unlimited, boosted ABBA to top of the pops in Oz – so much so, that Channel 9 spent a fortune importing them out here for a Bandstand special, and the Paul Dainty Corp. are spending much moolah to bring them back later this year for concert performances.

The point is, ABBA are the backlash, the return of washed pop. No rebelliousness here, no challenging the status quo. ABBA make eminently normal, eminently repeatable music and all their better moments at producing it have gone to the top of the singles charts.

That they can produce the goods within a time span of 2-3 minutes is indisputable. The first big hit, Waterloo had a plunging lurching tempo and the orchestral backing, while sounding slightly different, nevertheless sounded instantly familiar. Honey, Honey was a straight out soft pop chant – the sort of thing that Don Kirshner used to produce when he was guiding The Monkees in their early career and producing hits for The Archies (the most anonymous pop group of all, they were cartoon characters and the music was made by a series of session musicians).

And so it goes. Mamma Mia, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, Ring, Ring, and most recently Fernando. 

Ring, Ring is back to the Don Kirshner formula, and whilst in Australia, the group seemed fairly embarrassed that it had been released as a single.

But they have reason to be prouder of Mamma Mia and S.O.S., both superbly produced, concise pop songs with hooklines that seem so smooth but which nevertheless bury themselves inside yer head. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do and Fernando are quirkier with I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do utilizing a 1940s type sax riff and Fernando daringly fading the vocals into a swirl of castanets and piccolos. When it comes to albums though, the group lack the ability to stretch those 2-3 minute demonstrations of memorabilia into any sort of coherent entity. The singles are literally The Best Of ABBA. There’s no hitherto undiscovered brilliance on the albums that hasn’t already been on the singles charts – except maybe for Tropical Loveland off the ABBA album which is a neat exercise in smoothing a reggae beat into a bouncy little choon. The ABBA album by the way also contains the group’s most prominent lapse into tastlessness, a cut and thrust job on the William Tell Overture featuring Benny on piano, called Intermezzo No.1. Pure corn, and worst of all it sounds as if the group is serious.

Still it doesn’t seem to have affected their sales of the album overmuch. Once the public have taken a group so much to heart, and as long as the said group just keeps on smiling and keeps the bad moments to a minimum, the sky is the limit. Forget raunch, be part of the jolly nice backlash.

Photo: Does this thing look like a jolly good time to you?

© 1976 RAM. Thanks to Samuel Inglles