The sunshine boys and girls are making hay

By Heather Chapman - The Daily Telegraph 23 April 1976

“Can you hear the drums Fernando? I remember long ago …”

The music goes around and around carrying thousands of Australians of all ages into a love affair with four handsome young Swedes who call themselves ABBA.

And the almost hysterical devotion of Australians to ABBA seems to still be a mostly Australian phenomenon.

Mr Keith Cronau, national promotions manager for RCA, says he does not think ABBA are as big in Sweden as they sort of are here.

Certainly, we have led the way in the English-speaking world, and both the United Kingdom and the United States are following us.

“Rock me, give me that kiss now…”

The happy sound of Anni-Frid, Björn, Benny and Agnetha has set Australians singing and registers tinkling all over the country – and is fast sweeping the young Swedes into the millionaire class.

Inflation and unemployment are forgotten temporarily as adults and children alike hum the melodic songs of ABBA.

 The Swedes’ voices are warm and inviting and they have something for everyone.

“I like the blonde one… I like the dark-haired one… I like Benny, he’s cuddly. I like Björn, he’s sort of cheeky…”

Musically they span a gap. The Beatles never crossed quite convincingly – they have bridged the generation gap in pop music.

When Australian parents hear their children playing ABBA records they’re likely to shout out’ “Turn that up,” not “turn that off.”

When channel 9 twice showed a special of ABBA during their March visit here it gained phenomenal ratings each time.

You can hardly turn your radio to a commercial station without hearing an ABBA song.

The call for ABBA records is so great that RCA have had to get help to press them.

Two other Australian record companies and a New Zealand company are all helping to meet the demand.

And the demand is little short of sensational.

In some Top 40 charts this week, ABBA had four singles in the top five and as many as six single records – more than enough to beat The Beatles.

Mr Cronau says Fernando, the top single on most charts throughout Australia, is earning a new gold record each week and the company has lost count of just how many gold records the song has collected.

And Fernando was released only in March, shooting up the charts within a couple of weeks.

Extraordinary things happen with ABBA records on the charts. Mamma Mia, which has been listed for 24 weeks, suddenly this week, started to climb back up again.

And a few weeks ago I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do which was still high in the charts after a year, suddenly started selling strongly again, pushed along by its B side, Rock Me.

Rock Me was one of the songs performed by ABBA in its TV special, and from that moment it took off.

What is the extraordinary appeal of the handsome Swedes?

Mr Cronau says it is melody.

“Every song they write is melodic,” he says. “They’ve hit at a time when melody is wanted by everyone from teenagers to mums and dads.”

It’s likely, also, that the wholesome - as well as handsome – appearance of the four helps.

Men find the two girls delightful and Australian girls like Benny and Björn.

To adults it’s a pleasure to be able to enjoy watching a group their youngsters like, a group without unpleasant gimmicks like pop star, Alice Cooper’s killing chickens.

With ABBA, adults can feel reassured because their young are watching two nice clean cut heterosexual couples.

ABBA has been popular in Europe since they won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with their song, Waterloo. It beat 7000 other international song entries.

The group began its sweet popularity here a year ago after a national TV pop show presented a film of ABBA singing Mamma Mia.

The demand for the record was so great that RCA asked Sweden for permission to put it out as a single and it shot to No.1 in three weeks.

Because of this success, ABBA’s recording company in Sweden decided to release it as a single in the UK, and within three weeks it was No.1.

ABBA’s songs are written by Björn and Benny (some songs lyrics are written by their manager, Stig Anderson) and people who suggest to the two men that most of their success comes from their compositions, they modestly say they consider the girls’ performances are the main reason they are so popular.

© 1976 The Daily Telegraph. Thanks to Samuel Inglles