How Australia made ABBA

It is well known that Swedish pop group ABBA got their big break as winners of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, but in many respects they only gained the attention of the recording industry and pop music fans worldwide after their subsequent popularity in Australia.

Although they had some chart success in Europe following their win at Eurovision their popularity was not assured and were almost destined to become something of a one-hit wonder after the initial buzz of their winning song Waterloo had died down.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Countdown was emerging as the single TV program that could make or break any recording artist or group.   The show also had a thirst for music videos which in those days were still something of a novelty.  Countdown host Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum happened to come across a promotional clip for one of ABBA’s songs, Mamma Mia, and played it on the show even though it was never intended to be released as a single.

The song became a hit with Countdown viewers and eventually it did end up being released as a single, only in Australia, and went to number one on the charts.  The chart success of Mamma Mia in Australia led to it being released internationally and helped trigger the group’s global popularity in the mid 1970s.

Although Countdown launched the group in Australia, it was TV producer Reg Grundy that managed to bring them Down Under to appear in a special edition of pop show Bandstand in 1976.  The special was a huge ratings success and ABBA were back in Australia a year later for their hugely successful tour.

Their tour was documented in the film ABBA The Movie, co-produced by Grundy.

Tonight, ABC1 looks back at Australia’s fascination with the biggest pop group since The Beatles.  The program, ABBA Bang A Boomerang, is hosted by Alan Brough and delves deep into Australia’s enduring affection for the Swedish supergroup.

ABBA Bang A Boomerang, Wednesday 30 January, 8.30pm.  ABC1

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