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Thursday, 24 January 2013

ABBA Bang A Boomerang Documentary - Newspaper Articles

<i>ABBA: Bang a Boomerang</i> looks at Australia's fascination with the Swedish pop phenomenon.


ABBA: Bang a Boomerang, ABC1, 8.30pm
IN THE mid-1970s, enchanted by video clips that screened on ABC music show Countdown, Australia fell in love with Swedish pop group Abba. A smiling, sweetly sexy foursome, the Eurovision Song Contest winners initially dazzled with Mamma Mia and went on to dominate the music charts. They did a concert tour, were greeted by hordes of screaming fans and starred in a mega-rating TV special. Narrated by Alan Brough, this documentary about the Abba phenomenon includes interviews with laconic tour manager Michael Chugg, music critics and devoted fans, as well as Swedish filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom, who directed Abba's clips and a documentary about their tour. Incorporating a smattering of social history, this chronicle of Abba-mania, which has had bouts of backlash and revival during subsequent decades, offers a perspective on Australia's love affair with a group that recorded its last single in 1982.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-guide/wednesday-january-30-20130123-2d5sp.html#ixzz2IqqCAkst

Swede smell of success

Neil McMahon
Documentary Bang a Boomerang sets the record straight on Abba's beginnings.
FITTINGLY, they conquered us most completely while sitting around a campfire, where Lawson and Banjo long ago found Australians most comfortable absorbing the music and the myths that brought them together.
But neither of our national poets could have imagined this: the birth in 1976 of a fresh legend as foreign as it could be to the land of the jolly swagman. Like Paterson's morose sheep thief, Abba's Fernando was a man once young and full of life, but there the similarities ended. Neither the song nor the singers had any logical claim on Australian hearts. These were Swedes, singing about a Mexican, sitting around a shabby piece of studio fakery purporting to be a campfire - not a jolly jumbuck in sight.
But, my, how we loved them. For 14 weeks in early 1976, Fernando drove the nation to distraction - in both rapture and revolt - as it stayed atop the singles chart for so long that it was banned in Sunday church, otherwise known as Countdown, where high priest Ian ''Molly'' Meldrum learnt he'd made a big mistake in banishing the fireside film clip.

Former <i>Countdown</i> host Ian 'Molly' Meldrum.Former Countdown host Ian 'Molly' Meldrum.
As Meldrum recalls in Bang a Boomerang, a new documentary exploring Australia's love affair with the Swedish foursome, this was not a relationship to be trifled with.
''After the 10th, 11th week and it was still No.1, I made this rash decision that we can't play it again … we'll show it as No.1, but we'll then show in full our prediction for what we think will be the next No.1,'' Meldrum recalls in the program, airing on January 30 on the ABC. ''And all hell broke loose. The ABC switchboard was jammed. People complaining: how dare we not play this song again.''
Meldrum was not the only music industry figure startled by the intensity of Australia's affection for the Swedes, though by 1976 he'd had a while to get used to it.

Annie Wright: 'They loved performing for Australians, they loved the reaction.'Annie Wright: 'They loved performing for Australians, they loved the reaction.'
As Bang a Boomerang tells it, it was Countdown's hunger for video clips to fill its weekly airtime that played a critical role in Abba's explosion as a musical force. The documentary aims to put on the historical record once and for all the truth: that while the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest may have been the band's first big break, the true birth of Abba as global pop conquerors began in Australia.
It is a compelling case. As Meldrum says, it was only his badgering of RCA - the group's local record company - that persuaded them to release album track Mamma Mia as a single. Thanks to its accompanying video clip - which established the trademark Abba visual style - the song went gangbusters.
''They had no option but to release it as a single,'' Meldrum says.
Meldrum was a key player, but just as instrumental was RCA's Australian PR rep, Annie Wright. She was in her early 20s then, and was the go-between for the dealings between Countdown and the faraway Swedes.
''I had no idea what lay before me,'' Wright tells Green Guide. ''It was just an explosion. We knew they were perfect pop songs but no one could have predicted the extent of how Australia would embrace them. It was like nothing I've ever experienced before or since.''
Wright would become an Abba intimate - through 1975, when she delivered the video clips that won over the Countdown crowd; in 1976, when she was side by side with the group on a promotional tour; and then in 1977, the year of the band's astonishing concert tour.
The 1976 trip should have been a warning of what was to come: a Reg Grundy-funded TV special hosted by Daryl Somers drew higher ratings than the moon landing. But the '77 tour stunned even industry veterans who thought they'd seen it all, Wright says.
''It was very surreal for everyone, from [promoter] Paul Dainty to the band themselves … Nothing has ever come close to the hysteria, the adoration. And most people never knew that Australia was where they broke.''
Bang a Boomerang sets the record straight on that score, and for those who played a part in that long-ago madness it is a welcome document of a time they will never forget.
For Wright, who grew so close to the band they invited her to Sweden to holiday on their private island, the memories are many. Among her favourites is the anxiety that preceded the group's Sydney concert in March 1977, which was threatened by wet and wild weather.
But Wright had a direct line to God, or a reasonable facsimile: legendary weatherman Alan Wilkie.
''I was ringing him at Channel Nine every hour,'' Wright says.
''I had a hotline - no mobiles in those days, no emails or faxes - I was calling him every day prior to the concert. He was great, and we were living on hope. But the show must go on. Paul Dainty had written on the tickets 'Come rain or shine'. I bet he regretted that.
''And they went on despite it being dangerous. Frida had a fall; they were mopping down the stage constantly. But the audience didn't care. There was just this great love and it was mutual. They loved performing for Australians, they loved the reaction. It became a real family, Australians became their family.''
Nearly four decades later, the love affair continues - despite that 1977 tour being the first and last time the group performed here in concert. There was a period of estrangement - the documentary shows just how deathly uncool Abba became for a time - but affections were re-established with fervour many years ago.
Wright is delighted the history has been preserved in documentary form.
''It made sense to tell a new generation where it began,'' she says.
''I'm surprised even people of my generation don't realise it all started in Australia. So I'm really pleased we're getting the acknowledgement and recognition.''
Bang a Boomerang screens on ABC1 on January 30 at 8.30pm

ABBAmania grips ABC doco

January 21, 2013, 12:53 pm Darren Cartwright, National Entertainment Writer AAP
An ABC retro-doco looks at the rise and rise of ABBA, their popularity around the world and the Australian influence on their success.

John Paul Young (JPY) once sang about hating the music.
At the same time he admits to having a professional dislike for the pop group ABBA.
The reasons behind JPY's "frustration" with the Swedish sensations seeps through in the ABC retro-doco ABBA: Bang A Boomerang.
Back in 1976 ABBA kept his single I Hate The Music in a holding pattern at No.2 with their blockbuster Fernando, which held the top spot on the charts for 14 weeks.
Fernando's success and Australia's insatiable appetite for everything ABBA and the nation's influence in helping Mamma Mia reach international success is retraced in the documentary.
"It (frustration) was only privately and quietly," JPY tells AAP.
"It was all light-hearted and insular.
"There's no bad news in any of this."
The documentary includes interviews with JPY, music guru Molly Meldrum, promoter Michael Chugg, Swedish film director Lasse Hallstrom, who was in charge of ABBA's early video music clips, and the band's official biographer Carl Magnus Palm.
Meldrum explains during ABBA: Bang A Boomerang, his weekly show Countdown was desperate for videos when they received five quality-produced ABBA music clips from RCA records.
His first pick - I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do - topped the charts and sparked ABBA-Mania.
Next was Mamma Mia after one of the ABC staffers pointed the song out to him.
"That (Mamma Mia) we are definitely going to use," Meldrum said.
With a smile Meldrum says: "I never admitted I liked ABBA because I thought, `they'll think I'm gay'."
Hallstrom says he worked with a budget of $2000 when he directed the ABBA clips and explains the basic techniques when filming the group.
"There wasn't much of a concept," Hallstrom says during the documentary.
The hour-long program is narrated by Alan Brough, formerly of the ABC's Spicks and Specks music quiz show.
Anyone who loves ABBA will revel in the archival footage and the memories of the era.
Queensland fans of the super group may not have the same sweet memories when ABBA bypassed the Sunshine State on its 1976 tour.
The state's then-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen tried to influence the group to change their mind - at the same time letters of scorn about ABBA flooded the local daily Brisbane newspaper.
The letters criticised the group for "living in sin" and being from a "socialistic country".
JPY attributes a lot of ABBA's early success to not only their brilliant and catchy music but to the quality of the videos which were professionally shot.
ABBA's songs rocketed up the charts once their music videos started featuring on Countdown.
"If you really study what happened in those days, the advent of videos really gave records a boost," JPY said.
"But you can also tell when videos became more important than the song.
"The song got the air play because of their good videos and you can see when that falls away too.
"There some pretty ordinary songs with great videos that shouldn't have seen the light of day."
  • ABBA: Bang A Boomerang screens on Wednesday, January 30 at 8.30pm on ABC1


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