FREE TO AIRABBA: 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.
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Swede smell of success
ABBAmania grips ABC doco
January 21, 2013, 12:53 pm 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