Great write up and interview in the West Australian Newspaper yesterday.
The interviewee being non other than the Film maker/Writer/Director of 'ABBA Bang A Boomerang' - Matti Crocker.
Great read :)
Mamma mia, it's ABBA
Hazel Bradley, The West Australian
Mamma mia, it's ABBA
Back in the 70s, ABBA mania exploded in Australia, scorching an indelible mark on the nation's pop psyche. Books and articles have examined the phenomenon but it has never been covered in-depth on our TV screens.
ABBA: Bang a Boomerang changes all that. The documentary has been a three-year labour of love for Matti Crocker, who co-wrote and directed it with Rebecca McElroy. Narrated by Alan Brough, the story of how Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Frida (Anni-Frid) reached dizzy heights Down Under is beautifully told with wit and affection.
The use of rarely seen footage of ABBA in Australia makes it a treat from start to finish.
"I will put my hand up to being an ABBA fan," Crocker said via phone from Brisbane. "I remember sitting in my grandmother's front room seeing SOS on Sounds Unlimited. I was captivated by the dramatic sound, crazy visuals and beaming faces. They were two couples in love and a pop revelation.
"In March 1976 an ABBA special was shown on Channel 9 and it was watched by more Australians than the Moon landing."
So why did we go so mad for the four Swedes? "I think it was a case of two outsiders finding each other. Back then we were isolated from the pop world and they were having trouble breaking into it. They were something exotic from the other side of the planet and we adopted them as our own."
Crocker scoured film archives and fan videos for the material he knew must be out there.
"We found ABBA's appearance on The Don Lane Show in a private collection. An employee had been told to wipe it but luckily he made a copy," Crocker said.
Countdown and Molly Meldrum feature largely, as it was Meldrum's championing of Mamma Mia that led to the song's release as a single. Film director Lasse Hallstrom, who produced their clips, and tour director Michael Chugg are among others offering fresh insights. Crocker even tracked down their Australian tour bodyguard, Richard Norton.
"He was delightful and shared his personal photo collection of ABBA. It is moments like that I think fans will particularly enjoy."
Archival footage gives historical context and a glimpse of the way we were.
"It is amazing how different things were back then. The accents were broad and shiny and the teenagers look so old to me."
Celebrity admirers pay homage and diehard fans share heartfelt ABBA memories. Crocker treated these fans with refreshing respect.
"It helped that I was a fan myself but people were still a bit wary that I would just want them to dress up and act silly," he said. "I don't see why fans should be sent up just because they love something." The two hysterical weeks in March 1977 when the band toured and ABBA mania peaked make for fascinating viewing.
"There were fans of all ages, from eight to 80. I don't think anything like it will ever be reproduced," Crocker said.
Jaw-dropping moments include a youthful Kerry O'Brien reporting on the band not being welcome in Queensland due to Benny and Frida being unmarried.
But Crocker never saw ABBA in concert. "I'm still in therapy about that," he joked.
We learn which well-known local broadcaster had the cheek to ask Agnetha about having the sexiest bottom in Europe.
"People always talked about her bottom. Agnetha used to get tense when that question was asked," Crocker said.
After the tour an audience suffering ABBA overload roundly rejected the band. It wasn't till the early 1990s that Australia was ready to reignite the flame with the help of tribute band Bjorn Again. Since then we've never looked back. Towards the end the program travels to Trundle, NSW, for a three-day ABBA festival.
"I loved Trundle," said Crocker.
"It was amazing, all these people unashamedly coming together and having a party." ABBA: Bang a Boomerang airs Wednesday at 8.30pm on ABC1
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.
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 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.'
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
January 21, 2013, 12:53 pmDarren Cartwright, National Entertainment WriterAAP
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
Countdown‘s role in ABBA’s success is well-documented, so I’m pleased to see this upcoming ABC documentary on their Aussie success even includes the ABBA special that Nine stitched up in the 1970s.
I had no idea it was Reg Grundy who was behind the idea, as part of a plan to revive Bandstand.
He was even smart enough to secure merchandise rights.
This nostalgic doco, narrated by Alan Brough, airs on ABC1 Wednesday, January 30 at 8.30pm.
Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid were and still are, for most of us, ABBA. The Swedish platform-booted and sparkly supertroupers stormed the pop world between 1972 and 1983 and gave us the hits ‘Dancing Queen’, Summernight City’ and ‘Knowing me, Knowing you’ among many others. It’s worth remembering that even though ABBA split up 30 years ago, Mamma Mia! the movie featuring their music, is the most successful movie musical ever and almost 50 million people have seen the same-named musical production.
Now with ABBA the Museum in Stockholm the legend will live on and on and on… As it should.
Visitors to Stockholm must have had a niggling feeling that something was missing on visiting the city. ABBA, perhaps? And many Stockholmers can hardly believe that the museum is actually going up because the project has been beset by problems ranging from one of the backer banks biting the dust to where it should be housed.
But that’s all in the past. ABBA The Museum is going be a permanent exhibition in the brand new ‘Swedish Music Hall of Fame’ on the island of Djurgården, a brisk walk, or a short bus or tram ride from the city centre. The museum sits between Gröna Lund amusement park and the Liljevalchs art venue and is a 5-minute walk from Skansen Open-air Museum and the famous Vasa Museum.
Why stick the new museum on an island in Stockholm? Well, that’s what the group wanted and hey, who’s going to say no to ABBA. Stockholm is also where the group found success and recorded most of their music.
What is it?
The origins of ABBA The Museum are in the ABBAWORLD touring exhibition that toured Budapest London, Prague, Melbourne and Sydney between 2009 and 2011. It shares the premises with the Swedish Music Hall of Fame and History of Swedish Popular Music. ABBA The Museum will showcase the band’s stage clothes, artifacts, concert footage, interviews etc. in a contemporary, interactive setting. When you buy a ticket you get an ID that generates a page on the museum website. Once inside the museum you can sing and dance with holograms of ABBA, don a digital costume (go for the famous Anni-Frid ‘tiger’ or Agnetha ‘cat’ tunic) projected on to you in a special booth and you can record it by scanning your ticket at the attraction. Then you get to share photos and videos of your experience on Facebook and other social media. After 30 days the recordings are deleted from the site.
Why you should visit
This place is unique, ABBA fan or not. With the other attraction; The Swedish Music Hall of Fame of Swedish popular music, the content and activities in the museum put the group’s musical achievements and influences in a historical context and it will help you understand ‘ABBA The Phenomenon’ better. The museum also has the full backing of the group and much of the material is from the group members’ own private collections.
So, if you are old enough to remember glam rock, platform-soled boots or maybe even watched live as ABBA sang ‘Waterloo’ and won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in 1974, you should visit for a journey down musical memory lane. For everyone else, come and see ABBA and its entourage at the height of their creative and musical powers, get insights into the group members’ lives and see them as the global supertroupers they will always be.
You can buy tickets to the museum online, at SJ outlets near the Central Station in Stockholm or at the museum. Further information about tickets and the museum.
If you intend to get around Stockholm on public transport buy yourself a Stockholm Card for free travel and free admission to 80 museums and attractions. It’s well worth the money.
We ‘buried’ a less well-known ABBA song title in the text, see if you can find it and then post it on our Facebook page.
ABBA: Bang a Boomerang tells the inside story of Australia's colossal 70s crush on the Swedish supergroup ABBA and their music, and how this unequalled and enduring fan-worship changed them and us forever.
ABC's innovative music program Countdown and its host Molly Meldrum were instrumental in bringing ABBA to a burgeoning mid-70s television audience looking for something different. It was due to Countdown that Mamma Mia was released as a single, first in Australia and then the world, and the ABBA phenomenon was born. Viewers were going into record shops wanting to buy the single. Molly rang RCA records asking about the release of Mamma Mia and was told there were no plans to do so.
"We then played it again in defiance and they had no option but to release it... it was lucky, it went to number one," Meldrum said.
ABBA: Bang a Boomerang digs deep into heartfelt memories, cardboard cartons of memorabilia, face-to-face encounters, local pop icon recounts, lavish personal and public ABBA museums and Australia's rich media archives to relive a moment of collective national 'craziness', when we did literally go ABBA mad. The result is a warm, bright, captivating engagement with ABBA's time Down Under that will remind us all of the band's impact and how our open-hearted embrace of all things ABBA would eventually define us. One in three Australian households owned an ABBA record - from Prime Minister Fraser to eight year olds around the nation, we were hooked even if some of us didn't want to admit it back then and we didn't realise the crush would be for keeps.
ABBA fans (this means you) prepare for another documentary on
their rise to fame, ABBA: Bang a Boomerang centering around
Australia’s pivotal role in their success.
This premiere documentary, narrated by Alan Brough, includes key interviews
with Molly Meldrum, who famously pushed for Mamma Mia as a single,
Australian tour director Michael Chugg, ABBA The Movie director Lasse
Hallström, bodyguard Richard Norton as well as their publicist, RCA’s Annie
I’m guessing footage of actor Robert Hughes, who played a journalist in
ABBA The Movie will probably be excised, but it sounds like a great
watch. ABBA: Bang a Boomerang tells the inside story of Australia’s colossal 70s
crush on the Swedish supergroup ABBA and their music, and how this unequalled
and enduring fan‐worship changed them and us forever. ABC’s innovative music program Countdown and its host Molly Meldrum were
instrumental in bringing ABBA to a burgeoning mid‐70s television audience
looking for something different. It was due to Countdown that Mamma Mia was
released as a single, first in Australia and then the world, and the ABBA
phenomenon was born. Molly said: “Tony Vuat, who was one of our people on the
floor, said ‘Come and have a look at this song. I know you’ll love it.’ It was
Mamma Mia. I went ‘THAT, we’re definitely going to use!’” Viewers were going into record shops wanting to buy the single. Molly
rang RCA records asking about the release of Mamma Mia and was told there were
no plans to do so. “We then played it again in defiance and they had no option but to
release it… it was lucky, it went to number one” Meldrum continues. ABBA: Bang a Boomerang digs deep into heartfelt memories, cardboard
cartons of memorabilia, face‐to‐face encounters, local pop icon recounts, lavish
personal and public ABBA museums and Australia’s rich media archives to relive a
moment of collective national ‘craziness’, when we did literally go ABBA mad.
The result is a warm, bright, captivating engagement with ABBA‘s time Down Under
that will remind us all of the band’s impact and how our open‐hearted embrace of
all things ABBA would eventually define us. One in three Australian households
owned an ABBA record – from Prime Minister Fraser to eight‐year‐olds around the
nation, we were hooked even if some of us didn’t want to admit it back then and
we didn’t realise the crush would be for keeps. By 1976 ABBA‐mania had truly gripped the nation, so much so that when the
groundbreaking ABBA Australian TV special went to air it out‐rated the moon
landing. ABBA became a magnet to some extraordinary characters who all contributed
to the band’s rise to the top. This documentary has unprecedented access to this
inner circle, including tour manager Michael Chugg, Hollywood film director
Lasse Hallström, their bodyguard on the ’77 Australian tour Richard Norton as
well as their publicist, RCA’s Annie Wright.
Wednesday 30 January 8.30pm ABC1.