Abba in Australia

70s Musical Kitsch
In the 1970s, for reasons that are largely mysterious, Australians formed a great and lasting love affair with the Swedish pop group ABBA. As Bjorn Ulvaous remarked at the Melbourne ABBAWORLD exhibition in Melbourne in 2010:

‘Australia was the first country that took ABBA to heart and we never forgot about that. We always felt a lot of love from audiences there.’’ Aw...

ABBA were, as they say in the hackneyed tabloids, a least they were here. We went crazy over them, devouring their albums, paraphernalia, TV specials and concerts with a rare gusto. It's estimated that more Australians watched the TV special ABBA Down Under, than bothered to watch the moon landing - the greatest human achievement of the 20th century. How embarrassing.

In our favour, ABBA has since proven to be a worldwide phenomenon with considerable staying power. But then, we helped  the ABBA revival along too, by featuring them in the hit movie, Muriel's Wedding. We even regurgitated Dancing Queen at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, sung by our own slice of home-grown pop kitsch, Kylie Minogue. Now of course,  ABBA has an elevated  kudos and a legion of International fans. Critics write in reverent tones about their innovative style and exceptionally catchy, tuneful pop melodies...but we knew that all along.

Yes, Australians know a good pop group when we see one. Right from the beginning.  When others wrote ABBA off as a flash in the pan after they won the Eurovision Song Contest in '74, we kept the faith and we were proved right. I think we're proud of that.

Closet ABBA
However, it has to be acknowledged, back in the 1970s there were a few of us in Australia who eschewed the popular trend and turned up our noses at ABBA. "Oh no' we'd we lovingly fingered the cover of our Supertramp albums, "Not ABBA". I mean please! *snicker*" Yes, in certain circles liking ABBA meant a complete loss of musical and street credibility.

That's why when my father, clueless about my musical tastes and imagining I was no different to the hoards of other young teenagers who loved the Swedish sensation, gave me Abba's Arrival album, I had to feign pleasure, while waiting for an opportunity to hide the offending object at the bottom of my record stack, lest it be spotted by anyone I considered remotely cool.

And yet....occasionally, I would stumble upon the album while flipping through my stack looking for Jerry Rafferty and find myself lingering over the ABBA album cover just a little too long - strangely fascinated by Bjorn and Benny's jump-suited manliness, Agnetha's ice blond looks and Frieda's intriguing Scandinavian poodle perm. Once or twice, if no-one was around, I'd slip the record out of its plastic sleeve and put it on the turntable, conscious I was performing an act of supreme dagginess.

Then a disturbing thing would happen. I'd start to move around, swaying rhythmically to the music. I clearly remember one occasion, listening to Ring Ring and scooting around the living-room floor, mimicking the gestures of Agnetha (or was it Frieda?)  dialling a pretend phone while swinging my hips and lip syncing the lyrics.  I was enjoying the music. Oh yes, ABBA are more powerful than you might think. Give them half a chance and they'll seduce you. Look what they did to Australia....