Nearly four decades since the release of their last album, Swedish band ABBA continue to win admirers across the world. Their enduring appeal is such that it has inspired various tribute groups, extended play albums, song covers, and even theatre plays as well as full-blown films throughout the years. In fact, according to Gala Bingo, even Queen Elizabeth II counts herself as a fan — a grand feat that not many artists and musicians across the world can claim during their careers. The song ‘Dancing Queen’ was reportedly written specifically for the head of the Royal Family.
Indeed, ABBA has long surpassed ‘legend’ status with their songs spanning decades to reach the ears — and hearts — of fans old and young alike. But it wasn’t always fame and fanfare for the four-piece band. For one, they were vilified by critics in their home country of Sweden — labelled as frivolous, artificial, and money-hungry. Plus, unlike with the success of the hit song ‘Waterloo’ that put ABBA in the spotlight in 1974, audiences were decidedly more lukewarm towards the release of their second single, ‘I do, I do, I do.’
“We chose the wrong song as a follow-up… In everybody’s minds, it seemed that they had decided [we] would be forgotten,” band member Bjorn Ulvaeus shared in an interview with TV program Sunday Night.
Just as the world was about to write them off as one-hit wonders, ABBA found a second wind from an unexpected fanbase: Australia. More specifically, it was thanks to TV program Countdown host Ian “Molly” Meldrum’s influence that the foursome saw a resurgence. As luck would have it, Countdown had just begun airing in households the same year ABBA won the Eurovision contest, which propelled them to worldwide popularity.
As one of the most influential shows in Australian television history, Countdown was responsible for shaping the musical tastes of an entire generation, with eager viewers awaiting the show every weekend. It regularly featured music videos and performances from both local and international acts — including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and of course, ABBA.
Meldrum, who had a keen eye for potential talent, soon found himself sympathetic to ABBA’s cause, and started pushing for the group’s success. The stroke of fate that would forever immortalise ABBA came when Meldrum got hold of a promotional clip of ‘Mamma Mia,’ which wasn’t even scheduled to be released as a single.
“We kept playing ‘Mamma Mia’ and then we forced them to release it as a single – and Benny, Bjorn, and the girls have been very grateful for that,” Meldrum said in an interview with radio announcer Myf Warhust.
The public absolutely loved ‘Mamma Mia,’ sending it to the top of the music charts for 10 weeks. Before long, ABBA was churning out hit after hit in Australia — with the song ‘Fernando’ lasting 14 weeks at the top spot. The international music scene soon took notice of ABBA’s staggering success, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Despite disbanding in 1982, ABBA had already carved their name in the annals of music history as one of the most beloved international pop bands of all time. But they’re not done just yet. In fact, the group is set to release five new tracks for their reunion later this year, according to The Independent. In addition, a ‘Mamma Mia 3’ musical is also said to be in the works. Meanwhile, fans wait with bated breath to see what else ABBA has in store for the future.