Part 6 (of 6): Reviews and reactions

Published December 30, 2012

 

AUSTRALIAN DEMAND

ABBA-dabba-dooo!! was first broadcast in Australia on October 27, 1976, in a version entitled ABBA From The Beginning. This version edited out most of the interviews and added performances of 'Mamma Mia' and 'Tropical Loveland' from the Australian television special ABBA Down Under/ABBA In Australia. The programme was screened on Channel 9, which had bought it sight unseen - such was the demand for ABBA television programming during the group's most successful year in Australia.

LE: I remember that we really loved the fact that Australia was on our case big-time, because they wanted the programme as soon as possible.

PF: For me, who was used to doing 90 second radio reports about snow clearance in some suburb, to know that "Australia wants the programme!" - it almost felt like an international breakthrough. It was so much fun.

LE: That served as an additional incentive and also meant that we really had to hurry up with the editing.

West German television also bought the programme sight unseen. However, a prediction made by Stig Anderson in the UK's Daily Express, that ABBA-dabba-dooo!! would "eventually be screened in about 30 countries", turned out to be overly optimistic. A promotional pamphlet issued by Polar Music in early 1977 mentioned no further countries than Canada, Finland, Norway and The Netherlands. A newsletter issued by The Official British ABBA Fan Club in July 1977 added Israel, Switzerland, Denmark and Southern Ireland to the list, promising upcoming screenings in Bulgaria, America and New Zealand. Whether these really took place is not known. The problem with the programme, according to a contemporary report, was that many countries found it "too Swedish", i.e. too many references to people and concepts that were unknown outside Scandinavia.


SWEDISH PRAISE AND CRITIQUE


On November 5, ABBA-dabba-dooo!! was broadcast on Swedish Television, the TV 2 channel, watched by 4.5 million viewers - more than half the country's population at the time. After the broadcast, the reviewer in the newspaper Expressen gave it a thumbs-up, writing that it was "an effective mixture of interviews and music, it flowed well and had a good pace. Anni-Frid showed us a personality which is more interesting than when she sings. All four members were very convincing in their affirmation that they totally believe in what they do, that they have never speculated about their careers and that they always try to give their best." ABBA were later voted the best television entertainers of the year by the readers of Expressen.

However, in the other major evening paper, Aftonbladet, the somewhat notorious reviewer Macke Nilsson had other things to say about the programme. "ABBA, being a great power within the entertainment industry, should certainly be presented and scrutinized on radio and TV. [...] But when the group were finally awarded some time on Swedish TV, it appeared as if it was on Stig Anderson's terms. It was his commercial demands that decided the tone and the content - and probably also the timing of the broadcast. The programme seemed to be a part of ABBA's clever marketing plan - as a smart reminder of the group's latest album, at just the right time before the Christmas trade. It must be demeaning for the employees at Sveriges Radio to be forced to slavishly serve Stig Anderson's record company."

PF: That review gives you a brilliant portrait of Macke Nilsson himself.

LE: Before Stig Anderson was even part of the discussions, I was talking to the group and Benny about doing a programme. This happened to coincide with a record release - they issued a new album every year, so there would always be that kind of coincidence, whichever way you did it. To think that Lars Boberg, who was the most powerful person in the Swedish entertainment world, would say, "But of course, Stig, we will broadcast it exactly when you want us to. When do you want it aired...?"

PF: Boberg was a true publicist, an independent person, there was no chance in hell anyone could have influenced him.

LE: Naturally Stig thought that this was an excellent opportunity, naturally he thought it would be great if the programme was ready in time for broadcast in Australia. But that goes without saying. Today you won't see any artists in any programmes unless they have a record out. It's a matter of professionalism on different levels. But Stig had no influence. He was allowed to watch the programme when it was completed. "This is what it looks like, this is what we've done." "Oh, that's great, really nice!" That's all the influence he had.


A REWARDING EXPERIENCE

Leonard Eek and Per Falkman both look back on the ABBA programme as one of their most rewarding experiences during their time as employees of Sveriges Radio/Television. It even led to a life-long friendship between the pair.

LE: I can't think of any other programme that has been as satisfactory.

PF: There was no other programme that had this long-term effect, both personally and professionally.

LE: And it was great fun to be the ones who were allowed to present ABBA in a broader way, for the Swedes as well as certain other parts of the world. I'm really proud of that. At least I've done something worthwhile!

PF: I'm very interested in ice hockey and I heard from some of the players in Tre Kronor [the Swedish national ice hockey team] that they always had this programme with them when they were out on tours: the World Championships, the Olympics and so on. It was great to know that my idols liked this programme that we had done.

Another occurrence connected with the programme also made an indelible impression on Falkman.

PF: This happened about a year after the programme, when I was on holiday in Spain. A waiter came walking on the beach, carrying a tray and singing one of the songs that I'd watched Benny and Björn work out in their Viggsö cottage. I thought, "My God, from that little yellow cottage out into the world - bang! They really are something else." That gave me such a tremendously concrete image of how widespread their music was and how much people loved it.

 

An ad for the Australian version of ABBA-dabba-dooo!!
Macke Nilsson's highly critical review of the programme.