40 years of the Man In The Middle - and 70 too!

Published April 25, 2015

This week it's 40 years since ABBA's third album was released in Sweden. Simply entitled ABBA, it boasted major classics such as 'SOS' and 'Mamma Mia', the tracks that would truly put the group on the map as a force to be reckoned with on the international music scene.

I've previously blogged about the 40th anniversaries of the Ring Ring and Waterloo albums, focusing on their success in Sweden, so I thought I should make a few observations on this album as well. My sister had this album, making it the first ABBA LP to enter our household (my Ring Ring single was the first ABBA record). I wasn't a huge ABBA fan back then, as I've mentioned elsewhere, and I don't think anyone in our family bought an ABBA record again until I purchased the single The Winner Takes It All in 1980.

Nevertheless, the ABBA album was one of the few times that the Palm family contributed the group's commercial fortunes. The LP broke the sales record set by the Waterloo album and became the biggest-selling album in Sweden up to that time. It spent 16 weeks at number one on the Kvällstoppen singles-and-albums chart Sweden used until it was cancelled on 19 August 1975 (this was actually a radio show that presented the chart). Then, when the new albums chart was introduced on 14 November 1975 (a chart put together by the record business), ABBA spent a further two weeks at the top.

It should be noted that Sweden did in fact have a sales chart in the three-month interim between those two charts. When Kvällstoppen was cancelled it was replaced by a radio programme entitled Skivspegeln (The Record Mirror). Keeping the singles-and-albums format of its predecessor, it presented a Top Ten only (instead of a Top 20). I'd always assumed that ABBA remained at number one over those three months, but I recently stumbled across a few of the charts from that time, and they reveal that for at least a couple of those weeks ABBA were in fact at number two, with Cat Stevens' Greatest Hits at number one. This obviously needs to be investigated further and the results submitted to Trent Nickson's excellent ABBA Charts site.

At any rate, I have one personal recollection from this time. I was listening to Skivspegeln and they were doing the chart countdown. When they got to the number one album and played a track from it I didn't quite catch the name of the group, but I thought it was a really cool song, performed by a male singer. Lots of clavinet and semi-funky, I guess I would simply have referred to it as "tough" at the time. The ten-year-old me was wondering who this artist might be, that was at number one in Sweden, yet I didn't recognise them at all. My jaw dropped when, after the track had ended, it was revealed that it was ABBA. The song was of course 'Man In The Middle'.

Although this is not one of ABBA's most celebrated tracks, it obviously appealed to me at the time. And its mention here, combined with the fact that this blog is published on 25 April 2015, also gives me an excuse to wish its lead singer, Björn Ulvaeus, happy 70th birthday!