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'Countdown' to 'Dancing Queen'

If you were a teenager and a lover of pop-music in the early 1970s, and if you were not into Eurovision, it’s highly probable that, like me, your first glimpse of ABBA would have been via ABC TV’s ground-breaking music programme, ‘Countdown.’ I was in my early twenties when it first leapt out of our screens (in glorious colour for those fortunate to have a colour set in those early days).

Nearly fifty years later, I can still vividly remember the first time I ever saw ABBA, in a film-clip of ‘S.O.S.’ I was immediately and highly impressed by that clip. It was one of the first examples of a ‘promo-clip’ – a video of a song, with images of the performers, not necessarily performing the song ‘live’.

The images were very imaginative and striking, the group were incredibly attractive to look at, and the music just knocked me out. That really took me by surprise, because musically I was a child of the sixties, and the Beatles were the ultimate pop/rock band. I didn’t think that anyone could capture my imagination and admiration as much as the Fab Four. Especially a band whose first language wasn’t even English!


But I was very happily mistaken. ABBA became, to the seventies, what the Beatles had been to the decade before. And for many of us, it was that original vision of them singing ‘S.O.S.’ on Countdown that ushered in the age of ABBA. And it was largely down to Countdown’s visionary (pun intended) anchor-man, Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, and his early championing of the group, that ABBA went on to become a music and pop-culture phenomenon – here in Australia first, and ultimately the world.

Like the Beatles before them, ABBA’s music grew with them. It was initially uncomplicated but highly catchy and melodic pop-music – ‘Ring, Ring’, ‘Waterloo’ – but with each succeeding album release, the composition, lyrical content and production of their recordings became more complex and sophisticated. They progressed from happy young purveyors of Top 40 fodder to mature, adult producers of layered, incredibly inventive musical creations.

If you listen in sequence to ‘S.O.S.’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘The Name of the Game’, Take a Chance On Me’, ‘Voulez Vous’, ‘Super Trouper’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ – the growth in maturity and complexity of their music is unmistakeable.

But you know what? At every stage of their career, the music was always satisfying on a number of levels, and it repays repeated listening. It never gets old. And coming from a Beatles (and Rolling Stones) tragic, that’s saying something!

Oriana Choir’s upcoming concert series, ‘Dancing Queen – a Tribute to ABBA and Queen’, will showcase many of those songs, and the sheer joy that we get from performing them for you, ABBA lovers across the generations, is sure to help you to forget, for a while, the realities of this Covid world, and provide you with an evening of unadulterated pleasure and relived happy memories. I’m confident that you will spend a happy couple of hours ‘digging ‘Dancing Queen’’.

Ian Rix

August 1, 2021.

For bookings visit https://www.oriana.org.au/


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