Recollections of an ABBA fan, 40 years on

Forty years ago, Malcolm Fraser was PM, average weekly wages were $182 and the population of Australia was 14 million.


And almost everyone, it seemed, was an ABBA fan.

About to enter my teens, I was among them.

In March 1977, hysteria over the Swedish group, which were consistently topping the charts after their Eurovision victory three years earlier, hit its peak as they arrived for their long-awaited Australian concert tour.

Tickets for their 11 performances had gone on sale in October 1976, at the outrageous starting price of $9.

My parents were adamant they would not be buying any.

ABBA this, ABBA that, they were sick to death of ABBA, ABBA, ABBA. I was not going to the concert, that was that.

Come sale date – when other, dedicated parents spent long hours in very long queues – there were no signs of purchase in our household.

I held out hope that I may yet receive a coveted ticket for my 13th birthday, which fell in the weeks before Christmas.

The teenage milestone arrived and I was presented with an enormous box.

I was crestfallen. There could be no ticket in there.

But – pulling off wrapping after wrapping, pass-the-parcel style – I finally came to the nugget.


Oh, miracle of miracles.

Then and now, being an ABBA fan usually meant idolising one ABBA over all the others.

Even for girls it meant one of the women rather than Bjorn or the bearded Benny.

Agnetha was beautiful but for me it was, and remains, Annifrid, the brunette with deep-green eyes and cheekbones like nobody’s business.

ABBA merchandise was everywhere. Bubblegum cards, socks, cushions,caps, posters. Iron-on transfers that came inside the daily newspapers were immediately pressed onto T-shirts.

Radio stations seemed to precisely program ABBA songs for school recess times.

Well, they actually just played them all the time.

Since I didn’t want to miss anything, I would hide my yellow Solid State transistor in my bag. Radios were forbidden.

At lunch break, I’d disappear out of sight behind the lavatory block, the dial already tuned to the top station of the day.

How magical were those times, eating Vegemite sandwiches to the soaring Dancing Queen, the lilting Fernando, the angst-y Knowing Me Knowing You.


The parents of a friend of a friend of a friend owned a boat and invited ABBA sailing on Perth’s Swan River.

Somehow, through this ever-so-tenuous connection, I managed to procure Frida’s autograph; elaborate, close-set flourishes, written with purpose, ending with a love heart.

I stared endlessly at the small, blue page, that had been carefully removed from an autograph book, passing my hand over it, to touch what Frida had touched.

It’s a wonder the ink didn’t wear off.

Finally, after so many, long months of anticipation, the night came around. Our idols would soon be right before our very eyes.

The house lights dimmed, the stage lights flashed on, a riot of pulsating colour and energy.

At the same instant, the walls of sound erupted and ABBA – IN THE FLESH – exploded onto the stage.

Frida and Anna, in sexy satin, ran from side to side.

“The city is a jungle/ You’d better take care/ Never walk alone after midnight”, they sang, as the opening lines of the opening song, Tiger, rang out, loud.

An electrified crowd roared as one.

And I was among them!

ABBA performed more than 20 songs, all the hits and more besides, and all the while the volume and energy of the crowd seemed to equal that of the music.

It was heady and electric and glorious.

The ABBAs are older now, of course. Frida and Bjorn are 71, Benny 70 and Anna 66.

No matter.

For the diehards, the adulation remains.

And those of us there on those nights 40 years ago will never, ever forget.