ABBA: Thank You For The Marags

18 10 2010

Despite first hitting the headlines nearly 40 years ago, Swedish group ABBA are still very much a marketable commodity and remain as hugely popular now as they did during the 1970’s and early 80’s. The runaway success of both the Mama Mia stage show and the blockbuster film of the same name has ensured that the name ABBA, and their music, will remain to the fore for many years to come.
People will have heard of their humble beginnings and their early struggles for musical acceptance, but most people will be surprised to learn the true story of ABBA and their little known Stornoway connection.

In the early 1970’s four friends from Stornoway got together to form a musical group. The two coves and two blones had no ambition beyond playing in the Seaforth Hotel at wedding dances and perhaps maybe the odd Mod ceilidh. The two coves played the guitar and the accordion whilst the two blones sang waulking songs in gaelic.

The foursome tried out various names such as the ‘Covehood Of Man’ and ‘Fishboney M’ but didn’t come up with one that suited until they appointed a manager.

The person who took on the responsibility was called ‘Stink’ Anderson (so named as he drove the Ross & Cromarty County Councils septic tank lorry) and it was he who suggested that they took the initials of their names to create an unusual moniker.
And so it was that Annchris, Bingo, Bogey and Anni-Mary became ABBA.

Stink drove the group hard, making them play the Clachan every Friday night and the Cabar Public bar on Saturdays. It was here that the band perfected their dance routine of the two blone singers turning sideways, turning away from each other and then looking the other way. This was in order to avoid the various missiles being flung in their direction from Gaelic music purists who preferred to hear ‘The Kiora’ rather than ‘this fleeking deesco ruppish’. Eventually, it became a common feature of an ABBA gig to have an assortment of rotting vegetables flung stagewards in an attempt to get the group to sing ‘proper’ songs. By far the most common vegetable was the turnip, which resulted in the group getting nicknamed ‘The Swedes’.

However, in 1974, Stink managed to get the group a slot on the Calum Kennedy Show (after threatening to drive through Orinsay with all the taps open on his septic tank lorry). In order to make a big splash on the telly, ABBA invested in platform ‘Arnish’ Boots, Harris Tweed flared jump suits (from Mackenzie & MacSweens) and a bag of spangly seggs from Charlie Morrison’s to sew on instead of sequins.
Tickets were purchased for the ferry, bus and train and off ABBA went to the big mainland. Unfortunately, the group got slightly inebriated on the ferry and fell asleep in the back of the bus. When they awoke, the bus had reached Glasgow and on disembarking they became hopelessly lost.
In their confusion, they thought an advert in the paper said Europie Song Contest and so they set off to try their luck, unbeknownst that it was the actual  Eurovison Song Contest they were heading too.

On eventually reaching the Eurovision venue, Stink and the band wandered around getting hopelessly lost until at last they bumped in to Terry Wogan, who was desperately trying to co-ordinate each act and make sure each country went on in the right order.

‘Are you’se the Swedes?’ asked a clearly stressed out Wogan.

‘Yus, we’re The Swedes’ replied Stink, not realising his innocent mistake. No sooner than he’d opened his mouth, ABBA were ushered by Mr Wogan on to the stage and a worldwide tv audience of millions.

The four members of ABBA stood staring at the audience and tv cameras for several seconds until they eventually plucked up the courage to sing one of their favourite songs. This song was written by Bingo and Bogey and celebrated the coming of mains water to Marybank and the ability of the residents of this village to be able to flush the toilet for the first time. The song was of course Water Loo.

Of course, the global audience had no idea what ABBA were singing about in their broad Stornowegian lilt. However, the catchy tune and the repetitive chorus seemed to go down well with the whole of Europe. Once they finished the song, ABBA thought they’d make a hasty retreat from the stage, but were instead ushered into the green room by Terry Wogan where they had to sit there and wait for the results to be announced. Stink had whispered to them to try and grab a few bottles of champagne and make for the exits when no one was looking, so they were unprepared when the final result came in and Water Loo had swept the boards.

Taken totally by surprise, the four members of ABBA were swamped in flowers, praise and applause.  When Terry Wogan thrust a microphone in Bingo’s face, the awestruck singer could only mumble a few words in Gaelic and nod politely. For most of Europe, this strange language sounded Swedish enough. And as for the Swedish nation, they were delighted to have actually won something and so the whole population were happy to go along with the ploy that a wee band from Stornoway were instead from Stockholm.

ABBA had many hit records over the following years and if you listen closely you can hear the Stornoway influence in them all.

Dannsa Queen

Knawing Meat, Knawing Ewe

Ma, My Mini’s (got a flat battery can you give me a push?)

The Winner Ali’s Take Away (about the annual Stornoway curry championship)

Money, Money, Money (originally ‘Crofter Grant, Crofter Grant, Crofter Grant’)

Dè tha thu ag iarraidh (renamed Voulez Vous to sound posher & more cultured)

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man Of The Cloth After Midnight Cos Its Monday Then)

Does Your Mother Know a Cove called Alec Dan from Cromore?

The Name of the Game Soup

Thank You for the Marags

Water Loo