The catchy pop anthems that turned Swedish supergroup Abba into one of the most successful bands in the world were inspired by a Scottish act best known for the hit single, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, it has been claimed.
In a BBC documentary which explores the most influential music acts since the 1950s, the largely-forgotten Glasgow outfit Middle of the Road stake a claim as the original Europop pioneers.
Tony Blackburn thought we were Italian. Ken turned round and said to him, ‘Don’t be stupid, we’re Scottish’SALLY CARR
The programme, Rip It Up, reveals that Abba member Agnetha Faltskog was such a fan of Middle of the Road’s songs that she recorded cover versions in Swedish.
The Glasgow band’s singer, Sally Carr, also discloses that she found out that Abba’s songwriters, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, had admitted how they had used Middle of the Road’s sound as their inspiration for Abba.
However, the documentary – which will be shown on BBC2 on Tuesday – also recalls that despite selling millions of singles around the world, including of their worldwide debut smash Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, it was little known in the music industry or among their fans that they were actually Scottish.
Formed in 1967 by Carr, drummer Ken Andrew, guitarist Ian McCredie and his bassist brother Eric McCredie, the band changed their name from Part Four and hit the big time in 1970 after locating to Italy and meeting record producer Giacomo Tosti.
Despite notching a string of other hits with songs like Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, Soley Soley, Sacramento and Samson and Delilah, Middle of the Road had split up by the time Abba had started to make a name for themselves.
Recalling the impact on the band after relocating to Italy, Carr says in the documentary: “Giacomo was absolutely phenomenal. He knew how to get the best out of us.
“We had hit singles all over the world, in Japan, South America, Singapore and ten in Europe.
“In Britain we made the Guinness Book of Records with Chirpy for being the longest single in the top 100. It was there for a year.
“We were on Top of the Pops five times. It was Tony Blackburn who interviewed us the first time. He actually thought we were Italian. Ken turned round and said to him, ‘Don’t be stupid, we’re Scottish.’
“Agnetha covered two of our hits in Swedish, before she joined Abba. And the two boys Benny and Bjorn, on live television interview, said that they used our sound as a guide for their sound.”
Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep was at the top of the UK charts for five weeks in 1971 and sold more than ten million copies around the world.
Carr added: “Your grannies and your, mums and dads, and your wee tots know Chirpy. They might not remember the name of the group, but by God do they remember the name of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. And I always laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I’m chirpy, but I’m not cheap.’”
The first instalment of the three-part series, which is devoted to Scotland’s first musical mavericks and trailblazers, also recalls how the country’s first pop star was a 15-year-old schoolboy from Edinburgh, Jackie Dennis, who appeared in his trademark kilt before millions of American television viewers on Perry Como’s TV show.
Interviewed for the documentary, he said: “A lot of people thought the kilt was a gimmick, but I was proud to represent Scotland.”