In 1976, 54% of my compatriots watched the local TV special The Best of Abba. That's as many of them as watched the moon landing. The album of the same name is still Australia's best-selling ever.
The rest of the world soon caught the bug. Except the U.S. When the band finally toured here in 1979 (ABBA, SWEDISH QUARTET, IN NEW YORK DEBUT, observed the New York Times), critics compared the foursome unfavorably to Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and the Beach Boys.
But where is your precious Fleetwood Mac now? Does the Internet list more than 50 Eagles tribute bands? (Or any with as good a name as Abbaration?) Did the Beach Boys have a musical on Broadway? They did, actually. It died. Meanwhile, Mamma Mia! has been on Broadway since October 2001. Note the date--a moment when America sorely needed comfort food. It was as if the country had sent out a national sos and Abba supplied the perfect rescue vehicle: SOS.