Like Abba’s hits? Thank this Glas­gow band

Mid­dle of the Road re­veal they in­spired Swedish group’s sound

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By BRIAN FER­GU­SON Arts Cor­re­spon­dent

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 abbc 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.

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.”

“Tony Black­burn thought we were Ital­ian. Ken turned round and said to him, ‘Don’t be stupid, we’re Scot­tish’.”

SALLY CARR

Mid­dle of the Road, left, in­spired Abba, right, with song­writ­ers Benny and Björn ad­mit­ting they used the Scots band’s sound

PIC­TURES: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

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