March 9, 2019

Ed. note: this post contains occasional male chauvinist-pig content. I make no apologies if I offend anyone.

I’ll admit it: this post has been haunting me for quite some time. More than a few false starts, because I start thinking about what I want to write about and then I think: fer gawdsakes, ABBA?? But I’m tired of seeing it on my WordPress dashboard, and besides – it wasn’t all that long ago I did the same thing with Olivia Newton-John – Olivia Newton John! I guess it just goes to show you what’s left to write about when there’s no golf to play for the near future.

Oh, one final word: want to start a good bar-room debate that isn’t political? Just like the seemingly-endless Gilligan’s Island debate involving Ginger and Mary Ann – as if you can tell just about everything about a guy by their preference (I was always a Mary Ann, guy, BTW) – you can do the same thing with the ABBA ladies: the doe-eyed, girl-next-door-with-the-fabulous-ass Agnetha Fältskog, or raven-haired beauty Anni-Frid Lyngstad (a.k.a. Frida), who, with those gorgeous cat eyes, looks like she’d leave you for dead in bed, then threaten you with a knife in your back if you ever, EVER, treat her badly. Look, I appreciate a Swedish beauty like Agnetha like any other guy, but I have to say that Frida was the one that always made my knees knock with those “still waters run deep” persona going on behind those gorgeous eyes.

So let’s get this on and over with, shall we?

10. Chiquitita. Sure ABBA has been accused over the years of writing songs with kind of trite, simplistic hooks, but this song shows that the guys who wrote the songs knew how a good melody could transcend their own Swedish heritage with a sound and melody sounding like it came from south of the Rio Grande. They’d do the same thing (and even better) with Fernando (#6), but this is still a damned good song. The ladies acquit themselves rather well in this live performance, which is “live” only in the fact that they are there in person.

9. Knowing Me, Knowing You. Hook city! Just like everything ABBA seemed to do for a good 6-7 year period the guitar/synth riff – or is it the chorus? – will stick in your brain long after you’ve heard it. Which is, when you come to think about it, everything that pop music used to (and should) be. Like, you know (to quote Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), no profanity and no negativity. Frida takes the lead on this, and she sure looks and sounds good doing it in those gold boots and white miniskirt. The longer flap in back makes a nice fashion touch, although it hides Agnetha’s lovely posterior.

8. The Winner Takes It All. One of ABBA’s last hits, this song almost has an almost-operatic arrangement and feel to it. An unusual song by ABBA’s standards, in that there’s nothing particularly happy about the song: it truly is a downer – a song about a couple’s breakup – but Agnetha’s voice provides the right dramatic effect throughout with (gasp!) actual emotion. It’s almost – for her – a solo performance, and it’s strange to see her sing a song without any trace of that sweet smile of hers.

7. SOS. This song has a kind of European flavor to it with the electric keyboard intro and swirling synth that leads into an eminently-hummable chorus. My ears always enjoyed the way the chorus slides into “…when you’re gone…” because I always pictured some strong distorted guitars giving the song a heavier feel. But this is ABBA we’re talking about – right? So nothing is going to ever get too heavy, even with the quasi-classical (albeit brief) instrumental break and song close. It’s a song about a love affair gone wrong, but it’s what the rock n’ roll was always about: happy melodies telling sad stories.

6. Fernando. To me this sounds like ABBA’s attempt to think outside the box, perhaps even to be taken seriously. Everything here seems to be painted for dramatic purposes: the somber opening and orchestral backing throughout. Frida (who looks especially lovely here, BTW) takes the solo lead on the opening verse, and the BB boys can actually be heard during the chorus. An exquisite piece of pop perfection from beginning to end (not the last time you’ll hear those two words together in this thread.)

5. Dancing Queen. Probably their most well-known and successful song. From the opening glissando into an easy disco groove you could just tell the song was going to be a monster hit. Pop perfection rarely gets better than this: it’s what music (spelled m-u-s-I-c, not n-o-i-s-e) used to be: happy, positive, uplifting. Whenever I hear the song the low harmony on the chorus is always fun to try and sing to. Sure, the moves by the ladies in the video scream hokey, but they are lovely to look at, and they’ve certainly got great material to work with. For ABBA this one was “winner winner chicken dinner” from start to finish.

4. Does Your Mother Know. Another classic piece of pop confection-perfection with a unbeatable hook in the chorus. Björn Ulvaeus takes the lead here but he’s almost a non-factor: the song itself is a romp, reminiscent of 1950s/’60s rock with the ladies stealing the show with their harmonies. Rather than the official video (which is pretty boring), I call your attention to this “live” performance with the ladies dressed in killer white, grinding and twerking their way through the song. Frida appears to be especially exuberant, which makes me think she could really be a party girl when she wanted to.

3. Take A Chance On Me. I dunno, I always liked this song because the a cappella opening is just so interesting and helps the song jump out of the radio and distinguish anything else out there at the time. The song is actually kind of unique in it’s own way, with a chorus and a “middle eight” – a form they would repeat in “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” (see below). The video accompanying the song is also pretty inventive, recalling the old Brady Bunch TV show. It’s just a perfect pop tune with yet another hook that will stay in your brain long after the song is over.

2. Waterloo. There are some songs that transcend time, in that you can remember exactly where you were the first time you heard it. My ears perked up big-time while waiting for my steak and cheese sub order on a lovely warm night in June, 1975. I had just been promised a date with the girl I would date for the next four years, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. Then I hear this song over the sound system and, boy, was I hooked. There aren’t too many songs that just jump off the radio like this one, and that feeling was affirmed while hearing it come over the speakers where I was having lunch while waiting for my car’s oil change last Sunday. The song’s killer from the start. I linked to the original video only because their mid-70s outfits are so preposterous, but what I really want to call your attention to is a clip with the ladies wearing their infamous cat outfits; they even have their names on back. 🙂 To which, all I can say is, not too many girls can pull that look off, but Agnetha and Frida sure did. Kinda reminds me of that Rodney Dangerfield line from Caddyshack: “Looks good on you, though!”

1. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do. My #1 choice because, truth be told, I absolutely adore this song. Once again – as seems kind of typical with ABBA, they have a rather unique way of opening the song (with alto and tenor saxes) that absolutely jumps out of the radio and grabs you from the start. The song, like “Take A Chance on Me” (above) really doesn’t follow the traditional pop form in that there are no verses, per se: it’s all just choruses and a “middle eight” that holds the choruses together with a instrumental break that repeats the opening and chorus. The song has such a late-50s/early 60s romp feel to it one can almost imagine someone like Connie Francis or any of the Phil Spector “girl groups” singing it. I’ve linked to the official video, but as with “Waterloo”, there’s a second “unofficial” video made for Swedish TV that’s worth a look only because of Frida’s performance during it. The whole video is a little odd, but it’s Frida’s performance that catches the eye. I love the way she keeps fishing her wine glass around without getting any, then Agnetha turns to her a few times as if to make sure she’s sticking with “the program”. Finally, there’s that look of smug self-satisfaction at 3:18 when the singing part of the song is over: it’s almost is if she made it through the shoot regardless of what anyone else thought. I just think it’s pleasantly odd and/or awkward. One thing’s for certain, though: the ladies look as sunny and beautiful as their surroundings.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:11 | Comments (0)
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