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 Off on An ABBA Top 10
March 2, 2019

Hard to believe, but three months to the day I last played golf I actually went out and hit a small bucket of balls today. Boy, did it feel good. It was only just a few days ago when, after taking off the splint I have to wear on my right hand while sleeping (all the way though mid-June, BTW), I actually felt like there was finally progress being made in my hand. I could still see the swelling around the bottom of my fingers, but all of a sudden, after taking off the splint upon waking, my hand didn’t feel as if it would shatter into pieces when making a fist. And I could feel after a day’s worth of work the hand didn’t feel as stiff as it normally had been.

So Saturday afternoon I tossed the clubs into the trunk and bought a small bucket over at nearby Kokopelli G.C. It was a perfect afternoon to hit balls: a little light cloud cover, 75 degrees. Lovely. I was rusty, for sure – who wouldn’t be after not hitting balls for three months? – but while still feeling the swelling whenever I would make contact, the worst it ever got was what I would characterize as “mild discomfort”. So I’m going to see how the hand feels tomorrow after putting a little ice on it tonight, and we’ll see what the next steps are.

I’ll tell you this: it felt good to be back!

A few other thoughts:

You probably won’t hear a whole of positives about the President’s epic two-hour CPAC speech today from the usual “fake news” outlets, but if I’m a Democrat strategist for any of the 2020 candidates, I’m no longer unaware of the mountain that’s ahead of me to climb. Incumbents in and of themselves have a baked-in advantage with unaffiliated voters and independents who, regardless of who the incumbent is, prefers the devil they know over the devil they don’t. But Trump’s speech today laid out in very clear and broad strokes the difference between he and anyone he’ll go up against in 2020. Whether it’s immigration, the wall, free speech on college campuses, abortion, or capitalism over socialism, there was – and will be – plenty to differentiate himself from anyone the Democrats field.

…more than that, however, the President showed his sense of humor and ability to relate stories about his time as president by going off-script – something he did often. This in and of itself is going to make any Democrats job that much harder: if there’s one thing all the already-declared Democratic candidates share it’s their divisive tone and utter lack of sense of humor. You may not like anything Trump had to say today, but there was no doubt whatsoever that he was enjoying himself and feeding off the audience. The Trump rallies (which CPAC wasn’t) remain a unique part of the political landscape that no one can, or will, be able to match. And one can only expect, increasingly, more of the same as the 2020 campaign gets underway.

Anyone who watched his speech today would have a damned hard time reconciling the picture of Hitler incarnated being pushed by CNN and MSNBC relentlessly, day after day. One thing I’ve noticed is that this president is increasingly comfortable in these kinds of venues. He’s quick-witted, fast on his feet, knows how and when to point the dagger, and uses humor and his “outsider” personality to paint himself as a defender of the average American and against the Democrats and “The Swamp” of entrenched special and political interests. Unlike the Democrats, he’s not running against anything; he can paint a positive picture of being “for America” while the Democrats flail “against Trump and against capitalism”. If you think that’s a winning message for Democrats, you don’t know politics (think the GOP flailing against Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012), you’ve been watch way too much MSNBC and CNN, and I’ve got some swampland in Florida to sell you.

Speaking of swampland in Florida, I’ve stumbled upon a great writer in the tradition of John D. MacDonald, Randy Wayne White, and Wayne Stinnett. What’s different about Carl Hiaason is his writing style and ability to write with cynical irreverence and humor about Florida and its reputation as, to use Howie Carr‘s words, “a sun-shiney state for shady people.” His books are a breezy and fun read, with laugh-out-loud lines, and interesting characters and plot twists. I’m in the second book of his “Skink series” and it has been an enjoyable experience. Give him a try – you won’t be disappointed.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 19:48 | Comments Off on Weekending – Return to Golf Edition


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