Tag Archives: abba

Eurovision 2013: One week to go!

Is this a news thing? I’m not sure, I don’t have much news because I’ve been purposely avoiding too much online chatter about the rehearsals that kicked off yesterday. But I’m only a week away from going to Malmö, three more crummy days of work (and believe me, today was crummy). I’ve got my OGAE card, I’ve got some crazy fan pass thing that will give me free transportation in Malmö, it’s coming together.

I also have a spare ticket for the first semi-final if anyone is looking for a last-minute trip! It’s a decent one too, get in touch if you’re interested!!

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My ABBA Top 25: #5 – #1

OK time to finish this off. Thanks for the interest, if anyone’s been reading the studio album reviews, or the rest of this countdown, hope you’ve enjoyed it! I’ve got a few more artists catalogues that I’ve written up in the past, so watch this space!

5. S.O.S.

Onto a titanically amazing track from my beloved “ABBA” album. It’s like a song made of hooks, isn’t it? That piano intro, the wall of harmonies in the chorus, just little riffs here and there.

What a cute video too *blue-steels at the camera*. DRIPPING with drama, and a great mix of production considering how their more rocky-soundings never quite compare to the out-and-out pop moments.


4. Soldiers
From The Visitors

Firstly, !!? at this video

ANYWAY, onto what I felt was the PINNACLE of The Visitors. Not only is this JAM-PACKED with deep’n’meaningful lyrics about the threat of war at the beginning of the 80s, it’s such a beautiful song.

That uneven marching beat, the mournful verses, then onto the devastating chorus. That chorus is a thing of BEAUTY and pitched perfectly. The harmonies work like magic. It’s difficult to imagine that a song about burying your heads in the sand against the threat of war would be so UPLIFTING.

It’s always a great but bittersweet feeling when some of an act’s best work ends up on their final album. It’s great to go out on a high, but who knows what they could have made if they’d spent a few more years?


3. Fernando

THIS SONG … well this defeating Soldiers illustrates a point. The power of nostalgia for a long-lost time is that much more potent than Soldiers’ documentation of the uncertainty of the (then) present.

Personally, I don’t know about you lot, but I never fought in the Mexican Revolution. But such are ABBA’s skills that this song makes me feel like I was, and even feel regret that those days are over. RIDICULOUS.

That beautiful intro, those military drums over a tenderly sung first verse from Frida (gorgeous hair for once). It’s a very sentimental song, and totally draws you into this story between two old people reminiscing about a long-passed battle.

Obviously I’m not alone in loving this one, since Fernando is ABBA’s biggest selling single worldwide, and a well-deserved one at that.


2. The day before you came

I came within a SHADE of picking the oddball for my all-time #1, but in the end, it’s an honourable runner-up position for this late entry.

What a fascinating song, and at the risk of repeating my earlier description, I TOTALLY get it. Poor Ag is just going through the motions, living her life on auto-pilot. Not even that sad, just empty and numb. It took her meeting with the song’s subject to realise her situation.

The song itself had a bleak tone despite its happy ending (probably). Frida certainly has a face that could curdle milk in that video. As I said for Soldiers, it’s bittersweet when an act is producing some of their best work shortly before the end of their career.

I love this song, the lyrics are captivating, with Ag not even really KNOWING what she did yesterday, but presuming it was much the same as every day. The music is strikingly sparse, with that odd pigeony sample and a few synths beeping in the background. Her vocals are wonderful, particularly in the emphasis she puts on some of the sections. The sinister synths fade in and out, there are bursts of opera… what an odd song.

It makes the question of their aborted next album almost too hard to consider. Can you IMAGINE?


1. The Winner Takes It All
From Super Trouper

Not QUITE, John. But I hope you won’t judge this countdown just for its champion, particularly when this towering work of genius sits on top of it. While ABBA are very famous for their upbeat pop music, I think it’s really the tales of heartbreak, misery and desolation that they really excel at.

The song details the end of a drawn-out war of attrition in a collapsing relationship. The underlying theme is just that she’s just so TIRED. The other guy came out of this better than she did, or at least so Agnetha thinks. But we are all invited to the pity party, and she’ll cry if she wants to.

I don’t think I need to explain why I think this song is so great, it’s just one of those timeless classics that will always define the blockbusting moments in their back catalogue. It’s fitting that my winner comes from my clear favourite album, the poptastic Super Trouper.

I guess that’s it… apart from one more song

So I’ll say…

I thought this would be a nice finish to it all, considering this is what drove me to buy ABBA Gold in the first place, for my sins!

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My ABBA Top 25: #15 – #6

Right, time for another helping of Swedish pop glory, as I run down another ten of the best from ABBA.

15. Me and I
From Super Trouper

SYNTHS!!! Oh goodness I love this one, it’s MAJESTIC. I’m expecting people to think this is a bit of a WTF moment in an all-time countdown, but what a lovely song, and a perfect example of the upbeat pop that made Super Trouper such a joy.

Some really iffy lyrics here, but it’s a wonderfully fun track about SCHIZOPHRENIA


14. Intermezzo no 1

DON’T START ON ME. I was really rather obsessed with this during the mid-point of my ABBA extravaganza, and I don’t expect anyone to agree with my love for this instrumental.

It’s just so vibrant … just makes me smile every time I hear it. Completely OTT, some really dated electric guitars, but full of energy. I still feel like this should be introducing some sort of telethon or 70s variety show, in the most fabulous way possible.


13. Summer Night City

Time for normal service to be RESUMED, and a late bloomer for me. Keen followers of my ABBA travels will remember that I wasn’t THAT fussed about this in its original form, but the extended intro really turned that one around for me.

Dramatic strings, a slow opening and then WHAM – right into an unstoppable disco BEAST. Love that video too, really helped me make sense of this song. Still not entirely sold on the chorus vocals, but still LOVE THIS (now).


12. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A man after midnight)

From one dramatic string intro to another, and an altogether more NOTORIOUS sample thanks to a certain pop singer with nan hands.

This is treading a tightrope really, it’s been hailed too much as a camp classic, and that’s fine but it can make me cringe without notice. Right now it’s pretty great, but I’m AWARE it might turn at any moment.



11. Kisses of fire
From Voulez-Vous

Random album track time, and one of their catchiest songs IMO. The harmonies hit like a sledgehammer, and that chorus is just dreamy, “Kisses of fire, BURNIN, BURNIN”. Sure, I’m not hugely keen on rhyming with “returning” but we can’t have anything.

This performance is great isn’t it? What a hot mess, are they all on drugs? Is there an AUDIENCE?

Anyway, a GLORIOUS closing track to Voulez-Vous


10. I do I do I do I do I do

“ABBA” was such a fun album, seriously where it all kicked off for me, and possibly running it close with The Visitors for my 2nd favourite. Maybe I’ve got the rose-tinted glasses on already.

One of the crowning glories for that album was this ridiculous drunken aunt of a song. Put me in mind of Muriel’s Wedding quickly, I just think this is brilliant.


9. Chiquitita
From Voulez-Vous

They love the Spanish influences don’t they? A bit of Spanish guitar kicks this one off, with a gentle song of support for poor CHICA. Agnetha’s vocals are so delicate and wonderful, and it builds up into a beautiful chorus, warm enough to melt even the most grossly oversized snowman.



8. When I kissed the teacher
From Arrival

I didn’t quite get into Arrival, certainly not to the degree everyone else seemed to. It was a good album but lacking some of the killer tracks that seem to pepper most of their albums.

But WHAT an opener, an engaging intro makes way for an energetic track with some fantastic ba-da-badada-badada backing vocals. That last 30 seconds or so where it just MAXES OUT.

(shit video)


7. One of us
From The Visitors

Wow… big budget! Luckily the only real hit from The Visitors doesn’t need amazing set-pieces or DISGUSTING Frida haircuts.

I will admit that I got into this via the A*Teens version about 10 years ago, I don’t think the original was big enough a hit to really make it into the public consciousness like some of their big hits did.

I love the sentiment behind it, apologetic but reluctant to make it obvious (until later) that it’s really HER who’s going through all this shit and feeling bad. I feel I could have expressed that better but hopefully you follow.

Anyway, not a bombastic pop song like many of my favourites, but The Visitors didn’t rely on those kinds of tactics, did it?


6. The Name of the Game
From The Album

A rare appearance from “The Album” now. While its stablemate “Take a chance on me” suffered from overplay over the years, as a midtempo I think The Name Of The Game managed to avoid the same fate. As with many of their songs, I discovered it first through other versions; in this case it was Will Young’s perf on Pop Idol.

Love this video, not a lot going on, but some really lovely natural shots going on there. I love the second half, where the chorus is bolstered with additional lines (“Your smile and the sound of your voice”). GORGEOUS

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My ABBA Top 25: #25 – #16

OK guys, now I’ve posted all the album reviews, it’s time to wrap things up with my top 25 ABBA tracks. Here’s ten to get you started. What are your favourite ABBA tracks?


25. Honey, Honey
From Waterloo

Easily a highlight from the Waterloo album, mainly due to it being a bit of a cobbled-together album hastily assembled on the back of their Eurovision. Personally I don’t think it was up to much, and the video here shows they hadn’t quite hit their stride yet, but I think this is a really charming little pop song.


24. Take a Chance on Me
From The Album

Time for a classic, one clinging onto my countdown for now. While many of these songs are brand new to my ears, this is one of the first I knew. As a result it’s taking a dive because of overplay, but I’m sure it will outlive many above it over time.

Gorgeous pop song, with an iconic video (that stuff with Agnetha and the red light behind her is particularly fabulous). Need I say more?


23. Our last summer
From Super Trouper

Super Trouper was great, wasn’t it? Comfortably my favourite album of theirs, and this track still makes me WISTFUL (even though my summers were much of a muchness). Things hadn’t got quite as bummed-out as they would become on “The Visitors” but even the poppier moments had plenty of depth by this stage.


22. As good as new
From Voulez-Vous

Time for a bit of oomph, with Voulez-Vous’s energetic opening track. That string section really raises this from a pretty standard disco track to something quite special. The album might not have ended up my favourite, but it really did have some flashes of brilliance.

MA-MA-MA-MA etc.


21. Happy New Year
From Super Trouper

… and back to Super Trouper we come, with a sweet little seasonal that perfectly captures how shit things are after New Year has passed, and we are faced with a bleak future of writing the wrong year on things, and FUCKING FEBRUARY.

I don’t get why this didn’t really catch on as a permanent fixture. After all, Xmas songs seem to have staying power, and there are LOADS of them. Maybe because this is a bit of a downer.

Gorgeous video though.


20. When all is said and done
From The Visitors

OH ❤ … OK so Frida and Benny’s marriage had hit the skids, but they wasted no time in committing their feelings to paper.

It’s a really strange one, the production makes it sound quite buoyant, and even some of the lyrics make it sounds so amicable (which I suppose it must have been at the time if they were still recording together). But the sadness is equally obvious, it’s almost like she’s too tired to get upset, just wants to curl up and forget the whole thing.

I don’t know, it’s just a wonderful complex song. That’s it really.


19. Under attack

I wonder how good that next album could have been… judging by some of these later orphaned singles, pretty fucking good. This is a real earworm, I didn’t think THAT much of it when I first did the bunch of leftovers, but it’s really grown on me.

That second half of the choruses where the backing really kicks in just makes me smile. I fear I’m going to start repeating myself going on about how good these pop songs are, but there it is.

HATE Frida’s 80s hairdo though!


18. Waterloo
From Waterloo

As a show of good faith that I’m not being a contrary Mary by penalising the more well-known tracks (and you will see that it’s not really the case at all), here is perhaps their most well-known song, or if you’d prefer, certainly their most important. What would the ABBA story have been without Waterloo?

Anyway, not much more I can say about this, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this song. There’s the dramatic piano, THOSE costumes … it’s a SEMINAL MOMENT


17. Voulez-Vous
From Voulez-Vous

And straight into another title track, this time from disco triumph Voulez-Vous. I admit I had been put off a bit by the spectre of 1999’s Abbamania when Boy George did his worst on this one. Maybe that’s even helped in the long run, I never exposed myself to this song as much as some of their others.

Anyway, it’s relentless, got a great dark disco feel to it. The bridge is wonderful, and that chorus … VOU-LEZ-VOOOOOUS ah-HAH! *gay coma*


16. Super Trouper
From Super Trouper

And ANOTHER title track to finish off this batch. They certainly didn’t waste any time hiring all those circus folk, looks like they did the Happy New Year video on the same night!

Anyway, the title track to the popstatic Super Trouper, showing clearly their laser-guided talent for brilliant pop hooks. Again there’s that touch of melancholy while everyone around is having what looks like an amazing time.

That’s a pretty beautiful video really, I almost wish I had been around for heights like this, I can’t imagine being able to resist them.

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Review: ABBA – B-sides & Rarities

So this is it, my last clutch of ABBA songs to go through. First of all, thanks to those who provided any tracks I hadn’t already got from the box-set bonus disc. I approach these tidy-ups with some trepidation, but I am pleased to say though, that ABBA didn’t disappoint, and came up with some great stuff that I’m very pleased I didn’t miss.

So, in NO particular order really…

07 Merry Go Round – OK maybe there is some vague chronological order here, and this certainly feels like an oldie. At first glance it’s quite an ordinary mid-tempo effort, not particularly exciting but it’s got a nice structure and a solid melody to it. The chorus isn’t going to rock my world but I like the “Merry Merry” backing vocals in the chorus, especially at the end with the “merry Merry MERRY Merry merry go round”.

06 Santa Rosa – This sort of reminds me of the little Beach Boys I’m familiar with, a bit of a 50s surf-shack rock’n’roll feel to it. Can’t say I’m too fussed with it, the guys’ vocals could never really compete. They are tuneful but unadventurous, and without the hooks of Merry Go Round. Zzzz

07 Hovas Vittne – I gather this is a birthday song for one of the guys (I forgot which one), but possibly the first Swedish song I’ve heard during this whole escapade. It’s an interesting language isn’t it? The song is a bit of throwaway fluff but pleasant enough for its duration. Has a bit of a tropical feel to it, doesn’t it? I might have even heard Honolulu mentioned…

07 Crazy World – So more 70s stuff with male vocals, joy! Actually this isn’t bad, his vocals are a bit miserable or tired, so I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be happy or not (the lyrics would suggest he is, most of the time). It’s a bit easy-listening but relaxing, I love that 70s sound if I’m honest. Certainly wouldn’t pick this as one of my faovurites though.

08 Happy Hawaii – Was this previously “Why did it have to be me?”? I seem to remember being indifferent to that, but this is rather fabulous. Naff as anything but I like it. I guess this was from the Waterloo era then? Love the harmonies on this, got a nice swaying rhythm to it doesn’t it? Not much I can say about it (apart from their pronunciation of Hawaii), but it’s a fun few minutes and an improvement on the original.

09 Summer Night City – Woo, a sudden change of pace now, firmly disco in territory. It’s a decent album track and possibly the first lost treasure so far. The chorus vocals are a bit too breathy, I don’t like that much, but I like the production. I feel like they could have put something a bit more SOARING on top of it. That intro is WONDERFUL though.

05 Medley – Oh god, WTF is this? Didn’t really get on with this. Some interesting/weird choices of songs here, the first putting me in the mind of King Kong Song, which is NOT A GOOD THING. Then a rather UN-seamless transition to “On top of old Smokey”!?? I mean it’s a nice enough song, but what’s going ON? Then some strange carousel glam-rock nonsense at the end. Is there really a sheriff in Euston?? Sorry, not for me, this is a HOT MESS.

06 Put on your white sombrero – I swear I’ll start liking these soon… but not yet. What a cheesy faux-latin synth intro! Naff doesn’t BEGIN to describe it! I’m interpreting this as her breaking up with some guy living in a fantasy world, evidently with some cowboy theme to it. Maybe he’s a stripper? Either way, the song doesn’t really get away from squawky Margarita Pracatan territory does it?

07 Just Like That – I will say first, this is the “full version” I have that’s quite LQ. I’ve got that pop mix now so I’ll give that a bash soon. It’s a bit closer to what I’ve been accustomed to on their albums though, instead of the rather gimmicky offcuts I’ve got through so far. It’s hard to judge an unfinished product fairly, but it’s a pretty solid effort. The choruses are a bit iffy, seem to get some good mileage out of the rhyming dictionary at least. Would have been interesting to hear the finished production.

08 Lovelight – A bit more like it, more disco fun from later on in their career. Lyrically I’m not a big fan of this, especially that odd bit about her grubby ceiling looking better when her beau is around, I guess when she’s on her BACK, the dirty cow. Most words rhyming with “light” get thrown into the mix at some point, but the song itself is catchy enough. Not a classic but a solid album track. Can’t help but feel I’m going off it a bit already.

09 Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (a man after midnight) – See, part of me finds this a bit cringey. I suspect it’s the same part who still remembers Denise Van Outen doing this on Abbamania all those years ago, or the sitcom of the same name… But now I’m coming back around to this. The intro with those STRINGS, obviously that bassline (somewhat trumped by the beefed-up 21st century Madonna take that I couldn’t avoid mentioning). I love that string section immediately before the choruses though, DRAMATIC. I’m torn really, I still find this a bit naff and can imagine awful drag acts doing this. But that dance breakdown is pretty special too… if I was listening to this before the rest of the world had put their connotations on it, this would be fabulous.

08 Elaine – I know this was rated highly but I can’t see how this is a 10/10 moment. In the context of the songs I’ve just written up, it’s very good, but the vocals I find a bit migraine-inducing, and I don’t really like those Sou-u-u-u-u-ulll bits, such a weird effect. The production is lovely though, very bouncy and uptempo. Just can’t really get on board with the VOX. I can’t lose my shit for EVERY song, guys.

07 Should I laugh or cry – Not a fan of this, I like the simple production but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Pleasant enough but totally unmemorable. Apart from that bit about big balloons maybe. Oddly though, despite my indifference, I could feel it going well on an album, even if it is a bit fillery.

07 Åh, Vilka Tider – Hmm … maybe I was just in a great mood last time I listened to all these, this write-up feels quite negative! Another Swedish one now, of origins I’m yet to look up on Wikipedia. I guess this also goes back a bit, feels like their older stuff certainly. OK of course I don’t know what it’s about, I don’t know Swedish, but it’s quite a bouncy fun track, a bit cheesy and 70s, but it’s cheese from the 70s, what did I expect?

08 You owe me one – Squeaky disco intro leads into a fun/odd little tune that rhymes Bahamas with dramas. Not quite following what’s going on here, is she demanding a holiday from her other half to get away from him?! Strange chorus, ooh-hoo, ah-haa. It’s all a bit weird really but very catchy. Wouldn’t say it’s one of my favourites or anything but it’s a fun listen.

10 Cassandra – OH LOVE THIS. What is it about? It feels like it’s based on a famous person, but I’m yet to find what it’s about. I only say that because of the intriguing story that never really explains what’s going on? What was she warning? What happened to her family? Has she been run out of town? It’s a very emotive song, a sympathetic ballad for this woman, but I don’t know what’s going on. The tune isn’t hugely exciting, more latin-influenced melody but the vocals are glorious and full of pity. How sad

09 Under Attack – Another strong pop song, with some great verse vocals on a pretty simple synth bed. Doesn’t really fit much with the pretty standard pop chorus, but the harmonies in the second halves of the choruses are just gorgeous. I’m not going to lose my shit over this, but it’s a really solid pop song all the same, just a shame it never emerged on a future studio album.

10 The day before you came – Now THIS is the SONG. God I love this. Very simple synths, with that memorable pigeony effect. A devastatingly downbeat day-in-the-life of this woman, I hate to say but I totally get this song. It took me a while to notice some of the more interesting aspects. She isn’t really recounting her day at all, her life was so monotonous and joyless that she can’t even REMEMBER the day before, just assuming it was the same as always (shit). It’s such a sad song too, never once focusing on the following day when we must presume things changed. Did it even change for the better?? It’s easy to imagine she must have found a new guy, but why the melancholy, was it the REAPER? Just a theory. Her vocals are wonderful, emphasising at unexpected moments, and bolstered by that ethereal opera in the background with the pulsating synths. I just get this song, I feel like this quite a lot, and so I love it.

10 Fernando – Finishing on what was quite a well-known one for me. For something so familiar, it’s suddenly blossomed for me, that opening few lines over shimmering percussion and a sole marching drum tapping away. The story makes me feel so sad, not that it is particularly, but it’s full of nostalgia between the titular character and the singer, reminiscing about a battle they were involved in many years ago. Now they are old and grey, but the memory is still firmly implanted. The vocals are just perfectly pitched, I love them. I even got a bit misty the other day, I don’t even know what the battle was! I’m guessing the reference to the Rio Grande puts it in Mexico? Anyway, that chorus is gorgeous and unforgettable. Amazing.

So that’s it! It’s been a lot of fun, and while I had my reservations about wading through the b-sides and everything else, it’s thrown up a few all-time faves for sure. We’ll see where they figure in the overall chart as soon as I’ve had a think about it.

Keepers for the iPod – Fernando, The day before you came, Under attack, Cassandra, You owe me one, Gimme Gimme Gimme.


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