On the 'tube

A Gift from Sweden - ABBA

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I have the ability to enjoy a pop song much like I have the ability to enjoy a rock song. I can appreciate the songwriting qualities of each. ABBA's popularity also came at a time when I was residing in Europe and so I saw them through a different set of eyes perhaps then if I were residing in the States.

As for the costumes, I think that there were two factors at work there:

  • It was, after all, the disco era. Even here in the States, the costumes worn to discotheques would be considered hideously silly using today's standards.

  • There was also a cultural aspect to this, I believe. It was always my observation while I lived in Europe that the Europeans had a simpler, more naïve view of entertainment while we Americans tended to be a bit more cynical and perhaps slightly elitist. When I would see some of the schlager singers and the songs that they would sing, I would often say to myself that there was no way that those songs would even make the charts in America. Yet, they were highly popular there. The costumes that the entertainers there would wear were also something that, at times, I thought would never be worn on an American stage. But, again, I think that that was just my American cynicism at work there.

– Ric12string

Me too. Pop song or rock song as long as I like it.

Meatloaf, was on Politically Incorrect years ago and someone referred to The Beatles as a pop band and he took offense and said they were no pop band but a rock band. I get his point, but on another level I disagree with him. I say they were both pop and rock but not necessarily a "pop rock" band. The were a rock band, that is for sure but they could write pop songs and record them just as well as their straight forward rock songs. The Beatles were asked if they were Mods or Rockers and Ringo appropriately replied that they were Mockers. Take that Meatloaf. LOL. Nah Meatloaf seems like a nice guy.

Now is Meatloaf pop or rock? That "I'll do anything for you ..." song was a big popular hit but he did start off as rock.

27

Did it in '79.

28

In defence of ABBA not being a "disco" band:

Compared to many other Disco Acts, ABBA wasn`t really "disco".The tunes were a little simple, definitely pop-y and generally upbeat in nature (Winner Takes It All notwithstanding), But ABBA was (in my mind) much more of a lyric band than disco.

To me, "true" disco is more along the lines of Donna Summer (Last Dance), Andrea True (More, More, More), Vicki Sue Robinson (Turn the Beat Around), Sister Sledge (We Are Family), Alicia Bridges (I Love the Night Life), KC & The Sunshine Band (That's The Way I Like it), Rose Royce (Car Wash), The Trammps (Disco Inferno), and many more. Each is typified by repeated vocal lines (how many times can Donna Summer sing "ooo, love to love ya, baby!" in one 3:00 cut?) and a straight up, 4/4 drum beat compressed to then unfathomable levels, which the meters told us was the loudest item on the record. Moreover, a great percentage of them seem to be completely concerned with sex (Remember Andrea True?)

By comparison, ABBA's lyrics were more complex, more story-telling in nature, and often anything but happy. If you didn't know the tune to this one, you'd be excused for thinking a Leonard Cohen devotee might have written it instead of Benny Andersen.

"Half past twelve

And I'm watching the late show in my flat all alone

How I hate to spend the evening on my own

Autumn winds

Blowing outside my window as I look around the room

And it makes me so depressed to see the gloom

There's not a soul out there

No-one to hear my prayers!"

A lot of ABBA songs contained imagery that was in sharp contrast to the upbeat, pop-infused music we all danced and sang to. Without referencing the titles, these words tend to be more gloomy than upbeat.

"I don't want to talk, if it makes you feel bad"

"You're enchained by your own sorrow. In your eyes there is no hope for tomorrow.."

"Money Money Money- must be funny in a rich man's world!"

"I work all night - I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay!" (been there! )

"I'm nothing special- in fact, I'm a bit of a bore!"

"Now we're old and grey, Fernando- and since many years I've never seen a rifle in your hand.."

And this one, echoing sentiments I've heard before from some well-known entertainers- pretty dark thoughts coming from a pop singer:

"I was sick and tired of everything

When I called you last night from Glasgow;

All I do is eat and sleep and sing

Wishing every show was the last show!"

Can you name that Top Ten song? How about the others? Without the titles or tunes, ABBA takes on a different aura, at least to me, at any rate

Compared to "I want your body, I want your body!", "Turn the beat around!, Love to love you baby!", "It was so entertaining when the boogie started to explode!" (one of the longer lines in the Disco era), and the rest, ABBA was much more thoughtful. We just got sucked in by the beat and most of us paid little attention to the lyrics beyond "Dancing Queen, feel the beat from the tambourine!".

29

Anyone ever notice that ABBA was actually an anagram for BAAB?

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Someone in the band was apparently heavily influenced by classical music. And as I think about it a bit more, I'd bet that Benny and Bjorn were deliberate in their songwriting to include disco, bubblegum, classical, Broadway/theater, pop, rock, and ethnic folk music influences to broaden their appeal to a worldwide audience. Seems like it worked.

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Didn't mind them in the day, but preferred other styles. Saw a doco years ago with Benny showing how he created some of those songs, very intricate but sounding very simple. S.O.S. was always my favourite.

The bride and kids still love ABBA, and every time one of the tribute bands, (either BABBA or Bjorn Again) roll around, you'll find them there !!

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I'd bet that Benny and Bjorn were deliberate in their songwriting to include disco, bubblegum, classical, Broadway/theater, pop, rock, and ethnic folk music influences to broaden their appeal to a worldwide audience. Seems like it worked.

Perhaps. They have also said that they were inspired by all the different kinds of music that was played on the Swedish public service radio at the time. And they are right about that; it was truly fabulous. There was one channel for popular music (and one for classical music, which still exists) and it had it all. There were special programs for many different genres: blues, country, old jazz, soul, troubadours, even punk rock, and they were led by knowledgeable hosts, several of them strong personalities. It all ended when someone found out that this wild mix could not be allowed; that you had to target specific age groups with their specific preferred music instead. So they split that channel in two and the magic was gone. And of course those program leaders disappeared as time passed. Anyway, there is a quote at the Abba museum in Stockholm were they say that they think they had an advantage over their competitors in pop song writing thanks to the Swedish radio music policy at the time. Something like that. I'm not a fan, and was dragged to that museum by someone who is, but I have to say that they made some really great tunes.

33

ABBA were no more disco bands than Queen or Rod Stewart even though they had a hit song each that may have been disco influenced. No more disco than Blondie was reggae.

ABBA were around before disco and after.


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