ABBA & THEIR MUSIC - Jim Colyer
ABBA & THEIR MUSIC - Jim Colyer
I have been an ABBA fan since I first heard them. They are the brightest, freshest thing to come out of the rock era. They are the greatest of all time. They articulate. Their music has depth and lends itself to interpretation. It functions on many levels, from the juvenile to the intellectual. We see tidbits of the psychological, the sociological and the spiritual. There is a well-rounded humanness.
What does their music mean? What does ABBA sing about? Basically, ABBA's music is about men and women trying to make it in the real world. It is about love, tripping and falling and trying again. True, the characters are flawed but they are the first to admit it. They strive honestly and sincerely in the midst of the human condition. Forgiveness and compassion are hallmarks.
ABBA music reflects that slice of humanity between ages 10 and 40. It speaks of friends, school, military service and work. Work is routine but serves as a means of coping with emotional stress. ABBA lyrics most often show us the best in people, though the darker side is not neglected. The listener is showered with an array of opposites, subjective responses to given situations.
Dualities are: men/women, life/death, strength/weakness, daylight/darkness, joy/sorrow, freedom/confinement, inspiration/gloom, courage/self-doubt, warm/cold, sun/rain. The video of One Man, One Woman illustrates our opposing natures. The faces of the four singers are shown half lit, half in darkness. Still, ABBA leaves us with a positive feeling. The overall impression is that everything will be alright. Whether or not ABBA's tolerance can be linked to their country's foreign policy is anyone's guess. Sweden has been at peace for 190 years. The Swedes have ties with NATO but maintain neutrality.
The self-containment of ABBA is typical of the Swedes. As a people, they are reserved and friendly. There are about 8 1/2 million of them, and they have a high social consciousness. Their capital city of Stockholm is built on 14 islands.
Sweden's geographical position had its influence on the music. Northerly latitudes bring long summer days and long winter nights. ABBA is conscious of the seasons as well as seasonal changes in human emotion. Allusions are: "Where is the spring and the summer," The summer air was soft and warm," "autumn chill," "autumn winds," "in the winter night."
To ABBA, music is not an end in itself but a device for dealing with life. It is practical. Still, it has an aesthetic side. Their music as a whole looms like a large tapestry. It is art. Many of the songs are like paintings, full of detail, light and shadow.
The group sings of magic: "It's magic," You can do magic," "Something like a magic spell." These incantations describe the feeling of being in love.
There are references to angels. What are the reasons for invoking these angels? Obviously they are good omens. They imply innocence. They are also fleeting. An angel may be an image or an idea for music.
Experiencing ABBA's music is as good as spending a day at the zoo. Animals are all around. There are species from all 5 groups of vertebrates except for amphibians. Here is a list of animals they have assembled in their musical menagerie. The list is along evolutionary lines.
MAMMALS............................................................Over 4000 species
Doggone beast..........Honey Honey.............................Human sexuality
The beast................. Soldiers............................Killing instinct
Gorilla....................... King Kong Song..............Gorillas are apes. No tails
Monkey......................Sitting In The Palm Tree.............Monkeys have tails
Dogs..........................Super Trouper songbook.........Poodles
Fox........................... Frida's costume.........Black and white fox on green costume
Tiger.........................Tiger..............2 species, Bengal & Manchurian
Cat........................... Just Like That.....Compares her lover to a cat
Horse........................ Put On Your White Sombrero..Hooved mammals are called ungulates.
Calf............................I Am The City The fatted calf
Sheep........................ABBA In Australia.....Sheep ranches drive Australia's economy.
Rabbit........................Agnetha's costume.....Brown and white rabbit on red costume
Kangeroo...................Cover of the album......Kangeroos and opposums are marsupials.
Opposum....................ABBA In Australia...Marsupials are primitive mammals, carrying their young in pouches.
Birds of passage.........When All Is Said And Done...Human migration
Pretty birds.................Take A Chance On Me....Slang for female in England
First Birds..................SummerNight City.....Benny did an album about bird song in Sweden.
Eagle.........................Eagle, That's Me.....The eagle is a U.S. symbol.
Dove.........................That's Me.............Bird of peace
Cockatoo..................ABBA In Australia........A species of parrot
Seagulls............... ....Move On..........Seagulls in Stockholm Harbor
Snowbird...................Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)....Anne Murray song
Duck.................... .....Lay All Your Love On Me..........Sitting duck
Reptiles and fish are on the endangered list. The only reptile is the diamond snake Bjorn calls Fernando in ABBA In Australia. The single fish is the goldfish in Elaine.
Invertebrates are represented. There is a spider in Man In The Middle. He has 8 legs, not to be confused with the 6-legged insects. The butterflies of Andante, Andante are insects. Agnetha hangs a butterfly picture in the One Of Us video.
What about technique? Let's look at the contour of ABBA's music. Their early albums progressed from Beatle-era influences to the funky sounds of the mid-1970s. But this still was not them. ABBA hit their stride in the disco wave of the late 70s. By then, they were producing tightly honed numbers backed by a pulsating beat. Their lyrics were highly sophisticated. Their final albums are rich in meaning and symbolism. If Ring Ring is naive, Super Trouper and The Visitors probe life's complexities.
Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus are the best songwriters pop music ever produced. Bjorn's lyrics flow naturally from the mood and melody of each piece. Suspended and diminished chords accent nuances. Benny's keyboard work is convoluted yet supportive of vocals. The innovative drumming of disco makes the drums a true instrument. The sound becomes persistent! A heartbeat!
As writers, Benny and Bjorn usually stick to the double verse and double chorus formula. Bridges are used sparingly. There is repetition in their titles, two or three words: Honey Honey, Andante Andante, Money Money Money, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Titles consist of a sentence, a phrase or a single word. I describe their tempo as "a moderate rock shuffle with a lilt."
Rhyme schemes are conventional: sad bad, you true do. There is imaginative rhyming, such as caviar with fat cigar. The idea of the song is not forfeited for the sake of rhyme, which is important. A good song has a core. It is about something, not a string of rhymed cliches. It tells a story or expresses an emotion from a unique angle.
ABBA made language the servant of experience. Their lyrics are not gimmicky. "I was so lonesome. I was blue. I couldn't help it. It had to be you." This is real language. People think and talk this way.
Fernando is so well-written. The alliteration is easy, all those Fs: "fight for freedom, feel, friend, fire, Fernando." Alliteration is the repetition of initial sounds, and ABBA lyrics abound with it. Look at the Ws in Waterloo: "Waterloo, won the war, wanted to, win when I lose." This gives concreteness to a song. It is as if they rhyme entire phrases. Miraculously, the recurring sounds never interfere.
Something else they do is use a word twice with a second or even 2 or 3 or 4 words between them.
Every hour, every minute
Knowing Me, Knowing You
One man, One woman
feeling lost, feeling blue
People need hope, people need loving
Two friends and two true lovers
The usual place, the usual bunch
Tie your hands and tie your feet
Building me a fence, building me a home
A horrible dream some of us will dream
Kiss like I used to kiss you
ABBA's early songs reflect the stage. The lyrics are direct, communicative. Their later stuff is studio oriented. Benny and Bjorn became observers. They wrote about people rather than to people. The energy of their early years went into content.
Many of the songs are long: Eagle 5:51, The Day Before You Came 5:50, The Visitors 5:49. The longer ones appear on the later albums. The whole continuum is a profusion of melody, caressing the vocals from all sides. All the tracks: guitar, keyboard, bass, horns and drums revel in this celebration of melody. They emanate from it, lacy, decorative, female!
It is a matter of hard work and purpose, knowing your music and your musicians. Such unity in the production is why ABBA's music will last.
I did an analysis of 110 ABBA songs, dividing them into 9 categories. The categories cut across the albums. They came about after concentrated listening over time. Certain songs began to point to and coalesce with other songs that had similar themes. My comments often take the form of fragmentary thoughts and impressions.
These 110 songs fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Once connected, they form a picture of youth. When ABBA closes their eyes in Like An Angel Passing Through My Room, they are passing into middle age. The creative fires will burn low from then on.
The 9 categories, simplified, are: 1) Love songs 2) Breaking up 3) Reconciliation 4)War 5)Portraits of women 6) Music 7)Night life 8) Childhood 9) Travel
LOVE SONGS - SEXUAL FULFILLMENT
1 BANG-A-BOOMERANG - You get love because you give it. The lyrics are reminiscent of two Elvis songs, Surrender and Return To Sender. ABBA was the successor to Elvis and The Beatles. Whereas The Beatles failed in bringing their wives into the group, ABBA succeeded. ABBA was the Swedish Fab Four.
2 GONNA SING YOU MY LOVESONG - Jockeying for position in a love triangle. ABBA did an abundance of positive songs, those which show life to be good and love to be attainable. It is uncertain what effect a writer's lyrical content has on his life and on the lives of others, but satisfying relationships ought to be advertized.
3 HE IS YOUR BROTHER - Humanitarian love. Concern for one's fellow man was a popular theme as public opinion turned against the Vietnam War.
4 HONEY HONEY - She learns about him and wants to know more. He kisses her, holds her and does his thing. The love maxchine thrills her, leaving her dizzy. Sexy.
5 I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO - 5 times. Count them. They are remarkably tolerant. No hard feelings. Nostalgia
6 I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU - Agnetha is in ecstasy. She uses words like "thrill, excite, delight, adore & release." ABBA means love.
7 JUST A NOTION - Watching to touching. Just A Notion came out on the box set, Thank You For The Music. It turned up in the Undeleted medley, thanks to the Carl Magnus Palm book.
8 KISSES OF FIRE - The moment of orgasm! Burning, burning! No returning! Caught in a landslide!
9 LAY ALL YOUR LOVE ON ME - Total love but almost to a fault as jealousy and possessiveness set in. She resents how easily she was taken. This continues the train of thought in Kisses Of Fire. Smoking is a vice which Agnetha gave up although it took a tonsil operation.
10 LOVELIGHT - The glow and inspiration that comes with being in love. The way the verses lead up to the choruses illustrates the contrast between darkness and light. The choruses radiate. They lift the listener out of his chair.
11 LOVERS (LIVE A LITTLE LONGER) - Links sex with longevity. Making love is what the doctor ordered, and we have a lady physician. Writing from the female point of view, Benny and Bjorn showed an understanding of and a deep appreciation for women. They are masters of feminine psychology.
12 PEOPLE NEED LOVE - The first real ABBA song. They combine love, trust, faith and hope. Women are compared to flowers. They need men like flowers need rain. The sexuality is implicit. The flower is a vagina. The rain is semen. Agnetha yodels.
13 ROCK ME - Epithet for making love. ABBA songs display a wide range of feelings but do so with the utmost taste.
14 SHE'S MY KIND OF GIRL - Bjorn could be singing about Agnetha early in their relationship. We hear the Beatle influence on Benny and Bjorn before they came into their own.
15 TAKE A CHANCE ON ME - Determination brings the certainty of success in love. This idea of taking a chance is a recurring theme. We jump at opportunities! The guys chant. Dig the instrumentation coinciding with, "It's magic!" This was a big hit, going to #3 in The U.S.
16 THE NAME OF THE GAME - Tentative but eager. Her lover helps her express herself. For Benny and Bjorn, the name of the game would be Chess. The horn accompaniment is interesting.
17 TROPICAL LOVELAND - ABBA's Garden of Eden. Rainbow, moon, bluebirds, sky, grass, trees, song and love. An ode to nature. Two people sharing something good.
18 UNDER MY SUN - The sun shines ubiquitously across this soundscape. It is not to be taken for granted in Scandinavia, that Super Trouper in the sky.
BREAKING UP - PARTING WAYS
1 ANGELEYES - The hollow feeling of being replaced contrasted with former feelings. We see the irony and fickleness of love. I toured The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1977, the year of ABBA's breakthrough in the U.S. Their musical mosaic blends well with the paintings of 18th century France, especially the works of Boucher. Dum Dum Diddle. AngelEyes. Elaine. Frills and delacacies of Rococo.
2 ANOTHER TOWN, ANOTHER TRAIN - Can't settle down. A farewell letter. Cassandra left in the morning rain.
3 DANCE (WHILE THE MUSIC STILL GOES ON) - Some of ABBA's partings are just cases of love running its course. No one is to blame, and there is mutual acceptance of the inevitable. One last dance or one more toast symbolizes the parting on friendly terms. Even so, there is sadness here. Dance is a thumbnail sketch of two people clinging to their last scrap of love.
4 DISILLUSION - Poignant and open. Her lover is no longer accessible. We sense the confusion which attends a broken romance. Wishing, hoping, changing, wondering. The only ABBA song composed by Agnetha.
5 HAMLET III - Benny's stirring keyboard gives way to the painful memory of "happy autumn days." A Michael Tretow working title.
6 I SAW IT IN THE MIRROR - His refection tells him it is over. Bjorn did some lead singing on the Ring Ring album.
7 IF IT WASN'T FOR THE NIGHTS - Active days but lonely nights. Temper tantrums are followed by fear. The women in their music have office jobs. They pay bills and struggle.
8 KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU - The empty house and familiar rooms imply divorce, incompatibility. Children are involved or maybe the couple played like children.
9 LIKE AN ANGEL PASSING THROUGH MY ROOM - A complex song. Themes converge. We find sleep, even death. The angel may be the fading recollection of the ABBA years. The ticking of the clock gives a sense of passing time, a mingling of past and present. This is the last song on the last album. The Visitors is strange. There is a noticable lack of warmth. We sense anxiety, "the funny tricks of time" and, finally, resignation.
10 MERRY-GO-ROUND - The circle of falling in and out of love. Without love, life is confusion.
11 MY LOVE, MY LIFE - Looks convey the unspoken. The eyes mirror the soul. Mirrors and reflections crop up a lot. Even in the way their initials are written, the first B is a mirror image of the second B.
12 OUR LAST SUMMER - She had fond memories of her lover who has settled down to a conventional life. She is the one with the fear of getting old. This unique song takes us to Paris. We visit The Eiffel Tower, The Notre Dame and The Louvre. Leonardo de Vinci painted The Mona Lisa. The guitar solo is spectacular.
13 PUT ON YOUR WHITE SOMBRERO - The lady gives her suitor a tongue lashing. He is a macho Spaniard.
14 SHOULD I LAUGH OR CRY - Sarcasm at the end. A hardness which is rare. It is a legitimate response to one partner becoming tyrannical. He rants and raves, trying to impress. She feels contempt. She liked his small philosophy in Our Last Summer. Larry's paradox.
15 THE KING HAS LOST HIS CROWN - Mocking, taunting. The guy with the angel eyes gets his. Sweden has a monarchy. That is why kings and queens are always popping up. We do not find this in American music. Sweden's king is Carl Gustaf XVI. Silvia is his queen. ABBA performed at their wedding. Bjorn said this song referred to no king in particular. Playing it safe!
16 WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE - Mature people going their own ways. A tribute to the human spirit, still striving. The instrumental blitz before, "It's so strange!" is an attention getter.
17 WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE ME - He was serious. She was having fun. He is not angry but curses his luck. The melody came from Happy Hawaii.
RECONCILIATION - BREAKING UP & MAKING UP
1 AS GOOD AS NEW - Restoration and continuance of a romance. This kind of retraction is typical. Leaving was a mistake.
2 CRAZY WORLD - He mistakes her brother for a boy friend. Misunderstandings occur even when people are in love.
3 DREAMWORLD - She is upset because her love is unrealistic. She urges him to face reality. The background vocals drive the verses. They contrast with the rest of the song. There are all kinds of checks and balances in ABBA's music. Certain titles are jammed together to distract from what might appear as cliche. DreamWorld. SummerNight City. AngelEyes. The titles are not as important as the force of this classical approach to rock and roll. DreamWorld oozes.
4 HASTA MANANA - The desire for reconciliation. Waiting for a letter. It is Spanish for "until tomorrow."
5 LOVE ISN'T EASY (BUT IT SURE IS HARD ENOUGH) - Love is something to work at. It must be periodically renewed. A country into.
6 MAMMA MIA - Realization that spats are par for the course and that love conquers all. A #1 in England.
7 ONE MAN, ONE WOMAN - Reconciliation is mutual and immediate. Morning grumpiness within the context of commitment.
8 ONE OF US - Wistful, yearning. She thought her lover was holding her back. "One of us" could refer to her as opposed to him or to one part of her split personality.
9 RING RING - By the telephone, hoping. ABBA did Ring Ring in the 1973 Eurovision contest but lost. Agnetha said she was glad they lost because she was pregnanat. They won the contest the following year in Brighton, England. Ring Ring was the title cut on their first album. Only their 4 names were on the cover. Stig had coined the acronym, ABBA, but had to negotiate with a fish canning company of the same name before using it. Strangely, the word, "ABBA," is a word for father or God in The Bible. It appears 3 times in The New Testament. Ring Ring was rereleased following the Eurovision victory. Neil Sedaka wrote the English lyrics. Listen to Benny run his finger down the keyboard. It is called Glissando.
10 SOS - The desire to recapture feelings and a cry for help. It could be Save Our Ship or Save Our Souls. A Baroque sound! ABBA drew from the rich tradition of European composers. They combined rock and roll music with classical. Classical chords lent a shimmering, resilient texture.
11 THE WAY OLD FRIENDS DO - Misunderstandings are inevitable between friends and lovers. They must be worked out if relationships are to endure. Are we speaking of the friendship between Agnetha and Frida here? Is it the rapport between ABBA and their fans? Most likely, it is the longstanding friendship between Benny and Bjorn. Benny Andersson had the friendliest grin in the music business. He was perfectly at ease. Bjorn reminded me of Jimmy Carter, America's president when they were at their peak. This song is a hymn.
WAR - BATTLE OF THE SEXES - RESISTANCE & SURRENDER - INVASION - PURSUIT
1 FERNANDO - Recalling The Mexican Revolution against Spain in 1822. The Spanish roamed the New World in the 1500s. Their colonies broke with Spain just as America broke with Britain. This is an inspiring song and Frida's favorite. It is a testament that friendship can endure into old age. They celebrate the romance of the stars, "They were shining there for you and me, for libery." A scientist only sees distant blobs of hydren gas. ABBA did Spanish versions of the more appropriate numbers. Further evidence of their internatinal appeal. They scored big in South America.
2 SITTING IN THE PALMTREE - Pursuit accompanied by protest. On the Waterloo album, they make monkeys and gorillas out of people on back to back cuts. We find humor.
3 SO LONG - Successful resistance. The attitude toward money is crtainly different from that in Money Money Money. ABBA knew the value of money but also recognized the importance of a strong work ethic. Note the keyboard riffs at the end.
4 SOLDIERS - War and rumors of war. Dancing is combat. Armies are to blame for war but they drag us all in. We must be prepared. Sweden's neutrality is implicit. The martial tone of the drumming is a sign of war. The pale moonlight implies a cloud cover. The song questions the relationship between reality and fantasy. Sometimes, it is hard to tell if things have substance or if they are only happening in our minds. The spectacle of marching armies is taken for granted, as if nothing were wrong. It is in keeping with the prophetic nature of The Visitors album.
5 THE VISITORS - Her home is being invaded. There is a good deal of suspense. The song has political overtones with its secret meetings and its hope of freedom. The KGB may be after a defector. Shades of Chess. I imagined the visitors to be creditors or in-laws. It could be a paranoid Elvis cracking up at Graceland, Napoleon at Waterloo or King Kong being abducted from his island. Contrast the isolation of The Visitors with the gregariousness of Eagle. The Visitors album jacket shows us the space between the 4 members. They are unaware of each other.
6 THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL - A feeling of fate controlling our lives. Our defences are useless. Love is a game, a gamble. We find cards and dice, winners and losers, judges and rules. Is this the story of Agnetha's and Bjorn's divorce? It was her favorite song. She liked the way it rolls on with no apparent beginning or ending.
7 UNDER ATTACK - Shaky resistence. No strategy. She is on the eve of Waterloo! Sexual images: taking cover, falling apart, about to crack, on my track, defences (hymen) breaking.
8 WATCH OUT - Pursuit. The chase. At first, the explosion at the end seems to be something tacked on. Then, we realize it stands for the man's penetration of the woman. It is the sound of an ejaculation amplified a million times. She is a virgin no more. Sexuality is at the core of our being. It is a strong, compelling part of our psychology. The penis seeks out the vagina. The vagina yearns for it. How closely between the lines must we read to come up with this? Every note ABBA plays has a purpose. This is the most logical, most well thought out music ever. The Sexual Revolution began with Elvis Presley, continued through The Beatles and on to ABBA.
9 WATERLOO - The battle of the sexes is compared to the Napoleonic Wars. The woman surrenders as Napoleon did. The difference is that she likes it. Waterloo is in Belgium. Napoleon was defeated there in 1815 after returning from the island of Elba. Following Waterloo, he was exiled a second time on the island of St. Helena. Funny that both Napoleon and ABBA are associated with islands. Waterloo went to #6 in The U.S.
10 YOU OWE ME ONE - Frida is putting up some resistance. She tells Benny to send her on a vacation. Spending time on their island in the Swedish archipelago, it is not surprising that islands creep up in their music, whether it be The Bahamas or Hawaii.
PORTRAITS OF WOMEN
1 A SIMPLE FOUR LETTER WORD - They are doing comedy, ribbing each other. Each member introduces and describes him or herself.
2 CASSANDRA - Cassandra prophesied the fall of Troy. This could be classed just as easily with the war songs. The Greeks were The Visitors. Cassandra is among those songs with a 1982 copyright and has a strong sense of conclusion. ABBA and Troy fall together. The final hour!
3 ELAINE - A study in frustration: a dead-end street, goldfish in a bowl and tied hands and feet. The reasons behind the frustration are unclear. Even Elaine does not understand them.
4 HEAD OVER HEELS - A motivated lady in an age of women's liberation. Some situations call for assertiveness, pushing through unknown jungles, pushing through the darkness and pushing through the crowd.
5 HEY HEY HELEN - Single parent. She has bought her freedom but will she one day sing Slipping Through My Fingers? Is this Agnetha and Frida?
6 I AM JUST A GIRL - Average people can find love. Shows humility and the acceptance of one's self. Similar to Thank You For The Music except now her consolation is a boy friend instead of talent.
7 JUST LIKE THAT - The girl in The Day Before You Came. It is amazing how they blend such clever lyrics as those of Just Like That with such a smooth melody. Even though there are a lot of words and heavy rhyming, the language never gets in the way of the emotion or the idea of the song. Agnetha delivers without missing a beat, getting that yearning, aching feeling. She holds nothing back, sharing her triumphs and her disappointments. The women in these songs cherish their private lives. They guard their secrets. It is by these secrets, possibly sexual but not necessarily, that they identify their innermost selves.
1 "They wouldn't know her little secrets" - Nina, Pretty Ballerina
2 "Secrets that my paradise can bring" - Tropical Loveland
3 "Suffer and sell our secrets" - Cassandra
4 "My secrets he learned" - Just Like That
There is a desire to open up on one hand and the fear of doing so on the other. I love that winding, twisting saxophone.
8 ME AND I - This is Carrie again contemplating her split personality. Sigmund Freud invented psychoanalysis. "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde" was written by Robert Louis Stevenson. We go back to the 19th century for these two.
9 MONEY MONEY MONEY - She dreams of a wealthy man or winning a fortune, both unrealistic. Las Vegas is her goal. ABBA has a way of voicing the hopes and fears of average people. It was well-publicized that ABBA made big money. The joke was that they were doing more for the Swedish economy than Volvo. ABBA paid taxes far beyond what they would have, had they been an American group. Their loyalty to Sweden was rewarded when the Swedish Postal Service issued a stamp in their honor.
10 NINA, PRETTY BALLERINA - A working girl lives for the weekend. She is like Cinderella in that she goes from a drab existence to her night out.
11 THAT'S ME - Carrie wants love but knows she is not perfect. The eagle and dove compliment each other. The eagle is masculine. The dove is feminine. The banjo adds a lot.
12 THE DAY BEFORE YOU CAME - Hour by hour description of the daily routine. The workaday world is dull but safe. An aversion to politics is seen in the frown brought on by the editorial. Maybe she is just displeased by a particular brand of politics. She likes Dallas. Dallas appeared in April, 1978 and was television's #1 show during the later ABBA years. There was a rumor that Agnetha would make an appearance. Perhaps Benny and Bjorn drew from the shenanigans of J.R. and Sue Ellen. Chinese was the favorite cuisine of Dallas character, Cliff Barnes. The best episodes of Dallas were in the first two years. They should have let J.R. die when he was shot and ended it there. Marilyn French was a novelist of the women's movement. Topicalities date material. The best songs are timeless, a la Dancing Queen. They Day Before You Came was the last song they recorded, August 20, 1982.
13 TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE - This portrays both a woman and a man. It shows to what extent Alice Whiting will go to get a husband. The piece ends with a wedding march even while we are given the feeling that marriage is a trap. There is no mistaking the humor. Our hero works in a train station. Trains are a major mode of transportation in ABBA, another idiosyncrasy of European/Scandinavian lyricists.
1 ANDANTE ANDANTE - The woman gets the fulfillment of her wish in Dum Dum Diddle. The man is playing her like an intrument. Music and sex are synonymous. Andante is a musical term meaning slowly, and that is how she wants it, eye contact and foreplay. His body covers hers like the velvet night.
2 DUM DUM DIDDLE - The woman's need to be played like a musical instrument. We can not help but notice that the female figure is comparable to the violin's shape.
3 HOLE IN YOUR SOUL - Music makes you feel better. Songwriting is compared to painting. ABBA addresses their critics, defending their romanticism and their eclectic taste.
4 I HAVE A DREAM - The power of the creative imagination in helping us to achieve our goals. Inspiration is important: dream, song, fantasy, fairy tale, strategy. Patience is a virtue. One must have a sense of timing because things only happen when the time is right. ABBA's inclusion of human values makes them ideal for children. As part of their 1979 tour, they used a children's choir on I Have A Dream. It is Frida's answer to Thank You For The Music. Agnetha and Frida were treated equally.
5 I LET THE MUSIC SPEAK - More than a song about songwriting, this piece explores the nature of creativity itself. It sees the composer as a medium through which music passes more than as an active manipulator of the music. This assumes music (art) to have some sort of pre-existence and that we only tune into it. The song hints at music's capacity to suggest a variety of emotions and its power to enhance reality. Music is the great reconciler. Look at the imagery. The streets and the alley lead her from the city into the country. Dry leaves imply death. The artist is lost in a valley, a depression. She is blind. Her inspiration is gone. Sleep, death, blindness, writer's block. Music rescues her. Again, the sexual imagery. Music becomes her lover. "I take it to me and let it flow through me." Music is life itself, the voice of God! This is the most elegant of ABBA's songs. It shows opera influences. Painting, poetry and music are one.
6 INTERMEZZO NO 1 - An affair. Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman starred in a film called "Intermezzo." She played a music teacher in love with a married violinist.
7 KING KONG SONG - Songwriting. This would be the original King Kong, made in 1933. There is a scene with natives draped in gorilla skins. "We can make gorillas out of people." The colorized version brings out a resemblance of Agnetha to Fay Wray. An interesting note about King Kong is that in the original, he climbed the Empire State Building. It was new. In the 1976 remake, he climbed the World Trade Center which had been completed 3 years before. King Kong is mentioned again in I'm A Marionette. Like Napoleon and ABBA, Kong was an islander.
8 MEDLEY (PICK A BALE OF COTTON, ON TOP OF OLD SMOKY, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL) - They did this for cancer research. It became the B-side of SummerNight City. It cooks. Frida gives me goose bumps when she breaks into On Top Of Old Smoky.
9 OPUS 10 - Was this to be the instrumental title track for a 1982 album that never materialized? It was used in Chess as the melody for Anthem.
10 RIKKY ROCK 'N' ROLLER - Rikky is still having fun, making her first million.
11 ROCK 'N' ROLL BAND - Music can unite people and bring happiness. Displays ABBA's willingness to rescue people in need. Their songs often contain scenarios with action between characters. This one is a blueprint for Voulez-Vous.
12 RUBBER BALL MAN - Love that bounce, the galloping bass and swishing, slapping drums of disco. The age of polyester.
13 SUPER TROUPER - They admit the discomforts of touring and performing before large audiences. One special person means more than an audience of 20,000. The Super Trouper is the big spotlight, but ABBA is the real trouper for going on with the show. Acappella intro.
14 THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC - The discovery and celebration of talent. Modesty and gratitude.
Musical instruments in ABBA lyrics:
Guitar - Fernando
Guitar - A Simple Four Letter Word
Violin - Dum Dum Diddle
Fiddle - Dum Dum Diddle
Horns - Soldiers
Pipe - The Piper
Bugle - Soldiers
Drums - Fernando
Drums - Soldiers
Tom-tom - King Kong Song
Tambourine - Dancing Queen
15 THE PIPER - The power of music over the audience. Is ABBA the piper? Napoleon? Is the piper the spirit of music which ABBA is following? That the piper seduced everybody in the land suggests that he may not be such a nice guy. Sweden managed to stay out of World War II. Norway, the land of Frida's birth, was overrun by the Germans. In which case, we can think of the piper as Adolf Hitler. The fire in his eyes, we have all seen those tapes of Hitler's harangues at Nazi rallies. His weapons of fear were Communism, the Jews and the spectre of depression which haunted the world in the 1930s. Such horrors were something the peace and love generation found hard to fathom.
1 DANCING QUEEN - The young girl gets out for some innocent fun. ABBA was at the root of the disco-mania of the late 1970s even if this fact is not generally recognized in America. Dancing Queen was the only #1 record they had in The U.S. Besides being the biggest act western Europe had ever seen, their music penetrated and had a liberalizing effect on the countries of the Soviet bloc.
2 GIMME! GIMME! GIMME! (A MAN AFTER MIDNIGHT) - The desire for action and the fear of being left out. She laments the gap between her life and the lives of movie stars. I find 3 allusions to movie stars, in Honey Honey, DreamWorld and Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! The preoccupation is with their glamorous lives.
3 HAPPY NEW YEAR - The disillusionment which follows an all out celebration. Our dreams are realized. Confetti is on the floor, and someone must sweep it up. Still, there is hope for the future. Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" was a futuristic nightmare." Even Huxley picked his title from William Shakespeare's "The Tempest." "O brave new world that has such people in it!" exclaims Miranda. Would you believe "The Tempest" takes place on an island? And that Miranda and Ferdinand play chess?
4 MAN IN THE MIDDLE - The pimp. His 17-year-old has little in common with the Dancing Queen. This is as close to street violence as we get. This man is a spider in a cobweb, an evil thing. Such strong characters! This music is a course in human nature. Lobster and caviar tell us the importance of seafood to the Swedes.
5 ON AND ON AND ON - She talks to two men at a party. One is a pessamistic minister. The other flirts with her. She is there to be picked up. Is this the party in Happy New Year? The displaced minister foreshadows the rise and fall of the Electronic Church. Human rights interest him as much as The Gospel.
6 SUMMERNIGHT CITY - Anticipation of the up side of a night on the town with the understanding that it can not last. This and Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! were on the heels of the Voulez-Vous allbum. ABBA was riding a wave. Disco was rampant with its throbbing, pulsating beat, and sexual encounters were easy.
7 TIGER - The tiger represents the dangers of night life. It could be prostitution, alcoholism or the loss of one's identity. Shadows take the tiger's shape. The headlights become his yellow eyes. The city is a jungle. Still, ABBA are city folk. They cease to function without it.
8 VOULEZ-VOUS - Blistering heat! The woman tells what it is like being picked up in a night club, ritualistic. She reads his mind. She expects no promises and has no regrets. These rules are different from the ones in The Winner Takes It All. Pleny of the ahas which embellish ABBA's music.
CHILDHOOD - YOUTH
1 CHIQUITITA - Demonstrates ABBA's capacity for sympathy. Your best friend and a shoulder to cry on. It will get better. ABBA had a special relationship with children. Music stars associate themselves with causes, and they espoused UNICEF. They gave UNICEF the publishing on this song. When an article came out saying that the group might move to America, children all over Sweden reacted with tears. Chiquitita means little girl.
2 DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW - A young girl tempting a mature male. Is this the Dancing Queen biting off more than she can chew? The guy keeps reminding himself of her age.
3 ME AND BOBBY AND BOBBY'S BROTHER - Longing for the innocence of youth. Suzy-Hang-Around after she won her acceptance. I hear The Beatles' Penny Lane.
4 MY MAMMA SAID - Generation gap. The teenager wants out. Mother/daughter relationships are a frequent theme although rebellion does not play a large part. Mainly, their music serves as a mirror in which the mainstream can view itself.
5 SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS - A mother expresses sadness that her child is growing up. She wonders if she has done all she could. Bjorn insisted their families came first.
6 SUZY-HAND-AROUND - Prepubescent battles. The innocence of The Ring Ring and Waterloo albums is disarming. The only song on which Benny did the lead vocal.
7 WHEN I KISSED THE TEACHER - The girl with the absent-minded smile. Her kiss creates embarassment, but it is okay. The beauty of ABBA's music is that it shows people in real life situations. 3 songs cover 3 levels of education. The girls in Slipping Through My Fingers and When I Kissed The Teacher are in elementary school and high school. Annie in Hole In Your Soul is a college student.
TRAVEL - EXPLORATION - CHANGE - MOVEMENT
1 ARRIVAL - Only two instrumentals were released. This one heralded their arrival on the international music scene. It sounds like bagpipes.
2 EAGLE - ABBA is out of the studio and on the world tour that took them as far as Australia. Air travel turns them into eagles. Geology becomes reality: mountains, forests and seas. Who came flying from far away? Was it The Vikings? Was it Swedish emigrants? Was it ABBA? Eagle conveys the amazement of young people who have burst out and are seeing the world for the first time. The Vikings dicovered America in 1006 A.D., nearly 5 centuries before Columbus. Eric the Red found Greenland, and Leif Ericsson sailed to Newfoundland and the New England coast. Norse mythology was the religion of these Scandinavian explorers, and they loved hearing and telling stories of their gods, Odin, Thor, Baldur and Freyja. Viking domination of Europe lasted between the 8th and 11th centuries, at which time they adopted Christianity. The Normans, or Norsemen, or Northmen who invaded England in 1066 under William the Conqueror were descended from Vikings who had settled on the northern coast of France in the 9th century. Over a period in the 19th century, one quarter of Sweden's population emigrated to America. The eagle is a U.S symbol. ABBA was mindful that their kind of music originated in America, and it was the fulfillment of a dream when they broke into the American market. Listening through a headset, the guitar goes in one ear and out the other. An eagle flying theough your head.
3 EVERY GOOD MAN NEEDS A HELPING HAND - The same melody as Heaven Help My Heart from Chess. Although some of the Chess songs were intended for ABBA, they embody a pain and a cynicism foreign to the group.
4 GET ON THE CAROUSEL - They performed it live in Australia as part of the mini-musical, The Girl With The Golden Hair.
5 HAPPY HAWAII - We are excited about taking a trip. Scan the lyrics for means of transportation. There is a car in So Long, a limousine in Man In The Middle, a plane in Happy Hawaii, a bus in On And On And On, a balloon in Should I Laugh Or Cry, a train in The Day Before You Came and a ship in Cassandra.
6 I AM THE CITY - ABBA's identification with the city is complete, almost mystical. The city throbs, and so does the beat. They are singing of Stockholm. The island city extends its invitation to the incoming traveller.
7 I WONDER (DEPARTURE)- Introspection and hesitation about leaving home. She knows she must face the challenge. This song has a showtune sound. It paints a picture of a community. We see a town with houses, streets and a park. ABBA's music goes beyond disco. It probes the human spirit. It has integrity. There is a coherence that elevates it to the realm of fine art.
8 I'M A MARIONETTE - Loss of control in achieving stardom. The performer is a doll, puppet, pet, clown. ABBA loved to travel and they loved to play and sing. Songs like I'm A Marionette came from being tired, from one too many countries or one too many shows. The solo is a moving train.
9 MOVE ON - Life is constant change. The wind, waves and the turning earth. Where there is a will, there is a way. Some reach their destinations by travelling. Others find purpose in settling down and only travelling through time. Characteristic of The Album.
10 SANTA ROSA - A transitional song sounding more like the 60s than the 70s. The theme is familiar. The artist wants to retreat to the security of the past.
11 WHAT ABOUT LIVINGSTONE - Compares space travel to the great explorers of the past. David Livingstone explored Africa in the 1860s. He was found by Henry Stanley, a newspaper correspondent. Richard Burton was the British explorer who travelled up the Nile to discover its source, Lake Victoria. 500 years of history went down with World War II. European empires broke up. The great explorers who opened up the world between The Renaissance and the early 20th century gave way to American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts. There were 6 moon landing between 1969 and 1972. 12 men walked on its surface. The lady in this song shares their sense of advanture. I located 3 rivers on the musical map: Nile, Seine and Rio Grande, each on a different continent. The woman's life is a river in Just Like that. I feel this river is her menstrual flow which ceased while she was pregnant with her lover's child. The moon rises in People Need Love, What About Livingstone, Tropical Loveland, SummerNight City, The Piper, Should I Laugh Or Cry and Soldiers.
Bahamas - You Owe Me One
Dallas - The Day Before You Came
Glasgow - Super Trouper
Hawaii - Happy Hawaii
Hollywood - DreamWorld
Honolulu - Happy Hawaii
Houston - Midnight Special
Las Vegas - Money Money Money
Monaco - Money Money Money
Nile - What About Livingstone
Paris - Our Last Summer
Rio Grande - Fernando
Santa Rosa - Santa Rosa
Seine - Our Last Summer
Waterloo - Waterloo
|Posted: January 29, 2006 , Modified: February 2, 2006|