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Posts tagged "Abba"

Crying ABBA: An (Over-)Annotated Introduction to the Second-Best Selling Group of All Time

Crying ABBA: An (Over-)Annotated Introduction to the Second-Best Selling Group of All Time

Inspired by Ben Self’s wonderful Bruce Cockburn playlist the other day (pts 2-3 coming soon!), here’s what I’ve affectionately been informed is “the toughest sell” in A Mess of Help. No apologies: The Church of Wilson has drawn scores of worshippers over the years, including a disproportionate number of musicians. Those who are interested in […]

The Love You Gave Me, Nothing Else Can Save Me

A stunning cover of ABBA’s “S.O.S.” appeared this week on Portishead’s Facebook page, in response to the killing of British politician Jo Cox last week. The song transcends context, however, something which the new arrangement makes all too clear. A prayer of epic proportions:

This comes only three weeks after the Swedish megastars occupied the same stage for the first time in almost 30 years. What better opening to post a few paragraphs from the “Crying ABBA” chapter of A Mess of Help:

If there’s a downside to scoring so many number one singles, it’s that [ABBA’s] albums have been overshadowed by their hits. They recorded eight LPs over the course of nine years, and all of them are pretty terrific. But albums are what serious artists make, and up until very recently, ABBA were considered pop stars. Their squeaky clean image—the silly outfits, the disco dance routines, the somewhat loose grasp of English—has not helped their reputation as bubblegum fluff. Of course, you cannot completely blame the public. A song like “Put On Your White Sombrero” doesn’t exactly command respect.

And yet, if we know anything about the group, it’s that appearances can be deceiving. The smiling publicity shots hid the crumbling marriages of both couples in the band: Bjorn & Agnetha and Benny & Frida. (Or, as they’re more commonly known, the Mullet & the Blonde, the Beard & the Redhead.) The ultimate feel-good band of the 70s did not sing about very happy subjects. “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, with its sparkling guitars and upbeat melody, tells a heartbreaking and rather hopeless story of divorce. “S.O.S.” surfs a joyous chorus to relate feelings of genuine desperation. “The Name of the Game” is almost too vulnerable for words. The sexual bluster of “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)” is a red herring. Behind the disco gloss, the song reeks of loneliness and depression, a prayer for someone to “chase the shadows away” and “take me through the darkness to the break of the day”. (It’s also about as Christological as they ever got). Perhaps they were more Scandinavian than we thought.

The secret to ABBA’s lasting popularity (or at least ubiquity) is that their relationship songs are more concerned with emotional truth than propriety or correctness. Listen to a later single like “One of Us”—the singer has left her lover, she’s got her own space now, but she is not happy. Late at night, when she can’t sleep, she knows she is lying to herself. If she could do it all over again, she wouldn’t have left. Such an admission may not sound like that of a ‘strong woman’, but it certainly sounds like that of a real one. Or their devastating “The Winner Takes It All”, which presents love in startlingly binary terms, acknowledging that, as one critic read the song, “a person should be able to have it all, but it’s just not possible.” In other words, ‘should’ and ‘is’ collide in the music of ABBA, and the results have enduring power.

Issue 3 of <i>The Mockingbird</i> Out Now!

Issue 3 of The Mockingbird Out Now!

The Relationship Issue (No. 3) is here! Let it be known: you will not be disappointed. Interviews with Modern Love editor Daniel Jones, and the Oscar-winning team behind Undefeated. Essays on marriage, parenthood, relationships with bandmates, relationships with God. A short story from Welcome Wagoner Vito Aiuto, brand new poems by Brad Davis. We have spot illustrations by […]

Agnetha Faltskog Is God? (Mbird Find of the Century)

As a music fan, every once and a while you have one of those “there-is-a-god moments” that makes all the digging worthwhile. You find something, usually by accident, that seems tailormade for YOU, a piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly, that you didn’t know you were missing. It sounds far-fetched, but the sensation is a spiritual one. In an instant, the impersonal universe evaporates and the existence of God seems like a foregone conclusion. And not just any God but a God that cares about, well, you. It happened when I stumbled across Elvis Presley’s “Let Us Pray”. Same thing when I heard the story behind The Monkees’ “St. Matthew”. But this one may take the cake: the lead off track on Agnetha Faltskog’s second solo album (you know, the girl who put the ‘A’ in ABBA). Written by none other than ELO maestro Jeff Lynne–especially for her!–and produced by 10cc’s Eric Stewart, I’m sure you’ll agree that the circle is now complete:

To quote Elaine Benes, I have no speech. I mean, a Wilbury-written OWL, sung by ‘the girl with the golden hair’, the one who was by all accounts the most damaged by her former group’s astronomical success?! It’s too much. You’ll forgive me if I take the opportunity to repost Paul Zahl’s classic formulation (which Fall Conference speaker Tullian Tchividjian has run with so convincingly and enthusiastically). While PZ clearly takes the phrase in a different direction than Agnetha, by no means does his usage rule out the ‘unrequited’ aspect–it just switches the roles, i.e. Agnetha sings from the God’s-eye point of view, ‘natch:

article-2213169-006FA67000000258-499_468x763Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. It is being loved when you are the opposite of lovable. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. It sounds a little 1970s (as in “Have a Nice Day!”). Yet the words are apt.

Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.”

PZ's Podcast: Phony Wars, And the Winner Is, and The Federal Theology of Samuel Rutherford

PZ's Podcast: Phony Wars, And the Winner Is, and The Federal Theology of Samuel Rutherford

Episode 172: Phony Wars This purports to be an attack of reality in the midst of “phony wars”. I am always struck by the truth of pop songs. Not all of them, but some of them. Such as “Waterloo” by ABBA. (Mary and I were there, as it were, when ABBA hit, stuck at a […]

PZ's Podcast: Requiem, Bishop Ryle, and J.C. Ryle Considered

PZ's Podcast: Requiem, Bishop Ryle, and J.C. Ryle Considered

Episode 106: Requiem The alternate title for this cast is: “I Feel Like I Lose When I Win” (ABBA Bizarro). Happiness is no dice for the ego, our “person” we think is us, always looking back over their shoulder. And not just at all the attacks that are coming, by definition; but especially at Death. […]

May Playlist

  1. Tighter, Tighter – Alive ‘N Kickin’
  2. Tell ‘Em Willie Boy Is Comin’ – Tommy James
  3. Weeds – Pulp
  4. You Came, You Saw, You Conquered – The Ronettes
  5. The Weakest Shade of Blue – Pernice Brothers
  6. My Saddest Day – Reg Austin
  7. Wonder – Embrace
  8. Run to Me – The Bee Gees
  9. AM 180 – Grandaddy
  10. Hollywood Blvd – Neil Merryweather
  11. Teenage Dream – T. Rex
  12. Ballad of Maxwell Demon – Shudder to Think
  13. Hey, Hey Helen – ABBA
  14. Glad and Sorry – The Faces
  15. The Caves of Jericho – The Band
  16. Dreams – Slaid Cleaves
  17. So Long You Pretty Thing – Spiritualized
  18. Beyond the Sunset – Hank Williams
PZ's Podcast 100 & 101: Eternity and I Feel Like I Win When I Lose (plus Reception Address)

PZ's Podcast 100 & 101: Eternity and I Feel Like I Win When I Lose (plus Reception Address)

EPISODE 100: Eternity Didn’t The Beach Boys sing something called “Hang On To Your Ego”? I guess it was a kind of “Not!”. Well, this talk concerns death and the “art” of dying. What dies when you die physically? What lives on? What, if anything? Consider the following observation from The Genius and the Goddess […]

April Playlist

  1. Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You – The Bee Gees
  2. St. Matthew – The Monkees
  3. King Kong Song – Abba
  4. Ride Captain Ride – Blues Image
  5. Brandy – Looking Glass
  6. Lisa, Listen To Me – Blood, Sweat & Tears
  7. Don’t Let Me Be MisunderstoodThe Animals
  8. Please Forgive My Heart – Bobby Womack
  9. Dancing Barefoot – Patti Smith
  10. In the Crossfire – Starsailor
  11. Goodbye Kiss – Kasabian
  12. Change the Sheets – Kathleen Edwards
  13. The Long Road Ahead – Shooter Jennings
  14. The Rose of England – Nick Lowe
  15. C’Mon – Panic at the Disco with Fun.
  16. It’s Only Life – The Shins
  17. Accidentally Like a Martyr – Thomas White
  18. Last Call at the Eschaton – Sons of Bill