Readers of my previous post will know that I have decided to listen to the many thousands of tracks on my iPhone before allowing myself to buy any new music (see that post to learn why). This is the start of that journey, with the first artist – ABBA.
ABBA was my first official ‘favourite group’. They seemed so very glamorous. And how amazing that the name was an acronym formed from the initials of the band members’ own names – you knew that, right? (Anni-Frid, Benny, Bjorn and Angnetha – just in case.) I was a member of the Official ABBA Fan Club and looked forward very much to receiving mailings and updates about the group. Just like any other fan, I also collected obsessively: posters, magazines, and of course, every album which ABBA released. As I grew older, I converted some of those albums into CDs and then my lovely husband bought me the Thank You For The Music boxed set of four CDs, released in 1995. On first glance through the tracks on my iPhone, it seems to have everything one could want from an ABBA collection (and possibly more – the fourth disc is going to be interesting). So much so that I did not need to load any individual ABBA albums onto my iPhone.
So, off we go with People Need Love – “gotta have love to carry on livin’, gotta have love ’til eternity”. An anthem of hope and compassion gets me started on my musical journey. This track first appeared in 1973 on ABBA’s Ring Ring Album, as did the next four tracks. I was too young to be collecting LPs at this time, and did not even know about ABBA then – like many people in the UK I suspect, my first ABBA encounter was after their 1974 Eurovision Song Contest success. Even that is a bit hazy (I was only seven) and I am not sure now which of my memories are real, and which have been embroidered by hindsight. This track is a bit clunky, but unmistakably ABBA and nice to hear the trademark harmonies, key changes and overall balance.
Next is Another Town, Another Train – “guess I will spend my life in railway stations”. A poignant contrast to the previous track, and another of ABBA’s big themes – relationship breakdown. Somehow, they make it seem quite manageable and cope-able with – the guy singing talks so reasonably about how much better off the girl will be without him. The lilting music and gentle singing make you feel that everyone and everything will be fine in the end. That’s ABBA for you – anything in life can be faced with their music in your ears – just check out the film Muriel’s Wedding (1994) if you want proof.
He Is Your Brother – “we depend on one another, lovin’ that’s the only way” – this is another clunky-ish track – perhaps Benny and Bjorn were going for deliberate clunky on this and ‘People Need Love’? Who am I to criticise? And another track about loving our fellow man. Who am I to argue? Even if the recurrence of this ‘love everyone’ theme is a bit too much to stomach (and I am not saying it is), we have another of ABBA’s trademarks here – story telling. Several mini vignettes embedded within the overall song. Very clever.
And then the short Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough) – “love is a reason for livin’, but a few things can be tough”. A song about ‘bittersweet’ love. Another standard ABBA theme, with the male and female voices ‘duetting’ – a musical device which Benny and Bjorn have used to good effect in all of these tracks.
But overall, I’m starting to feel a bit disappointed. Nothing particularly special so far, really. Is this the ABBA that I was obsessed by? But wait – here’s something more ear-catching – Ring Ring – “why don’t you give me a call”. Possibly the most well known of all these tracks, and certainly the best, as far as I am concerned. Lively, a fabulous driving beat, excellent use of different instruments and voices. Ah, now that’s better – a real ABBA classic and the first track to make my ‘top rated’ list. Did I mention my top rated list? More about this in another post. And it’s set me up nicely for the next listening session. Come on, ABBA, let’s go for it…..