Saturday, 15 Dec 2018

Have a problem with Abba? Return to your gatefolds Emerson, Lake & Palmer

I'm talking nonsense to a fellow Irish journalist when the room falls silent, the crowds part and a brown-haired figure sneaks into the hallway. It's expensive. I catch the glance and sense of my colleague – something confirmed later – that she half wonders if we should make a bow. We do not do it. But one has the impression of being in the Game of Thrones and the cruel Kestrel just went on to the next public eruption.

Cher's presence in the press for ] Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – continuation of the unstoppable Mamma Mia! – may be read as the highest endorsement of the Kingdom of Campony. I guess they would have preferred Barbra Streisand. But the old Cherilyn Sarkisian will be doing pretty well. His imprimatur confirms Abba's enduring appeal and blesses the jukebox music structured around their songs.

Cold sums do more to enshrine the legend of Abba. They are still the best-selling group in Continental Europe and the largest outside the English-speaking world. Indeed, no other European group has been successful in Britain or Ireland in the 1970s. Although they are still perceived as single, Abba has achieved a common record of eight consecutive number one albums in the United Kingdom.

My problem was that I was in the dark. I was in jazz and rock, stuff like that. According to Stellan Skarsgård, Abba was not suicidal enough for me

Mom Mia! has its place in the history of popular culture. Although there were musical jukeboxes before – Buddy Elvis Beatlemania – these shows tended to function as biographies staged acts presented. Mamma Mia! which opened in the West End 19 years ago and still exists today, has told an original story through the contagious melodies of Abba and his uncomplicated lyrics. Despite the fact that the band never broke the United States, the Broadway version lasted 14 years. We have more. Phyllida Lloyd's gloriously stupid film – along with Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, among others – took $ 616 million, or about 525 million euros, to become (for a while) the most profitable live musical. never produced a woman. And so on.

For all of this, there is still, for many, a problem with Abba. When they won the Eurovision Song Contest, with Waterloo in 1974, big, serious people who cared about great serious music were both amused and dismayed. The air was strong, but many others had become asymmetrical in translation. They dressed like glam-rock stars, but by the time of their victory this movement had already passed its high period. Fans of David Bowie and Roxy Music have looked back without much interest. The long-haired students with their gatefolds of Emerson, Lake & Palmer had already rejected all the pop music.

Pierce Brosnan, who returns in Here We Go Again as one of Seyfried's three potential fathers, lives in the last camp. He would have been just 20 years old then. "I remember winning the Eurovision Song Contest," he says. "I was at the drama school.They came out singing this song Waterloo that I did not understand then – I have a little more understanding now – but I was in Pink Floyd and a very different music, I did not really connect with them until I was offered the movie 10 years ago. "[19659002] The group also had mixed reactions in their country of origin. Although they came as new faces in Britain and Ireland, Abba was seen in Sweden as a supergroup. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, who will become principal songwriters, have had success with, respectively, The Hep Stars and Hootenanny Singers. Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad also had a healthy career before meeting, both romantically and professionally, with the boys and helped to create a national industry to compare with Volvo.

A few years older than Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, another of the three dads, was already a busy actor in Sweden when the group split up. But he can not pretend that he was entirely on board either. "It was in the 1970s, which was very politicized," he says. "Most of the Swedish music of the time was very progressive rock music.They were considered not to be political enough.My problem was that I was in a darker material. I was in jazz and rock, stuff like that, they were not suicidal enough for me, so it took me years to discover them. "

At first, he seemed that the problem with Abba would quickly cease to be a problem. At this stage, the Eurovision Song Contest has granted an ephemeral fame. The winning record was guaranteed huge sales, but, unless they were already famous, the mainland artists tended to encounter then darkness outside their home country. Where are Udo Jürgens, Anne-Marie David or Séverine?

Abba sold millions of records, but a huge mass of the public claimed to hate them. Many of them saw themselves as "real music fans"

Indeed, the Abba singles after Waterloo underperformed. It was only at the release of SOS in September 1975 – a year and a half after the victory of Eurovision – that Abba returned to the top 10 in the United Kingdom. United Kingdom and Ireland. Songwriters have confirmed the fecundity of their talent by including enough melodic hooks to generate at least three hit records. The sharpness of Fältskog and Lyngstad's singing would cross the discotheques for the next decade.

The problem with Abba was operational. They sold millions of records, but a large part of the public claimed they did not like them. Many of them saw themselves as "real music fans". Nearly 20 years later, continued snobbery has pushed Alan Partridge's creators to make this loser a passionate abbot.

"I started listening to music more closely because I had to sing it," Brosnan says. . "Their love songs have always had a joy for them.You said you were not in Abba, but when you were at a party, you danced up to Abba." [19659018] Abba: Dancing Queen

We do not need to restrain ourselves with progressive bores. Their problem with Abba extended to a problem with all that did not weave nine-minute guitar solos around Tom Bombadil's song excerpts. The snobbery of the committed boffin pop was more confusing. The Abba were not more "made" – indeed, probably less – than the various bands that, softened and polished by Berry Gordy, emerged to critical adulation on the Motown label. Dr. Pop sniffed the words of Nina, Pretty Ballerina and Bang-A-Boomerang but were they less disposable than those of Da Doo Ron Ron or ] Baby love ? The complex arrangements of Abba songs have created an effect as powerful as that of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound

Christine Baranski, who returns to her Mamma Mia! role in the sequel, was a work actor in the United States when Abba hit. Dancing Queen the only number one band in the United States, was but she still remembers them as a force.

"Abba has this enduring value, because the songs are melodic and orchestral so rich," she says. "These voices together, women's voices – they were angelic and pure, the songs are all little stories, but most of the time I think it's life-affirming music. anger or cynicism.You have grief.regret, yes. "

Unlike Brosnan and Skarsgård – whose vocals remain, at best, utilitarian – Baranski was already a veteran of musical theater when she came to Mamma Mia! Yet she remembers Andersson who corrected her while she was only a "half-note." (Lord knows how he endured the boys .)

"He hears everything," she says. "He is a true artist, and his music means everything. He tells me that he hears every song exactly as it sounds. He lives just for all these decades. "

This clarification fueled the suspicion that Abba was not properly" authentic. "Motown was still a street music.Abba emerged from a prosperous and socially democratic Sweden. They have not turned their European origins into a joke, like Kraftwerk No one yet knows how happy Abba felt with himself

As the career progressed, the romances faded away. – Andersson and Lyngstad divorced in 1981, Ulvaeus and Fältskog separated in 1980 – and the music took a more introverted, less frivolous turn, at the same time critical fashion changed, the postpunk movement rejected the rock posture and embraced the When Elvis Costello began to perform, some fans thought he was giving in, but Costello was also sincerely admiring Abba's talents as country-and-western artists that he did. covered on his LP Almost Blue LP. Glen Matlock, late Sex Pistols, stated that he had copied the riff on Pretty Vacant of SOS (although no one had ever made much sense of the comparison). By the time of Abba's split, in 1982, they had finally achieved respectability with the cultural commissioners of New Musical Express . Remember, there was still a problem with Abba. You were now supposed to love the band, but not all music fans knew you were supposed to like them.

  Mamma Mia! Here we go again: Abba - Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, Frida Lyngstad and Benny Andersson - in 1976. Photography: RB / Redferns / Getty
Mamma Mia! Here we go again: Abba – Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, Frida Lyngstad and Benny Andersson – in 1976. Photography: RB / Redferns / Getty

The compilations continued to sell. The singles have taken the quality of the triggers of nostalgia. Then something interesting happened. The band had always been home to the fabulous, but in the 1990s the aesthetics of the camp embraced them fully and came to define their public image. Erasure had a number one hit with Abba-esque a compilation of Abba, in 1992. The colossal popularity of the band in Australia – staged Nasse by Lasse Hallström Abba: The Movie from 1977 – was recognized when two films from 1994, Marriage of Muriel and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert used their music as emotional punctuation. At the end of the decade Mamma Mia! established residence in the West End

All of this worked well for the group, but it generated (or exacerbated) another problem with Abba. There remains a bigoted bro brood who suspects any entertainment disproportionately popular with women – as Mamma Mia! – as being unworthy of serious attention. These are often the same bridgeheads who fail to grasp that the camp's brilliance is often shrouded in an ingrained sincerity. There is nothing trivial about To know me, to know you or The winner takes me t All (even less The day before you are ).

In any case, as they anticipate the release of two new songs in December, the band can dry its tears with stacks of bank notes and warm up their worries by reminding the adulation of millions of people.

"They were only one of the great musical sounds of my early years," says Christine Baranski. "Preceded by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys and Motown, after that you went to the Bee Gees and Abba, they were a soundtrack for your youth."

There are still fans of music that will sniff at comparison with these demi-gods of the 1960s. They do not listen. The Visitors is better than the white album. Dancing Queen is a better record than any single released by The Rolling Stones.

Do you have a problem with that? Do you have a problem with Abba?


1 Dancing Queen (1976) Let's put it away from the beginning. Dancing Queen is the most euphoric pop-disco fusion of all time. The opening piano race is a stroke of literal genius

2 The name of the game (1977) Apparently inspired by Stevie Wonder I wish [19659007] The name of the game still shows Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus willing to pack three great melodies into one song. rock chorus, their second world hit has followers in all genres. Do we really believe that Glen Matlock fashioned Pretty Vacant of his agreements?

4 Know Me, Know Yo u (1977) You just said "Aha!"? A strangely complex song, slightly miserable with a chorus chorus that asks more questions than answers

5 Take a chance with me (1978) The greatest train song that There is nothing to do with the trains. Seriously. Take a look at this chug-a-chug rhythm. Great video of Lasse Hallström (before he was captured by Miramax)

6 The day before you came (1982) I guess is the relatively obscure Abba single Do not break the Irish top 20) that real trouble boast of loving. That's enough. Morose enough for the near-contemporary Morrissey

7 Super Trouper (1980) "I was sick and tired of everything when I called you last night from Glasgow. " In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Meryl Streep rises from the grave to sing Super Trouper with Cher. Spoiler, I guess.

8 The Winner Takes All (1980) Björn Ulvaeus denies that this song is about his divorce. Yes, they always say that. An even better song "the group throws bottles of wine" than that of Fleetwood Mac Go Your Own W ay

9 Honey, Honey 1974) Listen to me. The underperformance of Waterloo is a perfect pop song of the bubblegum variety

10 Mamma Mia (1975) Well, in the current context, it would be wrong not to include one of the most jaunty songs ever written on infidelity and inappropriate desire. No really.

Comments by Donald Clarke Mamma Mia! Here we return here