BCB 130 - ABBA

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Quaco
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BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Quaco » 20 Jul 2014, 21:09

ABBA

With these things -- lists of a bunch of great and important artists and explanations as to why they are great -- it's a given that half the people will try to shoot holes in your argument, while the other half will agree with everything you say. Everybody knows the story of ABBA. In this case, I don't need to explain their story or origins, and I'm not sure how relevant it is anyway. Their story isn't that interesting; as people, they were all sane and none of them were particularly deep thinkers. The music they produced is what endures. Certain preconceptions sometimes need to be addressed -- occasionally you need to stress that they were not a manufactured group a la The Archies, or were not media whores simply because of their extreme popularity -- but for the most part, the music (and images) tell the story better than I ever could. To begin this series, I make no arguments. I'm just going to revel in some great sights and sounds -- and if things need to be mentioned along the way, fine, but I'm going to let the music make the case here.

[A note: ABBA specialized in the video clip. Lots of bands had done them before, but ABBA used them more than most groups, for two main reasons that I can fathom: a) they could reach more people in farther-off lands this way, and b) one of the band hated flying and two others would rather be in the studio making records. Also, they were visually appealing and symmetrical, so it happened to be easy to make them look good. This was less the case for, say, UFO or Bad Company, denim-clad rockers who focused on touring hard to achieve their success. Because of this, most of the evidence you see on YouTube is videos or clips from TV shows, and not very much live stuff, despite the fact that they had real chops and could perform this stuff live. Luckily, some of the TV clips feature live vocals.]

This clip (this one completely mimed) is great. It's not one of their most brilliant songs, but it's a mover and the set design is magical!

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Conrad Knight Socks » 20 Jul 2014, 21:26

Good point made ABBA's use of video - Winner Takes It All and the day before you came being classic examples.

Also worth bearing in mind that they had all had some success in Sweden before being in ABBA. And also that Agnetha Faltskog is a songwriter, but never got a look in with ABBA (there may be a co-writing credit on one of the early albums).

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Flowere » 20 Jul 2014, 21:45

In that clip, it's when Agnetha and Anni-Frid's harmonies come bursting through that you realise that's such a big part of what made them great. And how they're pushed to the front putting on the show with all the other uglies working away behind them. I don't know of any other major band that had that kind of set-up.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby WG Kaspar » 20 Jul 2014, 22:05

I think I have not listened to a full album ever, but I played ABBA Gold a great deal for a brief period of time. Some of the songs are absolutely fabulous, and they as a pop group a superior aesthetic at least to me than American or British pop groups of their time. It's actually magical how such a ridiculous chorus as that on Mama Mia or SOS can sound so perfect because of their unique gift for melody. But I doubt I will ever venture into a full album. More ABBA Gold made sure of that.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Quaco » 20 Jul 2014, 22:07

99 wrote:Also worth bearing in mind that they had all had some success in Sweden before being in ABBA. And also that Agnetha Faltskog is a songwriter, but never got a look in with ABBA (there may be a co-writing credit on one of the early albums).

Two great points.

I would actually point to them as being one of the only supergroups that actually were good. Though not on U.S./U.K. radar really, all four of them were successful previously. Agnetha had been a singer for years and was very popular on the charts, in teen magazines, etc.; Frida started in a lounge combo and was a moderately successful solo singer; Benny had been the main songwriter in (as they always say) Sweden's answer to The Beatles, the Hep Stars (the top Swedish pop group in the mid-sixties); and Bjorn had helmed the Hootenanny Singers, which seemed to be Sweden's answer to, oh I don't know, the Kingston Trio or something. They had all had chart success, and ABBA was a second career/band for all of them.

I bet this was revelatory in Sweden at the time:




It's true, Agnetha was a fine songwriter. I don't know why they only did one of her songs ("Disillusion" on the first album). She had written a number of songs on her three pre-ABBA albums, but her fifth album, where she writes all the music -- barring "S.O.S." -- is a very good piece of work.

This has sort of an early Kate Bush feeling to it. The melody and chords on the chorus are exquisite:




This is a great one too, with a fine, humorous lyric about a girl who is addicted to boys:

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Conrad Knight Socks » 20 Jul 2014, 22:18

That second one's great - makes you wonder why no-one has done a "Brel" and written English lyrics for some up and coming singer.

At what point did they really really take off? Waterloo was a start, but if you ask me it was Fernando that really made them huge. I think modern thought places SOS at a high level, and it is a brilliant song and reached UK no.2, I think - but as I recall it was Fernando that sent them sky-high. However my memory may well be faulty....
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby ConnyOlivetti » 20 Jul 2014, 22:43

One big key factor to their sound, (mainly the vox), was Micke B. Tretows trick of recording voices and instruments with a slight speed variation, thus creating a fuller sound when mixed with the tracks recorded at normal speed.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Samoan » 20 Jul 2014, 23:15

99 wrote:
At what point did they really really take off? Waterloo was a start, but if you ask me it was Fernando that really made them huge. I think modern thought places SOS at a high level, and it is a brilliant song and reached UK no.2, I think - but as I recall it was Fernando that sent them sky-high. However my memory may well be faulty....

For me, it was the Eurovision Song Contest's showcasing of Waterloo that lit the fuse.
I'd never seen or heard a group so charismatic. They looked fabulous and they sounded even better.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby GoogaMooga » 20 Jul 2014, 23:39

Samoan wrote:
99 wrote:
At what point did they really really take off? Waterloo was a start, but if you ask me it was Fernando that really made them huge. I think modern thought places SOS at a high level, and it is a brilliant song and reached UK no.2, I think - but as I recall it was Fernando that sent them sky-high. However my memory may well be faulty....

For me, it was the Eurovision Song Contest's showcasing of Waterloo that lit the fuse.
I'd never seen or heard a group so charismatic. They looked fabulous and they sounded even better.


in scandinavia, they were already big with ring, ring and people need love. ring, ring was recorded in both english and swedish.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby trans-chigley express » 21 Jul 2014, 01:29

99 wrote:Th
At what point did they really really take off? Waterloo was a start, but if you ask me it was Fernando that really made them huge. I think modern thought places SOS at a high level, and it is a brilliant song and reached UK no.2, I think - but as I recall it was Fernando that sent them sky-high. However my memory may well be faulty....



SOS "only" got to no 6. in the UK. I always thought it was the next single Mamma Mia, a no.1, that was trigger for them really taking off.

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby trans-chigley express » 21 Jul 2014, 01:45

WG Kaspar wrote:I think I have not listened to a full album ever


I happened to have a school friend who was a massive fan (and turned out to be gay, who'd have though it :) ) and played all their albums constantly - it's all he ever played - so I became quite familiar with them. I found that the standouts were always the obvious ones but there were decent album tracks in there. I always loved The Eagle which I don't think was a single, at least not in the UK. Their final album The Visitor was a decent one all the way through despite not having any really obvious hits on it.

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Quaco » 21 Jul 2014, 02:16

Some other album tracks of interest (i.e., that I really like):

My Love My Life - maybe their best song
My Mama Said - understated, rhythmic, groovy almost
King Kong Song - really stupid Chinn-Chapman type stuff, but it really moves actually!
That's Me - interesting music, strong idea
Hole in Your Soul - more Chinnichipmunk glam garbage that really works
Slipping Through My Fingers - this one gets better and better every damn time I hear it, in my top 5
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Phenomenal Cat » 21 Jul 2014, 02:58

Excellent stuff!
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Quaco » 21 Jul 2014, 03:05

Samoan wrote:
99 wrote:
At what point did they really really take off? Waterloo was a start, but if you ask me it was Fernando that really made them huge. I think modern thought places SOS at a high level, and it is a brilliant song and reached UK no.2, I think - but as I recall it was Fernando that sent them sky-high. However my memory may well be faulty....

For me, it was the Eurovision Song Contest's showcasing of Waterloo that lit the fuse.
I'd never seen or heard a group so charismatic. They looked fabulous and they sounded even better.

I believe it's the case that in 1974, they changed the voting rules so the populace could vote, and it resulted in such a comparative landslide for "Waterloo" that they changed the rules back for the next year to countries' representatives doing the voting. We don't want to encourage great, professional acts in this contest!
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Conrad Knight Socks » 21 Jul 2014, 08:24

Not sure about that - there was a rule change allowing songs to be sung in any language, rather than your native language around that time.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Neige » 21 Jul 2014, 09:27

Excellent stuff, Jim!!!

Re: the "ABBA year" at the ESC - like with sports, I'm more interested in how it's done than in the actual competition, so here goes...

According to Wikipedia:

Rules concerning language:

From the first Contest in 1956 until 1965, and again from 1973 until 1976 there was no restriction on language. From 1966 until 1972, and again from 1978 until 1998, songs were required to be performed in a national language. The national language rule was actually instituted shortly before the 1977 Contest, but some countries had already selected non-national language entries, and they were allowed to enter without any changes.

As of the 1999 Contest, the restriction was again lifted, and songs may be performed in any language. As a result, many of the songs are performed partially or completely in English.


Rules about voting:

Historically, a country's votes were decided by an internal jury, but in 1997 five countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom) experimented with televoting, giving members of the public in those countries the opportunity to vote en masse for their favourite songs. The experiment was a success, and from 1998 onwards all countries were encouraged to use televoting wherever possible. Back-up juries are still used by each country, in the event of a televoting failure. Nowadays members of the public may also vote by SMS, in addition to televoting.


Incidentally, I vividly remember watching the 1974 contest, loving only the almost progressive leanings of the Yugoslav entry, Korni Grupa's Moja Generacija and feeling "too mature" for ABBA's joyous glam pop (I was 15... :lol: ). Of course, "my" faves ended up 12th in a field of 17.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Fonz » 21 Jul 2014, 15:39

When I was a young child in the mid 70s ABBA were ubiquitous, and I didn't much care for them. I had Showaddywaddy! There were a couple of reasonable looking girls, a fat bloke with a beard, and another weird looking bloke who looked like a child molester. I could never understand what the girls err doing with those men...

Fast forward thirty years, I've performed many ABBA songs in various bands, and the response is usually good. The tunes are solid, catchy, and really get that nostalgia thing happening for me. My childhood was great, and ABBA were a big part of the soundtrack.

Favourite song: SOS. The harmonies are great. The chicks sound a little vulnerable, and I am always drawn to that, being the sensitive type.

In the seventies I would have chosen the brunette; looking at the old footage I would now choose the blonde.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby harvey k-tel » 21 Jul 2014, 16:29

I don't have time to look around now, but my one abiding childhood memory of ABBA is seeing a clip of them playing and being fascinated by Bjorn's guitar, which looked like a Les Paul, but had a whole shitload of knobs on it. I wanted one of those guitars soooooo bad.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Quaco » 21 Jul 2014, 16:37

Neige wrote:Incidentally, I vividly remember watching the 1974 contest, loving only the almost progressive leanings of the Yugoslav entry, Korni Grupa's Moja Generacija and feeling "too mature" for ABBA's joyous glam pop (I was 15... :lol: ). Of course, "my" faves ended up 12th in a field of 17.

Korni Grupa sounds pretty good! Oh, if only history had gone another way!...
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby clive gash » 21 Jul 2014, 16:39

Harvey K-Tel wrote:I like knobs. I wanted one soooooo bad.


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