BCB 130 - ABBA

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toomanyhatz
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby toomanyhatz » 22 Jul 2014, 19:13

VRZ Robotz wrote:
toomanyhatz wrote:I love Petula Clark - more than Abba, surely. But I don't really see a basis for comparison. Petula Clark had Tony Hatch. Abba had themselves, singing in a second language. They obviously had great arrangement skills, but I don't think you can hold them to similar standards.


Why not? If you consider Hatch and Clark as the unit that made up the brand name "Petula Clark" - how is it so different?


Not the same kind of music. Not attempting the same thing. Self-contained vs. contract producer/songwriter. Most Abba songs (OK, most of my favorites) are about romantic regret, usually tinged with sadness and resignation. Petula's tougher, less fragile.

I'd say they're a lot more different than they are similar.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 22 Jul 2014, 19:18

I was comparing that particular song to Petula Clark because it was very much the same type of thing.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Geezee » 22 Jul 2014, 19:19

toomanyhatz wrote:I love Petula Clark - more than Abba, surely. But I don't really see a basis for comparison. Petula Clark had Tony Hatch. Abba had themselves, singing in a second language. They obviously had great arrangement skills, but I don't think you can hold them to similar standards.

The thing I find impressive about them is they expressed simple sentiments simply and honestly. It's not even a matter of 'forgiving' their limited skills with language- there's pathos for me in the way they express it.


Does the fact that they are singing in a second language matter? Surely that was their choice, to increase commerciality at the expense of natural expression? It frustrates me that so many Swedish bands sing in English - invariably they sing, or write lyrics, significantly better in their native tongue.

But would we be talking about Abba today if they sang in Swedish? Almost certainly not - in which case one wonders whether their talent is universal.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby toomanyhatz » 22 Jul 2014, 19:24

Yes, but it has the extra advantage (for me) of emotional resonance. When they sing about resignation and sadness, the clumsiness and inarticulance gives it something it wouldn't have in its own language. I don't know if they were aware of that or if it's just a fortunate accident, but it's always been an important part of what they are to me.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Sneelock » 22 Jul 2014, 19:25

okay, so if I don't like ABBA, why am I reading the ABBA thread?
because it's hilarious!!!

Are we talking about Bergman movies? hawhawhaw!!!
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Quaco » 22 Jul 2014, 19:31

Geezee wrote:
toomanyhatz wrote:I love Petula Clark - more than Abba, surely. But I don't really see a basis for comparison. Petula Clark had Tony Hatch. Abba had themselves, singing in a second language. They obviously had great arrangement skills, but I don't think you can hold them to similar standards.

The thing I find impressive about them is they expressed simple sentiments simply and honestly. It's not even a matter of 'forgiving' their limited skills with language- there's pathos for me in the way they express it.


Does the fact that they are singing in a second language matter? Surely that was their choice, to increase commerciality at the expense of natural expression? It frustrates me that so many Swedish bands sing in English - invariably they sing, or write lyrics, significantly better in their native tongue.

But would we be talking about Abba today if they sang in Swedish? Almost certainly not - in which case one wonders whether their talent is universal.

I assume their thought was exactly as you say, that they wanted to get out of the Swedish system and start playing for the world. But I have a feeling that they're not especially poetic or verbal people, and working in their second language maybe even made their songs better (for the reasons hatz mentions above). They do have some songs they do in Swedish; I'd be interested in whether you, as a speaker of both, think they are any better.

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Geezee » 23 Jul 2014, 11:14

Quacoan wrote:
Geezee wrote:
toomanyhatz wrote:I love Petula Clark - more than Abba, surely. But I don't really see a basis for comparison. Petula Clark had Tony Hatch. Abba had themselves, singing in a second language. They obviously had great arrangement skills, but I don't think you can hold them to similar standards.

The thing I find impressive about them is they expressed simple sentiments simply and honestly. It's not even a matter of 'forgiving' their limited skills with language- there's pathos for me in the way they express it.


Does the fact that they are singing in a second language matter? Surely that was their choice, to increase commerciality at the expense of natural expression? It frustrates me that so many Swedish bands sing in English - invariably they sing, or write lyrics, significantly better in their native tongue.

But would we be talking about Abba today if they sang in Swedish? Almost certainly not - in which case one wonders whether their talent is universal.

I assume their thought was exactly as you say, that they wanted to get out of the Swedish system and start playing for the world. But I have a feeling that they're not especially poetic or verbal people, and working in their second language maybe even made their songs better (for the reasons hatz mentions above). They do have some songs they do in Swedish; I'd be interested in whether you, as a speaker of both, think they are any better.

[youtube]uloRkQaehS0&list=PLC090F3F1933D0274[/youtube]


The only song that i'm aware of that they wrote in Swedish first (I could be very wrong on this) is Ring Ring which is perhaps an unremarkable lyric - but actually reading through it on paper there is certainly more darkness there than your typical schlager/pop song from Sweden at the time. And it's a million times better than the English lyric (Swedish version starts "Silent and dead, the phone / Mocking me" versus "I was sitting by the phone / Sitting all alone"). Reading the Swedish lyric, it strikes me that it's a slightly darker cousin of Please Please Mr Postman.

With some of the others it's hard to say - in some ways the Swedish version of SOS sounds a bit awkward, but I think it is actually a direct translation of the English one (rather than them having written it in Swedish first) which would explain it.

Take a Chance on Me is another example of that - you could very easily say the exact same expression in Swedish ("Ta En Chans På Mig") which would work perfectly in the chorus, but instead I guess they try to have a bit of fun with the Swedish translation and they make it sound as much as English as possible - they sing "Tänk, De Känns Som Vi" (Interesting, It Feels Like Us) which if you sing very quickly (which they do) sounds basically like they are saying take a chance on me.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby The Modernist » 23 Jul 2014, 11:27

So what's their greatest moment? For me it will always be SOS. They did more sophisticated stuff afterwards - something like " Name Of The Game" with its moody bassline, anguished vocal and tonal shifts sounds so much more adult somehow; but the melodic directness of SOS seems to encapsulate what they were brilliant at.

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Flowere » 23 Jul 2014, 11:30

Is 'Dancing Queen' considered naff these days then? I love 'SOS' too, but think 'Dancing Queen' is superior in so many ways - some of those chord changes go straight for the pleasure centre!
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby mentalist (slight return) » 23 Jul 2014, 11:42

Dancing Queen is as euphoric as a song can get, and it starts with the chorus.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Geezee » 23 Jul 2014, 11:54

Always had a soft spot for Lay All Your Love On Me - I sang it incessantly as a kid and it was only much later that I realised what a weird song it is - firstly the out of tune backing chorus but also the odd break before the refrain. Not sure it's their best - there are several other candidates already mentioned that probably should "win" that - but this is the song i'd bring on my desert island if i had to bring an abba song.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby northernsky » 23 Jul 2014, 12:29

'Crompton' wrote:Is 'Dancing Queen' considered naff these days then? I love 'SOS' too, but think 'Dancing Queen' is superior in so many ways - some of those chord changes go straight for the pleasure centre!


I agree.
But Pete Townshend says "SOS" is the best pop song ever written, and he is almost never wrong. :?

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby never/ever » 23 Jul 2014, 12:38

Album-wise it's The Visitors for me. Moody as fuck but boy, doesn't it have cracking tunes! The title track is one hell of a ghost story.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Insouciant Western People » 23 Jul 2014, 12:59

If we're choosing songs, I'd go for either One Of Us or The Day Before You Came.

With Dancing Queen very close behind. It's a perfect song, I think there is nothing you could do to it to make it in any way better.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Bent Fabric » 23 Jul 2014, 15:12

Jim - I'm "binge listening" this morning, thanks entirely to this thread. A lot of wonderful songs have been mentioned by you (and, perhaps more importantly, by people who have chimed in on this thread). I'm as aware of anyone of the "camp element" here, and...it's such an irrelevance to my own experiences listening and enjoying. I'd go so far as to call it a minor niggling distraction. If we're choosing songs, I'm spoiled for choice.

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 23 Jul 2014, 15:16

Dancing Queen is their greatest moment...by miles. That record creates it's own sonic universe.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Quaco » 23 Jul 2014, 15:20

Geezee wrote:The only song that i'm aware of that they wrote in Swedish first (I could be very wrong on this) is Ring Ring which is perhaps an unremarkable lyric - but actually reading through it on paper there is certainly more darkness there than your typical schlager/pop song from Sweden at the time. And it's a million times better than the English lyric (Swedish version starts "Silent and dead, the phone / Mocking me" versus "I was sitting by the phone / Sitting all alone"). Reading the Swedish lyric, it strikes me that it's a slightly darker cousin of Please Please Mr Postman.

Neil Sedaka wrote the English lyric for "Ring Ring"!
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Bent Fabric » 23 Jul 2014, 15:22

I mean, you've got a whole micro-society of music obsessives rather assertively making conflicting cases for which song ultimately qualifies as ABBA's unquestionable masterpiece. A rather vindicating scenario for anyone who loves this band.

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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby TG » 23 Jul 2014, 15:34

'Crompton' wrote:It's that Scandinavian melancholy. It's a deep-rooted thing, it comes through in their voices. I'm serious.

Quaco pointed out 'My Love My Life' and said it was his favourite. It's not even that well known, but it's one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. If you haven't heard it, and you've a couple of minutes to spare, give it a go right now. If you have a heart, tears will form:



I like a couple of Abba hits - Waterloo is their best, most direct track and SOS and a couple of others are nice enough pop tracks. They verge into the sort of glam that Chinn & Chapman and Roy Wood/Wizzard practiced.

The track above (My Love My Life) encapsulates everything i dislike about Abba and about almost all adult-pop. It's mawkish, saccharine and above all boring.

I own a few Abba singles and (I think) a best of LP but they don't belong on this list. They were hit makers but so were Hue Lewis & the News and The Doobie Brothers. They weren't exactly influential and the schmaltz factor is way too high.
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Re: BCB 130 - ABBA

Postby Insouciant Western People » 23 Jul 2014, 16:24

TG wrote:They weren't exactly influential.


It's funny, I hear their influence in some places you'd perhaps least expect it.

I think some of the more out-there Scandinavian avant-pop and electronica of the last decade or so owes a lot to Abba's late stuff, especially a couple of tracks on The Visitors.

Songs like the title track and Soldiers are a virtual blueprint for whole albums by the likes of The Knife, Fever Ray, and I Break Horses. Particularly the vocal effects on Agnetha & Anna-Frid's voices around that time.
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