ABBA Songs More Than Pop Confections

By Kevin Burton

   Have you heard, ABBA is releasing new music Friday!

   It’s the first time in 39 years the Swedish quartet has released anything. I told that story yesterday (Something Old, Something New, ABBA!, Aug. 31). 

   Looking forward to the new tunes, here is a list of my favorite old ones, my top ten.

   If you think of ABBA as disco-era lightweights, read on. I make the case for at least one of these songs as high literature, storytelling at its best.

   10 “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” I remember Casey Kasem telling a story about Top 40 songs with repeated words or phrases in their title.  Couldn’t find that in a quick search just now but I doubt anything beats “I Do” repeated five times.  I like the going-to-the-chapel feel this song has. 

   ABBA song titles repeated a lot, including “Money, Money, Money,” “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight),” “Honey, Honey” and “Ring, Ring” that didn’t make my list and one other that did (keep reading for that one).

   I know, this song doesn’t help my argument for ABBA as non-lightweights.

   9 “Take A Chance On Me” For me, the funniest point of the stage show “Mamma Mia” was when the actress sang this one.

   8 “The Name Of The Game” I relate to the lyric, “I was an impossible case. No one ever could reach me.”

   7 “S.O.S.”  This is the first ABBA song I remember hearing in heavy rotation.  The “can’t go on without you” bit is tired now, but it wasn’t then.

  6.  “Slipping Through My Fingers” I had forgotten about this one but it forced its way onto my list.  It went from honorable mention to “well maybe if I had children” to, knocking “Angeleyes,” off the list.

   The song was written about Linda Ulvaeus, the then 11-year-old daughter of band members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog. It tells the story the mother’s anguish at how quickly the daughter is growing up and how little time they have spent together. 

   It’s a lump in the throat even for childless people such as me.  In terms of contribution to great literature it’s the most worthy song on my list.

   5 “Andante, Andante” This is the other repeating song I was talking about.  This is the swirliest, waltziest three-quarter time song I know of. 

   “Andante” is a musical term for a moderately slow tempo.

   “I’m your music I’m your song, play me time and time again and make me strong.” Is a sample lyric. The song is an invitation and a plea.  It says a lot of things we want our love interest to know, but that we don’t often say out loud to each other.

   4 “Dancing Queen” This may be the band’s best known song, their only US number one hit, but did you catch some of those lyrics?

   Second verse: “You’re a teaser you turn ‘em on. Leave them burning and then you’re gone. Looking out for another, anyone will do, you’re in the mood for a dance.”

   Say what?

   3 “Mamma Mia” The marimba you hear as the beginning of and a recurring part of the song was added at the last minute according to biographer Carl Magnus Palm. Yet the song wouldn’t be the same without it.

   Funny how that roaring hot fatal attraction bridge, “Just one look and I can hear a bell ring, one more look and I forget everything” releases you not to a screaming hook, but  a xylophone solo. Or is that a synth xylophone? 

  2   “Does Your Mother Know” Bjorn Ulvaeus, on lead vocals for a change, saying no to a groupie because she is too young.  Somebody with patience, please teach me how to play this one on guitar.

   Many reviewers have praised this song for balancing rock and dance elements. Billboard said it sounds like the songs from “Grease.” Hadn’t thought of that. Maybe.

   1 “Waterloo” This was the song that launched the band, the winning entry at the 1974 Eurovision Song Festival.

   The original title for this song was “Honey Pie,” according to Wikipedia. Had they stuck to that, it would not be my all-time favorite ABBA song.  I love the history element to the tune. I am sure that went over big in Europe.    There you have it, my top ten. Question is, once I get to know the five new ABBA tunes that are coming out Friday will I have to revise my list?  I doubt it but you never know.

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