Posts Tagged ‘Muriel’s Wedding’

Gold: Greatest Hits
1993
More ABBA Gold
1996
What? Still Gold?
OK, I made that one up
ABBA

There was a time in the late 1970s when ABBA ruled. Though they captured the #1 spot on the U.S. Top 40 charts only once (with “Dancing Queen”), everything they recorded for about three years caused a global commotion. ABBA was a cultural force. Without ABBA we wouldn’t have had the film Mama Mia, obviously, but we also wouldn’t have had Muriel’s Wedding. The absence of ABBA would’ve punched a big hole in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I don’t know if it’s a shame or a blessing that ABBA existed before MTV.

Even U2 likes ABBA, or at least they like “Dancing Queen,” and come on, who doesn’t? It’s one of the iconic songs of the ’70s, the perfect companion to The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” and the antidote to just about anything by Queen. Whenever I put on a dance, I could count on “Dancing Queen” to draw every woman onto the dance floor the way Jupiter suctions up moons. Even women who had already left the building felt a disturbance in The Force and surged back inside.

But it’s clear in hindsight – it was clear even while it was happening – that most of ABBA’s songs were solidified crud. It was just a higher grade of crud than what most mainstream pop bands of the era were peddling. Bread and Rod Stewart, for example.

The good songs, though, are very good. “Dancing Queen” exists in a realm beyond criticism. “Take a Chance on Me” is a terrific sing-along number. “S.O.S.” is fun, unless Pierce Brosnan is trying to sing it. “Knowing Me, Knowing You” is not only ABBA’s most complex song, it’s their only song that can be compared to The Beatles without looking ridiculous. How many bands have even one song that can do that? Which reminds me: “Waterloo” should’ve been recorded by Ringo.

Which further reminds me: One of ABBA’s contemporaries, The Cars, are the U.S. version of ABBA. This is particularly evident on “You Might Think” and “Tonight She Comes.” The Cars replaced the female voices with male voices and brought the guitars forward, but otherwise it’s the same froth, different beach.

So here’s a tip of the critic’s pointy hat to Agnetha, Frida, Bjorn, and Benny, and not just because the boys also made the musical Chess. Life wouldn’t have been the same without you. Though I wouldn’t mind living in a world where there was no Fernando to hear the drums and Agnetha and Frida could reliably find a man after midnight.