«

»

Apr 05 2017

The best ABBA singles

ABBA Drawing (carlmagnuspalm.com)

Preface

On December 5th, 2016 I posted a story on Sinterklaas Day evening 1976. The present I so desperately wanted was ABBA’s Dancing Queen. In my childhood years ABBA was a (main) topic. Like the generation before me busied itself with (the choice between) The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and which one was better, we busied ourselves with Queen and ABBA. By the way, I suspect the ‘battle’ was somewhat less fierce, because I also remember which one of the ABBA singers was the nicest/cutest/most beautiful: the dark or blond haired.

ABBA was everywhere. The weekly Toppop broadcasts always contained one or another ABBA song, especially from 1976 onwards. ABBA were huge! Almost everything they released reached the number 1 spot. If one single was slowly disappearing from the top 10, the following was just entering it.

Carl Magnus Palm - Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA (carlmagnuspalm.com)

Carl Magnus Palm – Bright Lights Dark Shadows – The Real Story Of ABBA

In May of 2014 I had a short holiday with my two sons in Denmark. I brought the (great) biography Bright Lights Dark Shadows – The Real Story Of ABBA by Carl Magnus Palm and brought the (double) album The Singles: The First Ten Years along. We primarily listened to ABBA during that holiday and, after both my sons had gone to bed, I read the book. We all had a great time with each other and ABBA!

A lot of musicians are infatuated with ABBA. Among them Pete Townsend, Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Brian Eno, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Ritchie Blackmore, Eminem, Guns N’Roses and U2. ABBA was also very popular among the English punk bands that were active in the second half of the 1970’s. Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock was so impressed with S.O.S. that he borrowed its central musical theme for use in one of his own songs: Pretty Vacant. His replacement, Sid Vicious, once saw Anni-Frid (the dark haired) and Agnetha Fältskog (the blond haired) on an airport and started running towards them in the hope of obtaining their autographs. The story ends with both of the ABBA singers fleeing in terror!

Regarding the issue of the dark and/or blond haired: my favorite was the blond: Agnetha Fältskog. There’s something about her voice that really moves me, time and again. I, therefore, prefer songs of which she has a prominent part. During the course of 2014 I came across a Youtube clip of Agnetha in which she sings a (Swedish) version of I Don’t Know How To Love Him (part of the Jesus Christ Superstar musical). A superior performance of that song: pure emotion!

Despite my preference for Agnetha’s voice, Anni-Frid Lyngtad’s voice is also beautiful, more jazzy and warm. It lacks the (for lack of a better word) ‘snik’; a Dutch word, which literally stands for sobbing, but in this context refers to a highly emotional yet believable way of singing. But combined with Agnetha’s voice it enables the beautiful vocal harmonies: (one of) ABBA’s trademark(s).

All songs are composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. ABBA was made up of two couples (Benny & Anni-Frid and Björn & Agnetha). All this didn’t have a happy ending: both couples grew apart and divorced, during their time together in ABBA. It made for some great music.

The name ABBA is an anagram of the first letters of the first names of its members:

  • Agnetha Fältskog;
  • Björn Ulvaeus;
  • Benny Anderson;
  • Anni-Frid Lyngstad.

I own 2 of all of the singles on the following list (Dancing Queen and Knowing Me, Knowing You). The rest of the music I own on a different format (cd).

I give you the 10 best ABBA singles, ordered by release date:

 

ABBA - S.O.S. (45cat.com)

S.O.S.

June 1975

The first really great ABBA song, off the album ABBA. Agnetha sings the song with so much feeling, that she sounds like she’s about to burst out into tears. Later in the year she included the song on her (Swedish) album Elva Kvinnor I Ett Hus.

S.O.S. was ABBA’s first real hit since winning the Eurovision song contest in 1974 (with Waterloo).

 

ABBA - Dancing Queen (single) (ultratop.be)

Dancing Queen

August 1976

Impossible to ignore on this list.

Please read Sinterklaas Day evening 1976 & ABBA’s Dancing Queen.

 

ABBA - Knowing Me, Knowing You (45cat.com

Knowing Me, Knowing You

February 1977

Off the album Arrival. The first song to directly deal with divorce and/or relationship problems. The only ABBA song, in this list, which id primarily sung by Anni-Frid.

In 1976 and 1977 ABBA could do no wrong. This is (yet again) a beautiful atmospheric song. Melancholy, but it never turns into (cheap) sentimentality.

 

ABBA - The Name Of The Game (45cat.com)

The Name Of The Game

October 1977

Beautiful laid-back ABBA song, in which Anni-Frid and Agnetha share lead-vocals.

At the time, it was their most complex song to date and contains beautiful melodies, sometimes intertwined.

 

ABBA - Take A Chance On Me (45cat.com)

Take A Chance On Me

December 1977

The second single off ABBA: The Album. One of the first songs for which manager Stig Anderson didn’t supply the lyrics.

The song is uptempo and has a four-on-the-floor disco-beat.

The song is most famous for its opening, in which Benny and Björn sing Take a chance, take a chance, take a ch-k-ch-chance. It remains audible in the background for (a large part of) the remainder of the song.

 

ABBA - Eagle (45cat.com)

Eagle

May 1978

The first song off ABBA: The Album, which was the soundtrack to ABBA: The Movie.

The B-side Thank You For The Music gained so much popularity (and airplay) that the single was regarded as a double A-side release. For me, it’s all about Eagle. A beautiful song, which is said to be inspired by the band The Eagles (Benny and Björn were great admirers); it is also said that it is inspired by the Jonathan Livingston Seagull story.

Lasting 05:51 minutes, it is the longest ABBA song ever released.

 

ABBA - Summer Night City (45cat.com)

Summer Night City

September 1978

This song is not part of any of ABBA’s regular album releases. It was scheduled to be part of the Voulez-Vous album, but was left off the final configuration. That may be because of the amount of time spent on mixing the song, which took considerably more time than usual. The feeling something didn’t quite add up kept on coming back.

In the end, ABBA, reluctantly, released the song as a single. Benny & Björn both think that this is the one song ABBA shouldn’t have released. I don’t understand, or subscribe, at all: I consider it one of their (career) highlights.

 

ABBA - The Winner Takes It All (45cat.com)

The Winner Takes It All

July 1980

Originally titled The Story Of My Life. The song is about a divorce. ABBA denies that it relates to the (real life) divorce of Björn and Agnetha, who sings the song (with Björn supplying the lyrics).

Beautiful melody, one of the most well known ABBA songs. The emotion portrayed comes off as (highly) authentic. Probably one of the reasons the song received universal acclaim.

 

ABBA - One Of Us (45cat.com)

One Of Us

December 1981

Beautiful song, once again sung by Agnetha. Very European, very melancholy, containing stunning vocals. An impressive performance. Agnetha’s singing on this song is one her very best performances.

ABBA’s last number 1 hit, off ABBA’s last album The Visitors.

 

ABBA - The Day Before You Came (everysinglevinylrecord.com)

The Day Before You Came

October 1982

Part of the next ABBA album that was never to be completed. This song was first released on the 1982 compilation The Singles: The First Ten Years (number 21 on my album top 50). This song is the very last ABBA recording ever made.

Agnetha sings the song as a ‘regular woman’, which was regretted by the ABBA members later on, but it works out perfectly and fits the general mood of the song.

The story is told from a woman’s point of view who describes her daily grind, the day before the arrival of her lover (?). It is believed that it in fact is her killer’s arrival, given the song’s mood and feel…

In any case: a fitting swansong to and by ABBA.

 

In closing

What do you think of ABBA? Do you miss songs, and if so, which ones? Let me know!

 

1 comment

  1. martin burke

    who ever picked these is on the money how ever in my opinnen some of there really great stuff was never a single if this makes sance martin burke agood abba fan

Compliments/remarks? I´d love to hear them!