Thursday, June 25, 2015

Forgotten Music: ABBA's Essential, Influential Melancholy

ABBA's Essential, Influential Melancholy 


Deb said...

Great article! I've always thought that "The Winner Takes It All" is one of pop's most melancholy songs.

Unknown said...

I agree on that one, Deb.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I was listening to the two CD "greatest hits" collection just the other day.


Unknown said...

A wonderful compilation.

Anders E said...

Interesting to get an American point of view. To me, their non-rock, non-American influences were obvious pretty early on. I know they talked about it in early interviews.

Btw, here's great piece on "Dancing Queen". I especially like the idea that the line "having the time of your life" perhaps is to be taken literally. Which to me translates into "it's downhill from here, kiddo".

As for northern melancholy, I could could provide you with examples from Swedish pre-ABBA popular music all night long, some of it dating back to the 1920s. Oh, how I could provide... Instead, a great Russian example from 1926. You will recognize the tune from a much later recording.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the links, Anders. I loved the Russian example. The Mary Hopkin version could be the theme song of this blog. And I think that interpretation of "having the time of your life" could well be the correct one.

Anders E said...

Oh, I can't hold it back. Sorry, but I really can't.

From a 1940 movie, the great Alice Babs, who a few decades later would sing with Duke Ellington. She's only 16 here, and amazingly good. But what a downer of a song.

Then there's this absolute gem from 1942, by the criminally forgotten Lillebror Söderlundh. Lyrics by noted poet Nils Ferlin.

From the early thirties. Gösta Ekman was a major actor at the time (and a cocaine addict to boot). Lyrics by his son Hasse Ekman (later a movie director and considered a serious rival to Bergman in the early fifties). Music by infamous psychotic Johnny Bode, about whom there are a billion anecdotes (let's leave it at that). Basically, it's "I've lost all my money, but I used to be a real player, but I don't really mind as long as I have my dinner jacket". Terrific tune. Ekman can't really sing, but he was a great non-singer. Btw, Hasse Ekman scripted the movie from where the Alice Bas was taken.

Note that later on, this northern melancholy got its inspiration from non-northern France and artists like George Brassens and Jacques Brel. This 1973 classic is a cover of a song originally by French chanteuse Barbara. I'd say this is the better version. In essence: wife tells husband that it's OK that he didn't join her and the kids in their summer house due to some very important business matters. No, it really is OK...really. Brilliant between-the-lines writing.

And then again, some inspiration came from America. This was originally "Greenfields" by The Brothers Four but I claim this version is way better. What a voice. Wiklund was king of northern melancholy for a while.

And yet again, sometimes it influenced America. This is from a 1972 movie starring Robert Duvall. The singer has no idea what she's singing, it's only random syllables supposed to sound Scandinavian. But it's a very pretty version of a 19th century song nevertheless.

Here's a more traditional version. The song is about how spring is approaching. Some way to greet it.

Btw, for a general taste, check the FARGO soundtrack. No, not the recognizable pop songs, but all that fiddle music that pops in now and then. That's us! And no, Peter Stormare's character is NOT Swedish - he's Norwegian through and through. "Geir Grimsrud" is a name so utterly Norwegian it's basically a parody. So there!

Unknown said...

You should start a music blog, Anders. You have too much information to restrict yourself to comments. I've seen THE GREAT NORTHFIELD MINNESOTA RAID, but I didn't remember the song.