1/22/09

ABBA: Reasons to Stop Looking Up to Your Dad

The all-time greatest ABBA-related story I have ever heard (granted, there isn't much competition) belongs to my coworker. For every kid in the universe you spend your formative years believing that your dad is invincible and infallible (most of us do, anyway). Then there comes the revealing of the man behind the curtain (odd slightly related note: I don't think I ever need to see Wizard of Oz again. I've seen it enough are there are enough homages and spoofs in the world that I really have no desire to sit down and watch the original ever again.) and every kid has to come to terms with the fact that their father is mortal and actually makes mistakes from time to time. For my coworker that revelation came when he pondered on the fact that his dad was a huge ABBA fan. At a very young age he had decided that ABBA was lame and when he considered the fact that his dad loved a lame-o band, he began to see his dad as a regular guy with sub-par taste in music.

I tell that story because there are many types of people in this world and among those types there are people who love ABBA and there are people who hate ABBA. When I was in middle school I had no idea ABBA even existed. One fine day a friend of mine dropped by because he wanted to tape some records his older brother left behind when he left for college. We were the only people he knew that still owned a turntable. I remember vividly the records he brought over: Asia by Asia, 4 by Foreigner, 90125 by Yes, Ghost in the Machine by The Police, Into the Gap by The Thompson Twins (we spent hours debating whether Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway were male or female. Seriously, there's a lot of androgynous vibes on the cover of that album), and Super Trouper by ABBA. I ended up borrowing the albums a lot longer than my friend intended, hoping he would forget he ever lent them to me. The reason I held on to them was that, much to my surprise, ABBA was awesome.

I consider myself a fan of ABBA, but there are limits to my fandom. I will not see a musical based on the music of ABBA. I will not see a movie based on a musical based on the music of ABBA. I will not buy a multi-disc anthology that includes, of all things, ABBA singing "On Top of Old Smokey" and other non-necessities. I'm the sort of guy who can put some ABBA on the headphones and thoroughly enjoy it, but not feel it necessary to engage in any other ABBA-related activities as a result. That's just the way I roll.

As for today's album, Gold is as good a greatist hits album as you could ever hope to find. ABBA was a hit-scoring dynamo during their best years and you really get a sense of that when taking in a career-spanning album like this one. There are so many unforgettable melodies and fascinating arrangements in ABBA's music. Their music stands up very well in album form (I have most of their albums on vinyl, staying true to my roots) but is amazing in compilation form.

The true test of an artist or group's worth is whether or not their music can hold up to the decades and grow new listeners along the way. ABBA has certainly done that. When you consider the fact that many people are happy to leave the music and fashions of the 1970's by the wayside, it becomes even more amazing that people are still listening to ABBA today. There are teenagers who love hits like "Dancing Queen" and "Take a Chance on Me." ABBA truly hit on something timeless. Go figure.

Anyway, I truly enjoyed listening to Gold today, though I did turn a few heads when people heard what was blaring on my headphones (maybe it was the fact that I was wearing a Bouncing Souls t-shirt while ABBA was blaring on my headphones). I recommend it to anyone who doesn't have any ABBA in their collection.

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