Received an issue with Abba? Return to your Emerson, Lake & Palmer gatefolds

I’m speaking garbage to a fellow Irish journalist when the room goes silent, the crowds half and a burnished determine makes her method regally down the hall. It’s Cher. I catch my colleague’s eye and sense – one thing later confirmed – that she’s half-wondering whether or not we should always curtsey. We don’t. However it does really feel as if we’re in Recreation of Thrones and the cruel Queen Kestrel has simply handed on her method to the subsequent public disembowelling. The presence of Cher on the press junket for Mamma Mia! Right here We Go Once more – sequel to the unstoppable Mamma Mia! – might be learn as the best endorsement from the Kingdom of Camponia. I’m guessing they might have most popular Barbra Streisand. However the former Cherilyn Sarkisian will do properly sufficient. Her imprimatur confirms the lasting attraction of Abba and blesses the jukebox musical structured round their songs. The chilly sums do extra to enshrine the Abba legend. They’re nonetheless the biggest-selling group from continental Europe and the most important from outdoors the anglophone world. Certainly, no different European group managed sustained chart success in Britain or Eire within the 1970s. Though they’re nonetheless seen as a singles act, Abba secured a joint file of eight consecutive primary albums within the UK. My downside was that I used to be into darker materials. I used to be into jazz and rock, stuff like that. Abba weren’t suicidal sufficient for me, Stellan Skarsgård says Mamma Mia! has its personal place within the historical past of common tradition. Though there had been jukebox musicals earlier than – Buddy, Elvis, Beatlemania – these reveals tended to work as staged biographies of the featured acts. Mamma Mia!, which opened within the West Finish 19 years in the past and nonetheless runs right this moment, advised an authentic story by the medium of Abba’s infectious melodies and uncomplicated lyrics. Regardless of the group by no means correctly breaking the US, the Broadway model ran for 14 years. We’ve extra. Phyllida Lloyd’s gloriously foolish movie – starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, amongst others – took $616 million, or about €525 million, to turn into (for some time) the highest-grossing live-action musical ever and the highest-grossing movie directed by a girl. And so forth. For all that there’s nonetheless, for a lot of, a Drawback with Abba. After they gained the Eurovision Track Contest, with Waterloo, in 1974, huge severe individuals who cared about huge severe music have been concurrently amused and appalled. The tune was robust, however a lot else had turn into skewed in translation. They dressed like glam-rock stars, however by the point of their victory that motion was already previous its excessive interval. David Bowie and Roxy Music followers appeared again with no nice curiosity. The long-haired college students with their Emerson, Lake & Palmer gatefolds had already dismissed all pop music. Pierce Brosnan, who returns in Right here We Go Once more as considered one of Seyfried’s three potential fathers, noticed himself within the latter camp. He would have been simply 20 then. “I keep in mind them successful the Eurovision Track Contest,” he says. “I used to be at drama faculty. They got here out singing this music Waterloo, which I didn’t perceive then – I’ve just a little extra understanding now – however I used to be into Pink Floyd and a really totally different sort of music. I didn’t actually join with them till I used to be supplied the film, 10 years in the past.” The group additionally obtained blended reactions of their residence nation. Though they arrived as contemporary faces in Britain and Eire, in Sweden Abba have been seen as a supergroup. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, who would turn into the core songwriters, had hits with, respectively, The Hep Stars and the Hootenanny Singers. Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad additionally had wholesome careers earlier than they got here collectively, each romantically and professionally, with the boys and helped create a nationwide trade to match with Volvo. Only a few years older than Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, one other of the three dads, was already a busy actor in Sweden when the group broke up. However he can’t fake he was wholly on board both. “It was within the 1970s, which was very politicised,” he says. “Many of the Swedish music of the time was very progressive rock music. They have been thought-about to be not political sufficient. My downside was that I used to be into darker materials. I used to be into jazz and rock, stuff like that. They weren’t suicidal sufficient for me. So it took me some years to find them.” It initially appeared as if the Drawback with Abba would shortly stop to be a difficulty. At that stage the Eurovision contest granted a fleeting class of fame. The successful file was assured monumental gross sales, however, except they have been already well-known, continental artists tended to then encounter obscurity outdoors their residence nations. Whither Udo Jürgens, Anne-Marie David or Séverine? Abba bought hundreds of thousands of data, however an enormous mass of the general public pretended to dislike them. A lot of these noticed themselves as ‘correct music followers’ Positive sufficient, Abba’s singles after Waterloo underperformed. It was not till the discharge of SOS, in September 1975 – a 12 months and a half after the Eurovision win – that Abba returned to the highest 10 within the UK and Eire. The songwriters confirmed the fecundity of their expertise by together with sufficient melodic hooks to generate at the least three hit data. The cleanness of Fältskog and Lyngstad’s vocals would slice by discos for the succeeding decade.  The Drawback with Abba was up and working. They bought hundreds of thousands of data, however an enormous mass of the general public pretended to dislike them. A lot of these noticed themselves as “correct music followers”. Practically 20 years later, persevering with snobbery brought on the creators of Alan Partridge to make that loser an Abba aficionado. “I started to hearken to the music extra carefully as a result of I used to be going to should sing it,” an apologetic Brosnan now says. “Their love songs at all times had a joyfulness to them. You mentioned you weren’t into Abba, however whenever you have been at a celebration you ended up dancing to Abba.” Abba: Dancing Queen We’d like not detain ourselves with the progressive-rock bores. Their Drawback with Abba prolonged to an issue with something that didn’t weave nine-minute guitar solos round excerpts from the songs of Tom Bombadil. The snobbery from dedicated pop boffins was extra puzzling. Abba have been no extra “manufactured” – certainly, arguably much less so – than the varied teams who, preened and polished by Berry Gordy, emerged to important adulation on the Motown label. Dr Pop sniffed on the lyric of Nina, Fairly Ballerina and Bang-A-Boomerang, however have been they any much less disposable than these of Da Doo Ron Ron or Child Love? The advanced preparations of Abba songs created an impact simply as overpowering as that of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Christine Baranski, who returns to her Mamma Mia! function within the sequel, was a working actor in the USA when Abba hit. The group’s solely primary within the US was Dancing Queen, however she nonetheless remembers them as a pressure.      “Abba has this lasting worth, as a result of the songs are melodic and orchestrally so wealthy,” she says. “These voices collectively, the ladies’s voices – they have been angelic and pure. The songs are all little tales. However principally I believe it’s life-affirming music. It by no means descends into anger or cynicism. You get heartbreak. Remorse, sure. However by no means eff-you sort of stuff.” In contrast to Brosnan and Skarsgård – whose singing stays, at greatest, utilitarian – Baranski was already a musical-theatre veteran when she got here to Mamma Mia! But she remembers Andersson correcting her when she was only a “half-note off”. (Lord is aware of how he endured the boys.) “He hears each single factor,” she says. “He’s an actual artist, and his music means every thing. He tells me that he hears each music precisely because it sounds. It simply lives for all these many years.” That precision fuelled the suspicion that Abba weren’t correctly “genuine”. Motown was nonetheless a music of the streets. Abba emerged from affluent, socially democratic Sweden. But they didn’t flip their European origins right into a wry joke, like Kraftwerk. No one is but certain how a lot enjoyable Abba have been having with themselves. Because the profession superior, the romances fizzled – Andersson and Lyngstad divorced in 1981; Ulvaeus and Fältskog break up in 1980 – and the music took a extra introverted, much less frivolous flip. On the similar time important style shifted. The postpunk motion rejected the posturing of rock and embraced the purity of pop music. When Elvis Costello started performing Figuring out Me, Figuring out You reside, just a few followers thought he was giving in to archness, however Costello was as sincerely admiring of Abba’s expertise as he was of the country-and-western artists he lined on his Virtually Blue LP. Glen Matlock, late of the Intercourse Pistols, famously declared that he’d copied the riff on Fairly Vacant from SOS (though no one has ever made a lot sense of the comparability). By the point Abba break up, in 1982, they’d lastly achieved respectability with the cultural commissars at New Musical Categorical. Thoughts you, there was nonetheless a Drawback with Abba. You have been now supposed to love the group, however not each music fan knew you have been supposed to love them.  Mamma Mia! Right here We Go Once more: Abba – Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, Frida Lyngstad and Benny Andersson – in 1976. {Photograph}: RB/Redferns/Getty The compilations continued to promote. The singles took on the standard of nostalgia triggers. Then one thing fascinating occurred. The group had at all times been at residence to the fabulous, however within the 1990s the camp aesthetic totally embraced them and got here to outline their public picture. Erasure had a number-one hit with Abba-esque, an Abba compilation, in 1992. The band’s colossal recognition in Australia – setting for Lasse Hallström’s nutty Abba: The Film, from 1977 – was acknowledged when two 1994 movies, Muriel’s Wedding ceremony and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, used their music as emotional punctuation. On the shut of the last decade Mamma Mia! arrange residence within the West Finish. All this has labored out properly for the group, however it has generated (or exacerbated) one other Drawback with Abba. There stays a bigoted strand of bro who suspects any leisure disproportionately common with girls – equivalent to Mamma Mia! – as being unworthy of significant consideration. These are sometimes the identical fatheads who fail to know that the sheen of camp is usually wrapped round an anchoring sincerity. There’s nothing trivial about Figuring out Me, Figuring out You or The Winner Takes It All (nonetheless much less The Day Earlier than You Got here). At any fee, as they anticipate the discharge of two new songs in December, the band can dry their tears with stacks of banknotes and heat their worries by recalling the adulation of hundreds of thousands. “They have been simply one of many nice musical sounds of my younger years,” Christine Baranski says. “Preceded by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and The Seashore Boys and Motown. After that you simply moved on to the Bee Gees and Abba. They have been a soundtrack to your youth.” There are nonetheless music followers who will snort on the comparability with these 1960s demigods. They’re not listening. The Guests is healthier than the White Album. Dancing Queen is a greater file than any single launched by The Rolling Stones. You bought an issue with that? You bought a Drawback with Abba? THE DEFINITIVE 10 BEST ABBA SONGS

1 Dancing Queen (1976) Let’s get this out of the best way early. Dancing Queen is essentially the most euphorically thrilling pop-disco meld ever. The opening piano run is a literal stroke of genius.

2 The Identify of the Recreation (1977) Apparently impressed by Stevie Marvel’s I Want, The Identify of the Gameagain reveals Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’s willingness to pack three nice melodies in a single music.

3 SOS (1975) Structured round a rock refrain, their second worldwide hit has devotees in all genres. Do we actually imagine Glen Matlock customary Fairly Vacant from its chords?

4 Figuring out Me, Figuring out You (1977) Did you simply say “Aha!”? A weirdly advanced, barely depressing music with a choral chorus that asks extra questions than it solutions.

5 Take a Probability on Me (1978) The best prepare music that has nothing in anyway to do with trains. Critically. Simply try that chug-a-chug rhythm. Nice video by Lasse Hallström (earlier than he was captured by Miramax).

6 The Day Earlier than You Got here (1982) I suppose that is the comparatively obscure Abba single (it didn’t break the Irish high 20) that actual bores boast about liking. Honest sufficient. Morose sufficient for the near-contemporaneous Morrissey.

7 Tremendous Trouper (1980) “I used to be sick and uninterested in every thing after I referred to as you final night time from Glasgow.” In Mamma Mia! Right here We Go Once more Meryl Streep rises from the grave to sing Tremendous Trouper with Cher. Spoiler, I assume.

8 The Winner Takes It All (1980) Björn Ulvaeus denies this music is all about his divorce. Yeah, they at all times say that. A good higher “the band are throwing wine bottles at each other” music than Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Personal Method.

9 Honey, Honey (1974) Hear me out. The underperforming follow-up to Waterloo is an ideal pop music of the bubblegum selection.

10 Mamma Mia (1975) Properly, within the present context, it could be fallacious to not embody one of many jauntiest songs ever written about infidelity and inappropriate want. No, actually. Donald Clarke critiques Mamma Mia! Right here We Go Once more right here