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> Tim's Top 20 ABBA Songs, ... For now
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post Sep 2 2021, 09:56 AM
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Tim the Con Artist
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I can't believe the day has come... ABBA announce their new project details this evening. They have been a massive part of my life since I was about 18 months old. I've compiled my 20 favourite ABBA songs, and reflect on some of my memories growing up with the best pop music education I could ask for.

1. Super Trouper (UK #1 single in 1980)
The last song to be written and recorded for the album which had already been given the title “Super Trouper”. The album had 1 million retailer pre-orders, which was the most pre-orders in UK history at the time. The song spent 3 weeks at #1 just before Christmas 1980, with the album following suit. “Super Trouper” was the final UK chart-topping single for ABBA…for now. The song may have spent longer at the top had it not been for the murder of John Lennon, which sent songs “Starting Over” and “Woman” soaring up the UK chart to #1 in December 1980 and January 1981.

2. The Day Before You Came (UK #32 single in 1982)
A hit in 1983 for Blancmange, ABBA’s original version continued the run of misses the group was suddenly experiencing in their once faithful customer base of the UK. After “Head Over Heels” became ABBA’s first single since “I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do” to not make the top twenty 7 years earlier, even a song not already available on an album was enough to entice buyers as the single limped to #32. The song would be a top 5 hit in Germany and Belgium and, in 2010, was voted as the 3rd favourite ABBA song in an ITV poll. So, it found an audience eventually. The song featured on major compilations “The First Ten Years” and “More ABBA Gold”. Meryl Streep also recorded it for the Mamma Mia 2 soundtrack, however, it was relegated to the album only rather than featuring in the film as well. Third time lucky perhaps, if rumours of another movie are to come to fruition?

3. Gimme Gimme Gimme (UK #3 single in 1979)
On the eve of ABBA’s final international concert tour and 2nd official Greatest Hits compilation, ABBA fans were treated to a song which had not been featured on the recently issued “Voulez-Vous” album. “Gimme Gimme Gimme” would not only feature on “Greatest Hits Vol. 2”, “The First Ten Years” and “ABBA Gold”, but would also be sampled in Madonna/Stuart Price’s slice of perfection “Hung Up”, which gave the ABBA songwriters another UK chart-topper in 2005. The song was also used as the theme to the BBC comedy of the same name from the 90s/00s, starring Kathy Burke and a TERF.

4. Lay All Your Love On Me (UK #7 single in 1981)
Originally featured on the “Super Trouper” album, a 12” Collectors single was released in 1981 as a stop-gap between albums. The single would be the highest selling 12” single of all time for about 5 minutes…New Order’s “Blue Monday” overtook that record in 1983. The song would eventually feature on a #1 single, in 1992 when Erasure’s “ABBA-Esque” EP hit the top spot.

5. Take a Chance On Me (UK #1 single in 1978)
With Agnetha having pregnancy-related stuff going on, it seemed like the production of the follow-up album to “Arrival” would not…arrive until early 1978. As it turned out, a Christmas 1977 release was possible in Sweden, where the pressing plants were just about able to cope with the demand imposed upon them. However, the rest of the world would still have to wait until the following February for records to be ready to sell. On the day of “The Album” UK release, this 2nd single was issued as well, giving ABBA their 3rd #1 in a row after “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “The Name of the Game”. It would also be their highest-selling release in the USA, though its Billboard Hot 100 position of #3 was not their career peak, as “Dancing Queen” hit the top 12 months before.

6. The Visitors (B-side to “Head Over Heels” 1982)
The title track to their final studio album to date will have probably been a bit of a shock to most listeners upon first listen. The past couple of albums had started with upbeat highlights (“As Good As New” and “Super Trouper”), whereas here was a spacious, synthy soundscape, with no percussion section for the first minute or so; just the synths and Frida’s phased vocal. Even in the past, where the subject matter may have been melancholic and the music was deceptively upbeat, “The Visitors” fearful story of how Soviet Union dissidents were being treated during the Cold War matched the tense melody and instrumentation this time round, which seems to have put off a lot of the less hardcore fans. Nevertheless, the song remained uptempo and, with the help of some extended mixes, “The Visitors” became a big dance hit on Billboard component charts. As time went on, the song and its parent album would become much better thought of, with many ABBA fans calling it their best work.

7. Under Attack (UK #26 single in 1982)
The penultimate single release in the UK during the time the record-buying public were still under the impression ABBA was a going concern, “Under Attack” suffered the same fate as its two predecessors from 1982 in that it failed to achieve the top 10, peaking at #26 in December 1982. If it was any consolation at all, at least its parent album “The First Ten Years” had hit #1.

8. Summer Night City (UK #5 single in 1978)
Released in between album campaigns for “The Album” and “Voulez-Vous”, and a time where the creative force were starting to suffer from self-confessed writer’s block, the song was recorded and edited that many times that, even the single mix that was released did not satisfy its writers. Although it wouldn’t see a studio album appearance until deluxe reissues decades later, someone in Team ABBA still thought the song was good enough to choose out of approximately 90 songs in their back catalogue at the time, to perform on Dick Cavett’s show in April 1981, a whole 2 and a half years after its comparatively muted release and response.

9. Head Over Heels (UK #25 single in 1982)
The single which ended their top 20 run of hits in the UK, “Head Over Heels” video scared the living daylights out of me as 7-year-old watching it for the first time. It was the first time I’d seen Frida with a spiky, red hair-do that made her look like she’d been plugged in…and the first shot is her face (and hair) in a mirror close-up, so it wasn’t a subtle adjustment for my eyes to make. To ensure there was no mistaking over the members’ state of marital affairs, Frida’s partner in the video was Bjorn, who was being dragged from department store to department store as she tries on an array of gaudy outfits.

10. Money, Money, Money (UK #3 single in 1977)
It strikes me how, although ABBA had fallen out of favour with record buyers in the mid 80s, there were so many children at my first primary school who, like me, were ABBA nuts in the very early 90s. These included the twins who played a tape of ABBA from a ghetto blaster, in the middle of the playground. There was the girl who I was friends with called Amy. As well as introducing me to "I've Been Waiting For You" through a Musical Appreciation-type assembly, I was in the Boys Brigade when her parents were both leaders there and, she and her brother were part of the Girls/Boys Brigade. At the Sunday parades, the band would play "Money, Money, Money" and I'd be in my element marching with them as they played my heroes' song.

11. Thank You For The Music (UK #33 single in 1983)
“The Album”, along with “Greatest Hits” were the two records I played to death as a small child, to the point where their original purchaser, my mother, became sick of hearing them. Yet, it didn’t stop me playing them over and over. I also insisted that, whenever we were in the car my dad would play either tape he’d recorded of both those albums, which were filled up with selected other tracks that turned out to be album tracks from “Waterloo”, "Arrival" and “Voulez-Vous” (I don’t know how else I’d know some of them from that age otherwise as we didn't have the LPs).

12. The Winner Takes It All (UK #1 single in 1980)
It took me until recently to get into this song properly. It always just seemed a bit dull to me. Plus, in trying to go against the grain, maybe I deliberately tried to be different to everyone else by not slathering it with the praise most people give it. As I've "grown up" I have become much more appreciative of it.

13. Chiquitita (UK #2 single in 1979)
One of their biggest hits in Spanish-speaking countries, the success of "Chiquitita" would become a catalyst for the production of a Spanish language album, Gracias Por La Musica. The song was #1 in Mexico for 32 weeks! The proceeds from sales/stream revenue of the single continues to go to Unicef as it did upon its release.

14. Voulez-Vous (UK #3 single in 1979)
I find it odd how none of ABBA's "Disco Album" songs didn't make #1, given their association with the era now. However, 1979 was the year that generated the most physical single sales in the UK and, the album most of their singles from that year came from did remain at the top for a month in the Spring. The title track seems to have performed the worst in terms of overall popularity, looking at global chart positions. Even in the UK, its double a-side release saw "Angeleyes" become the favoured track on radio. Maybe the DJs thought they were putting the Roxy Music single of the same name on their turntable in error, being released at the same time.

15. Dancing Queen (UK #1 single in 1976)
It's hard to judge my feelings towards this, their biggest song. I think its over playing in society coupled with it being linked to the sort of person who says "I LOVE ABBA" yet their collection of albums consists of just ABBA Gold, has stopped me wanting to head straight for it when I want to start playing my Spotify ABBA playlist. Number 15 is where it's staying on this list.

16. Knowing Me Knowing You (UK #1 single in 1977)
Speaking of ABBA Gold, this follows "Dancing Queen" on the CD. Now that their music videos are being reissued in upscaled 4K, check out the unironed blue curtain behind ABBA in the promo for this song.

17. Angeleyes (UK #3 single in 1979)
I think it was actually the arrangement and performance from Mamma Mia 2, which made me want to listen to this song more. I realised last night that, even though I saw the first film at the cinema five times in 2008, I only actually saw the sequel once, on release day. I still haven't watched it again even with owning it on Blu-Ray.

18. If It Wasn’t For The Nights (Taken from the album “Voulez-Vous” 1979)
Performed on Mike Yarwood's Christmas show in 1978 and, in Japan around the same time, the track had been earmarked as the first single from their upcoming album. However, "Chiquitita" was chosen at the last minute and, this song didn't even get a B-side status in the end, remaining as track 8 on "Voulez-Vous"... One of the best track 8s of anything ever…

19. The Name Of The Game (UK #1 single in 1977)
The beginning of the end of ABBA Mania. In Australia, the phenomenon seemed to go as quickly as it came. Just 6 months after a reported 100,000 Australians lined the streets of Sydney for ABBA's arrival in March 1977, this first song from "The Album" only just scraped into the top 10, with the album only doing slightly better when it was released at the start of 1978.

20. Me and I (Taken from the album “Super Trouper” in 1980)
Performed as one of the live songs for their Dick Cavett show, this album track certainly sounds better on record. It was always a stand-out track when I played the song as a child on the LP, which I still have in my collection. That, along with The Visitors, survived the vinyl clear-out of 1993, when my parents bought a CD hi fi, when the world thought vinyl was gone forever. Bugger!

Honorary mentions go to:
On and On and On (B-side to “Lay All Your Love On Me” 1981)
Soldiers (Taken from the album "The Visitors")
… actually the whole of the Visitors album…
Hole In Your Soul
… dammit, the whole catalogue…

Except "King Kong Song"... Just no!

For the Voyage project, I really hope they've made a new album. I'm on the fence about the avatar stuff. I'd really like a studio quality release of Just Like That, but I think that's a pipe dream.

What are your favourite ABBA moments? Do you have a top 20? What are you hoping the Voyage project will consist of... And what do you think it will actually consist of?
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Last Dreamer
post Sep 2 2021, 11:12 AM
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With dagger in heart
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QUOTE(dj_tim_e @ Sep 2 2021, 12:56 PM) *
Do you have a top 20?

My full ranking of ABBA songs :

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