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listen to abba songs

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									ABBA & Me
Robert Verbeek

ABBA first got into my system in 1975 and it has never “left the building”. They have been there for most of my life and that’s why I wrote this book. I wanted to show what ABBA meant to me, what influences they had and how they, to some extent, have made my life to what it is now. I hope you enjoy reading “ABBA & Me”.

Robert Verbeek, January 2008 in Duiven, The Netherlands

In the beginning
I can’t remember if my parents played any kind of pop music on their turntable. I can’t even think of many LPs they played. Sure they owned a couple of LPs, mostly jazz or classical stuff. But most of the time it was the news and easy listening programmes on their radio that I listened to. In 1975 I was 13 years old and my pretty young and rebellious English teacher played some Beatles music in the classroom. It was a revolutionary way of teaching English, but it was very much appreciated in my class. It was my first contact with rock and roll. When I first heard it, I didn’t know what to think. In the beginning I even disliked their music, but when my teacher kept playing Beatles records, I had to admit that it had some quality. I finally gave in. I decided I would be a Beatles fan. To this day I don’t know where I got the money from, but I bought the two famous red and blue Beatles compilation albums and I played them constantly. My little sister started to like pop music at around the same time, but she listened to a group called ABBA. But what music could a former Eurovision winner offer to me? I mean, I was a professional Beatles fan. Just out of curiosity (and because I liked the sleeve) I started to play “The Best Of ABBA” LP. I had to admit that I liked the songs. You had to be completely deaf not to like songs like S.O.S. or Waterloo. But hey, I was tough, I was a Beatles fan. I didn’t give in to that sugar pop. The Beatles was for serious people, ABBA was for kids.

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Only when our family paid a visit to my uncle and aunt I found out that ABBA had more songs to offer. My cousin, who is one year older than me, owned a French ABBA double LP. At the request of my sister we listened to it. Once again, it did not come close to The Beatles, but hey, I started to realize that ABBA made really cool music. I remember that I was impressed by My Mama Said and in fact most of the songs were pretty good. Even the soft Fernando started to gain some sympathy. From then on I started to play my sister’s “The Best Of ABBA” album quite often. The more I played the songs, the more I liked them. But not enough to knock The Beatles off their number one position. The final blow and absolute knock-out came a couple of months later. That blow was called Dancing Queen - the mother of all ABBA singles. It’s the ultimate symbol of pop music, a superb trademark of quality. It’s the song that started my ABBA fandom. There are more brilliant ABBA songs, but Dancing Queen remains special. It was a turning point in my life.

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From 1976 onwards I started to buy their singles and albums. And even after they split my love for ABBA remained. During the years it got stronger and stronger, resulting in a huge collection, a huge website and now this book. I firmly believe that the music that you adore in your childhood will haunt you for the rest of your life. Lucky me. I mean ABBA and The Beatles - it could have been a lot worse.

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What is so good about ABBA?
Sometimes I wonder why I like ABBA so much. If you ask yourself a question like that, it’s very difficult to come up with a good answer. You might just as well ask the question “Why do I like apple pie?” Music is a very personal thing. I happen to like ABBA, but I also know people who loathe them. But WHY do I like ABBA? This is an attempt at analyzing the factors that contribute to my love for ABBA. First I think that it’s an age thing. When ABBA was huge, I had just discovered pop music. We’ve already established that my first pop love was The Beatles. And they still are. I should not say this at an ABBA convention or in a book about ABBA, but in my heart I believe that The Beatles are superior to ABBA. Anyway, when ABBA was all over the radio, I was in my early teens. I was 14 years old when Dancing Queen was a number one hit. Of course over time you add more and different music to your personal music catalogue, but people I meet usually agree that they still like the music they grew up with. But that doesn’t explain what attracted me to ABBA’s music in the first place. One of the main things that contributed is the catchy sing-along quality of the ABBA music. Songs like SOS or Mamma Mia are instantly recognisable tunes with lyrics that invite you to sing-a-long. And these songs simply stick in your head. It’s almost impossible to forget them. That is partly because ABBA songs have very strong, classic melodies.

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The optimistic sound of the early ABBA songs is also very important to me. Songs like My Mama Said, What About Livingstone or even a song like Tropical Loveland sound positive. Well, maybe that’s not the correct words, but you probably know what I mean. ABBA had a great way of sounding fresh. One of the most attractive things about ABBA’s music was the vocal harmonies in ABBA’s early songs. Frida’s mezzosoprano and Agnetha’s soprano vocal talents are so very defining for ABBA’s sound. If you used the same backing track, I am sure that the music would be at its best when sung by the ABBA women. Their voices are made for Björn and Benny’s songs. Maybe it’s just the production, but ABBA’s songs sound like there is a complete choir even when it’s just the girls who are singing. Let’s say that their combined talents go far beyond their individual talents vocally. And even when they are each other’s backing vocals they sound terrific. What would The Day Before You Came be without Frida’s background opera-like singing. What about ABBA’s looks? Two guys, two girls, exuding fun and energy - in the early stages of their career anyway. Later classics such as The Winner Takes It All lacked that optimism naturally. It’s a very important factor that contributed to their success. Two good-looking women is usually more than enough to attract record buyers. And if they can sing, then you have a guaranteed hit. And in the case of ABBA this was part of the great thing about the band. Although seeing Agnetha and Frida singing always brought a weird sensation, I never really had a crush on either of them. Don’t misunderstand me: I think they were

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fabulous looking women. They looked great, but I didn’t fancy them that much. In my eyes they were people you just knew, not someone you could fall in love with. It seemed they were there all the time, like good friends or so. Let’s put it this way: my love of ABBA was never based on sex or anything like that. What appeals more (yes, I’m a nerd!) is the immaculate production of the ABBA tracks that attract me a lot. A highly sophisticated production and sound engineering team created lots of complex layers, often hidden deep in the final mix. When you listen to certain tracks, you will discover new things that you haven’t heard before. Take a good head-set and listen. You will be amazed at the many things you find. It’s so clever and ingenious. And of course the arrangements are so well-chosen. What is also very appealing is the great differences in style. ABBA made a few great ballads, some fabulous dance songs, a couple of great rock tracks and many other pure pop diamonds. Their music wasn’t limited to one style only, like for instance Status Quo. And ABBA’s musical development and growth over the years is what I find fantastic, from the early songs like Ring Ring and Nina, Pretty Ballerina to musical masterpieces like The Winner Takes It All, Eagle, I’m A Marionette and The Day Before You Came. Very few bands grew as strong musically during their existence. Another reason for liking ABBA is the approachable, downto-earth way they looked. I mean, they could be your neighbours. They don’t look like pop stars at all. Maybe in their Waterloo clothing or other stage clothes, but apart from that they seem just a bunch of nice people.

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Oh, and their accents, in particular Agnetha’s. You’ve just got to love the way she pronounces the L in the word “school” in the line “A matter of routine, I've done it ever since I finished school” from The Day Before You Came. The strange thing is that they sang without any accent (well to me anyway, but then again: I’m Dutch). But if you heard them talk, you could hear the lovely Scandinavian accents. A final point of interest is the video clips. Of course ABBA was a pioneer. They were among the first groups that made promotional clips on a regular basis. Nothing fancy, just a band singing their songs. And that’s the way it should be. Who needs feature films like Michael Jackson’s Thriller anyway?

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