When I was 13, maybe 14 years old I had this groovy little portable record player that my mum purchased at one of the local second-hand stores. It was fire engine red and when anyone in the house slammed a door the needle would either jump or skip across the vinyl leaving an annoying scratch. My hip little record player was my pride and joy… well, that was until I received a double-deck cassette player for my 16th birthday. I didn’t own a set of head phones and it really didn’t bother me, the same couldn’t be said for my brothers and sister. Even when the volume was turned low they would still bicker about it, they just didn’t appreciate good music! 🙂 Most of the time I was happy sitting on the floor of my bedroom while my record player balanced on a pile of Nancy Drew books. Occasionally I would stand in front of my mirror singing Dancing Queen or Mamma Mia, singing into my hair brush, pretending I was an international superstar 🙂
My groovy record player had two dials, one for volume and the other was used to set the speed of the player. If I chose the wrong setting, Benny Andersson would sound like the Chipmunks, hilarious when I had friends over or for when I was in a silly mood. The only albums I owned were of Swedish pop group Abba and I was more than happy with that. Whenever I think back to my teenage years and try to remember when I first heard the group, the only memory I can recall was visiting my childhood friend who lived down the street. Her name was Mandy, and she was this spunky chick who always looked like she had stepped off the cover of a Dolly Magazine. Her hair was always perfect, her skin flawless and she was always dressed in something ultra cool. It was at Mandy’s house that I first remember hearing Dancing Queen, Ring Ring and Honey Honey.
I was only a toddler when Abba released their hit songs Ring Ring, Waterloo, Honey Honey and Mama Mia. By the time I was in Prep School Abba had released Dancing Queen and Take a Chance on Me, but it wasn’t until I hit my teenager years that I really developed an appreciation for the group. I don’t remember who bought me my first Abba records but I loved them. I had Abba Waterloo (released in 1974) and their album titled Arrival (released back in 1976). There was no pause, no rewind, no replay, I just placed that needle on the outside of my record and let it play each song at a time. As I got more confident I could balance the needle above the point between songs and hope that by the time I lowered it, I got the beginning of the song. The few times I got a little too cocky, I put a scratch in the record. Nothing was more devastating than listening to your favourite chorus on repeat.
I listened to Abba for hours at a time, by the time I turned 16 I knew every single song, every beat, every emotion…everything there was to know about each song. When I was 21 years old, my mum bought me Abba’s Greatest Hits compilation called Abba Gold. It was a double cassette of all their hit singles released between December 1973 and October 1981 and I played those tapes over and over until I wore them out! When the compilation was released on CD, I bought myself another copy, and when I first downloaded iTunes, Abba was one of the first albums I downloaded. I was determined to keep their stories of love and loss forever.
When the Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1972 they were nothing more than good friends, but as those friendships blossomed so did their music. One of the groups first hits was Honey Honey (1974) and you just knew they had more on their minds than a sandwich spread 😉 “Honey honey, how you thrill me, ah-hah, honey honey. Honey honey, nearly kill me, ah-hah, honey honey. I’d heard about you before, I wanted to know some more, and now I know what they mean, you’re a love machine…oh, you make me dizzy!” Yep… a lot more on their minds 😉 Over the years their music was cute, bubbly, sickly sweet, and I couldn’t get enough.
By 1976 the strain taking place behind the scenes was starting to show, especially when they sang Knowing Me, Knowing You – “We just have to face it, this time we’re through, breaking up is never easy I know but I have to go, knowing me, knowing you, its the best I can do”. Their love was like a roller coaster when the following year both the girls wanted someone to Take a Chance On Me – “Let me tell you now, my love is strong enough to last when things are rough it’s magic. You say that I waste my time but I can’t get you off my mind, no I can’t let go…’cos I love you so…” I was very much influenced on all matters pertaining to love, life and marriage just by listening to Abba’s music. Over the years you could hear the demise of not only Agnetha and Bjorn’s marriage, but also fellow lead singer Anni-Frid and her husband Benny, who also happened to be the bands piano player. As a fan of the group, it was rather difficult to listen to.
One of my favourite Abba songs was released in 1979 – Chiquitita. The song starts off a tad melancholy as Agnetha sings about feeling so sad, so tired, but then comes the chorus and you’re left feeling there just may be some hope – “Chiquitita, you and I know, how the heartaches come and they go. You’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end, you will have no time for grieving. Chiquitita, you and I cry, but the sun is still in the sky and shining above you. Let me hear you sing once more like you did before…Sing a new song, Chiquitita.” Or maybe not 😦 Keep on singing, though your hearts are breaking…. it was all so sad. Soon after the band released The Winner Takes It All – “I Played all my cards, and that’s what you’ve done to….nothing more to say, no more ace to play” – Agnetha didn’t sound upset, she sounded defeated. She had nothing more to give and she was simply tired. The Winner Takes It All was released in 1980, one year after Agnetha, and Abba’s guitarist and songwriter Bjorn, sought an end to their nine years of marriage. Soon after the band broke up.
Abba influenced an entire generation of guys and girls who listened to their songs, watched their performances and witnessed their heartache. Agnetha told the Daily Mail back in 2013: “In love, there are so many ups and downs, but I remain optimistic about it. I haven’t closed any doors.” And she was right, life does go on. Despite being taught that love can be heartbreaking, love is not lost forever. We do not know what our futures hold, but would I change any of my own experiences? No, because I wouldn’t know what I know today. I wouldn’t be smarter, wiser and more aware of what I want in life, or in love. As Abba sang back in 1973 “People need hope, people need loving, people need trust from a fellow-man. People need love and to make a good living, people need faith and a helping hand.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
x x x