‘Listen ah know it must sound absurd
But I can hear the most melancholy sound ah ever heard!’
sang Nick Cave on the title track of his debut solo alhum From Her To Eternity in 1984. I’ve no idea whether or not he’s a fan, but the most melancholy sound I have ever heard is played out below in these two videos by Abba.
Yes, Abba. 1974 Eurovision winners, camp pop (yes, that’s POP, as opposed to indie, alternative, punk, whatevah) makers, famed for such upbeat perkiness have actually recorded some of the saddest, but most wonderful heartbreaking music ever heard.
In his utterly fanastic This is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles since Punk and Disco, Garry Mulholland outlines an interesting theory: that Abba and Joy Division seem to have a fair bit in common, lyrically at least. Alright, so Ian Curtis didn’t live long enough, alas, to make ‘divorce pop’ (though having read Deborah Curtis’ Touching From a Distance we can but speculate what the third Joy Division album would have been like). He points out that the first line of ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’ is:
‘No more carefree laughter/silence ever after.’ Put this after Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, he says, and you wouldn’t miss a beat.
For me, even as a Cure and Joy Divison fan, The Winner Takes It All is simply the saddest song ever recorded. The point at which Agnetha Faltskog sings ‘But tell me, does she kiss, like I used to kiss you? Does it feel the same, when she calls your name?’ …If this does not make your heart melt, sorry, I don’t want to know you. I mean it. You lack the basic emotional makeup that should allow you to exist in this world.
ABBA- Winner Takes It All
This next track was Abba’s final song before they pretty much disintegrated (they never formally split, just stopped working together). It only reached no.32 in the charts at the time, but it’s my favourite Abba song after The Winner Takes It All (yes, even better than Dancing Queen). The video is almost entirely Agnetha (ironically, given that it’s Frida who’s singing, according to several sources I have checked). The opening ‘I must have left my house at eight because I always do’ could conceivably be delivered by Ian Curtis, just as he could have done an amazing version of The Winner Takes It All. Funnily enough, although it’s the girls who sing these tracks, it was the blokes who wrote the words, as not even slightly subtle digs at their former wives (even the mere idea of two former couples having to work together must be uncomfortable. Just ask Fleetwood Mac). Watch this video, and then the two Joy Division videos down the blog for Love Will Tear Us Apart and Atmosphere and then decide if you really think Mr. Mulholland’s theory is so strange.
There really was something unique about Abba. After all, you don’t think Kurt Cobain and John Peel bestowed their affections on just anyone, do you?
The day before you came
Buy Abba on Amazon