The weekend filler to celebrate International ABBA Day…
Hello there girls and boys, I hope you’re well.
One of the many pastimes at school was making a list of people, countries, names, songs, giving each a number, then asking somebody else to choose a number from the 16, then the remaining 8, then 4 then 2 to find a winner. Whenever we did this colour, black seemed to win more than others which for a blind competition was spooky!
Of course, liking a song is highly subjective, but this is why music is a thing liked by the majority, despite their background, race, religion. Each person can have their own tastes which perhaps nobody else will share. My own were somewhat formed by what my elders listened to as with many other people. Then at some point in my teens, instead of keeping up with the current trends, I went back in time, the eighties, seventies. I never cared much for anything beyond that. Ellie’s dad is a huge Beatles fan, but I can’t abide most of their stuff, She Loves You being an exception.
I’ve a weekend to fill, so thought it might be a nice idea to find out if Waterloo is my fave ABBA tune, by way of a knockout style competition. There will be many a person in Durham and Newcastle bars that have put up with Abby and I and a karaoke version of this. I’ll put my partiality to one side for this! If anybody had asked me which I would prefer between The Winner Takes it All or Take a Chance on Me without a direct comparison, I would be hard-pressed to give them an answer, but this way I’ll find out.
I’ve entered 32 of ABBA’s songs into the generator at https://anero.id/knockout-draw-generator/
The winners of each round will be entered into the generator again, and so on until the final. None of your North American “conference” rubbish here!
All of the hits are there plus some lesser known releases. To listen to these I obtained the highest quality versions of each song I could, and listened to them via a good set of headphones, once each and then again, over three days. I did this while lying on my bed in the dark without distractions.
Also, I have no musical training, so the terms for certain things..well, I don’t know them!
You can play along at home as well…
Day one, Round one.
Money, Money, Money v Super Trouper
Money has it all, twiddly synths that you don’t hear unless you want to, bass guitar ditto, change of tempo, and that ending everybody knows. Super Trouper, a song about a spotlight, (thanks Martin), has harmonies in the first verse, mentions Glasgow, and twiddly synths that you don’t hear unless you want to. A really close run tie, but the harmonies in Super Trouper did it in the end, as well as the synth base during the chorus.
Lay All Your Love on Me v Waterloo
Dear me. What I consider to be the quintessential ABBA song, against my fave singalong. I’ve always thought the vocals on LAYLOM were not as loud as they should be, that the music is a bit overpowering. Listening to it as a direct comparison hasn’t changed my mind, although this occurs on a few ABBA tracks. I adore the fall-off of the sound at the end of the verses, the background synths during the bridge… Waterloo though.. The opening bars just great, you’re going to have a good time with this song. The da da da da da da of the guitars, so like Wizzard’s See My Baby Jive. The sax, the energy of the vocals give this the edge over LAYLOM
So Long v I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
So Long, it’s such a, “I dont need you, you cant buy me”, happy song. However it seems to run out of original lyrics way before the end.. I Do, on the other hand, runs out of lyrics after the first verse and chorus, and has a bridge instead. After much listening though, So Long goes on..
People Need Love v Dancing Queen
You can tell when PNL was written, just by the lyrics, man needing a woman, New Seekers’ I’d Like to Teach The World to Sing vibe, let’s hug everyone sort of thing. All of which are good things, but the song is horrible. I didn’t even have to listen to the competitor.
The Winner Takes it All v Take a Chance on Me
A simple keyboard accompaniment to Agnetha’s vocals. Such a strong voice, and that spoken, “but you see’. Brilliant. TACOM has many more spoken words, but they fall flat with me. It does have more gong on musically than TWTIA, but to me it needs a slight increase in speed. I’m forever waiting for it so have a bit more oomph. On balance I just don’t like it as much on this comparison.
Eagle v Thank You for the Music
Eagle is too slow, and at nearly six minutes too long. Which is a shame as the vocals are really good. TYFTM has the opening line, “I’m nothing special, in fact, I’m a bit of a bore”. Me, in other words. Sadly from there it doesn’t get any better. the chorus is nice and singalong, but the verses, god, turgid. It just gets the nod over Eagle, but only as the best of a bad pair.
Honey, Honey v Ring Ring
The nearest ABBA ever came to being sexual, at least in their songs, (See the video of So Long for tshirts and knickers, the strumpets), HH has the breathy ah ah ah ah, after “when you do your thing”.. A delicious song. It’s a shame that it had to come up against Ring. If LAYLOM is the quintessential ABBA song, this is the second place. The lower key segment in the chorus gets me every time, it’s just so good. It does suffer from ABBA-itis, those vocals being slightly shrill or lower in volume than they I feel they should be. A win for Honey then.
Mamma Mia v The Day Before You Came
“Just one look” “Ooweoo” acapella “Mamma Mia, here I go again” versus a song with no chorus, lyrics written so perfectly in English by a Swede, that tell of a normal day. These were two I had to listen four times each before I chose one. “Ooweeoo” won it for me.
Chiquitita v King Kong Song
Chiquitita’s keyboards and vocals only beginning builds to such a good tune overall. The vocals behind the main are great, as well. I still hate the Spanish guitary bit mind! KKS..rock and roll with Abba-itis to the max, I honestly don’t know most of what is sung here, which is a shame as the overall thing is quite good. A win for Chi then.
Knowing Me, Knowing You v The Name of the Game
The guitars, the ahaaaa, (Hi Alan Partridge fans!), the breathed, “Always”, Benny with his “this time we’re through” lyrics behind the main, KMKY is superb. If only it weren’t against TNOTG! The acapaella at “And you make me talk, And you make me feel”, is so up close in your ear that you can believe Agnetha is there with you. But what wins it for KMKY is the fake trumpets in TNOTG. I detest them. Sometimes synths are not better!
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! v S.O.S.
A great intro to GGG, the buildup to each chorus, let down by the keyboard bits. They really spoil a tune I want to like so much. SOS has another great intro, repeated at the end, I always like that in a tune. Also, the guitar in between each “When you’re gone How can I even try to go on?”, subtle but just so nice. SOS it is then.
One of Us v Happy New Year
If there was ever a bad example of production in an ABBA song, then One of Us is it. There is a clear joining or overlay of vocals or track here, at “Of my rightful chances My picture clear” and it is so jarring, such a shame too, as the rest of the song is great, the intro delightful. HNY is a seasonal song, but still good on its merits of a schmaltzy chorus, but for me let down by being too slow. One of Us wins.
Nina, Pretty Ballerina v Rock Me
The New Seekers again, I hate this song, fake crowd noise, the echo on just like Cinderella, horrible tune. I did listen to it to refresh my memory though… Rock Me goes through but my it has it’s own faults..
Summer Night City v Angeleyes
SNC is another that has a jarring moment, the junction of the opening vocals and the music, it’s so loud. Good tune though, if a tad repetitive. Angeleyes is a happy singalong, you’d be forgiven for thinking on first listen, despite it being about a cheating partner. It’s the winner from these two.
Does Your Mother Know? v Fernando
Despite the cringey older-man-talking-to-a-younger-girl lines, this is a tight tune, great vocals (apart from the MickeyMouse effect on “does your mother know”), and the opening base line is lush. Pseudo military drums, freedom fighters, youth and the progression of feelings through the years in Fernando don’t make this a better tune than DYMK.
I Have a Dream v Voulez-Vous
I hate kids singing, sorry but I do. That combined with the Greek-a-like rhythm destroys any hope this had of progressing. Voulez Vous though, an urgent song. It does have some downtime though, after the first chorus particularly, but it easily has enough to beat IHAD.
Day two and the survivors came out of the randomiser as follows..
Day two, Round two.
Chiquitita vs Dancing Queen
Yesterday I said I hated the Spanish guitar on this.. another two listens and that sound now ruins the whole song. Dancing Queen came through from the last round by default, so I couldn’t just not listen to it again. Ibiza keyboards before Ibiza keyboards were ever a thing, their presence behind the chorus are hard to hear but are something else when you have them locked in. Dancing Queen it is then.
Honey, Honey vs The Winner Takes it All
What I said about both Honey and Winner in the previous round stands true, but a niggle has arisen. Benny’s vocals on Honey grate a tiny bit after playing, but only slightly. Is it better than Winner in a direct comparison, though? Again it’s the vocals on Winner that..erm..win it for me, but by a tiny fraction.
Waterloo vs So Long
Favouritism aside, Waterloo has faults. I’ve tried many times to get a decent copy of this but it seems the original was made the way it is, a sort of a dull sound. But that intro, the energy.. So Long has energy by the bagful, but it stretches out the song, unlike Waterloo. If only I could mashup these two, but I can’t, so Waterloo it is.
Voulez-Vouz vs Rock Me
VV had an easy ride into this round, RM even easier. Time for a hard listen.. VV is a polished song, the “aha”s perfect, but Benny’s Slade-a-like vocals on Rock Me are dire. Perhaps if this has been one of the girls?
Mamma Mia vs Knowing Me, Knowing You
Oh my. After five listens to this pair, I still couldn’t decide, so had to be really picky. In the end it came down to the happiness in MM.
Angeleyes vs S.O.S
The bouncy tune and vocals in the chorus are the reason Angeleyes is the winner here. S.O.S fails only in the difference in volume of the vocals at the end of the first chorus to the beginning of the second verse.
Does Your Mother Know? vs One of Us
The more DYMK is listened to, those lyrics and the MickeyMouse chorus effects… Comparing this to OoU then. I’ve got to give it to One of Us.
Thank You for the Music vs Super Trouper
TYFTM crept into this round as it was against a poor song. Sadly for it, it’s met a far better one in ST.
Dancing Queen vs The Winner Takes it All
Dancing Queen, after this many listens, still isn’t stale. Maybe its the upbeat tune. TWTIA , the vocals semi spoken.. no, DQ it is.
Waterloo vs One of Us
Waterloo still has that dull-ness. It is such a good song, with no downtime, but that aaaaaaahh bit, in this comparison, doesn’t help it’s cause. One of Us proceeds along at a nice pace for a slower tune, good harmonies. Sorry Abby, One of Us wins.
Voulez-Vouz vs Angeleyes
Perhaps the only bad thing about VV is that after the bright intro, it calms down too much before building back. And that guitar in those moments. Angeleyes has a steady thing going on, a story, as well as a change of note in “Don’t look too deep”.
Super Trouper vs Mamma Mia
MM has the quicker beat, and at this point it’s about not liking things in a song. Slower songs tend not to be my liking, but two of them made it this far! “Sup-u-per troup-u-per” grates as well.
Day three, Semi-finals
Dancing Queen vs One of Us
I find myself tapping my fingers on my chest to Dancing Queen, something One Of Us can’t manage. The strings in it are great, and I’ve mentioned the piano previously. Just lovely. But One of Us has Agnetha’s vocals, so clear, while DQ suffers slightly from ABBA-itis. Which to choose? In this comparison, One of Us plods ever so slightly. DQ it is then.
Angeleyes vs Mamma Mia
Twiddly bits in the intro, a long chorus, that “ah ha ha”, Angeleyes has really gone up in my estimation, but it just can’t do enough to beat out Mamma Mia.
Dancing Queen vs Mamma Mia
Dancing Queen has.. The opening “You can dance” which builds from an oooh which is absolutely magical, twiddly bits on the synths, superb singalong qualities, but maybe a little too much difference in the heights of the first chorus to the lows of the second verse. Mamma Mia has “Just one look”, twiddly bits on the synths, superb singalong qualities. Is this really going to come down to the keyboards of DQ, or the oooweeeoo of MM?
In the end, I’ve gone for Mamma Mia. In a direct comparison, it has the edge by an ooh.
I’ve enjoyed this experience, it helped fill a weekend and I’ve learned some lyrics.
Did I have any surprises then? Take a Chance On me being so slow, in my mind I always thought of it a quicker song, Thank You For The Music likewise, Does Your Mother Know being a song that probably wouldn’t be able to be released today. Angeleyes being so high a finisher, and Fernando, for a hit, being so crap. Also I’m aware that the result may well have been different if the draw had been kinder to other songs..but that’s the luck of the draw.
Next time I do this, it’s Blondie! 32 tracks chosen, Debbie Harry in my head…
Of course, you didn’t think I’d do an ABBA thing without ending on this…
As ever, thanks for reading
6th of April, 2021