Saturday, February 13, 2010

ABBA Fans Strike Back

Most Americans would find this amazing, but there are a sizable number of people out there -- mostly in backwashes like Australia, Canada and Europe -- who actually still like, in fact, even idolize and revere the 70s-vintage Euro pop act, ABBA.

I discovered this when I went to research several pieces that I did arguing the absurdity of ABBA's impending induction into Jann Wenner's Rock 'n roll Hall of Fame.

The archived critiques can be seen here: and here:

There are literally hundreds of websites and blogs devoted to the worship of the Swedish quartet -- many of them still quite active and not all products of the official ABBA business consortium.

It is interesting to note that of the many hundreds who read the most recent critique, fewer than 25% were from the USA. That's understandable, given the fact that, aside from the pre-adolescent teeny-bop crowd, ABBA attained comparatively very little public acceptance in the world's largest popular music market.

Many of the ABBA enthusiasts reacted to my critique with schoolyard taunts questioning the legitimacy of my familial origions or the viability of my mental condition. And some suggested interesting and unusual anatomical feats that I should consider performing on myself.

But a very few put forth, more or less, serious logical attempts to justify the ABBA induction travesty.

Here are several:

One Rudolf Ondrich from Europe wrote:

Hmmmmm. I do get that this is satire, but it is pretty crap.

And ABBA do belong in the HoF based on musical reasons.

There is nothing light and fluffy about the music of ABBA. The Album (1977), Super Trouper (1980) and The Visitors (1981) are all brilliant, well crafted albums. Most people make the assumption ABBA only wrote Mamma Mia or Dancing Queen over and over again, that is simply the most silliest idea one can have about the music of ABBA.

Here is my personal input – In the mid-19th Century the music of the composer Richard Wagner represented a new phase of music, whereas the music of the composer Johannes Brahms was considered much more conservative and old-fashioned. At the time, everyone considered the music of these two men to be totally separate and no one would say they are the same genre, (Old Style Vs New Style), whereas nowadays they are seen under the same umbrella (ie German Romanticism). Could one day Rock Vs Pop become one group of music?

And one anonymous female writer from abroad argued that ABBA were, far from being a female sexploitative glorified pole dancing act, a significant force for feminism and serious social commentary:

One of the many good things about ABBA was that they brought a lot of female viewpoints, previously unheard in music, out into the open, such as in Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and even in Dancing Queen. The male dominated rock and roll scene up to that time( and even since) had and has an almost exclusively 100% male social viewpoint. As ABBA's career coincided with the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1970's, that makes ABBA a significant social commentator in music.

I guess this is the kind of artistically immortal German Classicism and poignant feminism of which they speak:

So, you see, once again, we silly Americans just don't get it and need the Europeans and 3rd Worlders to enlighten us.

We just couldn't fathom ABBA's profundity and biting social commentary.

No wonder the French think Jerry Lewis is a comedic genius and the Germans think David Hasselhoff is a serious actor and we effete Americans have cruelly overlooked their greatness.

And they also think that soccer is a serious sport.


  1. Ummm, I am from Australia, not Europe.

  2. Ummmmm, I come from Australia, not Europe.

  3. It is far fetched and sarcastic of ChicagoLampoon to view ABBA as German classicism & poignant feminism. The phrase"we silly Americans" (although also meant somewhat sarcastically and also arrogantly) is probably true in its literal sense. This is the country that brought us Will And Grace after all - a great leap for gay rights, not!!!

    Anyway, in my opinion, the true greatness of ABBA lies in the fact that they were 4 ordinary people, living out ordinary lives in front of billions of interested observers. They didn't make headline news because of cocaine abuse or sordid sex scandals, they made headlines because they sang about the ordinary ups and downs of ordinary human beings living ordinary lives. Dancing Queen is about a lonely girl, whose only meaningful relationships are fleeting ones made on the dancefloor. Something that many, many people experience. If it were bubblegum pop about how everything in the garden is lovely, it wouldn't have the impact that it still does, 34 years later. And if you multiply this by approximately 100, that is how many times ABBA have repeated this feat. (Of course, Mr Lampoon's own achievements give him justification to er...lampoon ABBA's achievements). By and large, it is the tension caused by happy music, against lyrics tinged with sadness (or vice versa) that brings this about.

    Because the music is about our ordinary experiences (even Waterloo, which is a metaphor for giving into the charms of another person), people listen to their music and feel uplifted. Even Americans. I have a bootleg of one of ABBA's 1979 concerts from the North American leg of the tour and the fan hysteria at the end was like "your average band x100". When the tour reached Wembley that November, I was one of the kids lucky enough to witness this total emotional uplifting, that even now, won't entirely vanish whenever I hear their music or watch them via DVD.

    Of course, the Beatles set the precedent, and I don't doubt that the hysteria surrounding the Fab 4 was "ABBA times 100". But whereas this was largely due to a younger generation venting their frustration against a society where they suffered sexual frustration and post-war austerity, ABBA's first round of adulation was due to their ordinariness, plus genuine musical talent. And the children (or even grandchildren) of this first wave of fans, are reliving this.

    ChicagoLampoon may not be entirely convinced by my argument, or Rudolf's, but there is no denying their phenomenal achievement. There isn't an award for MOR Hall of Fame - but I think Rock n Roll HOF is supposed to enbrace all genres of pop music. Therefore ABBA deserve to be there as much as Elvis and the Beatles. They have touched many millions of lives.


Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.