Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bright Lights, Dark Shadows

I have just read Carl Magnus Palm's recent book about ABBA (name of the title above) with a keen interest. Maybe it's just memories of my 70's childhood hearing songs such as "Dancing Queen" and curious as to what "dark shadows" existed in such a group. Much of this is written about the business end of the group, which would bore some ABBA fans I suppose but it gives an angle to the story of a pop-band from the unlikely place of Sweden, mostly known previously for schlager music and what's leftover from the country's pre-Christian past in the form of folk. Imagine how impossible it was to export such music outside of Europe let-alone Sweden itself, then imagine trying to make something more in the line of Western pop-music, the results of which weren't always successful. This was a group that formed from playing folk songs at a private get-together, but it wasn't all fairy-land dreams-come-true, with impending relationship breakups and conceited mismanagement...

Indeed this tale is very much the "be careful what you wish for" kind. In the book there is revealed the conflict between Polar Music's Stig Anderson and the left-wing, wilfully amateurist Music Movement. I'm pretty sure the humorless likes of Conservative Punk would sneer at something like the Music Movement and would hope this tome would reaffirm the success of crass Capitalism. But that's not to be. Poor man Anderson becomes rich and then increasingly unhealthy as well as unhappy, and his cash-cow ABBA's success was never gonna last, no matter how good the music was.

There's also more about how the cynical likes of Stock, Aitken and Waterman and (ugh!) Max Marten took the sound of ABBA as the base but then speeding it up and taking the life and the melody out of it, leaving only pounding headache-music any geek with a cheap techno sequencer could make. Truth is if ABBA didn't have those Euro-folk roots and a gift for harmony and melody and that certain something that clicked and gave something to remember and (perhaps) cherish, they would've been long forgotten.