Monday, November 01, 2021

ABBA: five hidden gems from the legendary Swedish hitmakers

With 150 million record sales and counting, ABBA are one of the most instantly recognisable and universally adored bands of all time.

And, quite aside from the stellar success of their hits collections (‘Gold’ and ‘More Gold’) and the karaoke-fest that is ‘Mamma Mia’, their wider back-catalogue is just as magical.

Many of ABBA’s expertly crafted pop tunes don’t get the attention they deserve simply because their biggest singles have become so ubiquitous. So let’s shine a light on five overlooked ABBA songs that, for any other band, would surely be career highlights.



Bang-a-Boomerang’ is a blinding pop song with a dazzling intro, a killer chorus and the deftest of key changes. It’s a brilliant demonstration of how even the most throwaway of lyrics – literally “Like a bang / A boom-a-boomerang / Dum-be-dum-dum be-dum-be-dum-dum” – can sound resplendent when delivered by Agnetha and Anni-Frid.


Initially written for Swedish Eurovision hopefuls Svenne & Lotta, ‘Bang-a-Boomerang’ eventually turned up on the third, self-titled ABBA album. It was released as a single in April 1975, charting highly in Scandinavia but, despite its Australian vibe, failing to resonate with those down under. The band did manage to win over the Aussies during the next few years, and their 1977 tour of Australia is captured in the film ‘ABBA: The Movie’, which, frankly, is recommended for die-hards only.


‘If It Wasn’t For The Nights’

Benni and Bjorn wrote some pretty heavy breakup songs over the years, and ‘If It Wasn’t For The Nights’ is one of the heaviest. The lyrics, which centre around Bjorn and Agnetha’s divorce, are ridden with anguish, regret and desperation:


No one to turn to, you know how it is / I was not prepared for something like this / Now I see them clearly, the things that I miss.


Of course, this being ABBA, the agony is delivered within pristine pop packaging, and ‘If It Wasn’t For The Nights’ was originally in line to be the lead single from 1979’s excellent ‘Voulez-Vous’ album, before the band recorded ‘Chiquitita’ and decided that it was a stronger choice (it wasn’t).


‘Hasta Mañana’

Taken from their second album, ‘Waterloo’, way back in 1974, ‘Hasta Mañana’ was considered for ABBA’s Swedish Eurovision entry, only to be replaced by ‘Waterloo’ itself. The decision changed the course of music history, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the usurped ballad is itself a fine piece of songwriting, telling the story of a lover pining for their estranged other half. In fact, the decision not to perform ‘Hasta Mañana’ at Eurovision was made purely on the basis that it was an Agnetha solo vocal, and the band felt that this would misrepresent them to the world.


‘Two For The Price Of One’

Almost all ABBA albums have their obligatory Bjorn-sung track, and so does this list of hidden gems.


ABBA’s final record, ‘The Visitors’, was met with a mixed reaction on release but has since been reappraised and rightly recognised as one of their strongest efforts. ‘Two For The Price Of One’ was one of the most divisive tracks on the album, and it’s not entirely obvious why, as the song is clearly brilliant. Its tongue-in-cheek lyrics about a lonely man with a humdrum life investing in a mail order bride are perhaps the wittiest Bjorn ever penned, and, like everything on ‘The Visitors’, the instrumentation is flawless.


So pay no attention to the naysayers – ‘Two For The Price Of One’ is a fine song off a very fine album.


‘That’s Me’

If you’re looking for hits, ‘Arrival’ is the ABBA album for you. But away from big guns like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ and ‘Money, Money, Money’, the album is loaded with other, less familiar treasures.


It’s hard to pick out just one track, such is the quality of the material on offer here, but ‘That’s Me’ is worth including for its catchy two-note riff and clever, progressive chord sequence that whisks the listener along on a journey through each verse before somehow finding its way back to the start again.


The song is lyrically intriguing too, with lines such as “It’s lonely to be free / But I’m not a man’s toy, I’ll never be” considering the trade-offs involved in being a strong, independent woman versus rather than the ‘marrying kind’. It’s smart, devastatingly effective pop music – which, when you think about it, is ABBA in a nutshell.


Tom Kirkham / @finestworktom

Image: ABBA in Rotterdam - Wikimedia Commons

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