People Need ABBA

Published March 28, 2012

Let me start with two clichés: Has it really been 40 years? And: if so, how old does that make me? Much as I would love to think otherwise, the brutal truth is that it really is true: on Thursday, March 29, 2012, it’s exactly 40 years since ABBA started recording their very first single: ‘People Need Love’. I was seven years old when the single was released (so now you can do the maths and figure out exactly how old I am), and vividly remember the first time I heard it.

In the summer of 1972, my family rented a house on the island of Åland, which is situated between Sweden and Finland. It was close enough to Sweden that you could listen to Swedish radio there, and I was eager to tune in to the radio chart show, Tio i topp (The Top Ten). An immensely popular show broadcast on Saturday afternoons, it existed between 1961 and 1974 and featured a chart based on votes, consisting primarily of English-language rock and pop music.

If you loved pop music, which I did, you didn’t want to miss that show. So that Saturday afternoon in July 1972 would have been my first encounter with ABBA. I do remember being excited about the tune and really liking it, in that absolutely unneurotic and unrestricted way you do as a child, not worrying if it was “cool” but just responding to the melody, the production and the energetic performance. However, I didn’t become a major fan of the group at the time. My first ABBA single was the English version of ‘Ring Ring’ in 1973, and then I didn’t buy an ABBA record again until ‘The Winner Takes It All’. But it seemed ABBA were doing fine without my support.

And now, here we are, exactly 40 years after the story began, still listening to ABBA’s music. Not, however, so much to ‘People Need Love’, if we’re talking about the general public. The song is not on ABBA Gold and didn’t even make it onto More Gold – none of these compilations feature any tracks from the Ring Ring album (ABBA’s first), except for the title track – so today, it’s not as readily available to the casual fan. It’s somehow a pity that this song has become so obscure, although I can see why: it does seem to belong in the very early Seventies, and doesn’t bear many traces of what was to come in terms of more sophisticated ABBA recordings such as ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘The Winner Takes It All’. Still, I have a large space in my heart for these slightly naïve, but charming and zestful early ABBA recordings. So here’s to ‘People Need Love’ and ABBA’s 40th Anniversary!

If you want to know more about how the song came to be, click here to read my In Focus essay about ‘People Need Love’, originally published on The Official ABBA Site in 2003. The site is currently down for maintenance, so I’m offering the text here as a no-frills pdf file.