Just current hits then, classics now

Published June 09, 2012

I meant to publish this about a year ago, at the time of the release of Super Trouper Deluxe Edition, but never got around to doing it. Better late than never...

As Super Trouper Deluxe Edition was about to hit the shops, I got to thinking about how The Winner Takes It All and Super Trouper would have been presented in Smash Hits back in the day. In case you're unfamiliar with this British magazine, it was founded in 1978 and, after a few years, had become the biggest and most powerful pop publication in Great Britain. They published the lyrics to current hits or likely-to-be-hits, along with stories on pop stars, glossy pictures, gossip and whatever else you would expect from such a magazine. I bought the very first issue and started subscribing in 1979, and didn't give it up until 1986.

My Smash Hits collection is still intact (almost), so I dug up the issues with the two ABBA singles in them, and I was a bit shocked to see the not-very-glamorous presentation of The Winner Takes It All. It's hard to fathom today that when it was first released, it was simply regarded as the new ABBA single and one of many songs competing for record-buyers' attention. It wasn't even afforded a page of its own, but had to share space with Sheena Easton's 9 To 5 (subsequently re-christened Morning Train so as to avoid confusion with Dolly Parton's 9 To 5 - but that's another story). Today, of course, The Winner Takes It All is widely regarded as one of the most important ABBA songs, but back then it was just another ditty whose words were to be transcribed and pasted across an ugly blue-tinted picture of the group.

By the time Super Trouper was a released as a single, the glamour-factor had increased by a couple of hundred per cent. Full colour! An entire page devoted to this song only! Wow! This seems more appropriate, somehow - at least with the benefit of hindsight.


Alternative ABBA

Published June 05, 2012

ABBA’s international impact being what it is, one shouldn’t be surprised when references to them and their music crop up here and there. But perhaps most of us wouldn’t quite expect to find an ABBA episode in a novel with “alternative” music as its main theme. But this is exactly what’s on offer in British author Tim Thornton’s book The Alternative Hero. Tim tells me the following extract, published here with his permission, is based on a real-life incident:

“A few years ago I walked past Björn Ulvaeus on Oxford Street. His appearance had become less blonde Swedish male pop star and more bearded, kindly uncle, but before I knew what I was doing I was running back up the other side of the road so that I could walk past him again. It’s a funny old thing. As I approached him for the second time I ran through various lines I could maybe say to him (‘Sorry to bother you, I’d just like to tell you that ABBA made my childhood slightly more bearable’; ‘Sorry, I thought you ought to know that ABBA: The Album kicks the shit out of Pet Sounds and Sergeant Pepper as a classic, flawless pop masterpiece’; ‘Sorry, but can I just say that “My Love My Life” is the song I want played at my funeral’ etc.) but wisely decided to merely saunter past, enjoying a few seconds of being metres away from a genius. Besides, what if he’d been having a bad day and had told me to piss off? I’d have probably hurled myself in front of a passing 73 bus.”

Tim also tells me that ABBA – The Album is his favourite ABBA album because of its “bizarre blend of claustrophobia and awesome poppiness which still sends shivers down my spine”. No surprise, then, that the main character in his novel declares at one point that ‘Hole In Your Soul’ is his favourite ABBA song of all time.

To learn more about the book, click here. Or simply use one of the ordering links to the right.