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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Finally appreciating this 1970s SUPERGROUP

© 2009-2010 (original portions)
*"Supergroup"(link) : Employing the second meaning here (via the linked definition).

YouTube can be a superb time machine. Rightly or wrongly. (Licensing issues, etc.)

Like a lot of (white) American college kids during the early/mid-1970's, we were Prog rockers pretty much exclusively at that time. English progressives Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, and others. Toss in a few hard rockers like up-and-coming Aerosmith and "guitar stars" like Joe Walsh and Robin Trower. (Used to hold forth with a popular "Trower hour" in my dorm room.) And The Who. Always....The Who. Oh, and plus the occasional, local college-FM, one-hit wonders: E.g., Starstruck - "Black Betty"

(Wait...there's more: We were all big Motown fans too, mostly a residue from a few years before. (Will talk about mega-Midwestern radio station of the times CKLW, in another post.) And I was also familiar with earlier Fleetwood Mac, and witnessed one of their first concerts with "new guys" Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. (Didn't like 'em so much. Shows what I knew there....))

Being insular about other forms of music, especially anything that could be labeled as "pop" would have been an apt description for us at the time. (And "disco", of course.) Obviously, it's wonderfully ironic that most of the mentioned "non-mainstream" '70's bands.... became mainstream.

Listening exclusively to (a lot of) FM music at the time, it was still impossible not to be aware of an emerging Swedish group named ABBA. Although they were mostly getting airplay on vigorously disdained AM radio. (CKLW as a singular exception.)

Some of us probably secretly liked snippets of the nicely musical ABBA. But, strange as it sounds now, it would have been close to death to admit that. If you dared indicate that you knew of this "pop" group at all, you'd have to begin any conversation either by displaying your utter contempt, or perhaps engaging in a little fantasy dream-talk about the "blond one". (Gorgeous band focal-point Agnetha Faltskog. (Two dots are supposed to be over her last name's letter 'a'.)) I happen to think that this kind of attitude may have been prevalent, and may have delayed ABBA's complete acceptance in rock-oriented America. (They were much more popular in home Europe.) Music was a large part of our daily lives then, but I don't remember anyone really listening to ABBA.

Enough from "back in the day". See what a closed mind can do to you? As much as possible I pointedly ignored ABBA and their music for years, mainly because they were (usually) categorized as part of a genre that I didn't listen to or respect much. (Plus word-of-mouth back in the day was that some members really couldn't speak/understand English, so they didn't know exactly what they were singing -- in that language.)

Updated note: It was easier to "lock in" upon a music genre or two (way) back in the '60s and '70s, as many times there several quality bands (within different genres or types of music) to experience/keep up on. Much to choose from and explore. Just two quick samples... of many I could have selected (YT links): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jseTa7HUIDU&fmt=18  
and, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWjzIyDkEIM&feature=related 

Getting older often does alter you. ("More experienced".) As opposed to the enduring appeal and style (kitschy, yes) of ABBA's songs and performances, I find much of today's music to be ugly; even hateful. Some -- but only some -- of that might be attributed to my present, "old dude-ness". (Yes: "If it's too loud, you're too old.") But sometimes you're also broadened enough to open up to new experiences, or to seek out and re-visit older things. For music (popular music), I enjoy using YouTube for that.

Thirty or so years after the fact, through posted YouTube videos, I now appreciate ABBA. Amazing. I finally gave 'em a good listen; only three-or-so decades later. The two attractive ladies' siren voices, "nice-try"-but-still-delightful dancing, and the group's "wall of sound" approach all appeal, particularly in contrast to much of what's published today. Like many other popular groups of the '60s and '70's ('40s and '50s, too), ABBA possessed musical talent and cared about performing well for their audience. Versus, say; counting up the big money (link) they're receiving. Though manufactured, ABBA still nicely projected a kind of innocence.

So I guess I join the hundreds of millions who've made them one of the most successful groups of all time. Watching their many videos, the band's overt charm and appeal is irresistible. Writing all those "catchy" songs didn't hurt, either. Neither did the soprano's dramatic, "crying" voice, brilliantly meshed with the mezzo's.

It's especially pleasing to also see lots of positive comments (on YouTube) from clearly younger individuals in response to the vid's; appreciating good music no matter what the "era". I should have been as open-minded. (Though some of this also extends from the '70s decade being viewed nostalgically as some kind of universally "happy" period. ABBA and their music contributes in no small way to this.) The successful 'Mamma Mia' musical has, of course, re-kindled the band's popularity. In part because the original group's music often sounds better. Updated note: ABBA's music wasn't ever Beethoven. I know that. They know that. Others will disdain them probably forever, as being "contrived and corny", "ersatz" pop-meisters, etc.  Yet their music and also how (well) it was played and sung, endures on and on.....  *With ABBA, this blog mainly focuses upon the delivery; i.e., the excellent presentation and execution of their songs. (Primarily, of course by the two female fronting singers...)

There are many, many others who are more familiar with this legendary supergroup. I'll mercifully end the ramble by including just two of the numerous videos available on YouTube, the band's official site and elsewhere. Some of the more obscure ABBA videos on YouTube (link to several) are especially interesting so please look around. (User-submitted videos will come and go, and we know "some" aren't legal.)

In music, ABBA already has attained immortality. They define 1970s pop music, worldwide, and will be fondly remembered this way for years to come. Four local Swedish musicians who came together and became legends.

(I don't like to embed for a few reasons incl. it further slows down my page, but exceptions will be made. Pls. refresh the page if necessary:)

"Waterloo". Performing the 'Eurovision' 1974 contest winner; the band's big-time breakthrough:

The description included with this video (below) pretty much says it all....Lady is "white"-hot here, though it's claimed that Agnetha's constant back-side turnarounds were part of the show's planned choreography. Anyway, the growing adulation for the band and her in particular apparently got to be a bit too much. (Some, via this last sentence's link is your basic tabloid trash, however....)

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