From 1980’s Super Trouper, by which time ABBA were getting into the bleak stuff, comes this magnificently pessimistic new year song. Oddly enough, although there’s plenty of writing out there about all the dark stuff that found its way into Abba songs, this particular track always seems to get overlooked. Sod “Auld Lang Syne”, these people know that birth is a curse and existence is a prison, and every new year is just the prelude to another twelve months of disappointment and misery.
Sometimes I see
How the brave new world arrives
And I see how it thrives
In the ashes of our lives
Oh yes, man is a fool…
And then there’s the desperate emptiness of the chorus, an ode not to optimism but to denial as a coping mechanism…
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don’t we might as well lay down and die
This is why ABBA were effing brilliant. I mean, I fully expect the “reunion” songs to be a you-can’t-go-back disaster of Carry On Columbus proportions, and I have no interest in going to see Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!, though I did quite like the first film, but sometimes they just totally got it…
Link: “Happy New Year” by ABBA
Let’s do the obvious (though also the most tenuous) one first. Soul classic “Want Ads” by The Honey Cone was a US number one in 1971 and has inevitably been covered by a whole load of other people since. But here’s the original, which according to Wikipedia features a young Ray Parker Jr on rhythm guitar. And I know what a huge selling point that is.
The second song was also an American number one, the last of the 1970s in fact. But this time I haven’t gone for the hit version (by Rupert Holmes), but instead for a more recent cover by Jack Johnson, who actually pronounces the ñ in piña colada. So one for the linguistic pedants out there.
I suppose writing about personal ads does rather lend itself to the set up – punchline approach heard in “Escape”, and that’s used even more blatantly in my final song of the day. “Two For The Price Of One” is the token Björn-sung track on Abba‘s final studio album The Visitors, and is quite a departure from the notoriously gloomy mood of much of that album. That may be why a lot of people seem to interpret this as much darker than it really is. Also, a lot of people seem to take the title literally and assume it’s about prostitutes, which I’m pretty sure is not actually the implication.