God Is In The Detail is taking a break this week. I’m sorry, I simply don’t have the energy. Events have worn me out. Sometimes you need to put things down, rather than going through the motions for the sake of completion. This week is one of those. Besides, I don’t think many people actually read it these days. There are so many outlandish fan theories doing the rounds that it just falls between the cracks, another victim of Poe’s law, dropping into the filter alongside all the crackpot ideas about grandparents and necklaces.
Let’s do something fun instead. We’ll have a bit of ABBA, shall we? ABBA are great. My love affair with them began in the early 1980s when we had a couple of their albums (at least one of which was a compilation) on vinyl. There was a record player in the bottom of the wardrobe, and whenever I heard the heavy, almost claustrophobic bass that opens ‘The Name of the Game’ I was convinced that they were hiding in the back somewhere behind the coats. (I was four; I think that’s a reasonable excuse.)
Fast forward – literally – a few years, to the video we bought from Smiths and which I watched nigh on every Saturday for about a year, wherein I learned about the joys of ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Eagle’ and the unremitting sobfest that is ‘The Winner Takes It All’. I tended to stop when it started talking about ‘One Of Us’. For one thing I didn’t care for Agnetha’s perm. For another it was getting uncomfortable to read, the band walking away into the sunset during the final fade for ‘Under Attack’. Was it my first brush with divorce? Probably. You could feel the pain and the hurt in those lyrics – “I don’t wanna talk,” Agnetha sang as she stood looking out at a river with the wind blowing in her face like someone researching their family tree in Who Do You Think You Are? “‘Cos it makes me feel sad.” And by the end of the record, it made me feel sad too. Every single time it came on the radio. Job done, I suppose.
Comebacks and reunions are always ripe for scrutiny – can they still pull it off, after all this time? – and it was inevitable that for every cheering Mamma Mia fan there’d be at least a couple more wondering why they’d done it. And yes, the new album is occasionally patchy and has some pretty terrible lyrics. That’s vintage ABBA. Seriously, go and listen to ‘Two For The Price Of One’. Or ‘What About Livingstone’. Or ‘Dum Dum Diddle’, if you can stomach it. Or ‘On And On And On’. I could go on (and on). They’re Swedish, for pity’s sake; give them a bit of credit for writing stuff we can at least understand, even if there is at least one moment every album that make you cringe. On Voyage it comes in the form of ‘Little Things’. “Little things,” sings Frida (or is it Agnetha? Seriously I can’t tell these days) playfully. “Like your naughty eyes / You’d consider bringing me a breakfast tray but there’s a price…”. Ouch. Still, at least she’s not too old for sex.
Anyway. I took a bunch of ABBA lyrics and stuck them into Doctor Who stills, because…well, it was fun. And because Voyage, for all its quirks and oddities, is a bundle of infectious joy, and god knows we need more joy in this crazy, broken world. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spent years feeling sad that they ended their original run on what was both a career high and a personal low – The Visitors was great, but the (apocryphal) image of Agnetha sitting in the darkened studio creaking out the final vocals to ‘The Day Before You Came’, as the rest of them all sit not speaking to each other, is just a little too much to bear. And for years that was it. I used to have a thing: for years, whenever anyone used to post a ridiculous (and frequently problematic) pipe dream, I’d say “That’s about as likely as an ABBA reunion.”
And it’s a shame I can’t use that one anymore, but it’s a price worth paying.