You guys have heard me say it before: I’m a creature of nostalgia. That’s nothing new. (Literally.)
I’ve often thought, without having a death wish, that, of the gang I used to hang with in my youth, I hope I’m not one of the last to go as I don’t think my heart could take the sentimental overload.
I was born in ‘71, which means that in three months time I’ll be fifty. I’m sharing that half a century milestone this year with some of my favourite albums: The Doors’ La Woman, Lennon’s Imagine, and the Stones’ Sticky Fingers, among others. Music that I’ve connected with and taken with me across the decades.
Last night I watched the reveal about the quite astonishing return, after all this time, of ABBA, unveiling not only a whole new album (Voyage) and two songs from it, but also a concert that is being planned in London with the aid of technology.
ABBAtars, no less.
I saw this photograph of the four Swedes dressed up in the outfits that they wore to help create these new altar egos. They look like something out of the 80’s science fiction movie Tron.
Experiencing the two new songs from this first album in forty years transported me right back in time to the first family home that we all shared back then. I’d only be about five years old, my brother eighteen months younger. My folks had a cassette player on the wall unit by the door, with an early ABBA compilation album primed to play. My Mum introduced us: “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for . . . ‘THE MURRAY BROTHERS!’” We’d both be playing drums on an upturned bin and a biscuit tin respectively, while we sang along.
That was, of course, the seventies, the hazy, intangible seventies, where my affected memory always reconstructs those times in the brightest and gaudiest of colours.
My Dad is no longer with us, and my Mum no longer remembers ABBA (Alzheimer’s), but those happy days (and that group in particular) is something I’ve brought along with me to this very day. And that connection has been reinforced by listening to this new material.
Both songs (maybe more so because of the lens that I experience them through) are rich in sentiment. The first one, I Still Have Faith In You, is a ballad sung by Frida, about the special relationship shared by all four group members. I thought that this one was just okay, maybe a grower, the emotion of it coming more from the accompanying video that shows the four of them in their prime, until replaced by the ABBAtars that appear towards the end.
But it was the Agnetha-led second song, Don’t Shut Me Down, that cranked up the feels a notch. I wasn’t expecting the emotional punch that took me right back to my crude beginnings.
It sounds like classic ABBA, recognisable ABBA, and when Frida joins in it demonstrates that, no matter their age, when those two singers combine those two voices, magic is created.
It’s a magic sorely needed in our world, a magic capable of time travel.
And like all true nostalgists, I see hidden meaning and significance in everything. Making it relatable and personal, I excitedly informed my wife:
“Jen – ABBA have got back together for my 50th!”
Happy Birthday to me.