She Sings

With ABBA’s return, I though it an ideal time to post this poem that was included in my first collection, Heading North, published by Nordland Publishing.

I’d written it whilst sat up one late Autumn night, listening to an early Agnetha Fältskog song, composed in her native tongue when she was just sixteen. A downpour occurring just beyond the limits of that darkened room contributed to the general mood: she was singing of a doomed love affair; I was thinking of other times.

ABBA And The Friday Feels

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.

The finished result, based on their look in 1979.

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.

A Dagger In The Art

We recently had a Dutch student stay with us, and a conversation about famous Dutch people provoked two inevitables:

1. My son contributing every single footballer from the Netherlands that he could think of,

and 2. the namedrop of Vincent Van Gogh.

“Van Gogh!” exclaimed my daughter, “wasn’t that him that bit off his own ear?”

What followed were some incredible attempts by my children to fit their ears into their mouths, a feat surely impossible unless they were elephants.

Later that evening I finished a biography I was reading of The Mamas and the Papas. If ever there was a group that was destined not to stay together it was these guys. Remember that great 90’s film The Commitments, about an Irish group that imploded just as they were about to hit the big time?


It was like that. You had Michelle who was married to John; John who was friends with Denny; Denny who was friends with Cass; Cass who was both in love with Denny and friends with Michelle.

Then, just as they were about to sign a recording contract with a record company, Michelle and Denny had an affair. John was angry with Denny. Denny felt guilty about cheating on his friend and upsetting Cass. Cass was angry with Denny and Michelle. Michelle was angry because John blamed her and not Denny. And on and on ad nauseum.

Now it was time to make music. Somehow they managed to last two years.

John, much in the way of songwriters both before and after, used the turmoil in his life to create art. Just like Abba, where the recently divorced Björn came up with the lyrics of The Winner Takes It All and  gave it thoughtfully to his ex-wife to sing,


John wrote I Saw Her Again about this betrayal and the group took their medicine and recorded it. Probably with many sideways glances.

From this I began to think of the recently deceased Dolores O’Riordan. Although the cause of death in that London hotel has yet to be disclosed, and it would be wrong to speculate, there are tales of depression and breakdowns, bipolar and a suicide attempt, all in the wake of her terrible  experience as a young girl when she was sexually abused between the age of eight and twelve by a man known to her family.

A man who, though she never publically named, approached her at her father’s funeral, as she had long dreaded, tearfully apologising for what he had done.

I thought once again about how artists turn pain into art; about creative tension, struggle and catharsis. How some need to somehow get it out in their work.

And, with Dolores’ personal disclosures, witnessed the heartbreak of this Cranberries song, Fee Fi Fo, shared below complete with lyrics.


When all is said and done

I’m rubbish at art, I wish I could draw. Anna can-here are sketches inspired by the lyrics of When All Is Said And Done by some of her fellow Swedes that you may know as Abba. I love them. Even picked up a pencil. Put it back down again.

Annas Art - FärgaregårdsAnna

More Swedish music inspiration.
Viktoria Tolstoy with Benny Andersson (from ABBA) at the piano.
http://youtu.be/ZqthtyD7Dg4

A song from the Nils Landgren album Funky ABBA
Funky Abba | Nils Landgren
http://www.nilslandgren.com/funky-abba/
An awesome album by the way!

“When all is said and done” is one of my favorite ABBA songs. Love the lyrics and the Nils Landgren/Benny Andersson/Viktoria Tolstoy version is great.

So great that the version of the song inspired me to draw the lyricss. I borrowed (didn’t ask for permission) the lyrics and did some drawings.

Here are the drawings. Have fun!

Anna

WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE

when all is said and done_Sida_01when all is said and done_Sida_02when all is said and done_Sida_03when all is said and done_Sida_04when all is said and done_Sida_05when all is said and done_Sida_06when all is said and done_Sida_07when all is said and done_Sida_08when all is said and done_Sida_09when all is said and done_Sida_10when all is said and done_Sida_11when all is said and done_Sida_12when all is said and done_Sida_13when all is said and done_Sida_14when all is said and done_Sida_15when all is said and done_Sida_16when all is said and done_Sida_17when all is said and done_Sida_18when all is said and done_Sida_19

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Time And The Swede

A while ago, on Facebook, I stumbled across this photograph of my old Swedish friend Agnetha Fältskog, taken from the first Abba Greatest Hits album of 1975. If you look closely, you will see that inserted into her hand is a copy of her last solo album, A, released in 2013. Both albums, both images, separated by thirty-eight years, stand, in a way, like chronological bookends of a linear journey. Of her linear journey, along that particular period of her life. In between, of course, much has changed. For better, or for worse. Such is life.

image

I like to think that the photoshopping artist, whoever he or she may be, has, like I, a penchant for both history and continuity, similarly casting an appreciative eye over the progressive journey, yet, also, being cut to the quick by the unstoppable, winnowing effect of time itself.

There is a song on Agnetha’s last album called I Was A Flower. I think some of the lines could also be addressed to Time itself:

I was a flower

Now look what you have done

You’ve made my colours fade

Too close to the sun

Once I was innocent

Beautiful, life had just begun

I was a flower

Now look what you have done

There are some other lines of this song that my daughter sings over and over, like kids do:

But now you walk right through me

Like I’m an empty ghost

Now, when I need you the most

My daughter: a young girl, blossoming and full of life, whiling away her time singing of empty ghosts.

Two chronological bookends of a linear journey, being winnowed along the way.

Damn you, Time. Damn you.

New Year:Start With A Song

New Year: lets’s start with a song, and think about blank canvases.

City Jackdaw

I didn’t bother doing a Google search, these three songs were just off the top of my head. I realise I won’t be catering for everybody’s tastes, so if you want you could totally ignore this post (how dare you) and put on your own favourite new year themed song to dance your way into the new year. Dancing is not my thing, though, I’m far too self-conscious. I may tap a foot if I’ve had enough to drink. And then I would probably stand on someone else’s toe.

Out of the three my favourite song is probably the U2 one, although I do love Jeff Buckley-he died way too young, just like his father. All that unrealised potential too. With the Abba one you also get a video, although the party isn’t exactly what you would call a rave.

Catch you later. We’ve got a whole year ahead of…

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New Year:Start With A Song

 

(I originally posted this on New Year’s Day in 2014. Now it’s become a routine. Since then I’ve changed my mind and come out of the closet: I like the Abba track!)

I didn’t bother doing a Google search, these three songs were just off the top of my head. I realise I won’t be catering for everybody’s tastes, so if you want you could totally ignore this post (how dare you) and put on your own favourite new year themed song to dance your way into the new year. Dancing is not my thing, though, I’m far too self-conscious. I may tap a foot if I’ve had enough to drink. And then I would probably stand on someone else’s toe.

Out of the three my favourite song is probably the U2 one, although I do love Jeff Buckley-he died way too young, just like his father. With the Abba one you also get a video, although the party isn’t exactly what you would call a rave. More like the weary after-wake.

Catch you later. We’ve got a whole year ahead of us, Jackdaw spotters 🙂