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.

Time For Truth, Truth In Time

I was reading Stephen King’s Joyland, which I’d picked up in a charity shop, over my morning coffee when I encountered the following line:

When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction

Is this fact or fiction, so to speak? This line was unearthed in a work of fiction. And, to further blur the lines, truth can be found in fiction and fiction hidden in truth. But what about what it refers to, in regards to history? Our own history?

Revisionism. I’ve known people alter the facts to suit and justify their own particular narrative. Events recounted that don’t quite match up with our own recollection of things. I guess we all know someone like that.

But what about me? Do I ‘write’ fiction about my past?

I think I’m mostly the opposite. At the time, wherever along my timeline that ‘time’ was, I’d sometimes put a spin on things. Make myself appear more favourable and, forever the storyteller, embellish things for entertainment purposes, playing to the audience.

And of course obscure things I’d prefer not see the light of day. We’re all human and life is a learning curve.

Now, further down the line and removed by years and even decades, I recount how things really were back then from my own perspective (and it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?), with an insight I didn’t possess at the time.

Maybe age brings with it, along with wisdom, a certain candour. A candour maybe recognised by encountering an alternate version of truth in the midst of a work of fiction.

Standing Proud In Resilient Red

On this day in 1996, around 9.20 in the morning, a 3,330 lbs device was detonated in the heart of Manchester, the biggest bomb explosion in Britain since the Second World War.

While it devastated the city centre and injured 200, with an estimated 75,000 people present at the time it was both incredible and a miracle that nobody was killed. That was down to the bravery and rapid response of the emergency services, shop management teams and security guards who, acting on a coded warning from the IRA, had just an hour to evacuate everyone while stopping all transport heading into the city.

The last shoppers and staff were still running for their lives when the bomb went off.

I was working that morning on the outskirts of the centre, and in those days before mobile phones or internet, had no idea of the drama unfolding. I remember hearing the explosion and all conversation suddenly ceasing as we all looked at each other before heading to the windows to see the pall of smoke rising above the familiar landscape. Everyone of us knew people working in or visiting our city centre that morning, and in our silence were turning unspeakable fears around in our heads.

It wasn’t the first time, and God knows we now know it wasn’t to be the last, that our home city would suffer this way. But it could have been worse, much worse, the death toll could have been horrific.

And Manchester did what Manchester always does-it came back. It rebuilt. It regenerated.

Despite all of that devastation, the Phoenix of the modern Manchester that we know today arose from the ashes of that morning.

And, as a reminder to me whenever I see it, nothing stands more as a symbol of Mancunian strength, of Mancunian resilience, than that surviving red post box that can still be seen there today.

So, How’s Your Boxing Day Going?

So, how’s your Boxing Day going? Feeling lethargic and in need of some fresh air yet? Me too. But not just yet.

In the meanwhile, I thought I’d check in to share this photo with you all. Though it’s from 1905, I’m sure that those two children are Jools Holland and Paul McCartney!

And Cindy Lauper’s not looking her best, is she?