Friday, November 14, 2008

Out Of Place! Like King Kong!

I was 11-12 in 1977 and I wasn't listening to The Clash, Pistols, Stranglers, Damned or even (yet) The Jam, I was listening to this and in love with it very much.

Me and my mate Steven from next door-but-one had seen ABBA - The Movie in our (very) small town cinema and it had proved most, most exciting for us. After all those hours spent poring over the pictures in ABBA Magazine (an A5 glossy like Starsky & Hutch and the reissued Beatles Book, which we also devoured hungrily) to finally see them (well, sorry, yes, mostly the girls and specifically, sorry again Frida fans, Agnetha) 'backstage' - moving! talking! - to be intimate with them like the silly Australian reporter fantasises, well it was quite something I can tell you. The Eagle sequence in the elevator? The Name Of The Game stuff at the picnic in the park? Fabulosa.

To this day I consider The Album a magnificent pop record, even allowing for Bjorn's ridiculous talky bit on 'Move On' and also for 'Take A Chance On Me', a song I never much liked though it was number one for weeks and everyone else seemed to think it was terrific.

Anyway. My favourite bit then, as now, was the concluding sequence of songs described as Three Scenes From A Mini Musical: in which, plot fans, a blonde girl (the girls both wore wigs onstage) who 'began to sing long before she can talk' ('Thankyou For The Music') leaves her smalltown home ('I Wonder (Departure)' - Frida's finest hour) seeking stardom, only to find that 'fame' is to become a singing, dancing marionette on a endlessly spinning carousel she cannot escape (a song called 'Get On The Carousel' appeared in the mini-musical when the group performed it live, but only made the album as recycled fragments for 'Hole In Your Soul').

All three songs are wonderful, but 'I'm A Marionnette' with its dystopic vision of pop celebrity and its swirling, discordant chords and frantic guitarry bits is as musically and thematically adventurous a thing as they ever produced, and genuinely I think as corruscating a piece about 'fame' as anything by Bowie or Public Image You Got What You Wanted Lydon (another record I absolutely, absolutely ADORE). Mr Shuffle shoved it at us the other day and it stopped me in my tracks in a 'feck me that's a cracker' moment and I said so and Mrs H, who had been upstairs changing the beds, said 'That's funny, I was just thinking the same'.

So here it is.

ABBA - 'I'm A Marionette' (1977)

More of this sort of thing later, I shouldn't wonder.


  1. I wish sometimes there was a way I could disassociate ABBA from all the 70s revival/mamma mia/popidolxfactorcheesetalent theme nights. I loved them when I was a kid; their records sounded like some other world, and full of mystery and intriguing accents. I still love a lot of their songs now, but I still get that nagging feeling at the back of my mind: you shouldn't like this.

    Sod it though; that cold northern european heartbreak is fantastic.

    And we all know the 70s weren't all technicolour spanglefests. Brown and orange. That was the 70s. And smelling of stale beer and tobacco. And rubbish that had been left by the dustmen strike for weeks. That left my neighbourhood ponging for weeks. Even after the army had come to take it way.

    Meanwhile. Word verification is the almost meaningful for this post: BRUEG. It's the long lost fifth ABBA member. or ABBBA as they would have been known.

  2. Alas poor Brueg - dumped by the band just before they hit the big time he died a broken, penniless alcoholic in a shabby Stockholm suburb, cursing Stig Anderson to the very end. You are right about the 70s, of course. And you should never, never be ashamed of liking ABBA.

  3. No, you're right of course; shouldn't really be ashamed of liking any music. There are far worse things in my collection I should be hiding behind the radiator.

  4. This is one of Mrs PM's fave ABBA moments too - with all the retro a go go about ABBA it's easy to overlook how huge they were in the seventies - I can remember a 'who's best The Beatles Or ABBA?' in Look In once (may be a six million dollar man cover ish', as this question always makes me think of cardboard 'X Ray Eye' give away)

    I was too young for punk 77 as well - and found a list of my singles owned circa '77 last week, I'll scan it in soonish

    PS - Have you heard the ABBA/Pete Shelley mashup yet?

  5. This album is always a popular choice in the nation's charity shop LP boxes. I've never yet heard it, mind! What a group, though. Fantastic. I'm with you and Alan Partridge on this one matey. Aha!

    Gah, all those terrible new-fangled kiddie bands plundering their legacy though. Not satisfied with murdering many ABBA classics Steps even called their (ahem) greatest hits album Steps Gold. Cheeky bastards!

  6. Do you know, I've never seen this in a charity shop's always 'No Parlez' by Paul Young and Phil Collins 'Hello I Must Be Going'.

    Steps! GAH is the word.

    That Shelley/ABBA thing's a blast.

  7. Sorry guys never got the abba thing at all, like 2 songs "the day before you came" and "the winner takes it all", apart from that not a thing, I've tried but there was just something not right.

  8. Those two are a good two if you're gonna like just two, Drew.

  9. It's almost a cliche to say it but 'The Winner Takes It All' and those later tunes, 'One of Us' is another one, are so close to the bone you wonder how they did it.

    One of my favourite moments in all of these things was that little fun run when Erasure did a covers EP, Abbaesque, fine enough to make me go out and buy the vhs copy just for four music videos, from which I thought SOS was a real real winner, fantastic song very well reimagined, and then Bjorn Again responded by realising 'Erasureish', an EP of Erasure covers. Tremendous.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.