People Need Love
‘People Need Love’ is a plea for harmony between the sexes, saying that
love will bring people together – a common theme for light pop music in
the early 1970s, in songs such as 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing'
by the New Seekers, 'United We Stand' by Brotherhood of Man and 'Melting
Pot' by Blue Mink.
He Is Your Brother
Similar in theme to ‘People Need Love’, with an added hint of religion,
another popular theme of the era in songs like 'Spirit In The Sky' by
Norman Greenbaum and 'Put Your Hand In The Hand' by Ocean.
Nina, Pretty Ballerina
‘Nina, Pretty Ballerina’ is the
story of a plain office worker who goes out dancing on Friday nights,
transforming from plain Jane to a dancing diva.
Sitting In The Palmtree
On the 1977 tour, Björn often
introduced this song saying that it was the true story of a musician they knew,
who climbed up a palmtree in the West Indies, and would not come down until his
girlfriend came and told him that she loved him.
King Kong Song
‘King Kong Song’ is inspired by the
1933 classic film King Kong, about a giant ape that is taken from his native
island to New York, where he escapes and climbs to the top of the Empire State
Building (carrying a screaming Fay Wray), ultimately to be shot down – a scene
engrained forever in movie history. The film was remade in 1976, and the song
garnered radio airplay and briefly appeared on the singles chart in Australia in early 1977, where it had
been released on the B side of ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ in 1974.
What About Livingstone
‘What About Livingstone’ is the
story of the song’s narrator overhearing a group of men ridiculing the idea of
men going to the moon (then topical, with the last moon landing in December 1972), and
her response that explorers of the past, such as David Livingstone who explored
central Africa in the 19th century, were no different.
Hey, Hey Helen
'Hey, Hey Helen' tells of a woman recently separated from her
husband. The song may have been inspired by the 1973 British TV series
Helen, A Woman Of Today.
Man In The Middle
‘Man In The Middle’ is the story of
ordinary working folk making fun of a rich “fat cat” they see driving past in
his limousine. Perhaps ABBA were trying to appeal to the strong left-wing
sentiments in Sweden at the time.
‘Fernando’ is not based on any
particular war, though the Spanish feel and reference to the Rio Grande seem to
place it in Mexico. Björn has said that he "got this strong vision in my head of
two old revolutionaries in Mexico, sitting outdoors one night, reminiscing”.
‘Dancing Queen’ is the simple story
of a girl who is the “queen of the dance floor”, much like 1973’s ‘Nina, Pretty
Ballerina’. Because the song was debuted at the gala concert the night before
the wedding of Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia Sommerlath (Queen Silvia
upon their marriage), it has often been thought that the song was written as a
tribute to her, disregarding the fact that she was 33 at the time, not “young
and sweet/only seventeen”.
Knowing Me, Knowing You
Björn has said that he “saw a man
walking through an empty house for the last time as a symbol of divorce”, though
at the time, none of the ABBA couples had separated.
I Am An A
aka We Are A Simple Four-Letter Word
‘I Am An A’ was
a tongue-in-cheek pseudo-autobiographical song to introduce the four members of
the group performed in the concerts of the 1977 tour or Europe and Australia.
Never recorded in the studio or released in any form. Parts of the chorus melody were
later used in ‘Free As A Bumble Bee’ in 1978 (itself not released until 1994 on
the box set Thank You For The Music), and finally in ‘I Know Him So Well’, in the
musical Chess by Benny, Björn and British lyricist Tim Rice in 1984.
“The Girl With The Golden Hair”
ABBA’s mini-musical, first
performed as the climax of the concerts on the European and Australian tour in
1977. The story of a small-town girl who dreams of becoming a famous singer, who
leaves her hometown for the big city and fame, only to feel trapped and pushed
around, with no control of her life.
In concert, the mini-musical
included four songs: ‘Thank You For The Music’, ‘I Wonder (Departure), ‘I’m A
Marionette’ and ‘Get On The Carousel’, with linking music and narration between
the songs. Only the first three songs were
recorded in the studio and released on ABBA – The Album in December 1977.
Such theatrical events at pop and rock concerts were pioneered in the
early 1970s by artists like David Bowie and Alice Cooper.
Thank You For The Music
‘Thank You For The Music’ is the
first song in “The Girl With The Golden Hair”. The Girl
(sung by Agnetha) sings that she’s been blessed with the gift of music. In the
original concert version, she sings that she's "Im in love with them all
[songwriters]/I mean Brian [Wilson], Chuck [Berry], John [Lennon] and Paul
I Wonder (Departure)
‘I Wonder (Departure)’ is the
second song in “The Girl With The Golden Hair”. The Girl
(sung by Frida) sings reminisces about her home town, and sings of the fear of
leaving for the big city and fame.
I’m A Marionette
‘I’m A Marionette’ is the third
song in “The Girl With The Golden Hair”. The Girl (sung by
Agnetha and Frida in unison) sings of being treated like a puppet by her
managers, the media, and fans.
Get On The Carousel
‘Get On The Carousel’ is the fourth
song in “The Girl With The Golden Hair”. The Girl (sung by
Agnetha and Frida in unison, and alternating lines) sings of being trapped in the merry-go-round of fame, when
all she wanted to do was dance and sing. Never recorded in the studio, parts of
the live performance of the song filmed during the Australian tour in March 1977
is featured in ABBA – The Movie. Parts of the chorus melody ended up in the middle
section of ‘Hole In Your Soul’ on ABBA – The Album.
The Name Of The Game
Björn has said that ‘The Name Of
The Game’ is about a woman falling in love with her psychiatrist, though not
necessarily Agnetha. In the June 2005 interview on the ABBA - The Movie
Limited Special Edition DVD, director Lasse
Hallström says that he requested the lyric specifically for the dream sequence
in the film featuring a psychiatrist and patient.
The game played in the film clip is Fia or Fia med knuff,
similar to the English game Ludo.
‘Eagle’ was inspired by the novel
‘Jonathon Livingstone Seagull’ by Richard Bach. Björn said he “was trying to
capture the sense of freedom and euphoria” he got from reading the book. Often
wrongly thought of as a tribute to the American country-rock group The Eagles.
Hole In Your Soul
Some of the names
mentioned in ‘Hole In Your Soul’ are based on real people – Jerry is Jerry
Goldberg, then head of Atlantic Records, who released ABBA’s records in North
America; Sam was a real chauffeur and Annie was Jerry Goldberg’s secretary.
‘Chiquitita’ is a Spanish word that
means “little girl”. Though not necessarily written for the event, the song was
the perfect inclusion at the UNICEF concert A Gift Of Song at the United
Nations building in New York in January 1979, for the International Year of the
Lovers (Live A Little Longer)
‘Lovers (Live A
Little Longer)’ was inspired by a newspaper article Björn read with the headline
“Lovers Live Longer”.
The Winner Takes It All
The lyrics were
loosely inspired by Björn and Agnetha’s breakup, reputedly written by Björn in
around an hour after he’d opened up a bottle of whiskey. But as he said “there
were no winners in our divorce”.
trouper’ is a giant spotlight used at stadium concerts.
Our Last Summer
Björn has said of ‘Our Last Summer’
that he was reminiscing about a romance in Paris in his younger years, “a
melancholy memory of ‘the last summer of innocence’”, a theme he’d also
covered in ‘Monsieur, Monsieur’, an early (and unreleased) version of ‘My Love,
My Life’ from the 1976 album Arrival.
‘The Piper’ was inspired by the
Stephen King novel The Stand, about a Hitler-style leader and “the fear that
there will come a time when people will want such a leader again”, as Bjorn has
The Visitors (Crackin’ Up)
‘The Visitors’ reflects the
situation for dissidents in the USSR at that time. Björn has said that he
“was trying to imagine what it must feel like to sit and wait for that ominous
knock on the door, never knowing when it would come, and never being able to to
be sure of anything”.
When All Is Said And Done
‘When All Is Said And Done’ is
coloured by Benny's and Frida’s then-recent separation. Frida said that “all my
sadness was captured in that song”.
‘Soldiers’ is about the fear of
war, about the warmongers who force war on the populace, whether it’s justified
or not. Especially topical at the time, with the then recent Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan, and the ongoing Cold War between east (USSR and other communist
nations) and west (USA and allies).
Two For The Price Of One
‘Two For The
Price Of One’ is the story of a man answering an ad in the personal columns,
finding that the offer is from a girl and her mother (though it’s not clear
whether the mother is a chaperone, or joining in for a threesome).
Slipping Through My Fingers
‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ was
inspired by Björn watching his and Agnetha’s then 7-year-old daughter Linda
walking off to school, and his feelings of missing out on so much of her life so
Cassandra, in Greek mythology, was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy.
The god Apollo, who loved Cassandra, granted her the gift of prophecy, but when
she refused to return his love, Apollo made the gift useless by decreeing that
no one would believe her predictions. Cassandra warned the Trojans of many
dangers, including the wooden horse by which the Greeks entered the city, but
she was dismissed as a madwoman. After the fall of Troy, she was dragged from
her sanctuary in the temple of the goddess Athena by Ajax the Lesser and brought
to the Greek camp. When the spoils were divided, Cassandra was awarded to King
Agamemnon as his slave and mistress. Cassandra warned him that he would be
killed if he returned to Greece; again she was not believed. Upon their arrival
in Mycenae she and Agamemnon were murdered by Clytemnestra, queen of Mycenae and
wife of Agamemnon.