Thursday, 16 May 2013

Cassette experiment day 75 - ABBA 'The Visitors'

It’s that time of year again. Not Spring (obviously!). The Eurovision Song Contest.
A time when all of the countries in Europe that can still afford to put forward their most accomplished singers who sing the best songs they can lay their hands on in the hope of becoming champions. Obviously the old Royaume-Uni has therefore chosen Bonnie Tyler as their representative and it is on Bonnie that all of our collective hopes are pinned. The winners subsequently push themselves closer to bankruptcy by becoming the host for the finals in 2014.
Loved and hated in equal number, Eurovision seeks to unite Europe by preying on our collective love of bagpipes, violins, bodhrans and euphoric euro-disco beats.
In the 1970s the Eurovision Song Contest wasn’t the highly polished behemoth that it has become today. There was a real orchestra for a start. And real conductors. And most of the contestants wore costumes that seemed to have been run-up on their mother’s sewing machines back in Stockholm, or Barcelona, or Rome, or Dublin, or Copenhagen.
The biggest ever Eurovision winners (in 1974 in Harrogate) were, of course ABBA. With their shiny outfits and their platform boots and their conductor dressed as Napoleon they simultaneously took a picturesque Yorkshire spa town and the rest of Europe by storm.
Only seven short years later after huge international success, ABBA released ‘The Visitors’ and it is to this, their final album that we turn today.
The album opens with the unusual title track ‘The Visitors’. I like to think of this track as ABBA’s re-reading of The Beatles’ ‘Within you, without you’. I’m not kidding – have a listen if you don’t believe me!
Elsewhere the album is shot through with more sadness than any of their others, and I guess that’s to be expected given their unusual personal circumstances at the time. The best known tunes here are ‘One of us’ and ‘Head over heels’ at which point their success in singles charts was starting to wane just a little.
For my money the whole package is defined by two tunes that nestle together for warmth on side 2. In ‘Two for the price of one’ a man is attracted by an advert placed by ‘Alice Whiting’ (presumably so named to rhyme with ‘exciting’) who offers, as the title suggests, ‘two for the price of one’. How we laugh when we discover that the third person in this suggestive trio is, in fact, Alice’s mother. It’s rubbish, but it’s fun rubbish. But then from the opposite extreme comes ‘Slipping through my fingers’, a song about children growing up and growing away that will reduce all but the most flint-hearted to floods of uncontrollable tears.
Label – Polydor
Year – 1981
Incidentally, Sweden next won in 1984, with the glorious ‘Diggi-Loo, Diggi-Ley’, by Herrey’s, and I’ve dug very deep within my own Eurovision collection to bring you a picture of their winning single. Hope you’re grateful.