This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #275: Mamma Mia by ABBA.
As always, every 25th song choice goes to one of my girls so today, the honour is Leah’s.
“Mamma Mia” by ABBA is Song #6 on her countdown Top Ten song list and it is indicative of her approach to music. While Leah likes all sorts of popular songs on the radio these days, she is also very fond of musicals. Among her favourite go-to sources for her listening pleasure are the musical soundtracks to such plays as “Come From Away”, “Hamilton” and, of course, “Mamma Mia”. If you know Leah at all then, her love of musicals shouldn’t come as a surprise. Leah is a storyteller and, as such, she often appreciates it when songs are sung in the context of an overarching story. So, without further delay, please allow me to tell you the story of “Mamma Mia” by ABBA because it turns out that there is more to the song than, simply, the movie soundtrack that Leah listens to. Here we go.
First of all, let’s talk about ABBA. The group, “ABBA” gets its’ name from the initials of the first names of the four people who made up the band. The four people ended up being two husband and wife teams; Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. ABBA was formed when Benny and Bjorn met and started writing songs together in Sweden. A year or so into their partnership, they met Agnetha and Anni-Frid, separately, as asked them to join with them as singers. Thus, a partnership that spanned both, personal and professional lines, was formed. In 1974, ABBA won the Eurovision song competition with their debut song, “Waterloo”. That brought them a fair degree of recognition in Sweden and across most of Europe but, in the UK, where they really wanted to be stars, their Eurovision win was met with a certain level of mockery. Apparently, winners of the Eurovision contest were regarding in the UK as being a novelty act. With ABBA being met by indifference by UK fans, Benny and Bjorn decided to re-double their efforts to improve their command of the English language (they spoke Swedish as their first language) so that they could write songs with greater depth and meaning, as opposed to more “disposable Pop”.
So, in 1975, ABBA released a self-titled second album that contained four songs that their record label thought could be potential hits. The four songs were, “SOS”, “I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!”, “Bang-a-Boomerang” and finally, “Mamma Mia”. In an effort to help promote these four songs, four simple music videos were made for each song and were distributed everywhere that ABBA was to tour. As it turns out, one of those places was far away Australia. In somewhat of a surprise to ABBA management, the Aussies really took to the songs from the new album and, because of the videos, the four music videos were played on high rotation. “SOS” was the first release and became a big hit Down Under. As a single, it was paired with “Mamma Mia” which, also, roared up the charts. The wave of acceptance from Australia eventually washed up upon the shores of Europe and the UK and North America and helped launch ABBA as one of the most popular Pop acts of all-time. Moving forward, ABBA produced a string of hits such as “Dancing Queen”, “Money! Money! Money!”, “Man After Midnight”, “Fernando”, “The Name of the Game”, “Take a Chance on Me”, “The Winner Takes It All”, “Thank You For the Music” and so many more.
Because many of ABBA’s songs were based upon the real lives of the couples involved in the group, the songs ended up chronicling their personal story and, as such, when they were packaged together in a Greatest Hits format, people noticed that the songs told the broad outline of a very compelling tale. Add a screenwriter to the mix and it wasn’t hard to transform ABBA’s Greatest Hits into a musical called, “Mamma Mia”. The success of the musical, “Mamma Mia” has been world-wide in scope and has helped keep ABBA in the public eye, long after both couples divorced and the group had stopped performing live. Their music is loved by people the world over; from all age ranges, all genders and socio-economic backgrounds, too. For proof of their appeal, look no further that any wedding reception you have ever been to and that moment when the opening notes of “Mamma Mia” or “Dancing Queen”, in particular, are played. The dance floor fills in an instant with smiling, happy people, having the time of their lives, as the song goes.
ABBA are well-loved the world over; that includes a young lady named Leah who lives in my house and finds her own joy in the stories found in the songs they have written. Whether it is an individual song such as “Mamma Mia” on her iPod or the musical on stage or a tribute band at our local Community Centre or the movie, on screen, Leah has seen them all and loved them all with equal passion and pleasure. Thanks, Leah, for picking such a great song for our countdown. Without further delay, here is “Mamma Mia” by ABBA. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Mamma Mia” by ABBA, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, Mamma Mia”, as sung by Meryl Streep in the movie, “Mamma Mia”, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Mamma Mia”, as sung by Lily James in the movie, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!”, can be found here.
The link to the official website for ABBA, can be found here.