For most ABBA fans, appreciation of the group’s music doesn’t extend much deeper than the fact that classic songs like Dancing Queen make you feel like, well, a dancing queen.
But for musicologist Chris Patrick, a lifelong love of ABBA and a passion for analysing music meant that he wanted to know more about these songs. He wanted to know why they’re so well-loved.
The fruits of his labour? ABBA: Let The Music Speak, an exhaustive, 400-page analysis of ABBA, their music, and their place in pop history.
-œIt had been in my mind for years, the idea of deconstructing ABBA songs to see what it is about them that makes people love them, Patrick explained to Southern Star.
-œIt took four years -” two solid years of writing full-time, then two years of fine-tuning while I looked for publishers.
While four years and 400 pages worth of work might sound like something of a slog, the book is a surprisingly engaging read. Patrick said he was sure to make it palatable to the masses, in keeping with ABBA’s style.
-œIt’s a story worth telling, and there are people out there keen to know what makes ABBA’s music work and why. I certainly wasn’t going to go down the elitist route and talk above people. ABBA reached the masses, so I wanted my book to do that too.
Despite their mass appeal, Patrick said one of his most intriguing findings was the deceptive complexity of ABBA’s music.
-œThe paradox with ABBA’s music is that it’s really quite complex; the arrangements are often quite technically difficult. Benny and Bjorn had a very good understanding of what makes a good melody, he explained.
-œThe lyrics were always secondary, they’d find lyrics to fit with the melodies they liked. As the years went on, the lyrics got a lot more mature and serious.
Despite his love for the band, Patrick’s book is no one-eyed fanboy tribute. After all, for every classic like Mamma Mia, there was a dodgy B-side or album track (King Kong Song, anybody?).
-œI’m not precious at all. I’m very quick to point out the songs that were just a bit of throwaway fun. King Kong Song is one of those songs your average ABBA fan would prefer to forget. Benny and Bjorn were great at knowing when a song wasn’t up to scratch, but occasionally a few slipped through the net.
Ultimately, what impressed Patrick most about ABBA was the indefinable chemistry they shared.
-œBenny and Bjorn really pushed those girls to the limit. I think the harmonic chemistry between them, more than anything, is what I really came to appreciate when I was writing the book.
info: ABBA: Let The Music Speak is only available from the website