ABBA IS THE GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME
THANK U 4 THE MUSIC
I endeavor, each and every week, to bring you the best and wittiest thoughts from my mind in a format that will provide maximum delight and entertainment. So far, I have managed to do so within the prescribed “email length” set by Substack. This has been on purpose. I do not think my thinking so grand as to take up more of your time than necessary, to write an email longer than an email.
But this week is different. This week, you’re gonna have to open it up outside your inbox. You can do that by clicking the “Open in app…or online” button at the top of this email, or when you reach the bottom, when prompted, you can continue in the browser of your choice (“message clipped…view entire message”). It had to be done. This topic is just that important:
ABBA IS THE GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME.
By the end of this newsletter, you will either be convinced, as I am*, that ABBA is the greatest band of all time, or you will be really fucking annoyed with me. Either way, you’ll feel something. So that’s good.
You can see me give this presentation LIVE TOMORROW NIGHT (if you’re in/around LA) here’s the ticket link.
ABBA IS THE GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME. fact.
LET’S MEET THE GANG…
AGNETHA FÄLTSKOG - SINGER
swede agnetha was a teen pop star before joining abba. after the band broke up, she retreated from public life and was the main reason a reunion didn’t happen sooner. she decided to make some music in 2004, and people liked it! she was “the sexy one” in the group and didn’t enjoy it very much because she was young and being objectified. u get it.
BJÖRN ULVAEUS - SINGER/SONGWRITER, GUITARIST
björn rose to fame in the swedish folk band “the hootenanny singers.” after abba, he continued writing music. his big cause now is making society cash-free b/c his son got robbed. when you use apple pay, you hönor björn.
BENNY ANDERSSON - SINGER/SONGWRITER, GUITARIST, KEYBOARDER, ACCORDIANADOR
he was a teen idol as a member of the “hep stars” in the 60s. They were the “swedish beatles” of their day. after abba he continued writing music and has been sober since 2001. good job benny!!!!!
ANNI-FRID “FRIDA” LYNGSTAD - SINGER/SONGWRITER, PIANIST
tbqh, the other three members of abba probably have great ~personalities~, but biography-wise they are not that interesting. they’re basically just swedish musicians who seem pretty normal, as far as megastars go.
but frida. FRIDA HAS A ROCKSTAR ARC
she was bjorn not in sweden but in norway. her dad was a nazi sergeant who was in a nazi program where nazi men went to norway to have sex with norwegian women and breed blonde haired blue eyed aryans. (i don’t know if this makes frida’s mom a nazi collaborator or a rape victim because i haven’t done enough research and it’s complicated, sorry)
anyway, frida didn’t meet her dad until she was 30 and he was a retired pastry chef (shouldn’t he have been in jail or something? again, i am dumb). so, frida was not raised by a nazi and is not a nazi. also, she has brown hair. just one of hitler’s many schemes that did not pan out!!!
after ww2, norwegians did noooooot like the nazi babies living among them, which is understandable but like, not the babies’ fault, so frida’s mom moved the family to sweden where they would get bullied less, and then she died and frida was raised by her grandmother.
when frida was 22, she won a talent contest, and one of the prizes was a live performance on “hylands hörna,” a popular swedish tv show. her performance happened to coincide with “h-day,” aka “dagen h,” short for “högertrafikomläggningen.” it was the day sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right-hand side, and the government made everyone stay home that day so they could turn all the stop signs around, so the whole country watched tv and frida became famous overnight.
she had a lil pop career, competed in eurovision, then post-abba had another lil solo career, giving us this absolute banger:
then she married a swiss prince. then he died. now she is in a relationship with a british viscount. they live in switzerland. she is the dowager countess of plauen (?) and her title is serene highness. she is a feminist and a vegetarian.
frida is that girl!!!!!!!!
AGNETHA, BENNY, BJÖRN, ANNI-FRID: A + B + B + A = ABBA
a brief history of abba
1960s: björn and benny meet on the swedish music scene and start writing songs together.
1969: benny gets w/ frida at melodifestivalen (sweden’s qualifying competition for eurovision) and agnetha gets w/ björn while filming a tv special.
1970: couples trip to cyprus. they decide to be a band.
1971: agnetha and björn get married
1972: they record and perform as a foursome in scandinavia. they wanna win melodifestivalen and go to eurovision. they lose.
1973: another failure at melodifestivalen. they buckle the fuck down to do a real goddamn pop masterpiece so they can go to eurovision.
1974: “waterloo” delivers them a win not only at melodifestivalen but at eurovision (olivia newton-john comes in 4th that year). abba remains the most successful winning act from the competition ever. an important point when deciding the greatest band of all time: abba was bjorn from love, from international cooperation. abba is on a mission of peace. abba brings the world together!!! yes.
1975: even though they have been Big Famous for literally a year, they have a ton of songs, so they put out a greatest hits album and it’s a great hit.
1976: they release the album arrival which includes the song “dancing queen.” obviously, important to the culture.
1977: abba: the movie. directed by the guy who made chocolat. it’s a mockumentary about a journalist trying to get an interview with the band members, who play themselves.
1978: frida and benny get married.
1979: agnetha and björn get divorced. they release their second greatest hits album and the song “gimme! gimme! gimme! (a man after midnight),” a mooooooootherfucking banger.
1981: frida and benny get divorced. the press is like “okay, you’re all divorced, you’re going to break up now, right?” and abba is like, “um, i think you have us confused with dramatic and drugs-using britmericans Fleetwood Mac. we are nordic and we know how to sublimate our feelings like professionals. we are not breaking up.”
1982: they release another album! and then they do break up.
here’s another thing i find really interesting about abba. they existed as a band for about a decade but their popularity, and society’s interest in them, never waned. once they got big, they stayed big…right up til today! post-abba, there is still so much abba. can ur fav say the same???
1980s: whilst the girls go solo, the böys write the musical Chess — did you guys want another banger? here it is:
1992: u2 brings benny and björn out on stage at one of those big arena concerts (wembley? o2? one of those), erasure releases an abba covers EP, and the compilation album abba: gold sells 5.5 million copies.
5.5 million copies
1994: australia (which had a particularly strong bout of abbamania back in the day) releases 2 hit indie movies that heavily feature abba music: the adventures of priscilla, queen of the desert and muriel’s wedding, a movie about toni colette being unable to find a boyfriend because she loves abba so much. same, girl!
1998: sweden births the a-teens; they eventually do original pop but start with abba covers. their first album is called the abba generation and i still have that CD and listen to it in my car. the CD looks like a blue disco ball. the a-teens are how i first discovered abba, so, thank you a-teens!!!!
1999: mamma mia! the musical premieres on the west end.
2005: madonna samples “gimme! gimme! gimme!” in her hit “hung up.”
2008: mamma mia! the movie makes over half a billion at the international box office.
this is the same year the first iron man movie comes out.
MAMMA MIA! MAKES MORE THAN IRON MAN.
go ahead, look it up.
i am!!!!!!!!! just saying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Gorgeous Reader, do you think mamma mia! is a good or bad movie?
it doesn’t fucking matter.
does meryl streep do bad movies?
no she does not.
therefore, mamma mia! is not a bad movie. that’s math.
no, i know, you’re thinking of your least favorite streep flick right now. but look at your shelf. how many oscars do you have, huh? how many degrees from the yale school of drama? huh???? SHUT THE FUCK UP
IF MAMMA MIA! IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR MERYL STREEP, IT IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU. WHO DO YOU EVEN THINK YOU ARE? YOU ARE NOTHING. SHE IS MERYL. SHE WINS.
2018: mamma mia: here we go again! makes almost half a bil. it’s a very very amazing movie and if you don’t like it i feel sorry for you. If you can watch this video and not crack a smile, i literally feel so sorry for you because you are so sad.
2021: abba drops another album, voyage. it’s good! they also record themselves in mo-cap suits for a hologram residency. they wanted to be their younger selves in the concert, but it’s old them that was recorded? anyway, the hologram avatars are called abba-tars and i really wanna go see the show if anyone can get me a cheap flight to London.
abba stats and facts
there is a rumor that they never learned to speak english and performed all their songs by memorizing the sounds. not true! they knew english.
there is also a story tossed around that they wore “weird” outfits as part of some tax scam. i mean, kinda? in swedish law, they could write off any clothing purchases that were stage costumes they couldn’t wear in normal life, so they wore kooky stage outfits to take advantage of this. that’s called being smart. also it’s glam rock. bowie did it too.
the band was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 2010, by the bee gees.
it’s hard to find accurate numbers on how many units/albums/records the band has sold overall, but it’s a lot. many millions. their hits include “take a chance on me,” “sos,” “super trouper” and more.
IN CONCLUSION, ABBA IS GREAT.
…BUT ARE THEY THE GREATEST??????
YES, AND I WILL PROVE IT.
for the purposes of this analysis, i define “a band” as: three-plus people (one is a performer, two is a duo) who have original songs and play instruments. ie, the supremes are a vocal group. run-dmc is a rap group. earth wind & fire is a band.
i am also not counting someone & the somethings. bruce springsteen & the e-street band, tom petty & the heartbreakers, joan jett & the blackhearts…not included in this competition. just for the sake of clarity.
to start, i took the rolling stone list of 100 greatest artists (which includes all manner of musical performers) and removed all the non-bands to see where abba ranked.
WANNA TAKE A WILD GUESS?
YEAhHhH, THEY’RE NOT ON THE LIST.
IN FACT, NO BAND WITH MORE THAN ONE WOMAN IS ON THE LIST.
GO AHEAD, LOOK FOR YOURSELF!
here are the bands rolling stone likes:
FLEETWOOD MAC IS NOT ON THE LIST.
THE B-52s ARE NOT ON THE LIST.
THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS ARE NOT ON THE LIST.
EARTH, WIND & FIRE IS NOT ON THE LIST.
But they include…aErOSmiTh???? & WHO THE FUCK ARE THE YARDBIRDS?
I am forced by the data to come to one sad but clearly factual conclusion:
ROLLING STONE HATES WOMEN.
file a complaint by writing [respectfully] to email@example.com
back to the science. i had to find another metric by which to measure great bands so they could be compared to abba. looking at lists of the most grammy-winning bands, best-selling bands and most critically beloved bands, i came up with three bands that could potentially challenge abba for the title:
The Rolling Stones
ABBA IS GREATER THAN ALL OF THEM…
WHY ABBA > U2
Remember when U2 put that album on everyone’s iTunes without asking? ABBA would literally never do that.
U2 has no women.
U2 is an Irish band but has zero songs in Celtic. ABBA has songs in English, Swedish and Spanish.
U2 has two Oscar nominations but has contributed little else to cinema. No movies about their fans or musicals about sluts in Greece. The one time the U2 guys tried to do a Broadway, they turned off the damn dark.
OK they’re very politically conscious and it’s great that they are fighting AIDS and wrote that song about MLK jr., but aren’t they kind of… obnoxious? Don’t they kind of make everything about them and take themselves really seriously? Bono’s daughter pouted after New York Magazine didn’t include her in their Nepo Baby round-up; that’s the kind of person Bono raised. ABBA, on the other hand, brings the world pure joy.
U2, you have been eliminated.
WHY ABBA > THE ROLLING STONES
ONCE AGAIN, zero ladies!
The Rolling Stones kicked out founding member Brian Jones and then he immediately drowned. They played a concert at Altamont and three people died. ABBA hasn’t killed anyone!!!!!!!!!! They would never hire the Hell’s Angels as security, and honestly, their fans just wouldn’t fight. Their energy is good and pure. I’m not saying it’s the Stones’ fault that any of these people died, but also, at the end of the day, were it not for the Stones, at least four people might still be alive.
Rolling Stones, you have been eliminated.
WHY ABBA > THE BEATLES
I don’t mean to keep harping on the woman thing, I know it’s so annoying and shrill when girls talk about the patriarchy, sorry for taking up space. But there were no women in the Beatles.
The Beatles starred in and inspired top movies and musicals. Calling it a draw in that category.
John Lennon…listen. I don’t think fame and substances bring out the best in a person, but did he hit his first wife? yah! A flawed and complicated individual! I don’t think his legacy should be tarred or dismissed or whatever, you can be a fan, but facts is facts, and the fact is, NO ONE IN ABBA WOULD EVER DO THAT.
The Beatles had better goals than ABBA, but they also failed to accomplish their goals. Did they end the Vietnam War and spread peace and love across the world? Not for lack of trying, but no they did not. ABBA, on the other hand, set out to make people dance and inarguably succeeded!
ABBA released music in both the 20th and 21st centuries. The Beatles stopped recording as a band long ago. In fairness, reunions were hard to put together after two of them died. But, and I don’t mean to be mean here…does that tell us anything? No one’s ever tried to shoot anyone in ABBA! God saw fit to take two Beatles from the world…and He left us everyone in ABBA alive. Do I dare argue with Him? Do any of us?
Beatles, by the narrowest margin, you have been eliminated.
VERDICT IS: ABBA>>>>>>
if everything I’ve written above is true (and it is, I checked), why aren’t abba more widely respected? Why aren’t they on that (bullshit, sexist, incomplete) RS list? Why do people make fun of them? Why don’t we all agree on all of this already?
Welp, much as I hate to paint with a broad brush, and though I recognize music is subjective, I think the answer is that everyone’s just a big fucking snob. The haters have every right to like another band more, but to belittle the greatest pop group the world has ever seen? To write them off as tacky or merely radio bait. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! a break.
People wanna feel like they’re special and unique and in rare company for liking whatever it is they like. That’s why they’ll puzzle out whatever the fuck Bob Dylan is saying and slog through long-ass books, because only the elite few have the patience. When obvious greatness stares them in the face, when it makes itself available to the masses, there is a certain kind of person who will close their eyes to its bright light, look away toward something more difficult and say it is better. And they won’t just fucking take Prozac even though it WORKS.
To them I say, do not deprive yourself of the pleasures to which every human being is entitled without need of sacrifice. Chocolate tastes amazing. Pink is the prettiest color. Titanic is the best movie. The Cheesecake Factory is perfect for groups. Friends was funny. Christmas…ABBA is great like Christmas is great.
What do you think the point of music IS? Let’s ask the experts…
The point of music is to make people feel, and the greatest feeling is joy. Therefore the band that brings people the most joy is the best. I mean, do you have enough joy? Does anyone? COULD anyone? ABBA is, literally, the opposite of nuclear war (as I said, world peace), just watch!
And if we all listened to a little more ABBA, would the world be a better place? Well, let’s ask our foremost legal scholar…
Greatest band of all time. I rest my case.
PS- here’s my latest Flood essay, on In Bruges
*I didn’t say they were my *favorite.* That’s a tie between Fleetwood Mac and Haim. And also ABBA.