12 August 2008

'Nina, Pretty Ballerina'

In 1973, Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, and Anni-Frid/Frieda had yet to be dubbed the name that would ring throughout the world and were still a year off from the Eurovision winning worldwide smash of Waterloo. All four members had been successful chart-topping musicians in Scandinavia prior to forming what would become the ABBA juggernaut, and the Ring Ring album segued between where they had been (folksters, vague rockers, and pop imitators) to where they were headed (dance vanguards, vague funksters, and pop influences). It was originally released to Scandinavia and a limited market around the world (it wasn't released in the UK or US until the mid-1990s) and was a success.

The album is great. Perhaps not the music you'd expect from ABBA, but a really great reflection of the pop music scene at that time (think Gilbert O'Sullivan or the Rocky Horror Show soundtrack). The end of groovy The first hit single was People Need Love, a song that would have been better suited for the Starland Vocal Band (and who would cop that sound un-/-intentionally for their hit Afternoon Delight 3 years later). The poppy and catchy title track of the LP was set up to be the big Eurovision breakthrough (with English lyrics penned by the great Neil Sedaka) and though it was a big success it unfortunately was not chosen to represent Sweden.

I've been reconnecting with my lost ABBA past (thanks to seeing Mamma Mia! thrice and counting) and going back through their entire catalog and not just the Gold album. My personal favourite from Ring Ring is a track called Nina, Pretty Ballerina, the story of a shy and quiet working girl by day who on Friday nights turns into Nina, pretty ballerina, now she is the queen of the dancing floor... (a subject that would jettison them to immortality 3 years later). It has all the traits that would soon become their signatures--main vocals by Agnetha and Anni-Frid, a dance-friendly rhythm, happy backing vocals, and a folk-sensibility. This is the last song to ever tap into the term 'groovy' without being ironic. Then again, groovy had to be over with by the time it reached Scandinavia.

Here. Listen. Dance. Rejoice. Reconnect. Smile.

Keep the Faith,


ABBA - Nina, Pretty Ballerina

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