On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
ABBA – The Winner Takes It All (1980)
Hello and welcome to the 1980s, dear reader, the decade of my birth though I won’t tell you which year. We’ve come a long way on our journey which began back in 1916. For our first song of 1980 we make our way to Sweden to revisit with ABBA. We’ve previously enjoyed Dancing Queen and Voulez Vous but when we join the group in 1980 it is with the release of their seventh album, Super Trouper. 1001 Songs has lifted one of the singles in the form of The Winner Takes It All.
Written by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the song is long thought to have been about Ulvaeus’ divorce from Agnetha Faltskog who takes the lead vocal. The song concerns the aftermath of a separation with Faltskog coming across as the loser of the song while her ex-lover/husband is very much the winner. Relationships and marriage itself are depicted as a competitive game and ultimately one person will emerge as the victor. The narrator here still feels raw and deeply hurt but her former lover sounds as if they have moved on though contact remains between them, often the reality of divorce, especially if children are stuck in the middle of such a parting. Our narrator reflects that they willingly participated in the game but that doesn’t do anything to ease their anguish.
I once read an article which stated The Winner Takes It All has all the components of a perfect pop song. It is one of ABBA’s finest compositions with a sumptuous piano melody and a stunning vocal from Faltskog. Like Fleetwood Mac during their Rumours album, ABBA continued to record music even when both relationships within the group had fallen apart. It amazes me with any kind of art, the sheer beauty that can emerge from the ugliest of torments, pain and suffering.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way (1977)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)