470. ‘Super Trouper’, by ABBA

I had no idea, when I wrote this post on ABBA’s final UK #1, that I would be publishing it the day after ABBA returned triumphantly to the top of the charts with their comeback album. It’s a nice bit of symmetry…

Super Trouper, by ABBA (their 9th and final #1)

3 weeks, 23rd November – 14th December 1980

In my eight earlier posts on ABBA, I believe I’ve given very short shrift to those among us that dislike Sweden’s greatest gift to the world (sorry IKEA, sorry Vikings…) Until now, that is. For I do kind of understand why ‘Super Trouper’ might get on your nerves.

That’s not to suggest anything but love for this, their final UK #1. Ask twelve-year-old me, and he’d probably name ‘Super Trouper’ as his favourite ABBA song. The chorus is pitched perfectly at a kid’s ears: the soopapa troopapa backing vocals, the computer game synths… But the chorus, unexpectedly, is the worst part of this song.

One of the reasons I loved this song as a child is that it name checks Scotland’s biggest city in its opening lines: I was sick and tired of everything, When I called you last night from Glasgow… (Glasgow! My gran and grandpa live in Glasgow!) Childhood associations aside, that line is pure ABBA. Then they go and rhyme it with ‘last show’. Most bands using English as a first language would have tossed it out with the first draft. Besides, Glasgow is hardly the first place you’d think of to encapsulate the life of a world-famous pop star…

Or maybe that’s the point. Because ‘Super Trouper’ is all about the drudgery of pop stardom. All I do is eat and sleep and sing, Wishing every show was the last show… (A super trouper is a stage light, whose beams might indeed blind those on stage.) ABBA weren’t the first, nor the last, band to write a song about how terrible it is being famous. But somehow they manage to do it without the message grating. It’s a gift, definitely, to be able to wrap lines bemoaning a success that never ends in glossy pop chords, and getting away with it.

This record might not hit the heights of some of the band’s earlier hits, but there’s still one moment of pure ABBA Gold. Frida’s vocals in the bridge: So I’ll be there, When you arrive… In ABBA’s final number one, it’s the last of many moments of pop perfection. From ‘Waterloo’s glam-rock pre-chorus, to this. Thank you, as they themselves would say, for the music. Just in case anyone’s interested, I would rank ABBA’s nine #1s thusly:

‘Fernando’ > ‘The Name of the Game’ > ‘Take a Chance On Me’ > ‘Super Trouper’ > ‘Mamma Mia’ > ‘Waterloo’ > ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ > ‘Dancing Queen’ > ‘The Winner Takes It All’

That list only tells half the story, though, as many of the band’s classics, and some of my favourites, never got to number one. I will do a ‘Best of the Rest’ soon, and I can’t wait. Following this final chart-topper, they would have just two more Top 10s, releasing what many think is their best album, before finally fizzling out in 1982.

I don’t know quite how true it is, but popular knowledge would have it that ABBA were done and dusted, the carpet pulled over them like an embarrassing stain, by the late eighties. My parents liked them, though they are definitely not representative of society as a whole. But then the ‘90s brought ‘ABBA Gold’, Erasure’s covers, and ‘Mamma Mia’. By the time the stage-show had been made into a movie, everyone loved ABBA again. Unless you’ve already moved to your doomsday bunker in the woods, you’ll have heard that they reformed earlier this year, and have released said #1 album, their first in forty years. Who knows, there may still yet be time for them to add to their tally of #1s…?

18 thoughts on “470. ‘Super Trouper’, by ABBA

  1. I loved this st the time, helped by the video and the sad lyrics to counter the upbeat mood. I always saw it as being the point that they longed to be home. Given Agnetha didnt like touring, none of them have toured extensively since 1979, and they have invented a virtual tour – i have my tickets! – i think its fair to say the lyrics represent how they felt after 5 years of global success and promoting. No wonder they all divorced! Benny n bjorn have insisted the glorious bonus album is a one off and frida has said never say never but they are all in their 70s so its already more than i ever dared hope for as they get the biggest weekly physical sales in 5 years. A 10th album no. 1. 4 chart hits in one year admittedly not huge but one went top 10. 3rd biggest album of the year already if you include fake repeat singles streaming “sales” as album sales. Which i dont. They have outsold sheeran and adele is next up. Adeles current chart topper would have been too bland for Voyage.. and Abbas top 10 single as a band and unchanged line up is something unique for a 47 year chart span. Other veterans have to cosy up to current megastars to go top 10 with new material….

    I loved Abba the moment i saw them do Waterloo, and never stopped loving them. I feel somewhst vindicated these days 🙂

    • I think the album going to number one was always a given, though the numbers it has sold are still huge. The really impressive feat was scoring a Top 10 hit as a band of 70-somethings, with a brand new, original hit. I really didn’t think that would happen in this day and age…

  2. Excellent song! Man I agree with your rankings except…you are missing one…my second favorite ABBA song… SOS. We played it as a four piece band and it rocked! Two guitars, bass and drums. Great review!

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    • For years as a kid I couldn’t work out what the lyric was… It never occurred to me that someone would write a pop song and reference Glasgow. New York, Paris, Tokyo maybe… Not Glasgow.

      • Speaking of, I would LOVE to visit your country. I’ve had an internal (spiritual?) draw to Scotland and Wales for many years. I’ve already expressed that I’m part of Clan MacPherson but, my last name is Jones, too. *wink*

      • Any relation to Tom…? (I know, I know, half the population of Wales is a Jones.) Glasgow is not what people are imagining when they think of Scottish glens and lochs, but it is a great city for a weekend.

      • Ha! Not directly. Could be a distant cousin.

        I assume that Glasgow has some size to it. Probably looks like London? NYC?

        Speaking of, do you know where Monarch of the Glen was shot?

      • Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city, but still nowhere near the size of London or NYC. It’s industrial, really grew in the 19th century, and is a more working-class counterpoint to Edinburgh’s history and grandeur.

        Just searched where Monarch of the Glen was shot – it’s in the north east, between Inverness and Aberdeen. Whisky making country. That’s also where the Queen has her Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle. Did you get that show in the US??

      • Yep. PBS aired it years ago. I followed it as much as I could. I wanted to cry when it went off the air. Loved seeing Tom Baker on it as a trouble maker. It was a while before I figured out that the Monarch wasn’t one of the cast but, a reference to a buck/deer stag.

        Hamish Clark was amusing and Lloyd Owen was eye candy.

        As a teen, I didn’t get Brit/UK humor at all. As an adult, I much prefer Brit/UK humor, TV & movies than the garbage the US churns out.

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