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:
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…?