We had 4 8-tracks that get rotated in our van when I was a kid: Cat Stevens Greatest Hits, Saturday Night Fever, ABBA’s Greatest Hits & Greatest Hits Vol. 2. We had other 8-tracks, but those would be played over & over until the tape was see-through. (I still have a few of them in a box.) Outside of the radio, these tapes were our main source of music. This lasted from 1978-1983. For that reason I have memories of this music well into the 80s.
ABBA releases, especially, were completely out of whack with my timeline, outside of Dancing Queen, which was huge. Playing SOS or Mamma Mia in 1981 did not seem unhip or out of place to me. I could go from hearing the Human League on Z100 to playing something like Waterloo in the tape deck without it seeming weird. I never felt like I was listening to 70s music as much as I was listening to a sound. Any time I listened to ABBA, I felt like I was in a European village after a long trip through the countryside, a world away from by suburban life.
I don’t have a distinct memory on how ABBA stacked up against the hits of its time, but I’m guessing Waterloo really stuck when it was released. It had a very catchy chorus and it kind rocked. And we still weren’t used to hearing women rock yet even if it was on a glam pop record. This song had won the 1974 Eurovision Song contest and was slowly making its way around the world. Even though the two couples had recorded an album together, this was the first single to be credited to ABBA rather than the wordy and less-catchy Bjorn & Benny, Anna & Frida.
ABBA had set the US has their goal for world domination. But they were handicapped by not knowing or speaking English very well. They actually hired Neil Sedaka & Phil Cody to translate a few songs from their first LP in English and then learned how to sing them phonetically. This may be why we got song from them called Ring Ring, Honey Honey, Money Money Money and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.
So you would think that Waterloo would make as much sense as a fortune cookie written by a Russian 4-year old. But they do a pretty good job, better than a lot of English-speaking songwriters out there. Can you sing me the first line of the chorus?
Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war
Never knew that was the line. I always thought it was I was defeating you on the road.
I also like the fact that she (they) are comparing the reluctance of falling in love to a 19th century French bloodbath. Whereas Napoleon’s Waterloo was his crushing defeat in battle, her ‘waterloo’ is finally letting some dude knock her boots. By the way the phrase is used as in one’s defeat after one has been successful, such as Francis Ford Coppola met his Waterloo by filming The Godfather Part III. In this context then, the song makes no sense.
But I digress…it’s fun. And who can forget that video…. ABBA was built to entertain, so just enjoy…
Here’s the homage from Muriel’s Wedding...