Time To Play B-Sides: ABBA

For a big chunk of the second half of the 70s, you could count me among those enraptured by singles from ABBA. It began with “SOS” in the fall of 1975 (I don’t have specific recollections of hearing “Waterloo” on the radio a year earlier, though it may have gotten play in Cincinnati); the piano introduction, the melody, and the harmonies in the chorus are all fantastic, but it might be the part starting with “When you’re gone/How can I even try to go on?” that most charmed 11-year-old me. It’s still among my very favorites of theirs.

While follow-up “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” was fine enough, the next four singles, charting in the U.S. between June 1976 and August 1977–“Mamma Mia,” “Fernando,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You”–all completely blew me away. My sister bought Arrival, which allowed me to discover the magnificent “My Love, My Life.” “The Name of the Game” was another huge winner in early 1978, while “Take a Chance on Me” was maybe a notch below. By the time Voulez-Vous was released in the middle of 1979, my ardor for ABBA’s craft was beginning to cool, and truth be told, maybe the middle-teen I was began to think he was too cool for them (I don’t believe I was the only one, either). Their last two U.S. Top 40 hits, “The Winner Takes It All” and “When All Is Said and Done,” don’t do much for me now.

I didn’t leave ABBA completely behind, though. I had college friends who had never wavered as fans, and I learned from them about lesser singles or album cuts (“Angeleyes,” “Eagle”) they greatly enjoyed. Somewhere in the mid-80s I picked up a drill-hole copy of the cassette I Love ABBA, which I listened to occasionally in the car between Illinois and Kentucky during the grad school years (seemingly always while driving the I-465 beltway around Indianapolis). Probably purchased it for “My Love, My Life,” but I remember it most now for introducing me to the infernal “Slipping Through My Fingers.” More recently, I was more than happy to purchase the 2-CD ABBA Forever Gold when I was assembling my Ten Years of AT40 Songs collection about a decade ago. Like many others, I’ve come to embrace my ABBA fandom of the 70s; I’ve got a CD copy of Voyage on my Christmas wish list.

The three ABBA 45s I bought way back when were “Fernando,” “Dancing Queen,” and “The Name of the Game.” I’m pretty sure that “Dancing Queen” came first, with “Fernando” getting picked up several months after it had charted. 1977 was the year I did most of my checking out of flip sides, and both of these had memorable songs on the back. For “Fernando,” it was “Rock Me,” from ABBA. Björn sings a rough, almost lascivious lead; the tune has the feel of a cabaret number. It wasn’t the ABBA I was used to, but I liked it anyway.

“That’s Me,” the other side of “Dancing Queen,” remains one of the great discoveries I made flipping my 45s over. I’ve wondered over the years what makes our narrator “not the kind of girl you’d marry”–a closer read of the lyrics makes me wonder if Carrie isn’t really meaning that he’s not the kind of guy she’d marry?

Maybe it’s just me, but I would have chosen “That’s Me” as third single from Arrival over “Money, Money, Money.”

Even if it was just a year later, I was already investigating B-sides much less often by the time “The Name of the Game” got added to my burgeoning collection of 7″ vinyl. Thus it wasn’t until I Love ABBA that I regularly listened to “I Wonder (Departure).” While this one is not nearly as much my style, in looking through the comments on the video embedded below I was struck time and again how the song has spoke to people across the years as they embarked on new adventures. “But who the hell am I if I don’t even try?” I see the appeal, and understand the sentiment.

It’s been fun watching, reading, and listening as ABBA has returned to style over the last 25+ years. I rented Muriel’s Wedding from Blockbuster in the 90s, saw Mamma Mia! when it was the high school musical during my son’s senior year. I can’t foresee ever checking out the upcoming hologram show in London, but the memories and CDs will suffice–they can do magic, after all.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/18/72: Addrisi Brothers, “We’ve Got to Get It On Again”

Being snowbound for much of January 77 with a new turntable of my own but a limited supply of 45s led to checking out flipsides to add variety to the playlist. My sister had purchased the Marilyn McCoo/Billy Davis Jr. duet “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (to Be in My Show)” sometime before Christmas, so it got the B-side treatment one frigid afternoon. What I heard was spectacular:

Catchy, groovy, funky—“We’ve Got to Get It On Again” had so much going for it, I probably wondered if it shouldn’t be a single. I’d be interested in knowing who was doing the session work. Marilyn’s mostly relegated to backup this time, but she blends so well with Billy.

A few months later, a song I liked maybe more than I should have, “Slow Dancin’ Don’t Turn Me On,” made AT40 and reached #20. I hadn’t previously been familiar with Don and Dick Addrisi, but I’m half-wondering now: did I take a second look at “We’ve Got to Get It On Again” and notice who had songwriting credit? I’m leaning toward yes.

Regardless, it wasn’t until just a few years ago (yes, from listening to rebroadcasts) that I realized the Addrisis had recorded and hit with their own version. I like it. It’s a little slower and way more melancholy than the cover, but the harmonies, while subtle, are still pretty sweet. It’s #26 on this show, one position shy of its peak.

It’s usually fun to dig around the ‘Net to learn a little more as I prepare these posts, especially when it’s an act I don’t know much about. That was particularly true this week, as I got to connect the Addrisis in more and more tangential ways to various snippets of my past. Here are a few:

–Don and Dick’s greatest claim to fame is writing “Never My Love.” Love the Association’s take, much less enamored of Blue Swede’s 74 cover. In between, the Fifth Dimension (Marilyn and Billy with their second appearance today—perhaps that isn’t an accident) had a live version reach #12 in 71.

–The Addrisis also wrote and performed the theme to the early 70s sitcom Nanny and the Professor. That’s one I remember watching a few times, no doubt because it initially showed between The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family (though I couldn’t tell you the least thing about any episode). The show’s intro maybe sounds a tiny bit familiar, particularly the ending. Hearing it now, it’s a nifty little piece, a tune deserving of more than one minute in length.

–Nanny was played by British actress Juliet Mills, older sister of the star of Disney’s The Parent Trap. I really liked that movie, developing a bit of a crush on Hayley after seeing it on TV when I was 10 or 11; it didn’t dawn on me at the time that she was 18 years older than I…

–Speaking of Disney: Nanny’s youngest charge was played by Kim Richards, who a few years later would have a lead role in Escape to Witch Mountain. I enjoyed seeing it in a theater shortly after it came out  (I’m guessing I wouldn’t be impressed with the special effects were I to watch it again, though). Richards has more recently been seen (but not by me) on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

That’s enough tunneling into rabbit holes today. Dick Addrisi is still living, in his late 70s; Don died of cancer back in 84.

Time To Play B-Sides: Beach Boys, “Shut Down”

I’ve mentioned before that a few of my father’s 45s migrated over to my collection in the 76-78 period, soon after I started buying my own. The reasons for which ones got picked are certainly lost to me now, but they included “Come and Get It,” “Spirit in the Sky,” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” (with its awesome orange-and-yellow Capitol label).

The flip to that Beach Boys single is “Shut Down,” a not-quite-complete story about a drag race between a “fuel-injected Stingray” (a Corvette) and a “413” (a Dodge Dart, according to Wikipedia—the # refers to the size of the engine, in cubic inches). While it’s plenty slight and the lyrics are full of inside references to cars and racing, it’s also a darn catchy little number, one I played and sang along to on my little turntable many a time. I was pleased and a little surprised to hear it as part of “The Beach Boys Medley” that made it to #12 around this time of year in 81. It took a long time for me to realize I’d been holding a double-sided hit in my hands (“Shut Down” reached #23 on the 6/22/63 Hot 100).

There probably isn’t another 45 from the 60s whose two sides I know better than this one (though I’m not finding it amongst my stacks of singles at the moment). I’ll be saying more about the song on the A side in a couple of days.

The song ends before the race is over; the Dodge is ahead but the Stingray is gaining. I know very little about cars in general, much less those of the early 60s, but the commenters in the video below are pretty much exclusively saying the Dodge would win.

Time To Play B-Sides: Boston, “Let Me Take You Home Tonight”

My mention of “Burnin’ for You” in Sunday’s post reminded me that several weeks ago I’d picked out one of its lines for the title of my occasional series on flip sides from the late 70s that I came to enjoy.  Today, it’s the B to Boston’s “Long Time” in the spotlight.

During the long, cold winter of 77 I’d gained familiarity with and admiration for “Smokin’” after I had purchased “More Than a Feeling” in late 76. Thus, there was no hesitation in giving “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” a listen after ponying up the cash for “Long Time.”  I wasn’t disappointed (and in knowing what I know about Boston now, how could I have been?).

Sometime that spring the junior high students at Walton-Verona were given the opportunity to hold a dance in the “old gym” (a newer facility having been built about four years earlier–I wonder how many years passed before they stopped calling where basketball games were now being played the “new gym”). It was to be DJ-ed in-house, so you can well imagine who might have been anxious to sign up for a shift. That evening, I lugged a number of my 45s over to the stage of the old gym, primed to give my classmates a chance to boogie down.

I managed to be hovering around the stereo at the end of the festivities–I guess I’d drawn the last shift? Wanna take a guess as to the final song of the night?  I’m certain that, as a 13-year-old, I wasn’t thinking through (or likely even fully aware of) the meaning of the lyrics.