Thank you for the music
A strange and wonderful thing happened to me last Thursday afternoon, something that I didn’t figure would happen in my lifetime, or anyone else’s lifetime, for that matter.
Swedish pop supergroup ABBA announced that they have reunited to release a new album, and teased fans with two brand new songs, the first in 40 years.
Many of you will now roll your eyes and move on to Ted’s column because you don’t give a rat’s patootie about ABBA. Others may simply say “Oh, that’s nice,” and indulge me by reading on. And some will say “I know, isn’t that exciting!?” and genuinely mean it. But before you give up on this column, let me warn you that I’m not going to expound on all the various merits I feel ABBA has (because I feel they have many!). Rather, I’m going to share why I think last Thursday’s news affected me so profoundly.
I was first introduced to ABBA in, I believe, grade 5. My teacher, Miss Sandford, played a track off the ABBA Greatest Hits Vol. 1 album every morning, to which we did our opening exercises while standing beside our desks. “Nina Ballerina” was a catchy little tune, and somehow I became interested in what else this band with the neat name had to offer.
Soon I was saving my meagre allowance, and one special Saturday my family and I trotted off to a record store in Markham, where I bought the very same album my cool teacher had. My first vinyl.
I quickly fell in love with the music, and had the lyrics by heart in no time at all. Now, at about the same time, a family moved in just around the corner and down the road from our house, and I became fast friends with the older of the two daughters, Linda. I can’t recall us having much in common, other than a shared love for ABBA. We would sit in her room and listen to song after song, for hours on end. By the time Linda and her family moved away, I had most of the ABBA collection.
The group’s call of a “hiatus” in 1982 didn’t really affect my 12-year-old life much. I just kept listening to the music I loved. I went on to discover other music and artists, as any teenager does, and developed acoustic love affairs with whoever caught my ears’ fancy at the time.
I am a musician. I began playing piano when I was three. I taught music lessons for 22 years. I have my Grade 10 piano from the Royal Conservatory of Music, and went as high as it was possible to go learning RCM History, Harmony and Counterpoint (then it was Grade 5, but that was, ahem, a few years ago). I have studied music from all over the world, and thus have a very broad musical taste. I love old jazz, classical of all eras, pop, some rock – basically the only genres that really don’t do it for me are heavy metal and country. And even then, I have a few select country artists in my CD collection. I’ve always maintained that I like the piece, rather than the artist. But if I were put on a deserted island and could only take one band’s music with me, ABBA would be my choice. (Canadian songstress Loreena McKennitt would be my solo artist choice).
So, I’ve always loved ABBA. Big deal, right? Why, then, did last week’s news have me fan-girling like a teeny-bopper? I wept. Not sobs, I just got a little teary, but there was water flowing. And I couldn’t get enough of the news on what led to this new album and its accompanying concert show (yes, I’m saving to take a trip to London, now!). I was physically affected by three words: “ABBA is back.”
I pondered this all weekend, as I listened to the two new songs on a continuous loop. Why was I reacting so viscerally to this news which, while fun and upbeat in a world that is anything but at the moment, qualifies as a bit of fluff, in the giant scheme of things. And I came to realize that music in every form, from early Gregorian chant (which I taught to a men’s choir, once – not easy) to today’s latest, runs right through my veins alongside my blood. If I were made to choose between losing my sight or my hearing, I’d choose my sight. I could never live without hearing music.
During my ruminations, I remembered that I also fan-girled over Mozart right after the movie Amadeus came out, in 1984. That led me to have regular birthday parties for long-dead composers – weird, yes, but a great asset when studying music history…
I need music in my life like I need food, water and shelter. And I think ABBA’s news hit me hard because their music has been such a huge, positive, part of my life. Their music is part of my being.
Please don’t bother sending me emails telling me I’m off my nut, that ABBA sucks, that my taste in music stinks, etc. That’s just spreading negativity, and ain’t nobody got time for that, especially me. I’ll just tune you out, and go listen to their new music, instead.