I heard the most wonderful sounds coming from my radio. “Waterloo” immediately struck me as such a perfect pop song, with its insistent beat and that wonderful, hooky melody, punctuated by Benny Andersson’s classically-influenced piano stabs. And that chorus: kind of an amalgam of fifties, sixties and contemporary influences. It all sounded so good, so sweet, so charming coming out of those speakers, like a gift settled before me that came from heaven.
And then, when I got the album and dropped the needle gently upon the first track on side one, I found that heaven, all 11 songs of it, was indeed within my ears’ grasp, nestled comfortably within the commanding sleeve which depicted the four members of Abba (and a reasonable facsimile of Napoleon). I loved it all, from that glorious hit single and the pounding “King Kong Song” to the soulful, rhythmic bounce of “My Mama Said” and the jangly, poppy “Suzy -Hang-Around.”
But the song that I especially loved–the one that caught my ears in a take-no-prisoners kind of way–was the side two opener, the luscious, entrancing “Honey, Honey.” That upbeat number started in overdrive with a runaway bass guitar, swirling orchestration and a percussive bottom. The melody, crafted with care by Andersson and his songwriting partner Bjorn Ulvaeus, surrounded me and hugged me tight, especially during the middle section which started at 1:04: “I don’t want to hurt you baby, I don’t wanna see you cry…” Those notes, full of life and taking me somewhere other than here, simply slayed me like so many songs I have heard since have failed to do. It’s hard to explain, but when that middle section repeated at 1:59, and the words in the first lines of the lyrics were replaced by orchestration, my knees became weak and my legs turned to jelly, such was the enormity of the effect.
I found, perhaps for the first time, what is was like to be in love with an ABBA melody line. The group, of course, went on to record many more exciting, wonderful songs and albums, but, for me, as much as I loved all of their output, no song of theirs ever topped the effect that “Honey, Honey” had, and still has, on me. “There’s no other place in this world that I’d rather be.” Those words were as true as a sunny sky back then. They still ring true today.