Today is Vinyl Record Day (in the US), marking the anniversary of Edison’s invention of the phonogram. So it’s quite apt that I have spent the past week listening to my latest second-hand purchase: Abba’s The Visitors.
I have written here about my personal wish list when browsing through second-hand records. But as well as Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, later Beatles albums (yes I know I’d be v lucky!) and early 80s electronic, I have also been looking out for Abba’s final album,’The Visitors’.
As a child of the seventies I know every Abba song off by heart. As well as inheriting their Greatest Hits album from my parents, I’ve also picked up ‘Arrival’ and, more recently,’Super Trouper’ (£2, charity shop).
This year I started to listen to their final album, ‘The Visitors’, on Spotify (I’m sure there’s a post here: Digital v Vinyl) and really began to appreciate it. With a nod to the breakups and emotional turmoil that lay behind the making of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, this album was written after Benny and Frida, the other couple, had split up. You only have to listen to ‘When All is Said and Done’ and ‘One of Us’ to understand the inspiration between these more mature ‘break up’ songs.
But my favourite is the Cold War thriller that is ‘The Visitors’. The narrator hears the doorbell and knows that ‘they’ have come to take her away: “come to take me, come to break me, and yet it isn’t unexpected.” It’s all quite John Le Carre and Smileys People. 1981 was in the middle of Cold War tensions (Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, 1980 Moscow Olympics boycott, Thatcher and Reagan in power and the very realistic threat of nuclear war). This dark, un-Abba song with its early 80s electronic beat is a far cry from the pop-friendly ‘Dancing Queen’ or ‘Voulez Vous’, but probably a more realistic vision of the time. Even the dark, shadowy (and downright moody) front cover depicts a significant point in Abba’s final chapter.
Nonetheless, I was over the moon to find a good copy in a local charity shop at the weekend. For just £3 it came still partly wrapped in plastic. Although the title track is slightly scratched it’s still in good condition and I have really enjoyed listening to it and getting all dark and moody…