WINNER TAKES IT ALL

Tomorrow I’m playing a third match in the Watsonia Tennis Club Championships. Lots of members enter multiple events; Open Singles and Doubles, A Grade Men’s, Parent and Child Doubles, Mixed. Given my level of fitness, I decided to enter just one event, especially as the boy was decidedly cool on the idea of playing competition tennis with his old man. Now ‘old’ here has an interesting context. One event in the fixture is the Veteran Singles, for players over 45. Well, I met the requirement easily enough. Met it some years ago in fact. So I asked my coach about entering the Vets.

‘Er,’ he offered tactfully, ‘There are a couple of good players in that event.’

‘So where are the good players not?’ I enquired with savaged grammar and sinking heart.

‘The A Grade Men’s,’ came the prompt answer, at which point I realised that ‘A’ stood not so much for First Class as for ‘Average’.

‘Righty-oh, sign me up.’

Somewhat to my surprise, I breezed through the first match. To my coach’s surprise, I managed to get through the second too. Which brings us to tomorrow, the grandly misleading Quarter Finals, where I will be playing a thirteen year old junior. When I mentioned this to the club Matriarch this morning, she offered the following assessment. ‘He’s good, young Jimmy. You’ll probably get beaten. Pretty easily.’ Although I was tempted to wonder out loud how often she has seen me play (precisely zero times), I opted instead to smile and reply that as I had already exceeded my own expectations, and those of my coach as well, I was happy enough to get my ageing ass whipped by a pre-pubescent Year 7 stripling. I didn’t phrase it quite like that, but that was the general message.

How does this relate to one of the most successful pop groups of the 70s, I hear you ask? Well, it’s about Gold FM Afternoons.

This particular playlist arose from Ms Connection’s mild admonishment, a few years back, that sometimes it might be nice to hear something she actually recognised, now and then. Something, perish the thought, that she could sing along to. Something (through clenched teeth), poppy. Hence, Gold FM Afternoons. If I remember to actually consult Ms C (not as routine as it should be, I blush to report), we might hear Queen or 10CC or, if neither of us are up for radio-fodder hits, even some UK jazz-funk such as Incognito.

Today, I took the initiative and pulled from the ‘Unlistened-to’ box an Op Shop (= Charity Shop = Thrift Shop) purchase from a few months back I’d been desperately avoiding spinning. Why in hell did I buy it, you mutter? Because it is a UK pressing of a Swedish band who began their ascent to the pop stratosphere right here in Aus. Yep, that ubiquitous Scandinavian acronym assembled from the names Agnetha, Benny, Björn, & Anni-Frid.

ABBA - Abba LP front

ABBA. The self-titled album that was Number 1 everywhere in the universe in 1975. I know this because I sold quite a few of the records, even by the modest standards of Max Rose Electronics, the suburban store where I worked part-time. I know this because you simply could not avoid singles from the album if you turned on the radio. That the album cover shows the band all poshed up and swigging champagne, and has a gold border, suggests that this album was solely responsible for the dire creation that is Gold FM. Is that why I played it today? Probably not.

As well as being a failing student of Optometry and uptight casual salesman at the afore-mentioned record and electrical goods store, I also played tennis. In fact, I was captain of a Bentleigh Recreation Tennis Club Mixed Doubles team that played a couple of seasons in Level 18-D (or whatever nomenclature defined our meagre skills). It is my firm and enduring belief that I was appointed Leader not for my superior tennis skills nor (even less likely) for any maturity of personhood, but because I had both driver’s licence and car. This meant that I could ferry my three younger team-mates to and from the various suburban venues where we would be inevitably slaughtered on the dusty red en-tout-cas courts.

My vehicle, an ancient Holden in the terminal phases of emphysema, was without the luxury of one of those new-fangled squirty washer things that wets the windscreen so the wipers have a fifty-fifty chance of scraping mud off the glass (or at least distributing it more evenly over the surface), but it did have a retro-fitted AM radio through whose tiny speaker would be extruded the hits of the day. On the drives to suburban tennis clubs that summer of ’75, the song most frequently played was ABBA’s ‘Mama Mia’. The girls, both in the latter stages of their high school education and blithely contemptuous of the old fogey four years their senior who was the designated tennis taxi, would instantly burst into song whenever ‘Mama Mia’ came on. Which was a lot. Like very ten minutes. In fact one of the girls, cheeky and imbued with one thousand percent more confidence than I aspire to even now, would suggest—just after the final chorus cross-faded to a prattling DJ—that we change the station. Whereupon the bloody song would come on again. And again.

img_1196

All this, having already heard and hated the romantic clichéd drivel of ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ (that is how long it seemed) too many times for my un-relationshiped mental health and having had to spin the LP in the shop on a Friday night to satisfy my employer’s demand for ‘something off the radio’.

Tennis and ABBA being irrevocably linked in my sad subconscious, it’s obvious why the vinyl came out today.

And what was it like? Well, Ms Connection sang along to opener ‘Mama Mia’ fully as enthusiastically as those teenage girls from yester-century and pronounced it an excellent choice of music. After that, we shared astonished enjoyment in the Slade-lite strut of ‘Hey Hey Helen’ and sort of vagued out during the cod-reggae of ‘Tropical Loveland’ before coming together to agree that ‘SOS’, when not heard for a decade or two, is a quite spiffing pop song. The descending cascade of the refrain—‘When you’re gone, how can I even try to go on’—is simply pop perfection. What an unexpected delight.

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‘Man in the middle’ is sanitized funk, while ‘Bang-A-Boomerang’, the band’s nod to the early support they received Downunder, is fine (if cringingly ignorant of cultural sensitivity in these enlightened times).

Elsewhere, ‘Rock Me’ does just that in a cheerful rolling radio-friendly way, ‘Intermezzo No.1’ swirls with baroque prog pretensions, while curtain-call ‘So long’ takes us out with rock ’n’ roll pastiche of little depth but well-scrubbed charm.

So I guess you’d say ‘Mission accomplished’. The Gold FM Afternoon delivered fun for Ms C, memories for Mr VC, and more enjoyment than expected. A win-win scenario. Which is more than will transpire tomorrow on the wind-blasted courts of Watsonia Tennis Club.

Abba back cover

*

33 comments

  1. Wonderful Bruce, you served us an ace (see what I did there?). I love the tennis-y/Abba-y link.

    Mild in all things, temperate by nature and calm though I am – I’d rather have my toenails pulled out than listen to this. Apart from ‘Dancing Queen’ I loathe them, oh and also apart from the film Mama Mia too, quite like that one. Sid Vicious was a big fan, but what did he know?

    I have a theory that the band logo has been deliberately crafted to sport two phallic A’s and 2 voluptuous B’s. (this theory is flawed only by the minor fact the initials don’t match up properly, but I’m working on it).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Good theory. Look forward to the explication on how the females are denoted by the phallic As and the males the voluptuous Bs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t worry, I shall reply for a research grant and hot foot it back to you with an answer by early 2024.

        Good luck tomorrow/today/yesterday (I’m a bit hazy about time differences)!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Ah. It was last weekend. 8:5 to the stripling.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. The Winner Takes it All?

          Liked by 2 people

        3. To the victor go the spoils.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Well I think the result was clearly rigged and you should refuse to concede defeat.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. (I modified his hair-do)

          Liked by 2 people

        6. Still, an excellent likeness.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post and combination of two disparate pursuits (music and tennis). However, I choose to believe that you were indeed appointed Leader for superior tennis skills *and* early displays of maturity of your personhood. Over time one gets to virtually know a fellow blogger, and the evidence is overwhelming that your then-peers saw the same qualities in person that we all see in a virtual way now. Of course, I suppose it should also be said that having a car did make one awfully popular back then too. But no matter.

    Ah, yes, Abba. But, hey, if a prog drummer could later produce Frida then surely we can listen to hear earlier grouping. 😉 And here’s to many 40-loves in your future… – Marty

    Like

    1. Thank you Marty; chuffed you enjoyed the piece.

      I’ll stick to the vehicle being the key factor in my Fearless Leader status. I believe that what you perceive (and I thank you for that) is the result of the good work of a phalanx of therapists over the ensuing decades. Really, when I look at that particular investment, it’s a wonder I’ve found any money for records.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Have to confess a certain amount of ignorance to Abba… have heard the hits obviously but couldn’t say I’ve been over-exposed or that I have very strong feelings one way or ‘tother. They do cause a bit of a cringe in a “Karaoke night at the Horseshoe” sort of way. But I always keep in mind that a surprising amount of old rockers liked a spot of Abba: Ritchie Blackmore was always partial and I’m sure I recall Steve Howe rating them as well?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well B and B crafted very stylish pop songs, and for those who appreciate such things, that’s enough to garner respect. As for Howe, hadn’t heard that, but it does not surprise entirely as the guitar work on many ABBA tracks, by Janne Schaffer (who also worked with Bob Marley!), is truly excellent. I have a couple of Janne’s albums – they are accomplished jazz-rock.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it was a doc about Yes. I think maybe in reference to 90125?… that he liked it cause he liked ABBA. Interesting that they’re both old session guys. They’ll have played on plenty of pop tracks in their time!

        Like

  4. Nice piece, Bruce. The young king won, eh? I assume you made them work hard for the title of victor.

    I think I was sick of Abba before I ever listened to Abba Gold start to finish. The parental unit and my sister played selections to death while shouting along. Horrendous (I’m sure they were approached to perform at Guantanamo Bay). Anyhoo, there were a few tracks I liked, cause it was impossible to deny their sheer poppery genius. SOS was one of them (spot on with your assessment, by the way), Dancing Queen is another… naturally.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks J. And thanks for what is probably the quintessential ABBA-Family story. We were all yelling (internally or externally) ‘Enough already1’.
      Still, I just love ‘Muriel’s Wedding’.

      Like

  5. “This particular playlist arose from Ms Connection’s mild admonishment, a few years back, that sometimes it might be nice to hear something she actually recognized, now and then.”
    ahah 🙂

    well mate, only ABBA could publish a 45 with Mamma Mia and SOS as A and B side (or reverse). i’ve got it and still play it, more often than occasionally, eheheh.

    as a child, i used to play deejay on my bed and that same vinyl was one of the hits of course 😉 can’t remember what exactly worked as microphone, probably a plastic baton. not a listener ever complained. advantage of pretending, ahah 🙂

    and by the way, i’m moved by the trust in your tennis skills with which your entourage enfolds your expected performance 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The only thing better than a captive audience is the crowd you see in your mind. That’s a lovely image of a young Pirate gigging in his bedroom club. Cheers Cobber.

      Like

      1. oh i was a deejay for years. but then i also played at madison square garden and gigged with America, Neil Young, Eagles and many others. in my mind, in my room 🙂 ciao mate!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. SOS is indeed a spiffing pop song – my favourite ABBA offering (that and slipping through my fingers). So I suppose with a tie for two ABBA favourites, it would be DEUCE!
    Good luck tomorrow Bruce, enjoyed this post!

    Like

    1. A few votes for SOS, then. And rightly so!
      Thanks Geoff.

      Like

  7. Hard not to like ABBA after a long (really long) period of abstinence.
    Not a bad result in the tennis too.
    Good reading, thanks.

    Like

    1. Yep. It’s all about the spaces.
      Cheers, DD.

      Like

      1. Can we expect a review of Hot August Nights anytime soon? Or maybe needs further spacing?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Another decade or two should suffice.

          Like

  8. Your post seems eventually to have produced a vigorous singing of ‘L.A. Is My Lady’ today – Sinatra centre stage of course. A good post blows no ill.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Loved the description of your vehicle as “in the terminal phases of emphysema”. I can almost hear it now.

    I, too, find that ABBA made some great pop songs. (Translation: I like them a lot, but wish I didn’t.) Fernando was/is my favourite. S.O.S. and The Winner Takes It All get my approval, too. Some of the others make me cringe, though. If you promise not to look I’ll dig out my ABBA Gold: Greatest Hits and give it another spin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A decent chap never peeks at another chaps Gold FM spins. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love Abba. Always have, even as a young punk/goth kid when I loved them secretly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a wonderful image: a dark and gothic teen harbouring a love of Abba’s sparkling pop under her black shroud. Thanks for your comment, Leslie.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Fantastic post! I love that your lovely lady says the same thing mine does – “uh, could you play something I know, for once?”* Haha. I read those bits to my lovely wife and she thought an afternoon like that would indeed be grand. You may have started something.

    Ah, tennis. The only sport where love means nothing…

    As for ABBA, good on you for playing an album through! I did so recently myself, though mine was the hits set Gold, and there’s no denying their status as pop masters. But it was more interesting, on the heels of that, to read about an album proper.

    Well done!

    * It’s also true that the heavier music I like, such as Slayer, has been banished to the car where I must listen to it when I’m driving by myself. 😉 Turn-about is fair play, though, as I demand the same banishment of her with her Neil Diamond boxed set.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you and Ms KMA can have fun with Gold FM afternoons. Though you might have to invite Neil Diamond in from the cold now and then!
      That tolerance stuff is great, though. Ms Connection quite likes Bitches Brew nowadays. Who’d a thought?
      Thanks for the lovely comments, A.

      Like

      1. Ah see, around here we both agree on Miles. But if Neil can in from the cold, so can Slayer. Impasse! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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