Something for Thursday

I really like ABBA, and I do not apologize for this.

Jeff Tweedy, though–singer and guitarist for Wilco–once upon a time did not like ABBA, but he got better.

I am currently reading Tweedy’s book World Within a Song: Music that Changed My Life and Life that Changed My Music, in which he writes 50 short essays about one song each that has been important in his life or his musical development or both (plus some extra essays detailing non-musical incidents from his life, so the book is kind of a musical biography). I’m enjoying the book, though I’m only a third of the way through it, and it’s making me appreciate the songs he writes about that I’ve heard and he’s piquing curiosity about those that I haven’t.

Of course I’ve heard “Dancing Queen”. I’ve known that song for decades. I was a kid when ABBA was first huge, and I remember a resurgence they enjoyed in the late 90s via 70s nostalgia and movies like Muriel’s Wedding. When Tweedy gets to “Dancing Queen”, though, he writes first about how he hated it…until one day he heard it over the loudspeakers of a grocery store and realized that he’d been wrong.

Quoting Mr. Tweedy:

But before that day, I, along with many others, had denied myself undeniable joy. Countless fantastic records and deep grooves were dismissed and derided out of ignorance. Of course, this song and this music was always going to win eventually. Because it’s just too special to ignore forever.

There are wrong opinions about music! And to this day, “Dancing Queen” is the song I think of when I THINK I don’t like something. It taught me that I can’t ever completely trust my negative reactions. I was burned so badly by this one song being withheld from my heart for so long. I try to never listen to music without first politely asking my mind, and whatever blind spots I’m afflicted with today, to move aside long enough for my gut to be the judge. And even then, if I don’t like something I make a mental note to try again in ten years.

Melodies as pure and evocative as the one in “Dancing Queen” don’t come along every day. I’m sad for every single moment I missed loving this song. Playing it again right now. Making up for lost spins. I truly recommend spending some time looking for a song you might have unfairly maligned. It feels good to stop hating something. Music is a good place to start if you’re interested in forgiveness. For yourself, mostly, I assume. Because records can’t really change much over time, but we sure can, and do. Better late than never.

And as Mr. Freeman would later say in The Shawshank Redemption, “That is Goddamned right.”

Here is “Dancing Queen”. (And no, it’s not my favorite ABBA song. That would be “Fernando”.)

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