Jul 08

ABBA – “Take A Chance On Me”

FT + Popular56 comments • 4,577 views

#419, 18th February 1978

“Take A Chance On Me” couldn’t be more different from “The Name Of The Game”: here it’s the beloved who’s shy and afraid, and the singer who radiates confidence and amused self-security. “You don’t want to hurt me? Baby don’t worry, I ain’t gonna let you.”  The song is a typically ABBA-ish twist on a well-worn romantic situation: a rejected suitor pleading their case. Many writers would assume a hurt or hangdog perspective – instead “Take A Chance” is absurdly buoyant. Come on, it says, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s one of ABBA’s most straight-up joyous hits, brimful of an inspirational strength.

It’s also a step back from “The Name Of The Game”‘s complexity – the rhythm is “Dancing Queen” redux (though with a little more pep), and like that song it leads with its steamroller chorus. The simplicity here’s a little deceptive, though – that wonderful a capella rhythm line is as bold a stroke as you’ll find on any of their records, and the flashing, bubbling keyboards show that Benny and Bjorn had been paying attention to Moroder’s advances. But that’s really all secondary to the song’s effervescence, with the girls’ hammy semi-spoken bits summing the whole thing up: this is a band having casually brilliant fun.



  1. 1
    Lena on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Abba’s The Album was one of the first I ever owned; when my parents were out I would put it on and skip around our big rectangular Belgian-made Oriental rug very happily. I don’t have that many happy memories from this time, but that is definitely one of them, being able to play my album on my father’s sound system. A tremendous song too, and an easy 10 from me.

  2. 2
    rosie on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Not since the Beatles had an act been able to produce hit after hit of such apparently effortless delightfulness, and with such a range. Abba’s range was always more limited that the Fab Four’s but still stood out from everything around them. Name of the Game, with all its uneasy melancholy, felt like a new departure, but they surprised us again with this up-tempo piece, weaving special magic with its playful, teasing counterpoint. Cracking stuff. Eight about right for me.

  3. 3
    Waldo on 23 Jul 2008 #

    I think we’ve reached the stage now where we can just click our heals and salute Abba as they go marching through. And just for the record, I would have quite happily have taken a chance on either of them. Mind you, this is the last time I shall personally be discussing the Swedes, as by the time they top the charts again, I would have bowed out, hopefully handing the project over to my young (well younger) protégé, who’s far more up on the eighties onwards than I am. I still don’t know if he wants to do it, however.

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 23 Jul 2008 #

    I agree with Rosie – and I also love the ‘take a chance, take a chance’ rhythm of this which always suggests trains for me – possibly inspired by ‘Trans Europe Express’ or some earlier hollywood musical?

    my musical tastes were widened further around this time by the first broadcast of Dennis Potter’s “Pennies from Heaven’ which made me even more aware of the ‘potency of cheap music’ and had just as powerful an effect on me as punk in derailing the myth that pop music had become more complex and ‘progressive’ over the years

  5. 5
    mike on 23 Jul 2008 #

    And here’s another Abba song whose meaning I was able to bend to fit my emotional situation. In this case, we’re back with the object of my three-year long unrequited crush – and here’s where I have to raise a smile at the lyric (“If you’re all alone when the pretty birds have flown, honey I’m still free, take a chance on me”), which casts me as some sort of love-lorn Mister Humphries.

    When watching the video, please pay close attention to Agnetha’s small but significant pout at around the 2:17 mark. This was the moment that totally slaughtered the lads in the TV room on Thursday nights (just after supper, just before prep). I well remember the anticipation (“Wait for it, wait for it…”) and the almost post-coital sigh which followed (“She just looks so… easy…”) Hey, none of us got out much.

  6. 6
    mike on 23 Jul 2008 #

    This is also the third and final consecutive Number One to have cropped up in this year’s Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? thingy, over on my blog. Here’s what one of my readers had to say about it:

    “The girls are singing the words that the boys want to hear, but it seems clear that these are boys’ words, of vulnerability and patience and longing, the pitiful cajoling of the spurned. When she finally realises she’s made a mistake, he’ll have moved on to an inferior version and he’ll be too polite to abandon her. I hear missed opportunities and unhappy relationships. With a disco beat.”

  7. 7
    SteveM on 23 Jul 2008 #

    “And just for the record, I would have quite happily have taken a chance on either of them.”

    Fair enough Waldo, but what about Frida and Agnetha?

  8. 8
    rosie on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Pennies From Heaven was a huge influence on my musical tastes, too, and I love much of the music of the 30s and 40s. One of the things that drew me into Popular in the first place was one of Tom’s early remarks, to the effect that he believed that popular music got better with each succeeding decade. Something which I would seriously challenge.

  9. 9
    Waldo on 23 Jul 2008 #

    # 7 – Nice one, Steve!

  10. 10
    pete on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Since it appears to be my job to be official FT Mamma Mia correspondent, it is my job to tell you that this is sung by Julie Walters in a comedic style (first couple of stanzas in spoken word, teasing the audience for it to explode). Its near the end of the film, in one of its many codas, and sung to a slightly scared looking Stellan Skarsgard (who also sings the odd line and make Pierce look like a pro). But even then it survives the overly comedic setting to become a barnstormer even with the endless pratfalls (Walters falling off a roof, dancing on a table etc).

    Its all about the “Take a Chance, Take A Chance, Take a Chica-Chan-Chance…”

  11. 11
    SteveM on 23 Jul 2008 #

    yeah – also love the idea that they were riffing on ‘Trans Europe Express’ there

  12. 12
    jeff w on 23 Jul 2008 #

    I associate this song with the summer of ’78. The Album seemed to be the soundtrack to every village fete and barbecue going; hitting tennis balls against the garage wall while Borg and Connors / Evert and Navratilova battled it out on the telly; the church choir trip to… wherever it was that year (either York or Bath, I think). Salad days, for sure.

    8 is about right. But this is the point at which any lingering doubts anyone might have had about ABBA’s greatness melt away.

  13. 13
    will on 23 Jul 2008 #

    So having shown they can do all serious and adult, Abba turn around and prove, not only can they still crank out insanely catchy bubblegum pop, they can do it better than anyone else on the block.

    I remember hearing this for the first time (on Swap Shop, I think) and just knowing, within all of 30 seconds, that it would be another Number One. And it was. Truly, there is nothing better in life than a pop group you can rely upon.

  14. 14
    vinylscot on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Some people (not me, honest) read a little more into this than was truly necessary through (deliberately) mishearing the lyrics as – “If you change your mind, on the virgin line, honey I’m still free…” It became an invitation from an easy girl, ready to help out inexperienced chaps like us, although none of us would admit to being “inexperienced” at the time. (again not me, honest)

    Insanely catchy, probably their most instantly memorable single, and I agree about the choo-choo noises – maybe not “Trans Europe Express” but certainly something a little more cutting edge than Vernon Dalhart.

    It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I could appreciate it.

  15. 15
    LondonLee on 24 Jul 2008 #

    I like this OK but I was never that much in love with it, the song itself is good but I don’t care for the “cha-cha-chance” harmonies and the oompah band-ish beat it has at times. It all seems a bit over cooked like one of those singles a band puts out after they’ve conquered the world with a string of hits and the next thing they come out with is eagerly anticipated and you know it’s going to be a big hit the moment it comes out but it seems overproduced and lacking some of the lightness of touch they used to have, now they’re a big budget megaband. It’s like Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys’ in that respect. I also find it a little too chirpy, and not in an ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ way, but in a sort of cheesy knees up way.

  16. 16
    Mark G on 24 Jul 2008 #

    This remind(ed) me more of “I’m a Train” Albert Hammond…

    But, yeah, I don’t mind this one as much as the others.

    “C’mon, gimme a break!” should also be noted…

  17. 17
    Tom on 24 Jul 2008 #

    “Wild Boys” – OUCH. I don’t mind “Wild Boys” but I know exactly what you mean (tho I wouldn’t apply it to this single), that sense of slight deflation when a band doesn’t use its world conquering powers for good. I remember me and all my friends coming home from the record shop, each with our own copy of the Stone Roses’ “One Love” 12″, and the downcast silence that followed the first much-anticipated play.

  18. 18
    Billy Smart on 24 Jul 2008 #

    Mmm – Obviously, this is tremendous, but it is the one all-conquering ABBA classic that I respond to as a brilliant record, rather than finding much emotional resonance in it – perhaps because it’s a bit of a needy sentiment, but the song isn’t focused what that means, what’s at stake if the chance isn’t taken.

    But, my word, this must have about the strongest and most addictive hook of anything on Popular so far! Having established “thakeachancetakeachance” from the outset – with an insistence that sounds closer to 90s Europop than anything even a few years before 1978 – ABBA then create the conditions for this bounce little riffs and rhythms and phrases off this amazingly robust foundation for the next four minutes, and created a pleasure in following how the tune progresses that I know I’ll always have for the whole of my life.

    Re 17, ‘One Love’ might have been a mess, but ‘Something’s Burning’, the B-side is a great fluid shadowy groove of a thing.

  19. 19
    DJ Punctum on 24 Jul 2008 #

    There is little more satisfying in pop than to witness an artist or group as they approach their creative peak, and during this period Abba were about as perfect as they, or pop, ever got. The genius of “Take A Chance On Me” lies in the artful complexity of its music balancing the direct simplicity of its lyric. In its entreaties towards the object of the protagonist’s desire to shake off the shackles of fear and embark on an unconditional and bilateral love affair, it’s something of a prequel to “The Name Of The Game,” when they have only just entered into the adventure of love; though it was the follow-up to “The Name Of The Game,” it precedes that song on side one of Abba: The Album.

    Musically it could almost be an outtake from The Sound Of Music; the nursery rhyme seesawing of the underlying harmony disguises a very canny 12/4 construction, where bass, percussion, main vocals and backing vocals never coincide in quite the same place on each bar line, such that there is the illusion of constant, train-like movement – Trans-Europe Express! – which mirrors the singers’ kind persistence (“You can take your time baby/I’m in so hurry/I know I’m gonna get you” – both Agnetha and Frida seem to bend down towards the listener and wink at them; it is extremely sexy but also exceptionally reassuring). There are so many remarkable touches to the production, such as the acappella intro leading to the detonation of the rhythm halfway through the first chorus (and they actually begin with the chorus, just as in “Dancing Queen”), the lovely shiver of synth halfway through each verse (“We can go dancing/We can go walking/As long as we’re together”) and the New Pop-initiating synth fanfare which blossoms out of their ecstatic “It’s magic!”

    “If you change your mind/I’m the first in line” they announce (and it’s a joint lead vocal effort, apart from when Frida bursts forward, solo, into the mix with her “’cause you know I’ve GOT” and “let me tell you NOW” and the fiery passion of her denials of “You want me to leave it there” and “You say that I waste my time” countered by the unarguable, not-up-for-negotiation, you’re going to love and be loved whether you want it or not, because really you want it, and we both know it confidential of “But I think you know/That I can’t let go.” It’s proof that, even at the threshold of their “blue period,” Abba could still be happy and wondrous; and that particular strand of their art reached its zenith in “Summer Night City” later that year – though it only peaked at #5, its sophistication and artistic enterprise puts it at least half a decade ahead of most of its contemporaries, as demonstrated in The Lexicon Of Love (complete with sumptuous orchestral prelude, half “Summer Night City,” half “Prologue” from Scott’s ‘Til The Band Comes In) and elsewhere. For now, however, we can marvel at “Take A Chance On Me” and maybe even worship one of the greatest pop acts at very nearly their greatest.

  20. 20
    Waldo on 24 Jul 2008 #

    Amen, Charty!

  21. 21
    Mark G on 24 Jul 2008 #

    “Summer Night City” was 12″ only, wasn’t it?

  22. 22
    DJ Punctum on 24 Jul 2008 #

    No, you’re thinking of “Lay All Your Love On Me” which was a 12-inch only (and UK-only) single release in ’81.

  23. 23
    mike on 24 Jul 2008 #

    No, I’ve got the 7″. It was “Lay All Your Love On Me” that was 12″ only.

  24. 24
    Dan R on 24 Jul 2008 #

    Oh this is such a giddily joyful bit of music and is so stuffed with gorgeous goodies, hooks all over the place, that it almost seems like showing off. Fir me, the thing that makes it so insanely enjoyable is the way the trainlike motor of the rhythm has almost a fanfare laid on top of it. The five ascending notes of “if you change your mind” can easily be imagined played by massed trumpeters to announce some jubilant arrival.

  25. 25
    Tom on 24 Jul 2008 #

    “Lay All Your Love On Me” is the first record I can remember willing up the charts, hoping it would get to #1. If I’d known it was 12″ only I wouldn’t have bothered!

  26. 26
    DJ Punctum on 24 Jul 2008 #

    I didn’t because it came out the same week as “Chant No 1,” one of only two decent records Spandau Ballet ever made. But in the end both were defeated by *SPOILER BUNNY EDIT*

  27. 27
    katstevens on 24 Jul 2008 #

    I’m finding it very interesting reading everyone’s comments to the ABBA entries: Apart from Eurovision at the beginning and Divorce Horror at the end, I just have no idea what order everything came in the middle! Although they may have just as much variety in their music, I find the Beatles’ different styles seem to tie the songs down much more strongly to a particular year (perhaps because they eventually WERE the style of said year? Hmmm). But I can’t pin down what ABBA goes where (despite arguably knowing more ABBA hits than Beatles hits!). This could be 1978 or 1975 or 1981 for all I know. So it’s good to read everyone’s experiences and get a feel for what exactly they are soundtracking here, and give my mental timeline something to latch onto.

  28. 28
    Mark G on 24 Jul 2008 #

    It basically comes down to their use of and command of the english language. Better later, rudimentary at first. This being the midpoint, probably the best use of it.

  29. 29
    Billy Smart on 24 Jul 2008 #

    Number two watch: ‘Come Back My Love’ by Darts, for a week.

  30. 30
    Dan R on 24 Jul 2008 #

    Oh and I love that just when you think the song has given you every last drop of golden pleasure it’s going to and that its ideas are exhausted, they launch into the ba-ba-ba-ba-ba version of the chorus. It feels like one of those moments when giddy loving enthusiasm overflows the boundaries of words themselves.

  31. 31
    Doctor Casino on 24 Jul 2008 #

    Ten. TEN. TEN!!!!!

  32. 32
    Doctor Casino on 24 Jul 2008 #

    I mean, really. Everybody’s said it all already so that’s all I’ve got. The best song by a thousand miles on the mixtape my first girlfriend gave me some eight and a half years ago.

  33. 33
    fivelongdays on 24 Jul 2008 #

    I always thought she sang ‘you say you’ll hurt me/Radio Wurtly’, and fondly imagining that Wurtly was a part of Sweden where, erm, one of them had a radio show. Or something.

  34. 34
    rosie on 24 Jul 2008 #

    fivelongdays @ 33: Whereas those of us with fond memories of growing up with old valve radios know that it was not Wurtly, but Sundsvall and Motala.

  35. 35
    The Intl on 25 Jul 2008 #

    Is left-side-guy wearing clogs? Cool. Takes me back, clogs & baggies – though NOT IN 1978!!
    I totally appreciate ABBA for the pop force they were. But nowadays I wish the play/movie never existed. Until the ABBA revvivval all the suburban housewives were all nostalgic over Sat Nite Fever. Now it’s this. Four Seasons mania coming as soon as the film gets made.

  36. 36
    Conrad on 25 Jul 2008 #

    For me, 1978 is Abba’s zenith. For this record, but more particularly, Summer Night City, an absolute belter of a track that I have heard referred to – in almost derisory tones – as Abba jumping on the Disco bandwagon. Er…errant nonsense of course.

    SNC is as thrilling and uplifting as pop gets. A shimmering, towering production and arrangement.

    Take A Chance, wondrous though it is, doesn’t quite scale those heights. A 9 for me.

  37. 37
    DJ Punctum on 25 Jul 2008 #

    Oh, and another thing about SNC – they are quite clearly singing “walking in the moonlight”…

  38. 38
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 25 Jul 2008 #

    when nme talked to abba round the time of the upcoming SNC, the interviewer — entirely forget who — referred to it as “summer fight fever” and benny or bjorn corrected him a bit snippily, and the interviewer said “b-but it says here summer night FEVER” and showed him the press material and it DID! And bjorn and benny scampered away to get angrily on the phone to get the press material corrected!

    so i think this “disco bandwagon” problem was in everyone’s heads at the time, including their own staff

  39. 39
    LondonLee on 25 Jul 2008 #

    Speaking as a graphic designer I’d like to note that – clogs notwithstanding – that sleeve looks surprisingly modern (especially compared to some of the other horrors we’ve seen here lately). The orange rectangle centered over the photo and minimalist typography looks like it could have been done last week by some trendy London firm.

  40. 40
    SteveM on 25 Jul 2008 #

    yeah i did wonder about that myself when i sourced the picture. the typeface used for the song title looks like Rockwell but no idea how old that is.

  41. 41
    jeff w on 25 Jul 2008 #

    I think with Wuthering and Matchstalk we’ve finally arrived in the era where UK picture sleeves for singles are more likely than not. And hurrah for that.

  42. 42
    SteveM on 25 Jul 2008 #

    but no more ‘Top Hit In England’ SEAL OF QUALITY

  43. 43
    fivelongdays on 25 Jul 2008 #

    SNC – on the list of Abba songs I actually like!

  44. 44
    Tracer Hand on 26 Jul 2008 #

    As an American just slightly too young to have grown up with Abba, I find myself on the outside looking in with their music. “Mamma Mia!”, this song and all the rest — I can hear WHY people like it but I don’t like it myself. To these ears, it’s got the same enforced zeal to its fun as the worst of Junior Senior. Headache juice.

  45. 45
    intothefireuk on 27 Jul 2008 #

    Efficient, bouncy, effervescent, bubblegum pop but ultimately not very satisfying. ABBA were now able to have hits for fun so it was almost inevitable this would top the charts. The bubbly, brassy, modulated synth sound, still so loved by our Euro friends, sets my teeth on edge though. 6

  46. 46
    Matthew H on 28 Jul 2008 #

    The first record big sis bought, so forms some sort of benchmark for me and my take on pop; I imagine I’ve often measured really great singles against this and many come up short. It’s so gorgeously layered and crystal clear.

    B-side ‘I’m A Marionette’ was positively avant-garde as far as we were concerned.

  47. 47
    Chris Brown on 10 Aug 2008 #

    @27 – Yes, I had a bit of this too. I’ve learned the sequence of the Number Ones now, but I certainly didn’t get to know the songs in any sort of chronological order. I couldn’t exactly say why, but I think I’d probably call this my favourite.

    Never got ‘Summer Night City’ though.

  48. 48
    Billy Smart on 23 Dec 2008 #

    NMEWatch: 4th February 1978. Special guest reviewer Ian Dury – “Benny and Bjorn should really be producing Frankie Vaughan. Or Frankie Howerd. The bookmakers of light music are probably really good sports in real life. If this record was a racehorse it would fail its interview at the stud farm.”

    No single of the week was awarded. Also reviewed;

    Blondie – Denis
    Earth Wind & Fire – Fantasy
    Squeeze – Take Me I’m Yours
    Art Garfunkel, James Taylor & Paul Simon – What A Wonderful World
    Cliff Richard – Yes He Lives
    Buzzcocks – What Do I Get?

  49. 49
    Brooksie on 11 Feb 2010 #

    The sleeve also looks modern because of what they’re wearing; no platforms or bell-bottoms in sight. It could be ’83, which if course means it could also be 2010. The fact that it’s ’78 makes it more remarkable. Although, it does look ‘Disco’ enough to be contemporary to the late 70’s.

  50. 50
    DietMondrian on 14 May 2010 #

    Anyone else hear an echo of those “ba ba ba ba baas” in MGMT’s Time to Pretend?

  51. 51
    Brendan on 24 Sep 2012 #

    I remember my mum had a couple of spending sprees at the local record shop back in the day. The first was in 1978 when she bought this, another number 1 and ‘Ain’t Love a Bitch’ by Rod Stewart (clearly aiming to snatch Jagger’s world champion mysogynist title and proof that her tastes were so conservative she would buy any crap as long as she knew it was by a ‘safe’ singer). The second time was in 1982 which produced a rather bizarre selection that included another number 1, ‘Only You’ by Yazoo, ‘Da Da Da’ by Trio and ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ by Jon and Vangelis. I know we spent a long while in Germany in the meantime but it does seem strange to have such a long gap between those 2 occasions. Inevitably, the shop closed almost immediately afterwards unable to compete with Woolworth’s and a few other chain stores.

    As for this, I didn’t much care for it at the time but it has grown on me more than most of Abba’s work to the extent it is now my 2nd favourite of their number 1s, though I was blown away by ‘I’m a Marionette’ which had all the energy which so many of their hits patently lacked. I think even at the age of 6 I had a punk sensibility even if I didn’t know it at the time. Again, I agree with Tom, an 8 for me also.

  52. 52
    punctum on 24 Sep 2012 #

    The album is scary.

  53. 53
    Brendan on 24 Sep 2012 #

    correction – ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ was PhD

  54. 54
    hectorthebat on 24 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Songs to Download Right Now! (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)

  55. 55
    Larry on 16 Nov 2014 #

    Major Brady Bunch homage going on in the video.

  56. 56
    Inanimate Carbon God on 1 Mar 2015 #

    Re 35: Abba? And clogs? There can only be one destination!


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