Jul 08

The Freaky Trigger Top 100 Tracks Of All Time No. 42. Abba – The Winner Takes It All

FT/12 comments • 1,468 views

Oh its all Abba all the time round here these days. What with Popular knee deep in the 1970’s. Well Winner Takes It All is 1980’s Abba, and a significantly more jaded, wistful Abba it is too. So rather than talk to much about the track itself (I’d leave that to Tom cos I’m afraid of the spoiler bunny), let’s use this opportunity to talk a bit about the other big Abba sensation this month. The release of Mamma Mia! the film.

The stage version of Mamma Mia! has been fantastically successful, and deservedly so. It did not take a genius to work out that Benny & Bjorn’s music would work well in a musical theatre setting (well, they did make Chess twenty years ago so they themselves noticed). It was however pretty smart to match the tracks to a plot which allows the songs to occasionally touch on the plot whilst being apt for the setting – namely a wedding. We expect to hear Abba at a wedding, so the scenario of a wedding on an idyllic Greek island also works as a perfect setting to hear Abba songs. Tv Writer Catherine Johnson manages to intertwine an interesting and even suspenseful plot around this – whilst being as fluffy as you would want it to be. Compared to the monsters it spawned (particularly anything with Ben Elton’s involvement), it is a remarkable achievement.

And so to the film. A friend of mine went on a press junket yesterday for it and was surprised when most of the questions for the panel – consisting of Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Benny and Bjorn – were aimed at the Abba duo. Who gets to interview Abba these days? And this is the Abba who don’t like people sampling their records, and are quite protective of their rights. Sure Mamma Mia! will make them a lot of money, but they already have a lot of money. Do they really need to see Meryl Streep singing The Winner Takes It All? Because its her who belts it out in the movie.

Actually for your info, here’s the soundtrack listing (with an implicit hint that Stellan Skarsgard is not a great singer):

1. Honey Honey – Seyfried, Amanda & Ashley Lilley/Rachel McDowall
2. Money Money Money – Streep, Meryl & Julie Walters/Christine Baranski
3. Mamma Mia – Streep, Meryl
4. Dancing Queen – Streep, Meryl & Julie Walters/Christine Baranski
5. Our Last Summer – Firth, Colin & Pierce Brosnan/Stellan Skarsgard/Amanda Seyfried/Meryl Streep
6. Lay All Your Love On Me – Cooper, Dominic & Amanda Seyfried
7. Super Trouper – Streep, Meryl & Julie Walters/Christine Baranski
8. Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) – Seyfried, Amanda & Ashley Lilley/Rachel McDowall
9. Name Of The Game – Seyfried, Amanda
10. Voulez Vous – Full Cast
11. SOS – Brosnan, Pierce & Meryl Streep
12. Does Your Mother Know – Baranski, Christine & Philip Michael
13. Slipping Through My Fingers – Streep, Meryl & Amanda Seyfried
14. Winner Takes It All – Streep, Meryl
15. When All Is Said And Done – Brosnan, Pierce & Meryl Streep
16. Take A Chance On Me – Walters, Julie & Stellan Skarsgard/Colin Firth/Philip Michael/Christine Baranski
17. I Have A Dream – Seyfried, Amanda
18. Thank You For The Music (hidden track) – Full Cast

How is this as a list of Abba greats? A few surprises maybe. Thankfully they have not considered a way of slipping Fernando in there (actually if I remember rightly Chiquitita may have been excised from the stage version). Interesting to see if they deal with the Glasgow issue in Super Trouper.

Will it do what they call boffo box office? There seems to be an undercurrent of interest in it, and everyone I know who has seen the film has liked it. But then I was sceptical about the stage version, but was won over. The interesting thing is the very faithful backing tracks coupled with the more interesting deliveries (here is a link to Pierce Brosnan singing S.O.S. which isn’t great). But hey I’m a sap, I like musicals. And with that I will leave you with the 42 best track of all time, but sung by Meryl Streep. Sorry Agnetha and Frida.


  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 1 Jul 2008 #

    ‘Does Your Mother Know?’ rather sticks out like a sore thumb, as the only inferior song on that list, though you can see how it would be useful as a part of a musical narrative, as at least one character is revealed to be somewhere that they shouldn’t be.

    No ‘Waterloo’! Though again you can see why – It would have to be used at the point where two characters get back together, resulting in more of a loss of face for one than the other. Both ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’ and ‘One Of Us’ are really too bleak to work in a musical, at least if you want it to make your audience happy.

  2. 2
    Martin Skidmore on 1 Jul 2008 #

    Admin point: if you look at my Comics: A Beginner’s Guide pieces, because I made them part of a series, we get a lovely panel at the top right listing all the other entries. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this series work like that? (No, I don’t have the energy to do it, if I had the privileges, so no blame if no one else can be bothered either.) Or maybe a link to a post listing all of them?

  3. 3
    pete on 2 Jul 2008 #

    Post listing all of them – its on the side bar.
    Serialising can be done but we’ll wait for a quiet afternoon and Alan to get back off of holiday.

  4. 4
    fivelongdays on 2 Jul 2008 #

    I suspect that mentioning the spoiler bunny could actually raise the bunny’s wrath, although you’d have to check that one!

  5. 5
    Tom on 2 Jul 2008 #

    He has no jurisdiction here – let’s just say there are certain songs on the Top 100 List that I have forbidden myself from writing about as part of this list (though this list has mostly been the work of other hands anyway, which is excellent and as it should be!)

  6. 6
    Martin Skidmore on 2 Jul 2008 #

    Ah, sorry Pete – I saw that as a search, and thought it would just find them all in the archives, if I was lucky.

  7. 7
    Pete Baran on 7 Jul 2008 #

    The poster for Mamma Mia has been disturbing me a touch around town, as for some reason I look at the emaciated lead and think ZOMBIE. I have just realised why. Its the actress who played Lily Kane in Veronica Mars, and as such was dead by the start of episode one and only ever appeared in flashbacks and dream sequences.

  8. 8
    DJ Punctum on 14 Jul 2008 #

    Characteristically stupid anti-thinkpiece in The Times.

  9. 9
    vinylscot on 14 Jul 2008 #

    It’s Melanie Reid, Marcello, what do you expect from a mediocre, former “Daily Record” hackette?

    Her columns in the Record 20 years ago were supposed to be “thinkpieces”, but rarely rose above the standard you would expect from a bolshy Scottish 14-year-old. Not like Joan Burnie, she went to Hutchie, don’t you know!

    I know it’s not always fair game to criticise spelling in a piece of journalism, as it often isn’t the journalist’s fault, but I did find it rather amusing that her one big name-drop, “Tom Waits” was misspelled with the “e” in the surname.

  10. 10
    DJ Punctum on 14 Jul 2008 #

    I mean, couldn’t The Times afford Billy Sloan?

  11. 11
    Billy Smart on 14 Jul 2008 #

    Had I been able to take Ibsen to see Mamma Mia, I predict that his reaction would have been one of terror and distaste.

    Were I able to play Ibsen ‘The Winner Takes It All’ or ‘One Of Us’ on an 1890 gramophone, and were he able to overcome an understandable puzzlement and alarm at the unfamiliarity of the music of 90 years hence, I do think it just about possible that he might see the value of it, though.

  12. 12
    Tom on 14 Jul 2008 #

    I feel Ibsen would have found the band’s attempt at a reggae backing on “One Of Us” somewhat naive, whereas Dickens would have allowed himself an ironic skank or two.

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