Swedish pop giants Abba scored their second UK number 1 in 1975 with “Mamma Mia”. The song was taken from the self titled ‘ABBA’ released the same year. It also hit the top spot in Australia, Ireland and Germany. Many of you will be familiar with it as it provided the title to the mega successful film musicals; ‘Mamma Mia: The Movie’ and ‘Mamma: Mia: Here We Go Again’. But did you know that the song was never intended to be a single and more importantly Abba had originally not planned to record it at all. The song was offered to the UK’s Brotherhood Of Man who won the Eurovision Song Contest two years after Abba. But Brotherhood Of Man turned it down, I wonder if they regret that? I also wonder what the stage musical and film musicals based around Abba’s music might have been called if Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid had not recorded it. The opening of the song features an African version of the xylophone known as a Marimba, an instrument used extensively by Earth, Wind and Fire in the 70s.
Talking of 70s soul and funk, Abba were apparently massive Stevie Wonder fans and they utilised and slightly reworked the bass line from Wonder’s “I Wish” on their sixth UK number one “The Name Of The Game”. In 1997 the Fugees sampled that Abba bass part on “Rumble In The Jungle”, a top 3 UK hit, which was the first time Abba had ever allowed one of their songs to be sampled.
Laura checks out an excellent, if somewhat expensive, Toots & the Maytals LP at the Vinyl Cafe.
I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing York singer, songwriter and ace musician Laura Kindelan earlier this week in 45 The Vinyl Cafe on Micklegate. Laura was eloquent, effervescent and spoke about her major influences, where she might take her sound next, her musical guilty pleasures and her favourite chocolate among many other things. Check out that conversation below.
Who is your biggest musical influence and why?
Well there isn’t just one person, for me it’s the sound and the performance. For the sound, it has to be Lianne La Havas; I love her jazz guitar, melodic vocals and song writing. I particularly love her lyrical patterns and use of unusual words. My history teacher introduced me to her.
As for performance, I would have to name two people; Amy Winehouse and Damien Rice. I believe that both of them show the beauty of imperfections. Damien Rice’s mix of his first album “O” massively fluctuates in volume within songs, which could be considered wrong but I believe it’s emotive.
What is next for you, where do you go from here?
I am very happy to be a slow burner. I am not focussed at all on becoming a product or a brand. I want to be a well-respected musician, singer and song writer. That has to include maintaining respect for myself and my craft. I want my music to speak for me, not the image. I would also love to work with a really tight rhythm section in the future.
Musically do you have any of what you might consider guilty pleasures, if so what are they?
That is a tough one, the first one that I can think of is Abba. However, I don’t feel too guilty about it as they wrote, produced and released such great songs. But perhaps my real guilty pleasure is my ‘go to’ party song; “Bitch Better Have My Money” by Rihanna.
Photo by Michael Parr
How do you prepare for a gig?
First, I always do some vocal warm ups. I like to make myself feel nice, to feel good. I don’t often wear much make-up, but for a show, I choose to get dressed up with make-up and nice clothes. Everything I do to prepare for a gig contributes to making me feel comfortable and confident on stage. I really believe that a performer should invest the audience in what they do by personally connecting with them, and to do that, you need to be happy and comfortable with yourself. Confidence is key to any good performance.
Name one thing in your musical career that you are most proud of and feel free to tell us why?
My headline show last year at the National Centre for Early Music in York. It felt like such a magical night and I am so proud that I did it. I can’t quite believe that it happened. There were around 180 people there, really listening and enjoying the night – It’s definitely something I’ll never forget.
Click here to check out my review of that show on this blog last year
What drives you to write songs?
Sometimes it is all about getting something off my mind; a feeling or a relationship perhaps. Currently I really love to experiment with harmonies, shapes and different tunings on my guitar. I think I draw influence in this experimentation from Jeff Buckley and Tom Misch, particularly with pretty harmony and rhythm from the latter. I see my sound as evolving into something similar to Tom Misch, only much grottier!
Photograph by Tomorrow’s Photos
How does your song writing process work?
I have lots of lyrics stored on my phone that I’ve written as they come to me and I sometimes go there for inspiration. Although, as I said before, I love to experiment with harmony and chord progressions so I often begin here.
Name a song that you believe you could cover and make it better than the original?
At the moment I am playing around with a very different arrangement of “Do I Wanna Know” by the Arctic Monkeys. I am trying out a very slowed down version which is more ‘head bobby’, with more dissonance and harmonics. I think this new vibe adds more meaning to the lyrics.
Which of your songs would you like to see covered by someone else and who would be your top choice to do it?
I would like it to be someone completely different from me, how about Hello Operator? That could actually be amazing, we should make it happen!
Photo by Tim Downie
Tell me something that you have never told an interviewer before (and this does not need to be music related)?
My signature dish, that I make incredibly well (if I do say so myself), is Carbonara with mushrooms, bacon and cream. Bon appétit.
Name three things that you simply cannot live without?
My family, good food and Doctor Martens. I’m hoping to build a collection of Docs – I currently have four pairs, including one with a snake-skin pattern.
Now check out some of Laura’s rather excellent tunes.
All photographs were provided to me by Laura and are credited to the photographer in the caption. The first picture was a rare good one taken on my phone. Video links were specially selected by Laura herself.
OK I would love to say that I was really disappointed to miss the Eurovision Song Contest, but I would be lying. I was at a thoroughly enjoyable Murder Mystery Night at a friends house in aid of MacMillan Cancer Care. I can confirm that I was not the murderer. Anyway I hear that this years UK entrant Lucie Jones, a former X Factor contestant, did very well. Fifteenth place with 111 votes for a UK entry is truly exceptional. In fact it is the best points haul since Blue in 2011. Well done Lucie. Incidentally Portugal won the contest with a somewhat dirgy ballad called “Amar Pelos Dois” by Salvador Sadal.
Given that us Brits treat the whole Eurovision thing with a healthy dose of irony and sarcasm I thought that it was worth pointing out that we, well our nation’s voting panels, are not very smart. Back in 1974 when Abba won the contest in Brighton with perhaps one of Eurovision’s finest winners, “Waterloo” the UK jury at the time gave them nul points. Yes although we took the Swedish pop maestros to our hearts afterwards, we never voted for them at the time. So maybe we are not as smart as we think we are! What do you think?
Usually the most entertaining part of the Eurovision Song Contest is the voting and checking how many countries hate us Brits and show it by giving us nul points. But this year I really feel that we are in with a shout. Molly’s “Children Of The Universe” strikes me as classic Eurovision. I wonder how the votes will be split between Russia and the Ukraine? Anyway I should warn you that I am typing this post as I watch the show. So let’s get on with the 59th Eurovision Song Contest shall we?
Ukraine are up first with a typical Euro song title; “Tick Tock”. Why is there a bloke in a hamster wheel on stage? Singer Mariya Yaremchuk looks good and the song, in spite of its title is not too shabby. Belarus are up next represented by Teo with “Cheesecake”. He has a monster quiff does that Teo. It’s an ok kind of song with some good synchronised dancing in the performance, but no hamster wheel.
Azerbaijan are next and they are trying to “Start A Fire” as sung by Dilara Kazimova. While there is no hamster wheel there is a trapeze. What is that all about? Anyway in my opinion this is a bit of a dirgeful ballad with a singer who seems a little too earnest for me. In Dilara’s favour Catwoman likes her dress. Pollaponk are representing Iceland and one of their backing vocalists is an Icelandic MP. Their suits are all primary colours but as the song says let’s show them “No Prejudice”. The song is a little pop punk with more emphasis on the pop. I’ll probably be wrong as usual, but I think this could win.
Carl Espen is trying to whip up a “Silent Storm” for Norway. He is not an established singer and keeping it in the family the song was written by his cousin. Not my kind of song. It strikes me as a bit forgettable. Paula Seling and Ovi are hoping for a “Miracle” as they sing for Romania. This song can’t make up its mind as to whether it’s a power ballad or just another piece of Euro Disco. It does feature a round piano though.
Armenia are putting up a comedian called Aram MP3 with “Not Alone” which didn’t sound particularly funny to me. Have I missed the punchline. I also felt his voice was a bit flat and out of tune at times. It definitely sees itself as an 80s power ballad though. Montenegro are the first country tonight that are singing in their native tongue. The singer is Sergej Cetkovic with “Moj Svijet”. It sounds like classic mid table Eurovision fodder to me, which given my track record probably means it’ll win. It is backed up with a roller skating dancer, why? Don’t ask me.
We are Slavic washerwomen
“We Are Slavic” is the Polish entry and is sung in English and Polish by Donatan and Cleo. Is it really a feminist anthem? Why are they all dressed as milkmaids? Greece are about to “Rise Up” performed by Freaky Fortune featuring RiskyKidd. The Kidd is actually a rapper from London. It strikes me as the first song of the night to really get the place rocking. Not a hamster wheel in sight, just a bloody huge trampoline.
Now it’s Austria with a bearded drag artist, Conchita Wurst singing “Rise Like A Pheonix”. He/ She looks a little scary to me. It’s a good song but the whole appearance puts me right off. Germany ask “Is It Right” with a female trio called Elaiza. It features an accordion and has a bit of an oompah feel about it. I really don’t like this song!
Can Sanna Nielsen“Undo” the competition for Sweden 40 years after Abba won the contest? Possibly as it is this years favourite. Actually it’s a bloody good sung and Sanna has a great voice. If a ballad wins this year it might be “Undo”. TWIN TWIN perform the French entry “Moustache”; a song about a man who can’t grow a moustache. The singer can certainly grow a cartoon comedy haircut though. I can only assume that France don’t want to win. This song is shit!
TWIN TWIN – you cocks!
The Tolmachevy Sisters have interlocking hair and they are singing “Shine”. Their hair has come undone, well at least that will make going to the toilet easier. But wait now they’re on a see saw; why? It was ok but they’re hardly Pussy Riot. Emma sings in Italian for Italy with a rocking little ditty called “La Mia Citta” a.k.a “My City”. The costumes are a bit Roman Empire. Not a bad song though.
Tinkara Kovac is singing “Round And Round” for Slovenia. Sung in Slovene and English in a rather shouty way with added flute. We’re hoping for “Something Better” from Finland from Softengine. They sound a bit like a discofied Aha.
Ruth Lorenzo once came 5th in the X Factor and she is singing her own composition for Spain. It’s called “Dancing In The Rain”. Knowing my luck a former X Factor contestant will win it. It hurts terribly to admit it but the song is alright, not great just alright. The shouty bit at the end kills it a bit though. Those perennial neutrals Switzerland have a song called “Hunter Of Stars” by Sebalter. It has far too much whistling for my liking with a backing track that sounds like a speeded up “Duelling Banjos“.
Andras Kallay-Saunders is “Running” for Hungary. He runs around the stage a bit too. A good pop song methinks. Malta are “Coming Home” with Firelight. Two siblings in the band have a mother from Yorkshire. But the song is so Mumford it hurts. Is that style popular across Europe? I don’t know and frankly I hope not! But just to provide a balanced view, Catwoman likes this song apart from the female vocals.
Next up is “Cliche Love Song” by Basim singing for hosts Denmark. Blimey is he miming to Bruno Mars? This is possibly one of the best entries of the night. The Danish TV executives must be shitting themselves. It costs a packet to put this show on. After Denmark the Netherlands provide the “Calm After The Storm” as song by the Common Linnets. Who knew that the Dutch do Country and Western? They can though and it’s quite a good song.
San Marino are the penultimate country with “Maybe” sung by Valentina Monetta. It sounds like the theme song to a late 60s James Bond spoof. Was that meant to be a giant sea shell behind her? Finally it’s time for the UK entry which is “Children Of The Universe” from Molly. I really do think she’s in with a chance. Not sure about her boots but for me Molly nailed it!
Before the scoring starts my tips are Sweden, Denmark and the UK and I reckon France ought to finish last. Now for the scoring which as you might have guessed featured all the usual political voting. Molly came 17th out of 26th so not as bad as many UK entries. The runaway winner was Conchita Wurst from Austria a.k.a the bearded lady with “Rise Like A Phoenix”. I really don’t get it, although to be fair on second hearing the song isn’t too bad! As for my tips; Sweden were third and I was right about France who finished last!
Back in 1975 when Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was number one in the UK charts for the first time did you notice that it’s lyrics contained the name of the song which succeeded its 9-week run at the top in early 1976? I certainly didn’t notice, but obviously it has the phrase “Mama Mia” in it which is the title of the Abba song which followed it to number one. I wonder if that has ever happened since? It certainly didn’t happen when “Bohemian Rhapsody” returned to the UK number one spot after the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991. It was followed by Wet Wet Wet with “Goodnight Girl” then.
Fifty seven years ago in 1956 Frank Sinatra had the honour of becoming the first artist to have a UK number one album with ‘Songs For Swingin Lovers‘. Since then there have now been 1,000 number ones; sadly the thousandth is Robbie Williams‘ second swing album, ‘Swings Both Ways’. It’s such a shame that it couldn’t have been Jake Bugg with his new album, ‘Shangri La’. But I suppose it might have been worse given that Lady Gaga’s ‘ARTPOP‘ was 999th.
I thought I’d check out which rock ‘n’ roll gods had the 666th UK number one album and it wasn’t any kind of god or devil just Nickleback with ‘Silver Side Up’
Robbie has now had eleven solo number one albums, equalling Elvis Presley. If you count his number ones with Take That it’s fifteen which is the same number as the Beatles. However Robbie is way behind on the weeks spent at number one in the UK albums chart list. The Beatles top that at 174 weeks with Robbie languishing in sixth place with just 31 weeks. The acts between him and the Beatles are Elvis Presley (63 weeks), Abba (57), Rolling Stones (45) and Simon and Garfunkel (40). I suspect Gary Barlow will have the 1,001st number one next week with his new album, which from what I have heard might rate as the dullest UK number one album for some time! Click here to read more about Robbie on the BBC.
I always get a bit of a good feeling when a favourite song, or even one that I recognise is mentioned in a story, do you? My favourite author Stephen King does it quite often. Now there is a regularly updated site called Small Demons that have compiled a list of the songs mentioned most often in works of fiction. Click here to read about it in the NME. Here is the top 20;
I get why some of these would appear, but USA For Africa, “Macarena” and “Apologize”? What’s that all about? “Hey Jude” has been mentioned in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. The Beatles have a probably unsurprising five titles in the top 20 with Michael Jackson the only other artist with more than one with his two entries. I suppose an entry for the Fab Four‘s “Paperback Writer” would have been quite apt wouldn’t it? Click here to see a longer and nicely pictorial list.
The Official Charts Company have released details of the biggest selling CDs in the UK since the format was included in album sales. The list probably holds no real surprises, but clearly has a few disappointing entries in my opinion. The fact that James Blunt, Dido, Leona Lewis and David Gray are in the top 10 shows how bland the UK’s music tastes have become in my opinion. Is this a result of many people buying their CDs from large supermarkets these days? Who knows, but surely that plays a part. Anyway here is the top 10;
There are clearly some classic albums in the list from Oasis, the Verve and Amy Winehouse. But the current top-selling UK CD is Abba Gold, probably soon to be overtaken by Adele’s ’21’. One thing that surprised me was that Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers In Arms’ , the first million selling CD was not in the top 10 or even the top 30. Dido has one more album in the list at number 11. Robbie Williams and Coldplay have three albums each in the top 30. The Beatles’ compilation ‘1’ is at number 12 and there is no entry for Queen in the top 30 either.
At last work has started on cataloging the music collection of the late, great John Peel. A project called The Space at the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket is aiming to recreate his library and home studio. Details of his 25,000 strong vinyl album collection is being put on-line at the rate of 100 per week in alphabetical order. This has already begun and includes Adam and the Ants and Abba. The website does not allow you play the music but it will give links to places where you will be able to listen to it.
Along with the album covers even Peel’s index cards have been digitized for the project which benefits from Arts Council funding. I am looking forward to watching it grow on-line, although one worrying point is that Arts Council funding only runs until October. By this time it is hoped to have at least 2,600 album details on-line. Click here to check out the rather excellent site.
A few years ago I considered the idea of contacting John Peel and possibly Elton John (who also has a very large music collection) with a view to offering my services as organiser and curator of their music collections. I had a vision that this would also include building a database for the collection. So if you’re reading this Elton please feel free to get in touch. I will be in the crowd when you play the Royal Harrogate Showground next month!
what song should I choose to celebrate such a momentous piece of Peel news? Surely there is only one option right? yes John Peel’s favourite song ever; “Teenage Kicks” by the Undertones.
It would seem that the talented Miss Adkins aka Adele continues to break records. This time it’s a sales record, her album ’21’ has now sold more in the UK than Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ making her album the 8th best-selling UK album ever in the UK, according to the Official UK Chart Company. At the current rate ’21’ is being shipped I reckon she’ll soon overtake Dire Straits‘ ‘Brothers In Arms’ and Pink Floyd’s classic ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. I wonder if anyone will try to claim that ’21’ is in fact an alternative soundtrack to ‘The Wizard Of Oz’? Somehow I doubt it. Anyway big congratulations go to Adele for yet another chart feat! Check out the top ten best selling UK albums below.
01 GREATEST HITS – QUEEN (5,863,000 sales)
02 SGT PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND – THE BEATLES (5,044,000)
03 GOLD: GREATEST HITS – ABBA (4,989,000)
04 WHAT’S THE STORY MORNING GLORY – OASIS (4,517,000)
05 THRILLER – MICHAEL JACKSON (4,248,000)
06 BROTHERS IN ARMS – DIRE STRAITS (4,152,000)
07 THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON – PINK FLOYD (4,114,000)
08 21 – ADELE (4,020,000)
09 BAD – MICHAEL JACKSON (3,959,000)
10 GREATEST HITS II – QUEEN (3,887,000)