Waterloo by Abba, what a totally preposterous song ! Has it ever struck you how bizarre the lyrics are ?
We’re doing it in three-part harmony at Rock Choir which is tragic I know, but cheaper than therapy. As a result the song’s lyrics are going round and round in my head.
Don’t get me wrong. I love it and always have done ever since it won the Eurovision Song Contest in April 1974. I felt personally responsible for Abba’s success as I come from near Brighton where the contest was held and when you are 7 that is enough.
When I hear the intro it still makes me reach for the nearest tennis racket/microphone substitute. But the lyrics? They are a touch barking.
‘My my at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender’.
Well yes and no really. If you’re going to write a pop songs about historical battles you might be allowed a little artistic licence but for the pedants even now typing into Wikipedia, Napoleon did not surrender until he got to Rochefort on the French Atlantic Coast four weeks after the battle of Waterloo.
‘Oh yeh and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way.’
Quite similar ? Not that similar at all really unless you count the loss of 30,000 French troops as in some way similar to deciding to go out with someone.
It goes on to talk about The history book on the shelf, which according to one young lady writing on the internet, is in fact The Bible. I think I may have to let her know that Waterloo is no more a Christian song than it is a Marxist one. ‘The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself, first as tragedy, second as farce’ as Karl Marx so very nearly said.
They persist with the Waterloo analogy throughout the song, ending up i to love the eponymous battle site for ever more. Or is it the guy they are promising to love. Either way it didn’t work out too well for the lovely blonde Swedes in that department did it ?
For the record, Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus continued to write bonkers lyrics to the end of their glittering career. The final studio album in 1981 included the song ‘When All is Said and Done’ which has the lines:-
‘In our lives we have walked some strange and lonely treks
Slightly worn but dignified and not too old for sex’.
Thanks guys, lovely as you are, I really didn’t need to know that.
This was one in an occasional series on Music, What Lies Behind the Songs. See also; The Don’t Stop Believin’ Story http://wp.me/pHqcg-2m