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29 January 2022

ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus Guests On Nile Rodgers’ ‘Deep Hidden Meaning Radio’ On Apple Music

Nile Rodgers Polar Music Prize
Photo: A. PAES/Alamy Stock Photo
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Nile Rodgers comes back with a new season of Deep Hidden Meaning Radio on Apple Music 1. In the first episode, the Chic legend talks to Björn Ulvaeus about the stories behind some of ABBA’s biggest songs. We find out how classics like Waterloo, Dancing Queen and The Winner Takes It All came about and we learn how Björn writes ABBA’s lyrics.

Tune in and listen to the conversation in full for free this Saturday (January 29) at 8am PT/ 11am ET/4pm GMT, or listen back on demand with an Apple Music subscription here.

During their conversation, Rodgers and Ulvaeus discuss the writing of numerous ABBA classics. To give you a flavour, scroll down to sample their conversation in relation to the writing and recording of I Still Have Faith In You and Waterloo.

Björn Ulvaeus on I Still Have Faith In You:

Björn Ulvaeus: “That was the first song that we wrote for the ladies to come in and try and see if we could record at all, if it sounded good enough. There are different levels in it. It means many things, but it means, at face value it’s of course, about us. The fact that we could, after 40 years reunite in the studio again, not having been there for almost 40 years and that we still had that same feeling of belonging together and having those bonds after all that time and having gone through this fantastic thing that people remember our songs and sing them. All that together, it was such a strong, emotional story in that. And I try to reflect that a little in I Still Have Faith in You,” because do I have it in me? Yes. I still have faith in you. My friends, my partners, my soulmates over so many years.”

Nile Rodgers: “I so envy you. My partner passed away at a very early age. And even though I’ve carried on and life has been really good, it’s just not the same. Not having that person that you can call in the middle of the night and go, what do you think about this? And they go, well, what if you changed it to that? Bernard [Edwards] used to say that to me so much. And what if you changed it to this? I go, oh yeah. Why did I make it so complicated? Because my initial instincts is always make everything complicated and I wind up taking away. So I over do it and then take away and then take away. And there you go. There’s the song.”

Björn Ulvaeus: “I know, so many times I’ve been too clever and I have had to go back to that initial emotion because that’s what it’s all about. And it’s never about cleverness. It’s about conveying emotions.”

Nile Rodgers: “One of the greatest lyrics of all time was when James Brown wrote, “Thinking of losing that funky feeling. Don’t.” I was like, damn. Why can’t I do that? I’m out here going “Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci”, he goes, “Thinking of losing that funky feeling. Don’t.”

Björn Ulvaeus on Waterloo and Eurovision:

Björn Ulvaeus: “At that point, at that time Eurovision was the only way out to reach out of Sweden. You never heard anything coming out of Sweden at that time. I swear to you that we sent so many demo tapes to UK and American record companies and they didn’t even listen to them, because how could anything good come out of Sweden? That was a fact. The only way for us to be listened to outside Sweden was through Eurovision.”

So we wrote for Eurovision and we chose a song that was not typical for Eurovision in any way, but something that would stand out, that would be different from the rest of the stuff. And we were so lucky because the final was in Brighton, because England had won the year before or something like that. Anyway, I never thought we’d win. But I thought that with outrageous costumes and a song that wasn’t like the other songs we would stand out and maybe have a chance to build a career from that platform. And of course we won it and we had a huge hit.

Nile Rodgers: So when you compose a song like Waterloo, what was the sort of deep, hidden meaning behind a song like “Waterloo?”

Björn Ulvaeus: “Well, it’s about four people wanting more than anything else to be a pop group and singing in the language of pop, which is English. And our biggest inspiration were the Beatles. And we so much wanted to be that pop group. And I think Waterloo is in a tradition of pure pop and in the tradition of the fantastic music that was written around at the end of the fifties, beginning of the sixties, in the Brill Building and Carole King and Goffin, and then the Beatles. So the true pop songs, the really good pop songs, that’s where we were coming from. And that’s what we wanted to express with Waterloo.

Nile Rodgers: “So the fact that the contest at the end or whatever wound up being in the UK was just one of those wonderful Rock and Roll accidents.”

Björn Ulvaeus: “It was yes. And it was so good because we were in Brighton, we could go straight up to London and do Top of the Pops and then practically guaranteed a number one. So that was pure luck, pure luck. It could have been in Slovenia or some other place. But it’s a true pop song.”

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