Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Meryl Streep and ABBA

I'm in love with Meryl Streep. And A. O. Scott. And ABBA. Not necessarily in that order. This is Scott's wonderful appreciation of the wonderful Streep from the Times last week. That scene in Mamma Mia, where Streep first sees her old girl friends and does that funny little dance at the end of the dock, that just kills me.

I love that movie in general, and to see Streep in all her overalled glory just cracks me up. She's a heckuva singer, even though or maybe even especially because she's not known for her singing -- I think it was IMDB that said she nailed Winner Takes It All in one take -- and she has great timing. I love the Greek chorus thing--of course it's taking place on an island somewhere in Greece, right? -- and to see all the local folks singing behind her? Hilarious. This is what IMDB says about that:

The story is set in Greece. They are a Greek chorus. An undercurrent of the film is to structure the story as a Greek comedy (like Aristophanes), including patterns of strophe and antistrophe,a chorus representing the common people,and costumes matched to moods of the characters, including masks and the phallic props typical of Greek comedy.

Out for Reel here is an LGBT group that brings movies to Northampton. They have an annual tradition of hosting a Mamma Mia singalong, complete with celebrity judges awarding prizes for best costume. This year Lily and I went, I guess it was the first day of classes for me, so I was fried, and it was a gas. The audience was mostly women and girls--we found ourselves sitting next to our friend Erika and her sister, coincidentally--and everyone was in a great mood. "Ohhh, Mamma Mia! Here I go again, why, why, how could I resist you?" with Meryl rolling around on the roof. "Does your mother know?" with the wonderful Christine Baranski. "Take a chance on me" with Julie Walters, another great. "Honey, honey." All the fun stuff.

Which brings me to ABBA. So I ask you, what's not to love about ABBA? Huh? Is there anything? I dare you to say it. There's a great quick video quote here from Pierce Brosnan (but you have to scroll down to find it) (he's in Mamma Mia) (apparently he said yes to the movie before he even knew what it was about, because he knew it starred Meryl Streep) about how everyone loves to hate ABBA, curse ABBA, dis ABBA, but we've all sung them, danced to them, gotten an ABBA ear worm that refuses to leave for weeks, we've all been there.

I decided to succumb to my inner ABBA-loving self in about 2004, maybe the fall of 2005, when I was at an event at PS 261 and someone had set up a karaoke machine. We were in the cafeteria, I think it was the fall festival so there were all sorts of activities going on. Dave and Lily wandered outside, and all of a sudden I hear this great big voice singing Dancing Queen. I didn't know the words, didn't really quite register that it was ABBA, even. But I looked over and there was a big crowd around the TV screen with the lyrics. I'd never seen karaoke before, and I had to see what all the fuss was about, so I wandered over. And I see this little, little blond girl, fearlessly belting out the song. She was in kindergarten, probably five years old, and boy could she sing. I couldn't believe it. She knew the song cold and she was having the time of her life.

If I'd had a camera I would have taken her picture and put her on the cover of the PTA newsletter with a hedline about, remember this kid's name, she's going to be big. And of course I don't remember her name, oh well. She is going to be big, though. Her father told me later she was a huge ABBA fan and I confess that I beat him out a few months later at the annual auction for an evening of ABBA music presented by Losers' Lounge. He was going to take his kid. I was going to go myself.

After hearing that kid I bought an ABBA gold CD--two disc set; they had a lot of hits--and started listening to it a lot. Lily got into it too, and when Losers' Lounge decided to present them that spring, worlds converged. Our dear friend David Fischer used to get together a group of folks to go hear the LL a couple of times a year present a show of covers of one band -- Stevie Wonder, punk and new age at CBGB's, David Bowie (great night), Talking Heads (another great night), and yes, ABBA. One of the guys who plays with them -- they are doing the Carpenters like, this weekend, so run, don't walk, to see them! -- is David Terhune, and his kids went to PS 261. He offered not only two tickets to the show but free babysitting by his wife, as well. Our bid won and we went out with David Fischer et al. -- and got a nice shout-out from David T. during the show -- and had a fantastic time.

The show was at Joe's Pub, so we had dinner, chatted, and then when the music came up, we sang and screamed all night. The idea is that they provide a house band, actually it's two bands combined, complete singers who dress appropriately (the ABBA boys and girls wore long blond wigs and outrageous white jumpsuits and fringe and stuff, very seventies), and they do lots of songs. But the band also plays for guest artists who sing one song, and you never know who you might hear. My favorite is Broadway star Michael Cerveris, who always played with them.

So we sang and sand, and at the end we were all saying good-bye on the sidewalk, and David Fischer said, but no one really likes ABBA, right? It's just a big joke, right? I protested wildly. Any band that made a million bucks a day at the height of their career was much more than a joke. They were all you heard in the clubs at one time. I had a brief stint in clubs when I lived in Cambridge in the early eighties, I went out a lot, at one point. And I heard a lot lot lot of ABBA.

And I always thought they were bad, a joke, stupid, over the top. And all the Spanish stuff -- Chiciquita? Fernando? What's with that? But you know, in my old age, I think they're hilarious, fun, catchy -- too catchy -- and really great to sing along to. Perfect karaoke music. Listening to them allows me to let loose and have fun, be goofy, sing really loud, get really silly. It's fun to like them. It's most fun of all to crank them up at home and dance around the kitchen with Lily. What's not to love?

So, thank you, Meryl Streep, for saying yes to your inner ABBA, too, and helping us all lighten up a bit.


  1. amen, sister! I feel about American Idol and las Vegas the way you do about ABBA. No one else has to get it, but I'm grateful they're there in my life to lighten me up!

  2. see my thoughts on meryl (and her brother) in my blog post today. love me some meryl. doesn't she

  3. I have leаrn several just right stuff hеre.
    Definitelу ωorth bookmаrking fοr rеvisiting.

    I wondеr hoω a lot effort you ѕet to make any such magnіficent informаtiѵe ѕite.

    Feel free to viѕit my ωebsite; rv rentals in vermont


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.