In the late summer of 2001, I was sitting with Maura and my dad at my brother’s wedding reception on Salisbury Beach when Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” started blasting from the sound system.
“I used to make fun of this kind of music,” I told my old man. “Now it makes me nostalgic.”
“It’s part of getting older,” he responded. “I used to think the Beach Boys were a bunch of wimps, but now they’re okay, I guess.”
Boston wasn’t the only act that experienced a psychic homecoming on my part over the past couple of decades. Quiet Riot, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis’ “Hollywood Era” silliness, and scores of other artists have been subject to the convoluted process that starts off with affected irony and “guilty pleasure” qualifiers but ends with an unapologetic embrace.
It’s a tougher row to hoe if you spent a stretch of time in the thrall of punk’s puritanical delusions of “authenticity,” but it all leads to the same place in the end — telling your anarcho-noise enthusiast pals that “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” is an absolutely scorching track and defying them to tell you otherwise.
Few bands exemplify the generational arc from embarrassment to acceptance as dramatically as ABBA does.
The Swedish quartet went from pop radio (and elementary school pageant) ubiquity in the Seventies to a willfully forgotten relic during the Reagan Era. Revived as an retro-punchline during the Me Decade nostalgia kick of the Terrible Nineties, they were able — thanks to some strategic soundtracking and a major Broadway musical — to dodge the ephemeral faddishness that marked the Carpenters and Partridge Family revivals, emerging instead as The Band Nearly Everyone Loves.
It helped that they had a string of perfectly crafted pop gems beneath their belts. And that, by the turn of the millennium, the cultural pendulum had swung away from dour rockism into effervescent poptimism.
That said, the thought of seeking out ABBA material on vinyl didn’t really occur to me until last spring, when an upsurge in my K-Tel collecting happened to coincide with a desire to find a few more records for the House on the Hillside’s “mutually acceptable” post-workday playlist. While going through a year-by-year listing of the label’s releases, I stumbled across the entry for The Magic of ABBA compilation. Between Maura’s love of the band and the low asking price, it was an easy purchase.
It hasn’t gotten as many spins as other discs in that roster, mainly because I prefer to save it for special moments — on Friday nights or other after other small moments of personal triumph. During those occasions when we can properly luxuriate in its uplifting retro-pop bliss, I’ll throw it on the turntable, crank up the volume, and do my best to avoid embarrassing Maura by commenting on how she adapts the lyrics to reflect our menagerie as she feeds them.
“Tiny cat, but oh so mean. Our little Coo Coo queen.”