Fred and his readers discuss ABBA, "Mamma Mia!", ABBA, the timelessness of dance music, ABBA, country-pop crossover and ABBA.

ABBA NICE DAY

Hey Fred.

Thanks for your top 10 ABBA favorites, it made me rediscover and enjoy "Me and Bobby and Bobby's Brother" all over again. Here's my list:

10. "Knowing Me, Knowing You"
9. "Hole in Your Sole"
8. "The Winner Takes It All"
7. "When I Kissed the Teacher"
6. "Put On Your White Sombrero"
5. "Fernando"
4. "When All Is Said and Done"
3. "Rock Me"
2. "Mamma Mia"
1. "Dancing Queen"

"Just Like That" would have definitely been in the top five if it had ever been released in its entirety. I wish Benny and Bjorn would just let us have that.

I just returned from my 30th high school reunion where everybody and their mother "congratulated" me on ABBA's success and mentioned how they remembered me for my early ABBA fanaticism. This involved drawing "AB" on one of my Converse tennis shoes and "BA" on the other, disguising my voice on dial-in radio polls to nudge "Dancing Queen" and "Fernando" to the top of the nightly chart, buying multiple copies of their singles and giving them to friends to help boost sales and misfiling copies of the singles and albums at the Record Bar in Greensboro, N.C. so the store would have to order more.

I also sent out Christmas cards with hand-stenciled pictures of the group along with a cheery message to "Abb A Merry Christmas." One of the greatest joys in my life was opening up Billboard and seeing "Dancing Queen" had made it to No. 1, especially heartening since it had lost its bullet the week before.

Am looking forward to seeing the movie version of "Mamma Mia!", even though it's not "real" ABBA. After seeing the show in Las Vegas years ago, what I want to know is where the heck all those people dancing around in the aisles were when I was getting pummeled in high school for trying to spread the early word. Needless to say, I am thrilled I was right all along.

Your tastes, and column, are great. Keep up the great work and "Abb A Great Week!"

Carter Hooper
New Orleans, La.


Dear Carter,

I had the same ABBA experience, but I had already been through something similar with "Star Trek." All my friends who thought I was geeky because I had to be in front of the TV to watch every episode of the original "Star Trek" series eventually came around to my way of thinking. Vindication is sweet, isn't it?

Since you mentioned "Just Like That," I can tell you something about the song you might find interesting. My friend Brady Benton, who works for music publisher peer music in Los Angeles, put together two versions to make one complete track and gave it to ABBA studio engineer Micke B. Tretow in October 1998.

Four months later, Billboard sent me to London to interview Bjorn Ulvaeus about the upcoming opening of "Mamma Mia!" the stage musical in London's West End. At the end of the interview I started to ask, "What about the song 'Just Like That,'" meaning would they ever release it as a complete track, rather than the fragments that exist.

But Bjorn thought I meant something else, and said, "Oh yes, Micke Tretow gave me a cassette of that song, and it's going to be in 'Mamma Mia!' I told him that it was my friend Brady who gave the tape to Micke, and that he would be thrilled to know that led to the song being in the musical.

Between that interview and the opening of "Mamma Mia!" in London on April 6, 1999, "Just Like That" and a few other songs were dropped. But there may be a place for it yet -- see my reply to Phil Bookfor's e-mail below.



STREEP TALK

Hi Fred!

I'm happy to see that the "Mamma Mia!" movie soundtrack has gone top 10 on The Billboard 200. It would be great to see a chart-topper for that collection of classic ABBA tunes. If that happens, yet another Academy Award-winning actor would have the distinction of being involved with a No. 1 album.

I realize that Meryl Streep -- being part of a soundtrack -- wouldn't be categorized with the lone four Oscar-winning actors (for lead or support roles) who topped the album chart with their own album(s): Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Jamie Foxx.

Still, Meryl -- who has done some fine singing in more than one feature film -- would join the ranks of such multi-talented stars as Rita Moreno ("West Side Story") and Jennifer Hudson ("Dreamgirls"), though they earned their Oscar statuettes AFTER their respective soundtracks went to No. 1.

Whatever the case, I suppose "The Winner Takes It All" --

Pablo Nelson
Berkeley, Calif.
pablonde88@hotmail.com


Dear Pablo,

As I mention in Chart Beat, the soundtrack debuts at No. 7, and that's based on sales of the album before the movie's release. It'll be interesting to see how it fares after people actually see the film.

Meanwhile, my colleague Chuck Taylor had the audacity to tell Meryl Streep he had the "difficult" job of reviewing her singing on the soundtrack. She was gracious enough to laugh. I sat with Chuck during the American premiere of the movie in New York this week and I don't think Meryl has anything to worry about.



MORE ABBA GOLD

Hi Fred,

I hope you will forgive me for asking for more ABBA chart trivia, even though you just featured them last week. But I hope you will grant this, considering is "Mamma Mia! The Movie" is opening in the U.S. Besides, I know you are a big ABBA fan! To tell you the truth, I was not a fan of ABBA songs (I used to cringe at "Chiquitita" in karaoke bars!) until I got to watch "Mamma Mia!" on Broadway in 2005. And now, we in the Philippines have had the privilege of having an early release of the movie, and I have already seen it twice!

Since I only started following the Billboard charts in 1984, can you please summarize the released singles of ABBA in chronological order, including their peak positions on The Billboard Hot 100? Also, I heard that one song from the musical had been replaced by an original song, possibly to qualify for Oscar consideration. Would you know what that is? Thanks.

Joey Toledo
Quezon City, Philippines


Dear Joey,

Since most of the letters I received this week were about ABBA, I think I can "forgive" you for asking about the group.

There is no original song in "Mamma Mia!" the movie, just the familiar ABBA songs we already know. I did ask Bjorn and Benny why they didn't write a new song for the film so they would be eligible for an Oscar, and Benny said it would have just been an attempt to win an award and wouldn't fit in with their artistic vision for the movie, so they chose not to.

It doesn't mean they might not write original songs for - wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. See that reply to Phil Bookfar's e-mail, which follows.

But first, here’s the summary of ABBA’s charted singles that you requested:

“Waterloo,” No. 6 (1974)
“Honey Honey,” No. 27 (1974)
“SOS,” No. 15 (1975)
“I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do,” No. 15 (1976)
“Mamma Mia,” No. 32 (1976)
“Fernando,” No. 13 (1976)
“Dancing Queen,” No. 1 (1977)
“Knowihg Me, Knowing You,” No. 14 (1977)
“Money, Money, Money,” No. 56 (1977)
“The Name of the Game,” No. 12 (1977)
“Take a Chance on Me,” No. 3 (1977)
“Does Your Mother Know,” No. 19 (1979)
“Voulez-Vous,” No. 80 (1979)
“Angeleyes,” No. 64 (1979)
“Chiquitita,” No. 29 (1980)
“The Winner Takes It All,” No. 8 (1981)
“Super Trouper,” No. 45 (1981)
“On and On and On,” No. 90 (1981)
“When All Is Said and Done,” No. 27 (1982)
“The Visitors,” No. 63 (1982)



ABBA IN NYC

Hi Fred,

I am also a huge ABBA fan, as I have let you know that in the past.

Here is my top 10. Maybe all the ABBA fans out there can give their input.

10. "The Name of the Game"
9. " The Way Old Friends Do"
8. "Soldiers"
7. "That's Me"
6. "Waterloo"
5. "SOS"
4. "The Winner Takes It All"
3. "Dream World"
2. "If It Wasn't for the Nights"
1. "Fernando"

It changes from time to time but "Fernando" will always be my No. 1 ABBA song. I saw ABBA in 1979 at Radio City Music Hall - the best entertainment experience of my life.

Phil Bookfor
Margate, New Jersey


Dear Phil,

Thanks for your top 10 ABBA list, but I think this is the last one that we'll run in Chart Beat Chat, otherwise this ABBA thread will go on and on and on.

Like you, I was lucky enough to see ABBA during their North American tour. My "Chart Beat" predecessor, Paul Grein, invited me to their show in Anaheim, as well as the after party.
As for ABBA being at Radio City Music Hall, Benny and Bjorn were almost back at that venue this week. They attended the American premiere of "Mamma Mia!" the movie at the Ziegfeld Theatre on 54th Street just above Sixth Avenue, just blocks from Radio City Music Hall. I interviewed Benny and Bjorn on the blue carpet (to match the color of the sea surrounding the Greek island in the film). Given that I had a three-hour interview with them a few weeks ago, I shouldn't have been surprised that Bjorn said, "What more could you possibly ask me?" (with a laugh, of course).

I asked Benny when production would start on "Mamma Mia 2" and he told me the title: "Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again." Was he serious or just kidding? Guess we'll have to wait to find out.

I did ask Benny and playwright/scriptwriter Catherine Johnson if there were enough ABBA songs left over for "Mamma Mia! 2" and they both said yes, and one even hinted there could be new songs for that film.



TIMELESS TO ME

Dear Fred:

Was glancing at this week's Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, and saw that the nation's top dance hits are currently represented by female singers born over a wide-range of decades: the 1930s (Yoko Ono at No. 6), the 1940s (Donna Summer at No. 8), the 1950s (Madonna at No. 7), the 1960s (Kylie Minogue at No. 9), the 1970s (Kimberley Locke at No. 1 and Robyn at No. 5) and the 1980s (Michelle Williams at No. 12). I guess it just proves that dance music is indeed timeless!

Kenny Tucker
New Orleans, La.


Dear Kenny,

Now we just need a youngster born in the '90s to reach the chart. But six decades worth of women is quite impressive and thanks for noticing that.



POP GOES THE COUNTRY

Pop/rock artists/acts are faring much better on the Hot Country Songs tally than they have been faring in recent years. For example, this week we've got Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker (21-18 with "Don't Think I Don't Think About It"), Jessica Simpson (26-23 with "Come On Over"), Kid Rock (44-32 with "All Summer Long") and Jewel (56-49 with "I Do). Rucker and Rock (whose high point on the country chart is the No. 21 peak of "Picture" featuring Sheryl Crow or Allison Moorer in 2003) are in line to become the latest pop artists with Mainstream Rock or Adult Contemporary experience to reach the top 10 of the Hot Country Songs chart since Bon Jovi, Michelle Branch (The Wreckers) and Sheryl Crow in 2006.

John Maverick
Burt County, Neb.


Dear John,

Yes, that's one of the big country stories of 2008 - the invasion of the charts by pop artists.