15. Abba – Dancing Queen

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.

I was sitting half-drunk at a crayfish party in Stockholm with a group of 150 Swedes employed by SendIt, Microsoft’s new acquisition in the mobile space. Crayfish parties are an ancient tradition where people get together, eat crayfish, drink Akvavit and sing old songs. At this party the akvavit was in small sample bottles and there were many different varieties. You could tell which variety was not liked because its proportion in the ice bowl increased over time. The loser in the popularity contest was Bäska Droppar. I tasted it and it was gross.


Every now and then someone stood up from their chair and sang a song local to the part of Sweden where they were raised. As they recognize the song, other people from that part of the country join in the singing. At this party, if someone performed well a group of rowdy guys let loose a raucous chant toasting the singer and then downed their little bottles of akvavit. It was a Swedish version of “You go, girl!”

At times like these the paranoiac in me looks ahead and wonders what to do should the limelight be thrust my way, so I sat there and wondered what I could sing. One guy sitting near me was egging me on to sing Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport but that wasn’t happening. I didn’t know the words to the Australian anthem although I could have sung Bow River if pushed. Then the answer came to me, so I grabbed a bottle of Bäska Droppar, stood up on my chair and waved for attention. I’d rather choose the time of my doom.

“There’s a Swedish song I learned as a child and I’d like to sing it for you.”

Friday night and the lights are low,
Looking out for a place to go.
Where they play the right music,
Getting in the swing, you’ve come to look for a king.

At this point I noticed that everyone was singing along. Drunk in Stockholm, I led a hundred and fifty Swedes though two verses and two chorus of Dancing Queen. In the gap between chorus and verse they hummed the melody. I remember looking down on the many people seated at the tables watching me and I thought, “Now this doesn’t happen every day.” At that moment, my love for Abba was validated.

As the song finished I toasted the audience and downed the bottle of Bäska Droppar in one go. There was an internally-focused moment when I felt the spirit burn its way down, then I was brought back to the party by the rowdy boys going “You go, girl!” and downing their newly-opened bottles of akvavit.



This is a piano-driven song and I love the girls’ harmonies; we need more of that in music. Bad choreography is always worth watching, especially when Anna-Frid can’t keep a beat as she dances. At the end of the video they have several shots of the girls tossing their hair in slow-motion. Are they looking for shampoo endorsements?

There was a TV show back in the Seventies where guests would sit in a panel and rate new songs as Hit or Miss. The guests were British singers and other dubious celebrities. They played a new Abba single, Fernando I think it was, and down the line the musical guests stated their hatred for it and voted ‘Miss’. The final guest in the panel was John Lydon, then Johnny Rotten, and as he raised his ‘Hit’ card he said, “It’s going to be a bloody smash anyway.”



Next: 14. The Cure – Primary

Previous: 16. Suede – Animal Nitrate


8 Responses to “15. Abba – Dancing Queen”

  1. August 11, 2009 at 03:12

    I remember when you came back and told us about this (and re-created the moment in the village Green). It’s a story I’ve related to other friends on several occasions when, for whatever reason, drunken a capella renditions of Dancing Queen have become relevant to the conversation.

    You’re, like, famous!

  2. September 14, 2010 at 22:15

    One day those folk will meet me and be underwhelmed. I think I’m more proud of my standup routines, especially the one at the Airstream ship party with the water fights.

  3. September 15, 2010 at 06:26

    I’m working on instituting Cabbage Patch Awards for my current group. I still have my jar of Hershey’s Hot Fudge that I got for having the World’s Coldest Lab Bench!

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