I’m getting married next year. It’s all been going swimmingly so far – we’ve booked a venue and a registrar, we have a vague idea of numbers; we’ve even booked the cake (hi, Jenny!). But the one thing that we haven’t been able to have a proper conversation about without big frowns, waving of hands (and even, dare I say, a bit of going all silent) is the music.
It’s weird. We both really like music. We even have a big crossover of tastes – there are loads of bands and styles of music that we both listen to and enjoy. So surely it should be easy to make a list of music we want at our wedding…? But no.
For some reason, whatever I suggest “isn’t weddingy enough”. Yes, my husband to be, who has the biggest CD collection of anyone I’ve ever met, who buys at least three new albums a week; who goes into the record shop to “look for things I’ve never heard of”… seems to think that because it’s a wedding, things have to be done a certain way.
He wants us to have a cheesy DJ at our wedding, playing fucking Abba.
I know what you’re saying. “But everyone likes Abba!” I don’t. If there’s one band I will never, ever listen to, it’s fucking Abba. I hate them. I’ve got nothing against the band themselves (or even the songs, when it comes down to it – there’s no denying they were extremely cleverly written perfect pop songs) but whoah, I just hate the Abba sound, and what it represents. I only have to hear the first note of Mamma Mia or Waterloo – god! I’m having trouble even writing this, for fear I’ll get something stuck in my head! – to feel a deep, visceral STABBINESS.
Oh, okay. I do have my reasons.
I hadn’t even really thought about Abba until the mid 90s, when they suddenly seemed to be just everywhere. It was weird, frankly. A whole bunch of films were released with Abba music as the soundtrack. People who’d never mentioned them before suddenly professed to be their biggest fans. Every pop singer in the world seemed to be doing covers of their songs. And everyone seemed to be hailing them as a genius band. Why now? It got on my nerves a bit and seemed to go on for years. They seemed to become a byword for ironic campness. Everyone liked Abba – and even now, it feels almost sacreligious to admit you’re not that keen.
But it’s worse than that. There are three main events over the last ten years that have sealed my opinion of Abba and turned my meh-ness into a near-phobia.
Reason one: Hyperactive Flatmate
When I shared a flat with my friend, back in the late 90s/early 00s, we had a brilliant time. There’s so much about that era that I remember with fondness, this almost seems rude (if you’re reading this, ex flatmate, I don’t mean it to be rude). But I don’t think it’s possible to live with anyone without at least one thing getting right up your nose. Dear reader, that one thing was Abba. Whenever my flatmate was feeling hyperactive – which could mean deliriously happy, grumpily angry, gleeful about boys or cross about work – she would go on a cleaning trip and the Abba would go on full blast. There’s nothing like walking home from work and hearing the dulcet tones of Bjorn and Urethra (or whatever they’re called) coming from two streets away, and knowing that instead of a cup of tea and cosy chat on the sofa, you’re going to open the door to a whirlwind with a can of Pledge, slamming doors and hoover dancing.
Reason two: A Funeral
In 2001 an acquaintance of mine committed suicide. A tragic, unexpected, awful thing. This person – whom I won’t name here – was only young and had a lot of friends. At the packed crematorium, it transpired that he’d in fact spent two years planning his own death, including full details of the funeral. So, after marking his life with readings, poems and words from friends and family, what poignant song had he requested to play the guests out of the chapel?
That’s right: Dancing Queen. Yes, it was poignant the first time, as the tearful congregation turned to one another to smile at the dark humour and incongruity of the music. By the fourth time, ten minutes later, as everyone was still filing out, it was more of a torture. It was on a loop, but as those of us remaining – wide-eyed in the queue for the door – knew, it would have been disrespectful to turn it off. That person, his sad life and death, and the tragi-comic ending to his funeral are still the first things that come to mind when I hear the opening notes to Dancing Queen. Even now, nearly ten years on.
Reason three: National Express Christmas Parties
Yeah, I used to work for National Express. Yeah, it was all right. After refusing, hermit-like, to go to the company-wide Christmas party for a couple of years, I finally decided to bite the bullet and join in, because there were rumours that 2006 would be the last one and, as such, might include a special guest or two.
I don’t know if it was their last party, but it was certainly mine. Yes, there was plenty of free booze, but for a start, there was also the dreaded talky DJ. You know the sort: “Let’s take it… dowwwwn a notch now, ladies and gentlemen… do you remember Last Christmas? I do. And so does [pause while he finds the right button]… so does George Michael, ladies and gentlemen, yes… this one’s for all you lovers out there…”
And okay, it was actually rather fun for a while. Until he said the dreaded words. “Ladies and gentlemen we’ve got a great surprise lined up for you tonight. This band have come all the way from… Acocks Green [laughter] to play for you tonight. We sent out an SOS [pause] and paid them some Money, Money, Money [another pause… there was no need, they were half way onto the stage] ladies and gentlemen, it’s ABBA!” It wasn’t Abba. It was someone’s brother in law and his missus and their friends, dressed in those Marilyn Monroe wigs you get from Partyland, and singing really, really out of tune.
In hindsight it’s surprising I didn’t run screaming from the ICC. Instead, I made a mental note that this was the final straw; that from now on, I would avoid any situations where Abba, or Abba-related “tribute” acts, could possibly get to me.
And that includes my own wedding.
Just to reiterate: if ANY Abba is played ANYWHERE NEAR my wedding, I will PUKE.
I’ve explained all this to my fiancé but I’m not sure how seriously he’s taken it.
After all, everyone likes Abba, don’t they?