World of Chig   

Coming next on new! rebranded! Eurovision World Of Chig!

Eurovision, Eurovision and more Eurovision. Chig flies to Istanbul a week today. Expect reviews of all 36 songs here before then and live reports from Istanbul’s rehearsals, media conferences and parties from next Saturday onwards (8th May). Why not take a look at last year's pictures and gossip while you're waiting. (See archives for May 2003 on the left of this page.)

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Your Favourite ABBA Tracks: #1 The Winner Takes It All

(Did my little clue at the end of yesterday's piece give it away?)

And so, in the end, the winner takes it all. Not that there’s a prize, you understand, but you, dear World Of Chig’s readers, (all 16 of you, plus me) have voted this your favourite ABBA song in the world...ever! This was ABBA’s 18th UK hit and the eighth of their nine UK number ones. It’s time to put this in context. By August 1980, when this was released, ABBA’s chart-topping days seemed to have come to an end. Sure, they were still clocking up the top ten hits, including milking five tracks (on four releases) off the previous album, ‘Voulez-Vous?’ but none of them had topped the UK charts. It had been a full two and a half years since their last chart topper, ‘Take A Chance On Me’. By the time they came to release the ‘Super Trouper’ album, their was a new emotional fragility in many of ABBA’s tracks, not entirely unconnected to the fact that both couples had broken up by this point. Yet they still continued to record wonderful music together, and continued the themes of reflectiveness and vulnerability on the next (and final) album, ‘The Visitors’ a year later.

‘The Winner Takes It All’ was a brand new track, released in late July 1980, from an album that would not be released until the November. Consequently, it bounded up the chart, entering at #9 and knocking Odyssey’s ‘Use It Up And Wear It Out’ from the top spot in ABBA’s second chart week. Their run would probably have lasted a lot longer, had it not been for the release of an all-time classic. David Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’ (one of Chig’s top ten number ones...ever!) crashed into the chart at #4 and deposed ABBA a week later, giving them only two weeks on top. The next single off the ‘Super Trouper’ album, the title track, also hit #1, but was the group’s last one ever.

Below is the top ten from ABBA’s second week on top in 1980. Many of these records are classics, for whatever reason. (Yes, even the Gap Band.). At the very least, most British people probably remember at least 8 of them. I wonder how many people in another 24 years’ time will be singing the praises of Special D, Wolfman, Marillion and Maroon 5; all from this month’s top ten in 2004? I wonder how many people could even sing them or recognise them now? Ahhh. [Chig goes all misty-eyed and nostalgic for the days of being 14 again]

01 (01) The Winner Takes It All – ABBA
02 (02) Upside Down – Diana Ross
03 (05) 9 to 5 – Sheena Easton
04 (--) Ashes To Ashes – David Bowie
05 (09) Oh Yeah (On The Radio) – Roxy Music
06 (07) Oops Upside Your Head – The Gap Band
07 (10) Give Me The Night – George Benson
08 (04) More Than I Can Say – Leo Sayer
09 (03) Use It Up And Wear It Out – Odyssey
10 (16) Funkin’ For Jamaica (N.Y.) – Tom Browne

And so, our survey comes to a close. Thank you to everyone who voted. Thank you to everyone who has been following this painfully slow countdown. Thanks particularly to everyone who has left comments – and feel free to leave more. But most of all, to ABBA, (because I know Agnetha reads this – she doesn’t get out much), thank you for the music. (Readers may now stick their fingers down their throats and vomit at the cheesiness of it all.)

And as our favourite Swedes once sang, in a track on ‘ABBA – The Album’ which is in Chig’s top ten ABBA songs but which none of you buggers gave another point to....Move On.

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Your favourite ABBA Tracks: #2 The Day Before You Came

Despite being a bigger hit for Blancmange than it was for Abba, this turns out to be a song with enduring appeal, narrowly beaten to the top of our poll. After ‘Head Over Heels’ had seen a sharp downturn in ABBA’s fortunes in the UK, making only #25 in February 1982, (only three months after ‘One Of Us’ had reached #3), ‘The Day Before You Came’ was the next single, and could only peak at #32 in its second week , dawdling in the top 40 for only four weeks at 32-35-35-37. Less than two years later, Blancmange’s version, complete with a couple of British tweaks, made a more promising start, vaulting from #39 to #22 in its second week, before mysteriously stalling there for two more weeks. They managed 8 weeks on the chart in total; two more than ABBA’s original. Nevertheless, the fab four’s version seems to have stood the test of time, probably because it is such an unusual song. Eschewing the normal verse-chorus-verse structure, it just tells a story, detailing the minutiae of one particular, routine day, with a musical backing that would be identifiable as ABBA even without the lead vocal. It’s a bit like Squeeze’s ‘Up The Junction’, in that it doesn’t repeat any lines, except that the title does get a repeated airing in ABBA’s song. It reads like a poem. I never get tired of hearing it, and a lot of you clearly feel the same. It's now available as a bonus track on the repacked version of 'The Visitors'. Tomorrow, the winner. Can you guess?

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Meeting The Neighbours

I promised a report from Saturday's 'Meet The Neighbours' day at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, so here it is. My new friend Joe sent this to the Eurovision General Yahoo! list, to which we both belong. I thought it deserved a wider airing, so, with Joe's permission, here goes [with a few added comments from Chig]:
"To the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on Saturday for 'Meet The Neighbours' day, a celebration of 10 new countries joining the European Union. By the time I got in through the stringent security checks, I had missed the Hungarian folk dancers. (I'll never forgive myself.) James Fox took to the outdoor stage at 12.30pm, in the now traditional jacket and jeans. He sang 6 songs and whilst he said the right things ("We're going to Istanbul, and we're going to win!") it was hardly an electrifying performance in my opinion. One funny moment came when he announced he was going to play "another slow song I've written, I'm afraid"...and then played the opening bars to TV darts quiz Bullseye! I thought it was hilarious, but the joke was lost on the foreigners in the audience. Anyway, the more I hear 'Hold On To Our Love', the more I think it won't come last, but it just doesn't have what Simon Cowell would call 'The X Factor'. As we walked in, we were all given a Treasure Hunt-style quiz, where all the answers were dotted around the exhibits. Each of the 10 new EU entrants had their own stand, of which, in my opinion...'Best Cheesy Biscuits' - Malta, 'Best Salami' - Lithuania, 'Best Felt Tip Pen' - Czech Republic. (Obviously Malta and Lithuania had a lot of people hovering around their stands! Had trouble eating a felt tip pen.) Then upstairs to the free wine and beer tasting (woo-hoo!) from the likes of Cyprus and Estonia. Finished at 2.05pm, to see Julia & Ludwig [Malta's Eurovision entrants this year - Chig] being introduced 5 minutes earlier than scheduled, "Hope you'll be able to see us on BBC Three". [Malta are in the Wednesday semi-final, which BBC Three is showing.] This was unfortunate, because the floor gymnasts hadn't finished near the stage, so there was a burst of applause halfway through 'On Again...Off Again'. I liked this song for the first two minutes, but then it went a bit mad with Julia going off-on-one opera-style. They too sang 6 songs, including the Maltese official song in celebration of European entry, [Oh deep joy! Does each of the 10 new countries have one of these? The EU should release a compilation album.] and 'Beauty & The Beast'. [I'm saying nothing.] In my opinion, they were miming throughout. To finish, Julia announced, "We're now going to do a dance version of our Eurovision song, which we hear is going down very well in the clubs".[In Valetta, presumably.] Julia & Ludwig then climbed down off the raised stage, inviting the whole crowd to stand up and dance alongside them. They were joined by their own dancers, both of whom can best be described as wearing Bob Monkhouse-style wigs (a British comic, recently passed away). The song was turned on its head, the opera part coming FIRST, and then moving onto the main body of 'On Again...Off Again'. During these 3 minutes, with by now 20 members of the audience at their side, I felt I might be watching this year's winners, except I don't know if Julia can hit the high notes live on the big night. They had a great 'stage presence', smiling throughout, and lots of people seemed to know the words. At the end, they were roared triumphantly off stage. With that, I couldn't resist some more beer tasting...or two....or three... Regards-Joe."

Thanks Joe. I caught a glimpse of James Fox talking on Newsnight last night, which I presumed was filmed at this event. The publicity wheel is turning ever faster, as he's now featured and interviewed in the May issues of attitude and Gay Times too.

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Foxy's progress - part 4

'Hold on to the chart' may be a more valid plea soon, as James Fox's single looks set to slip quite badly this Sunday, from #13 to around #26. The hope from Sony was clearly that the single would loiter around the charts for three weeks, falling slowly and then perking up again after its exposure in Istanbul on 15 May. At this rate it will be sliding out of the Top 40 on Sunday 9 May and will need more of a resurrection than a kiss of life. Still, James is on TOTP this Friday, which may arrest the decline slightly...

And there's no need to be too concerned, as James is 'only' the second biggest faller in this week's chart. Marillion are in danger of some kind of record, with the single falling out of the top 30 altogether after only one week at #7. And they're NOT being allowed on TOTP, for some unknown reason. There's no justice in Popworld.

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: #3 Knowing Me, Knowing You

Their 9th UK hit from February 1977 and their 5th UK number one in March and April. This single gave ABBA their second-longest run at the top of the UK chart, with five weeks. (The longest was their previous number one, Dancing Queen, which topped the chart for six, although the single in between these two, ‘Money, Money, Money’ only made #3.) This single topped the chart in its fourth week, deposing the sublime ‘Chanson D’Amour’ by Manhattan Transfer, and eventually giving way to Deniece Williams’ ‘Free’. David Soul probably hates this ABBA single, as he spent three weeks below it at #2 with ‘Going In With My Eyes Open’. His singles before and after made #1, so ABBA deprived him of a number one hat-trick, but they were about to do it again themselves. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ was the first single in their second hat-trick of consecutive number ones, followed up by chart-toppers ‘The Name Of The Game’ and ‘Take A Chance On Me’. This is the highest ranked track from the ‘Arrival’ album in this survey. I would have put money on that honour going to ‘Dancing Queen’, which languishes at #6 here. Thank you, dear readers, for your unpredictability.

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P-day was supposed to be tomorrow. It looks like it has come a day early. To be continued...

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: #4 One Of Us

A failed bid for the 1981 Christmas number one, making only #3, but for three consecutive weeks,, stalled behind The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ and Cliff’s ‘Daddy’s Home’ at #1 and #2 respectively for every single one of those weeks. Along with ‘The Winner Takes It All’, one of their great, tear-jerking ‘divorce songs’. And yet, it’s also an anthemic singalong. They were clever, those ABBA boys. Taken from ‘The Visitors’; their last album of original material, which did hit the top in the album chart, this track turned out to be ABBA’s final top ten single in the UK.

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Unlucky for James (AKA Foxy's progress - part 3)

It seems our Welsh Eurovision entrants are condemned to enter the UK chart at number 13. That's what James Fox does today, equalling Jessica Garlick's entry position (and peak) from 2002. James has slipped one place from his midweek position of #12, but at least he's gone in 2 places higher than Jemini last year. James apparently sold around 9,000 singles and will be on TOTP this coming Friday. He was featured briefly on TOTP Saturday yesterday, but no CD:UK performance. That's probably because he was preparing himself for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's Meet The Neighbours day, which I would definitely have gone to yesterday if I'd been in London, Foxy or no Foxy. It sounds like a superb idea - to introduce a little bit of the culture of the ten countries which are about to join the EU on 1st May. Two of my friends were there, but I've been too hungover to speak to anyone today, so I'll get a report from them tomorrow.

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Foxy's progress - part 2

No movement for James Fox's single. Still stuck at #12 in the Thursday midweek chart. If he enters the chart at #12 on Sunday, that will be the highest chart placing for the UK's Eurovision entry since 1999, when Precious made #6 with 'Say It Again'. James is currently 3 places higher than Jemini made last last year and a tantalising one place higher than Jessica Garlick two years ago.

The big chart news though (hello Mark!) is the return of Marillion. It's a very good week for groups beginning with 'Mar', as Maroon 5 claim the highest new entry and Marillion the second. It will be their fourth top ten hit, and it's only taken them seventeen frigging years since the third one! I bet you can only name one. (No Mark, not you, normal people.) That's an incredible gap. I wonder how many people still think Fish is their lead singer and exactly how many 18 year-olds there are called Kayleigh?

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Life's a drag

I've done some strange jobs in my time, but I've just been asked to do something quite unique on Saturday. Chig is going to be a judge at the UK Drag Queen Of The Year contest at the Nightingale. I'm imagining sitting there with a scoresheet, with columns for 'costume', 'attitude' and 'bitchiness'. I can't wait, and I'm flattered to be asked. (Chig flutters eyelashes, heavily laden with mascara, points demurely to blushered cheek and purses lips.) Just one problem though. What the hell should one wear?

Find out your own drag name. (Then why not visit Daphne Divine or Vida?!)

Love and glitter, Frannie Felch.

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: #5 S.O.S.

Another ABBA track that was a bigger hit in the UK for someone else. In September 1975, the Swedes returned to the top ten for the first time since debut hit Waterloo, with this, their fourth UK hit in all. It had taken them 18 months to do so. This made number 6, but Erasure took it to number one 17 years later as one of the four tracks on their Abba-esque EP.

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Foxy's progress

Our Eurovision entry was released yesterday in the UK. It's available in two different versions, and I knew this before I went to seek it out in the local Asda. Despite this, I could only see one version on the shelves. That's because the marketing monkeys at Sony have decided to scupper James Fox's chances by making the sleeves look almost the same, thereby actively discouraging casual buyers from picking up, and buying, both. You have to look really hard to realise that the sleeves for Hold On To Our Love (or Hold Onto Our Love, as Sony have decided to call it), have different coloured lettering. Apart from that, they're the same, with the same photo. Doh! I refuse to believe that with someone as photogenic as James, they couldn't find TWO pictures to put on the sleeve, or just use a close-up of the one picture on CD2, as many other artists do. Jeez, I have taken good pictures of him myself which I would gladly have handed over.

This is the earliest before Eurovision that the UK single has been released for many years, so it will be interesting to see how it does away from the contest. Despite the 'unmarketing' strategy, James is at #12 on first day sales. (Jemini's disaster made a healthy #15 the week after Eurovision last year, before dropping like a stone.) Watch this space.

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: #6 Dancing Queen / Dansande Drottning

If it was worth doing once… This is the piece I wrote about Dancing Queen when it made #14 in Chig’s 50 Number Ones Project (see left sidebar), kindly translated into Swedish by Bboyblues. All I have to add is that the Abbacadabra version of this is the only track with which they managed to hit the UK charts. Despite the fact that they must have covered most of them in their generic dance stylee, they managed just one week in the chart with Dancing Queen at #57 in 1992. No other act has ever had a hit with it apart from ABBA and Abbacadabra.

Den 18 Juni1976, uppträdde Abba med låten 'Dansande Drottning' i Svensk television, det var kvällen innan det Svenska kungliga bröllopet. På självaste bröllops dagen framträdde dom med samma låt på bröllops mottagningen mellan Kung Carl XVI Gustav och Silvia Sommerlath, och blev på så sätt en del av Sveriges historia.

I Augusti, blev “Dansande Drottning” den andra singeln i följd att ligga på första placeringen på den Engelska singeln listan i hela sex veckor, efter att ha petat ner “Gå inte och ta sönder mitt hjärta” med Elton John och Kiki Dee. Detta vart Abba’s tredje och sista första placering under året 1976, detta gav dom 12 hela veckor på första placeringen totalt under detta år. Efter dom sex veckorna fick “Dansande drottning” kliva ner från tronen i förmån för Kissekatt's 'Mississippi' , “Dansande Drottnig var oxå Abba’s endaste #1 singel i Amerika.

U2 samt A-Tonårngarna har oxå gjort sin egna version av låten. Kylie gjorde ett framträdande med samma låt omringad av jättestora räkor i finalen av dom Olympiska Spelen I Sydney. Men det är endast Abba cover akt Abbacadabra som fick en hit med denna låt (en vecka på placeringen #57 året 1992, detta var dock deras endaste hit någonsin). Abba's egna version är den enda av deras egna sånger som har varit på singel listan två gånger, då den även lyckades att ta sig in på den Engelska singel listan som nummer 16 under en fem veckors period i September 1992. Både Abba’s egna version och Abbacadabra’s version kom in på listan exakt samma dag, Abba’s skäl till att släppa “Dansande Drottning” ännu en gång var självklart för att marknadsföra deras album “Guld-Bästa Hitsen” som släpptes månaden som följde.

'Dansande Drottning' är den andra Abba låten I våran nedräkning, efter “Känner mig, Känner dig” som kom in på plats 49. Båda dessa två låtar var tagna från albumet “Ankomst”. Detta är kanske ett klassiskt Abba album, men även en geni grupp som Abba gör misstag som måste ifrågasättas. Detta var nämligen albumet som inkluderar den dagis doftande bagatellen “Dum Dum Diddle”!

Sex människor hade “Dansande Drottning” på deras tio i top lista, jag själv hade den som min tionde favorit. Min mamma har ett förtjustande minne av en familje camping semester året 1976 då låten släpptes. Hon brukade berätta för folk att min syster (som var sju år gammal) och jag ( som var tio) brukade göra en dans rutin till denna låt utanför våran husvagn för att underhålla andra campare. Hur kunde hon undgå att inse vad det som skulle hända senare här i livet när det gällde mig?

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Forget the war in Iraq and the wrangling over the European constitution - there is joyous news to report tonight! Becks has shaved off that appalling haircut. Goodbye girly David, welcome back skinhead David. And as Becks is officially one of the 100 most influential people in the world, expect a crop of crops to follow.

UPDATE (Tuesday 20/04/04): Has one haircut ever been on the cover of so many tabloids? The Sun, The Star and The Mirror, of course, but even the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Times. Even the bloomin' Daily Record. I've yet to spot David Beckham's Scottish connection.

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Chig goes Pop!

No, not a reference to my ever-expanding waistline. I was schmoozing with this lot last night, eating Jamie's chips and chatting with them backstage after they performed at the Nightingale. A very friendly bunch of boys and girls, Pop! were touted on yesterday's CD:UK as "Pete Waterman's replacement for Steps", which will probably strike fear into those of you who weren't aware that such a concept was needed. Besides, I thought Scooch were the replacement for Steps, or was it the A*Teens? I forget now. Judging from the reaction to their two song PA last night though, Pop! will certainly have a certain audience eating out of their hands. Besides, they all autographed a postcard for me, so I now officially love them.

The funny thing is, both of the boys in Pop! have Eurovision connections. To be precise, they've both performed in A Song For Europe. I was aware that Pop! were about to be launched on us, but nearly choked on my Weetabix yesterday when I heard Cat Deeley comment over the video that one of their members was Glenn "who was a dancer for Kylie". That's Glenn who was a dancer for Mimi at last year's A Song For Europe then, who I chatted to and photographed at the aftershow party. Glenn who later appeared dancing with The Cheeky Girls in their video for 'Take Your Shoes Off'. Glenn who, much to my great envy, was last seen waving neon lighting tubes around Princess Kylie's nether regions every time she performed 'Slow' on TV. Yes, that Glenn.

Imagine my delight then, when I consulted the Nightingale's website just before going out last night and discovered that Pop! were due to appear. Cue frantic ransacking of my photo folders, taking out some of the pics of Glenn from last year to give to him. He seemed very grateful.

The other guy in Pop!, Jamie Tinkler, was in A Song For Europe a year earlier, in 2002, under the name Level Best. That's the only ASFE in five years that I haven't been to. (I was in Australia.) He was at a disadvantage from the start though, because the song which he'd been asked by the writers to sing, had only been squeezed into the televised last four at the last minute. After the Radio2 listeners' vote had narrowed down the songs from 8 to 4, Jamie's song, 'Every Step Of The Way' didn't get through. However, one of the four that did was soon disqualified because it had been released before, on a compilation album. Harsh, but fair. Level Best were then brought in as the replacement, which meant everybody knew it had come fifth, whereas no one knew the positions of the other three, just that they had all beaten Jamie. Also, as he pointed out to me last night, all the other three acts were known TV faces; Jessica from Pop Idol, Tricia Penrose from Heartbeat and Jonathan Maitland from various TV progs. Bearing all that in mind then, he did really well to finish third.

Eighteen months later, Jamie resurfaced as a top 50 contender on Pop Idol 2, and received quite a bit of favourable publicity. Unfortunately even the goodwill and televotes of Eurovision fans who had recognised him couldn't get him any further, because he ended up in a strong group.

So, Pete Waterman has put together two girls with a male dancer who hasn't sung before and a singer/songwriter who hasn't danced before. An interesting gamble. The girls, Jade and Hannah, were both really friendly too, and I discovered that Hannah, originally from Bromsgrove, and I have a mutual friend and we both used to go to the same club; the Steering Wheel, at its peak.

The single, Heaven And Earth, will be flying out of records shops from 17th May.

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: #7 The Visitors (Cracking Up)

The title track from ABBA’s final album of original material becomes the highest-placed non-single in our survey. (ABBA’s next six albums in the UK chart after this were all repackaged and regurgitated previously released material.) The album topped the UK charts in December 1981, but the decline was setting in. The Visitors only managed 21 weeks in the UK album chart, whereas the previous six albums had each managed between 43 and 130 weeks. The Visitors didn’t spawn any number one singles either, after its predecessor, Super Trouper, had produced two. No matter though, it did produce a single that was so popular amongst World Of Chig readers that it’s still to come in this survey…

There's an excellent analysis of the tracks on the album (and some that didn't make it) here.

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While we're on the subject of The Games, imagine how thrilled Chig was to be watching the programme one night this week when this text message arrived from a work colleague:
"I'm watching The Games on 4, I think u look like Pat Sharp!" Oh great. To think, this was only three days after yet another woman (it's always a woman) had come out with the more usual comparison. "Has anyone ever told you...", she started, completely unprovoked. "Yes, they have," I grinned and nodded, knowing instinctively what she was going to say, because it's happened a handul of times before. " look like Kiefer Sutherland?", she finished. Her boyfriend agreed too, saying I look particularly like him in Flatliners.

Now which would I prefer? Credible American actor, now famous for playing one of the best TV characters ever, in the best US TV series ever? Or a London DJ, famed mainly for having one of the worst haircuts of the 80s? Hmm, let me think...

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Mr Games UK

Big congrats to Jarrod Batchelor for winning another competition last night - The Games on C4. He came from behind (ahem) to share the title with Shane Lynch. How Romeo will break the news to his So Squalid Crew, that he was beaten by a pouf and a Paddy, I don't know, but I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he does.

Jarrod has been an absolute credit to himself all week and, if we must accept the idea that he somehow represents the gay community (he doesn't - the responsibility would be enormous - but that's the way some of the public will see it), he's done 'us' proud. He's had to suffer the ignominy of being referred to, in the commentary and the captions, as 'Mr Gay UK' all the time, as if he doesn't actually have a real name. (It's not a homophobic thing; they did exactly the same with Miss World last year.) Note how his profile on the C4 Games website actually calls him 'My Gay UK' instead of 'Mr'. Hasn't anyone at C4 noticed? Jarrod has come across as a thoroughly likeable, thoughtful, quiet young man, with a fit bod and a good haircut. He's managed to stay calm and controlled when the other slebs have been going a bit mad, and just got on with the winning. Well done matey! In fact, as someone accidentally e-mailed me Jarrod's work e-mail address yesterday(!), I may just tell him that myself! He's also made loads of money for the Albert Kennedy Trust by doing The Games, which is excellent.

Nice to see all of Boyzone (yes, even Ronan) turning up to support Shane. I'm sure Stephen wasn't just there to meet Jarrod...

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Stop Your Sobbing

Dear Pauline Fowler,
I don't like to see you upset, so I think I should let you know that Mark's not really dead. He hasn't even left London. He's too ashamed to tell you he joined the police, so he changed his name to Gabriel and moved from Walford to Sun Hill. You must know Sun Hill, because that Michael Rose who used to be your market inspector in Walford, well he moved there too and he's now a copper with your Mark. So stop fretting.
I'd worry more about why your Michelle never phones anymore and why your granddaughter has lost all trace of her American accent, if I were you.

PS. How is Mrs. Slocombe's pussy?

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: #8 The Name Of The Game

(If you think this next bit looks familiar, it's because I've adapted it from what I wrote for Chig's 50 Number Ones Project (see left sidebar), where this track ended up at #3. No point reinventing the wheel is there? It's surprising how this song has only ended up 8th in this survey though. But, like I said, this isn't scientific.)

'The Name Of The Game’ entered the chart at #20 on the same day the Sex Pistols’ ‘Holidays In The Sun’ spat its way into the Top 40 at #15. This was shortly after the heady Summer of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and Virginia Wade winning Wimbledon at the height of punk. At the time, it was practically impossible to admit you liked ABBA AND the Sex Pistols – it was very much one or the other, a supposed battle of good against evil (although which was which depended on your allegiances).

ABBA climbed to #5 in their second week, then made #1 in only their third week on the chart. This was on the 25th anniversary of the singles chart, so it seemed only right that it was up there in our top three another 25 years on, for the singles chart's 50th anniversary.

This was the sixth of ABBA’s nine number ones. Taken from the album simply called ‘ABBA - The Album’, at 4’52” it’s quite a long number one as well. It was the middle song in their second hat-trick of #1s, coming after ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ and ‘Take A Chance On Me’. It made #12 in the States.

Six number ones brought the Swedes level at the time with Slade and behind only Elvis (17), Beatles (17), Cliff (then 9) and the Rolling Stones (8), who they would soon overtake. (See yesterday's write-up for 'Super Trouper')

‘The Name Of The Game’ deposed Baccara’s ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ from the top after only one week. ABBA were deposed by the single that then became the biggest-selling of all time (for a good few years) and the Christmas #1, Wings’ ‘Mull Of Kintyre/Girls’ School’.

After many years near the top of the pile, Abba are now being pushed down the list of all time #1 hitmakers, where they are equal with the Spice Girls on nine. Madonna overtook them both in 2000, when ‘Music’ became her tenth, before Westlife overtook both her and ABBA.

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Contrast (An ABBA-related interlude)

“I would bring you flowers in the morning,
Wild roses, as the sun begins to shine.
Sweet perfume in tiny jewelled caskets,
If I thought you’d ever change your mind.”

“You thought you could keep this shit from me, yeah,
You burn bitch, I heard the story,
You played me, you even gave ’em head,
Now you’re asking for me back, you’re just another act.
Look elsewhere, ’cos you’re done with me”

“I would bring you happiness, wrapped up in a box and tied with a yellow bow,
I would bring you rainbow skies and Summer rain, to make your garden grow
And in the Winter snow, my songs would keep you from the cold.”

“F**k what I said, it don’t mean shit now,
F**k the presents, might as well throw ’em out,
F**k all those kisses, they didn’t mean jack,
F**k you, you ho, I don’t want you back.”

Eamon and Agnetha: two of life’s old romantics. But is Chig the only person who bought both of these fantastically different singles this week? I always knew my musical tastes were eclectic, but this surely beats the day last year when my new singles purchases were Marilyn Manson and Westlife. Can’t wait to see the words to Eamon’s fantastic song in Smash Hits. It will become the sweariest number one ever on Sunday, with 30+ words 'dipped' in order to produce a still-filthy radio version.

PS. Couldn’t someone have told Agnetha how to pronounce ‘jewelled’? She sings it as ‘yewelled’ (ie. with Swedish-influenced pronunciation). Couldn’t they have played her Cilla’s version?

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: #9 Super Trouper

The opening track on the album of the same name became ABBA’s ninth and final UK number one in November 1980, for three weeks. It might have been there at least a week longer, had John Lennon not been murdered while ABBA topped the chart. ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ had initially peaked at #8 the same week that Super Trouper claimed the top spot, but it rebounded up from #21 to #1 in one week after his death.

ABBA deposed Blondie’s ‘The Tide Is High’ from the top spot, causing a rare, perhaps unique, incidence of consecutive number ones which both mention “number one” in their lyric (the chorus in both cases). ABBA also had cause for celebration; nine number ones saw them overtake the Rolling Stones in the ‘most number ones’ list. Only The Beatles, Elvis, Cliff & The Shadows had more. ABBA have since been overtaken by Madonna and Westlife (including the song that ABBA couldn’t get to #1 themselves – see #20 in this countdown.) They have also been equalled on nine by The Spice Girls. Reason enough to pray that the Spice reunion and proper farewell single never, ever materialise.

For those who still don’t know, a super trouper is a big, theatrical spotlight, as used to great effect on the back and front of the album, and in the splendid video with all the circus performers. This was another ABBA single ruined by Terry Wogan. I can’t hear this without thinking they’re singing, “When I called you last night from Tesco.” As if the real lyric wasn’t strange enough. What was she doing in Glasgow? Perhaps Michelle McManus will cover it and the line will make sense after all these years?

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: #10 Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

Benny and Bjo:rn must have been heavily influenced by the success of 1978’s Saturday Night Fever, as ABBA released a consecutive trio of disco singles the following year. ‘Does Your Mother Know?’ was followed by ‘Voulez-vous?’, (backed with ‘Angeleyes’) and rounded off with this, one of their camper, saucier, more frivolous efforts. Although they weren’t exactly known for setting musical trends, they followed them a bit, and so it’s probably no accident that this was also ABBA’s most electronic single to date, coming in the year of Cars and Are ‘Friends’ Electric?. It’s also worth noting that ‘Gimme!’ entered the chart (at a lowly #30) on the exact same day that Video Killed The Radio Star made number one for Buggles. Chic were also at their peak in 1979, and ‘Gimme’ features some funky little guitar licks that sound not unlike Messrs. Rodgers and Edwards themselves.

Incidentally, the week that ABBA spent at #4 with this single, before eventually peaking at #3, saw it stuck behind what must surely be one of the most painfully tragic top threes ever. Sad Café were whining that ‘Every Day Hurts’ at #3, while Dr. Hook were at #2 with ‘When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman’. It also hurts, apparently. Meanwhile, professional God-botherer Lena Martell sat atop this unholy trinity with ‘One Day At A Time’. Sweet Jesus indeed! Thank the Lord of the Dance that we had ABBA to save us! Thank goodness ABBA didn’t know what a ghastly sit‘com’ their song was to inspire two decades later, or they may never have recorded it.

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(Interval) Showing Off

It is with great relief that Chig can reveal that he is officially a 'Grammar God':

"You are a GRAMMAR GOD! If your mission in life is not already to preserve the English tongue, it should be. Congratulations and thank you!"

Check your own grammar skills here, but don't be too disappointed when it doesn't tell you the correct answers afterwards.

Coming, as this does, not long after it was scientifically proven that Chig's IQ is in the top 2% of the UK population*, it's a wonder I can still be bothered to communicate with ordinary people. Must go now. I have an ivory tower to clean. (We'll gloss over the current Men's Health magazine Mensa test, in which Chig scored 7.33 out of ten; agonisingly short of a Mensa level 8.)

*Source: BBC's Beat The Nation IQ test.
Thanks: Troubled Diva and Bitful

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: numbers 11-15

#11 Thank You For The Music
On ‘ABBA – The Album’ from February 1978, the group ended with three songs grouped together under the title “The Girl With The Golden Hair – 3 scenes from a mini-musical”. ‘Thank You For The Music’ was the first of those tracks, and it became arguably the best known ABBA track never to be released as a single in the UK. It held that honour for nearly six years, before CBS decided to release it as what turned out to be their farewell single in November 1983, a year after their last original single, ‘Under Attack’. (Trivial fact: all of ABBA’s other hits had been on Epic.) Sadly, nobody cared about ABBA by this point and it dribbled to a mere #33. The song's main chart triumph came 16 years later, a mere 21 years after its first appearance, as part of the Brits-inspired ‘Thank ABBA For The Music’ EP, which made #4 in 1999 for Steps and their cohorts.

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#12 Lay All Your Love On Me
Looking at the stats, this looks like a real flop for ABBA, only making number 7 after their previous two singles had both topped the UK chart. However, the difference with this single was that it was only available as a 12 inch; an unheard of ‘unmarketing’ ploy for a major pop act at the time (or since, for that matter). It actually became the biggest-selling 12” only release ever, until Blue Monday came along two years later. However, the decline was beginning for ABBA; the next single after this (One Of Us) was to be their last ever visit to the top ten as a group.

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#13 Mamma Mia
It took four singles after Waterloo for ABBA to crack the UK number one spot again, but this was the one that did it. Unleashed upon the world two weeks before the end of 1975, it’s a minor miracle that it reached anywhere near #1, let alone staying there for a fortnight, as its initial chart run was a pretty hopeless 32-29-29(again) before it leapt up to 12-3-1. Chig’s theory on this is that Mamma Mia was given relentless subliminal advertising by the record which was number one for all the time ABBA were climbing the chart. “Mamma Mia let me go”, sang Queen and in the end it did indeed let them go, as ABBA replaced ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ at the top of the charts after nine weeks. Mamma Mia remains one of the few number ones which is namechecked by the single it displaced at the top of the chart. (Feel free to name any others, because I can’t, but there are probably a few with ‘love’ as their theme, at least.)

With this single, ABBA became the first act to hit number one AFTER a Eurovision number one. I think they remain the only non-UK act to achieve this, although UK acts have. Mamma Mia was also the 400th different song to reach the UK #1 (but the 383rd release). It was more than 23 years before the show of the same name hit London’s West End, where it celebrated its 5th anniversary last week.

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#14 Happy New Year
Released on the Super Trouper album at the end of 1980, not 1979, which was always very confusing, as they sang about wondering what lay ahead “in another ten years’ time…at the end of ‘89”. I think it’s safe to presume the song was inspired by the previous New Year’s Eve. Anyhow, it went down a storm at many of Chig’s 1980s New Year’s Eve parties, and is still a staple if ever Chig is invited to do the music at such events. (Along with Thriller’s “It’s close to midnight” line just before 12, and a certain U2 track immediately after. You have been warned.) A wonderful song, fortunately never ruined by being released as a single.

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#15 I’ve Been Waiting For YouI have to admit, I don’t think I know this track, but there’s no shortage of websites offering the lyric. It’s apparently from ABBA’s second album to hit the UK chart; the imaginatively titled ‘Abba’, which made #13 in a 10 week run on the UK chart from January 1976. That’s the one original album of theirs I don’t have. Perhaps someone else would like to use the comments to tell us about this song? Go on, you voted for it!

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: numbers 16-20

You expected more today? After four consecutive nights of drinking; four nights spent in different beds in different parts of the country? AND while there's a 100 minute documentary about boybands on the telly as I write this? Sorry, not yet... Here are the next five:

#16 Under Attack
From December 1982 and the last planned, original single of ABBA’s career. The last two singles had only managed to scrape numbers #25 and #32 and this went the same way, fizzling out at #26. It didn’t even enter the top 40 until its second week on the chart, and it must surely been one of ABBA’s least-remembered singles. Actually though, it does hold claim to one unusual chart record. It stayed at #26 for FOUR consecutive weeks. That kind of inertia hardly ever happens so low down the chart.

#17 Take A Chance On Me
ABBA’s eleventh UK hit and their seventh chart-topper. The second track on ‘ABBA- The Album’ from 1977 became a single in February 1978 and chucker-chucker-chanced its way to number one in its third week on the chart. ‘Take A Chance On Me’ stayed at the top for three weeks before being deposed by Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’.

#18 If It Wasn't For The Nights
Track seven on the ‘Voulez-vous?’ album and never a UK single. Numbers 18, 19 and 20 in this survey are all from the same album.

#19 As Good As New
The opening track on 1979’s ‘Voulez-Vous?’ album. Never a UK single.

#20 I Have A Dream
What should have been a shoe-in for ABBA to claim the 1979 Christmas #1 had the misfortune to run up against Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2). The Swedes and their aspirational kiddie chorus had to be content with four consecutive weeks at #2 behind Pink Floyd, and missed out on the chance to be the final number one of the 70s. No worry though, the song got to the top eventually, exactly 20 years later, when Westlife managed it instead, making it another of ABBA’s songs which did better for someone else. (More of this phenomenon to come higher up the chart.) Coincidentally, Westlife’s version also spent four weeks at its peak position.

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Your favourite ABBA tracks: 21-30

Ooh, I'm such a tease. Here are the next ten. The top twenty will be revealed after the weekend, as I'm zipping around the country from tomorrow until Monday. Starting off tomorrow night at the Retro Bar in London's Charing Cross, where punters at the monthly 'Douze Points' Eurovision night will be watching all 36 videos of this year's Eurovision entries and voting on them! Hurrah! Another vote! Last year's Retro Bar favourite was Latvia's 'Hello From Mars' by F.L.Y. which I was overjoyed about as it was my own favourite too. I took this as an indicator that it would be really successful in last year's Eurovision. In the end, it scored 5 points from neighbouring Estonia and bugger all from anybody else. My pointless prediction for tomorrow is that Iceland and Spain will do really well. I've received my copy of the videos in the post today, and Spain's young man is so full of sexual energy that I am now off to watch the video again. Ay caramba!

Friday I will be loitering around the pubs and pizza restaurants of Finsbury Park. Saturday night I will be resting in a Derbyshire village before being a Wild Boy on Sunday seeing Duran Duran (and Goldfrapp) in Nottingham, followed, quite possibly, by some drunken behaviour in the fleshpots of Nottingham. Monday, I'm coming home for a break after all that activity.
In the meantime, occupy yourselves with ABBA's next ten, and rejoice in the fact that last night they ruled out ever performing together again. Ever, ever, ever...

#21 Waterloo
The one that started it all off, unless you're Swedish, in which case you'd been aware of them for years, individually as well as together.

#22 Angeleyes
Coupled with 'Voulez-vous?' for ABBA's only double A-side release in the UK. Number 3 in July 1979.

#23 Ring, Ring
The follow-up to Waterloo, but it didn't exactly set the UK on fire, reaching only #32.

#24 Another Town, Another Train
Track two on the 'Ring, Ring' album from 1973, but never a UK single.

#25 Our Last Summer
#26= Summer Night City
Note the coincidental juxtaposition of these two Summer-themed songs. The latter track made a disappointing #5, after three consecutive #1s, in September 1978.

#26= On And On And On
How this countdown is in danger of dragging.

#28 Hey, Hey Helen
Pretty sure this was a B-side to one of my early vinyl purchases, so it must have been 'Fernando' (single number 1 in my vinyl collection) or possibly 'Money, Money, Money'.

#29 Honey, Honey
From the Waterloo album, but never a UK single.

#30 Fernando
From March 1976, ABBA's 6th UK hit single and their 3rd UK chart-topper.

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Your favourite ABBA tracks

Thanks to everyone who submitted their top ten ABBA tracks. It was bloody difficult, wasn't it? I realised this when I tried to compile my own, with the realisation that my top ten actually stretched to about 25 tracks. The seventeen people who took part in this incredibly small, unscientific, self-selecting survey managed to nominate a hefty 56 different tracks, including some which I had never heard of, so thank you for that too. Everything which scored even one point is included, so even if one person put a track at number 10, and no one else mentioned it, it's here at the bottom of the chart. Democracy in action. How Swedish...

#31 Eagle
The first track on ‘ABBA – The Album’, from 1977.

#32 I Am The City

#33 Chiquitita
Track 8 on ‘Voulez-Vous?’ and ABBA’s 13th UK hit single, reaching #2 in February 1979, where it sat patiently for a fortnight, behind Blondie’s Heart Of Glass holding tight at #1. I have never been able to take this song seriously since it was out, as Terry Wogan used to call it ‘Take Your Teeth Out’ and that disturbing image has stuck ever since.

#34= Gonna Sing You My Love Song
#34= Put On Your White Sombrero

#36= The King Has Lost His Crown
Track five on Voulez-Vous? from 1979, but never a UK single.
#36= The Piper
#36= Voulez-vous?

The second track on the - guess what? - Voulez-Vous? album from 1979.

#39 Does Your Mother Know?
Track six on the ‘Voulez-Vous?’ album and ABBA’s 14th hit single in the UK, making #4 in May 1979. A complete chance of pace and style after the last single, Chiquitita. Also covered brilliantly by Ash, many years later. I recommend tracking it down.

#40= I Wonder
#40= Kisses Of Fire

The final track on ‘Voulez-Vous?’, but never a UK single.
#40= Soldiers

#43= I Do, I Do, I Do
#43= Intermezzo No.1
#43= Just Like That
#43= Move On

Track five on 1977’s ‘ABBA – The Album’.

#47 Should I Laugh Or Cry?

#48= Andante, Andante
#48= Jump Down Pick A Bail Of Cotton
#48= When I Kissed The Teacher

The opening track on the ‘Arrival’ album and only figuring in this survey because of votes from a teacher, which is slightly disturbing. Moving swiftly on…

#51 Slipping Through My Fingers

#52= Bang-A-Boomerang
#52= Dance (While The Music Still Goes On)
#52= Disillusion

Track three on the ‘Ring, Ring’ album.
#52= The Way Old Friends Do
#52= What About Livingstone?

From the Waterloo album.

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Happy ABBA Day! Happy Birthday James Fox!

Yes, it’s 30 years ago today that ABBA won Eurovision in Brighton and 28 years ago today that this year’s UK entrant was born. Surely this is an omen? It’s also five years to the day that Mamma Mia opened in London’s West End. Three members of ABBA are due to meet up tonight for a celebration. Rumours in the papers that they would sing in public, but I really hope they don’t. I have celebrated today by buying the new version of ABBA Gold, which now comes as a CD with a DVD, almost complete with all the videos for less than a tenner. (Why no video for The Name Of The Game?) Thank goodness I held out all these years against buying it. Just to complete the Eurovision experience today, my tickets for the main event on 15th May arrived in today’s post from Istanbul – hurrah! Chig’s reviews of all 36 songs in this year’s Eurovision will appear here shortly, but in the meantime, here’s the ABBA countdown, part one. Part two tomorrow.

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