When I woke this morning, there was an ABBA song in my head. I didn’t mean to put it there but it won’t leave.
If music was a virus, I’d be listed among the vulnerable who have to shelter or risk being overwhelmed. My audioimmune system is weak. I’m not someone who can write and play music in the background. I either write or I play music. In a battle between the two, music will always win.
I’m vulnerable to words too, especially poetry. When I was at school I struggled to understand why my teachers were impressed that I could memorise poems or scenes from Shakespeare. I wondered how they could hear them and keep them out. Once Prufrock’s declaration, I should have been a pair of ragged claws /Scuttling across the floors of silent seas or Richard II’s speech For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings were in my head they were in there forever (or at least until the termites of dementia take them from me).
But I’ve taught myself to raise shields against words. To keep them at a distance until they’ve been analysed and assessed by my trying-to-be rational mind.
Music is different. Music cheats. It leaps over my rational defences, plants its booted invaders’ feet in my emotions and demands complete capitulation. That’s why there was an ABBA song in my head this morning.
I should explain that I wasn’t an ABBA fan. I was seventeen when they won the Eurovision song contest in 1974 with Waterloo and I took myself way too seriously to listen to pop music. My vinyl was all about Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd, and Yes. I was young. I didn’t know any better. I consigned ABBA songs to the ‘too trivial to be worth my notice‘ category that, in my teens and early twenties, covered a lot of ground. Yet, when I was thirty-five and ABBA Gold was released, I found I knew the music and lyrics of all nineteen songs. It wasn’t knowledge I set out to acquire. I didn’t learn the music and lyrics, I was colonised by them. ABBA is one of those bands whose music pushes through my audioimmune system like it wasn’t there.
The song playing this morning wasn’t on ABBA Gold. It’s one of the two new songs that they’ve recorded for their hologram show. It’s targeted at old people like me, with a life to look back on and regret or savour or both, but most of the downloads have been by eighteen-to-twenty-five-year-olds. which may not mean anything as they probably always download more than the sixty-plus folks.
When I first heard the two songs, the one I thought would be my favourite was Don’t Shut Me Down:
It appealed to me because it has good storytelling and memorable lyrics. How can I not be envious when someone speaking English as a second language comes up with these words when preparing to meet with a lover that they left a long time ago:
I have learned to cope And love and hope.
I could feel that phrase turning around three times in my imagination and then settling down to stay.
I love the sentiment and the lyrics and the music is easy on the ear.
But that’s not the song that was playing in my head this morning. It was, I Still Have Faith In You (which I immediately misfiled as ‘Do I Have It In Me’
The thing is, I know the lyrics in this song aren’t as good. There’s no real storytelling. It’s all sentiment and hope and things that make you smile while you tear up against your will. It’s the one that was in my head because it’s the better song. It’s the one where even if I didn’t speak the language, I’d feel the emotion. It’s the one that touches all the places in me that I usually protect and then makes me want it to do it again.
Part of me is horrified that music can do this to me. Most of me recognises that music is one of the best things we humans create. Being vulnerable to that is what reminds me that I’m part of that humanity and I’m grateful for it.
Just don’t tell anyone I listen to ABBA.