Written by Olivia Budde
Ask anyone what music they associate with Edinburgh and I can almost guarantee the answers you receive will revolve around Sunshine on Leith, the Proclaimers or most likely the bagpipes! I, however, associate Edinburgh with a European import- ABBA. This probably seems very unusual to most people, but if you bear with me, I promise there is a rational explanation.
When I was growing up, the Easter holidays from school meant one thing to me, and that was my annual mother-daughter trip to Edinburgh. The two of us made it a ritual that we stuck to religiously. I would spend hours being dragged reluctantly around shops on George Street, and in return, she would let me go to Camera Obscura every single year without complaint. Even when I was young, I remember thinking how much I loved Edinburgh. As a child, all the cobbled streets and the view of the castle from Princes Street were truly the stuff of magic. Despite all these highlights, the thing I remember most about these trips was the car drive from Stranraer to Edinburgh, as coming from Belfast originally meant we usually got the ferry across the water and then drove. The soundtrack to this journey was, without fail, ABBA Gold on repeat.
Born out of my love for Abba was an ambition to be able to recreate their music of my own volition. This sparked my musical passions, and when I finally reached the ripe old age of 11 and was allowed to start music lessons at school, I knew exactly what I wanted from my piano lessons. I was not aware that lessons would begin with the basics, such as chords and simple tunes. How disappointed I was when I discovered I wouldn’t be stunning my family with flamboyant renditions of any ABBA song on request. Needless to say, I think they were pretty pleased that family gatherings wouldn’t be featuring any ABBA karaoke!
My poor music tutor was faced with my pleads weekly in every lesson to progress from the scales, chords and arpeggios to more exciting songs. Unfortunately, my musical ability did not quite match my enthusiasm, but my music teacher did take pity on me and awarded my valiant efforts and unending persistence with an ‘ABBA For Beginners’ songbook one Christmas. This songbook actually did my piano-playing the world of good, as soon piano rehearsal was the top of my list. I played the songs in that book over and over again, until I had mastered them. I use ‘mastered’ in the loosest sense of the word of course- I probably wasn’t the musical genius that I like to think I was!
During this period of my life was when I made the unfortunate discovery that the famous lyrics to ‘Super Trouper’ were in fact ‘When you called me last night from Glasgow’, not ‘Tesco’, as I had been confidently singing for years on end. I do recall thinking it was slightly odd that the singers of ABBA were so familiar with this particular supermarket giant, but who was I to question their musical genius?
It may be unconventional, but I will always associate the city of Edinburgh with ABBA. From driving there as a young child, the passion for ABBA’s music in particular definitely stuck with me. While many are quick to dismiss the Euro-pop tones of such an iconic group, I will forever be grateful to Edinburgh and ABBA for teaching me to be thankful for the music.