Checkmate | 18 februari 2004
When I first heard Chess in 1984, I didn't like it much. I was 22 years old, loved ABBA's pop songs and did not appreciate the new way that Björn and Benny were going.
I didn't like the album, because it was a bit too much in the musical genre. There were not enough pop tracks. I wrote a small review back then. I remember that I said that if you would skip the "classical" bits like The story of Chess or Endgame, it would give you a perfect pop album. Going even further I said that it could have been the ultimate ABBA album if sung by Agnetha and Frida. It could even have big hits like The arbiter, One night in Bangkok, and in particular I know him so well.
I firmly believed this theory and in the beginning I used to play only the pop tracks.
The funny thing is that today I think the exact opposite. I LOVE the original Chess album and I LOVE the theatrical pieces.
Maybe over the years my musical taste has changed significantly. This is possible, because I like musicals and classical music more than I did twenty years ago.
Maybe the songs that I loathed back then, simply had to grow more. No instant hits, but great music that you do not always understand or appreciate the first time you hear it. Also possible of course.
Maybe I was too disappointed that ABBA was put on hold. And I realized that Chess didn't help much in bringing ABBA back together. Also possible and a reasonably valid explanation.
But could it also be that the pop tunes of Chess simply aged too fast? When you listen to these songs in 2004, you can come to no other conclusion than that it's too 1984-ish. The arrangements and production of The arbiter or One night in Bangkok are not timeless. In fact a lot more ABBA songs take the test of time better than the Chess hits. And the ABBA work seems less dated than the pop tunes on the Chess album.
How could that have been possible? My guess is that in 1984 Björn and Benny had already lost contact with the pop business. And though they tried later with Gemini and Josefin Nillson, their battle against pop-time was already lost in 1983 or 1984.
Today sometimes I skip the pop songs when listening to Chess. And then what remains on the album is the TRUE masterpiece. Björn and Benny proved they had outgrown ABBA: Checkmate!