Bono finally admits to loving Abba. It is a sure sign of maturity | Barbara Ellen
Jhere must be a rock ‘n’ roll circle of hell full of people forever entangled in the concepts of ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’. Now comes U2 frontman Bono speaking on BBC Radio 2 piano roomsaying that, as a 16-year-old punk rocker, the pressure to look “macho” meant, “I [didn’t] want to own up to [liking] Abba.
Bono eventually got over it: in 1992, U2 brought Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson on stage to perform Dancing Queen. Still, it’s interesting, where do all these self-imposed cultural vetoes, tense musical embargoes, come from? What about the mid- to late-life urge to let it all hang out and confess alleged past sins against musical taste? Is it still a thing?
I’m not convinced that Abba ever really adapted the “uncool” model. Many people, including musicians, have admitted to loving them over the years. The only reason Abba hasn’t been “tribute-ed”, “re-imagined” or, frankly speaking, further ripped off is… Abba. Famously strict about sampling their material (they have once threatened to sue KLF), only two artists (the Fugees and Madonna) have received official permission to use cuts.
Elsewhere, it gets more complicated. Time was, people had at least two collections of music: the one that was smugly displayed to peers (“I only listen to industrial techno, progressive bluegrass, and New Orleans jazz”). Then there was the other – the honest one – who was dragged and stuck at 3am when you came home from a night out for a messy earbud-assisted session. “Turn your eyes bright!” You didn’t mind if you did it, as a consenting adult, in the privacy of your own home.
However, this notion of cultural “guilty pleasures” has been on the decline for some time. If anything, people seem proud of their marginal/zero tastes now. Sometimes too proud. When it comes to collaborations, artists have been naffing, if you will, for ages. (Think Nick Cave with Kylie – though, was La Minogue ever really cool?) Despite all the criticism against Spotify, maybe its track-by-track modus operandi helped that: mixing musical tastes , make everything more free. The point being, more and more these days, our cultural flaws are becoming us. Gone is the “good” taste. Personal taste is king.
So why is Bono still talking about his early love for Abba in a muffled confessional tone? The reason could be timestamped. While the punk/post-punk era could be varied (dipping into rock ‘n’ roll, reggae, northern soul and more), it could also be viciously, frighteningly tribal and narrow. After all, part of the central ethos – not to mention the fun – was dismissively denouncing everything that had come before.
Stepping into this vortex of judgment, young Bono Vox, an old nickname, felt he couldn’t reveal his secret passion for Chiquitita. So not so “macho”, just a real punk of his time. As for the urge that still drives some to confess musical secrets, let’s attribute it to the rebellion of older teenagers: a demand to be seen as the proud all-rounder that you really are (even if no one cares what someone one listens more). A case where we all have terrible and dark secrets. Play me yours.