Wednesday, 25 March 2009


While listening to Simon Mayo the other day, there was a nice moment when he became a bit concerned that the person who had called in was going to be rude about the bankers. The person on the phone says, "No, I'll just call them a 'wunch'." Mayo did not know what he meant and cautiously asked him to repeat it. "Wunch," the caller replied. "A wunch of bankers". A google search confirms that the word has been around for a while, and even finds its way into the Urban Dictionary.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Why not open up the iPlayer for International Users on Red Nose Day?

Tomorrow, Friday March 13, is Red Nose Day in the UK. Here's a thought. For British expats, the inaccessibility of the BBC TV iPlayer is something of a bĂȘte noire (I have talked about it here), so much so that many have found what are known as "other means" of accessing it. The BBC could use this occasion to earn a little extra money for Comic Relief. And so, why not, just for tomorrow, relax the restrictions on internationals accessing the iPlayer? The BBC could use it as a chance to find out what the demand would be like while at the same time benefiting charity. It could be a first step towards the kind of subscription-based service for the iPlayer for internationals.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Favourite Abba Song

A couple of weeks ago, Scot McKnight was asking for our favourite song by Johnny Cash. Now he is asking for our favourite Abba song. Scot's is Dancing Queen, and he embeds a nice Youtube of Abba miming it in Australia in 1976. I think this is obviously the correct answer. I am not going to try to be cute and disagree. It's not just Abba's best song; it is one of the best pop songs of all time. Full stop. My favourite moment in the recent Mamma Mia film (my comments) was the blink-and-you-will-miss-it cameo from Benny during Dancing Queen.

Nevertheless, as an Abba obsessive, I am not one to let an opportunity like this pass by without a bit of extra comment. So here goes. If Dancing Queen has a serious rival, it is Take a Chance on Me. This is another perfect pop song, this time enhanced by a perfect video. By this stage in their careers (early 1978), their videos were not simply a matter of miming on stage with microphones, and this video is one of the great pop videos, so good that it feels almost indistinguishable from the record. When you hear the song, you think of the video. It does not feel like an afterthought. Cheery, quirky, feel good, funny; it is a bad mood buster:

If you had asked me back in my fanboy days, though, I would have given a different answer. In fact, I did give a different answer when interviewed about Abba on BBC Radio Derby as a teenager. "The Winner Takes it All" is the true Abba fan's answer to the question. Those who claim that it marks the real maturing of Abba from happy pop combo to performers of intense, emotional pop are not familiar with earlier material like "Knowing Me Knowing You", but it is clearly one of Agnetha's best vocal performances. After the unbelievably dire Meryl Streep rendition in Mamma Mia, it's necessary to remind ourselves how great the original was.

If I were to compile a top ten, I'd want to throw in other classics like "Fernando", "Name of the Game" and "Gimme Gimme Gimme" but also a very much underrated entry, Abba's last but one single, released in 1982, "The Day before You Came":

It gives you an idea of how great they would have continued to be if the public had not fallen out of love with them.