Friday Jukebox: Our Last Summer

by Steve

Last week I looked at an old song and the experience of buying records twenty years ago. Pretty soon after I hit ‘publish’ I thought it might be fun to this week look at a new discovery. I expected it to be a new band, and to be through a new channel – a music blog, Spotify, something like that. I didn’t quite work out that way. 

Sunday night I found myself listening to Michael Ball’s show on Radio 2. Primarily, because I appear to have turned into a middle-aged housewife. I mean that as no bad thing. I enjoy a spot of dusting, love a bit of cooking, and I reckon I would have a surprisingly good night out with Mr Ball.

He played Our Last Summer by ABBA. While it sounded familiar, I’m not convinced I’d heard it before. It probably sounded so familiar because ABBA have such a distinctive sound and such a distinctive songwriting style. This, it appears, was my ‘new’ discovery.

It is funny how I’d expected something newer, from a newer medium, yet got quite the opposite. I suppose the fact it was an old song isn’t so surprising. We live in an eternal now, or perhaps an eternal past. The present music scene seems far less important, as we have such easy access to every generation’s music. And while in the past that music would have been considered the property of our parents, or odd people with a historical fetish, now everything is not only easy to listen to, but is fair game to enjoy. No more guilty pleasures, maybe.

And there is still a place for the grand old format of radio. Self-curation, or that of machines, only gets you so far. There is something comforting in listening to a human’s choices rather than an algorithm. Plus radio has actually kept pace with technological developments far better than the rest of the music industry. I was listening to the radio on Sunday, but I was listening to it through my digital TV service, for example.

There is something rather pleasing about hearing a ‘new’ (to me) ABBA song. A lot of their back catalogue has become vulnerable to kitsch through its familiarity and cultural Partridge-isation. Yet listen to an old album track like Our Last Summer and you can yet again appreciate the perfection of their songwriting – they know just the right chord progression or melodic phrase to hit you right in the gut, at just the right time.

As the title suggests, Our Last Summer is a nostalgic number, and even without paying any attention to the lyrics to you get that. Not through overwrought emoting, but through that weird alchemy of great songwriting which can make you feel things you can’t quite pin down – an emotion not that far from nostalgia itself.

I used to hate the end of summer and dread the autumn. It still had connotations of going back to school, of giving up the freedom of a long holiday. It doesn’t matter so much now. And while there is something inherently melancholy about the end of summer there is still a lot to look forward to – the cosiness of late September, October and November, those long December nights, Halloween, Christmas, the march towards Spring.

I’ve had the best summer ever. But rather than be sad about it coming to a close, I’m looking forward to what the next few months might bring.