Apr 252015
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Björn Ulvaeus may not be a household name, but the same cannot be said of ABBA, the band he cofounded with his songwriting partner Benny Andersson. This is a band whose greatest-hits album Gold went to number one in England on five different occasions over a span of sixteen years. A band who numbered Bono, Kurt Cobain, and Vladimir Putin among their biggest fans. A band whose breaking-up songs rivaled Rumours for intraband romantic schadenfreude.

Ulvaes built on this legacy after ABBA dissolved. He cowrote the music for the stage show Chess, the origin of “One Night in Bangkok.” The ABBA-based stage show Mamma Mia! has grossed over two billion worldwide; the movie, over $600 million. Speaking of money money money, today he is a key figure in turning Sweden into a cash-free society. He had an umlaut in his name thirty years before Motörhead did. Not even his distressing resemblance to Kato Kaelin could put an end to his coolness.
Continue reading »

May 232014
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

 
Tim Buckley first debuted “Song to the Siren” on the final episode of The Monkees, and as a folk song, it was lovely and approachable. Then he refused to record it for three years – the line “I’m as puzzled as the oyster” had drawn mocking, and Buckley felt the song too flawed to release, which meant Pat Boone, of all people, was the first to issue it on vinyl. When Buckley finally followed suit, on 1970’s Starsailor, he revealed a changed song (and not just the switch from “oyster” to “newborn child”). If the original take was a quiet den, here was a cavernous ballroom with crumbling pillars, as Buckley’s exotic, five-octave voice stretched through otherworldly echoes, with nothing to hold it up and nothing to hold it back.
Continue reading »