415. ‘The Name of the Game’, by ABBA

And so we come to what I’m right now christening ‘The Forgotten ABBA #1’. Ask your average Joe on the street to name all of the group’s nine chart-toppers: ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Waterloo’ would all trip off the tongue. But ‘The Name of the Game’? Rather than ‘Voulez Vous’, ‘SOS’ or ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’? Doubt it.

The Name of the Game, by ABBA (their 6th of nine #1s)

4 weeks, from 30th October – 27th November 1977

Still, it got a full month at the top. This was no flash in the pan. ABBA were at the peak of their powers, and this was the lead single off a new album. It slinks in, with a funky bassline and a hint of soul. It doesn’t scream “ABBA!” right away. I’ve seen you twice, In a short time, Only a week since we started…

Agnetha and Frida play the part of two late-bloomers who have finally fallen in love. But they’re not sure… Tell me please, ‘Cause I have to know, I’m a bashful child, Beginning to grow… Does she mean as much to him? Compare and contrast this with Baccara’s brazen come-ons. There was nothing bashful about that pair! So I wanna know, What’s the name of the game…?

Musically, this is complex stuff. We move from that funky opening riff – apparently inspired by Stevie Wonder – to hard rock guitar licks and French horns. Since ‘Dancing Queen’ basically perfected the pop song, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, and now this disc, have been much more experimental. Still, at its heart there lies a classic ABBA chorus. Benny and Bjorn knew that that much was non-negotiable…

Having grown up listening to ‘ABBA Gold’, I was shocked – shocked! – to discover a whole new verse here, plus a lot more guitar. Apparently a minute was trimmed off for US radio, and that version made it onto the compilation. If I remember correctly, ‘The Name of the Game’ came towards the end of Gold, and it never stood out to me as one of their great singles. But I was only thirteen. What do thirteen-year olds know?

Listening to it now, though, I’m appreciating it a lot more. This is Grade-A pop music. Not my favourite ABBA song – they’re still to come, though sadly not all of them will appear at #1 – but a solid eight point five out of ten. Not bad at all, for their ‘forgotten’ number one!

10 thoughts on “415. ‘The Name of the Game’, by ABBA

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    It’s a good ABBA song…not my favorite either but solid for them. They knew how to write a catchy pop song.

  2. subtle and sophisticated, by this stage, and that rhythm was so good the Fugees nicked it wholesale for their Rumble In The Jungle smash in the 90’s. For me it was the taster for the next album (and movie) to whet my appetite while I was getting big on anticipation for this new movie called Star Wars that was storming the USA. In those days we had to wait months and months for new movies to get over the Atlantic. All that said, it was prob my loved-but-least-loved Abba single since Money Money Money, but it’s still fab…

    1. It’s a good one, yes. Problem is with ABBA at this point, the good ones come thick and fast, and you end up thinking well, it’s not quite Dancing Queen… If it were by any other act I’d sit up and take more notice. Same thing happened with The Beatles around 1965

  3. One of my favorites. It still gives me chills after all these years. Sadly, it only got to #12, here. Came from a really good album. It’s lead track is my favorite ABBA song…Eagle. Take A Chance On Me will be the next #1 for ABBA.

    Have you ever read about Frida’s background?

      1. Yep. He was Wehrmacht…Alfred Haase.

        She’s had a hard time. Her mother died when she was two. Raised by her maternal grandmother, she was taken to Sweden (because her mom “cavorted with Nazis”).

        Her only daughter died in a car crash in 1998:
        https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/28651599/ann-lise-lotte-casper

        Her third hubby passed away the next year. She is now a Princess, a Dowager Countess of Plauen, living in Switzerland with a British Viscount.

        She’s had quite the life.

  4. Pingback: 419. ‘Take a Chance on Me’, ABBA – The UK Number Ones Blog

  5. Pingback: Recap: #391 – #420 – The UK Number Ones Blog

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