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ABBAYeah, I know we’ve done ABBA once already this year, but in celebration of “Mamma Mia” stinking up theater screens nationwide, I figure we should probably take a look at one of the earliest glimmers that ABBA were more than just your standard bubblegum pop group.

While early singles “Waterloo” and “Honey, Honey” were decidedly lightweight, the Swedish foursome showed a more mature side with “Mamma Mia’s” b-side,  “Hey Hey Helen” (download), a track taken from their second, eponymously titled album.  A guitar-driven glam track from when the group was experimenting with glitter rock (see “Ring, Ring”), “Helen” took an adult look at divorce and single motherhood in a time when the divorce rate was up and the traditional family unit was taking a beating.  At first, the lyrics seem a bit judgmental, until you get to that last bit in the chorus where the girls assure the newly single mother that she can, in fact, make it alone:

So at last you’re free
It’s the way you wanted it to be
And the price you paid
To become a woman of today
Is it worth the pain to see the children cry
Does it hurt when they ask for Daddy

Hey hey Helen
Now you live on your own
Hey hey Helen
Can you make it alone
(Yes you can)

I’m surprised that considering the theme of the song, it wasn’t used in the “Mamma Mia” musical or movie.  Perhaps it wasn’t considered a popular enough tune to make the cut, even though the group mimed it for quite a few TV appearances at the time.  Here’s the quartet lipsynching the song on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” in 1975:

“Hey, Hey Helen” has languished in pop history as a b-side/album track, overlooked on the many ABBA compilations that have come down the line, yet it remains a fan favorite.  Dream-pop alternative band Lush even covered it in 1990. (download)

So, what’s your favorite ABBA b-side/album track?

“Hey, Hey Helen” was not released as a single.

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