Napoleon and ABBA’s Waterloo

In one of those odd confluences of history, today marks the day in 1793 when the Committee of Public Safety – a modern ring, that – was formed during the French Revolution, under Robespierre. The Committee was responsible for sending untold thousands to the guillotine, for being ‘anti-revolution’, or even for having insufficient revolutionary sympathies. All it took was one snitch for you to be carted off, and your head dispatched. Robespierre himself would meet his end with his own killing machine the next year. I don’t think Scotland has guillotines for their own censorship laws, but one never knows what they’ll come up with.

Whatever one says of Napoleon, he did put a definitive end to the Revolution, or at least its excesses, and his reign set up what we now know as modern France. He had his time, and it was on this day in 1814 that he abdicated, before being exiled to the Island of Elba. He would return, and have his Hundred Days, before his definitive defeat at Waterloo on June 18th of 1815.

And a century and a half later, on this April 6th of 1974, four young Swedes – two men and two women – won the Eurovision contest with what would become the first of their many hit songs, this one named after that decisive battle in the Netherlands, in what is now Belgium. As one commentator put it:

This is a live performance under ultimate pressure when they still had everything to prove, but it’s as good as any studio recording and perfectly in tune and balanced and precisely delivered. Utter class.

Well, that happens all the time in classical performances. Whatever one thinks of ABBA, they had catchy tunes, and this was Sweden’s first win at Eurovision.

ABBA – named after the first letter of each of their first names – became one of the most popular of pop bands in history, but finally met their own Waterloo in 1982, disbanding, after much strife. No wonder, as they married each other – A to B, and B to A, if memory serves – and the pressure, one supposes, was just too much. They left us a whole raft of songs that have stood the test of time, and my old Scottish grandfather, back in the day, was a fan – or at least, I recall so from my childhood.

Sic transit gloria mundi – and we hope that all that is good is brought to perfection at the end.