The best No 1 singles: Abba – Dancing Queen | Peter Paphides

1976: Even 36 years later, the potency of Dancing Queen remains undiminished

After Abba's Benny and Björn finished the instrumental track of Dancing Queen, Björn arrived home to find his wife Agnetha asleep. Excited by the song – initially an attempt to combine elements of George McRae's Rock Your Baby and Dr John's 1972 album Gumbo – he drove all over Stockholm looking for someone to whom he could play it. "Finally, I ended up at my sister's house [and we] played it over and over again."

When Abba's other singer, Frida, first heard the song, she burst into tears. In the ensuing 36 years, the potency of Dancing Queen has remained undiminished. At its heart is the bittersweet paradox that distinguishes the best music of the disco era. "You can dance, you can jive/Having the time of your life," sing the girls. They're describing a moment of pure happiness, never unaware that a moment is all it is. More than 20 years later, the Sex Pistols' reunion show in Finsbury Park began to the strains of Dancing Queen – the idea being to remind us how terrible music had become when the Sex Pistols came along. It backfired, though. On recognising that opening piano flourish, everyone started dancing.

See every No 1 hit from 1976

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Peter Paphides

The GuardianTramp

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