Well, since I did a morning article link about ABBA sort of reuniting why not discuss one of their songs?
Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. That’s where the name ABBA comes from, their first names. The male members were the primary songwriters while the female members were the main singers. The group was huge in the 1970s and would later inspire the play and movie Momma Mia. In the same way Taylor Swift and other singers inspired Glee…just by singing a popular song. Seriously, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had more to do with the songs than that movie. And that had the BeeGees singing Beatles songs.
Probably their biggest hit is 1975’s “Fernando”…except it wasn’t really an ABBA song. It was actually created for Anni-Frid’s solo album, Frida Alone, but the rest of the band is on the song like usual, with Agnetha joining her in the singing and Bjorn and Benny having written it with the band’s manager, Stig Anderson. Personally it’s not my favorite song from the group. I’m partial to “SOS” myself but my tastes are weird. It is the only ABBA song I know of (granted I don’t know a lot of their discography) that has a story attached to it. But on this one the story in and behind the song isn’t as interesting as you’d think but it’s still interesting enough to cover.
It should be noted that the original version in Swedish is completely different, just focusing on some guy named Fernando who lost his lady love. When the song was brought over to the English speaking world they decided to instead focus on the Mexican Revolution, or at least part of it. The story features two veterans of the war discussing those days, one of them obviously being Fernando, while Anni-Frid, backed by Agnetha, portrays the other. So it sounds like only one of them is really reminiscing. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fernando is like “Yes, yes, I remember. I was there, Hernandez!” By the way, “Hernandez” was one of the considered titles for the Swedish version, after “Tango”, before finally settling on the title we know. So what was the Mexican Revolution?
Mexican Revolution, (1910–20), a long and bloody struggle among several factions in constantly shifting alliances which resulted ultimately in the end of the 30-year dictatorship in Mexico and the establishment of a constitutional republic. The revolution began against a background of widespread dissatisfaction with the elitist and oligarchical policies of Porfirio Díaz that favoured wealthy landowners and industrialists. When Díaz in 1908 said that he welcomed the democratization of Mexican political life and appeared ambivalent about running for his seventh reelection as president in 1910, Francisco Madero emerged as the leader of the Antireeleccionistas and announced his candidacy. Díaz had him arrested and declared himself the winner after a mock election in June, but Madero, released from prison, published his Plan de San Luis Potosí from San Antonio, Texas, calling for a revolt on November 20. The revolt was a failure, but it kindled revolutionary hope in many quarters. In the north, Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa mobilized their ragged armies and began raiding government garrisons. In the south, Emiliano Zapata waged a bloody campaign against the local caciques (rural political bosses). In the spring of 1911 the revolutionary forces took Ciudad Juárez, forced Díaz to resign, and declared Madero president.
I don’t know any of the specific battles (only crossing the Rio Grande is mentioned in the song) so I can only guess here, but based on the little research I did and the line “though we never thought that we could lose, there’s no regrets” Fernando and the narrator appear to have been part of the failed revolt. So maybe the fact that it led to the more successful revolution meant they weren’t sorry about taking part even if they ultimately lost their fight. In the end the Mexican people won out.
Now if you were expecting this song to be about the songwriters trying to showcase some big event and show the strength of the Mexican people…note that the Spanish version came later, after the song came out on a greatest hits album. The truth is they thought the song they made in Swedish was not that interesting (lost love songs are all over the place) and just found the story interesting, so they rewrote the lyrics for the English version. (Kind of like that “Numa Numa” song that was popular was actually about calling someone on the telephone but was turned into about painters or something.) I don’t think that takes away from the English version of “Fernando” and the story it tells, but it’s interesting history.