Dum Dum Diddle – it’s not that bad

Dum Dum Diddle on ABBA-dabba-doo!! (photo: abbaontv.com)One of the most criticised songs in ABBA’s catalogue is ‘Dum Dum Diddle’, from the 1976 Arrival album. Common criticisms focus on the lyrics, the instrumental backing and especially the title, which seems to tarnish the whole song.

The criticism seems to have started around 1994, when Björn discussed the song in Carl Magnus Palm’s book ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions. Björn described writing the lyrics almost at the last minute before a scheduled recording session, saying “it might as well have been Dumb Dumb Diddle!”.

ABBA obviously didn’t think the song was so bad at the time. Though it was not an international single release, it was a featured track on the Arrival album. ABBA performed it live on the 1976 television special ABBA-dabba-doo!! and also on the European and Australian concert tour in January-March 1977.

But is there anything really wrong with the lyrics? Songs equating love with a musical instrument are nothing new. ABBA would revisit similar territory in 1980 with ‘Andante, Andante’ on Super Trouper.

“Nonsense” words in a song are as old as popular music, stretching back to ‘Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da’,  ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, ‘Tutti Frutti’ (“a-wop-bop-a-lu-bop a-lop-bam-boom”) and ‘Aba Daba Honeymoon’ (“Aba-daba-daba-daba-daba-daba-dab”). ABBA were no strangers to nonsense lyrics either; 1975’s ‘Bang-A-Boomerang’ featuring the couplet “dummi-dum-dummi, dummi, dum-dum/love is a tune you hummy-hum-hum”.

Conversely a stripped down version performed at the B&B tribute concerts in the late 90s by Helen Sjöholm, accompanied by solo violin played by Kalle Moraeus, has been highly praised for the way the arrangement suited the lyrics.

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6 Responses to “Dum Dum Diddle – it’s not that bad”

  1. Angela Says:

    I thought Dum Dum Diddle was a fun sort of song I can’t see anything wrong with it.

  2. John bernhardt Says:

    The lyrics do actually suit the song, the melody is great, the hooks in the song are good,etc. I think the problem is that the lyric calls attention to itself-it seems like a silly, meaningless lyric. In America in 1977 this kind of song would be not be looked at kindly by critics-it seemed like too much of a bubble gummy approach to songwriting. And I think bjorn began to realize this and most of his later lyrics are more meaningful in content.

  3. Carissa Higham Says:

    I love Dum Dum Diddle I think its a fantastic song.

  4. Mohammed Says:

    I think Bjorn ,maybe, was thinking about the album as a whole ,and compared to the rest of the songs ,it seems a “weaker” song ,but if the band thought that it was bad at the time ,they would have put it as a B.side ,it’s a piece of celtic anthology simply mixed with italian sensualism (it makes me think of an italian seventies film comparing the violin and a female body) i put it on my blog of abba reviews .
    the melody is superb like 99% of Abba’s melodies .
    crazy word is a bad song and deserves a B.side place but this one is almost a masterpiece compared to all the pop songs in the world !

  5. Dean Scapolo Says:

    The Lyrics for Dum Dum Diddle have a lot in common with the lyrics of the international hit: Knock Three Times.
    With “Knock Three Times” the story revolves around a man who lives in an apartment above a woman whom he secretly admires but she doesn’t know he exists.
    “One Floor Below Me, You Don’t Even Know Me, I Love You”
    Whereas in “Dum Dum Diddle” the story revolves around a woman who (probably) lives in an apartment block probably next door/ directly above or below a man who plays the fiddle/violin (Dum Dum Violin just doesn’t make sense). She is enamoured with him, and is impressed with his playing, but he doesn’t know she exists.
    “But I Think You Don’t Know That I Exist, I’m The Quiet Kind Whoa-Whoa”
    The music has a very strong melody, with the fiddle/violin music playing through it to strengthen the image the lyrics are trying to portray. It was even suggested it was a strong enough song to be a single!

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