A bonafide disco stomper with plenty to keep bassists busy throughout, ‘Voulez Vous’ is the only ABBA song (apart from live releases) not recorded in Sweden, and as such doesn’t feature either of the band’s main bassists, Rutger Gunnarsson or Mike Watson. The backing track for ‘Voulez Vous’ was recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami (where the Bee Gees recorded many of their disco hits) and tracked by members of the Latin/disco band Foxy, featuring Arnold Paseiro on bass.
The title track of the band’s sixth album, released in 1979, ‘Voulez Vous’ didn’t have as much of an impact on the charts as the singles that preceded and followed it – although it went to number one in Belgium it only made the top ten in a handful of countries, which was something of a letdown for Sweden’s most successful musical export.
Back to the bass. The unison intro can prove troublesome, as the articulation alternates between rapid legato semiquavers and staccato quavers. Thankfully the line sits nicely in one position, with many of the hammer-ons falling neatly into the familiar ‘minor pentatonic box’ pattern.
During the verse, Arnold Paseiro takes his influence from other bass classics such as Chic’s ‘Good Times’ and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’, producing a groove propelled by clipped crotchets and punctuated with octave embellishments. The prechorus features the classic disco pony octave pattern (have a go at Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ or Jamiroquai’s ‘Don’t Give Hate A Chance’ for extended disco pony workouts).
The chorus groove is sparse by comparison, taking its rhythmic cues from the vocal – I can hear a definite nod to the late, great Bernard Edwards here.
Apparently the instrumental breakdown was Arnold’s idea, and he makes the most of the opportunity to bring his bass to the forefront of the track. Watch out for the high register fill that appears 3 bars before the final chorus.
As a complete aside, I always hear Faith No More’s ‘Mouth To Mouth’ when I hear the melody to ‘Voulez Vous’; I think that speaks volumes about my musical upbringing…