The Classic 1970s Rock Song That’s Supposed to Sound Like ABBA

ABBA are far from being a classic rock band — or are they? Their influence was so pervasive they inspired a still-popular 1970s hit. Oddly enough, this rock song was initially intended as a joke.

The members of ABBA crouching down
ABBA | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Why Cheap Trick wrote a joke song

Cheap Trick might not have given the world as many classic songs as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones but they have their fair share of good songs. Like many 1970s rock acts, the prevalence of disco impacted their sound. Whereas disco’s popularity inspired Wings and Kiss to make disco songs, Cheap Trick decided to respond to disco music with a joke song — “I Want You to Want Me.”

“My recollection is that he just did that song as a bit of a joke,” Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson told Loudersound, “because at the time when we had done that song there was a lot of pop music on the radio – ABBA, and all sorts of things, disco. He thought: ‘I’m just going to do an over-the-top pop song. I just want to do one that’s so silly – total pop – and then we’ll do a heavy version of it’. He didn’t know what was going to happen with it. The idea was to have it like a heavy metal pop song. Cheap Trick doing ABBA – except a very heavy version.”

“Dancing Queen”

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Is ‘I Want You to Want Me’ truly like an ABBA song?

The idea that “I Want You to Want Me” is a heavy metal version of an ABBA song might seem odd. It might not be “heavy” enough to truly qualify as heavy metal. In addition, its production doesn’t sound like ABBA’s music. However, there are some elements of heavy metal in the song’s instrumentation. In addition, there are definitely similarities between “I Want You to Want Me” and many ABBA songs due to their simple and direct lyrics.

How ‘I Want You to Want Me’ became a hit

Cheap Trick started performing the song during their shows. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the reception to the track was lukewarm. After a while, the band had no intention of performing the song nighty. Then, shortly before getting on stage in Tokyo, the band’s manager said they needed to include another song in their set so it wouldn’t be too short. They decided to play “I Want You to Want Me.”

“I Want You to Want Me”

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Cheap Trick included this performance of “I Want You to Want Me” on their live album Cheap Trick in Budokan. This album sold surprisingly well in the United States even though Americans could only purchase it as an import. Because of this, Epic Records released Cheap Trick in Budokan in the United States. The live version of “I Want You to Want Me” became a hit in the country, reaching No. 7 on the American charts. To this day it remains one of Cheap Trick’s signature tunes — even though it was inspired by a much different group.