Paranoia has been the underpinning of many pop songs, though curiously not Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” an almost-coherent Ozzy lament about being misunderstood. Del Shannon was as good as anyone at this sort of thing: “Stranger in Town” (1965) is his masterpiece of mindfark.
This subgenre, if subgenre it be, reached some sort of azimuth in the early Eighties, following the breakup of ABBA:
Going through her divorce from [Benny] Andersson, Frida had heard Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” and then “listened to the album (Face Value) non-stop for eight months.” As Collins himself put it in a TV interview: “Frida and I had something in common as far as our divorces were concerned. We were both the injured party.”
Which led to this epic:
Collins produced, played drums, and sang some background vocals, but you can hear the quaver in every bar of Frida’s anguished, overprocessed vocals. (The LP track, which stretches out the fade for an extra minute and a half, still provides you no time to decompress.) How Russ Ballard (ex-Argent) came to write something like this, I’ll never know; I do know that Agnetha Fältskog, the other A in ABBA — Frida’s full given name was Anni-Frid — tapped Ballard for “Can’t Shake Loose” a year later, and it’s similarly drenched in suspicion.
And if you flipped the single of “I Know There’s Something Going On,” you found this:
Dorothy Parker, who died in 1967, would never have gotten to hear it, but I’m inclined to think she’d have liked it — after asking what the fresh hell Frida and composer Per Gessle were thinking.