Part 5 (of 12): Work on the book begins

Published March 30, 2010

In early 1993, I finally set to work full-time on my ABBA book. As it happened, after completing my university studies, there was a recession in Sweden and getting a job was not so easy. I took this situation as an opportunity to really devote myself to my book project. I was prepared to live on next to nothing, as long as I was allowed to pursue my dream of writing this book. And that's exactly what happened. When I think of today's world of fairly affordable hi-tech computers, the Internet revolution and so on, I can't believe how primitive my working situation was. I had a computer, yes, but I believe it was severely out of date even when I bought it. For example, everything had to be saved on floppy-disks, and it had no Windows environment whatsoever.

The first few months of the project were spent just gathering information. I had a few friends here in Sweden who were ABBA fans and had saved old cuttings and television programmes which came in useful, but it was far from everything I needed. Therefore, I went to the archives of the evening paper Expressen, where everyone was allowed to read archive copies of all their back issues from the time they started until the present time for free (the archives have since closed down). I knew that this newspaper had been quite positive about ABBA at the time, writing a lot about them, so I figured this might be a good way to gain insight into the whens and wheres of ABBA's career. What few music magazines had been around in Sweden during ABBA's heyday, didn't have a consistent coverage of the group's activities.

Fascinating Facsimile no. 2: One page of notes from the archives of the newspaper Expressen.I began with the first issue of January 1969 and simply went through every paper, day by day, page by page, to find even the tiniest morsel of information. I didn't have a laptop or anything, and making photo copies in this archive was prohibitively expensive, so if I found something interesting I had to write it down by hand. As you may imagine, this was quite time-consuming. I actually never got farther than December 1977 with this diligent method, simply because I was running out of time. After that I would mainly look up various dates and periods where I thought I might find something interesting, up to the end of 1982. Looking through these newspapers in this way was also useful because I would discover ads for weeklies who might run an ABBA-related story, and then I could look up those magazines in the National Library of Sweden (our equivalent of the British Library or the Library of Congress).

I also watched television programmes and listened to radio programmes at the National Archive Of Recorded Sound And Moving Images here in Stockholm. Most importantly, I went back to the archives where I had found the session musician recording dates to find even more information. I also began approaching fans all over the world, getting help and information from people such as Steve Ballinger (who ran the fanzine International ABBA Express at the time), Noel King and Nicholas Fältskog (yes, that really is his name; he had it legally changed ).

All this information was entered into several different files on my computer, one of which was a massive chronology where I entered all dates that I could possibly find - everything from recording dates to trivial information about ABBA attending this or that event. I also had one file where I assembled all the facts I could find about each individual ABBA recording. Furthermore, I had separate files where I collected all the facts, quotations, etc. that I could find about different subjects, such as "songwriting", "recording methods", and "how and why ABBA dissolved". I had to learn not only about ABBA's recordings, but about the group's story in general.