Bright Lights Dark Shadows - the details

Published April 01, 2010


At the time of its original publication, this ABBA biography was my fourth book in eight years about the group. So how did this volume differ from my previous efforts?

I believe Bright Lights Dark Shadows may have been the first true, full-scale biography ever written about ABBA. Certainly, it was my first attempt to achieve anything along those lines. My first book, ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, was a chronological account of the group's songwriting and recording work. Människorna och musiken (The People And The Music) was basically a Swedish, reworked version of The Complete Recording Sessions. From ABBA To Mamma Mia!, finally, was a collection of Anders Hanser's photographs with my commentary text.

Although Bright Lights Dark Shadows touches on many of the subjects covered in those books, this volume seems to be the first time that anyone has attempted capturing all facets of the ABBA story: the biographical details of the main characters - from childhood to the present day - their careers in music, their interpersonal relationships and the business aspects. It was also my aim to put the story into cultural and historical context.

I had toyed with the idea of writing a major ABBA biography for several years when I got in touch with Chris Charlesworth, the editor at Omnibus Press. Chris had been trying to get such a project off the ground for a couple of years, and after a meeting in early 2000, he offered me the chance to write the book we both wanted.


Bright Lights Dark Shadows begins with the early days of all four ABBA members, as well as their all-important manager, Stig Anderson. Then follows an account of the members' pre-ABBA careers and Stig's rise to national fame and notoriety. This first section is called "The Days Before", and I was astounded at discovering and uncovering all the drama that occurred long before anyone outside Sweden knew who ABBA were. I also feel that this section will give the reader important background information necessary to understand ABBA's cultural roots. For instance, it goes some way towards explaining many of their actions and decisions during their years at the top, such as their reluctance to tour.

The book then continues with a somewhat shorter section, entitled "The March To Waterloo". This covers the period 1970-1974, ie the years when the four members enjoyed an on-off collaboration that gradually led to the formation of a permanent group.

Then comes the main section of the book, "The Time Is Right", which details ABBA's years of worldwide fame from 1974 to 1982. This is where you will find the ups and downs of their career, the bumpy road that made up the two couples' married life, the stories behind some of ABBA's most famous songs - including some analysis of their musical development - as well as the dramatic rise and fall of their business interests. And much more! Again, I found the ABBA story to be much more riveting than even I as an author had expected.

The final section, "That's Our Destiny", aims to describe what happened to the four members and Stig Anderson after ABBA split up, including the rift between the group and their manager. It also describes the ABBA revival, bringing the story up to the present with the success of the Mamma Mia! musical.

The book took me a little over a year to write, but naturally one also has to take into account all the ABBA research that I've had ongoing since the early 1990s. I was working seven days a week between early April 2000 and late April 2001 - doing research, reading through innumerable newspaper and magazine articles, conducting new interviews, all the time writing and writing and writing - before finally submitting the manuscript. After further editing and additions I ended up with close to 240,000 words, which in this case translates as a 554 page book.


The first edition of the book was published in the English-speaking countries in 2001, followed by a paperback edition a year later. In 2008, an updated version of the paperback, featuring an additional chapter covering the events up to that year, was published.

A German translation of the book, entitled Licht und Schatten, was published in early 2003. A Russian version was published in October of that year. August 2011 saw the publication of an audio book version. Click the links under More info to read about these different editions.

January 2014 sees the publication of a completely revised and updated edition of the book. Read more about it here.


Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA. Originally published September 2001. Most recent updated paperback version published by Omnibus Press in 2008: June 9 (UK), August (Australia), and September 1 (US). 568 pp. ISBN: 1847724191.