Recordings FAQ

Published April 11, 2010

Thank You For The Music
and unreleased tracks

This is a FAQ related to my involvement in putting together the ABBA box set Thank You For The Music, plus questions regarding unreleased ABBA recordings.

A detailed essay about the making of the box set is also available on the Thank You For The Music page.

Most of the questions and answers in the FAQ appeared in earlier forms in interviews made with me by various ABBA fanzines over the years:

Agnetha Benny Björn Frida Fan Club magazine, ABBA Scene (since defunct), International ABBA Express (since defunct), and the Agnetha, Benny, Björn, Frida Fan Club News Service newsletter (since defunct). The Opus 10 section was originally posted on the ABBA mailing lists ABBA-List and ABBAMAIL. A few questions have been taken from a live interview conducted by Graeme Read at the 1999 ABBA Day in Roosendaal, The Netherlands


When did The Complete Recording Sessions suddenly become the ABBA box set? What was your involvement, when did the crossover kind of occur? 

Back in 1992, when PolyGram first announced that they were going to do something with their new acquisition, the ABBA catalogue, they originally said they were going to do a box set, but we got ABBA Gold instead. Then, they started preparing for the box set parallel with my research for the book, so each project sort of happened independently, at the same time. It was in the spring of 1993 that I started interviewing Björn and Benny, and then later that year, the record company called me: "We want to do this box set and we hear you're doing all this research." So I had my first meeting with the record company in late 1993 or early 1994.

So the record company was relying on you to say "there can be all this unreleased stuff on there because it's available"? Because they wouldn't know? 

No, of course they wouldn't. It required someone to actually go down to the archives and systematically go through everything and no one else was going to do that. I mean, Michael Tretow certainly wasn't going to do that and he was probably the one they would have asked otherwise.

Why hasn't the complete version of Just Like That been released when it clearly exists, as is evident from several bootlegs? 

The extract from Just Like That that was included in the ABBA Undeleted medley was taken from the so-called saxophone version, which exists as a complete recording on bootlegs. It is the exact same mix, albeit in better sound quality in the medley.

There are five main reasons why the complete version has not been legally released:

  1. 1.  Björn and Benny do not feel that this is the "correct" version of the song. They were not happy with how the ABBA version turned out and apparently didn't feel inclined to make a new attempt while ABBA still existed as group. After some rewriting, a few years later they came up with the version recorded by Gemini. There are number of differences between the two songs, the most obvious one being that the verse melody is completely different. In the songwriters' opinion, Gemini's recording is the correct version.

  2. 2.  Björn and Benny feel that there can't be two officially released songs entitled Just Like That, that are so different, yet so similar. This is another situation than, for example, the passages in Dream World that ended up in Does Your Mother Know and Kisses Of Fire, since these were completely different songs.

  3. 3.  Björn and Benny intended to use part of the verse of the ABBA version of Just Like That in Kristina från Duvemåla. I don't think they did, though. But maybe someone else has recognized a few notes out of Just Like That in the musical.

  4. 4.  When Björn and Benny were writing songs for the musical Chess, back in 1983, they demoed a song with the working title When The Waves Roll Out To Sea. This song used the verse melody of ABBA's Just Like That, but had a completely new chorus. However, the tune was never used at the time. When Chess was staged in Sweden for the first time, in early 2002, When The Waves Roll Out To Sea was dug out again and new, Swedish lyrics were written. The song acquired the new title Glöm mig om du kan ("Forget Me If You Can") and was performed by the character Molokov (Per Myrberg) in the musical, and also included on the CD release Chess på Svenska ("Chess In Swedish"). This means that all melody parts of the original ABBA version of Just Like That have now been used for other songs (Gemini's Just Like That features the chorus and Glöm mig om du kan features the verse tune).

  5. 5.  In 2011 Benny told me that he and Björn feel that ABBA's version of 'Just Like That' is "unfinished". Read more on this subject here.

Why wasn't the full version of Just A Notion included in the Thank You For The Music box set, but only as a snippet in the Undeleted medley? 

It was intended to be included in its entirety, but after Björn, Benny, and Michael Tretow had attempted to mix it, Björn and Benny apparently felt that there was no way they could make the recording sound good enough to be presented as a "new" ABBA track. This was in direct contrast to how they felt about Put On Your White Sombrero and Dream World, which in their opinion were more complete.

Are Björn and Benny aware of how the unreleased recordings that have surfaced on bootlegs were sneaked out of Polar, and who was responsible for circulating them?  

I actually think that none of the tapes were ever "sneaked" out of Polar. I believe the main sources have been radio broadcasts (Dream World, the full length version of Summer Night City, Wembley live tracks, etc.), television broadcasts (Does Your Mother Know, Hovas vittne, Dick Cavett live tracks, etc.), film (live tracks from ABBA — The Movie), and audience recordings (I Am An A, I'm Still Alive, etc.). The only other major sources were the tapes that started circulating among collectors when Björn's car was stolen (1981/82 outtakes) - this story has sometimes been presented as a "rumour", but Björn confirmed to me that it did indeed happen. I also understand that one or two tracks may have been given in good faith to friends by people within the ABBA camp, or to people at the many record companies that released their music around the world. Inadvertently or not, these tapes have since ended up on bootlegs.

Is the so-called long version of On Top Of Old Smokey that is available on bootleg a genuine recording or, as many believe, just the song on a loop to make it seem longer? 

I heard the original 24-track tape from 1978 onto which the original 16-track recording of the Folk Medley from 1975 was copied. When you edit a recording, whether to make it longer or shorter, you tend not to work on the original multitrack recording, but on a copy of the mixed version. Unless the 1975 tape had been edited, then — which is unlikely — I think it's safe to asssume that the "long" version is indeed a fake. Then again, I don't understand why anyone would go to all the trouble of pieceing together a long version of this particular recording. Perhaps someone out there knows more?

Why were so few alternate versions of released songs included in the box set? A few examples are the ABBA In Switzerland version of Does Your Mother Know and the extended video version of On And On And On. 

Some suggestions for things that could be included in the box set were discussed, but somehow never properly investigated. Unfortunately, alternate mixes fall into that category. However, the extended video version of On And On And On is now available on the DVD release The Definitive Collection (in mono); on the DVD The Videos, included in The Complete Studio Recordings; as a bonus track on Super Trouper Deluxe Edition CD (in stereo); and synchronised with the video on the DVD The Essential Collection (in stereo).

Did you get to hear the 1983 Michael Tretow remixes of Take A Chance On Me, The Visitors, On And On And On, and Lay All Your Love On Me (CRS page 113)?  

Yes. They were okay for what they were — very 1983-ish, extended things — but didn't add anything to the originals. They certainly didn't make me want to get up and boogie.

As part of the project you got to listen to the unreleased stuff. You're an ABBA fan as well. How did it feel the first time you were listening to that stuff that none of us had ever heard before? Did Benny and Björn's opinions of unreleased material differ before and after hearing it again after such a long period and what sort of comments did they make during that time in the studio? 

It was one of the greatest days of my life, no doubt about it. Just to be able to sit in the studio with Michael and Björn and Benny, putting on tape after tape after tape and thinking: What is this? Melodies you've never heard before and sounds you've never heard before. "It's ABBA, but it's completely unfamiliar at the same time." Björn and Benny kept saying: "What's this?" or "oh yeah, I remember this one" or "have we really done this?"

During the interviews, when I had reminded them of certain titles that I had found in the archives, their comments ranged from "what on earth is that?" over "it was the right decision not to release that one" to "oh yes, I had forgotten about that one — perhaps it isn't so bad after all?" Then, in the studio, they seemed to be pleasantly surprised by many of the tracks they heard, and started discussing the reasons for not releasing this or that track.

Was there much resistance from Björn and Benny regarding having a disc within the box set with a lot of rarities and unreleased stuff on it? 

I think it took a while for them to warm to the idea. I'm not sure they ever really warmed to it completely, but it was a gradual thing. I believe the day when we listened to all those tapes was an important day in that process, because before that, every time I asked them about a title I had, like Put On Your White Sombrero, Björn would say: "Oh, that was some kind of joke", something they did in five minutes. Björn and Benny would just say about all those tracks: "It wasn't any good. We should listen to them, just for fun, just for the book, but there's nothing there we could ever release." But during that day, they started saying things like: "Mmm, this is pretty good, I wonder why we didn't release that. Maybe it wasn't in tune with the times."

The original soundtrack for the video version of When All Is Said And Done is different than the one released on record. Could it be possible that the video mix was an earlier version?  

This seems quite possible, since the video, included in the Dick Cavett Meets ABBA special, was definitely broadcast before the final mix had been made.

In the book ABBA Gold—The Complete Story by John Tobler, he mentions rumours from 1988 about ABBA recording four new songs: It's Been Swell, Something On My Mind, It's Alright Darling and I Just Wasn't Thinking. Was this just a rumour or was there any truth in the story, even if it was just a proposal that they should record any such songs?  

Björn dismissed these titles and the entire story as complete rubbish. It should be noted, though, that this story was printed in at least one fanzine at the time, so it obviously wasn't something that Tobler himself dreamed up. At the end of the day, however, the conclusion has to be that the story was made-up by someone, for whatever twisted reasons.

Could you clear up once and for all the question whether there is an unreleased ABBA album called Opus 10, recorded in 1982, lying in the vaults?  

As far as the "ABBA people" (Björn, Benny, Agnetha, Frida, Michael, Stig, Görel, etc.) are concerned there has never been any album called Opus 10. It was never even a working title for them - not in 1981, not in 1982, nor in any other year. This is the story in as full detail as I could possibly tell it:

On June 8, 1981, Expressen (at the time the biggest daily in Sweden) ran an article headlined: "Now ABBA Are Recording Their 10th Album". The fact that this is to be their 10th album is referred to several times in the article. One example: "...[they] are working on a new album. It will be the 10th since 1973."

Please be aware that nowhere in this feature is Björn, Benny, Agnetha or Frida quoted as saying that they are working on their 10th album. This is just a theme that the journalist himself returns to a few times.

Now we come to the small passage in the article that is the source of so much confusion, rumours and misunderstandings that it fair boggles the mind:

"Nine albums so far, the tenth in the works. This is their own [worldwide] sales chart:

1) Super trooper [sic]
2) Greatest Hits I
3) Arrival
4) Greatest Hits II


And will 'Opus 10' now beat them all? Björn Ulvaeus replies:

- You never can tell beforehand. But of course you want to be just as good. At the very least."

The use of the title Opus 10, then, is just a case of the journalist jokingly referring to the fact that this was to be their tenth album: counting Ring Ring, counting Greatest Hits Vols. 1 and 2, not counting Gracias Por La Musica or any other "extra" album. He could have written "Masterpiece 10" or "Album 10" or "Song Collection 10" — he just happened to write "Opus 10". There is no other significance in that title whatsoever. Whether anyone else would argue that ABBA had released 19 albums or 58 albums or 5 albums is beside the point — at this time this was the number of albums this journalist decided ABBA had released.

The article was syndicated to foreign newspapers, and it's very probable that some nuances were lost in the translations. Indeed, the Swedish article itself is open to misinterpretation, so it's not so hard to misunderstand it. Thus, a myth was born.

For those still unconvinced this far, let me add a few arguments:

  • When I asked Björn about Opus 10 (before I had access to the Expressen article) in 1993, he said: "Yes, we heard that it was used as a title for a bootleg track, and we ask ourselves what the hell it is."

  • The track given the title Opus 10 by bootleggers is of course an early instrumental version of Anthem from Chess. On the tape box (a good enough source, I should hope) it has been titled Nationalsång, which means "National Anthem". Obviously, this title referred to the feeling Björn and Benny got from the melody, and it accordingly became Anthem in Chess. It was recorded as an instrumental in the studio during sessions for the The Visitors album. Apparently, Björn and Benny hoped that they could somehow turn this melody into something that could be used for ABBA. As in the case of Lotties Schottis (aka Dr. Claus von Hamlet aka Hamlet III), they decided it was better to wait until the right forum presented itself. Simple as that. End of story. Bootleggers (not only ABBA bootleggers) are famous for building on myths by using known or rumoured - but unreleased - titles for recordings they have no known title for. They could have called it "Anthem (Instrumental)", for instance. Alas, they chose Opus 10 in the hope of making fans believe that they would get some "unique", "never-before-heard" melody.

  • ABBA never used working titles for their albums. They recorded all their songs, then chose a title for the album, more often than not lifted from one of the song titles. Apparently, Arrival and Super Trouper were titles they had before they had the actual songs, but that was simply a consequence of the idea for the sleeve design suggesting album titles.

  • There is no evidence in any archive I have been to, or documents I have had access to (the years 1981 and 1982 were better documented than any other years) that suggests that ABBA recorded more than six songs in 1982 ("songs" in this context refers to professional studio recordings with proper backing tracks, intended for eventual release on record). At the beginning of the year they intended to record a complete studio album. By the late summer this project had been whittled down to a double album collection of their singles with two new tracks. Simple as that. No mystery.

  • Yes, the authorised Agnetha Fältskog biography As I Am refers to Opus 10 as a cancelled album. It's done in a section where we supposedly hear the voice of Agnetha. I would guess that this is a case of ghostwriting by author Brita Åhman, with this particular "fact" plucked from either Tobler's Complete Story or Oldham et al's The Name Of The Game. Tobler and the Oldham gang have obviously used the same sources as most authors, i.e. newspaper and magazine reports, accurate or otherwise.

With the release of the track ABBA Undeleted on the Thank You For The Music box set, how much more pleading will it take for Benny and Björn to release more unreleased ABBA recordings, both in full and partly finished, just for the fans and not for commercial release? 

I don't know. For a long time it seemed that the box set was "the final word" in terms of releasing stuff from the archives. But April 2012 sees the release of 'From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel', a medley of demos and "working versions" of 'Like An Angel Passing Through My Room', included as an extra bonus track on The Visitors Deluxe Edition. So I guess one should never say never.

By the way, the songs in the Undeleted medley are snippets of complete recordings, so there are of course beginnings and endings to all of them. Obviously, they wouldn't do a one and a half minute backing track and then say "let's stop here", and then go on to do a lot of overdubs onto that short recording. That said, in most cases there are no other lyrics than the ones you hear in the medley. For example, the lyrics for Hamlet III are just demo lyrics, so they sang the same verses and the chorus over and over again until the backing track had run its full course. Rubber Ball Man is another case in point.


Thank You For The Music. Released October 31, 1994; catalogue number: Polydor 523 472-2. Revised version released August 13, 2008; catalogue number: Polar 060251743234. Four discs. 66 page booklet with essays and discographical notes.