Thank You For The Music - The Making Of A Box Set, part 2 (of 8)

Published September 17, 2011


Part 2 (of 8): DISCOVERING THE UNRELEASED TRACKS

I was completely unaware of the reawakened plans for a box set, so it was sheer coincidence that I had been working on the book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, researching recording dates and unreleased tracks for quite some time. My visits to the PolyGram tape archives took place in the summer of 1993, and this was when I first came across titles such as Put On Your White Sombrero and Free As A Bumble Bee. Previously, I had only been aware of the working titles for those tracks.

The handwriting from Hell: my notes from the archives, June 28, 1993. The first three lines describe the contents of this particular 24-track tape, as written on the box. For track 3, there was no title, only the "3." and then empty space, which is why I wrote "[sic]" so that I wouldn't be confused afterwards. Then I have written a description of documents found in the box, the first batch of which was "three photocopied sheets with lyrics for 'Put On Your White Sombrero'. Complete lyrics!!! Plus changes!! I can't make these lyrics fit with the melody for either Lay All... or Me and I." Comparing these notes with my notes from another archive, I soon concluded that this was in fact a previously unreleased song, the mysterious "untitled" track 3 on the tape. This, apparently, was the first anybody had seen or heard of Put On Your White Sombrero for 13 years.

A couple of months later, on October 5, 1993, a luncheon was held at the Café Opera in Stockholm to celebrate the sales of 5 million copies of ABBA Gold. Three of the ABBA members - Björn, Benny and Frida - were present at the lunch and received platinum awards. During the luncheon, the subject of the box set was brought up. Björn and sound engineer Michael Tretow expressed enthusiasm about the work I had done in researching the story of ABBA’s recordings, not least the unreleased tracks.

Chris Griffin at PolyGram International in London, who was more or less in charge of the ABBA catalogue at the time, was present at the luncheon. "I suggested that perhaps we should consider a box set to chronicle the history of the band and include some of [the unreleased] recordings," he recalled in his liner notes for the Thank You For The Music box set. "Frida thought it was a good idea although Benny was not so sure."

Björn, Frida and Benny at the gold record awards luncheon at Café Opera.
Björn, Frida and Benny with their platinum awards at the Café Opera luncheon.

While all this was going on, I was busy writing the book and doing further research. During my interviews with Björn and Benny, I had noticed how they were warming up more and more to the prospect of listening to some of the unreleased tracks we had been talking about. Unbeknownst to me, the record company was also eager that this should be done for the projected box set.

Part 3: Listening to unreleased tracks with Björn, Benny and Michael

 

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.

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