Liner notes, part 2

Published April 13, 2010

 

ABBA began their second major tour in September 1979, starting in North America and then going on to Europe. Just before the trip to North America, the group completed the recording of a brand new single, 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)'. On September 5, Lasse Hallström directed a film clip for the song at ABBA's Polar Music Studios in central Stockholm, where their music was created during the last half of their career. The clip offers a rare glimpse of how it might have looked when the group recorded their songs.

In March 1980, ABBA embarked on a short tour of Japan, which ultimately turned out to be their last concerts on foreign soil. Returning home, they turned their attention to their next album project. Around the same time, photographer Anders Hanser wanted to put together a slide show presentation of the pictures he had taken during ABBA's recent tour of North America and Europe. He asked the group if they had something he could use as a soundtrack, and was given a brand new, still unreleased recording, entitled 'On And On And On'.

Several months later, towards the end of 1980, the song was released as a single in a limited number of countries. A promo film was needed to go with it, and it was a natural choice to use Hanser's slide show for this purpose. There was also an added bonus connected to this decision: the version that Hanser used featured an extra verse (three minutes into the song) that had been edited out when the track was issued on record. On this DVD, the original, extended version of 'On And On And On' is released in a digital format for the first time. However, the only soundtrack available is the mono mix used for the original promo clip, so it is in this fashion that the song appears on this collection.

Despite all the attention bestowed on 'On And On And On' during and after the making of the new album, the very first recording from the sessions to be released as a single was 'The Winner Takes It All', in July 1980. The song is well-known for being coloured by the marital split between Agnetha and Björn, which had been announced 18 months earlier. Lasse Hallström went along with this theme: in the promo clip, Agnetha acts the part of an abandoned, lonely woman. The film was made in the town of Marstrand on Sweden's west coast, where Hallström was busy directing a Swedish movie comedy at the time.

In the beginning of November, ABBA's seventh album, Super Trouper, was finally released. The title track was issued as a single - its promo clip had been filmed at Europa Film Studios, in conjunction with the making of the album sleeve. Both the film and the LP cover were among ABBA's most ambitious, with the group being surrounded by dozens of dressed-up friends and genuine circus performers.

At the same time, party scenes were also filmed for the clip that accompanied the song 'Happy New Year'. These scenes were later married together with melancholy "after the party" sequences filmed in Lasse Hallström's apartment in central Stockholm, the location being yet another example of the director's skill at keeping costs down. 'Happy New Year' was never released as a worldwide single, however - although this seems to have been the intention at one point - so the clip was not widely screened at the time.

The indecision regarding which songs to release as singles remained around the time of ABBA's eighth and final album, The Visitors. Sessions had started in March 1981, with the view of releasing a single as soon as possible, but no suitable track was forthcoming. Eventually, at the end of August 1981, a film clip was made for the song 'When All Is Said And Done'. Scenes were shot in the Stockholm archipelago and also in a studio just outside Stockholm. Clearly, this was a heavy contender for worldwide single release.

However, this was not to be. Instead, 'One Of Us' became the first official single from the album, and, of course, a clip had to be put together for this track as well. Again using his own, spacious apartment for location scenes, Lasse Hallström cast Agnetha in the role of a woman moving into a new flat, presumably after the break-up from her man, as depicted in the lyrics.

The clip for 'When All Is Said And Done' didn't go completely to waste, however. In the United States, this track was deemed more suitable as the first single off The Visitors, and the filmed performance was probably warmly welcomed by the newborn, video hungry MTV at the time.

In January 1982, Lasse Hallström directed his last clip for ABBA. 'Head Over Heels' was the second official single from the recent album, and was largely filmed in central Stockholm. Frida acted the part of the high society woman dragging her exhausted "husband", played by Björn, in and out of various shops and boutiques. Hallström even inserted his own, Hitchcock-style appearance in this humorous clip - watch out for the scene where Frida bumps into a man in a blue jacket.

So whatever happened to the director after this last ABBA clip? Parallel with his intermittent work as the brains behind ABBA's film clips - and also their 1977 feature film, ABBA - The Movie - Lasse Hallström had emerged as a major filmmaker in Sweden. In 1985 he made the movie that would lead to his international breakthrough: My Life As A Dog. Since then, Hallström has become one of Hollywood's top directors, creating internationally renowned films such as What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, Chocolat and The Shipping News.

Back in 1982 ABBA were slowly winding down, eventually reaching a point where they decided to take a break from the group - ultimately never to get back together again. A year earlier, Frida and Benny's marriage had ended in ABBA's second divorce: the group that had come together as two couples in love was now based on no more than friendship and professional respect, and the members could feel the ABBA energy fading away.

Only two more singles were released, and accordingly only two further film clips were made before the group called it a day. For these films, they turned to the director/cinematographer team of Kjell Sundvall and Kjell-Åke Andersson, both of whom would later go on to successful careers as movie directors in Sweden.

The first clip the pair made for ABBA, 'The Day Before You Came', was one of the group's most ambitious - it was clear that the video age had started, when the music industry began spending more money on this kind of promotion. For instance, scenes of a train travelling over the Årsta bridge in Stockholm were filmed from a helicopter, an extravagance previously unheard of in ABBA's promo clip productions.

Incidentally, lovers of movie trivia may want to look out for Jonas Bergström, the male actor playing the part of Agnetha's love interest. Bergström is the son of actress Anita Björk, who played the title character of Miss Julie in director Alf Sjöberg's classic film version of the Strindberg play, awarded the Grand Prize at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival.

The second clip for the Sundvall/Andersson team - and also the very last ABBA video - was 'Under Attack', filmed in a warehouse in the southern parts of Stockholm in November 1982. As if to signal that ABBA were ready to say farewell, the video ended with the four members walking away in the distance, their backs to the camera. Only a few weeks later ABBA made their last public appearance together as a group: on television, naturally.

Agnetha and Frida spent the next few years making solo albums, while Björn and Benny struck up a partnership with lyricist Tim Rice, resulting in the musical Chess. But exactly 10 years after the four members went their separate ways, the world was ready for an ABBA revival, spearheaded by the release of the compilation album ABBA Gold, which to date has sold more than 22 million copies worldwide.

With this renewed interest in ABBA, it followed that their film clips were also revisited, perhaps even receiving more screenings than they did at the height of the group's fame. As a contrast against the more streamlined, choreographed, million dollar budget videos of the present day, many of ABBA's more modest clips constitute a refreshing reminder of what can actually be achieved with just a little imagination and enthusiasm. Certainly, ABBA's glammy costumes and general 1970s appearance also caused a few affectionate smiles some two decades later, contributing greatly to the attraction of the clips.

And so, here are those legendary short films again, now in DVD format and digitally restored from the original negatives, synchronised with the latest 24-bit remastered versions of ABBA's recordings. Press the "play" button and enjoy!

Carl Magnus Palm, 2002
with thanks to Ian Cole

Notes on the bonus selections:

Five bonus selections have been included on this DVD. The first, 'When I Kissed The Teacher', was the opening track on the Arrival album, but was never a single for ABBA. Nevertheless, a film clip was made, receiving its first airing in the 1976 television special Abba-dabba-dooo!! (aka ABBA From The Beginning).

As part of ABBA's attempt to break into the South American market, the group recorded a number of tracks in Spanish between 1979 and 1981. Film clips were made for three of these songs. 'Estoy Soñando', the Spanish version of 'I Have A Dream', was filmed at Polar Music Studios on the same day as 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)'. The Spanish interpretation of 'Happy New Year' was entitled 'Felicidad', and the clip was made in tandem with the English version.

Finally, a clip for 'No Hay A Quien Culpar', the Spanish-language version of 'When All Is Said And Done', was put together in 1981. It was filmed around the same time as the 'One Of Us' film, when Frida had just aquired a new, "punky" hairstyle. Since the scenes of Frida miming to the Spanish lyrics were intercut with sequences from the original clip, 'No Hay A Quien Culpar' somewhat unusually featured both the soft perm Frida and her spiky-haired look. All three Spanish films receive their first commercial release on this DVD.

The collection fittingly ends with a reprise of ABBA's biggest-ever hit. The television performance of 'Dancing Queen' included here has been extracted from a Swedish television transmission on June 18, 1976. The occasion was a gala tribute to Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and future Queen, Silvia Sommerlath, on the eve of their wedding. ABBA were the only pop act to appear in the show, dressed in baroque outfits appropriate for the gala, which took place at The Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm.

 

The Definitive Collection. Released July 15, 2002. Catalogue number: Polar 017 445-9. Out of print.

ORDER FROM