Part 5 (of 6): The music

Published December 30, 2012

 

EIGHT OUT OF TEN

Out of the 10 songs included on the Arrival album, performances of as many as eight were included in the ABBA-dabba-dooo!! programme (the exceptions were 'That's Me' and the album's title track, although this latter tune was used as background music). 'Dancing Queen' appeared in the shape of the Lasse Hallström-directed promo clip, but the remaining seven songs were visualised especially for the television special.


THE FILMED SONGS

KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU

Filmed, probably in July, at the island of Viggsö and out on the waters of the Stockholm archipelago. Although the verses featured an appropriately melancholy Frida wandering around on the island, for the choruses the two happy ABBA couples were filmed on a sailing-boat, jarring somewhat with the marital-split-themed lyrics.

LE: There was something else in those lyrics, so today maybe I wouldn’t have chosen a sailing-boat. But there was the thought that this programme would perhaps be shown internationally and for that reason I wanted to expose the Stockholm archipelago.

PF: I thought that clip was great! But I do remember that Leonard was really angry, because something went wrong when the lab first developed the film. When we watched the results he almost went to pieces. I don't recall what they did to correct it, but it turned out okay in the end.


WHEN I KISSED THE TEACHER

Probably filmed in July or August, the location was the Hedvig Eleonora school in Stockholm's Östermalm district, with Swedish comedian Magnus Härenstam in the role as the suitably bewildered teacher. The version in the television special features an early mix of the song, different from the one released on the Arrival album. This alternate mix has been included on the Arrival Deluxe Edition DVD.


TIGER

Probably filmed in August, featuring a tough, jeans-clad ABBA being chauffeured by Agnetha through central Stockholm, late at night.

PF: It was fun, because we were filming at Kungsgatan [one of the main streets in central Stockholm] with plenty of onlookers there. ABBA were international superstars, so if they were in Australia they’d be surrounded by bodyguards. But in Stockholm someone like Benny Andersson was just ‘one of the guys’, someone you’d talk to like anybody. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen: there was no need for bodyguards.


THE VIDEO-TAPED SONGS

MY LOVE, MY LIFE

Video taped, probably in September, in the television studios at Sveriges Radio.

LE: I had this idea, "We should only have a close-up of Agnetha’s face throughout the entire song, and yet it must be compelling; we have to show what a great singer she is and how beautiful she is, as a contrast to the more informal scenes in the programme". We spent one day just on that song, which was highly unusual back then. We worked with lighting and with chroma key [a television technique wherein a person is filmed against a single-colour backdrop, creating a background "key" which can then be replaced with any video source]. I didn’t have a clear-cut vision of what I wanted so we tested the limits of how far we could go, which meant that it took time, but it was also fun and exciting.

The book A Tribute To Frida, by Phillippe Elan and Jean-Marie Potiez, features pictures of Frida (on pages 62, 63, 154 and 155), taken in the same studio environment as the My Love, My Life clip. According to the authors, these pictures were taken during the video-taping of an alternate version of 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', which was not included in the television special. Indeed, in some of the photographs featured in the book, Frida is clearly seen singing. However, Leonard Eek has no recollection of any such clip being filmed. He is fairly certain it never happened, since the entire day when that setting was used was spent on 'My Love, My Life'. The only reasonable explanation, then, would be that Frida was being photographed in this studio because it made for a nice setting. Or perhaps at some point there was a thought that she should be a part of the My Love, My Life clip. If anyone out there has more information to share, I'd love to hear from you.


MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
DUM DUM DIDDLE
WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE ME

Video taped September 29 in the television studios at Sveriges Radio. These three songs were all captured on video tape in the same studio setting, in front of a live audience. However, 'Money, Money, Money' was a playback performance to the familiar album version, while only 'Dum Dum Diddle' and 'Why Did It Have To Be Me' were actually performed live.

One of Leonard Eek's ultimate goals with the programme was that ABBA would want to perform a couple of songs live in the television studio. Notwithstanding a few random appearances, such as the Swedish heats for the Eurovision Song Contest, ABBA had never truly played live on television, certainly not on their own terms.

LE: Performing to playback in those days was viewed with disdain in Sweden, it was unheard of. It was, "Are you crazy? We have an orchestra here!" The artists would say, ‘Yes, but when we’re working in the recording studio, we’re able to listen and adjust, we can place everything exactly the way we want it". The understanding for this approach was not the same as it is today.

For ABBA, it was far from self-evident that they would do a live performance in the programme.

LE: They wanted to be certain that the outcome would be on the level where they wanted to be, and where they felt they had a right to demand to be. And rightly so; we all wanted the same thing.

Said Benny at the press conference for the programme: "The reason that we haven't played live so much before is a lack of time. There is always a lack of time when we're out on promo trips. Doing two songs live takes three days. Now we do have the time. And we want to show that we have nothing against performing live." He elaborated further in the 1977 book Fenomenet ABBA (aka ABBA By ABBA): "The reason that we are almost always forced to perform to playback on TV is that there are seldom any resources. The TV companies have neither the time nor the money to let us sing 'live'. And since we have the demand on ourselves that it should sound good, we naturally won't perform with just a piano, a double bass and drums as backing."

LE: Their live performance was a unique event. The entire television studios were vibrating and the engineers were really polishing their cables, because we were all so happy that they wanted to do this.

One of the measures taken to ensure that ABBA would really get the sound they wanted was to have the live recording supervised by their trusted engineer Michael B. Tretow, although the actual recording was formally handled by Sveriges Radio's own engineers.

LE: He was so diplomatic and nice. He’d say, "Perhaps if you will just turn that up a little, and then perhaps a little filter there…?" He was brilliant. Everybody was attracted to ABBA’s professionalism, the challenge of really doing their best, so there were never any problems. We’d do one take, listen to that, make adjustments, do another take, and so on. I think we spent two days on this: one day rehearsing and one day performing - for just two songs. Today you would have done two songs before lunch, performed to a prepared tape. And you wouldn't build a set like that.

During the live performance, ABBA were backed by a selection of their regular session musicians, augmented by Polar Music recording artist Ted Gärdestad on keyboards. A journalist from the evening paper Expressen reported from the taping. According to his account, this was how it all went down:

While the group was waiting for some last-minute engineering adjustments, some audience members rushed forth to ask for autographs and take pictures. Then 'Dum Dum Diddle' and 'Why Did It Have To Be Me' were perfomed, followed by a break and then both songs again. In total, 'Dum Dum Diddle' was performed three times, and 'Why Did It Have To Be Me' two and a half times - the final performance was broken off halfway through because Frida forgot to sing.

With the concert part completed, there was a longer break. The fans in the audience were running around in the studio, asking the group and their manager, Stig Anderson, for autographs. Then there was a costume change. Some girls who were waiting outside the dressing rooms got a hug from Agnetha as she reappeared, which acted like a signal for 50 other girls in the audience to rush forth for a hug of their own. Agnetha was forced to retreat into the dressing room.

Finally, the group were back in the studio again, doing playback performances of 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', 'When I Kissed The Teacher' and 'Money, Money, Money', followed by a fourth version of 'Dum Dum Diddle'. Presumably, this last performance of 'Dum Dum Diddle' was also to playback.

As those who are familiar with the ABBA-dabba-dooo!! television special will know, there are no studio-recorded performances of 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' and 'When I Kissed The Teacher', nor any playback version of 'Dum Dum Diddle', in the programme. According to Leonard Eek, these "extra" songs were simply performed as a treat for the studio audience. They were not captured on video tape and were never intended for the programme.

Apparently, there was some post-production work on the live recordings a few days later, when Frida and Björn returned to the studio to beef up the vocals a little. This may have happened on October 6, when Agnetha was travelling ahead to Poland for the filming of a television special, explaining her absence (the rest of the group joined her the following day). This is why Frida's voice is more dominant than Agnetha's during the girls' parts, and Björn's voice is clearly double-tracked on Why Did It Have To Be Me (it's not Benny singing along with him).


HARLEKIN CLIPS

As part of the deal made between Sveriges Radio and ABBA's production company, AB Harlekin, ABBA were granted the rights to produce clips of four songs from the programme "for their own internal use or for broadcast on foreign television". 'Money, Money, Money' is known to have been distributed as a stand-alone clip, and there is a clip of 'When I Kissed The Teacher' in the Polar Music archives. There was also a report at the time that a clip of 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' was being distributed. However, it is not known whether Harlekin made use of the opportunity to prepare a clip of a fourth ABBA-dabba-dooo!! performance.

 

ABBA performing Money, Money, Money.
Knowing Me, Knowing You in the Stockholm archipelago.
When I Kissed The Teacher at the Hedvig Eleonora school.
Tiger in central Stockholm.
My Love, My Life, an experiment in televisual techniques.
Money, Money, Money, also distributed as a stand-alone promo clip before the Lasse Hallström-directed version was available.
Dum Dum Diddle: ABBA live on television for the first time.
Why Did It Have To Be Me was the second live song in the ABBA-dabba-dooo!! special.