ABBA liner notes
Published April 05, 2010
ABBA's third album, simply titled ABBA, was the LP that finally and irrevocably established the group as a major force on the international pop music scene. After slowly coming together and learning how to put their talents to best use through the previous two efforts, Ring Ring and Waterloo, this was where ABBA truly blossomed for the first time.
The album was recorded between August 1974 and March 1975. It was a hectic time for ABBA, who were fresh after a busy promotion schedule following their victory with 'Waterloo' in the Eurovision Song Contest. In November 1974, they embarked on a two week tour of Denmark, West Germany and Austria, with Norway, Sweden and Finland following in January.
The ABBA album was born in between these trips, as well as numerous additional assignments: both Frida and Agnetha were recording solo albums, while Björn and Benny were producing records for several other artists tied to the Polar label. The first single off the LP, released as a taster in November 1974, was 'So Long'. The song became a hit in Sweden and West Germany, but most other countries didn't really take the song to their hearts. In some countries, especially Great Britain, ABBA had been branded a "Eurovision one hit wonder" and they were simply not expected to come up with anything worthwhile.
The group next tried their luck with 'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do', released just before the album in the spring of 1975. This single also left the British people pretty cold. But in Australia, where 'Waterloo' had already been a sizeable hit, pandemonium broke out.
ABBA had filmed "promo clips" (what we today call videos) for four songs on the album: 'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do', 'SOS', 'Mamma Mia' and 'Bang-A-Boomerang'. These were specifically made for screening in countries where the group needed to do television promotion, but which were located too far away for quick trips. These four clips, like most of ABBA's videos, were directed by Lasse Hallström, who was just at the start of his career as a successful movie director in Sweden. Since the mid-1980s he has primarily devoted himself to an international career, and is the man behind movies such as My Life As A Dog, The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.
When the films for 'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do' and 'Mamma Mia' were shown on the Australian television show Countdown, the nation was caught up in an ABBA fever. 'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do' spent three weeks at number one, which was impressive enough, but it was then immediately followed by 'Mamma Mia', which occupied the top position for no less than ten weeks. This was the start of what was to become known as "Abbamania" in Australia.
'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do' drew inspiration from the American orchestra leader Billy Vaughan, who'd sprung to fame in the late 1950s with his saxophone-laden music. That kind of music was a prominent part of Björn and Benny's musical heritage, and it was only natural that it should find some kind of expression on an ABBA album.
Depending on where you lived in the world, 'SOS' was the third single from the album. For Björn and Benny, who were always very keen to succeed in Great Britain, the song bears especially happy memories. When the single was released in what they called "the home of pop music" in the autumn of 1975, it became their first major hit since 'Waterloo', 18 months earlier. Many regard 'SOS' as ABBA's first truly classic single, and certainly, no-one can doubt its mastery of everything that pop music is supposed to be about. It was catchy, well-arranged and expertly recorded, and Agnetha's pleading lead vocal captured the imagination of a fair number of listeners.
Incidentally, the characteristic guitar and synthesizer riffs that run throughout the song was something that was added at the very last minute, when Björn and Benny were staying back in the recording studio late one night.
The fourth song to be filmed, 'Bang-A-Boomerang', had a long and convoluted history before it ended up on the ABBA album. An early version of the song had been recorded by the group during album sessions. They were not entirely satisfied with the song, however.
When Björn, Benny and Stig were invited to come up with a song for the Swedish selections for the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest, they decided to submit 'Bang-A-Boomerang', but only after parts of it had been rewritten. The song was then given to Polar Music act Svenne & Lotta, who recorded this new version of 'Bang-A-Boomerang' and performed it in the Swedish selections.
But Svenne & Lotta only finished third, and therefore they didn't go on to the European finals. This meant that song's chances for exposure on an international level were somewhat diminished. ABBA felt it was a shame to let a good recording go to waste and overdubbed their own vocals on the existing backing track. It was then included on their new album.
'Bang-A-Boomerang' never became a major hit anywhere, but there were many other singles on the album that charted somewhere in the world. For instance, a full year after the album's release, the hunger for anything ABBA-related was so strong in Australia that the record company was able to simply flip the 'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do' single over and have it chart all over again. The B-side hit, 'Rock Me', reached number four on the chart.
'Rock Me' was one of two lead vocals for Björn on the album, the other being 'Man In The Middle'. Whereas the previous albums had featured the boys' vocals prominently on several tracks, this was the last ABBA album to feature more than one lead vocal by Björn.
At one point it looked as if Björn would have three songs on the ABBA album.
A track called 'Crazy World', featuring his lead vocals, was recorded during the sessions, but was ultimately left off the LP. When the group was working on their fourth album, Arrival, some more work was made on the track. 'Crazy World' was finally released as the B-side of 'Money, Money, Money' at the end of 1976. It has been included as a bonus track on this CD.
Perhaps the most well-known hit from the ABBA album was 'Mamma Mia', which restored the group to the number one position on the UK charts. A curious fact about one of ABBA's most familiar songs was that it would never have been released as a single if the group's Australian record company at the time, RCA, hadn't demanded it. Added to its formidable Australian success, it also topped the charts in West Germany and Switzerland.
The ABBA album was originally released in Sweden on April 21, 1975, and it became the group's first truly international LP success. It topped the charts in Australia, Sweden, Zimbabwe and Norway, and reached the higher regions in several other countries.
ABBA themselves spent much of the summer of 1975 touring the Swedish open air folkparks and preparing new material to be recorded. At the beginning of May, they recorded the second bonus selection on this CD. 'Medley: Pick A Bale Of Cotton/On Top Of Old Smokey/Midnight Special' was recorded for a West German charity album entitled Stars Im Zeichen Eines Guten Sterns, the proceeds of which went to the battle against cancer. This recording remains the only ABBA release of material not written by any of the group members, and was subsequently used for the B-side of their 1978 'Summer Night City' single.