ABBA - The Album - liner notes

Published April 05, 2010

ABBA started recording their fifth LP, ABBA - The Album, on May 31, 1977. At this point, two and a half months had elapsed since they completed their highly successful tour of Europe and Australia. The tour had started in Oslo, Norway at the end of January and finished in Perth, Australia on March 12. In between, the group had performed before hundreds of thousands of people - the great majority of them in Australia, where Abbamania was in full rage.

In the autumn of 1976, while ABBA were rehearsing for the tour, the group felt that they wanted to come up with a few specials for their show: something extra, that was more than just playing their hits and other popular songs. Björn and Benny, who had long been dreaming of writing a musical one day, grabbed this opportunity to make a minor attempt in this area.

What they came up with was a 20 minute "mini-musical," entitled The Girl With The Golden Hair. The story centred around a girl who dreams of being a singer, leaves her small town to embark on a successful career as an artist, but finds that she has been trapped by her own fame.

Four new songs were written specifically for the mini-musical: 'Thank You For The Music', 'I Wonder (Departure)', 'I'm A Marionette' and 'Get On The Carousel'. When the tour was over, the first three titles would be recorded during sessions for the new album. 'Get On The Carousel', however, was very much a "stage number" with long instrumental passages and a repetitive structure, so it was never attempted in the studio. Instead, a part of the tune was used for 'Hole In Your Soul', a brand new album track.

'Thank You For The Music' was the first of the musical songs to be committed to tape. At this point, the song was arranged with a slight ragtime feel, and Agnetha found her vocal interpretation by imitating American singer Doris Day. The rest of the group contributed intricate backing vocals.

But after all this work, ABBA still didn't feel that they had captured 'Thank You For The Music' correctly. They decided to start all over again. In July the group finally hit upon the arrangement and feel that were right for the song, and this recording was included on ABBA - The Album. Meanwhile, the first version languished in the vaults for more than 17 years until it was rediscovered and released on the 1994 CD box set Thank You For The Music. It has been included as a bonus track on this CD.

Just before ABBA started recording ABBA - The Album, Björn, Benny and sound engineer Michael B. Tretow had been on a short trip to Los Angeles. The purpose of the visit was to check out recording equipment for the new studio that ABBA were going to build in central Stockholm - it would take another year until the studio was ready for use.

But the trip proved inspirational in other respects as well. The west coast music scene at the time was very much dominated by laidback groups like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Both bands were already favourites for Björn and Benny, but spending time in the place where all that music was created turned out to have an immediate effect on their own creative process.

As a direct result of the visit, two songs were written: the first one was provisionally called 'A Bit Of Myself'. Stig Anderson, the master of the catchy song title, came up with the phrase 'The Name Of The Game'. This became the new title of the song, although it was Björn who wrote the actual lyrics. The second US-inspired track was 'Eagle', where Björn's lyrics were coloured by the freedom spirit in the novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull. By the time ABBA were finished with the songs, they had both been filtered through the group's European sensibilities, but it could be argued that the American roots shone through even on the finished record.

'The Name Of The Game' is also one of the few songs where Björn and Benny have authorised a sampling of an ABBA song. In 1996, hip hop band The Fugees wanted to use the bass synthesizer groove of the recording for their own track 'Rumble In The Jungle', recorded as the theme song for the movie When We Were Kings. Björn and Benny were amused that their Scandinavian recording could mean something for a hip hop act, and so they decided to make an exception to their otherwise strict "no sampling allowed" rule.

'The Name Of The Game' was the first single from ABBA - The Album - indeed, the first since the Arrival track 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' eight months earlier. Like most other of the group's singles around this time it turned out to be a global Top 10 hit, spending five weeks at the top of the UK charts.

All in all, the sessions for ABBA - The Album were both hectic and stressful for the group. In the middle of working on the LP, they were still shooting scenes for their upcoming feature film, ABBA - The Movie, most of which had been filmed during the tour of Australia in March. Furthermore, Agnetha was pregnant with her and Björn's second child. This meant that she needed a lot of rest and couldn't take part in the recording sessions to the extent that was needed if the album should be completed before the end of the year. ABBA - The Movie was scheduled for release in December, and the plan was that the album would be issued around the same time.

With a lot of hard work the band actually managed to meet the deadline in Scandinavia, where the LP was released just a few weeks before the end of the year - and one week after the birth of Björn and Agnetha's son Christian. But because of all the production demands of manufacturing hundreds of thousands of albums, the rest of the world had to wait until the beginning of 1978 before ABBA - The Album reached their local record shops.

The worldwide release of the LP coincided with the second single to be issued from the sessions, 'Take A Chance On Me'. Björn got the inspiration for the title on a jogging round, when the rhythmic phrase "t-k-ch" started running around in his head. The phrase turned into the words "take a chance," and from that basic line the rest of the lyrics took shape.

Along with the new album, 'Take A Chance On Me' became a success all over the planet. In USA, it was the single that spearheaded a major promotional campaign for ABBA in the spring of 1978. As a result, the song reached number three on the chart, making it the group's best-placed American single with the exception of the charttopper 'Dancing Queen'. In terms of pure sales and other statistics, however, 'Take A Chance On Me' has actually proved to be the most successful of all ABBA singles in the United States.

ABBA - The Album, meanwhile, was major hit album internationally in 1978. Apart from the mini-musical songs and the hit singles, the LP offered gems like 'One Man, One Woman', arguably one of Frida's best vocal performances during the ABBA years. The song was yet another track characterised by an American soft rock feel. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the album became ABBA's best placed LP on the US charts.

ABBA - The Album was one of the group's most ambitious projects, and The Girl With The Golden Hair pointed towards Björn and Benny's musical career after ABBA. But for now, they were devoting most of their energy to straightforward pop music. Only a month or two after the international release of ABBA - The Album they were back in the studio working on their next hit-filled LP.