Ring Ring remaster - liner notes

Published April 04, 2010

When the album Ring Ring by Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida was released in Sweden on March 26, 1973, it marked the culmination of a process that had begun seven years earlier.

It all started with a chance meeting between Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson in the summer of 1966. Björn was part of the folk music group the Hootenanny Singers, while Benny was a member of the pop group The Hep Stars. Both bands were among Sweden's top acts at the time. From this first meeting, a friendship grew, eventually blossoming into a songwriting collaboration. The Hootenanny Singers' records were released on the record label Polar Music, owned by music publisher Stig Anderson. He was taking an interest in Björn and Benny as songwriters, hoping that they would fulfill his dream of reaching outside the borders with Swedish music. This was something few acts had been able to do.

Around the same time, Benny met and fell in love with Anni-Frid Lyngstad, also known as Frida, while a romance blossomed between Björn and Agnetha Fältskog. Both women were former dance band singers who had since embarked on solo careers. By the spring of 1970, the two couples were both engaged. Later that year they started collaborating, both on record and on stage. Frida and Agnetha supported the boys with backing vocals on a song called 'Hej gamle man!' ("Hey Old Man!"), which became a hit in Sweden.

The four friends also tried working together as a cabaret act, but with fairly disastrous results. Luckily, the romantic relationships survived the failure, and in July 1971 Björn and Agnetha got married.

In the spring of 1972 a series of events started that would eventually result in the quartet's first group album. A few years earlier, Björn and Benny had recorded music for a somewhat dubious film entitled The Seduction Of Inga. One of the songs in the film was called 'She's My Kind Of Girl' and was released on a single. As a duo, the pair simply called themselves Björn & Benny. Two years later, a Japanese publisher got wind of the song and felt that its somewhat oriental-sounding, melancholy melody could become a hit in his country. 'She's My Kind Of Girl' was released in Japan and stormed up the charts, reaching number one. This success encouraged Björn and Benny to write more pop songs in English. Moreover, they felt that they wanted to try recording together with Agnetha and Frida - they both realised that the women were the better singers.

On March 29, 1972, the two couples recorded the song 'People Need Love', widely recognised as the very first Abba song. At the time of the song's original release in June, the group had no real name and called themselves Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid. 'People Need Love' rapidly became a hit, reaching number 17 on the combined singles and albums chart in Sweden. The B-side of the single, 'Merry-Go-Round', is included as a bonus selection on this CD.

Agnetha and Frida were both recording as solo artists at the time - and for other record labels as well - so there was no talk of forming a permanent group. But together with Stig Anderson, Björn and Benny decided that they should record an album as a group, just as a side project, to see if there was more success waiting around the corner.

By the autumn of 1972, sessions for the album were in full swing, and in November a second group single was released: 'He Is Your Brother', which became a big hit on a Swedish radio chart. The B-side, 'Santa Rosa', was recorded earlier in the year, and is a bonus track on this CD.

As luck would have it, Björn, Benny and Stig - a highly prolific lyricist - were invited to write a song for the Swedish selections of the 1973 Eurovision Song Contest. The song they came up with was 'Ring Ring'. With the aid of their invaluable sound engineer, Michael B. Tretow, they borrowed some inspiration from the legendary producer Phil Spector when the track was recorded. The group achieved a sound that was completely new for a Swedish pop record. Neil Sedaka, the famous singer and songwriter, provided English lyrics for 'Ring Ring' in collaboration with his partner Phil Cody. Performing the song in the Eurovision selections in February, the group felt certain of their victory.

Unfortunately, the music business experts residing in the jury - a mix of singers, composers and journalists - felt otherwise, and 'Ring Ring' finished third. But there was no doubt that Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid had the people's vote. Shortly after the selections, both the Swedish and the English versions of 'Ring Ring' were released as separate singles. They both stormed up the charts, and when the Ring Ring album was released, the group broke a statistics record. For two weeks in a row, the Swedish version of 'Ring Ring' was number one, the English number two, while the album was number three on the combined singles and album chart. It was with this convincing success that the group decided to make their collaboration more permanent.

In the spring of 1973, the Ring Ring LP was finally issued, by which time Anni-Frid had become "Frida" on the records. The album presented the sound of a group coming together: it was clear that the foursome didn't have a definite aim with their music at this point.

Although Ring Ring included all their singles so far, some of the material was scraped together in great haste. 'I Saw It In The Mirror' had been written by Björn and Benny for another artist three years earlier. 'I Am Just A Girl' was also something of a cover version: it even used the same backing track as the original, Swedish version of the song, written and produced by Benny for a male actor. 'Rock'n Roll Band', finally, had been the B-side of a Japanese Björn & Benny single the previous year. After some additional overdubs and a new mix, the track was ready for inclusion on the the new LP.

Ring Ring is also the only Abba album to offer a songwriting contribution from Agnetha. 'Disillusion', with lyrics by Björn, was recorded just a few weeks after Agnetha gave birth to her and Björn's first child, Linda. The song certainly didn't shame its inclusion on the LP. Frida had her solo lead vocal on 'Me And Bobby And Bobby's Brother', one of the few songs to feature lyrics by Benny. In the Andersson/Ulvaeus partnerhip, this chore was mostly handled by Björn.

The original Swedish relase of the Ring Ring album included the Swedish version of the title track, featured as a bonus track on this CD. When the album was released internationally, the song was replaced by 'She's My Kind Of Girl'. Those who want to hear the album as Abba themselves planned it may programme their CD players thus: tracks 15, 2-9, 1, 11, 12.

Despite being robbed of the promotion opportunity that the Eurovision Song Contest could have provided, the 'Ring Ring' single was released in many countries. It topped the charts in Belgium, and reached the top five in The Netherlands, Norway and South Africa. Several other songs on the album, such as 'Another Town, Another Train', 'I Am Just A Girl' and 'Nina, Pretty Ballerina' reached the charts as singles in various parts of the world.

The album was not picked up by as many countries, but climbed up to number two in Norway, and would eventually become a Top 10 album in Australia. Ring Ring was a more than credible attempt at making pop music for an international market. But even bigger things were waiting around the corner.