2 stars out of 10 for Thank You For The Music

Published August 17, 2017

The revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) features almost four pages detailing the story behind the compiling of the 1994 box set Thank You For The Music. However, some of the reviewers of the box set at the time of its original release would probably not agree that it was worthy of such attention. 

I thought the most damning review may have been the 2-out-of-5 mauling in Q magazine, but the other day I came across this 2-out-of-10 submission from Vox, written by Steve Malins. You don't need to be a genius mathematician to figure out that 2 stars out of 10 translates as 1 star out of 5. Ouch! So here is the review for your reading pleasure, or displeasure as the case might be.

"After two recent greatest hits packages, the only motivation for this four-CD, 66 track monster is hollow-bellied greed. Most of the material is etched into the psyche of British suburbia, and hardly needs further introduction. This leaves one CD of rare B-sides and six previously unreleased tracks to justify the whole. Most of this paltry addition to the Abba story should have remained locked away in Benny and Bjorn's bottom drawer, with only 'Put On Your White Sombrero' and 'Dream World' exuding any charm. The latter is particularly worthwhile, as it includes a melody later massacred by the boys on the rocky 'Does Your Mother Know?'. As for the rest, it's a pitiful mix of rotten flipsides, folksongs, live recordings, and, worst of all, more Abba songs with the beards on vocals."

Along with the box set and the original albums, those rotten flipsides and songs with the beards on vocals are explored in some detail in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


What is ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions?

Published June 30, 2017

The short answer to the headline question: ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) is a book exploring in detail how ABBA's music was written and recorded, based on extensive archive research and interviews with all four ABBA members plus many of their associates.

If you want to know just a little more about the book, here are four vital questions, asked and answered.

Q:  Why was this book written?

A:  Because ABBA, one of the world's biggest popular music phenomena, had a sound and style entirely their own and this deserves to be explored in detail. This type of forensic research is normally only afforded acts labelled as "rock", but pop music has its own, equally fascinating story to tell.

Q:  What can I expect from the book?

A:  ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions encompasses 448 pages and is a beautifully produced artefact (professional design, nice paper, recording session photos and other illustrations). In a diary format, the book explores the writing and recording of ABBA's music - it's got the factual details, but also the human element: anecdotes, stories and opinions about the music from those involved in creating it. There are a number of essays taking a closer look at how an ABBA song would be created, from A–Z. And much more!

Q:  So, is the book any good?

A:  According to the reviews and comments, it is. ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus calls it "a fantastic work", while reviewers have said that it "stands as an enlightening study of a pop phenomenon", and that it's "the ultimate ABBA artefact". ABBA fans have been equally enthusiastic - some examples: "A work of art on every level"; "Your book is fantastic, what incredible research! I can't stop reading"; "I am amazed at the details and charming anecdotes"; and "It's a real page turner. I am once again discovering things I never knew about their recordings." More reviews here.

Q:  OK, you've convinced me. Where can I buy the book?

A:  It's available from abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.

Thanks for reading!


I recorded in the same studio as ABBA

Published June 15, 2017

As some long-time followers of my blog posts may remember, I sang four songs on a children's album back in 1975. Because of my current profession, I thought it would be fun to identify any possible ABBA connections, and found three:

• Ola Brunkert was the drummer on the children's album
• Steel guitarist Janne Lindgren ('Happy Hawaii') appears on the album
• The sleeve pictures were taken by Bengt H. Malmqvist (innumerable ABBA publicity photos including park bench pic and Ring Ring album sleeve)

But during the writing of the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions I found that there's one more connection, of perhaps even greater significance. I was able to confirm something I had a hunch about, which is that Ljudkopia, where the backing track for 'Bang-A-Boomerang' was recorded, and Polyvox are one and the same studio. In early 1975, when 'Bang...' was recorded it was still known as Ljudkopia, but by the summer of the same year, when I recorded those songs, it had changed its name to Polyvox.

Furthermore, according to the recollections of drummer Rolf Alex, some mixing work for 'Summer Night City' was made there as well, and this is where Rolf overdubbed his hi-hat on that recording. So the fact of the matter is that I've recorded on the same premises as ABBA. Call me silly, but I think it's kind of fun!

Of course, ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions features several essays about the recording studios most frequently used by ABBA, and a few paragraphs about Ljudkopia/Polyvox as well.

Order your copy of the book here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


Whatever you do, don't knock ABBA!

Published June 10, 2017

It's August 1975 and ABBA are still in their post-Eurovision slump in the UK. Harry Doherty of UK music paper Disc has just given the group's eponymous album a one-star review - that's one star out of four. "Stick to singles, Abba. You're just a mediocre albums' band", is the harsh verdict, and Doherty (signing his review as "HD") doesn't even include 'SOS' and 'Mamma Mia' among his single candidates.

But wait! Two weeks later Disc publishes a letter from an irate reader, proving that ABBA did indeed have their ardent supporters in the UK even back then. I must admit, I have a certain fondness for angry fan letters to the editor, written at the time and not with the benefit of hindsight we have today. There's something truly touching about the passion contained therein, especially when it's for an act that isn't particularly successful.

Read the letter here.

And the full story of how the "mediocre" ABBA album was written and recorded, is of course available over 30-or-so pages in the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

Rave reviews for ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions

Published June 01, 2017

When I decided to put together a revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com), I had one aim only: to satisfy those that were truly interested in an in-depth study of how and when ABBA's music was written and recorded. I had zero expectations on comments from the subjects of the book, much less that the book should receive much attention from the media.

Two months after the book was published, I'm happy to say that the reception of the book from  ABBA fans has been overwhelmingly positive - and I've had more accolades from ABBA members and the media than I had counted on. "A fantastic work," says ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus; "An exemplary display of research and writing," writes The Beat magazine; "The scope of the research is staggering, with a flowing narrative and a will to enlighten all the way through," writes Jan Gradvall. Seems I got it right this time!

I've just put together a page of the "professional" comments and reviews I've seen so far, which is available here. The fan reviews have been collected here.

And if you feel inspired to order the book after reading the reviews, it's available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com