ABBA - sneaking up behind you with a message

Published June 22, 2018

For long-time observers of ABBA, the story of how the lyrics for The Visitors album's 'Slipping Through My Fingers' came about is well-known. The song deals specifically with Björn and Agnetha's seven-year-old daughter, Linda, as Björn told me when I interviewed him for ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com). “I was watching Linda going away to school, turning around and waving, and I thought, ‘Now she has taken that step, she’s going away – what have I missed out on through all these years?’, which is a feeling I think every parent has.”

The song is featured in the Mamma Mia! musical, where the mother is reflecting over the fact that her daughter is now a young woman who's going to get married. I remember being at the London opening of the musical and being hit hard by this scene. I don't have any children, so I didn't relate to it on that literal level. For me, it was more about the impossibility of life itself: that we only have one go at it, and that however much we try to "capture every minute", it's gone. Eventually we will lose everyone we ever loved, on whatever level. Everything, everywhere is constantly slipping through our fingers.

I think the reason the song hit me so hard was that it caught me off-guard. And this, I think, is also part of the reason why ABBA's music resonates with so many people. ABBA entice you into their lair with ostensibly upbeat songs such as 'Mamma Mia' and 'Dancing Queen' and then they sneak up from behind and whisper the 'Slipping Through My Fingers' lyrics in your ear. In other words: unlike many other acts in the history of pop and rock, they don't advertise that they have something "important and profound" to relate. They hit you with it while you're unguarded, and that will often make it all the more powerful.

The full story of 'Slipping Through My Fingers' and every other ABBA song is in my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Learn more and order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

ABBA research - couldn't do it without helpful fans

Published June 15, 2018

As I was writing ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) back in 2015–2017, I spent a lot of time in various archives searching for facts and stories that could add further insights into ABBA's recorded history. But - and this is important - there were also plenty of fans who contacted me and offered to help. Some even donated entire cuttings collections to me, or at least partial collections, which is more than I could ever have hoped for. Many of the stories and facts in the book wouldn't have been available to me if it hadn't been for those fans.

Just a few days ago, another kind fan decided to part with his cuttings and generously sent them to information-greedy me. I'm just now going through them all and have already found stuff that I didn't know about. I just love doing research and dig deep to unearth new facts, so to receive a collection like this in one go is heaven to me. I'm constantly astounded by the generosity and kindness out there.

Much of what I'm finding here will, of course, be very useful in the companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, scheduled for publication some time in 2019. In the meantime, if you haven't already ordered your copy of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, chock-full of interesting facts and human stories about ABBA as a musical entity, the book is available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

Let The Music Speak - a book celebrating its 10th anniversary

Published June 12, 2018

As most readers of my posts will be aware, my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) tells you the story of how the group's classic recordings were made: from being written to recorded and mixed. However, there is an aspect that my book doesn't touch upon so much, which is an analysis of ABBA's music from a musicological perspective.

Fear not, though, because a book that takes on that challenge already exists. Christopher Patrick's ABBA: Let The Music Speak was first published in 2008, so celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. I read through a number of drafts of the book and also wrote the foreword to it, and I can heartily recommend it to anyone interested in delving deeper into ABBA's music.

By the way, I'm not the only one who likes it - Frida herself has given it a ringing endorsement: “I am so happy to at last read a book that mainly concentrates on our music, and not on gossip about the band members. You have written a literally wonderful exposé and should be very proud of your work. Thank you so much for letting me have a copy. I will always cherish it!”

Copies are still available, both from Chris himself on Ebay and from the Fan Club shop (see ordering links to the right). Get yours while you can!

 

The Name Of The Game - it began 41 years ago

Published May 31, 2018

Just a moment ago I realised that today it's exactly 41 years since ABBA began recording The Name Of The Game, one of my favourite songs and recordings. To this day, I still marvel at the way ABBA managed to tie all those disparate elements of the song together to construct what to me is a pop masterpiece. It is unfathomable that anyone could have listened to this when it was first released and still dismiss ABBA as bubblegum.

I can remember vividly back in October 1977, being on a commuter train with my mother, and reading a news item in Swedish newspaper Expressen, stating that ABBA's new single would be played on the radio that night, in a programme called Skivspegeln ("The Record Mirror") and that Frida would be interviewed as well. Funny how these things stick in your mind, especially since the 12-year-old me wasn't really a fan of neither ABBA nor The Name Of The Game.

While researching and listening to alternate mixes of the track for ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com), I found that at one point Björn and Benny contemplated editing a section out of The Name Of The Game. This is what I wrote in the book:

'Intriguingly, the archives hold a rough attempt at an edit of the song, presumably made during the Bohus sessions. At 01:29, the 13-second section starting with “And you make me talk” and ending with “what I’m trying to conceal” has been deleted so that the song jumps straight to “if I trust in you”. The same section has also been edited out later in the song, after the line “beginning to grow”, again jumping straight to “if I trust in you”. Talking about ‘The Name Of The Game’ in an interview the following month, Björn admitted that they’d been “a bit worried about releasing it because it’s nearly five minutes long”; clearly, they tried making it shorter by editing these sections out of its four minutes and 50 seconds. Fortunately, Björn and Benny concluded that removing those bits would spoil the song, and so their new single came to feature ABBA’s longest A-side yet.'

These and many more facts and stories about ABBA's amazing songs are to be found in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. To learn more and to order your copy, please go to abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.

 

Abbamania - it's a permanent condition

Published May 25, 2018

I will never forget, back in 1993, when I was writing the original edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com). I was about three-quarters through the writing when someone said to me, "You'd better hurry up and get that book out before the Abbamania dies down". The implication was that the renewed interest in ABBA was a temporary fad that would die away soon enough. I remember thinking, "Well, we'll see about that".

Twenty-five years later it's clear that interest in ABBA is unlikely to diminish significantly during my lifetime. They've become a permanent fixture in modern-day culture, a reference that everyone can relate to whether they like them or not. There's always something ABBA-related going on: this year, for instance, it's mainly the anticipation surrounding the new songs and the upcoming digital avatar project, as well as the movie Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

From time to time, I get asked in interviews why there's still so much interest in ABBA four decades after their heyday, as if there must be some great mystery attached to it. These days, my answer is usually: "Because they were good." I'm sure there are sociological aspects as well, and nostalgia will play a part, of course, but at the end of they day it will boil down to the music being so well-made. And with strong tunes - and I mean really strong, attractive tunes - not being provided in abundance in today's popular music landscape, we have to go back to acts like ABBA to get them. Because mankind's desire for hummable tunes has not diminished. That's the main lesson to be learned from ABBA's continued popularity.

So how did they go about creating those wonderful songs? Well, you may find out in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, which you can order here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

I Still Have Faith In ... ABBA books

Published May 04, 2018

Well I never...! Who would have thought that ABBA would return with two brand new songs. I belonged to those who were convinced there would never be an ABBA reunion, in whatever shape or form. When asked about it in interviews, I usually added the "never say never" caveat, but from what the four members had been telling the media over the past decades, my conclusion was that it would never happen. They had, to coin a phrase, Moved On.

Now, of course, I'm very much looking forward to hearing the two new songs, I Still Have Faith In You and Don't Shut Me Down. After the initial surprise announcement, and the many requests from the media to comment on the news, as the entire thing has sunk in I've come to realise that for me, the best part of this "reunion" is that we'll get to hear Agnetha and Frida sing together again. As the male half of the group are keen to point out, it's the ladies' voices together that make up the main part of the ABBA sound. I honestly can't wait to hear that "third voice" again.

Will these recordings, made for the upcoming "abbatar" project, pave the way for more sessions? No-one seems to know, certainly not me. For now, I prefer to think of the two new songs as an epilogue, an additional chapter to the ABBA story. A potentially interesting and exciting chapter, for sure, but separate from the 1972-1982 era, when ABBA existed for real.

Speaking of additional chapters, I have to say that I'm now even more happy that I decided to put together a companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Not only will I be able to include all the fun stuff I've already promised, but, naturally, the new songs will be covered as extensively as possible - all dependent, of course, what kind of information I'll be able to extract about them.

Obviously, I'm not going to be able to publish the companion volume until the new songs are out, so probably sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2019. We'll have to see how the "abbatar" project pans out, though.

In the meantime, to learn all about ABBA's classic-era recordings, please order your copy of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com