Turn every goddam page

Published December 19, 2019

The image attached to this post is something I put together when I was about to launch the pre-ordering campaign for my forthcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed earlier this year. I thought it would be a good way of presenting what the book would be about. Mercifully, clearer heads prevailed and I don't think this winner of the 2019 Dog's Dinner Design Award was ever seen in public.

However, I came across it recently, and I realised it would be the perfect illustration to today's blog post, as it mirrors the somewhat chaotic nature of the ABBA On Record book project thus far. Since this book was originally conceived as a companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, I had, naïvely, assumed that it wouldn't take so long to put together. But, not for the first time, along the way I discovered that there was a bigger and much more interesting story to uncover than I'd first thought.

In the course of 2019 I've spent a lot of time on additional research, getting access to large collections that I hadn't quite counted on and then sorting through it all, cataloguing it so that it becomes useful in my work. The consequence is that all of a sudden you look up from your work and realise that several days, or a number of weeks, or many months have passed and you're not quite certain where all the time went.

But, at the end of the day, this is all positive: you just have to remind yourself that it will make the book much, much better. I recently read a fascinating book by the author Robert Caro, entitled Working. Caro is famous for his multi-volume biography about Lyndon B. Johnson - he began the project in 1976 and the final volume hasn't yet been published. In Working, he describes how he first discovered he had a knack for research and the advice he got from the editor of the newspaper he was working for at the time: "Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page."

I'm not comparing myself to a Pulitzer-winning writer such as Robert Caro, but the research principle is a sound one. With some regularity people remark to me: "Surely, there can't be anything new to learn about ABBA? You must know everything that's worth knowing?" Well, actually there is and I don't. I keep discovering new things all the time. But there is no getting around having to wade through a lot of junk or over-familiar stories to find the nuggets that will tell you something new. If you want to do the job properly, it takes a lot of time.

What all this boils down to is that ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed is far from finished. I'm not sure it will even be out in 2020, maybe early 2021 is more realistic. While time-consuming research is one major factor for this postponement, it's not the only one. Let me list the main reasons here:

1. Research taking a lot more time than expected, as described above.

2. I can no longer work at the pace I did when I wrote ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, when I was working seven days a week for more than two years. I still work about six days a week, but I do need to relax every now and then.

3. The new ABBA songs: When I first announced ABBA On Record, we all expected that the two new ABBA songs would be released in the course of 2019. They have now been postponed until at least 2020. I do want to write about the songs in my book, but I can't write about them until they have been made public. There are also all sorts of rumours flying about regarding additional new tracks being recorded - I'll believe it when I see it, so until there has been official confirmation, I won't know exactly how to deal with it.

4. I want to enlist the services of Maria Nicholas, who did such a fantastic job designing ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, but Maria is working a full-time job besides having other extracurricular projects similar to designing my books. This means I will have to wait until she has more time to take on designing ABBA On Record.

It's important to me that everyone who has pre-ordered ABBA On Record, or will do so in the future, knows that I am very grateful for the faith that has been put in me to see this project through. It is fascinating work and a great part of what fuels me is a feeling of, "wait until they read this", as I know that I'm writing for a readership that's just as excited as I am at the prospect of learning new facts about ABBA - things that go beyond the well-known story, but are nonetheless highly interesting and, in some cases, changes what we thought we knew.

Thank you for your patience - I am confident that you will enjoy the book when it's finally finished. Meanwhile, I'll go on turning every goddam page.

Learn more about ABBA On Record and pre-order your copy at abbaonrecord.com.

 

Get ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions for Christmas

Published November 09, 2019

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is the perfect Christmas gift for the dedicated ABBA fan - or perhaps even for yourself. If you live outside Europe, I would advise you to order before mid-November if you want it delivered in time for the holidays.

Before very long, all copies of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions will be gone. It's far from certain that it will be reprinted, and definitely not with the dust cover and all the rest of it. So, if you want a copy, there's no time like the present.

Uncertain if ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is for you? Click here to read what dedicated ABBA fans have said about the book.

Order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions at 25

Published October 21, 2019

Did you know that October 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com)? The original edition was published in October 1994 and, although it seems like just a while ago, a quarter of a century has actually passed since then.

As many of those reading this will be aware, a thoroughly revised and expanded edition, with at least four times as much text was published in 2017 (you can basically forget about the original book). Sales have been ticking along since then, and now I don't have that many copies left.

If you haven't got it yet, I strongly advise you to buy as soon as possible, before they're all gone. It's far from certain ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions will be reprinted (there's a dedicated but very small audience for a book like this), and definitely not in this attractive presentation, with a snazzy dust cover and all the rest of it.

Perhaps you'd like to treat someone or even yourself with the book for Christmas? If you live outside Europe, I would advise you to order before mid-November if you want it delivered in time for the holidays.

The book has attracted some really good reviews - even ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus talked about it in glowing terms in an interview - and the fans have been raving about it. Forget that I wrote it: the contents will interest every dedicated ABBA fan.

Learn more and order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


What's in a name and how did ABBA get theirs?

Published October 03, 2019

If you've read ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, you may recall there were a number of "sidebars" - additional articles focusing on certain aspects - throughout the book. ABBA On Record (abbaonrecord.com) will have such articles as well.

Right now I'm working on a detailed article that will explore how the group changed their name from Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid to ABBA. Unfortunately, so many contradictory accounts have been doing the rounds over the years that it's impossible to arrive at a definite truth, but I will at least be able to tell the story in some detail. It's this kind of challenge that makes my job so interesting - I hope you will enjoy reading the article in the finished book.

Pre-order your copy here: abbaonrecord.com. Your support matters!


It's the 47th anniversary of ... Janne Schaffer adding electric guitar to Rock'n Roll Band!

Published September 26, 2019

Today, 26 September 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' Abbey Road album. But while the rest of the world celebrates that milestone, ABBA fans can focus on the 47th anniversary of Janne Schaffer doing an electric guitar overdub onto the Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida track 'Rock'n Roll Band'! Not quite as monumental, I hear you say, but I don't care.

I've been thinking a bit about 'Rock'n Roll Band' lately, as this was the third and final ABBA single A-side released by Playboy Records in the United States. I'm writing about it in my forthcoming book ABBA On Record (abbaonrecord.com) and speculating about the reasons for choosing this, one of the weakest tracks on the Ring Ring album, for single release. My thoughts on this will be available in the book, along with other interesting facts and stories about the singles in ABBA's official Polar Music catalogue, many of which will be unfamilar to most readers.

Learn more about ABBA On Record and pre-order your copy here: abbaonrecord.com


What have they got to do with him?

Published September 19, 2019

Work on my upcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed (abbaonrecord.com) is ongoing here at Carl Magnus Palm headquarters. I'm having a lot of fun going through research old and new to piece together the story of how ABBA's music found world success, learning so much in the process and having several "oh, so that's how it happened!" moments.

The answer to the question in the headline is, of course, that ABBA's first US record label was Playboy Records, and the man in the picture to the right is Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. He had very little day-to-day involvement with the record label, however, but earlier this year it was my pleasure to interview the man who was the head of Playboy Records for most of ABBA's brief tenure with them, 1972-1973. It's a largely unknown story, and, without raising expectations to an unreasonable level, at least we will know a little more about it when the book is published.

The ABBA/Playboy story is just one of many episodes explored in ABBA On Record, which also will have supplements such as the contents of The Michael B. Tretow Tapes, providing us with so much more insight about how familiar songs developed as well as providing details about a few unheard tunes.

The book is currently scheduled for publication sometime in the first half of 2020. If you haven't already done so, I urge you to place a pre-order: everyone who pre-orders will have their name listed in the book, plus get their copy personally signed by the author.

Pre-order your copy here: abbaonrecord.com. Your support matters!

 

Michael B. Tretow at 75

Published August 19, 2019

Back in 1993, when I was researching and writing the first edition of my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, the first person I contacted for an interview was the group's engineer Michael B. Tretow. Over two separate 90 minute sessions in April of that year, I interviewed Michael on the phone about his memories and insights from recording ABBA. Michael was as impressed and intrigued by my research as I was by his talents as a raconteur and willingness to share his stories. From that moment on I knew I had a valuable ally in my endeavours to document their musical history. As I found out later, it was through his assertion that I was "a serious guy", as Björn and Benny wrote in their foreword to my book, that I was granted interviews with the male half of ABBA and then also got the opportunity to ask questions of Frida and Agnetha. A new, still ongoing chapter of my life began.

Although my contact with Michael has been pretty sporadic over the years, he has always been ready with an enthusiastic answer whenever I've had questions to ask, and if there was a door he could open for me, he was sure to open it. Naturally, I consulted him several times when I wrote the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, but, more importantly, working on that new edition renewed my admiration for the man, and reminded me just how important his creativity and perspective were for making ABBA's records so great.

The notion of "the fifth Beatle", "the sixth Rolling Stone" and so on is pretty silly, because if there had really been a fifth Beatle he would have been a member of The Beatles. Nevertheless, if there was something like a fifth ABBA member, Michael would be it. In my opinion, his talent for making recordings sound great is still underrated - this includes the "amateur" recordings he made in his bedroom while he was still living at home with his parents in the town of Norrköping, released on a CD a few years ago.

Incredible as it may seem, Tuesday 20 August 2019 marks Michael's 75th birthday.  I wish him all the best on that special day, and, on a personal note, I want to thank him for everything he's done for me over the years. I wouldn't be where I am today without his support at a crucial moment - simple as that.

Happy Birthday, Michael!

 

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