A day in the life of an ABBA researcher

Published November 24, 2017

Contrary to what some may believe, I don't research ABBA only when I'm working on a certain project. Research is ongoing all the time, as I'm absorbing new information from a multitude of different sources. You never know when the results of your efforts will come in handy, and there have been many times over the years when I've had reason to rejoice at a piece of info being available in my files - and I had even forgotten that I had it.

I keep a list of items that need to be researched at the National Library of Sweden here in Stockholm, and when that list starts getting long enough I spend a day at the library trying to go through as much as possible. It can be anything from following up on an alert that there might be an interesting interview in this or that journal, or just trying to verfiy a fact.

On my most recent visit to the library, for instance, I thought that I should try to pin down the date for a certain Bubi Heilemann photo session in Stockholm. In one of Bubi's books, the date is noted as June 1974, probably a guesstimate based on when the pictures were first published. However, I had something more concrete to go on from the photo session, namely a picture of Benny reading a newspaper, a detail of which is shown below.

Svenska Dagbladet

Behind him, there are also placards of other newspapers from that day.

Benny and placards

The headline in the newspaper is about the French election of 1974, mentioning François Mitterand. A little googling made it clear that this would have been May 1974. To cut a long story short, at the library - after locating the news items mentioned on the placards and comparing them with the newspaper headline - I was able to determine that this photo session had taken place on 3 May 1974.

Now, this in itself doesn't mean so much, but it gets a little more interesting when we put it  together with other things the ABBA members did around this time, which I'd found during other research:

29 April: A team from the UK's Daily Mirror travel to Viggsö island in Stockholm's archipelago, to take pictures of ABBA as they're going to be number one with their Waterloo single next week. The result was this photo session (I was able to verify this piece of info at the British Library a couple of years ago):

ABBA at Viggsö

ABBA are out relaxing at Viggsö, but the news that they're number one means that they have to go to London to appear on Top Of The Pops.

1 May: They film a performance of Waterloo on Top Of The Pops, which can be viewed here.

2 May: ABBA travel back to Stockholm; Top Of The Pops is broadcast that evening.

3 May: Bubi Heilemann conducts his photo session with ABBA (the main picture on this page was taken in Stockholm's Gamla Stan district). That same day, backing vocals are recorded for 'Aldrig mej' and 'Vill du låna en man', two tracks from Frida's upcoming solo album Frida ensam. I found the info about these recording dates at the SAMI archive in Stockholm back in 1993.

I don't know about you, but to me stringing together the dates like this gives me a clearer view of exactly how busy ABBA were after their 'Waterloo' victory on 6 April 1974. It won't change the ABBA story in any earth-shattering fashion, but it does add colour.

Just like ABBA went to London to appear on Top Of The Pops back in 1974, I will soon travel there myself to conduct further research at the British Library for the companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Really looking forward to that, as there are few things I enjoy more than going through old music industry magazines searching for the tiniest details. I really do mean that!

In the meantime, ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


ABBA in Stockholm's Gamla Stan district, 3 May 1974. Photo by Bubi Heilemann.