Just like this or just like that?

Published March 14, 2012

Airborne pigs were recently spotted in the vicinity of central Stockholm. Who’d ever thought that we’d see any further releases of previously unavailable ABBA recordings? But with the upcoming The Visitors Deluxe Edition, this is exactly what’s happened. Benny Andersson took some demos and discarded attempts at recording the album’s closing track, ‘Like An Angel Passing Through My Room’, and strung them together in a 9-minute medley entitled ‘From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel (demos)’. Naturally, ABBA fans were thrilled with this news, but many also wondered: If ABBA can authorise the release of a bunch of demos, why won’t they release the holy grail of all unreleased ABBA tracks, ‘Just Like That’? It was recorded in 1982, during the aborted sessions for what was projected as ABBA’s ninth studio album, and so it would have been a perfect fit among the other bonus tracks on The Visitors Deluxe Edition, most of which cover ABBA’s final recording period.

The answer to that question is simply: It doesn’t work like that. On this very site, you will find listed a number of reasons why ‘Just Like That’ hasn’t been released, to which can be added the fact that Björn and Benny regard the recording as unfinished. “Unfinished?”, I hear you cry. “But it’s mixed and completed!” Yes, it is indeed mixed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it would ever have been released in this state back in the early 1980s. There are many instances where ABBA recorded a track, mixed it – and then decided that it wasn’t finished, went back to add and subtract instrumental and vocal parts, edited out sections of the recording, and then created a brand new mix.

But for all these various reasons, it all boils down to Björn and Benny’s feelings about ‘Just Like That’, and they simply don’t want to release it. There’s no use in arming yourself with “logical” arguments why they should release this, that or the other, along the lines of “if they’ve done this, surely they can do that!” Again, it doesn’t work like that. They are artists, and as such they can only judge by their own gut feelings whether something should be released or not – just like they’ve always done. I’m sure they would agree that, in retrospect, sometimes they’ve made the wrong decision, but that’s also their prerogative: it’s their music and so their feelings about it will guide their decisions at any given time.

Many fans have also wondered: “Why is the demo medley released now? Is there something bigger in the works? Does this mean that we will get more unreleased music from ABBA?” In the case of the demo medley, the idea came up through informal discussions between Björn, Benny and the record company. There was no big plan or strategy behind it – it just happened because the stars were aligned and all concerned felt it would be fun and interesting. So, in short: Don’t expect any further releases from the ABBA vaults in the future. It could happen, but then again it might not happen at all.

In the meantime, yesterday evening a programme was broadcast on Swedish television, proving that Benny is not completely averse to sometimes revealing some of ABBA’s recording secrets. I’m not sure if you will be able to view this outside Sweden, but in the latest episode in a series entitled "Låtarna som förändrade musiken" (The Songs That Changed Music), Benny was interviewed about the origins of "Ring Ring" – and he also sat down at the mixing desk to isolate some of the tracks of the original 16-track tape to let us hear individual parts. Click here to view the programme.


ABBA in the studio in 1978.