Our Last Summer - mixing the wistfulness

Published September 15, 2016

Just a minute ago, as I was working on the text for the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, I had a look at the notes I made when I was listening to alternate mixes of 'Our Last Summer', from the 1980 Super Trouper album. There are lots of differences between the mixes they made back then. Without revealing too much - I'm saving the details for the book - 'Our Last Summer' is an example of how a song would evolve during mixing. Michael Tretow has told the story a number of times of how Benny would do overdub after overdub after overdub, until they finally had a recording they were satisfied with. Benny's many overdubs are only a part of the 'Our Last Summer' story, though, as they tried removing and adding various things to the soundscape. I'm looking forward to tracing the development of this and many other ABBA songs for your reading pleasure.

Another thought that struck me as I was listening to mix after mix of 'Our Last Summer' was how amazing Frida's lead vocal is. The lyrics are sung from the perspective of a woman looking back at a romance in Paris, taking place when she was young, contrasting it against the dull reality of the present. Wistfulness was always Frida's big thing as a singer, but listening intently to all of these mixes I was also struck by something else. On the lines "I was so happy we had met / it was the age of no regret / oh yes" I suddenly heard a sadness I hadn't quite picked up on before: on the "oh yes", her voice sounds strained, as if she's about to burst into tears. It's almost like she was aware, even when the romance was ongoing, that there would indeed be plenty of regret ahead. In the affirmative "oh yes", an "oh no" is already embedded. What a performance!

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Frida recording vocals at Polar Music Studio, June 1980.