The genius of Michael B. Tretow

Published July 08, 2016

For someone who has written and thought about ABBA and their music as much as I have, it's easy to start taking certain aspects of their "universe" and the people who inhabit it for granted. At the moment I'm particularly thinking of Michael B. Tretow and his contributions to their recordings: I often find myself using phrases such as "their invaluable sound engineer Michael B. Tretow" almost as a matter of routine, because, hey, that's what he was and everybody already knows that, right?

A few recent events have renewed my appreciation and admiration of Mr. Tretow. One is the recent CD release of the recordings he made in his youth, while he was still living in his parents' apartment in the town of Norrköping. These mid-Sixties recordings were all made in Michael's room, where local bands would cram in to get their songs committed to tape on his Tandberg reel-to-reel tape recorder. The performances as such may not always be stellar (although some are), but considering the less than ideal circumstances in which they were recorded, the tracks on the CD sound great. Clearly, Michael knew how to make a good recording long before he'd even started his employment at Metronome Studio in Stockholm. This CD, entitled Kungsgatan 25 (named after the address where Michael lived in Norrköping) is highly recommended if you want to understand exactly how important Michael was; some of his own songs are also on the CD. Order your copy by using the ordering links to the right.

As I've been interviewing ABBA session musicians for the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, many of them have also mentioned Michael Tretow and how essential he was in the studio. Even though he was only ever credited as "engineer" on ABBA's albums, he was clearly someone who didn't simply twiddle the knobs: everyone remembers how good he was at creating a good mood in the studio, and they also credit him with making many suggestions that enhanced the recording they were working on. Small wonder that from the Voulez-Vous album onwards, Michael Tretow received a royalty on ABBA's recordings even though he wasn't formally a co-producer.

From a personal point of view, Michael was also an invaluable supporter of this writer in the early stages of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, when the first version of the book was written in 1993. As I learned afterwards, he put in a good word for me with Björn and Benny, and after that all doors were opened. I wouldn't be where I am today if it hadn't been for Michael.

Read more about Michael's contribution to ABBA's magnificent discography in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Support this project by pre-ordering your copy here:


Michael B. Tretow recording ABBA at Polar Music Studio in 1978.