ABBA features in new book

Published April 14, 2021

My friend Staffan Olander is a long-term fan of The Beatles, and the go-to person in Sweden for expertise on everything connected with the group. As a consequence of his winning Sweden's equivalent of The $64,000 Question in 1973 (this being Sweden, the win was a more modest SEK 10,000), he became a close personal friend of Beatles producer George Martin, and Staffan has contributed to many official Beatles projects over the years. For instance, if you see Beatles single and EP sleeves on official merchandise these days, they're likely to come from Staffan's immaculately preserved and catalogued collection.

I grew up listening to his "Beatles Hour" programmes on Swedish radio and got to know him personally in 2003. As a life-long Beatles fan, I was honoured to accompany Staffan on a trip to London, when he took me along to a visit with Sir George Martin as they were working on the book Summer of Love - The Making of Sgt Pepper. George served us tea and biscuits in his London flat and I remember thinking that this would probably be the first and last time that a "Sir" would ever serve me tea.

Staffan has just published a kind of memoir, entitled Staffan & Beatles: popmusiken blev ett livsprojekt ("Staffan & The Beatles: Pop Music Became A Life Project"). In the book, he looks back on his life, not least the many Beatles-related projects he's been involved in - and above all his friendship with George Martin.

For the ABBA fan, there are a number of items of interest in the book, perhaps particularly the three pages covering the story behind the video greeting Paul McCartney sent to Björn and Benny in June 2016, as the male half of ABBA celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first meeting. There are also pictures from the video greeting that Björn and Benny sent back to McCartney. Staffan was instrumental in making all this happen.

Other ABBA-related features in the book include a meeting between the Martin family and Björn & Benny in 1995 (including a picture); a telegram George Martin sent to Björn and Benny; and an invitation to the the Martin family to see the Mamma Mia! musical.

The book is in Swedish and if you want a signed copy you can order it directly from Staffan at info@olander.se. The price is SEK 300, plus postage, which varies according to your location on the planet.

The book is also available worldwide from Book Depository.

It's a beautifully designed book with a lot of warmth in it, which is very nice just to flick through, even if you don't understand Swedish.

 

Blue Mink – their influence on ABBA

Published March 26, 2021

This Is Pop - I was interviewed for it

Published March 01, 2021

I was interviewed for this long-in-the-making series back in 2019, and so was Benny Andersson. The series starts airing in Canada this Saturday. The episode Benny is in - and maybe I too, if I made the final cut - is “Stockholm Syndrome” (Saturday, March 20 at 10 p.m. ET).

For those of us not based in Canada, it is my understanding that the series will be available on Netflix in the not too distant future. I have no exact dates for this, nor do I know exactly which Netflix territories will make the series available.

Click here for more information about the broadcast on Canadian TV.

ABBA On Record - it's all about the stories

Published February 19, 2021

It's now about two years since I announced the publication of my forthcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed (abbaonrecord.com), so I thought it might be a good time to post a reminder of what the book is actually about.

ABBA On Record is a sort of companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, the most recent edition being published in 2017. If The Complete Recording Sessions described how ABBA's music was written and recorded, then ABBA On Record tells the story of what happened with the music when it left the recording studio: the stories behind the record sleeves, the way the record companies worked with a single or an album to promote it and, of course, what ABBA themselves did to make their music heard around the world.

In telling all these stories, I've been trying to go back to the drawing board, as it were, and not take anything for granted. In other words, instead of just repeating material from previously published sources, I've taken a fresh look at it all to see if the truth about a particular subject might be different than we've thought. And often it has turned out to be.

I've received quite a lot of help from people who worked with ABBA at the various record companies, not least the United States, where Jerry Greenberg - president of Atlantic Records at the time - has put me in touch with a great number of people who were involved with ABBA in one way or another. The Atlantic people - as well as record company people elsewhere - have shared so many fascinating stories and anecdotes, including, of course, their dealings with ABBA themselves.

A random selection of detailed features in the book:

- How ABBA got their name, and how the famous logo came together.

- The major promotional trips to Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom: I even have a complete itinerary for one of their days on the 1976 trip to the US, which gives us a good view of the many different things ABBA had to do to promote themselves and their music.

- The efforts that went into making 'Fernando' and Greatest Hits/The Best Of ABBA successful in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

- The televised gala performance of 'Dancing Queen' on the eve of the marriage between Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia Sommerlath.

Well, I could go on - and I haven't even mentioned the "extra stuff", such as the mind-blowing contents of The Michael B. Tretow Tapes, revealed in a 39,000 word essay. Suffice it to say that we will all have a better understanding of ABBA's career when this book is published.

If you want to learn more about ABBA On Record and perhaps support it with a pre-order, please visit abbaonrecord.com. Your support matters!

 

Research - a never-ending story

Published January 28, 2021

I first started collecting material and doing research into ABBA's history - with a focus on the their music - back in 1990. This means that although work on the first version of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions didn't kick off for real until 1993, I've now been researching ABBA for more than 25 years.

Since then, this research on all things connected to the group and its members has never stopped. Over the years I've been constantly collecting newspaper and magazine cuttings, radio and television items, and books, and then, in most cases, made notes of what I have and where I have it. Sometimes I've asked myself what I'm doing this for - the information just gets filed away and I don't know when or where it's ever going to be put to use. But I go on collecting stuff, because you never know: one day it might come in handy. True, some of it has gone into my Deluxe Edition liner notes, or one of my books, but much of it has never been used for anything.

However, as I've been working on the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Reccording Sessions, I've had several moments of gratitude towards myself for saving and archiving all that stuff - not forgetting, of course, the people who have shared their own collections generously and those who have assisted me in putting everything into order over the years. It happens regularly that I think, "I wonder if I have something somewhere where an ABBA member has said something about this or that", or something along those lines, and usually I've located it with just a quick computer search. More often than not I didn't even remember that I had that information filed away.

This diligence in collecting over the years, then, is paying off in a big way in the new edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. I'm sure you will agree when you read the book.

Pre-order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


Makeup to Breakup on Sirius XM radio

Published January 09, 2021

In case you haven't had enough of me talking about ABBA, Sirius XM - the U.S. satellite and online radio company - have launched a podcast series entitled Makeup to Breakup. In the series, they take a look at how various bands started and how they ended. I provide the narration on that subject for the ABBA episode, which was published on 6 January.

For those who are interested, here's a direct link to the podcast. However, listening to Sirius XM requires a paid subscription.

I will be interviewed by ABBAtalk tonight

Published January 07, 2021

When the clock strikes eight in Sweden tonight, I will be parked in front of my laptop computer for a live interview with Chris Williams of ABBAtalk. I'm sure we will be talking about my forthcoming book ABBA On Record (abbaonrecord.com), as well as other subjects.

If you'd like to watch, you can access the live broadcast by going to abbatalk.com (it's viewable for everyone). Hope to see you there!

ABBA On Record - Latest News

Published December 31, 2020

As the unlovely year of 2020 draws to a close, I thought I should post an update on where I'm at with the seemingly never-ending book project that is ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed.

As reported in an earlier blog post, the pandemic has not affected my day-to-day routines very much. In basic terms, I'm at my desk, sorting through my research, contacting people for interviews, and then writing the chapters. It's just that this book takes so much longer to write than expected.

If you're into details, like I tend to be, you want to try your best to verify that what you're writing is accurate. This, in turn, sometimes means that before you're really aware where all the time went, you find that you've spent hours on one tiny detail - and sometimes a detail that, at first glance, may appear to be not very important. Nevertheless, it's all those details that, taken together, make up the story that I want to tell.

Let me point to one example: the story behind the sleeve of the 1975 ABBA album. In the album sleeve essays, it's my ambition to turne a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional story. In other words, I'm trying to "open it up" so that we can learn as much as possible about how the sleeve was put together, and whatever related anecdotes there may be about the locations and the people involved.

I should also point out that in these endeavours I'm indebted to those who went before me: Jean-Marie Potiez's wonderful essay about the sleeve in his book ABBA - The Scrapbook, for instance, not least because he had the foresight to interview people who are no longer around to be asked about it. I have also had further discussions with Jean-Marie about the sleeve, which has helped a lot. Sara Russell has also shared information gathered for her excellent The ABBA Guide To Stockholm book.

Coupled with my own research, it all adds up to is a text that currently stands at 5,760 words - just about the ABBA album sleeve. That's longer than the entire sleeve notes I wrote for the Deluxe Edition of that album!

So, will ABBA On Record be published before 2021 is over? I certainly hope so, but it also depends on when the new ABBA songs are released, and when I will be able to access information about their creation. There is also additional research I would like to do, which is currently impossible because of the pandemic. To everyone who has pre-ordered the book, I can only extend my heartfelt thanks for your patience. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

If you want to support the book by pre-ordering a copy (your name will be listed in it, plus you will have it autographed by me), please visit abbaonrecord.com. Your support really does matter.

In the meantime: Happy New Year!

 

 

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