ABBA played the Paramount Theatre, not the Portland Opera House

Published May 10, 2019

Every now and then it is suggested to me that, surely, we know everything there is to know about ABBA by now. My reply is always that the ABBA story is still under-researched. Here's an example why.

As I was preparing to go to Portland, Oregon, to attend the ARSC conference, I decided to look up the venue ABBA played there on their 1979 tour of North America. It's a little hobby I have to look up these buildings and take a few pictures.

In the official tour programme, the venue was listed as Portland Opera House, and that's indeed what I had in my files as well. However, I noticed that many years ago I'd made a note that "some sources say Paramount Theatre". Investigating it a little further, I noticed that the reviews of the concert mentioned the Paramount Theatre, so clearly, the venue was changed after the programmes had been printed.

I haven't had time to track down any ads from Oregon papers, but for now I'm fairly convinced ABBA never performed at the Opera House. I don't recall this venue switch being mentioned in the fan community, so I can only assume Oregonian ABBA fans from back in the day aren't very active in fan circles these days.

Today, the Paramount Theatre is known as The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (see picture).

So: still learning new things about ABBA, even after 25 years of researching their story.

 

Picking up my book award next week

Published May 04, 2019

May 8-11, 2019, I will attend the ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) conference in Portland, Oregon. Last year, my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions won the award for Best Popular Music Discography, and on Saturday, May 11, I will be presented with the actual award at a ceremonial dinner.

While I'm there I will also give a lecture about the book and ABBA's recording philosophies, this will take place on Thursday, May 9.

I'm really looking forward to attending the conference, hanging out with likeminded people and listening to a number of interesting lectures. It's my first time at an event such as this, so I'm curious what it might be like. And, of course, I still have to pinch my arm that my book has won an award!

Read more about the conference here. #ARSCaudio2019

If you feel like buying an award-winning book, ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions can be ordered here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

ABBA On Record contents - 06 The new songs (plus Book prices)

Published April 04, 2019

This is the sixth and final instalment describing the contents of the upcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed. Tomorrow, Friday 5 April, is when pre-ordering starts (read more here).

In addition to the discography, which constitutes the main part of the book (detailed in Saturday's blog post), there will also be five further sections. This is the fifth of these appendices:

06 THE NEW SONGS

Unless you're the kind of ABBA fan who's been living under a rock for the past year or so, you will be well aware that the group has recorded two new songs. The songs, 'I Still Have Faith In You' and 'Don't Shut Me Down', were conceived as a result of ABBA's forthcoming avatar project, where digital replicas of the four members will perform their songs in a concert environment.

While the band's most familiar songs are the backbone of this project, the four members felt it would be more valid if the avatars also had something new to sing. Thus they decided to enter the studio for the first time in almost 35 years, in June 2017, to record two new songs. When the news broke in April 2018, it caused headlines all over the planet, so sensational was it that one of the few legendary bands never to have a reunion was actually recording again. There has even been talk of a third song, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

The new songs, the first of which is presently scheduled to be made public in September or October 2019 (subject to change), will, of course, be covered in ABBA On Record. I will present them in the same diary format style used in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. At the time of writing, I don't know exactly what kind of information I will get access to, but I will do my best with whatever facts and stories I can get my hands on.

Note: The above content description is subject to minor changes and adjustments.

BOOK PRICES

Tomorrow, Friday 5 April at 9am CEST, I will start accepting pre-orders for ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed. Your support matters: every pre-order helps the book project and will make it that much better.

If you've followed the daily blog posts presenting the contents of the book, you alredy know that it will feature plenty of exciting stuff across its 448 pages (the same number of pages as ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions). In case you haven't read them, all the blog posts have been collected here

Everyone who pre-orders will get their contribution acknowledged in the book, plus you will get the book signed by me with a personal dedication. After I stop accepting pre-orders, no more copies of this will be signed by the author.

As an extra reward for those who pre-order during the first two months, I have knocked off 10% of the regular prices on the hardback book as well as the hardback + ebook package. These are the prices (including postage), grouped into shipping areas:

EBOOK
EUR 33

HARDBACK BOOK
UK: EUR 84 (regular price EUR 93)
EUROPE: EUR 94 (regular price EUR 104)
REST OF WORLD: EUR 108 (regular price EUR 120)

PACKAGE: EBOOK + HARDBACK BOOK
UK: EUR 93 (regular price EUR 103)
EUROPE: EUR 103 (regular price EUR 114)
REST OF WORLD: EUR 117 (regular price EUR 130)

Thank you for your support: past, present and future!

 

ABBA On Record contents - 05 The Michael B. Tretow Tapes

Published April 03, 2019

This is the fifth of six daily instalments, describing the contents of the upcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed. Day seven, Friday 5 April, is when pre-ordering starts (read more here).

In addition to the discography, which constitutes the main part of the book (detailed in Saturday's blog post), there will also be five further sections. This is the fourth of these appendices:

05 THE MICHAEL B. TRETOW TAPES

If you've read and enjoyed ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, there's every chance that this section of ABBA On Record will be one of the main attractions of the book, if not the main attraction. I've listened through hours upon hours of tapes from the archives of ABBA sound engineer Michael B. Tretow, and, as a result, I've learned so much more about ABBA's music.

The tapes fall into three main categories:

1. Michael’s on-the-side tapes, capturing what was going on during the sessions in real time. He didn't record each and every ABBA session, but what he recorded is enough to deepen our understanding of the group's working methods and how one and the same song would evolve over time. Most interestingly, some of these tapes feature run-throughs of songs that were abandoned at the backing track stage and then never heard from again.

2. Mixes of familiar songs with alternate lyrics and, sometimes, alternate vocal performances. These mixes seem to have been made at the time of the original recording.

3. Mixes of songs that were considered for the Thank You For The Music box set and/or the 'ABBA Undeleted' medley of outtakes, including some recordings that weren’t included, and some that were included but are featured here in more complete form.

So, why, I hear you ask, weren't the findings from these tapes included in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions? Without going into too much detail, at the time of writing the book it didn't seem as if I would get access to them. However, literally two days before ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions went to print, I got word that I would be able to hear them after all.

As you may imagine, my first reaction was: "Nooooooo!" Naturally, the information to be gleaned from these tapes was exactly the kind of thing I would have wanted to feature in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, and now it was too late to include it. However, 30 seconds later my perspective changed. I thought, "Well, isn't it great that I will be able to listen to these tapes at all, and isn't it better that we get this information in some form or fashion?" So, that's been my attitude ever since.

I want to stress that I'm very grateful that I got access to the tapes (in digitised form), and that no-one in particular is to "blame" for the less than ideal timing of permission being granted. Sometimes, this is just how things work out.

The tapes cover the time period of September 1974–October 1981, which doesn't mean that every session during that timespan has been recorded by Michael Tretow; it's rather a case of scattered selections over that seven year period. Moreover, sometimes you get to hear an hour from one and the same session, in other cases it's just a few minutes. Nevertheless, all of these recordings are fascinating and revealing in their own way, providing many new insights into ABBA's creativity.

My mind was blown many, many times during the course of listening to the tapes. Just when I thought I had heard the most fascinating recording, something that absolutely couldn't be surpassed, then another came along to make my jaw drop.

The Michael B. Tretow Tapes will be presented in the same chronological diary format used in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. I am almost finished with this section of the book, and I can tell you that the amount of text roughly equals the 1981 chapter in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions multiplied by three. So, again roughly speaking, the amount of text equals 75 book pages. I cannot wait to share my findings with you all.

Note: The above content description is subject to minor changes and adjustments.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the "ABBA On Record contents" story, to be published tomorrow.

 

·         Super-exciting stuff that reveals more about the recording sessions and ABBA’s music. The tapes fall into two main categories:

·         01. Michael’s on-the-side tapes, capturing what was going on during the sessions. I don’t think these are the complete on-the-side tapes, though, but simply a selection.

·         02. Rough mixes of songs that were considered for the Thank You For The Music box set and/or ABBA Undeleted, including some recordings that weren’t included, and some that were included but featured here in more complete form.

·         Some of the on-the-side tapes feature tunes that, it seems, were never recorded properly and were never heard from again: they were only run through in the studio with Björn on demo vocals.

·         Some familiar songs with alternate lyrics.

·         Since these tapes shed new light on ABBA’s recorded work, there will be references to pages and entries in the main book so as to aid the reader in getting the full story.

ABBA On Record contents - 04 Lyrics sentiment analysis

Published April 02, 2019

This is the fourth of six daily instalments, describing the contents of the upcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed. Day seven, Friday 5 April, is when pre-ordering starts (read more here).

In addition to the discography, which constitutes the main part of the book (detailed in Saturday's blog post), there will also be five further sections. This is the third of these appendices:

04 LYRICS SENTIMENT ANALYSIS

Back in 2015, when I had just started writing ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, I was contacted by an ABBA fan who works in statistics and data analysis. He told me that thanks to a recent development in the software he was using, he had been able to analyse ABBA's lyrics and how they developed over time, from an emotional perspective and from various different angles. He showed me a graph, and it was absolutely fascinating.

The idea was to include the results of his analysis along with my essay about Björn's lyric writing in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, but it was one of several sections I had to abandon because of space restrictions. I am very happy to be able to feature it in the upcoming book. The fan, who wishes to remain anonymous for the time being, is doing more work on it, and I'm convinced this will be a valuable inclusion in ABBA On Record.

Note: The above content description is subject to minor changes and adjustments.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the "ABBA On Record contents" story, to be published tomorrow.

 

ABBA On Record contents - 03 What is a schlager?

Published April 01, 2019

This is the third of six daily instalments, describing the contents of the upcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed. Day seven, Friday 5 April, is when pre-ordering starts (read more here).

In addition to the discography, which constitutes the main part of the book (detailed in Saturday's blog post), there will also be five additional sections. This is the second of these appendices:

03 WHAT IS A SCHLAGER?

If you've read extensively about ABBA, you will be aware of the term schlager, signifying a certain type of popular music that's not associated with what we normally think of as rock or pop. Schlager music was an important influence on ABBA - most obviously in 'I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do', so understanding what that terms stands for will also help us understand ABBA's music better. However, mainly for space reasons, in my own writings I've never had the chance to truly explain the term.

In this essay, which ties in with the Music That Inspired Them essay presented in yesterday's blog post, I will attempt to describe more specifically what schlager stands for in Sweden - it doesn't have the exact same meaning as in Germany, for instance. The focus will be on the term's meaning in the 20th Century and up to the end of the ABBA era in 1982. Moreover, since it's not a concept commonly used outside continental Europe, I will also try to contextualise it by comparing it to certain strands of popular music in the UK and the US.

Note: The above content description is subject to minor changes and adjustments.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the "ABBA On Record contents" story, to be published tomorrow.

 

ABBA On Record contents - 02 The music that inspired them

Published March 31, 2019

This is the second of six daily instalments, describing the contents of the upcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed. Day seven, Friday 5 April, is when pre-ordering starts (read more here).

In addition to the discography, which constitutes the main part of the book (detailed in yesterday's blog post), there will also be five additional sections. This is the first of these appendices:

02 THE MUSIC THAT INSPIRED THEM

In this detailed essay I will try to cover, in as much detail as possible, the music that the four ABBA members liked and/or was influenced by 1945–1982. Drawing from a multitude of interviews with the ABBA members - from newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes - I will put together a kind of chronicle of what Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida liked in their youth and how their musical tastes evolved over the decades, up until the end of the ABBA era. It will also tell us something about how the consumption of music changed from the early days, when it was mainly a matter of live music or, at best, the radio, to the 1970s, when most homes had a hi-fi system.

I hope to put this information into perspective and see to what extent the music the ABBA members heard may have influenced their own creations. Naturally, one should be careful not to fall into the trap of sloppy analysis, saying that ABBA's music is simply the sum of their influences, so the essay will not offer any easy "Bach + Beach Boys = ABBA" formulas. Nevertheless, I think there's some insight to be gained here, and I'm looking forward to getting to grips with the text. If nothing else, it's fun to see what kind of music ABBA liked, whether or not it had any direct bearing on their own music.

Note: The above content description is subject to minor changes and adjustments.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the "ABBA On Record contents" story, to be published tomorrow.

 

ABBA On Record contents - 01 The discography

Published March 30, 2019

This is the first of six instalments, describing the contents of the upcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed. Day seven, Friday 5 April, is when pre-ordering starts.

01 THE DISCOGRAPHY

• This discography, which constitutes the main part of the book, will use the Polar Music releases 1972-1982 as its basis - plus the unique recordings released in 1983 and later - just like the main book did. It will feature all known sleeves used on the Polar releases in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

• In terms of songs/recordings/mixes not released on Polar back in the day, the discography will also feature entries for the single/album where a particular version of a song was first released, in chronological order. So, for example, the UK Ring Ring remix single (not released by Polar in Scandinavia) will be featured and presented with an entry dated 21 June 1974.

• Edits will not be included in the discography (except when released on Polar), since I want to focus on creative choices made by ABBA and their closest associates, not on edits made by local record companies.

• The discography will take an indepth look at the stories behind the official single and album sleeves: how they were conceived and put together, in as much as there is a story to be told. The focus will mainly be on the albums, since most of the time there isn’t much of a story behind the single sleeves. However, whatever facts I can find will be in the book. Click here for a rough and unfinished draft of how a few of the pages might look.

• As part of the discography, there will be more information on how the various releases were promoted and marketed, primarily in Scandinavia, the UK, the US and Australia, and what kind of success they had in those territories. This is a lot more exciting than it sounds: I've already interviewed quite a few record company people who worked with ABBA in the UK, Australia and the United States, and their stories are very interesting indeed, shedding light on how and why things happened or didn't happen. I expect to do more interviews in the course of 2019.

•  Review excerpts from Sweden and the English-speaking countries will be included with each discographical entry, if they are available. Through my own extensive research and with the aid of helpful ABBA fans around the globe, I've been able to amass an insane amount of reviews. It's highly interesting to read exactly how ABBA's recordings were received at the time, as it gives us a flavour of the times and also shows how opinion on ABBA fluctuated over the course of their career.

Note: The above content description is subject to minor changes and adjustments.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the "ABBA On Record contents" story, to be published tomorrow.

 

ABBA On Record - pre-orders start a week from today!

Published March 29, 2019

I'm delighted to announce that pre-orders for my next book, ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed, will start Friday 5 April 2019. Coincidentally, it's Agnetha's birthday, so what date could be more appropriate?

ABBA On Record is presently scheduled for publication late 2019 or early 2020, and you can support the project by getting in on it early. Everyone who pre-orders will get their book signed with a personal dedication, plus their name listed in the book. For a limited period, until 5 June 2019, “early bird” pre-orders of the hardback book will also be rewarded with a 10 % discount!

The exact prices will be revealed a few days prior to 5 April.

The 448-page book is designed by Maria Nicholas, the art director who also designed the award-winning revised and expanded edition of ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions. The first edition is hardcover, 200 x 240mm, clothbound with dust jacket; both cover and insides are printed in full colour, and the inside pages are on high-quality matte paper stock. There will also be an ebook edition.

As hinted to above, the publication date is not set in stone at this point, for two reasons:

• The quality of the contents in the book come before any other considerations. I don't want to publish a half-baked book just in order to meet a deadline.

• ABBA's new songs, recorded in 2017 but as yet unfinished and unreleased, will be covered in the book, but since we don't know exactly when they will be made available, I won't be able to publish the book until I've heard the finished songs.

ABOUT THE BOOK

ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed started out as a companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Essentially, if the first volume explored ABBA's own creativity and the stories behind the songs, then ABBA On Record tells the reader what happened after the music had left the studio: single by single, album by album it presents the stories behind the iconic album sleeves, explores how the record companies worked with ABBA releases in presenting them to the record-buying public, shows what kind of success – or lack thereof – they enjoyed, and presents a selection of review excerpts to give a flavour of how the singles and albums were received by the media at the time.

The book also features five supplementary sections, essential to anyone who enjoyed ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Over the next six days I will present each of the sections (the main contents, plus the five supplementary chapters) in a series of blogs. On the seventh day, Friday 5 April, I will not be resting, for that is the launch date for the pre-orders.

Orders will be placed through PayPal (if you prefer to pay via credit card, you should be aware that PayPal handles credit card orders – you don’t need to have any money in your PayPal account to use it for credit card payments. The PayPal account itself is free – you won’t be charged any additional fees).

I'm feeling really excited about this new book, which is turning into much more than a simple companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. I'm looking forward to sharing the journey towards its completion with you. Thank you for your support: past, present and future. See you in the next blog post...!

 

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