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...!

 

Session musicians Per Lindvall and Mike Watson get the Studioräven award

Published February 05, 2019

Last night I had the privilege of attending the Studioräven awards here in Stockholm. As I explained in last year's blog post about the awards, in Swedish, a "studioräv" is "a session musician who's been around for many years and has done innumerable sessions". The prize is awarded every year by the Swedish Musicians' Union.

This year's recipients were drummer Per Lindvall (to the left in the picture) and bassist Mike Watson, both of whom contributed to ABBA's recordings. Per Lindvall's first ABBA session was Super Trouper (the song) and he then played on three tracks on The Visitors and was the only drummer used in ABBA's final year of 1982. Mike Watson played on the very first ABBA song, People Need In Love, and although Rutger Gunnarsson was ABBA's main bass player, Mike played on Mamma Mia, The Winner Takes It All and many others.

As part of the awards ceremony, the recipients played a number of songs together - mainly soul numbers such as Sweet Soul Music and rhythm & blues classics like Kansas City - and readers of this blog may be interested to know that among the participating musicians were quite a few names with strong ABBA connections. In addition to Per and Mike, we had ABBA tour sound designer Claes af Geijerstam on guitar (he was also the emcee presenting the awards); Åke Sundqvist on drums (toured with ABBA in 1979-80 and played a number of sessions as percussionist from 1980 onwards); Janne Schaffer on guitar (around 50 ABBA sessions 1972-1982 - nuff said!); and Ulf Andersson on saxophone (I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do plus the 1977 tour). On keyboards was Peter Ljung, who was the keyboardist on Agnetha's 1983 album Wrap Your Arms Around Me; and the trumpet player was Leif Lindvall (brother of Per), who is a member of Benny Anderssons Orkester.

What a great experience to see all these top-notch musicians together: no further explanations were needed why they have been so much in demand over the years. Solid playing but with feeling and never dull - I guess that rare combination is what makes up a good session musician.

All the facts about these musicians and their contributions to the ABBA sessions are of course available in my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com).

 

Where is the companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions?

Published January 24, 2019

It's now almost two years since ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions was published, at which time I promised a companion volume featuring lots of stuff that there was no room for in the main book. I had originally planned to include background facts on the album sleeves, fun and interesting stories about how the record company people worked with the ABBA releases, vintage single and album reviews, and other stories.

There was also the exciting addition of more unreleased/unheard recordings/versions that I was granted access to in 2017, too late for inclusion in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Since then we have also had the announcement of two brand new ABBA tracks, and, obviously, I want to include information about those songs in the companion volume. In fact, it's wrong to regard this book exclusively as a companion volume, since its publication will largely be justified in itself.

So, where is the book? Why have there been almost no updates about it? The answer is long and, perhaps, boring. Nevertheless, some people are wondering, and therefore I shall try to explain.

After publishing ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, I was a bit exhausted and needed to take things a little slower for a while. In fact, a rather stressful period, work-wise, started about a decade ago, well before The Complete Recording Sessions, so there was a case of accumulated exhaustion to deal with. In addition to that, because of my seven-days-a-week work situation, there were a number of different things I had to push to the side for many years, meaning they had to be dealt with once The Complete Recording Sessions was published. I've also spent time trying to get other projects off the ground, and that has been quite time-consuming.

Research and interviews for the companion volume have been ongoing though, just at a slower pace than normal. There's also another thing about research. Whenever I visit an archive or get access to a collection, I inevitably find information that will be useful for future book projects. This means that it would be counter-productive to ignore that information - in other words, it makes complete sense to secure copies of all ABBA-related information I encounter whenever I encounter it. But then all that info has to be sorted through and catalogued, because otherwise the information is difficult to access. And that takes time.

However, from now, January 2019, the intention is that ABBA On Record (yes, that's the title of the new book!) will be my main focus for the remainder of the year. I don't want to commit to a publication date yet, but hopefully within a year or so. Obviously, I will keep you updated on this: when there is something to announce, I will announce it.

Discussions and preparations regarding design ideas for the book is ongoing with Maria Nicholas, who designed ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. I am very happy that Maria is onboard again, since her work was such a great part of the success of the main book.

I have nothing more to add at this juncture, but will be back with more news when I have anything of interest to share.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for all the amazing support: past, present and future.

 

Revealed: Benny and Tommy's first collaboration

Published December 22, 2018

So you thought that Benny Andersson and Tommy Körberg's first collaboration was in 1984, when the latter sang the part of The Russian in the former's Ulvaeus-Rice co-written musical Chess? Wrong! Read on...

THE CONTEST AND THE SONGWRITING TEAM

Back in 1969, producer Rune Hallberg at Sveriges Radio (Radio Sweden) had the idea to arrange a pop-oriented song contest in a radio show called Tonårskväll ("Teenage Night"). Five songwriting teams were invited to submit a tune, to be sung by a number of different singers. Also featured on the show were a panel of music business professionals, among them future ABBA manager Stig Anderson, who were to offer their opinion on the songs. The programme was pre-recorded in the first week of February 1969 and then broadcast Wednesday, February 12, 1969.

One of the invited songwriting teams was Benny Andersson and Lars Berghagen. The pair had been writing songs off and on since late 1967; the collaboration kicked off with two hits for The Hep Stars: It's Been A Long Long Time and Sagan om lilla Sofi ("The Story Of Little Sofi"). A month after this radio song contest Andersson and Berghagen would score their greatest triumph as a team, the song Hej clown, which almost won Melodifestivalen, the Swedish selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. As performed by singer Jan Malmsjö, it finished second but resulted in a major domestic hit.

THE SINGER AND THE SONG

At this time, Tommy Körberg could look back on a couple of years as a popular singer in Sweden as part of Tom & Mick & Maniacs, who scored a number one hit in 1967 with Somebody's Taken Maria Away. Like so many other pop stars of the 1960s, Benny included, he was now trying to forge a new path for himself, at this time singing Swedish light-pop. In fact, his performance of Judy, min vän ("Judy, My Friend", recorded in English as "Dear Mr Jones") was the song that would beat the Andersson/Berghagen submission in Melodifestivalen a month later.

So, what about the song Tommy performed in this radio contest? It was entitled Ozi McDozi, and later in 1969 it would be released as a single B-side by Lennart Grahn & Nya Shanes. (Actually, the way the titular name is pronounced, it should probably be spelled Oozi McDoozi.) The lyrics, such as they are, tell the story of a guy waiting for a girl named Ozi McDozi, with whom he is going to catch a movie. When she doesn't show up in time - she's been to a party the night before and arriving home late, because she was unfaithful with another boy - the guy gets talking to another girl. When Ozi finally shows up it's too late and the guy has got together with the new girl, and Ozi herself finds a new boy. Although the tune is fairly catchy and Tommy is in fine voice, it's not exactly Anthem.

TOMMY AND BENNY

A couple of years after his Eurovision Song Contest experience, Tommy Körberg gravitated towards the leftist music scene, where jazz-rock and more "complex" music were regarded as more genuine and real than straightforward pop. Six years after his own participation, he voiced his criticism of the Eurovision Song Contest in public. In the mid-1970s he was in a relationship with a woman who lived in the same apartment building as Benny and Frida, so they met up at parties sometimes. Tommy writes in his autobiography: "One time when we met it ended with Frida asking me and Benny to stop fighting. Naturally, our quarrel was about music. I was doing my thing and he was doing his, and I guess we wanted to position ourselves against each other. Our consumption of whisky [that night] hardly made things better."

With time, Tommy would become less judgmental, parallel with a broadening of his musical palette, making him one of Sweden's most admired singers. In the meantime, Benny was gravitating towards more overtly complex music, meaning that by 1983–1984 they could finally find common ground in Chess. Since 2001, of course, Tommy is one of the featured lead vocalists in Benny Anderssons Orkester.

OZI McDOZI

I don't know if Sveriges Radio has kept a recording of this programme in their archives, but someone who did record it off the radio at the time was one of Sweden's top Eurovision Song Contest experts, my friend Martin Verhage. He was a 13-year-old with a reel-to-reel tape recorder at the time, and I transferred the recording to a digital medium for him a while ago. I'd read about the contest in a Swedish newspaper many years ago, but never got around to finding out what the Andersson/Berghagen tune was, or who sang it. Now, thanks to Martin's keen interest in song contests almost 50 years ago, we can all listen to it here.

Merry Christmas!

 

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions: it's a Christmas gift!

Published November 22, 2018

Looking for a Christmas gift for an ABBA fan? Or do you simply want to treat yourself? Then you could do a lot worse than ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com). Over 448 pages, this award-winning book details the story of how the Swedish group created their pop masterpieces, and features plenty of insight from the four members of ABBA as well as the people who worked with them.

ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus calls the book "a fantastic work", the critics say it's "scholarly and forensically researched but at the same time eminently readable" and "an enlightening study of a pop phenomenon".

Order now to get the book in time for the holidays!

Read more and order at abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.

 

"We wish you the best of luck with your book" – Benny and Björn's original foreword

Published November 16, 2018

Recently, I had reason to revisit my original 1993 interviews with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus for my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com). I was reminded what a privilege and what an extraordinary situation that was, sitting with them individually for hours on several different occasions, discussing this, that and the other from ABBA's recording career.

As if that in itself wasn't enough, they also wrote a great foreword to the book. They certainly didn't have to do that, but they did. What a thing to happen.

In case you haven't seen the foreword before, I thought I should post it here. It still makes me very happy read it, and takes me back to a very special time in my life.

Click here to read the foreword.

The revised and expanded edition of the book is available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


Yes, it's for real! Proudly presenting my book award

Published November 14, 2018

As previously announced, my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions has won an Award for Excellence In Historical Recorded Sound Research. The award, 2018 Best Discography in Popular Music, has been bestowed upon me by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections in the United States. I hope to travel to Portland, Oregon in May 2019 to attend the awards ceremony.

In the meantime, the association has sent me the actual award certificate. I am of course immensely proud of this award, but I also feel that a part of it belongs to everyone who has bought the book, perhaps especially those who pre-ordered it: without your faith in me, the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions wouldn't exist. Simple as that.

You haven't purchased the book yet? Wondering what all the fuss is about? More info and convenient ordering links are available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com