How did ABBA create their music? The full story in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions

Published August 31, 2018

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) is a book exploring in detail how ABBA's music was written and recorded, based on extensive archive research and interviews with all four ABBA members plus many of their associates.

The book encompasses 448 pages and is a beautifully produced artefact. In a diary format, the book explores the writing and recording of ABBA's music - it's got the factual details, but also the human element: anecdotes, stories and opinions about the music from those involved in creating it. There are a number of essays taking a closer look at how an ABBA song would be created, from A–Z. And much more!

ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus calls ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions "a fantastic work", while reviewers have said that it "stands as an enlightening study of a pop phenomenon", and that it's "the ultimate ABBA artefact". More reviews here.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

Order your copy at abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.


All about the Voulez-Vous album in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions

Published August 24, 2018

Forty years ago, ABBA were struggling with the sessions for what was to become the Voulez-Vous album, a story detailed across 56 pages in my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com). Around this time, back in August 1978, the group would have been working on 'The King Has Lost His Crown' and 'Just A Notion', the latter being one of many unreleased recordings from the Voulez-Vous sessions. Although they'd hoped to have the album finished in time for Christmas, that was not to happen - in fact, they admitted defeat as early as October. This is how I describe it in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions:

--- What had they accomplished so far? There had been plenty of recordings made, certainly, but most of them had been abandoned in various stages of completion: ‘Dr. Claus von Hamlet’, ‘Free As A Bumble Bee’, ‘Just A Notion’, ‘Hamlet III’, ‘Dream World’ and ‘Crying Over You’. ‘Lovelight’, which Björn and Benny had professed being so happy with earlier in September, had probably been deemed suitable B-side material at this stage, or would be very soon. Left for inclusion on the album, then, were ‘Lovers (Live A Little Longer)’, the full-length version of ‘Summer Night City’, and ‘The King Has Lost His Crown’; it wasn’t even enough tracks for an EP. “The prospects are not good. It’s worse than ever,” sighed Benny to a reporter. “We have no idea when we’ll be finished.” ---

Of course, Voulez-Vous was ultimately released in April 1979 and was well worth the wait, but it was certainly ABBA's most difficult album. The full story of how it and every other ABBA album came to be is in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Learn more and order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! the background story

Published August 17, 2018

Just recently, Cher's version of ABBA's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) was released as the first single from Dancing Queen, her upcoming album of ABBA covers, the news of which made quite a splash in the world's media. But let's not forget about ABBA's original version, recorded around this time 39 years ago.

As detailed in my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com), the first version of the song was a rock number entitled Been And Gone And Done It, captured on tape during the rehearsals for ABBA's 1979 tour of North America & Europe. At that time, the lyrics dealt with a woman who finds herself at the altar even though she feels marriage is a bit old-fashioned. Then, when ABBA had finally settled on the night-time anguish theme of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, the finished recording was still subject to quite extensive editing before it was finally released as a hit single in October 1979. As with most ABBA songs, there was plenty of hard work before this tune could be unleashed on the world.

Björn and Benny have spoken in recent interviews about how impressed they were with having Cher onboard for the film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - in their eyes, although they're about the same age, she's a legend, having been internationally successful since her mid-1960s breakthrough as part of Sonny & Cher. Reportedly, they are also quite thrilled with her covers album.

Nevertheless - don't disregard ABBA's fab original versions! The full stories about Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) and every other ABBA song recorded 1972-1982 are featured in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Learn more and order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


Obscure Björn and Benny song available digitally

Published August 10, 2018

As detailed in my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com), in July and August 1971 Björn and Benny were recording tracks for their ultimately unreleased second duo album. Agnetha and Frida joined them on backing vocals for some of the tracks. Out of the five songs recorded during those sessions, only two were ultimately released: 'Tänk om jorden vore ung' and 'Träskofolket', which made up the two sides of the next Björn & Benny single.

One of the tunes recorded that day had the working title 'O-Be-Doop', but later acquired proper lyrics. 'Ska du hänga me'', as the song was ultimately titled, was recorded by two CBS recording acts, both of which were dance bands. I have yet to locate the version by The Beatmakers (was it actually released?), but I managed to grab a copy of the album featuring the recording made by The Saints in 1975.

Just now, while I was searching for something else, I discovered that The Saints' version has been made available as a digital download. To the best of my knowledge, this album has never been available on CD, so this marks the first time this Andersson/Ulvaeus tune is available digitally.

You can listen to it on Spotify, or buy it on iTunes or Amazon (see links to the right).

The full story of those difficult second album sessions, and all other stories of ABBA's studio work up to the end of 1982, are detailed in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Learn more and order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


So, what is ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions?

Published August 02, 2018

The short answer to the headline question: ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) is a book exploring in detail how ABBA's music was written and recorded, based on extensive archive research and interviews with all four ABBA members plus many of their associates.

If you want to know just a little more about the book, here are four vital questions, asked and answered.

Q:  Why was this book written?

A:  Because ABBA, one of the world's biggest popular music phenomena, had a sound and style entirely their own and this deserves to be explored in detail. This type of forensic research is normally only afforded acts labelled as "rock", but pop music has its own, equally fascinating story to tell.

Q:  What can I expect from the book?

A:  ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions encompasses 448 pages and is a beautifully produced artefact (professional design, nice paper, recording session photos and other illustrations). In a diary format, the book explores the writing and recording of ABBA's music - it's got the factual details, but also the human element: anecdotes, stories and opinions about the music from those involved in creating it. There are a number of essays taking a closer look at how an ABBA song would be created, from A–Z. And much more!

Q:  So, is the book any good?

A:  According to the reviews and comments, it is. ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus calls it "a fantastic work", while reviewers have said that it "stands as an enlightening study of a pop phenomenon", and that it's "the ultimate ABBA artefact". ABBA fans have been equally enthusiastic - some examples: "A work of art on every level"; "Your book is fantastic, what incredible research! I can't stop reading"; "I am amazed at the details and charming anecdotes"; and "It's a real page turner. I am once again discovering things I never knew about their recordings." More reviews here.

Q:  OK, you've convinced me. Where can I buy the book?

A:  It's available from abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.

Thanks for reading!

ABBA - sneaking up behind you with a message

Published June 22, 2018

For long-time observers of ABBA, the story of how the lyrics for The Visitors album's 'Slipping Through My Fingers' came about is well-known. The song deals specifically with Björn and Agnetha's seven-year-old daughter, Linda, as Björn told me when I interviewed him for ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com). “I was watching Linda going away to school, turning around and waving, and I thought, ‘Now she has taken that step, she’s going away – what have I missed out on through all these years?’, which is a feeling I think every parent has.”

The song is featured in the Mamma Mia! musical, where the mother is reflecting over the fact that her daughter is now a young woman who's going to get married. I remember being at the London opening of the musical and being hit hard by this scene. I don't have any children, so I didn't relate to it on that literal level. For me, it was more about the impossibility of life itself: that we only have one go at it, and that however much we try to "capture every minute", it's gone. Eventually we will lose everyone we ever loved, on whatever level. Everything, everywhere is constantly slipping through our fingers.

I think the reason the song hit me so hard was that it caught me off-guard. And this, I think, is also part of the reason why ABBA's music resonates with so many people. ABBA entice you into their lair with ostensibly upbeat songs such as 'Mamma Mia' and 'Dancing Queen' and then they sneak up from behind and whisper the 'Slipping Through My Fingers' lyrics in your ear. In other words: unlike many other acts in the history of pop and rock, they don't advertise that they have something "important and profound" to relate. They hit you with it while you're unguarded, and that will often make it all the more powerful.

The full story of 'Slipping Through My Fingers' and every other ABBA song is in my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Learn more and order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

ABBA research - couldn't do it without helpful fans

Published June 15, 2018

As I was writing ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) back in 2015–2017, I spent a lot of time in various archives searching for facts and stories that could add further insights into ABBA's recorded history. But - and this is important - there were also plenty of fans who contacted me and offered to help. Some even donated entire cuttings collections to me, or at least partial collections, which is more than I could ever have hoped for. Many of the stories and facts in the book wouldn't have been available to me if it hadn't been for those fans.

Just a few days ago, another kind fan decided to part with his cuttings and generously sent them to information-greedy me. I'm just now going through them all and have already found stuff that I didn't know about. I just love doing research and dig deep to unearth new facts, so to receive a collection like this in one go is heaven to me. I'm constantly astounded by the generosity and kindness out there.

Much of what I'm finding here will, of course, be very useful in the companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, scheduled for publication some time in 2019. In the meantime, if you haven't already ordered your copy of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, chock-full of interesting facts and human stories about ABBA as a musical entity, the book is available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

Let The Music Speak - a book celebrating its 10th anniversary

Published June 12, 2018

As most readers of my posts will be aware, my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) tells you the story of how the group's classic recordings were made: from being written to recorded and mixed. However, there is an aspect that my book doesn't touch upon so much, which is an analysis of ABBA's music from a musicological perspective.

Fear not, though, because a book that takes on that challenge already exists. Christopher Patrick's ABBA: Let The Music Speak was first published in 2008, so celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. I read through a number of drafts of the book and also wrote the foreword to it, and I can heartily recommend it to anyone interested in delving deeper into ABBA's music.

By the way, I'm not the only one who likes it - Frida herself has given it a ringing endorsement: “I am so happy to at last read a book that mainly concentrates on our music, and not on gossip about the band members. You have written a literally wonderful exposé and should be very proud of your work. Thank you so much for letting me have a copy. I will always cherish it!”

Copies are still available, sold by Chris himself on Ebay (see ordering link to the right). Get yours while you can!

 

The Name Of The Game - it began 41 years ago

Published May 31, 2018

Just a moment ago I realised that today it's exactly 41 years since ABBA began recording The Name Of The Game, one of my favourite songs and recordings. To this day, I still marvel at the way ABBA managed to tie all those disparate elements of the song together to construct what to me is a pop masterpiece. It is unfathomable that anyone could have listened to this when it was first released and still dismiss ABBA as bubblegum.

I can remember vividly back in October 1977, being on a commuter train with my mother, and reading a news item in Swedish newspaper Expressen, stating that ABBA's new single would be played on the radio that night, in a programme called Skivspegeln ("The Record Mirror") and that Frida would be interviewed as well. Funny how these things stick in your mind, especially since the 12-year-old me wasn't really a fan of neither ABBA nor The Name Of The Game.

While researching and listening to alternate mixes of the track for ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com), I found that at one point Björn and Benny contemplated editing a section out of The Name Of The Game. This is what I wrote in the book:

'Intriguingly, the archives hold a rough attempt at an edit of the song, presumably made during the Bohus sessions. At 01:29, the 13-second section starting with “And you make me talk” and ending with “what I’m trying to conceal” has been deleted so that the song jumps straight to “if I trust in you”. The same section has also been edited out later in the song, after the line “beginning to grow”, again jumping straight to “if I trust in you”. Talking about ‘The Name Of The Game’ in an interview the following month, Björn admitted that they’d been “a bit worried about releasing it because it’s nearly five minutes long”; clearly, they tried making it shorter by editing these sections out of its four minutes and 50 seconds. Fortunately, Björn and Benny concluded that removing those bits would spoil the song, and so their new single came to feature ABBA’s longest A-side yet.'

These and many more facts and stories about ABBA's amazing songs are to be found in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. To learn more and to order your copy, please go to abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.

 

Abbamania - it's a permanent condition

Published May 25, 2018

I will never forget, back in 1993, when I was writing the original edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com). I was about three-quarters through the writing when someone said to me, "You'd better hurry up and get that book out before the Abbamania dies down". The implication was that the renewed interest in ABBA was a temporary fad that would die away soon enough. I remember thinking, "Well, we'll see about that".

Twenty-five years later it's clear that interest in ABBA is unlikely to diminish significantly during my lifetime. They've become a permanent fixture in modern-day culture, a reference that everyone can relate to whether they like them or not. There's always something ABBA-related going on: this year, for instance, it's mainly the anticipation surrounding the new songs and the upcoming digital avatar project, as well as the movie Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

From time to time, I get asked in interviews why there's still so much interest in ABBA four decades after their heyday, as if there must be some great mystery attached to it. These days, my answer is usually: "Because they were good." I'm sure there are sociological aspects as well, and nostalgia will play a part, of course, but at the end of they day it will boil down to the music being so well-made. And with strong tunes - and I mean really strong, attractive tunes - not being provided in abundance in today's popular music landscape, we have to go back to acts like ABBA to get them. Because mankind's desire for hummable tunes has not diminished. That's the main lesson to be learned from ABBA's continued popularity.

So how did they go about creating those wonderful songs? Well, you may find out in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, which you can order here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com