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


Björn Ulvaeus' new book - a review

Published October 13, 2018

Update December 7, 2018: The book is now available from the ABBA The Museum shop, see link in the menu to the right.

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ABBA and autobiographies are a strange, or at least a bit unusual, story. Agnetha's 1996 book As I Am seems to have come about at the suggestion of co-writer, Brita Åhman, rather than a pressing need on Agnetha's part to share her story. Frida is currently working on a sort of fairy-tale version of her life, where she, and presumably everybody else, will be depicted as animals. And if I recall correctly, Benny said not too long ago that he's never going to write his memoirs.

Which leaves us with Björn, who has said that he has tried writing his autobiography, but found the excercise too lonely, plus he feels he has a hard time remembering things. But rather than ditch the idea completely, he has now published something of a memoir. In collaboration with London based artist Patrick Vale, who has provided illustrations, Björn has published the book You Are Who You Meet. It takes the form of chronologically presented meetings with people throughout his life: family, love interests, professional collaborators, etc.

I think this approach works really well. Instead of forcing himself to go through every itty bitty detail of his 70+ years on the planet, he provides the reader with glimpses of events that have been important to him. Björn is a good writer and he conveys these memories in a way that engages the reader. Those of us who are into those itty bitty details will notice that he's got several of the dates wrong, but I guess that's neither here nor there when the stories themselves are so interesting. There are a number of anecdotes in the book that I certainly can't recall having read anywhere before. In other words, You Are Who You Meet, modest though it may be in its scope, is essential reading for the dedicated ABBA fan.

Now, this being an ABBA member book project, there is, of course, a catch: originally you could only buy it at Björn's Slottsholmen complex in his hometown of Västervik on Sweden's east coast. The ABBA Fan Club Shop made a number of copies available to those who aren't able to travel to Västervik to buy a copy, but it is now (December 2018) available from the ABBA The Museum shop.

 

Dine (While The Music Still Goes On)

Published October 02, 2018

In 1993, when I interviewed ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus for the original edition of my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com), he told me the story of writing the lyrics for the Waterloo album's Dance (While The Music Still Goes On).

"I wrote the lyrics in a small Stockholm flat that Polar or someone working at Polar owned," he told me. "Agnetha and I had [our daughter] Linda by then, so I probably needed somewhere to be where I could concentrate properly. I remember that I had some canned food with me, called Mat för en (“Food For One”): there were two cans and then you were supposed to just heat the contents." I was eight years old in 1973, when those lyrics were written, and I had no memory of Mat för en, but ever since Björn told me the story I've tried to picture it.

A while ago I found this ad, and according to the copy there weren't two cans but just one glass jar, the contents of which you heated up by putting it in boiling water. At least this was how it worked back in 1969, when this ad was published: the Dance (While The Music Still Goes On) lyrics were written four years later. A typical product for its times: home cooking was out, time-saving ready-made dishes were in.

Such delicacies were Björn's fuel when he wrote the words for one of the best songs on the Waterloo album.

This is where Agnetha and Björn met for the first time

Published September 24, 2018

On 23 May 1968, Agnetha and Björn met for the first time when both performed at Idrottsparken in Målilla, Sweden. I believe this is the stage where they performed, picture snapped by me a few days ago.

The stage looks tiny and unglamorous? That's how they looked in many Swedish folkparks at the time. It didn't matter if you were among the biggest stars in the country or a local act - everyone had to do their shows under the same circumstances.

Here is an excerpt about that first meeting between Agnetha and Björn from my book Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA.

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions wins an award

Published September 13, 2018

What an extraordinary journey my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) has been. Latest news: I'm so proud and happy to announce that, after being nominated in January, the book has won the Association for Recorded Sound Collections award for Best Popular Music Discography. I don't even know who nominated my book, but whoever you are: thank you!

The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) was formed in 1966 and is, according to their website, “a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings—in all genres of music and speech, in all formats, and from all periods.” As part of their activities, since 1991 the ARSC Awards for Excellence has also been recognising outstanding published research. The full title of the award bestowed upon ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is: Best Discography in the 2018 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in the category Best Historical Research in Recorded Popular Music. Phew! (The ARSC press release is here.)

There will be an awards dinner in Portland, Oregon in May 2019, which I hope to attend.

I would like to thank everyone who supported the crowdfunding campaign for the book and everyone who pre-ordered it – the book wouldn't exist if it weren't for your faith in my ability to deliver on my promise.

The extraordinary generosity and support shown by so many people when the book was written and produced also deserve special mention. It's been about 18 months since the book was published, but I'm still marvelling at the fact that everything turned out exactly as I'd hoped it would – and even better!

There are still copies left of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, but it's selling steadily, so if you're interested in a copy there's no time like the present.

Learn more and order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

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