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

 

I Still Have Faith In ... ABBA books

Published May 04, 2018

Well I never...! Who would have thought that ABBA would return with two brand new songs. I belonged to those who were convinced there would never be an ABBA reunion, in whatever shape or form. When asked about it in interviews, I usually added the "never say never" caveat, but from what the four members had been telling the media over the past decades, my conclusion was that it would never happen. They had, to coin a phrase, Moved On.

Now, of course, I'm very much looking forward to hearing the two new songs, I Still Have Faith In You and Don't Shut Me Down. After the initial surprise announcement, and the many requests from the media to comment on the news, as the entire thing has sunk in I've come to realise that for me, the best part of this "reunion" is that we'll get to hear Agnetha and Frida sing together again. As the male half of the group are keen to point out, it's the ladies' voices together that make up the main part of the ABBA sound. I honestly can't wait to hear that "third voice" again.

Will these recordings, made for the upcoming "abbatar" project, pave the way for more sessions? No-one seems to know, certainly not me. For now, I prefer to think of the two new songs as an epilogue, an additional chapter to the ABBA story. A potentially interesting and exciting chapter, for sure, but separate from the 1972-1982 era, when ABBA existed for real.

Speaking of additional chapters, I have to say that I'm now even more happy that I decided to put together a companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Not only will I be able to include all the fun stuff I've already promised, but, naturally, the new songs will be covered as extensively as possible - all dependent, of course, what kind of information I'll be able to extract about them.

Obviously, I'm not going to be able to publish the companion volume until the new songs are out, so probably sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2019. We'll have to see how the "abbatar" project pans out, though.

In the meantime, to learn all about ABBA's classic-era recordings, please order your copy of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

The new ABBA songs - my comments in the media

Published April 30, 2018

I was in Tuscany, Italy, when the news broke last Friday about the brand new ABBA songs to be unveiled later this year ('I Still Have Faith In You') and probably in the spring of 2019 ('Don't Shut Me Down'). I was out on a ferry, leaving the Isola Maggiore, which wasn't an ideal location when my phone started going berserk.

Anyway, I managed one radio interview on BBC Radio Berkshire, which you can listen to here (I was on mobile phone, so there are some drop-outs here and there).

I was also interviewed by the Swedish news agency TT, and their story was published in various newspapers, for example here. (In Swedish)

There was also a story by the news agency AFP, which you can read here. (In English)

Finally, a very brief comment from me was published in the German magazine Stern. (In German)

At the time of doing the interviews I didn't have the info on 'Don't Shut Me Down', which has been described by Björn as an uptempo song, so I was clearly wrong when I surmised that both tunes were ballads and/or mid-tempo. Either way, I'm looking forward to hearing them!

 

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions: one year later

Published April 06, 2018

About this time, a year ago, those who had pre-ordered the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com) began receiving their copies. I can't quite believe it's already been a year, but what an amazing 12 months it's been.

When you're writing a book, for the most part you're so concentrated on getting the work done that the fact that someone's actually going to read it feels very abstract. Oh sure, there were times when I got particularly excited by something I was writing and thought, "they're going to get a real kick reading about this", but for the most part it was all about getting the work done.

So while I felt fairly confident that ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions would be well-liked by the fans, I was unprepared for the sheer love directed towards the book, much less the amazing reviews. I am so happy that this self-publishing "experiment" came off so well: that it was possible to put together a self-published, thoroughly researched book aimed at a small but highly motivated readership through the wonders of crowdfunding.

Thank you all for your amazing support throughout the entire experience of writing and publishing ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. I am now working on the companion volume, which I hope will be published sometime in 2019.

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is still available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

Lill-Babs asked for my autograph

Published April 04, 2018

The death of singer Barbro "Lill-Babs" Svensson yesterday is front-page news in Sweden. She made her first record as a 16-year-old back in 1954 and has never quite been out of the spotlight since then: that's 64 years. Sweden's biggest daily, Dagens Nyheter, devoted their entire culture section to her passing today.

Swedish showbusiness being as small as it is, there are many connections between her and ABBA, the most prominent one of course being her 1971 hit single 'Välkommen till världen' ("Welcome To The World"), which was written by Björn and Benny, and also featured backing vocals by all four future ABBA members. ABBA manager Stig Anderson wrote her 1959 mega-hit, 'Är du kär i mig ännu, Klas-Göran’ ("Are You Still In Love With Me, Klas-Göran"), which also laid the foundation for his own music business empire.

I only met Lill-Babs once, at the release party for Ingmarie Halling's and my book ABBA - The Backstage Stories, which was held at ABBA The Museum in 2014. We ended up sitting fairly close to each other at the bar and although this was mainly Ingmarie's book and party, which was exactly how it should be, Lill-Babs asked me about my involvement. I had heard this about her: that she was good at "seeing" people and making them feel like they matter.

I told her that we had put 'Välkommen till världen' as a bonus track on Ring Ring Deluxe Edition, which made her throw back her head and roar with laughter; she was really amused by that. She also asked me to sign her copy of the book: I don't know how many international stars would have bothered asking a "lowly" author for his or her autograph, but she's certainly the most famous person to specifically ask me to sign something for her.

I can't quite imagine what it must be like being a star, satisfying the public's dual expectations of you being somehow different and more special than ordinary people, and at the same time being just like everybody else - perhaps especially in Sweden (and the other Nordic countries), where big-headed acts seldom get the love of the public. Lill-Babs seemed to master this balancing act better than most people in her position.

 

 

I was rejected by Polar...

Published March 27, 2018

Music has been a lifelong passion of mine, and in the early 1980s I played the synthesizer in a band with some high school friends. In 1982, when I was 17, we recorded a decent-sounding demo tape featuring a few of our songs and sent it to a number of record companies.

That much I remember, and I remember one of the rejection letters we got, but the other day one of my pals in the band produced the attached letter. I burst out laughing. Yes folks, it turns out we were rejected by ABBA's record company, Polar Music International (for those of you who don't read Swedish, it was pretty much a standard "not what we're looking for at the moment but good luck in the future" type letter). I have a pretty good memory of events from my youth, sometimes remembering details from my friends' lives better than they do, but I have absolutely no memory of sending our tape to Polar, much less getting this rejection letter.

Considering how many ABBA projects I've been involved in over the past 25 years, I thought this was pretty funny. I scanned the letter and sent it to the man who'd signed it, Polar Music label manager Hans "Berka" Bergkvist, whom I know a bit. He replied that he hoped we could be still friends. But of course, Berka.

 

Film celebrating 30 years of Benny Andersson and Orsa Spelmän to premiere soon

Published February 28, 2018

Last week I had the privilege of attending a preview of Anders Hanser's upcoming film, Benny Andersson & Orsa spelmän 30 år tillsammans ("Benny Andersson & Orsa Spelmän 30 Years Together").

Photographer Anders Hanser, with whom I did the book From ABBA To Mamma Mia!, was the man who introduced Benny to this group of fiddlers back in the mid-1980s, leading to their appearance on Benny's first solo album, Klinga mina klockor ("Ring, My Bells", 1987). Since then the Orsa Spelmän members have become a part of Benny Anderssons Orkester, and band member Kalle Moraeus has emerged as a very popular performer and TV personality in his own right. In the international ABBA fan community, there is a section that is particularly interested in this part of Benny's post-ABBA activities.

The film features plenty of rare footage and, apart from covering the collaboration between Benny and Orsa Spelmän, it also traces the fascinating story of how the Swedish folk music indigenous to the county of Dalarna (Dalecarlia) has been kept alive, in no small part thanks to Orsa Spelmän and the members' ancestors. The band is interviewed in the film, of course, as is Benny himself.

The film will receive its official premiere at the Röda Kvarn cinema in the town of Orsa on 18 March (click here for the poster/ad). It seems there will be a screening in Stockholm on 14 March as well. No doubt it will be shown elsewhere throughout the year.

Those ABBA essays...

Published February 23, 2018

As I'm typing this, it's almost exactly a year since the printing presses started churning out physical copies of my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Looking back at the extraordinary 12 months since then, one of my proudest achievements in the book are the five essays describing how the ABBA songs came into life, from "Writing the tunes" to "Overdubbing and mixing". Judging by the feedback, they've been appreciated by readers as well.

Those extensive essays were by far the most complicated things to tackle in the book. I remember when I was going to put together the first of them, "Writing the tunes", and thinking to myself, "Oh, this will take no more than two or three days". Two weeks later the darned thing was finally completed. That's pretty much how it turned out with all the essays.

The problem was that I had collected so much information - from my own interviews, as well as other books and newspaper and magazine stories - and the whole point was to give the reader as many details as possible. The challenge, then, was to include all that information, and still make the essay readable. The pages you see in the illustration come from the documents I put together with all the info, from which I then pieced together the essays. It wasn't easy, but, even if I say so myself, it was worth the effort.

Curious about the book featuring these essays? Then please go to abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com to find out more and to order your copy.