Waterloo released 40 years ago today

Published March 04, 2014

Today, March 4, 2014, it is exactly 40 years ago since ABBA released Waterloo in Sweden: two singles, featuring the Swedish and English versions, respectively, and the album of the same name. The release date, somewhere inbetween the group's victory with Waterloo in Melodifestivalen (the Swedish selection for the Eurovision Song Contest) on February 9 and the European victory in Brighton on April 6, was the exact date when, according to the Eurovision Song Contest rules, each country's entry could be heard in public again after winning the selection.

There's an unfortunate misunderstanding about ABBA and Sweden that refuses to go away, namely the perception that ABBA weren't popular in their home-country. Certainly, their music was regarded with some disdain in certain quarters, not least within the so-called Music Movement where the political awareness lacking in ABBA's music, coupled with their extraordinary success, made them a symbol for everything that was supposedly wrong with the modern music industry. There was also, which is often forgotten, a contempt for ABBA by those who advocated more overtly complex music. So there was some contempt for the group in the media, and a feeling, in certain quarters, that you weren't supposed to like them. I wasn't even in my teens at the height of ABBA's popularity in Sweden, but still I can remember that feeling. But the so-called general public? They couldn't care less what any critics or music movements thought. In Sweden, ABBA had the same cross-generational appeal they enjoyed in most other countries, and all their studio albums shot to the top of the charts.

Which brings us back to Waterloo. Last year I blogged about the dates when Ring Ring occupied the top three positions on Sweden's combined singles-and-albums sales chart for two weeks in a row. Well, with Waterloo ABBA only went and did it again, albeit for one week only. On April 30, 1974, the album was number one, the Swedish single number two and the English-language single number three.

The album was the biggest triumph of them all, of course, spending a total of 12 weeks at the top. Not only that: by the end of the year it had sold 250,000 copies, which, in a country of eight million people was a lot. It was even reported that no other album had sold as much in Sweden before (there were singles and 78 rpm records that had exceeded those sales, but the early Seventies was the time when the album took over from the 7-inch record in terms of sales). By mid-1977, Polar Music reported that the Waterloo album had sold almost 340,000 copies in Sweden. Today, with additional sales throughout the remainder of the vinyl era, and a number of re-releases on CD, I guess the figure must be in the vicinity of 400,000 copies.

More proof of ABBA's extraordinary popularity in Sweden: As mentioned above, Waterloo was the biggest-selling album in Sweden up to that point in time. The following album, 1975's ABBA, then broke the record set by Waterloo. After which Arrival broke the record again in 1976, holding the record for best-selling album in Sweden until 1983. ABBA's remaining studio albums couldn't quite match Arrival's sales record, but they went to number one - all of them (if Sweden had had a separate albums chart in 1973, Ring Ring would have been number one as well; it stalled at number two because the Swedish Ring Ring single was at the top of the charts).

So much for sales statistics, though. What about the music? Is the Waterloo album actually any good, or did it only sell because the title track was such a hit? If you haven't heard the album for a while, you can find out for yourself in April, when Waterloo is released as a Deluxe Edition with bonus tracks and a DVD (read more about that release here). But my own opinion: well, to quote from my Waterloo Deluxe Edition liner notes, "there is so much fun in the album grooves, so much excitement, so many unexpected but delightful quirks, and, above all, plenty of strong tunes, that the album is never less than entertaining".


ABBAtalk meets Carl Magnus Palm

Published December 28, 2013

On January 30, 2014, the revised and updated version of my book Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA will be published. In celebration of the publication, I will be the guest at an event hosted by ABBAtalk.com in Hammersmith, London on January 25, at approximately 6.30pm.

At the event, the revised and updated version of the book will be discussed, along with some of my other works. You can choose between a ticket just to attend the event, or a ticket that includes a copy of the book. The book, which is made available before the official publication date, will of course be signed with a personal dedication.

For more information about the event, and to book your ticket, please visit the ABBAtalk website.

The ABBAtalk Facebook group is here.

Read more about Bright Lights Dark Shadows here.

If you're unable to attend the ABBAtalk event, but would still like to acquire a copy of the book signed by me, the author, click here.

Two new ABBA books

Published November 25, 2013

There's been a lot of talk about upcoming ABBA books lately. In addition to ABBA - The Official Photo Book, there are also a couple of books featuring my own involvement: ABBA - The Backstage Stories and the revised edition of Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA. However, although that's all very excting, your cravings for new ABBA literature can actually be sated right now, by two great books.

ABBA w Polsce by Maciej Oranski was published in September 2013. Although I don't understand a word of its text, the book seems to be focused on ABBA's visit to Poland in October 1976, at which time they filmed the television special ABBA w Studio 2. The book is clearly a labour of love, with plenty of pictures from the making of the television special and ABBA's visit to Poland in general, and what I believe to be background info on what went on during the group's time there. How about an English-language translation of the text in the book? I, for one, would be willing to pay for a password-protected pdf of the translation.

The other new book is Let's Talk About ABBA by Stany van Wymeersch, published in November 2013. Available in Dutch and English versions, the book features interviews with people who worked with ABBA or its individual members, and with people who knew them, or are admirers of them. Or who have some other kind of connection: Do you want to know how Connie Francis feels about being Agnetha's biggest inspiration? It's in here. I haven't read the book yet, but I've looked through it from cover to cover and it seems very, very interesting, with lots of detail. Also, the book is crammed with pictures and the printing quality is excellent. In other words: I urge you to get this book.

These books are not so easy to buy outside Poland and The Netherlands, respectively, but you can get them from the ABBA Fan Club Shop (see links to the right). And I think you should buy them both.


Ring Ring bonus tracks and master tapes

Published September 30, 2013

With about two weeks to go before the scheduled release of Ring Ring Deluxe Edition, I thought I'd address some questions that always seem to arise whenever a new Deluxe Edition is released.


All the tracks credited to ABBA (or Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida, as they called themselves in the 1972-73 era) speak for themselves, of course: various-language versions of some of the album tracks, single B-sides, and the new-to-CD 'En hälsning till våra parkarrangörer'. However, some have questioned the logic behind the inclusion of the so-called Extra Bonus Tracks. My logic, as always, is to figure out the following: Given that the former ABBA members won't allow the inclusion of any previously unreleased material, how can I find stuff that's interesting but which hasn't been released on CD before? Sometimes that's not possible, but in this particular case there were a few opportunities.

I'd long had in the back of my mind that if we ever did a Deluxe Edition of Ring Ring, it would be fun to add the original versions of 'I Am Just A Girl' (the single A-side 'Jag är blott en man' by Jarl Kulle) and 'I Saw It In The Mirror' (a Billy G-son single B-side), so those tracks were at the top of my list. And then, as I was putting the list together, I thought, "well, if we have the B-side of the Billy G-son single, why not go for the A-side as well?" So there you have 'There's A Little Man'.

The next thought was that the inclusion of 'There's A Little Man' is primarily motivated by Agnetha's backing vocals contribution to a track written and produced by Björn and Benny, so we should try to balance that with something equivalent from the Frida catalogue. Her début recording of a Björn and Benny tune, 'Peter Pan', wasn't available to us because it's owned by EMI, and I also got an indication that the former ABBA members weren't so keen on its inclusion (if you want to own 'Peter Pan', it's available on the double-CD Frida 1967-1972). So then I thought that Frida's hit single A-side 'Man vill ju leva lite dessemellan', which was produced by Björn and Benny and featured backing vocals by all three of Frida's future ABBA colleagues, would be a nice replacement.

Once I had arrived at that theme of "pre-ABBA collaborations by the ABBA members", 'Hej gamle man!' was an obvious candidate, seeing as it is the first recording to feature the combined voices of Björn, Benny, Agneth and Frida. Finally, to showcase the forceful backing vocals of all four members, I thought the Björn & Benny-written & produced 'Välkommen till världen' by Lill-Babs could add further shades to the theme of "what they did before and during the years that ABBA were formed".

So, in conclusion, the idea was a) to bring some ABBA-related tracks into the digital format and b) to give a view of how Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida collaborated in various ways before they became ABBA.


I don't have too much insight into this, but I believe the original album was mastered from the original Polar vinyl master tapes. I also believe most of the bonus tracks were taken from the relevant single masters etc.

For a while it looked like we would have to resort to vinyl for the Billy G-son tracks as well as 'En hälsning till våra parkarrangörer'. Those tracks simply weren't available in the archives. However, one of the advantages of having been involved in ABBA-related matters for 20 years is that you acquire information about the location of certain items that aren't exactly where they should be (the tapes hadn't been stolen, if you're wondering, they were just not in the Universal Music archives; that's about all I can reveal here). Incredibly, I had good leads for all of those tracks and so was able to find them for this project. In other words, no cleaned-up vinyl, but pristine master tapes all around!

Last but not least: if you plan to purchase Ring Ring Deluxe Edition I hope you will enjoy it. Click here for more information and to pre-order your copy.


ABBA auction underway now

Published July 01, 2013

As previously reported, long-time ABBA fan Thomas Nordin is putting his enormous collection of ABBA vinyl, CDs, cassettes, 8-track cartridges, cuttings, magazines, posters and other memorabilia up for auction. Everything must go!

I went to view the display of the auction at Stockholms Auktionsverk a few days ago, and I have to say that it was really impressive. Thomas' collection has been very important to me for more than a decade now, as I've borrowed cuttings and whatnot when researching my books, as well as raiding it several times for memorabilia to be featured in the Deluxe Editions of ABBA's album re-releases, not to mention the DVDs ABBA - The Movie and ABBA In Japan. On a number of occasions I have also phoned Thomas up and told him that so-and-so wants to film an ABBA collection for their news report/documentary (I don't have much of a collection myself). On all of these occasions, Thomas has been very helpful and patient, eagerly sharing his collection with the rest of us.

Although part of me is sad to see the collection go, I perfectly understand that Thomas might want to turn over a new leaf and leave the ABBA stuff behind him. As he has said in some of the recent interviews about the auction, he once had a dream to use his collection as a foundation for an ABBA museum. His items have indeed been featured both in the ABBA exhibition at Nordiska Museet in Stockholm and at the touring ABBAWORLD exhibition (which has now morphed into ABBA The Museum, although Thomas' stuff is no longer part of it). What struck me as I visited Stockholms Auktionsverk, though, is that Thomas' dream may partly have come true with this display of his ABBA collection. I've seen his items many times, but this is the first time I've viewed them neatly displayed and organised like this. So it actually works as an exhibition in itself.

For those who are not able to view the collection on location, all the items are available for viewing online as well. More information about the auction is available here.

And, finally, here are a few news items about the auction:

Gomorron Sverige report 01
Gomorron Sverige report 02
AFP story
The Local

An ABBA-themed novel by a major ABBA fan

Published May 11, 2013

About a year ago I blogged about a novel that featured a fun and unexpected ABBA reference, but this time the focus is on a brand new novel that is virtually littered with ABBA references. The title of the book is Knowing Me, Knowing You, for starters. And when, as early as page 2, there are references not only to well-known mega-hits such as 'Money, Money, Money' and 'Super Trouper', but also to semi-flop 'Head Over Heels' and the publication known as ABBA Magazine, you know that the book has been written by a serious fan.

And that is indeed what Irish author Brian Finnegan admits to being. In an email he tells me that he's been "a huge Abba fan since the age of 12" and that he's "finally found a way to combine my two loves - writing and Abba". The book's main character is Maggie Corcoran who, as the press release phrases it, "is facing her own private Waterloo." Diagnosed with breast cancer, she learns that ABBA have announced a reunion concert in Stockholm, and decides to reunite friends from her youth who once shared a passion for ABBA. "But," the press release continues, "she doesn’t count on how much has changed for each of them, or realise how many secrets each of them are keeping hidden from one another."

Intrigued? To order the book, simply use the convenient ordering links to the right. To learn more about the book, click here for the press release. Author Brian Finnegan's website is here.

Phil Spector book author and Ring Ring

Published May 09, 2013

It's the 40th anniversary of 'Ring Ring', which I highlighted in this blog a while ago. Now, this blog post by journalist Richard Williams (the author of the Phil Spector bio that played such a crucial part in the making of 'Ring Ring'), where he reveals that he's well aware of his being mentioned in my book Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA, thrilled me to bits.

Thanks to Paul Scutti.

40 years ago: Ring Ring occupies the Swedish Top Three

Published April 10, 2013

For the past couple of decades or so, it seems the most-cited chart statistics concerning ABBA have been their nine UK number ones, or sometimes their 18 consecutive UK Top Ten hits. That's natural, since the UK chart, along with the US chart, has long been the most influential and important in the international music business. But in Sweden, before those British statistics began cropping up in the media here as well, it used to be that another feat, on the Swedish charts, was held up as a prime example of ABBA's extraordinary success. And today it's exactly 40 years ago since it happened.

Back in 1973, Sweden's official sales chart was Kvällstoppen ("The Evening Chart"). The name of the chart was really the name of the radio programme where it was presented. The programme and the chart started in 1962, at which time it featured only singles and EPs; the album had yet to gain significant enough sales to feature in such charts. Starting in 1966, LPs were also listed, with  The Beatles' Rubber Soul as the first album to enter the chart. Later the same year, The Hep Stars' eponymous album became the first Swedish LP on the chart.

This mix of singles and LPs prevailed until the chart and the radio programme were cancelled in August 1975. The first LP to hit number one was The Beatles' Abbey Road in October 1969, and by 1972 more albums than singles topped the charts, often occupying the Top Three positions and reflecting the general shift to album sales in Sweden.

But on April 10, 1973, there was a single at the top of the charts. It had been there since March 20, and was to remain there for of a total of six weeks. That single was 'Ring Ring (bara du slog en signal)', the Swedish version of 'Ring Ring'. What was unique on that day in April, however, was that the English version of the song was at number two, while the album of the same name was at number three. ABBA actually managed that feat for two weeks in a row, and this was the chart statistic that once was referred to fairly regularly in Swedish media. Click here to see the chart for April 10, and here for the chart for April 17.

My birthday is around this time of the year, and since I got the English 'Ring Ring' single as a present that year, for my 8th birthday, I'm guessing this must have contributed to one of those chart weeks, at least theoretically. This was the first and only ABBA record I owned until I bought 'The Winner Takes It All' seven years later.

My record collection, small as it was at the time, was very important to me, and a few years after getting 'Ring Ring' I decided that sleeves with no pictures on them were BORING! So I set about designing my own picture sleeves for a number of singles, 'Ring Ring' included. The front is okay, although historically inaccurate: I cut a picture from a 1974 issue of a magazine called Go Magazine, and then cut the word ABBA from the headline of the ABBA article and pasted it on the picture. The picture itself was then pasted on top of the black side of the generic Polar sleeve. Click here to see the result.

However, I think you need to brace yourself for the sheer awfulness of the back of the sleeve. It's not my worst "design", I think that prize must go to The Beatles' 'Lady Madonna' single, but it's bad enough. For one thing, the handset looks like a shower head. And when I wrote the title of the B-side I couldn't have paid much attention to what it actually said on the label but rather remembered what they were actually singing. Also, you can clearly see the Polar design underneath it. Click here to experience the full horror of this masterpiece.

Considering how little I had to do with ABBA during the time they existed, I'm glad that I at least contributed to that Top Three event. They did actually manage to repeat it with 'Waterloo' the following year - but that's a blog for 2014.


Latest issue of The Official ABBA Fan Club magazine published

Published March 07, 2013

The latest issue of The Official International ABBA Fan Club Magazine has just been published and should be on its way to all members. In addition to all the usual news, reviews and unique features and interviews - don't forget that these are not available online - I have contributed two items: my regular Lyrics column where I tell the background story for an ABBA song, plus a feature on the recent ABBA documentaries I co-produced.

If you're a serious ABBA fan but still not a member of the fan club, you should be - if you're not you're missing out on a number of interesting stories, not to mention special offers of tickets and exclusive events.

Read more about the fan club here.

The Medley Mystery finally, finally resolved?

Published September 15, 2012

ABBA's so-called Folk Medley, which is a bonus track on the soon-to-be-released ABBA Deluxe Edition, has long been the subject of confusion and misconception. During the ABBA era, the recording was issued twice: first in 1975 and then in 1978. There are subtle changes in sound on these recordings, which has led some to believe (myself included) that although they sound so similar, they are in fact different mixes. Now, I believe that this is in fact not the case. The conclusion reached recently is that they are one and the same mix, but that the 1978 "version" was simply subject to a heavy dose of compression, which made it sound a bit different here and there. If you want a more detailed account of "The Medley Mystery", please read my recently updated piece towards the end of this page.

The version of the Folk Medley featured on ABBA Deluxe Edition is the original 1975 version.