ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions in five easy pieces

Published October 29, 2015

In the time that has elapsed since the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions was first announced, it's become easy to take for granted that everyone who might be interested in the book already knows all the facts about it. This is not necessarily the case, so for newcomers and others who are interested, here's the project summed up in five brief points.

1.  ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions was first published in 1994. The revised and expanded edition will reveal much more about ABBA's songs, and will also feature background stories about the record sleeves, vintage reviews of singles and albums - and more.

2.  The author is currently busy listening to unreleased tracks and alternate mixes that he didn't have the opportunity to hear for the original edition, meaning that there will be many new revelations about ABBA's music when the book is published.

3.  The author is also doing new interviews, as well researching books, radio and TV interviews, along with an indefinite number of vintage magazine and newspaper articles so as to dig up new and long-forgotten facts about ABBA's music.

4.  The new edition got off the ground thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign which ended in April 2015. 

5.  It's still possible to pre-order the book, and this is encouraged: every pre-order helps make the book better, and each pre-ordered copy will be signed with a personal dedication by the author. Pre-order here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

Thanks for reading!

If it wasn't for the summer night...mixes

Published October 22, 2015

Last Monday I finished listening to Voulez-Vous-era alternate ABBA mixes, and began moving into the Super Trouper period. There is quite a lot to be said about what I've heard, and indeed I will write a lot about in the book. However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of recent listening sessions is the chance to hear all those 'Summer Night City' mixes.

Björn and Benny have talked many times of how problematic it was to make that particular recording work. I believe I personally first read about it in a Swedish interview with Benny from the autumn of 1980. "We did a song not too long ago called 'Summer Night City'," he said. "I don't think that's a good recording." Then he goes on to describe how they spent a week trying to mix it, and so on.

That interview was 35 years ago, and now I've finally listened to all surviving mixes of 'Summer Night City', which almost feels unreal after hearing so much about them over the years. With the knowledge of how much Benny, Björn and Michael struggled with it, it is truly fascinating to trace the development of the song: how they tried various ways of mixing it; how someone - Benny probably - had the idea that an additional keyboard overdub would perhaps help; how they applied compression to the sound to make it come alive. By the way, Benny has recently changed his mind about 'Summer Night City' a little, comparing it to the work of current dance music artists. Well, I've always loved this particular track, despite, or rather because of, its perceived flaws.

Finally, can I just say, for the record, that I f*****g love the Voulez-Vous album? You'd think that listening to mix after mix after mix of 'If It Wasn't For The Nights' and 'Lovers (Live A Little Longer)' might make you a bit fed up. Not me, it just reinforced my passion for those songs as well as most of the other tracks on that album.

Pre-order your copy of the revised and updated edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions at abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

I've got a queen dancing around in my brain

Published October 15, 2015

When I first announced, about 10 months ago, that I was going to publish a revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com), and that I was shooting for a November 2016 publication date, there were some who said, "Surely you mean November 2015?"

Well, no, I did mean November 2016, because this project takes time, not least writing about the individual recordings. While the stories behind some songs, such as 'What About Livingstone', are comparatively easy to summarise - not exactly an overload of anecdotes and background info on that particular track - with others there is so much to sort through that it literally takes days to piece the story together.

Take a recent example from the CMP desk: 'Dancing Queen'. There are the memories from the four ABBA members as told to me and/or others; various alternate mixes of the song; session sheets; track sheets; the quite detailed recollections of drummer Roger Palm; as well as many other pieces of information of varying degrees of significance. Just to sort through it all, sifting fact from fiction, deciding what's important and what's not, and then working out some kind of reasonable chronology of events is a challenge with a capital C. That's even before I've started writing about it, which introduces the challenge of presenting a very factual story in an entertaining and engaging way. Obviously, I'm not complaining, because it's a challenge I relish. But I have to admit, sometimes, after an entire day of just sorting through information, I ask myself: "Where did all the time go and what have I actually accomplished?"

Suffice it to say that I'm hoping that the updated edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions will present the most detailed account ever published of how 'Dancing Queen' was written, recorded and released.

Pre-order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.

 

Pete Townshend [heart] ABBA = true

Published October 08, 2015

No listening to alternate ABBA mixes this week, for various reasons, but instead I've got some writing done on the updated edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com).

Today, as I was pieceing together something clever about the single release of 'SOS', I was reminded of how much The Who's Pete Townshend loves this song. I believe this was first revealed when Björn mentioned on BBC TV in 1999 that Pete had surprised him by coming up to him to tell him that 'SOS' was in fact the best pop song ever written. Since then Townshend has written about his love for the song on his blog and also been quoted in other media.

Obviously, it helps ABBA's critical reputation when a rock star of his standing gives them his seal of approval, but I think the real lesson learned here is something much more important. What we should take with us from the revelation that this rock'n'roll guitar hero likes ABBA is the fact that the real talents in pop and rock music, those who break new ground and create something that in one sense or another is unique, don't close their ears to any type of music, whether it's deemed uncool or not. They open their hearts and minds to whatever happens to come their way, and if they like it they don't resist it but just enjoy it on its own merits. And that's why someone like Pete Townshend - or Björn and Benny, for that matter - will always be a cut or two above those who worry too much about belonging to a clique and only seeking out "approved" influences when creating their music.

Voulez-vous listen to some ABBA mixes? Naturellement!

Published October 01, 2015

A crucial part of working on the revised and updated ABBA - The Complete Recording sessions is listening to unreleased alternate mixes, and at the moment I'm concentrating on songs from the Voulez-Vous sessions. In fact, as I'm typing this I've just arrived home from several hours of listening.

When do you know that you really love an ABBA track? When you can listen to around a dozen mixes and mix attempts of it - and some of them over and over again, in order to make accurate notes - without getting tired of the track in question. This happened with 'If It Wasn't For The Nights' today. I also listened to a fair number of 'Angeleyes' mixes, and the other day I made my way through four attempts at 'As Good As New' - another track I really love, so just a pleasure.

During today's listening session I was again struck by how Björn, Benny and Michael worked and worked and worked on those mixes. "Is there a way we can make this track more interesting?", seems to be the question for almost each and every mixing session. "What if we delete that bit? Or shall we put some more echo on that instrument instead? Let's not edit out that section, let's just make something happen while it's going on - mute the drum track for a couple of bars, perhaps." And so it goes on. How could I ever be bored doing this job?

The details of the Voulez-Vous-era recordings and every other ABBA recording will be revealed in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Pre-order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.