Imagine getting THAT as a prize - ABBA's Greatest Hits remembered

Published November 26, 2015

This month it's 40 years since ABBA's Greatest Hits was first released in Sweden. In the Scandinavian countries, ABBA's first three albums had already been very popular, but in the rest of the world Greatest Hits, and similar collections entitled The Best Of ABBA, constituted the first truly successful ABBA albums. Greatest Hits did go to number one in Sweden on 11 December 1975 and remained there until 2 February 1976, when it was replaced by Frida's solo album Frida ensam. However, compilation albums weren't very huge in Sweden at the time, and although the album certainly sold well, the ABBA album from earlier in the year sold much better - a marked contrast to most other countries.

A personal memory: When I was studying English at Stockholm university back in 1990, we had a sort of show-and-tell exercise, where we were supposed to bring along a picture and talk about it in front of the class. One of the girls in the group brought along Greatest Hits, the sleeve of which meant a lot to her when she was younger, but she didn't know the back story. Fortunately, I was there and could tell the assembly that ABBA had won the drawing by artist Hans Arnold as a prize when they were voted Artists of the Year by readers of the weekly Vecko-Revyn in 1975. They liked the drawing so much that they decided to put it on the sleeve of their Greatest Hits album. Our teacher, who was from England and apparently oblivious of the central place Hans Arnold's work had in post-war Sweden, was silent for a few seconds. And then he said: "Imagine getting that as a prize..." You can't please everyone, I guess.

Greatest Hits and all of ABBA's other albums and recordings will be discussed in detail in the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Pre-order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

 

Well I never...

Published November 19, 2015

Still listening to alternate mixes of ABBA songs for the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, but I'm nearing the end. However, contrary to my expectations, the time for jaw-dropping experiences is clearly not over.

Some of the mixes are not overly different to the released version of the songs in question, and I kind of thought that I'd heard all the really major differences by now. The other day I listened to a reference disc that I'd sort of saved for last because I didn't expect it to feature any major revelations. Popping it into the CD player I thought this was going to be a fairly quick experience: listen, make a few notes, and then on to the next disc.

Well, how wrong I was, because here was an early version of a particular ABBA song with lyrics that were at least 90% different to what was later released on record. I couldn't quite believe what I heard. There were also other recordings on that disc that expanded my view of those tunes. In other words: my mind was thoroughly blown - again - and I can't wait to share the details with you all in my book.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: When you get down to it, ABBA is their music, and ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions will be riddled with long-forgotten or hitherto unknown facts and stories about how that music was made. You will not want to miss this book. Pre-order here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


Mamma Mia 40 years on

Published November 12, 2015

Australia was the first country to release ABBA's 'Mamma Mia' single, circa September 1975, but in most European countries it reached record shops around this time of year, exactly 40 years ago. Today, we take the song for granted as a classic hit, the title song of a successful musical and movie, and so on.

Certainly, it's only with hindsight that we know what a super-classic 'Mamma Mia' would become, but still it's fascinating to read how the single could sort of begrudgingly be acknowledged as hit material in the attached review from the UK's Record Mirror. "Not as catchy as SOS"? If anything, I would have said it was even catchier than 'SOS' - not necessarily better, but catchier.

This and other record reviews will be quoted in the revised and updated edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Pre-order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

 

On and on in the ABBA tape archives

Published November 05, 2015

Recent tape listening for the revised and updated ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions has taken me into the Super Trouper era, and I'm almost done with that period now. I can't reveal so much about what I've heard without spoiling the surprises when the book is published, except to say that it is, as always, very interesting to hear all the various mixing attempts as Björn, Benny and Michael Tretow journeyed towards the finished versions of the songs. And I guess I can at least reveal that there was one song from this period where I thought, "hmm, that thing you removed from the mix might possibly have made the recording even better if you'd retained it". All details will of course be revealed in the book.

On another note, sometimes there are ABBA tracks from recording periods unrelated to the other tracks on the reference discs, and just the other day 'The Day Before You Came' was one of the songs that appeared in the midst of the Super Trouper tracks. It turned out that it wasn't an alternate mix in this case - it was the familar version - but I still had to listen to it all the way through just to make sure there weren't any surprises.

Although it's a song I've heard many, many times - and familiarity tends to sometimes breed, if not exactly contempt, then at least a certain lack of enthusiasm - I was again struck by its sheer brilliance and just got very excited about listening to it. My opinion is usually that one has to respect that not everyone has the same tastes in music, but as I listened to 'The Day Before You Came', I caught myself thinking, "How can anyone not love this song? There must be something wrong with them if they don't." Arrogant, I know, but that's how I felt at that particular moment. I guess that's the power of music, and how certain songs become a self-evident part of our very existence.

Pre-order ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com