I write about the songs

Published June 30, 2016

One of the new features in the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is dedicated sections that take a closer look at certain aspects of ABBA's musical creativity. The subject may be, for instance, "Agnetha and Frida as singers", or "Björn as lyricist".

Right now I'm working on the essay dealing with Björn and Benny's songwriting methods, and it is quite fascinating. I have documents where, for more than two decades, I've been saving information on various ABBA-related topics: either in full text or in the shape of a note about sources with relevant information about this subject. I've just gone through my Songwriting documents and with the aid of those, plus my own interviews with Björn and Benny, I've been able to put together what I believe could be the most detailed story on when, where and how the ABBA tunes were written.

I believe I have mentioned this phenomenon in an earlier blog post, but I'm still blown away by the feeling of bringing all the disparate information together and seeing a story emerge, gaining new insights in the process. For it's one thing to read, say, a specific newspaper interview with the Andersson/Ulvaeus team, but it's another to extract all the details from it and putting them in a coherent essay along with all the other pieces of information. It's only then that the full picture reveals itself.

The Songwriting essay will probably be somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 words - and this is just the bare facts about Björn and Benny's methods and the environments they were working in. The writing of lyrics will have a separate essay, and the writing of individual songs will be discussed in their own entries, when such information is available.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we will all know so much more about ABBA's music when this book is published.

Support this project by pre-ordering your signed copy of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions - it really does help make the book better! Click here to pre-order: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions: its format and contents (part 02)

Published June 23, 2016

In an earlier blog post, I began describing in more detail what the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is going to be like. In that post I discussed the diary format and the prose, and in today's post I will share some more insights.

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is not going to be an overly technical book. The focus is on the creativity and feelings of the human beings involved and not so much on the tecnhical equipment in the recording studios, although effect boxes and such will be referred to when they have relevance for something that was done with a particular song. Nor will there be too many detailed discussions of, say, how this or that guitar part was played, and references to musical terms - chords, notes and so on - will be kept to a mininum except when they are absolutely necessary to get a point across. In other words, you shouldn't have to be extremely familiar with the technology of recording studios, nor musically educated, to enjoy the book.

This book is primarily about the text: I want the reader to learn as much as possible about how ABBA's music was made. Therefore, photographs will be kept to a minimum, although there will of course be pictures in the book, along with illustrations of documents, record sleeves etc. Which leads us into what seems to be the holy grail for so many ABBA fans: previously unpublished pictures! Will there be any such photos? I'm pleased to report that I have been in contact with someone who has photographs from a particular recording session that he claims have never been published anywhere before - I have seen the pictures and I certainly don't recognise them. It looks very likely that some of these will be made available for publication in the book, and I also have a few other unseen (I think!) pictures up my sleeve, which I hope to be able to clear. Fingers crossed...

More details about the book contents in an upcoming blog post. And, finally, apropos of nothing, my current ABBA favourite track is Voulez-Vous - what an exciting, energetic recording. It doesn't hurt that over the past few weeks I've learned so many new things about the making of it, and I can't wait to share it with you all in the book.

Support this project by pre-ordering your signed copy of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions - it really does help make the book better! Click here to pre-order: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


Interviews, interviews and more interviews...

Published June 17, 2016

For the past few weeks I've been scrambling to get as many interviews as possible done for the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recordings. Those of you familiar with the original book may recall that, back then, I basically only interviewed the four ABBA members, engineer Michael B. Tretow and the most frequently used guitarists, bass players and drummers. For the new edition I've talked to many more of the musicians, which has been great.

Some of the people I've talked to include engineers and musicians involved in the Miami recording of the 'Voulez-Vous' backing track, as well as a musician who played on a major ABBA hit, uncredited: I happened to stumble across the fact that he'd done an ABBA session in an old newspaper interview with him. Not every musician has amazing anecdotes to tell, but all of them remember details - big or small - that help so much in making the story come alive. The dry facts about dates, locations and the people present, are suddenly transformed into three-dimensional events. The story becomes human.

It's been fun tracking all these people down and hear their memories and I'm so thankful that this book project got off the ground: it's now or never, before even more time passes so that those musicians' memories become ever more dim and distant. However, even such fun activities have side effects on my sometimes overworked brain:

Last night I dreamed that I had an appointment to interview Neil Young about his new album. The problem was that I had forgotten about the appointment and was only reminded about it half an hour before I was supposed to do the interview. Moreover, I had also forgotten to listen to the new album, so I was in a bit of a panic; not least because Mr Young is well-known for being, at times, an irascible interviewee. Turned out, however, that he was kind and understanding, and with all the other bizarre goings-on in the dream, not having heard his album was the least of my worries. But that's another story.

Don't worry: I've been well-prepared for the real-life interviews for the book, and I feel confident that you will enjoy reading all the new eyewitness accounts. If you haven't done so yet, pre-order your signed copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

Your support - past, present and future - helps this book become as authoritative and detailed as it needs to be.


ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions: its format and contents (part 01)

Published June 09, 2016

Every author has his or her own method for getting to grips with a book project. Some like to get the majority of their research and interviews done before they start writing. Others, like me, run it like a parallel process: initially at least, I conduct research and interviews parallel with writing, mainly because I know the writing process itself will trigger ideas for further research and also raise questions I wasn't aware needed to be answered.

However, there comes a point when you feel the need to pull everything together: get the research under control, make those final few interviews, and then concentrate on writing. That's where I'm at now - almost. I haven't quite finished with the interviews, and I'm sure a trip to libraries and archives for additional research will provide welcome breaks over the next few months, but from now on my main focus will be on writing.

Having already completed a fair number of chapters, I feel that the format and feel of the book has become more clear to me. Therefore, I will devote a number of blogs to sharing with you, dear reader, some information on what the book will actually be like, this being the first of these blogs.

The diary format of the original book has been retained, but the commentary text has been expanded so as to provide more details and information, along with memories, insights and reflections from those who were there at the time. How were the songs written? How were they recorded? What do the ABBA members remember? What are the recollections of the musicians and engineers? It’s all in the book.

Apart from the new interviews I'm conducting, I am of course also making use of the interviews made for the original book. When that volume was written, I sometimes took a comment from an interviewee and sort of edited it down to something fairly brief, but for the revised and expanded edition I’ve gone back to the original interviews and often been able to expand the comments from those I interviewed so that they are more complete and more detailed. During the writing of the new edition I've sometimes found myself wondering: "Why didn't I put that comment in the original book?" Well, those comments are there now!

Moreover, I’ve also checked out innumerable interviews from so-called secondary sources – books, newspapers, magazines, radio and TV programmes – and found many interesting and often long-forgotten insights from the ABBA members. Those vintage quotes will help increase our understanding of how their music was created.

The prose has been improved so as to make for a more pleasurable reading experience. Although the format is that of a reference book, it’s important to me that you should be able to read it from cover to cover without being bored. I’m trying to tell a story, while at the same time provide as many facts and details as possible – it’s a challenge to combine those two prerequisites, but it’s a challenge I enjoy and I think I’m getting there.

Further details about what the book will be like in an upcoming blog post.

At this juncture I would also like to announce that the publication of the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions will, in all likelihood, be postponed. The original date I was shooting for was November 2016, but as I made clear when the project was first presented, the quality of the book comes before deadlines, and I need more time to make the book as good as it needs to be. So the date I'm shooting for now is circa February/March 2017. Please be aware that this is not a case of me twiddling my thumbs - I'm just as eager as you are that the book should be finished and made available to its readership.

Support this project by pre-ordering your signed copy of the book - it really does help make the book better! Click here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com


ABBA WOW moments

Published June 02, 2016

"Just a quickie message about the new chapter: so many WOW moments!" Those were the words contained in a spontaneous outburst of enthusiasm from ABBA expert Ian Cole a while ago; Ian is my friend and also one of my proofreaders for the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. The text that prompted these lovely words was the 1977 chapter, dealing with the recordings from ABBA's tour of Europe and Australia, and the recording of ABBA - The Album.

It was something I needed to hear at the time, because after researching, writing, revising, re-editing, double-checking, triple-checking, and struggling to find the best way of relaying innumerable pieces of information - well, let's just say that over-familiarity can breed a barrelful of contempt. Profound reflections such as "Who wants to read this s**t anyway?" may sometimes travel through your mind.

Ian continued: "It's f*****g fabulous. You've found so much we never knew, not just from the listening sessions but the other research. I'm amazed that there is so much more we will learn from this." Certainly, I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't aware that I'd dug up some interesting stuff in various archives and libraries, and through interviews etc. But it was only after Ian had given me his quickie message that I browsed through the 1977 chapter again and realised that there's actually a lot more new and/or long-forgotten stuff in there than I'd realised when I sent it to him to read through. Not a bad chapter at all, even if I say so myself.

In other news, I now feel that I know more exactly what the revised edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is going to be like, and in my next blog I will give you more details about the type of content that will be in the book.

In the meantime, if you haven't done so already, please support this exciting project by pre-ordering your signed copy of the book here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

Plenty of "WOW moments" guaranteed.