"You think you've heard the latest ABBA single but you're wrong!"

Published September 29, 2016

I often feel like a late-comer to the world of ABBA, missing out on many pivotal events during their active years. But there was at least one instance when I managed to experience a fab event right when it happened.

Around this time 38 years ago, the 'Summer Night City' single was climbing the charts around the world, eventually giving ABBA their final number one single in their home country. On November 11, 1978, a radio programme entitled Skivspegeln Special ("The Record Mirror Special") was broadcast on Swedish radio. Hosted by ABBA pal Claes af Geijerstam, it was a one hour show in which "Clabbe", as he's known to most people in Sweden, played records interspersed with jingles and his American-radio-DJ-like patter - highly unusual in Sweden at the time.*

For some reason I recorded the entire programme on a cassette tape, and that's how I managed to capture the first public unveling of the full-length version of 'Summer Night City'. As most people reading this will be aware, a 45 second introduction had been removed from the single version to make it more immediately captivating, but Claes had gained permission from his friends in ABBA to play the full-length recording, which he said would be included on the upcoming album. This, of course, never happened, and it would take until 1994 before it was commercially released on the Thank You For The Music box set. Today, it's also available on Voulez-Vous Deluxe Edition.

I thought it would be fun to go back in time and hear how it actually sounded when Claes played the song on his show. Click here for a Youtube link, which also includes an English translation of his introduction. Note: This clip is blocked in Germany, but you can also listen to it here and read the translation here.

The already convoluted story of the many different mixes and edits of 'Summer Night City' will of course be discussed in even more detail in the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions - it's an intriguing story, for sure!

Pre-order your copy at abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com. Every little pre-order helps make the book better. Many thanks in advance!

*In 1979, this format was transferred to Clabbe's own radio series, Rakt över disc ("Straight Across The Counter"), which ran for many years on Swedish radio.


How the story of ABBA's Song X became three-dimensional

Published September 22, 2016

Among the best parts of working on the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is talking to the musicians who played on the records. When I wrote the first edition, I didn't have time to talk to more than the three drummers, two bass players and two guitarists who did the bulk of ABBA's session work. Of course, I knew all along that those other musicians must have memories and stories as well, and this has proven accurate.

One of my greatest "coups" is that I've been able to talk to quite a few of the people who played on Björn and Benny's backing track session in Miami in February 1979. On the tape box the song was labelled 'Song X', but later morphed into 'Voulez-Vous'. Information about this session has been sketchy, to say the least. We've had Björn, Benny and Michael Tretow's memories, and the late Tom Dowd also talked a bit about it in a 1982 interview, but that was basically it.

Well, I now have the memories of so many of the people that actually were there for those two February days that the story has become three-dimensional. Instead of being anonymous "members of disco group Foxy", the musicians have become flesh-and-blood human beings, as have some of the engineers involved. After talking to these people, I feel a little closer to the action, and I'm so grateful that they agreed to talk to me.

Just in the past few days, I've also got some more info about the Miami session, which makes the story even more detailed and interesting. Can't wait to share it with you in the book!

Pre-order your copy at abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com. Every little pre-order helps make the book better. Many thanks in advance!

 

Our Last Summer - mixing the wistfulness

Published September 15, 2016

Just a minute ago, as I was working on the text for the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, I had a look at the notes I made when I was listening to alternate mixes of 'Our Last Summer', from the 1980 Super Trouper album. There are lots of differences between the mixes they made back then. Without revealing too much - I'm saving the details for the book - 'Our Last Summer' is an example of how a song would evolve during mixing. Michael Tretow has told the story a number of times of how Benny would do overdub after overdub after overdub, until they finally had a recording they were satisfied with. Benny's many overdubs are only a part of the 'Our Last Summer' story, though, as they tried removing and adding various things to the soundscape. I'm looking forward to tracing the development of this and many other ABBA songs for your reading pleasure.

Another thought that struck me as I was listening to mix after mix of 'Our Last Summer' was how amazing Frida's lead vocal is. The lyrics are sung from the perspective of a woman looking back at a romance in Paris, taking place when she was young, contrasting it against the dull reality of the present. Wistfulness was always Frida's big thing as a singer, but listening intently to all of these mixes I was also struck by something else. On the lines "I was so happy we had met / it was the age of no regret / oh yes" I suddenly heard a sadness I hadn't quite picked up on before: on the "oh yes", her voice sounds strained, as if she's about to burst into tears. It's almost like she was aware, even when the romance was ongoing, that there would indeed be plenty of regret ahead. In the affirmative "oh yes", an "oh no" is already embedded. What a performance!

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


A building with a history

Published September 13, 2016

One of the best things about doing lectures about ABBA is that I get to go to places I wouldn't normally have any reason to visit. Earlier today I held a lecture in the building pictured here, which is only a 15-minute bus ride from where I live, yet I had no idea about its existence.

It was built in 1928 and was a cinema for 40 years, until 1968. The building is smack in the middle of a residential area with lots of old one-family houses, so where it found the basis for its business I do not know. Before television, of course, people went to the movies a lot more, and if it was going for four decades, clearly an audience found its way there.

Today, it's a "Folkets hus" ("People's House"), a place for all sorts of gatherings, such as the senior citizens club I visited today. I'm both amazed and happy that it hasn't been torn down and replaced with a residential building. Every time I see a lovely old building like this I immediately start fantasising about what it was like to go there back in the day, what the people looked liked who went there, and so on. Its survival is testament to the fact that there's still a need for people to get together from time time - that's an experience you can't download.

More about my ABBA lecture here.

My books - essential for every interior decorator

Published September 01, 2016

When do you know that you've really, really made it as an author? When your books feature as part of a report on a dream home. A couple in Denmark has a house with a room dedicated to music and entertainment, in which my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is prominently featured. If you look towards the bottom of the picture you can also glimpse the original edition of Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA. How fab!

The original article is here. Thanks to Doug Warren for the alert.

Oh, and don't forget that if you want to make ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions a part of your own interior decoration, a revised and expanded edition is in the works. Pre-order your copy at abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com.

ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions on a book shelf in Denmark.