ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions for Christmas

Published November 30, 2017

Looking for a Christmas gift for an ABBA fan? Then you could do a lot worse than ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions! :-) Based on hundreds of hours of research, the 448-page book details the story of how the Swedish group created their pop masterpieces, and features plenty of insight from the four members of ABBA as well as the people who worked with them.

ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus calls the book "a fantastic work", the critics say it's "scholarly and forensically researched but at the same time eminently readable", "an enlightening study of a pop phenomenon" and "a beautifully designed passion project"; the fans feel it's "truly amazing and a wonderful discovery", "so detailed and giving so much insight into the songwriting process", and "surely the most comprehensive work of its kind in the world".

If you live in Europe, now is the time to order to ensure you have it well in time for the holiday season. (NB! Customers outside Europe should be aware that there is a chance the book may not arrive in time for Christmas if ordered now).

Order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com. It's easy to order: prices include postage and packing - a few clicks and you're done!

 

A day in the life of an ABBA researcher

Published November 24, 2017

Contrary to what some may believe, I don't research ABBA only when I'm working on a certain project. Research is ongoing all the time, as I'm absorbing new information from a multitude of different sources. You never know when the results of your efforts will come in handy, and there have been many times over the years when I've had reason to rejoice at a piece of info being available in my files - and I had even forgotten that I had it.

I keep a list of items that need to be researched at the National Library of Sweden here in Stockholm, and when that list starts getting long enough I spend a day at the library trying to go through as much as possible. It can be anything from following up on an alert that there might be an interesting interview in this or that journal, or just trying to verfiy a fact.

On my most recent visit to the library, for instance, I thought that I should try to pin down the date for a certain Bubi Heilemann photo session in Stockholm. In one of Bubi's books, the date is noted as June 1974, probably a guesstimate based on when the pictures were first published. However, I had something more concrete to go on from the photo session, namely a picture of Benny reading a newspaper, a detail of which is shown below.

Svenska Dagbladet

Behind him, there are also placards of other newspapers from that day.

Benny and placards

The headline in the newspaper is about the French election of 1974, mentioning François Mitterand. A little googling made it clear that this would have been May 1974. To cut a long story short, at the library - after locating the news items mentioned on the placards and comparing them with the newspaper headline - I was able to determine that this photo session had taken place on 3 May 1974.

Now, this in itself doesn't mean so much, but it gets a little more interesting when we put it  together with other things the ABBA members did around this time, which I'd found during other research:

29 April: A team from the UK's Daily Mirror travel to Viggsö island in Stockholm's archipelago, to take pictures of ABBA as they're going to be number one with their Waterloo single next week. The result was this photo session (I was able to verify this piece of info at the British Library a couple of years ago):

ABBA at Viggsö

ABBA are out relaxing at Viggsö, but the news that they're number one means that they have to go to London to appear on Top Of The Pops.

1 May: They film a performance of Waterloo on Top Of The Pops, which can be viewed here.

2 May: ABBA travel back to Stockholm; Top Of The Pops is broadcast that evening.

3 May: Bubi Heilemann conducts his photo session with ABBA (the main picture on this page was taken in Stockholm's Gamla Stan district). That same day, backing vocals are recorded for 'Aldrig mej' and 'Vill du låna en man', two tracks from Frida's upcoming solo album Frida ensam. I found the info about these recording dates at the SAMI archive in Stockholm back in 1993.

I don't know about you, but to me stringing together the dates like this gives me a clearer view of exactly how busy ABBA were after their 'Waterloo' victory on 6 April 1974. It won't change the ABBA story in any earth-shattering fashion, but it does add colour.

Just like ABBA went to London to appear on Top Of The Pops back in 1974, I will soon travel there myself to conduct further research at the British Library for the companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Really looking forward to that, as there are few things I enjoy more than going through old music industry magazines searching for the tiniest details. I really do mean that!

In the meantime, ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions is available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

 

"We wish you the best of luck" - Benny and Björn's original foreword

Published November 16, 2017

Recently, I had reason to revisit my original 1993 interviews with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus for my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com). I was reminded what a privilege and what an extraordinary situation that was, sitting with them individually for hours on several different occasions, discussing this, that and the other from ABBA's recording career.

As if that in itself wasn't enough, they also wrote a great foreword to the book. They certainly didn't have to do that, but they did. What a thing to happen.

In case you haven't seen the foreword before, I thought I should post it here. It still makes me very happy to read it, and takes me back to a very special time in my life.

Click here to read the foreword.

The revised and expanded edition of the book is available here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com

Exploring the possibilities of the recording studio

Published November 02, 2017

Recently, we saw the 40th anniversary of the release of ABBA's single 'The Name Of The Game', which was issued on 17 October 1977. Just three days prior to that, David Bowie released his "Heroes" album, its title track eventually becoming one of his best-loved songs. So, what have these two releases got to do with each other? Not a lot, at face value, but there's more to unite them than you'd think.

When I interviewed Benny Andersson for the original edition of my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions he surprised me by saying he felt 'The Name Of The Game', one of my ABBA favourites, was a great recording but not such a great song. By that he meant that something like 'Thank You For The Music' is a better song because it relies more on melody and less on the production surrounding it. In other words, whereas 'Thank You For The Music' is primarily a tune, 'The Name Of The Game' is primarily a record - the result of taking bits of tunes and tying them together into a coherent way, making full use of the possibilities of the recording studio to make sense of those tune fragments, riffs, and so on.

Recently, A New Career In A New Town, a box set of David Bowie's recordings 1977–1982, was released, including a book featuring wonderful essays by Bowie's producer, Tony Visconti, telling the story of how the main albums in the box set – Low, "Heroes", Lodger and Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – were created. It struck me that while their approaches may have been different and Bowie's music didn't sound very much like ABBA's, both acts were driven by the same sense of adventure: here are some ideas for a tune, here's the recording studio – let's see how we can make this sound as exciting as possible!

At this time, Bowie's method was mainly one of creating interesting backing tracks, then inviting overdub musicians to the studio, asking them to play along with the backing track without ever hearing it before, and then, finally, Bowie himself would write lyrics and record his vocals. Certainly more "out there" than ABBA, and it's not very likely that you will hear 'Breaking Glass' or 'Beauty And The Beast' on the Benny Andersson Plays The Songs Of David Bowie album. But back in 1977, they did share the same ambition of exploring the recording studio to the fullest, letting themselves be surprised by the wonders they could come up with. I may be wrong, but I don't think pop music is created from quite the same perspective today.

The full story of how 'The Name Of The Game' was written and recorded is detailed in the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. Order your copy here: abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com