Turn every goddam page

Published December 19, 2019

The image attached to this post is something I put together when I was about to launch the pre-ordering campaign for my forthcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed earlier this year. I thought it would be a good way of presenting what the book would be about. Mercifully, clearer heads prevailed and I don't think this winner of the 2019 Dog's Dinner Design Award was ever seen in public.

However, I came across it recently, and I realised it would be the perfect illustration to today's blog post, as it mirrors the somewhat chaotic nature of the ABBA On Record book project thus far. Since this book was originally conceived as a companion volume to ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, I had, naïvely, assumed that it wouldn't take so long to put together. But, not for the first time, along the way I discovered that there was a bigger and much more interesting story to uncover than I'd first thought.

In the course of 2019 I've spent a lot of time on additional research, getting access to large collections that I hadn't quite counted on and then sorting through it all, cataloguing it so that it becomes useful in my work. The consequence is that all of a sudden you look up from your work and realise that several days, or a number of weeks, or many months have passed and you're not quite certain where all the time went.

But, at the end of the day, this is all positive: you just have to remind yourself that it will make the book much, much better. I recently read a fascinating book by the author Robert Caro, entitled Working. Caro is famous for his multi-volume biography about Lyndon B. Johnson - he began the project in 1976 and the final volume hasn't yet been published. In Working, he describes how he first discovered he had a knack for research and the advice he got from the editor of the newspaper he was working for at the time: "Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page."

I'm not comparing myself to a Pulitzer-winning writer such as Robert Caro, but the research principle is a sound one. With some regularity people remark to me: "Surely, there can't be anything new to learn about ABBA? You must know everything that's worth knowing?" Well, actually there is and I don't. I keep discovering new things all the time. But there is no getting around having to wade through a lot of junk or over-familiar stories to find the nuggets that will tell you something new. If you want to do the job properly, it takes a lot of time.

What all this boils down to is that ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed is far from finished. I'm not sure it will even be out in 2020, maybe early 2021 is more realistic. While time-consuming research is one major factor for this postponement, it's not the only one. Let me list the main reasons here:

1. Research taking a lot more time than expected, as described above.

2. I can no longer work at the pace I did when I wrote ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, when I was working seven days a week for more than two years. I still work about six days a week, but I do need to relax every now and then.

3. The new ABBA songs: When I first announced ABBA On Record, we all expected that the two new ABBA songs would be released in the course of 2019. They have now been postponed until at least 2020. I do want to write about the songs in my book, but I can't write about them until they have been made public. There are also all sorts of rumours flying about regarding additional new tracks being recorded - I'll believe it when I see it, so until there has been official confirmation, I won't know exactly how to deal with it.

4. I want to enlist the services of Maria Nicholas, who did such a fantastic job designing ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, but Maria is working a full-time job besides having other extracurricular projects similar to designing my books. This means I will have to wait until she has more time to take on designing ABBA On Record.

It's important to me that everyone who has pre-ordered ABBA On Record, or will do so in the future, knows that I am very grateful for the faith that has been put in me to see this project through. It is fascinating work and a great part of what fuels me is a feeling of, "wait until they read this", as I know that I'm writing for a readership that's just as excited as I am at the prospect of learning new facts about ABBA - things that go beyond the well-known story, but are nonetheless highly interesting and, in some cases, changes what we thought we knew.

Thank you for your patience - I am confident that you will enjoy the book when it's finally finished. Meanwhile, I'll go on turning every goddam page.

Learn more about ABBA On Record and pre-order your copy at abbaonrecord.com.

 

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