Blue Mink - their influence on ABBA

Published March 26, 2020

Back in 1993, when I interviewed Björn Ulvaeus for the very first time, we discussed the origins of the first ABBA song, 'People Need Love', recorded in March 1972. Björn seemed to remember that there was a specific influence behind the song. "Weren't there these duos around then, a guy and a girl, who sang these types of songs?" he said. I couldn't immediately think of any such duos, but Björn held on to the thought. "I believe it was something that was recorded in England that inspired us," he continued. "This thing with guys and girls - or guy and girl, probably. I believe there were a number of such constellations around then, that had one or two hits."

Since neither Björn nor I could think of a specific act, I dropped it for the time being. But a while later, I interviewed session guitarist Janne Schaffer about his ABBA work. "'People Need Love' - there was actually an idea behind it," Janne suddenly said, without being prompted by me. "There was an English group called Blue Mink. There were a few ideas borrowed from them."

When I met up with Björn again, I told him what Janne had said, and he confirmed that Blue Mink was indeed the group he had been thinking of. Bingo!

By then I had researched Blue Mink a bit and discovered that by the time 'People Need Love' was recorded, 'The Banner Man' was their most recent hit - in the summer of 1971 it spent 14 weeks on the UK singles chart, peaking at #3 - although it had done nothing in Sweden. I suggested that this might have been the record that inspired them, but Björn didn't think that this was it specifically.

And, as I wrote in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, "it could have been one of several [Blue Mink songs], since the group’s hits were often based on the trading of lines between lead singers Roger Cook and Madeline Bell, much like the male-female alternating vocals heard on ‘People Need Love’. The theme of the lyrics – basically about reaching out to your fellow man – was also mirrored in many Blue Mink hits."

How many of you have actually heard Blue Mink? (Strictly speaking they weren't a duo and they weren't all British, since some of their members were American.) They were one of those middle of the road bands that I suspect weren't highly regarded by the cognoscenti at the time, but nevertheless had an audience.

Consisting of A-list session musicians, they were probably a lot better than you'd expect them to be. This was brought home to me recently as I happened to hear 'The Banner Man' for the first time in many years. The bassist in Blue Mink was Herbie Flowers, whose main claim to fame is perhaps his contribution to Lou Reed's 'Walk On The Wild Side'. But listen to his incredible playing in 'The Banner Man', from circa 01:40 onwards. Any self-respecting band would be proud to have someone play like that on their recordings.