Did you know that more than 600.000 copies are being sold of an average ABBA album? Did you know that ABBA attracted more television viewers in Australia than the historic moon landing? Did you know that there are still a lot of Swedes throwing tons of dirt on ABBA? Did you know that Agnetha’s pants fell down when she sang at the age of five?
The Hitkrant ABBA book ‘The Phenomenon ABBA’ – that will be available in Holland in the near future – is dealing with all these facts and the how and why of ABBA. Exclusively for the Hitkrant readers, we have an advance publication from that interesting book on this page!
The idea for ‘The Phenomenon ABBA’ was born during a press conference that was held by Stig Anderson in 1975 in Copenhagen. A Danish reporter asked Stig if he wanted to write a book about ABBA. Stig replied that he had indeed thought about it, but that he simply didn’t have the time. For the Swedish journalist Christer Borg this was the moment to think: ‘that might be a task for me.’ And that’s how it started.
The story is primarily based on long interviews with Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Frida and Stig, that were recorded on tape. Apart from that, a lot of information was drawn from the piles of clippings that have been written about ABBA. ‘The Phenomenon ABBA’ offers the only true and complete ABBA story. Beautiful colour pictures, all the song lyrics and a complete discography turn this book – that was translated by Louise McFarlane and Gabriël Witteveen – into a must for the fans. The price will be 9,90 Dutch guilders. Coming soon to this theatre!
Below you will find an excerpt of the chapter ‘In the ABBA studio’.
Exclusive advance publication: ‘In the ABBA studio’.
Although Björn and Benny compose most of their songs during their stay on the so called ABBA island in a small cottage near their summer house, the real work is done in the studio. An awful lot of hours of hard work with several handpicked musicians and technician Michael B. Tretow preceed every recording session.
There’s no other artist that spends as much time in the studio as Björn and Benny. Renting a completely equipped studio is a costly affair. Manager Stig Anderson estimates that producing the latest ABBA album has cost a quarter of a million. That’s at least five times more than a normal Swedish group spends on its recordings. As members of the most popular group in the world they can afford to spend this amount of time in the studio.
At least, it seems like that. But that’s not how it is in reality. Working until deep in the night at the Metronome Studio in Stockholm is really not a luxury. “Björn and Benny did just that,” according to Michael Tretow. “From the very beginning they kept on going until they were completely satisfied. They never gave up. They are the only ones in Sweden who work like this. It’s some kind of quest for perfection, a question of doing things the right way. They don’t mind a wrong note or a change in rhythm, but they want to produce a record that sounds great.”
Michael B. Tretow is mostly called Mick. Apart from Stig Anderson, he is probably the most important person behind the phenomenon ABBA. He plays an extremely important part in creating their special sound, a sound that is called ‘exotic’ by others. Mick, aged 32, has handled the mixing console since the first ABBA record. Even before that – as a sound engineer at the often used Metronome Studio – he has recorded the first records with Agnetha and Frida and he also got acquainted with the former Hootenanny Singers. He only wasn’t familiar with the Hep Stars. He didn’t meet Benny until he started collaborating with Björn. Mick is a certified electrician, but he never got the opportunity to practise his profession. Right after his education, he had the chance to work at the Metronome Studio. He was swiftly hired. He already had five recordings credited to his name, for which he had written the lyrics and the music. “They were extremely bad,” says Mick. “When I listen to them now, I start laughing.” Mick has worked at Metronome Studio for seven years now. He has learned his craft from scratch, supervised by Rune Persson, the founder of the studio. These years have been tough, but rewarding. “I worked very hard. If we were busy, we recorded one single per day.”
After a period of two years at the Glenmark Studio, Mick started working freelance in April 1976. Now he produces several Polar artists. Mick’s most important job at the moment is being ABBA’s chief sound technician. Every six months, he spends two days per week on that. “Björn and Benny are definitely their own producers. From the beginning, they have been working professionally. That’s probably one of the reasons why we get along so well. They are the two people in this business that I admire the most. They are always right. I have often said that this or that was impossible, but in the end they were proven right. Apart from that, they weren’t afraid to try new things. It happens regularly that I suggest to use some kind of crazy sound. Most of the time they are reluctant to use it, because they have never heard it before. Two months later, it is used on American records and then all of a sudden, everyone wants to use it. Björn and Benny are always a step ahead and that makes this collaboration so enjoyable.”
When Björn and Benny enter the studio with something new for the first time, most of the time only the melody is ready. Björn plays it on his guitar while singing an improvised lyric. “We think a good melody is very important,” Björn explains. “We belong to the few people that put a lot of effort in writing good melodies. That’s our biggest strength, according to the people abroad. When we are composing on our island, we only have Benny’s piano and my guitar at our disposal, but actually that’s more than enough. A good melody even sounds good on just a guitar and a piano. It’s easier to work with a strong melody. It’s not until you hear the melody that you get any idea how you want to record it: as rock, reggae or maybe even a waltz!”
What is Agnetha dreaming about?
Since we can imagine that a lot of you are heavily interested in the Hitkrant ABBA book, we’ve come up with a competition, that will make 50 participants happy. These participants will get this Hitkrant ABBA book! So get going!
What to do?
Describe in maximum 300 words a dream that Agnetha could have!
We will leave it to your own imagination, what kind of a dream that is going to be. Maybe you can dream about it yourself first! Anyhow, the 50 most original dreams will be rewarded with a Hitkrant ABBA book.