From a Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel

Yesterday BBC Radio 2 hosted the world premiere broadcast of ‘From A Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel’, the new medley of demo recordings on the forthcoming The Visitors Deluxe Edition.

Though there was short notice (it was broadcast just after 11 a.m. BST) fans around the world had been notified on various ABBA forums and Facebook (but surprisingly not Twitter) and were tuned in.

‘From A Twinking Star To A Passing Angel’ runs for 9 minutes and 8 seconds, encompassing 6 different versions:

The medley opens 18 seconds of studio chatter and instrumental noodling, much like the interludes between songs in the 1994 medley ‘ABBA Undeleted’.

The medley properly starts at 19 seconds with the demo ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, featuring Benny on the GX1 synthesiser, some guitar arpeggios, and Björn singing dummy lyrics. Yes, he does indeed sing “twinkle twinkle little star/how I wonder what you are”. This was probably recorded between 18-20 May 1981, when it is known that several demo recordings were made after Polar Studios installed its digital recorder.

At 1.29 Frida’s first vocal version ‘Another Morning Without You’ comes in. This version features Benny on grand piano and Frida’s solo vocal. It is clearly an early run through of the song, probably recorded around 28 May. Interestingly, a version previously heard (faintly in the background of a recording known as ‘Ali ABBA’, which is dominated by drummer Ola Brunkert’s grunting and groaning as he plays), with a full band backing and clear harmony vocals from Agnetha, is not included in this medley.

At 2.47 the so-called “disco” version of ‘Like An Angel Passing Though My Room’ kicks in. This version, which features almost the final lyrics, was apparently scrapped as it sounded a bit too similar to ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ on Super Trouper (1980), which it sort of does. This fades out on a humming section and Frida singing one line of previously-unheard lyrics, which hints that the tune was given a verse/chorus treatment. Probably recorded 23 October (from Benny’s recollection).

At 4.12 we hear another version of the ‘Like An Angel…’ lyric, this time given a full-band treatment, sounding somewhere between ‘The Winner Takes It All’ (from Super Trouper) and ‘I Let The Music Speak’ (another track from The Visitors). Probably recorded on 28 May, the same date as ‘Another Morning Without You’ – the backing sounds like the version heard in ‘Ali ABBA’, when the song was titled ‘An Angel Passing Through My Room’.

A crossfade at 5.17 introduces what sounds like a different mix of the previous recording, with a high harmony from Agnetha on the lines “I close my eyes” and “All too soon” sounding similar to ‘Put On Your White Sombrero’ (a canned track recorded 1980, released 1994), and Frida’s lead vocal heavily compressed. This version comes to a complete end, with Frida’s final line slowing down till the last notes fade away, leaving 2 seconds of silence before the next version.

At 6.00 the last version of the medley starts, a complete version of ‘Like An Angel…’, probably recorded on or near the date the final version was recorded, 8 November. It is given a similar treatment with the faint ticking clock, but here Benny’s GX1 is on a harp-like setting, rather than the music box sound on the released version.

In my opinion Benny and Björn were right to keep trying with this song, and the final version they released on The Visitors was the proper treatment that the song and the album deserved.

The medley can be heard on BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days. Go here, fast forward to 1.40. (link now expired)

(Thanks to Trent Nickson @ ABBA Village for transcribing the lyrics. Dates based on ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions by Carl Magnus Palm)

Note: running times and some information updated 30 April now the the CD is out. The original radio broadast ran for 8.42, cutting out the opening studio noise and the final few seconds.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (1.20)

Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Like a diamond glitt’ring in the sky
Seems to me you shine your light
Down to me to say goodnight
Twinkle twinkle my old friend
Sleep is waiting round the bend
While you travel through the Milky Way
From afar
Twinkle twinkle twinkle little star

Another Morning Without You (1.18)

Raindrops on a window pane
Stillness of a summer rain
Silently the haze drifts through the trees
Slowly dawn is breaking through
Yet a morning without you

Curtains rustling in the breeze
I’m still trapped within my dreams
Daylight makes its way into my mind
Coming through
Yet another morning without you

Like An Angel Passing Through My Room – disco version (1.25)

Finally when darkness falls
Casting shadows on the walls
In the twilight hour I am alone
Sitting near the fireplace
Dying embers warm my face
In this peaceful solitude
All the outside world subdued
Everything comes back to me again
In the gloom
Like an angel passing through my room

Mmm Mmm Mmm – echoes of a voice I knew

An Angel Passing Through My Room – full band version (1.05)

Half awake and half in dreams
seeing long forgotten scenes
So the present runs into the past
Now and then become entwined
Playing games within my mind
Like the embers as they die
Love was one prolonged goodbye
And it all comes back to me tonight
In the gloom
Like an angel passing through my room

An Angel Passing Through My Room – full band version, compressed mix (0.41)

I close my eyes
And my twilight images go by
All to soon
Like an angel passing through my room

Like An Angel Passing Through My Room – ballad version (3.00)

Long awaited darkness falls
Casting shadows on the walls
In the twilight hour I am alone
Sitting near the fireplace
Dying embers warm my face
In this peaceful solitude
All the outside world subdued
Everything comes back to me again
In the gloom
Like an angel passing through my room

Half awake and half in dreams
Seeing long forgotten scenes
So the present runs into the past
Now and then become entwined
Playing games within my mind
Like the embers as they die
Love was one prolonged goodbye
And it all comes back to me tonight
In the gloom
Like an angel passing through my room

I close my eyes
And my twilight images go by
All too soon
Like an angel passing through my room

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6 Responses to “From a Twinkling Star To A Passing Angel”

  1. mohamed Says:

    All this puzzles me , why “Monsieur Monsieur” hasn’t been released yet ,instead of that rubbish version of “Dream world” ?????

  2. Review: “The Visitors” (Deluxe edition) – ABBA | SparklyPrettyBriiiight Says:

    [...] You can check out a more detailed discussion of what’s in the medley here.  [...]

  3. Andante Andante Says:

    “Monsieur Monsieur” was the prototype for “My Love My Life” not “Dream World”.

  4. Robert G. Perrin Says:

    The end product–all about 9 minutes of it–is an absolute triumph.

  5. FAY FAID Says:

    Can you buy the song twinkling star by Abba..

    • Ian Cole Says:

      You certainly can, Fay. It’s on The Visitors Deluxe Edition, released in April this year. It should be available from any music store, any webstore or in some countries on iTunes.

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