And then there was Gracias Por La Música, released in June and today an antique, hard to find relic. Unavailable except as a second-hand LP or CD, if you can find it.
The history of Gracias Por La Música goes back to early 1979. In January ABBA had released ‘Chiquitita’, which was roaring up the single charts in many countries. One part of the world where ABBA had not been as successful as elsewhere was South America. Buddy McCluskey of RCA Argentina, ABBA’s local licensee, suggested to Stig Anderson and ABBA that a Spanish-language version could be a big hit and break ABBA in Latin America.
McCluskey and his wife Mary wrote Spanish lyrics, ABBA recorded it, and within months it was topping the charts across the Spanish-speaking world. It was said to be the biggest hit in Argentina for 25 years!
Later in the year ABBA recorded a Spanish version of ‘I Have A Dream’ entitled ‘Estoy Soñando’. This too became a hit, and inspired the idea to release an album of Spanish versions of ABBA hits.
The ideal time came in January 1980. Benny and Björn were planning a trip to Barbados to inspire their songwriting energies for the next ABBA album. Agnetha and Frida were staying behind in Stockholm. They convened at ABBA engineer Michael B. Tretow’s home studio to record new vocals to eight ABBA songs. The McCluskey’s again wrote the lyrics, and Stockholm-based Spanish journalist Ana de Martinez del Valle assisted with the pronunciation.
The selected songs included those with an obvious latin feel or title (such as ‘Fernando’, ‘Move On’ and ‘Hasta Mañana’), recent singles (‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’) and big ABBA hits (‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’).
The gamble paid off, and upon release in June the album was a big seller in many South American countries and Spain. It was also a surprise hit in Japan, and saw limited release in the UK, USA, and eventually Australia.
Since the advent of the Compact Disc in the early 1980s Gracias Por La Música has not had a widespread release. It was released on CD in Japan in 1986, Argentina in 1993, and a limited US release in 1989.
In 1993 PolyGram International released ABBA Oro – Grandes Exitos, a ten track CD which included all the songs from Gracias Por La Música, in a rearranged order. The title and cover fit in with the previous year’s mega-selling ABBA Gold – Greatest Hits. The following year saw the release of ABBA Más Oro – Más ABBA Exitos (More Gold – More ABBA Hits), which compiled ABBA’s five remaining Spanish-language recordings – two songs each from 1980 and 1981, and the Spanish version of ‘Ring Ring’, recorded in 1973 but unreleased until this CD.
In 1999 ABBA Oro was re-released with all 15 Spanish recordings. This has since become part of the regular ABBA catalogue. When ABBA’s albums have been re-released in box sets such as The Complete Studio Recordings, and when ABBA’s studio albums have been released as Deluxe Editions, the Spanish recordings have been added as bonus tracks on the appropriate albums.
And Gracias Por La Música remains the lost album of the ABBA catalogue, forgotten except to the most ardent ABBA fans who still lament its disappearance.