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.