The ABBA “vocal mixes”

Studio recording sheetAny fan who is a member of an online ABBA forum will no doubt have heard about the so-called “vocal mixes” of many ABBA songs that hit the internet in early December.

These unusual versions highlight many vocal and musical passages that were buried or mixed out of the final released mixes, or were edited out completely. In a couple of cases there are entire verses that were cut out of the versions released by ABBA back in the 70s and early 80s.

These mixes have variously been referred to as alternate mixes, early versions, demos or even different recordings. But in fact they are simply copied from the multi-track master tapes, with the volume of all of the vocal tracks turned right up, and the volume of the instrumental tracks turned down or right off. Several of these recordings include faults and drop-outs which indicate they weren’t properly mixed.

Once all the instruments and vocals were recorded the tape would then be mixed, treated with effects such as echo and compression, copied, edited and mastered for release. It’s very interesting to hear what Björn, Benny and Michael B. Tretow chose to mix and edit out of the final versions, to make the perfect pop records.

These recordings demonstrate the great effort that went into the many layers of vocal overdubs, most of which are barely heard in the backing “choir” on record.

The common theory is that these mixes were made by an anonymous studio engineer, roughly mixing the tracks to highlight the backing vocals for the arrangers and/or singers for Mamma Mia!, to hear the sounds of the vocals (rather than the words, as a few of the songs are in languages other than English). All the songs that have surfaced feature in the stage musical.

ABBA: Bang a Boomerang


24 Jan 2013


ABC Wide,Television

In brief

  • ABBA: Bang a Boomerang tells the story of how Australia fell in love with the Swedish supergroup.
  • It is narrated by Alan Brough (Spicks and Specks) and premieres Wednesday 30 January 8.30pm – ABC1

The full release

ABBA: Bang a Boomerang tells the inside story of Australia’s colossal 70s crush on the Swedish supergroup ABBA and their music, and how this unequalled and enduring fan‐worship changed them and us forever.

ABC’s innovative music program Countdown and its host Molly Meldrum were instrumental in bringing ABBA to a burgeoning mid‐70s television audience looking for something different. It was due to Countdown that Mamma Mia was released as a single, first in Australia and then the world, and the ABBA phenomenon was born. Molly said: “Tony Vuat, who was one of our people on the floor, said ‘Come and have a look at this song. I know you’ll love it.’ It was Mamma Mia. I went ‘THAT, we’re definitely going to use!’”

Viewers were going into record shops wanting to buy the single. Molly rang RCA records asking about the release of Mamma Mia and was told there were no plans to do so. “We then played it again in defiance and they had no option but to release it… it was lucky, it went to number one” Meldrum continues. ABBA: Bang a Boomerang digs deep into heartfelt memories, cardboard cartons of memorabilia, face‐to‐face encounters, local pop icon recounts, lavish personal and public ABBA museums and Australia’s rich media archives to relive a moment of collective national ‘craziness’, when we did literally go ABBA mad. The result is a warm, bright, captivating engagement with ABBA‘s time Down Under that will remind us all of the band’s impact and how our open‐hearted embrace of all things ABBA would eventually define us. One in three Australian households owned an ABBA record – from Prime Minister Fraser to eight‐year‐olds around the nation, we were hooked even if some of us didn’t want to admit it back then and we didn’t realise the crush would be for keeps.

By 1976 ABBA‐mania had truly gripped the nation, so much so that when the groundbreaking ABBA Australian TV special went to air it out‐rated the moon landing.

ABBA became a magnet to some extraordinary characters who all contributed to the band’s rise to the top. This documentary has unprecedented access to this inner circle, including tour manager Michael Chugg, Hollywood film director Lasse Hallström, their bodyguard on the ’77 Australian tour Richard Norton as well as their publicist, RCA’s Annie Wright.

The program also speaks to Australian fans whose devotion has never wavered, including entertainment professionals such as John Paul Young, Daryl Somers, Julia Zemiro and Libbi Gorr; founder of the Australian ABBA Fan Club Graeme Read; and music critics such as RAM’s Anthony O’Grady and music journalist Barry Divola, who both now concede the genius behind these perfectly crafted pop songs.

Australians related to ABBA’s innocence and vitality, which somehow resonated with us more than any other music before it. Later it took Australian tribute band Björn Again and two Australian movies, Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, to bring ABBA back from an 80s’ wilderness and return them to centre‐stage worldwide – where their music, old and new, remains today.

As Benny and Björn have always said: “We have always been grateful to the Australian audience because that’s when things started to happen.”

ABBA: Bang a Boomerang tells the inside story of ABBA’s success in Australia, how it reverberated into world stardom and the birth of a supergroup.


Magnus Palm – Official ABBA Biographer
“I think Australia was the only country where the film clips had that kind of impact. I think it’s probably one of the few cases or one of the earliest cases, at least, of a group achieving a breakthrough simply through film clips. The whole country was just going gaga over them – really, really mad. And, being Swedes and not being quite used to that kind of thing, I’m sure they were surprised – and moved.”

Lasse Hallström – Film Director
“Benny Anderson told me that, you know, ‘If we didn’t have those clips, we wouldn’t have been the success we are in Australia’. I hadn’t seen anything like it, not since ‘The Beatles’.”

Julia Zemiro – Performer, Die Hard ABBA Fan
“They’re clearly the most successful winner of Eurovision ever, no question. And I suppose in a way every act thinks they’ll do it again, but no one really has. ABBA was my first concert ever. And yeah, there’s always something really surreal, isn’t there, when you see someone that you adore on paper, or on television in one dimensional form, and there they are in three dimensional form and you still can’t touch them.”

Molly Meldrum – Music Guru
“I never admitted I liked ABBA because I thought, ‘They’ll think I’m gay’.

Stephan Elliot – Film Director
“I’m a fan, alright I am a fan. There I’ve said it. What the hell happened in the 70s, in Australia? I mean it was a mess. It was a social mess, it was a political mess, it was a disastrous decade.”

Molly Melddrum
“I never admitted I liked ABBA because I thought, ‘They’ll think I’m gay’.

Anthony O’Grady – Editor, RAM MAGAZINE 1975‐83
“Waterloo is very much based on the Phil Spector wall of sound. Every little bit that they wrote led somewhere, which led it to another place, which might turn back on itself. It was beautifully constructed music. As ABBA music got more introspective and sophisticated and had higher production values, it lost its fun, the crowd don’t want it. They wanted us back in satin suits.”

Annie Wright – RCA Publicity Manager 1976‐79
“Molly was very instrumental in their success because once he embraced it and also knew that it was a big deal – and he defied also the music critics as well who were going, ‘It’s uncool.’”

Ross Grayson‐Bell – Film Producer, Die Hard Fan
“I was ecstatic. I went across to the Sebel Townhouse in my school uniform and they pulled me aside and said, ‘We want to take a photo of you and Frida and Agnetha.’ And so there’s the photograph of me being hugged by both of them, which is an enviable position to be in. It was like Sunday roast, you know.

You’d sit down, have your roast with your family, and you’d watch Countdown. It was gay to like ABBA. Come on, we have to be honest about that. And I wasn’t aware that I was gay at the time and it’s almost like it was an outing – I was outed.”

Libbi Gorr – Performer, ABBA Devotee
“We were at that age and it was ABBA that put that huge footprint into our hearts. It’s just that tweenagerhood of learning about longing and desire, and some freak called Fernando. You never get over it. You never get over it. I was a great fan of ‘When I Kissed the Teacher’ because it seemed a bit naughty. You know, it’s embedded in our DNA.”

Roxanne Dickson – ABBA Fanatic
[Channel Nine ABBA Special 1976] what I remember is me staring at the TV and loving every second of seeing a whole show of ABBA. And knowing they were on a stage in Australia. Me and my little sister just adored it. And I insisted we learnt the whole show and we would perform it for my older sisters and their friends. ”

Barry Divola – Music Journalist
“Even though I was a Frida man, looking at that picture of Agnetha in a very short, quite sheer, floral dress and wearing boots, and I remember somewhere back in my reptile brain, something stirred. And 20 years later you can embrace that inner dag that you were in 1975 and 1976 and say, ‘You know what? I actually love those songs and I love that group and they make me feel happy.’”

John Paul Young – Pop Music Icon
“When Mamma Mia was a big hit, we’d get into our hired 1975 Fairlaine and hit the horn and it was exactly in tune with . ‘Da da da da da da da da, Mamma Mia, here I go again. ’ I didn’t think was going to be as big as it was, but it proved to be my nemesis. It kept me out of the number one spot for something like 12 weeks. So you know, they were right and I was wrong.”


(Media release from ABC. Thanks to James O’Brien @ ABBA Village)

What is your favourite ABBA event of 2012?

There have been so many ABBA and related events during 2012. What have been your favourites? Chose up to five from the list below, or add anything else to the comments.

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