Alternate versions part 2

Happy New Year/Andante, AndanteDuring their ten year career ABBA recorded and released 98 unique songs, with a plethora of well-known alternate versions: recordings Swedish, German, French and Spanish, remixes, edits and more.

However, there are several alternate versions of ABBA songs that evaded most fans for many years, or the stories behind them aren’t well known. Here is the second and final look at some of those alternate versions.

On And On And On: in 1980, photographer Anders Hanser wanted to put together a slide show to display the hundreds of photographs he’d taken of ABBA’s 1979 tour in North America and Europe. ABBA generously gave him the then unreleased song ‘On And On And On’ to use as the soundtrack. This version actually included an additional verse, cut out when the song was released on the Super Trouper album in November. As the song was released as a single in some countries, Hanser’s slide show was distributed to television stations as the official promotional film. Fans complain that they would rather have had a proper film clip, rather than the slide show. But in reality, if not for the slide show a clip for ‘On And On And On’ would not exist, and the extra verse would never have been released to the world. The clip complete with extra verse was first released on the VHS collection ABBA Music Show 2 in Sweden in 1981, also on ABBA (USA 1983), The Video Hits (UK 1986) and The Tenth Anniversary Celebration (Australia 1987). The 1993 VHS selection More ABBA Gold featured a re-edited version of the standard album track, repeated choruses and the instrumental break to extend the song to the same length. The clip was first released on DVD on The Definitive Collection (2002), while the longer version of the song did not appear on CD until The Complete Studio Recordings box set in 2005, which also included the clip on DVD. On all of these releases the song was in mono. The stereo mix finally surfaced as a bonus track on the Super Trouper Deluxe Edition (2011) and The Essential Collection DVD (2012).

When All Is Said And Done: in August 1981 ABBA made a promotional clip of this song from sessions for the next ABBA album (The Visitors, released at the end of November). Though it wasn’t released as an international single at the time, the clip was included in the Dick Cavett Meets ABBA television special, first broadcast the following month. The clip does not include the acoustic guitar and vocal introduction of the album version (which was likely recorded as an insert later), and Frida’s delivery of the final lines “standing calmly at the crossroad/no desire to run/there’s no hurry anymore/when all is said and done” is noticeably different. Most home video collections have overdubbed the album version on the clip, but the original soundtrack was released on the VHS tapes Music Show 3 (Sweden 1983), ABBA Again (USA 1983), and More Video Hits (UK 1988), and on the DVD with The Visitors Deluxe Edition (2012), where it appears in stereo for the first time.

Head Over Heels: like ‘ Waterloo’ and ‘Man In The Middle’ in the previous entry, the second single from ABBA’s final album The Visitors has an alternate mix that went unnoticed by many ABBA fans for decades. In this alternate version the first chorus has a slightly different vocal, but the obvious giveaway is the drumbeat right after the line “she’s a girl with a taste for the world”: the quick triple snare drum pattern is missing. It appears that for the standard version of the song the second chorus was copied and replaced the first. This alternate mix was used in the promotional clip filmed in January 1982, though it seems that no one noticed. Its first known release on record was in East Germany on the ABBA Quartet EP in 1983. The clip was also included in the VHS collections Music Show 3, ABBA Again and More Video Hits. The alternate mix appeared by surprise on The Visitors LP in The Vinyl Collection box set (2010), The Visitors Deluxe Edition CD (2012) and The Essential Collection CD (2012), but all 21st century ABBA DVD collections use the standard mix.

Lovelight: in 1993, one of the surprises of the More ABBA Gold compilation CD was the inclusion of a previously unknown mix of the ‘Chiquitita’ B-side, ‘Lovelight’. It seems that the wrong tape may have been selected for mastering for the CD. It was then included on the Thank You For The Music box set (1994) and remastered Voulez-Vous CD (1997). In 1999 when More ABBA Gold was re-released this alternate mix was replaced by the original 1979 version, which at that time was not available on CD, having only previously been available in that format on the UK budget CD The Love Songs (1988). The alternate mix was also included in The Complete Studio Recordings (2005) and re-released Thank You For The Music (2008) box sets.

Andante, Andante: the big surprise of 2014 has been the inclusion of an unknown alternate mix of the Super Trouper (1980) album track ‘Andante, Andante’ in the box set The Singles. This alternate mix has a different vocal by Frida, with a lyrical variation at the end of the first verse “and let the feeling grow” instead of “just let the feeling grow” (curiously, this lyrical variation was on the Super Trouper LP lyrics on the inner sleeve). The backing is mixed differently, including an accordion that is mixed way down or right out of the familiar version. How this unheard version came to be included in the box set is a mystery.

Alternate versions

WaterlooABBA’s main catalogue consists of 98 individual songs, with a plethora of well-known alternate versions: recordings in languages other than English, remixes, edits and more.

However, there are a number of alternate versions of ABBA songs that evaded most fans for many years, or the stories behind them aren’t well known. Here is the first part of a two-part look at some of those alternate mixes.

Waterloo: when the English version of ‘Waterloo’ was first released in Sweden in March 1974, the single contained an early mix, not the final approved one. When it was discovered, the single was recalled, and reissued win the correct mix under the same catalogue number. Some copies had already been sold and remained out in the world. This alternate mix was not widely known among ABBA fans until the early 21st century, when fans who owned the single started discussing it in online forums. The alternate mix was included in The Complete Studio Recordings box set in 2005. It is now available on the Waterloo Deluxe Edition CD (2014).

Ring Ring: in 1974 after the number one success of ‘Waterloo’, Epic Records in the UK decided that ABBA’s 1973 Eurovision hopeful ‘Ring Ring’ should be re-released as the follow up single. But rather than re-release the 1973 version, Epic Records A&R man Paul Atkinson suggested it should be “beefed up” to more closely resemble the sound of ‘Waterloo’. Atkinson flew to Stockholm to oversee the makeover, which featured a heavier sounding guitar riff, and a short saxophone riff near the end of the choruses. It seems that it may have actually been a different take of the vocal. As well as being released in the UK (where it reached a dismal number 32), it was also released in Australia and West Germany. Curiously, it appears that in West Germany it was intended as the A side, backed with ‘Honey, Honey’, but it was ‘Honey, Honey’ that was promoted and sold as the A side. It’s certainly the side that ABBA promoted on various West German television shows. This mix was also used on the promotional clip, filmed in June for distribution for television stations around the world. A different mix of the alternate version appeared on the Atlantic Records Waterloo album in the USA and Canada, with an even heavier and noisier mix, and saxophone riffs after every line of the chorus. The single mix first appeared on CD in the CD singles box set Singles Collection 1972*1982 in 1999, mastered from a vinyl single as the master could not be located. The master was eventually found, and included on the 2001 compilation The Definitive Collection. The so-called US mix was first released on CD on the Waterloo remaster in 2001. Both mixes are included on the Waterloo Deluxe Edition CD.

Man In The Middle: another alternate mix that only came to light in recent years is the ABBA album track ‘Man In The Middle’ from 1975. First thought to only have appeared in the 1986 Polydor CD release of the ABBA album in Japan, it has since been found that it appeared on the album when released in France by Vogue Records in 1975. The difference is minor: on the standard version the vocal “in the middle middle middle… ” at the end of the second chorus has been subjected to electronic treatment, and possibly an additional overdub by engineer Michael B. Tretow, making it deeper and more rumbling. On the alternate mix, this vocal is untreated, like the one at the end of the first chorus.

Fernando: when ABBA performed their new single ‘Fernando’ on the West German television special The Best Of ABBA in early 1976, they mimed to a very different mix to the one released on record. This version featured a chiming sound playing a counter melody throughout the choruses. Later in the year, ABBA performed ‘Fernando’ on the US program Midnight Special, the backing track over which ABBA sang live had two extra bars of music in the break between the first chorus and the following verse. Neither of these variations has been released on CD, though the full West German TV special was briefly available in a DVD box set of the Musikladen series.

When I Kissed The Teacher: the Swedish television special ABBA-dabba-doo!! featured specially-made clips or performances of most of the songs from the forthcoming Arrival album. The special included an early mix of the album’s opening track ‘When I Kissed The Teacher’. The first verse was missing the echoed vocal “they dreamed”, and the rumbling build up under the lines “nearly petrified cause he was taken by surprise”. The rest of the track is a slightly different mix from the album version. This version was released on DVD along with the entire special on the Arrival Deluxe Edition in 2006.

The King Has Lost His Crown, Kisses Of Fire, Lovers (Live A Little Longer), Does Your Mother Know: in February 1979 ABBA travelled to Switzerland to make the television special ABBA in Switzerland. Several early mixes of songs from the unfinished Voulez-Vous album were included. The most radical difference was ‘Does Your Mother Know’, which had a much looser and more rock and roll feel than the discofied final version released on record a few months later. The special including all these alternate versions was released on the Voulez-Vous Deluxe Edition DVD in 2010.

More alternate mixes to come in part 2…

The 40th anniversary week

abba40The 40th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win was celebrated in great style in early April.

Of course there are many new releases to mark the anniversary, with ABBA – The Official Photo Book, Waterloo Deluxe Edition CD and DVD, ‘Waterloo’ single picture disc, The Singles 40 disc box set, and much more, with even more still to come.

The highlights of the anniversary commemorations were events in Stockholm and London on Sunday April 6th (the actual anniversary) and Monday April 7th.

On the Sunday afternoon ABBA The Museum in Stockholm held a concert on the museum’s forecourt, featuring an especially-created choir singing several ABBA songs. Benny Andersson joined the choir, playing piano as they sang ‘Thank You For The Music’, and then joining the choir on stage for a bow.

On the Monday night the Tate Modern gallery in London hosted ABBA The Official International Anniversary party, to launch The Official Photo Book and to commemorate the anniversary. One thousand ticket-buying fans joined 500 VIP guests for a night of ABBA music, with a small exhibition of photos from the book, and a brief appearance by Björn and Frida, which was followed by another performance by ABBA The Museum/The Choir.

The following Sunday (April 13th) Benny and Björn joined the London cast of Mamma Mia! at the Olivier Awards in London, performing one chorus of ‘Thank You For The Music’ for the awards show finale. Yes, you read that right: Benny and Björn actually performed on stage, on accordion and guitar respectively.

After a couple of interviews in London with Frida and Björn, there was much media and fan speculation that an ABBA reunion could be on the cards, after Frida said “that it would be fun, maybe, to record something”. Björn rather strangely added ” if there was out of, you know, pure magic, a fantastic song that would suit ABBA very well, you know, who knows”. Of course he wasn’t going to contradict Frida on camera, was he? Benny followed it up on the red carpet at the Olivier Awards, saying “I don’t think so”, then adding sarcastically “Well what do I know?”, clearly miffed that everyone was predicting an ABBA reunion except the one man who would be writing the music.

Agnetha was nowhere to be seen at any of these events. Apparently she was enjoying a holiday in Majorca. In May last year she missed the opening of ABBA The Museum, as she was in London doing interviews to promote her solo album A. In 2004 she missed the 5th anniversary of Mamma Mia! in London, which Björn, Frida and Benny attended (Benny quite reluctantly), as she was working on the documentary for her current album My Colouring Book.

Promoting her solo album A last year Agnetha was happy to use ABBA, from the cover sticker “New solo album by Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA”, to the title of her official television documentary Agnetha: ABBA and After, three-quarters of which was devoted to ABBA. As recently as November last year she hinted in an interview that she would be willing to do something with the other three, and that there were plans for the 40th anniversary (which set off another worldwide media frenzy of “ABBA reunion” headlines). But when there’s an actual ABBA event, she actively avoids the situation.

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