Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Fernando – 40 years as Australia’s biggest hit

8 March, 2016

fernandosleeveForty years ago this week, in the middle of ABBA’s promotional trip to Australia, the brand new single ‘Fernando’ was released.

This was the first new music from ABBA since the phenomenal breakthrough with ‘Mamma Mia’ and the other singles from the ABBA album the year before. The single’s release was highly anticipated, especially coming with ABBA’s first visit to the country.

‘Fernando’ had its Australian television premiere not on a pop music show, but on the news program A Current Affair on Friday 5 March, when Lasse Hallström’s now famous film clip was shown as part of a report on that day’s press conference at the Sydney Hilton Hotel.

‘Fernando’ hit record shops and radio stations from Monday 8 March. On that day, in the singles chart ‘Ring Ring’ was at number 14 (on the way up), ‘SOS’ was at 16, and ‘Mamma Mia’ was at 29 (both on the way down); the ABBA album was at number 4 (on the way down), The Best Of ABBA at 12, Ring Ring at 40, and Waterloo at 76 (all three on the way up). ABBA had travelled to Melbourne to perform ‘Fernando’ and ‘SOS’ on The Don Lane Show.

‘Fernando’ entered the singles chart at number 75 the following week, on 15 March. Three weeks later, on 5 April, it reached number 1, where it stayed for the next 14 weeks. It replaced Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ at the top spot. ‘Fernando’ equalled the previous longest running number 1, The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ in 1968 (Note: There was no standard national Australian chart until ARIA in 1983. Some charts quote different weeks at number 1 for both songs. These figures are from the generally accepted authoritative chart, the Kent Music Report).

‘Fernando’ was a highlight of the locally-made TV special The Best of ABBA, which was the prime reason for ABBA’s visit to Australia. In fact, both sides of the single were featured in the special, with Frida dedicated the B side ‘Tropical Loveland’ to Australia, “that is, when the cyclones aren’t blowing of course”. On both the Don Lane Show and The Best Of ABBA, Agnetha and Frida wore the same folk-style dresses they had worn in the film clip.

The screening of the special not only helped push ‘Fernando’ and The Best Of ABBA to number 1, but also several older singles and B sides into the chart, to the point where for two weeks (19 and 26 April) there were 5 ABBA singles in the top 40 (‘Fernando’, ‘Ring Ring’, ‘Rock Me’, ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’; ‘Hasta Mañana’ would enter the chart on 10 May, by which time ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘SOS’ had left the top 40, but were still in the top 100), and for 12 weeks (26 April to 12 July) all four ABBA albums were in the top 40 albums.

During ‘Fernando”s run at number 1 there was some criticism that it had remained at the top for so long. Popular TV music show Countdown didn’t play the clip as the number 1 song every week, instead sometimes replacing it with another top 10 entry or predicted future chart hit.

One week when ‘Fernando’ was actually shown, that week’s guest host John Paul Young, whose ‘I Hate The Music’ had been stuck at number 2 for several weeks, donned a long blonde wig and emoted to camera when the show cut to him during the clip. That footage has never surfaced, but I’m sure I’ve seen footage from the same episode in recent documentaries on Countdown. If there is a starting point to the backlash over ABBA’s overexposure that led to the alarming drop in ABBA’s popularity after the 1977 tour, this would be it.

‘Fernando”s last week at number 1 was 5 July. The following week it was replaced by Sherbet’s ‘Howzat’, which led to many newspaper stories gloating that a local act had knocked the mighty ABBA off the top. But really, ‘Fernando’ couldn’t stay number 1 forever, so something was going to replace it eventually. ‘Fernando’ remained in the singles chart for a total of 40 weeks, until 13 December, its last placement at number 93.

RCA reported that ‘Fernando’ sold 400,000 copies during 1976. This was the highest selling single ever in Australia to that point, a record that would remain for a little over twenty years, until Elton John’s ‘Candle In the Wind 97’, which sold over 980,000 copies. Today in the age of cheap music downloads, sadly a few dozen songs have now outsold ‘Fernando’, but the population of the country has increased by over 70% since 1976.

‘Fernando’ entered the Australian vernacular, with the phrase “Can you hear the drums <insert name here>?” often quoted or used as a headline for instant recognition to this day.

Personally, ‘Fernando’ was the first newly released ABBA record I got that I had never heard. I’d missed that first TV screening of the clip (I was out at the roller skating rink), and it hadn’t had any radio airplay before the record hit the shops.

(Originally written for A.B.B.A : The Music Goes On And On And On)

The Best Of ABBA

29 November, 2015

The Best Of ABBAForty years ago this month Polar Music released ABBA Greatest Hits in Scandinavia. In the same month, RCA in Australia released its own compilation, The Best Of ABBA.

Polar had been motivated to release its album when copies of compilations from West Germany (The Best Of ABBA) and France (ABBA’s Greatest Hits) started appearing in Swedish record shops, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

The Australian album took the same title and track list as the West German album, but with a different sleeve, though the designer is uncredited. It was possibly F.H. Booth, who designed the cover for the re-release of Ring Ring, released in the same month, and other RCA sleeves in that era.

Initially The Best Of ABBA was released only in the states of South Australia and Western Australia. Though these two states had about 15% of the nation’s population at that time, the album entered the national charts at number 72 in December.

In February 1976 the album was released in the rest of the country. After ABBA’s visit to Australia in March, when the group made the tie-in TV special The Best Of ABBA, the album reached number one and stayed there for 16 weeks. It remained in the top 100 albums chart until April 1977.

The album went on to be the first album ever to sell over one million copies in Australia, selling 1,010,000 copies during 1976 alone. For many young ABBA fans in the 70s, this was their first ABBA record. It was my third ABBA record, after the ABBA album and ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ single.

Despite these amazing figures, for many years The Best Of ABBA had been forgotten in media reports about the biggest selling records in Australia; primarily because writers based their figures on ARIA accreditations, which only covered the period from 1984.

In recent years The Best Of ABBA has reclaimed its place in the list of biggest-selling albums in Australia. But unlike the other biggest sellers – Bat Out Of Hell, Whispering JackBrothers In Arms, Thriller, and <ahem> ABBA GoldThe Best Of ABBA has not had multiple re-releases, and is no longer available, having been out-of-print for over 25 years. A 1988 re-release on LP and CD barely counts, adding just over 10,000 copies to its total sales.

An unusual ABBA record #7

8 September, 2015

ABBA & RubettesOne of the most unusual ABBA records ever released is this one, imaginatively titled ABBA & Rubettes, featuring hits by, you guessed it, ABBA and British group The Rubettes. 

It’s quite a strange album, with seven songs by each band. The cover is a not particularly attractive mash-up of ABBA’s 1975 self-titled album and Rubettes’ album We Can Do It released the same year, bisected with a diagonal yellow band with the song titles ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ and ‘I Can Do It’, plus the apparent random phrase ‘Stop Stop Stop’, which isn’t an ABBA title and doesn’t seem to be a Rubettes title.

Five of ABBA’s seven songs come from the ABBA album, but only two Rubettes songs come from We Can Do It, the others from other albums and singles. The album was released in 1975 by Polydor In West Germany through the record club Club-Sonderauglage.

I’d seen images of this record on the net many times, but had never seen the record itself until I found a copy a few weeks ago at my favourite local record shop.

Trivia: The Rubettes hit ‘Sugar Baby Love’ which is on this album also  featured in the 1994 Australian movie Muriel’s Wedding, alongside ABBA hits ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Fernando’ and ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’.

More trivia: Rubettes’ creators and songwriters Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington wrote the English lyrics for Lena Andersson’s 1972 single ‘Better To Have Loved’ (Säg det med en sång) and ‘Cecilia’, written by Benny, Björn and Stig Anderson. ‘Säg det med en sång’ was their submission for that year’s Melodifestivalen. Bickerton also produced the Swedish and English recordings.

 

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40 years of ABBAMANIA

2 August, 2015

ABBA, 1975The 40th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win and international breakthrough was widely celebrated last year, with new releases and commemorative events. As it should be.

This year there’s another 40th anniversary that’s just as important to the story of ABBA, but less celebrated.

On Sunday, August 3rd 1975, Australian TV programme Countdown played the promotional film clip for ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’. Countdown was a nationally-broadcast weekly music programme on the government-owned ABC network that ran from 1974 to 1987. The show’s producers were always in search of popular music to play. They found that a song called  ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ by ABBA was in the top 20 in Brisbane, the capital of the state of Queensland.

Countdown‘s producers approached RCA, ABBA’s Australian record company, requesting any footage they could play. RCA provided four film clips from the group. Countdown was impressed with the clip for the single ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, but were even more taken with another song, ‘Mamma Mia’.

‘Mamma Mia’ was apparently also broadcast at the end of the show on August 3rd, in Melbourne (the capital of Victoria) only. But the following Sunday evening, ‘Mamma Mia’ was broadcast nationally, and something amazing happened. Though the song was not scheduled to be released as a single, public demand on record stores, radio stations, RCA and Countdown led to RCA requesting from Polar Music in Stockholm permission to release ‘Mamma Mia’.

Stig Anderson initially refused, claiming that “the Australians had released so many damn singles”. In a way he was right: in the 16 months since ‘Waterloo’ had been released, RCA had put out ‘Ring Ring’ (its second local release, in remixed form), ‘Honey, Honey’, ‘So Long’, ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ (separate singles released simultaneously), and ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, plus a four-track EP. After ‘Waterloo’s peak at number four in August 1974, ABBA’s highest chart position had been ‘Honey, Honey’s number 30 peak in January 1975.

Eventually Polar relented, and ‘Mamma Mia’ entered the singles chart at number 52 on September 22nd. In the meantime, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ was rushing up the national chart, reaching number one on October 13th. After three weeks at the top, it was replaced by ‘Mamma Mia’, which remained at the number one for ten weeks. The songs’ parent album, ABBA, was caught in the slipstream, entering the album chart on September 8th and reaching number one on December 8th.

The public reaction and quick chart success caught the attention of overseas media. Contemporary UK news programmes reported on the astonishing Australian success of this almost-forgotten Eurovision-winning group, whose latest domestic single ‘SOS’ was gaining international attention thanks to interest in what was happening in Australia. ‘SOS’ went on to reach number six in the UK in November, followed by ‘Mamma Mia’, which topped the UK chart in February 1976.

Back in Australia, ‘SOS’ replaced ‘Mamma Mia’ at number one on January 12th, and a compilation album The Best Of ABBA had been released, topping the chart on March 28th and becoming the first album to sell over one million copies in Australia (ABBA’s Arrival later in the year would be the second).

I didn’t see ‘Mamma Mia’ on Countdown. I wasn’t a regular watcher then. I became aware of the hubbub over the song, but I didn’t really hear it until a party sometime in late 1975. I wrote about that experience here a few years ago.

Interest in ABBA had been waning after after the initial rush of the Eurovision win. But after the events in the last third of 1975, they were never to be forgotten. 

Thanks to Matti Crocker and Trent Nickson (ABBA Charts) for details.

ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions (revised & expanded)

29 January, 2015

ABBA - The Complete Recording SessionsTwenty years ago Carl Magnus Palm’s ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions was the first book to take a serious look at ABBA’s music. At the time there had been just a few books published on ABBA, mostly lightly-researched biographies or picture books.

Today, with a couple of hundred ABBA books published, it remains a firm fan favourite. But it’s been out-of-print for many years, and only high-priced second-hand copies are available.

All being well, that will change within the next couple of years. Carl Magnus Palm is planning a brand new, updated, revised and expanded edition. Pictured is the proposed new cover.

Since the original book was published in 1994, Carl Magnus has continued his research on ABBA and the group’s music, and unearthed much more information about their recordings. Some has been used in CD and DVD booklets, other details have appeared in books such as the biography Bright Lights Dark Shadows -The Real Story of ABBA.

Benny and Björn have also authorised Carl Magnus to listen to more unreleased recordings in the Polar Music archive, which will provide much more detail that can be included in the book.

To fund the research and self-publishing of the new edition, Carl Magnus has started a Kickstarter campaign (see below for the link). Pledgers will receive a copy of the book when it’s completed, estimated for late 2016 or early 2017.

However, if the Kickstarter campaign does not reach its target, the book will not be written. So if you’d like a new, updated and expanded version of this excellent book, please support it by pledging money. The campaign is open now, until 28th February.

I’ve had the honour of reading the first few draft chapters. Already there is a lot more detail in those early chapters, which are likely to be further expanded as more research is done (not to mention hearing those archived recordings!)

For much more information about the new edition (and the original edition), see Carl Magnus Palm.com

To pledge for the new edition, see Kickstarter

Alternate versions part 2

25 May, 2014

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

18 May, 2014

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…

Remembering when Arrival was released

27 April, 2013

ABBA/ARRIVALThe anticipation for Agnetha’s new album A, and the staggered release of her new songs (not to mention the leaking of other songs), made me recall the anticipation in late 1976 for ABBA’s album Arrival, and it shows what a different place the world is today.

Here in Australia Arrival was the anticipated event of the latter half of 1976. In the months leading up to its release we got our first taste in July when ‘Dancing Queen’ was shown on the television special ABBA In Europe (the German Musikladen special The Best Of ABBA retitled). The single ‘Dancing Queen’/’That’s Me’ followed soon in August, though it seemed an eternity.

During the next few months there were many reports in the newspapers telling us about the songs recorded for the album, including “a Hawaiian-sounding song”, an instrumental entitled ‘Ode To Dalecarlia’, and other intriguing titles such as ‘I Am The Tiger’ and ‘Money, Money, Money’.

In October we had back-to-back television specials featuring songs from Arrival. First we had ABBA In Sweden (a repackage of the Musikladen special), which previewed ‘Money, Money, Money’, followed a couple of weeks later by ABBA From The Beginning (an edited version of the Swedish special ABBA-dabba-doo!!), which included nine songs from Arrival.

We all recorded the songs on cassette from the TV, often by holding a microphone in front of the speaker. We had no other option to get these songs we had not heard before that had not been released. My friends and I would get together and listen to these low-fi cassettes over and over, engrossed in the new ABBA songs. We would copy these cassettes for other friends who had not recorded them from the TV themselves.

A week or so before Arrival was released a local radio station played all the songs from the album, one every hour for an entire day. But this was on a school day!!! How would I get to hear the songs? I hid my transistor radio in my coat pocket, running the earphone up through a hole in the lining, so I could surreptitiously listen during school. Luckily some songs were played during recess and lunch breaks, which made it easier to listen, and a group of us would huddle around the radio. No teachers questioned why I was wearing a heavy coat on a hot November day!

I kept note of each song played in each hour. I’d already heard ten eleven of the eleven songs by then (in Australia and New Zealand ‘Fernando’ was added to Arrival on side B, between ‘Why Did It Have To Be Me’ and ‘Tiger’), but this was the first time I heard “the title track”, as it was referred to every time it was played. I probably still have that piece of paper somewhere.

But where were the Hawaiian-sounding song and ‘Ode To Dalecarlia’ that we’d heard about? As it turned out ‘Happy Hawaii’ wasn’t included on Arrival, but released as the b-side to ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ in February the following year, and ‘Ode To Dalecarlia’ had been retitled ‘Arrival’.

There were no leaks of songs, and if unheard songs were broadcast overseas we would only hear them if we were lucky enough to have a pen friend who could send a cassette, but that would take weeks by mail.

Arrival was released in Australia on Monday November 15th. I had the album pre-ordered from my local record shop, which got its delivery of albums on the Friday before, and put them on sale immediately! So I was lucky and got the album three days earlier than expected. Finally I got to hear all the songs in the proper stereo glory, not on those buzzy mono cassettes recorded from TV.

ABBA’s first album turns 40

26 March, 2013

Ring Ring (photo: abbasite.com)

ABBA’s first album, Ring Ring, was released 40 years ago today, on 26 March 1973.

Ring Ring was actually released under the group name Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Frida. The name ABBA wasn’t coined until later in the year (see blog post The first ABBA record, 1 October 2007).

Outside Scandinavia the album was released in a diverse handful of countries where it was barely noticed, including West Germany, Japan, South Africa, Australia and Mexico. It reached number 10 in Australia with a re-release in a new cover during the Abbamania phenomenon in 1976. Most of the rest of the world didn’t see Ring Ring on general release until the 1990s.

Ring Ring is generally regarded as ABBA’s weakest album. It’s true that it doesn’t share the production quality and songwriting excellence of the later albums. But it does have a certain charm, a few really good songs, and some hints of what was to come.

What do you think of Ring Ring? Feel free to comment below.


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