Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Digital ABBA returns – but what is it?

30 October, 2016

abba-anders-hanser-premium-rockshotOn 26 October 2016 the world went nuts with the news that ABBA would return “in a groundbreaking venture that will utilize the very latest in digital and virtual reality technology”.

Though the original media release made it fairly clear that it’s going to be some form of virtual reality technology, hinting at “hyper-realistic digital humans”, and that the group members would “collaborate”, some fans and most media outlets made the assumption that the original four would reform (in 2018, a year that isn’t mentioned in the media release), and/or that there may be new ABBA music.

But what exactly will this “new entertainment experience” be? It’s not really clear. The most common assumption is some form of hologram performance, as there have been for artists like Elvis Presley, Tupac, and Michael Jackson. Or it could be a VR app.  Or it might be both.

When fans asked Benny about it at a concert in Norway this week, he responded “it’s going to be huge”.

My guess: some form of entertainment with ABBA hologram figures, based on the holograms and life-size figures currently at ABBA The Museum, “performing” well-known ABBA hits, limited to the ABBA Gold tracklist.

We will have to wait for sometime in 2017 for more news.

Digital ABBA @ ABBA | The official site

ABBA Return! @ uDiscoverMusic

 

50 år B&B

8 June, 2016

berns-2

Sunday 5 June 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. A chance meeting that became a firm friendship and songwriting partnership that endures to this day.

In a room filled with 300 or so invited family, friends and associates at Berns Salonger in central Stockholm, Björn and Benny celebrated the anniversary with a night filled with music, memories, and fun, arranged in secret by Benny’s son Ludvig Andersson, Görel Hanser, stage director and BAO member Lars Rudolfsson, and Master of Ceremonies Claes af Geijerstam.

The night featured an audio-visual presentation of Björn and Benny’s career. Interrupting the presentation were musical performances by guest singers, backed primarily by Benny Anderssons Orkester (without Benny), revisiting Björn and Benny’s vast catalogue.

Hep Stars lead singer Sven Hedlund sang Björn and Benny’s first song ‘Isn’t It Easy To Say’, apparently the first time he has ever performed the song live; Peter Jöback and Lill-Babs duetted on the Björn & Benny single ‘Det kan ingen doktor hjälpa’; Ludvig sang ‘Rock Me’ while his half-brother Peter Grönvall joined the band on keyboards; Pernilla Wahlgren and Lena Philipsson sang ‘Hole In Your Soul’; Helen Sjöholm sang ‘Where I Want To Be’ from Chess while Tommy Körberg sang BAO’s ‘Du är min man’, a reversal of their usual songs. Apparently there were other performances, but details haven’t been made public.

Paul McCartney sent a video greeting congratulating the pair on their long relationship and continued success. Björn and Benny have often professed that they were inspired to write songs, separately and together, by the example of Lennon and McCartney and The Beatles in the mid-1960s.

The night climaxed when Björn and Benny took to the stage to perform ‘Does Your Mother Know’, Björn handling lead vocals while Benny joined in on keyboards. After they returned to their seats, much to everyone’s surprise Frida and Agnetha were introduced to sing ‘The Way Old Friends Do’, dedicated to their old partners. Just as they did in 1979, Frida sang the first lines, Agnetha sang the next lines, then the two joined together in harmony. After the song, Björn and Benny returned to the stage for a brief emotional reunion.

With the formal events of the evening over, BAO took over with dance music until late in the evening.

Immediately the news of a so-called ABBA reunion flashed around the world. Unfortunately, as the story spread, it became more and more wrong about the events of the evening.

Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding of the song title, thanks to the way it had been introduced, it was reported in Expressen, quoting guitarist Janne Schaffer, that Frida and Agnetha had sung a song called ‘You And I’. Those are the first three words of ‘The Way Old Friends Do’, but are also the title of a song from Chess. So the story spread that they actually sang the song from Chess, perhaps not the best choice of song for a tribute. Then when other media outlets picked up the story and didn’t recognise that song title, but found that ABBA had a song called ‘Me And I’, they started reporting that the two women sang that song, an even less appropriate tribute than ‘You And I’ 

It was also widely reported that Björn and Benny joined the women on stage to sing, for an “ABBA reunion”, but that didn’t happen. The two men only returned to the stage after the song had finished. All the photos of the four together on stage on social media and elsewhere were taken in the minute or so after ‘The Way Old Friends Do’.

Pretty much every story stated that this was ABBA’s first public performance in 30 years. It was neither. The last (known) time the four sang together was 17 years ago, in June 1999 at Görel Hanser’s 50th birthday party. Prior to that they had also sung at Claes af Geijerstam’s 40th birthday party in 1986. Neither of these were public events, but like Sunday’s gathering, private parties for invited guests only.

The so-called last public performance by ABBA referred to in the media was not in public either, but to a small gathering of probably four or five with film crew and Görel and Anders Hanser, when they taped the performance of ‘Tivedshambo’ for Här är ditt liv (This Is Your Life) for Stig Anderson in January 1986. Hardly a public performance, but it was the last time “ABBA” were seen by the public, albeit on television 

After three decades of avoiding appearing as a group, this marked the second occasion that the four had been seen together this year. In January the four appeared on stage briefly at the opening of opening of Mamma Mia! The Party. Does this mean that a formal ABBA reunion is in the works? Of course not. On every occasion they’ve been together since 1982, it has been some private celebration, without media and fans present.

(Photo: Instagram @poptonten)

Mamma Mia! It’s ABBA 2016

21 January, 2016

abbamammamiatheparty

Much to everyone’s surprise, not only did Bjorn, Frida, Benny and Agnetha attend the opening of Mamma Mia! The Party at Gröna Lund in Stockholm on the evening of Wednesday 20 January 2016, but the four appeared together on stage, posing and waving (briefly, for about 20 seconds or so).

(Photo: @grönalund instagram)

A look at ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions in progress

24 September, 2015

IMG_2640I’m very excited that my friend Carl Magnus Palm is writing a revised, updated, and expanded version of his first ABBA book, The Complete Recording Sessions.With so much more information that has come to light since the book was published in 1994, through Carl Magnus’s research for other ABBA book, CD, and DVD projects, and because it’s long out-of-print and highly in demand, the idea of a new version of this book is something we’ve talked about for several years.

I’ve been honoured to read draft versions of the first four chapters, covering the period from Benny and Björn’s first collaborations in 1966, through the gradual formation of ABBA, and up to the end of 1974. The most recent versions of the chapters include all the latest details and insights gleaned from Carl Magnus’s unique opportunity to listen to the unreleased studio tapes from the so-called Polar Archive.

Particularly fascinating to me is learning just how much work went into the recording of ‘Waterloo’, as ABBA worked to create the song that would have the most impact for the Eurovision Song Contest. How instruments and vocals were added and removed from the song, how many different mixes were attempted to find the right sound, how the song was edited to fit within the mandated three minutes, and why the various released versions (in Swedish, English, German, French, the alternate English mix, and the playback version used at Eurovision) sound a bit different from each other.

But it’s not just ‘Waterloo’ that’s got me excited. As ABBA’s recordings became more ambitious, when they began recording tracks for their third album later in 1974, they tried and discarded so much that was never heard on record, that will now be revealed in the book. Though we will probably never hear what’s on those tapes, they are described in such detail that we can imagine what they sound like.

I can’t wait to read what the rest of the chapters hold and what future research brings to the book. I’m really looking forward to the end of next year when we should all be holding copies of the book in our hands (and/or on our devices).

If you’re an ABBA fan, even if you have the original edition – perhaps especially if you have the original edition – you will want to read this vastly expanded and improved version of the book. Pre-order it now at http://abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com/

There’s Something Going On

15 August, 2015

Something's Going On Deluxe EditionTo commemorate Frida’s 70th birthday in November, Polar Music is releasing a limited edition of her most successful international album, Something’s Going On, on 23 October.

The three-disc set contains the original 1982 album plus two bonus tracks (the same bonus tracks as the 2005 remaster); a DVD featuring the documentary Something Going On – The Making of a Record Album, the promotional video clips for four of the album’s songs, and two interviews; and a 7-inch vinyl single of the hit ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’.

The set also includes an art card of the album cover signed by Frida, and a booklet including liner notes written by Frida. It is limited to 2,000 copies.

From the images that have appeared so far on the official ABBA site, it looks like it will be a lovely, quality tribute for Frida’s birthday.

Something’s Going On was Frida’s declaration of independance from ABBA, just a few months before the band came to an end. The album sounded very different from anything she had done before, as a solo artist or in ABBA. Frida had been inspired by Phil Collins’ solo album Face Value, and hired him to produce. Though with such a distinctive style, at times it does sound like a Phil Collins album with Frida singing. Despite that, it’s my personal favourite of all the ABBA members’ solo albums.

Yes, there could have been more on the CD, but would the available suitable tracks add any value?  There is the single edit of ‘To Turn The Stone’, which takes a five and a half minute epic and hacks it down to 3.24; the alternate mix of ‘Here We’ll Stay’ that originally appeared on the Polar cassette version of the album, which would then put three versions of the same song on the CD; The outtake ‘Shot Down In Action’, which is included in the documentary, and is likely incomplete; the ABBA-cadabra songs ‘Belle’ and ‘Time’, which would sound out of place on this album, and may not be available from the rights holders. Frida herself has previously vetoed the issue of unreleased recordings.

Unfortunately distribution has been a bit of a mess due to third party providers. Amazon.co.uk has had it available for pre-order for many weeks, but with no details so customers did not know what they were ordering, and it’s now listed as “currently unavailable”. It appeared on ABBA The Museum’s webstore for about six hours (between midnight and 6 am CET, when its prime audience was asleep), the off and on for a few more hours until the allotted 100 copies were ordered. Since the official announcement it has appeared on a few more European webstores.

A limited item like this should have been available from a single official source, like ABBA The Museum or uDiscover. Hopefully distribution will be sorted out, so that all fans who want a copy get the chance to order it.

More information at ABBA | The official site.

(more…)

ABBA bassist Rutger Gunnarsson has died

14 June, 2015

Rutger Gunnarsson at Polar Music StudioOn 30 April 2015 bass player Rutger Gunnarsson died suddenly at his home in Stockholm.

Rutger’s association with ABBA predates the band’s formation, when he was recruited to play bass on a Hootenanny Singers’ tour with Björn (and Benny) in 1972. In June that year he had his first recording session ever, playing bass on a session that included the eventual ‘Ring Ring’ B-side, ‘Åh, vilka tider’.  

Rutger went on to play bass on all of ABBA’s albums, right up to the final 1982 singles, as well as their concert tours in 1977, 1979 and 1980, and the Dick Cavett Meets ABBA TV concert. He was there on stage (with drummer Ola Brunkert) when ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. He wrote most string arrangements for ABBA when required starting from 1976. Excluding the four ABBA members, he is the musician who has appeared on the most ABBA recordings.

In 1974 he overdubbed vocals on an unreleased 1971 Björn and Benny recording, ‘Svea Svea’, with backing vocals by the four ABBA members, which was released as a novelty single.

After ABBA his collaboration continued, playing bass for Benny and Björn on the Chess concept album (1984), the first Gemini album (1985), and the Josefin Nilsson album, Shapes (1993).

He played bass on Frida’s albums Frida ensam (1975) and a couple of songs on Shine (1984), Agnetha’s albums Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1983) and Eyes Of A Woman (1985), and also produced her single ‘It’s So Nice To Be Rich’ (1983).

In 2005 Rutger was a member of the orchestra when Mamma Mia! played in Stockholm. He played bass on the Swedish cast recording CD that same year, and also joined Benny and other musicians from the original ABBA recordings for the movie soundtrack in 2008.

Over the years he played bass for a few ABBA tribute touring groups, and was also a member of  The Original ABBA Orchestra In Concert, with several other musicians who had played on ABBA’s records and tours.

I forget if it was Benny or Bjorn who once said that Rutger’s bass was an essential ingredient of the ABBA sound – take it away, and the ABBA sound is gone. Engineer Michael B. Tretow often singled out Rutger’s bass on ‘One Of Us’, which was unusually predominant for bass on an ABBA record.

In an unprecendented move, the four ABBA members signed off on an obituary published in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. An English translation has been published on the Official International ABBA Fan Club’s website.

Rutger was 69.

New attraction at ABBA The Museum

5 March, 2015

On Tuesday March 3rd (the 38th anniversary of ABBA’s legendary first concert in Sydney), ABBA The Museum unveiled its newest attraction.

Brand new life-sized silicone figures of ABBA, dressed in their famous costumes worn on the 1979/1980 concert tours in North America, Europe and Japan, are now on permanent display at the museum.

Reaction has been swift. Generally the figures are acknowledged as more realistic than the much-maligned wax figures that debuted at Madame Tussaud’s a few years ago (though I thought they looked fine when I saw them in Berlin two years ago).

And as can be expected fans are divided on these new figures, with many loving them and just as many complaining that they don’t look “exactly” like the individual ABBA members. Though some of them the resemblance is closest from some angles but not others. And in photographs that can be distorted by lights and lenses, you might not get the best view – they’re probably best seen in person, so to speak.

Personally, I think these figures look great. They don’t look like “ABBA on November 10th 1979”, but they do look like the public perception of ABBA. Being silicone, I wonder if the museum will change the costumes and display from time to time?

More information @ My News Desk

More photos @ ABBA The Museum on Facebook

 

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

The 40th anniversary week

3 May, 2014

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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