ABBA blog

Thoughts and observations on the Swedish foursome

ABBA On Record - a proofreader's perspective

published September 19, 2023

During the writing of my forthcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed (which is currently being designed and will be ready for delivery early next year), I've been fortunate in having not one but two proofreaders, Ian Cole and Paul Carter, who have read through each and every chapter - several times. Ian and Paul are both ardent ABBA fans and native English speakers, so it's been an immense help for me to have them onboard.

A couple of years ago, Ian shared his impressions of what he'd read so far, and now the time has come for Paul to contribute a few words on the book. First, though, a reminder about an impending deadline date:

21 October 2023: Please pre-order ABBA On Record no later than this date if you want it personally signed by me. Copies of ABBA On Record bought after this date will not be signed for as long as this edition remains in print. 21 October is also the deadline date for UK customers to buy the book at the current UK price. After that it will be Europe prices (please visit for more details about the prices and to place your order).

Now, over to Paul:


As one of the proofreaders for ABBA On Record, I’ve once again been impressed by the detailed research that Carl Magnus has undertaken for the book. This has been used to create an engaging and enjoyable journey through the packaging and promotional aspects of ABBA’s career, as well as the additional chapters covering the Tretow tapes and Voyage recording sessions.

The voices of many people involved in the promotional side of the ABBA story who have not previously been interviewed are heard, revealing many facts and stories that were hitherto unknown.

How and why each ABBA album sleeve came about is explored in depth and we learn how the presentation of ABBA’s records developed from the early years of sometimes generic photos of the foursome through to the more fully developed visual concepts for each new release. Selected chart information and contemporary reviews, both positive and negative, are also gathered. Reading some of the more critical reviews many years later can raise a smile and one wonders if some of their authors might reassess them today, given the timelessness of ABBA’s output. 

How the ABBA name was established from the unwieldy concept of the four members’ individual names is also untangled as best it can be 50 years on from the conflicting information available, and we now have what will most likely be the most accurate explanation available.

As someone who loves the detail of how and when ABBA’s recordings were created, as well as how ideas for songs were tried out and often discarded and/or reused later, the second element of the book has been the most thrilling part for me. Access to Michael B. Tretow’s ‘on the side’ tapes came too late for inclusion in 2017’s edition of ABBA – The Complete Recording Sessions, but here, in full detail, we learn of their contents.

Previously unknown song titles and different takes, together with new information about some of the working titles mentioned in The Complete Recording Sessions and what we hear on ABBA Undeleted, are revealed. The detailed descriptions of these recordings allow the reader to get a good sense of what they sound like, while the chatter which is also captured on the tapes is described to give a further insight into ABBA’s working methods in the studio.

The tapes also demonstrate once again how parts of Björn and Benny’s compositions would take many years to find their home. For instance, I was fascinated to learn that both an instrumental piece recorded in 1978, as well as the chorus of a previously unknown Agnetha-led demo from 1981, would later be heard in songs recorded by BAO all those years later.

More recent ABBA history is covered in the chapter on the Voyage recording sessions between 2017-2021. Here, for the first time, we learn when each song was created and how this chronology ties in with the often confusing and conflicting stories which circulated during this period about the number of new ABBA songs which had been recorded. One of the most interesting aspects of this chapter is learning in detail how different the recording process was for the Voyage album compared to the 1972-1982 years, an inevitable consequence of this being almost 40 years later, but nonetheless fascinating.

I look forward to the publication of ABBA On Record and for the fascinating journey it takes the reader on to be enjoyed and discussed by the ABBA fan community and beyond.


Thanks for that lovely preview, Paul!

Learn more and pre-order your copy here.

The chapter about the Voyage album is one of Paul Carter's favourite sections in ABBA On Record.

The chapter about the Voyage album is one of Paul Carter's favourite sections in ABBA On Record.