ABBA blog

Thoughts and observations on the Swedish foursome

ABBA's trusted engineer Michael Tretow kept his tape recorder running during some recording sessions, capturing in real time what was going on in the studio. Absolutely fascinating and highly enlightening stuff.

ABBA On Record contents - 05 The Michael B. Tretow Tapes

published April 03, 2019

This is the fifth of six daily instalments, describing the contents of the upcoming book ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed. Day seven, Friday 5 April, is when pre-ordering starts.

In addition to the discography, which constitutes the main part of the book (detailed in Saturday's blog post), there will also be five further sections. This is the fourth of these appendices:


If you've read and enjoyed ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, there's every chance that this section of ABBA On Record will be one of the main attractions of the book, if not the main attraction. I've listened through hours upon hours of tapes from the archives of ABBA sound engineer Michael B. Tretow, and, as a result, I've learned so much more about ABBA's music.

The tapes fall into three main categories:

1. Michael’s on-the-side tapes, capturing what was going on during the sessions in real time. He didn't record each and every ABBA session, but what he recorded is enough to deepen our understanding of the group's working methods and how one and the same song would evolve over time. Most interestingly, some of these tapes feature run-throughs of songs that were abandoned at the backing track stage and then never heard from again.

2. Mixes of familiar songs with alternate lyrics and, sometimes, alternate vocal performances. These mixes seem to have been made at the time of the original recording.

3. Mixes of songs that were considered for the Thank You For The Music box set and/or the 'ABBA Undeleted' medley of outtakes, including some recordings that weren’t included, and some that were included but are featured here in more complete form.

So, why, I hear you ask, weren't the findings from these tapes included in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions? Without going into too much detail, at the time of writing the book it didn't seem as if I would get access to them. However, literally two days before ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions went to print, I got word that I would be able to hear them after all.

As you may imagine, my first reaction was: "Nooooooo!" Naturally, the information to be gleaned from these tapes was exactly the kind of thing I would have wanted to feature in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, and now it was too late to include it. However, 30 seconds later my perspective changed. I thought, "Well, isn't it great that I will be able to listen to these tapes at all, and isn't it better that we get this information in some form or fashion?" So, that's been my attitude ever since.

I want to stress that I'm very grateful that I got access to the tapes (in digitised form), and that no-one in particular is to "blame" for the less than ideal timing of permission being granted. Sometimes, this is just how things work out.

The tapes cover the time period of September 1974–October 1981, which doesn't mean that every session during that timespan has been recorded by Michael Tretow; it's rather a case of scattered selections over that seven year period. Moreover, sometimes you get to hear an hour from one and the same session, in other cases it's just a few minutes. Nevertheless, all of these recordings are fascinating and revealing in their own way, providing many new insights into ABBA's creativity.

My mind was blown many, many times during the course of listening to the tapes. Just when I thought I had heard the most fascinating recording, something that absolutely couldn't be surpassed, then another came along to make my jaw drop.

The Michael B. Tretow Tapes will be presented in the same chronological diary format used in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions. I am almost finished with this section of the book, and I can tell you that the amount of text roughly equals the 1981 chapter in ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions multiplied by three. So, again roughly speaking, the amount of text equals 75 book pages. I cannot wait to share my findings with you all.

Note: The above content description is subject to minor changes and adjustments.

Stay tuned for the next instalment in the "ABBA On Record contents" story, to be published tomorrow.