Thoughts and observations on the Swedish foursome
The one album and three singles around which the 1976 chapter is based.
published October 08, 2021
October 31, 2021, is the deadline if you want your name printed as a pre-order contributor in ABBA On Record - Packaged Promoted Reviewed, so that's just a little over three weeks from today.
But why should you purchase this book in the first place? Well, I've published a number of blog posts about the contents, in both general and specific terms, so if you've read them you should have a pretty firm grasp of what ABBA On Record is about.
But what I haven't done is take you through an entire chapter from start to finish, giving you an idea of what you will typically get from the book. So, let's take a look at the 1976 chapter. Warning: this is pretty long, but it's necessary to paint the full picture.
The chapter starts with the release of the 'Fernando' single, and describes the single sleeve, who took the cover photo, who designed it and some further facts about that, including the typeface chosen. Then there is a discussion about why 'Fernando' in particular was released at this time, followed by the success story of the single.
'Fernando' provides a neat segue into ABBA's famous promotional trip to Australia in March 1976: how and why it happened, what they did when they were there, the making of the television special The Best Of ABBA, and the effect the visit and the special had on ABBA's fortunes in Australia. There are plenty of unknown or long-forgotten details in the story, including a discussion on exactly why ABBA became so popular in Australia.
The Australian adventure is followed by the story of the UK success of 'Fernando' and, in particular, the Greatest Hits album. Interviews I've made with people at CBS/Epic especially for this book, plus plenty of facts gleaned from vintage magazine articles, shed new light on the extraordinary success of Greatest Hits, particularly how it was promoted with a television commercial.
'Fernando' marked the last time ABBA appeared on BBC TV's Top Of The Pops in person, mainly because they didn't like having to re-record their songs for miming purposes. This gives me a reason to discuss these re-recording requirements, how and why they happened, and what tricks the record companies were up to in their efforts to circumvent them. Again, this story is based on information from vintage sources, plus new interviews with people involved, including the Musicians' Union representative who was in charge at the time.
Then follows a section on ABBA's promotional visit to the US later in 1976, which was focused on 'Fernando' and the release of the Greatest Hits album. Many stories, great and small, on how the album was released, what ABBA did during their visit, and what effect their activities had. I've trawled through basically every source I could find on the subject, including some straight from record company archives, and there are new comments from people at Atlantic Records. In particular, there are many interesting insights on what promotion to US radio entailed, and the problems Atlantic faced in trying to make ABBA big.
So, all the above has been told as a story with the release of the 'Fernando' single used as an "excuse". This section of the book is then rounded off with that single's chart success in select countries, plus a number of review extracts to show how it was greeted by the press at the time.
Next up is the 'Dancing Queen' single. Again, a story on the single sleeve - as much as I could find on it - and a discussion on which country may have released it first, and how and when it was first heard in public.
This leads to a detailed section on the performance of 'Dancing Queen' at the televised gala event on the evening before the wedding between Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia Sommerlath in June 1976. I have lots of information about how the gala came about and how it went down, based on extensive research and interviews with people involved.
Then the success of the single is discussed, upon its release in August 1976. I have plenty to say here about its fortunes in the United States, how it may have been regarded in clubs, how it was promoted to radio, and the consequences of it reaching number one on all three major charts. This is followed by Scandinavian, UK and US chart positions for the single, plus a number of review extracts.
The Arrival album is next. Here, I describe the making of the album sleeve in detail, but I also offer a fairly detailed biography of album designer Rune Söderqvist. I've tried to analyse his background in the advertising world and how that would have influenced his thinking when he made album sleeves for ABBA. I also trace Rune's and photographer Ola Lager's journey at Polar Music: which sleeves they did for the record company prior to Arrival, and so on. Naturally, I have a detailed discussion on the creation of the ABBA logo, again with references to Rune's thinking as an art director based in the world of advertising.
Here follows a detailed story of ABBA's promotional visit to Poland in October 1976. There were many, many reports written about this trip at the time, which has enabled me to write extensively about this and also a bit about ABBA's relationship to the Eastern Bloc countries.
The visit to the UK in November 1976 is next, focused on the promotional stunt with ABBA arriving via helicopter to attend a press reception onboard a boat. This story has been pieced together from vintage articles, but also from eyewitness accounts from those involved. There are also discussions on ABBA's other promotional efforts during their UK visit, plus a story on the promotion of the Arrival album, including the commercial that was produced.
Then I take a look at the release of Arrival in Australia and its success there, followed by a discussion of its fortunes elsewhere. The Arrival section is rounded off with chart positions and review extracts - the good as well as the bad.
The chapter ends with the release of the 'Money, Money, Money' single: a discussion about the sleeve and the reason why this was chosen as the follow-up to 'Dancing Queen'. I use the release of this single as a starting point to discuss the exaggerated exposure of ABBA in Australia at the time, and what long-term consequences this may have had. Chart positions and review extracts round it all off.
The above account barely scratches the surface of the many fascinating stories and details in the 1976 chapter. I've worked very hard on this and the other chapters in book, and, if I may be so bold, I feel pretty certain that you will find it all as engrossing and interesting as I have when writing ABBA On Record. In other words: if you want to learn something new about ABBA, then this book is definitely for you.
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