For the fans
Singapore — It has been 40 years since their rollicking breakthrough single, Waterloo, made ABBA a worldwide pop sensation. And to commemorate the event, the band’s record label is flooding the market with a series of album re-issues and a live album called ABBA: Live At Wembley Arena.
Yes, it is yet another ABBA album. But considering how the four members — Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-frid Lyngstad and Bjorn Ulvaeus — have time and time again strongly turned down opportunities for a reunion, this is probably the closest younger fans can come to enjoying ABBA live.
Ardent (and older) fans will recognise the significance of this album: It is a concert recording of the band’s Nov 10 performance in 1979, the last of a six-night residency. Unlike their previous ABBA Live album (released in 1986) which was culled from several different shows, this is taken from only one show, and as producer Ludvig Andersson (Benny’s youngest son) puts it, comes complete with warts and all.
“When they talk in-between songs for example, it’s very unrehearsed and really quite childish in a way,” he said over the phone. “They say these half-a**ed, silly things; but it’s really sweet at the same time and very real and raw. You really feel that they were just four people from this northern European country who just wanted to make some music. They were not stars — at least not in the sense that we perceive them today. They were just hardworking people and I think that’s nice.”
Ludvig added: “What I wanted to do was take one consecutive show so that it would be a truthful representation of what it might have sounded like, with all the mishaps and everything. I didn’t want to cheat in anyway: These days, you can really fix flaws in records with AutoTune and all that stuff but I didn’t want to do that.”
That’s not to say he didn’t touch-up some things. Because one of the microphones for the drums failed that night, Ludvig sampled the sound from the same drum used from the evening before and slotted it in. “It’s not so much cheating as it was necessary,” he said.
Ludvig, of course, deferred at times to his dad’s contributions. Benny’s fastidiousness when it came to the sound of ABBA is legendary: Everything had to be perfect. (During a media playback for this album, he casually pointed out how he came in a tad too fast for Voulez-Vous — not that anyone else would have noticed.)
“He is a bit of a perfectionist in many ways,” said Ludvig. “Okay, maybe perfectionist is the wrong word. He’s very interested and he’s a very hard worker, so we played every track for him during the mixing process and he offered his thoughts: ‘Maybe some more kick drum there’, or ‘reduce the vocals there’.”
For Ludvig, producing the album was a bit of a “selfish project”. He was born in 1982, after the hullabaloo with ABBA was over, and so he had no first-hand appreciation of what it is like to be the son of a world-famous pop star.
“I know that my father and the other members of ABBA are very reluctant to do anything about that. This is old news for them. I perfectly agree with them — this really is old news! (But) I missed the whole ABBA thing, so from a very personal standpoint, I was interested in this because I wanted to hear all this stuff,” he elaborated. “The whole process was a very nice one and it felt like ... just a fun project.”