ABBA recorded multiple versions of each song, a convention they started with Arrival. Taking into account how perfectly they produced the songs, this must be an enormous effort. Once they recorded Happy Hawaii. It was meant to appear on their new album Arrival, journalists already got the chance to listen to it. When Arrival was released finally, Happy Hawaii was gone. What had happened? In a late phase the ABBA members decided the Hawaian instrumentals didn’t fit well into the melody. The song sounded good and was perfectly finished, but ABBA decided it could be better. The song was recorded again in a higher tempo, with totally renewed instrumentals and new lyrics: Why did it have to be me. This is a typical example how ABBA works: never tired in questing the perfect performance. A couple of months afterwards Happy Hawaii was released as a B-side on the single Knowing me, knowing you. The fans got the chance to experience how ABBA processes a song.
Melody, performance and lyrics all have to harmonize. It’s only logical not only the instruments, but the lyrics were adjusted as well. Nowadays you can find a previous version of My love, my life on the internet. It’s called Monsieur, monsieur. This is another example of a nearly perfect song, having other instruments and lyrics than the finally released version. Sometimes live performances show a departure from the studio version. In ABBA the movie we hear a beautiful version of I’m a marionette.
From the collector’s item "Thank you for the music" (1994) you can hear how far their efforts went to investigate melodies. They performed their own melodies in different styles and thus found out the character of the melody, which atmosphere it invoked and whether the melody actually fitted ABBA. As they say, they worked on Thank you for the music for years; on this collection you hear it in Doris Day style. It diverges so far from ABBA, it can never be meant seriously, but it is wonderful to hear how much versions of the same melody differ. Within the track ABBA Undeleted we hear a funny tango version of Fernando. Of course the best variant is released eventually. If the best variant does not fit the ABBA-style, the litter bin is its destiny. Recently (in 2012) ABBA released From a twinkling star to a passing angel, it beautifully demonstrates the evolvement of a song. The drive to perfectionism made them record several versions of each song, and this is definitively a great secret of ABBA.
Of course there is more to tell about ABBA. The next article will appear on april 1st, 2015.
© 2015 Reinhard Beskers