ABBA – the Ring ring recording

ABBA – the Ring ring recording

September 2, 2019 15 By Kailee Schamberger


In order to find the origin of the Swedish pop successes, we have to go back to the early 70’s and to a building here next to St. Erik’s bridge. – It’s quite simple. – 1973 – Olof Palme is the prime minister in Sweden, Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin on heavens door’ and David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ is topping the charts. This was also the year the world got to know about Bruce Springsteen and Bob Marley. And in Sweden, these four people were getting ready to conquer the world. We all sat down, humming and singing nonsense lyrics all of us, like when wer’re jamming. But that thing wasn’t there from the beginning, that’s a thing that was invented in the studio, the riff itself. This year ABBA released a single, the first song with the special sound that was to become their trademark
and within a few years help them become the best selling band. Björn and me begun writing songs together, when was it… ’67, 68, 66? – it’s hard to remember – just for the sake of it. Here we have four happy youngsters who are going to sing something. They are called Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus When we decided we wanted to record something with Frida and Agnetha, around 1972, we did a song called ‘People need love’ and it did quite well in Sweden, Holland and Germany. We got the taste for it. Micke – let’s hear the tape of ‘Name of the game’. At the Metronome studio in Stockholm, Björn and Benny got in touch with a sound engineer, Michael B Tretow and it was Tretow who came up with the solutions for the required recording techniques that was needed to create the ABBA-sound. MBT of course, he was a constant ideas man. We’re both fans of Phil Spector who did so many great recordings in mono, he was up to incredibly many things, e.g. the wall of sound, which he invented. And it was exactly that what the LA based monster producer Phil Spector strived for in the early 60’s. He doubled the instruments, he used up to six guitar players and 4 bass players who all played at the same time, and on that he added heavy echo effects. ABBA couldn’t afford to bring so many musicians that it took to create the wall of sound, but Tretow achieved the same result but in another way. Instead he re-recorded the intruments several times and put them on different channels and with the help of a tape recorder and sellotape the wall of sound was created. – So when we had recorded it and we thought it sounded fine, he said let’s record it all over again, the drums, bass, guitar, piano – all of it but then he twinned sellotape on the audio head so that the tape would spin with a slightly different speed. That made it not become precise, it’s not crystal clear, clean – it’s swaying. And it was on ‘Ring ring’ this technique was used the first time. – This is the effect you get when “side tuning” the tape recorder, the chorus effect. The sound of one piano… It’s a completely more open, smoother sound. Here is a rattle, it’s tambourines, maracas, shakers, claves and I don’t know what else, that we recorded seven times and put together on one channel And here is a tambourine on it’s own. But together you get like… It wasn’t just piano, guitar and percussions that was doubled. the thing that really created the ABBA sound was the handling of Anni-Frid’s and Agnetha’s voices. Here you have another thing we did a lot. The girls had to sing long choruses like this and they did not enjoy it, they had to sing the same harmony over and over. Working this much with voices, to create many harmonies to the extent that the song allows and there is room, that inspiration comes partly from one’s own taste, but I’m also an old fan of the Beach Boys… And then it’s obvious you’d want to try making what Brian Wilson did yourself ABBA’s place in the music history is of course thanks to the strong songwriting, but also because of their work with the sound. ABBA has sold more than 400 millions records and do actully still sell a couple of millions each year. And despite them splitting over 30 years ago, the intrest for their music don’t seem to fade. ABBA has more covergroups and tribute acts than the most. Today you can find admireres in such wide colleauges as Katy Perry and Foo Fighters. But it’s not that long ago since it was seen as very uncool to refer to ABBA as influences. Here is Janne…