Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus wrote, performed and produced the songs for the 1970s’-80s’ pop group ABBA. While some brush their music off as camp and passé, there is something extraordinary about this group’s songs which remain fresh over repeated listening.
ABBA were properly trained (Anni-Frid Lyngstad trained in opera). Andersson and Ulvaeus’s song structures are wrought according to the tried and tested techniques ‘classical’ musicians learn as part of their craft. Their basslines are written in perfect counterpoint, the sounds they use are original, they worked at a fantastic drum kit sound from their percussionist Per Lindvall. Production engineering was by the wonderful and humble Michael Tretow at Polar Studios in Stockholm.
Some of my favourite tracks are The Visitors, Under Attack, Elaine* and If it Wasn’t for the Night. The aspects of ABBA’s sound I most enjoy are its arrangement (especially the way they use backing vocals), their analogue synth sounds, the doubled electric guitars, the way drums are compressed and the balances in their mixes. Perfect. Tretow, Andersson and Ulvaeus are ‘Mozarts’ of pop. Their music is one the things that makes life worth living.
*In Elaine for example, listen to how the intro. tune returns unexpectedly during the end fade-out, as an accompaniment to the chorus. It fits perfectly! – So clever.