ABBA Naked | 21 januari 2004

If you want to hear what The Beatles 7th take of Strawberry Fields Forever sounds like, it is possible. If you want to hear U2 belching out ABBA's classic Dancing Queen, it is possible. And why? Because it's available on a bootleg.

According to most record companies bootlegs are the devil in disguise. They sound bad, they are expensive and thus they are a disgrace to the music industry. And of course the record company never see a penny for the work that's on a bootleg, but to the music industry that doesn't matter much, because they are simply not interested in money….

Well, in real life things often are much more complicated than that. And bootlegs ARE real life. And they are sooooo important. Without bootlegs the younger generation of ABBA fans would never have heard the complete version of The girl with the golden hair. They simply never would have heard the full version of Just Like That.

Roughly bootlegs can be divided into three categories: live albums, often featuring a complete concert; remix albums, usually featuring repulsive substandard remixes; and finally the unreleased tracks albums. And that is the most interesting category.

If you're a serious record collector you should own at least a couple of boots from your favourite artist. In the case of ABBA the first true bootleg album appeared in 1988, more than five years after ABBA split. The LP was called Take A Chance On Us. The sound quality of the album was not always crystal clear, but it was a milestone in ABBA history and a very important record. Because it lead the way to the zillions of ABBA bootlegs that are available now. Most of them on CD-R, only a handful, usually the most interesting albums, on true CD.

Listening to ABBA's unreleased recordings is like reading the original transcript of the work of Shakespeare. If you want to learn anything about a band, simply listen to demo recordings or early mixes or completely unreleased songs. I have seen Beatles bootlegs that only cover a single track. You can hear 10 or more different versions of the same track, from the first acoustic version to the full blown final version.

The only way to get hold of this historically important material, is on bootleg. Because usually record companies do not commercially release these kind of tracks.

However, because of the existence of bootlegs, record companies start to realize the potential of the back catalogue of their artists. I think it is only a matter of time until the hidden ABBA treasures will find its way to commercially available CDs or DVDs. EMI proved that it can be done when they released The Beatles Anthology and lately The Beatles – Naked.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the ABBA box set Thank you for the music. And that would be a good occasion for Universal Music to release "ABBA – Naked" featuring full versions of Just Like That, early versions of Dancing Queen, acoustic versions of The Day Before You Came and much, much more.

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