The only original Abba album to see a native CD release in Australia in the 1980s was Ring Ring, which was quite remarkable given that it was one of the least commercially attractive titles in the group’s catalogue.
Indeed, Sweden was the only other territory where the album was available on CD until 1990. Even then, the Swedish version featured the album’s Swedish tracklisting meaning that the Australian version was the only place that Abba fans could hear She’s My Kind of Girl on CD for several years.
The CD was also distinctive in several other respects. Firstly, it was produced by a sublicense, Rainbow Music Group, rather than Abba’s Australian record label RCA. Secondly, it features an unusual tracklisting, which swaps She’s My Kind of Girl and I Saw It In The Mirror in the album’s running order. The reason for both these curiosities is historic, dating back to events years before the Ring Ring CD was ever issued.
The unusual tracklisting dates back to the mid-1970s when RCA released Ring Ring on cassette tape and were forced to switch two tracks around so that the two cassette sides would be of roughly equal length. LP copies continued to use the standard tracklisting.
The unusual releasing label dates back to deals struck in 1980 when the phenomenal frenzy surrounding Abba in Australia had died down considerably. By that time, the group’s records were selling miniscule quantities compared with just three years earlier. For instance, their most recent single I Have A Dream peaked at #64 in the local singles chart.
As European labels facing waning sales would later do, RCA decided to try and maximise its Abba revenues by licensing out the group’s material to budget labels – a tactic which stalled after just one release: a reissue of Ring Ring on the Summit label, which first appeared in June 1980. This release, which appeared on both LP and cassette, had identical mastering and tracklistings to previous RCA releases.
Fast forward eight years and Summit had become part of the Rainbow Music Group, which decided to launch a range of budget CD titles using tracks that it had licenced from RCA. It secured an extension of its Ring Ring licence to take in the new format and duly released it on CD in 1988.
Unfortunately, for some reason, Rainbow wound up mastering the CD from a tape prepared in the 1970s for the cassette edition of the album. The problem with this is that the tape was clearly equalised for that format resulting in an odd sound which emphases the backing tracks at the expense of the vocals.
There are three separate versions of the Rainbow edition of Ring Ring available. The first, which was licenced from RCA, featured a green cover and discs which appear to have been pressed by PolyGram in Hanover, West Germany.
Later editions, licenced from PolyGram after it bought Polar, had a black cover and locally-pressed discs. There is no difference in mastering between them – indeed the matrixes of later editions all feature the original catalogue number.
The release obviously sold relatively well because Rainbow was in talks with PolyGram about licencing the Waterloo album before the order came to cancel all licences to clear the way for Abba Gold.
Thanks to Ian Cole and Trent Nickson
First issued: 1988 Reissue: None. Deleted: 1990