A forgotten bass genius: Rutger Gunnarsson

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Blazer, Sep 15, 2006.

  1. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    Lately I have been listening to the swan song album from the swedish supergroup ABBA "The Visitors" and being baffled by the basswork that Rutger Gunnarsson was applying to those songs.

    ABBA was one of of those "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself" bands and it were Keyboardist Benny Andersson and Guitarist Bjorn Ulvaeus who did the production and mixing of this album (as they also did on all other ABBA material) providing a musician's ear to how the band would sound rather than an A&R man's ear.

    As a result of that and of Andersson and Ulvaeus recognizing Gunnarsson's genius, the bass was put in really high in the mix instead of burrying it at the practice was in the eighties.

    The best example of what Rutger Gunnarsson was capable of can be heard on "One of us" which is a really sad song lyric-wise but had a really uplifting bassline.
    "One of Us" try playing along, it's way trickier than you might think.

    Rutger Gunnarsson has since faded into obscurity but luckily the ABBA album "The visitors" keeps his great bassplaying alive.
    design, SteveCS and woodyng like this.
  2. Couldn't agree more !!! The basslines are well worth checking out..
  3. DaveBeny


    Mar 22, 2000
    London, UK
    ABBA: Good pop songs. Good production. Good musicianship.

    Rutger's still out there working. There used to be an article on the now-defunct 'Bass Player' archive site about him. I seem to recall that he was playing with one of the major ABBA tribute acts. A quick Google search shows that he also arranges and conducts strings for Celine Dion.
  4. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    SF Bay Area
    Ah, ABBA ... one of my old guilty pleasures. I never knew the bass player's name, but I definitely remember thinking he was very good. They hired some good musicians; IIRC, Janne Schaffer played guitar on some of their stuff.
  5. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    I don't quite agree here, most of ABBA's music seemed to have a distinct disco sound to it and disco as a style usually meant driving bass lines that were high in the mix.
  6. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    SF Bay Area
    Most? Disco? Really?


    Huh ... that's not how I remember them, they were more pop than anything IIRC. Waterloo, Name of the Game, Mamma Mia, Fernando--none of those were disco-like, really.
    Iofflight likes this.
  7. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    I thought most of their songs used disco rhythms? "Gimme Gimme Gimme", for example? Oh well, guess it shows that you probably shouldn't make any judgements about a band if you only know the singles. :meh:
  8. Jules Forcella

    Jules Forcella

    Aug 28, 2005
    Frankfurt a.M. / Deutschland
    Endorsing Artist: AccuGroove
    Rutger can be heard nearly on every ABBA tune - and he also write some String Arangements for "My Love My Life" - Beautiful !!!

    Rutger is one of my main and all-time Inspirations - and you can find his phat & tricky Basslines in many many ABBA tunes - even in the not so popular ones.....;)

    really nice Basslines :

    Money, Money , Money (check ot the Bridge :D )

    Dancing Queen

    That's me (fast octave groove)

    Summer Night City

    My Love My Life ( fat little chords in it - also a tratemark of Rutger)

    One of us (as Blazer mentioned)

    .....there are many others....

    Did you know that they recorded the Bass two or three times and put it all together - just to make him sound fatter.....

    And that's my prime Joy - sitting down and play throug ABBA tunes in my free time :cool: - I grew up with ABBA and I'll never lose that...

    Iofflight likes this.
  9. SurrenderMonkey


    Aug 18, 2006
    Dunno about other abba tracks, but in this one, the bass presence is HUGE. For me, it's too much, it's too much 'in your face'. But yeah, nice creative bass work.
  10. mamma mia! my high school band teacher loved abba and we even took a band trip to go see momma mia, the musical using ABBA songs...The bass really stood out at that show and i had a lot more respect for ABBA after hearing their songs :)
  11. Melloman


    Mar 17, 2008
    One of the first songs I remember picking up that was a lead bass lick was "The name of the game". Then again, let's face it: Disco would be nowhere without a solid bass line. I actually saw them (My first rock concert) on their only american tour...
    I'm sad that Abba's drummer passed away recently.

    The bass on abba's music was always just what the song needed. You never heard the songs and said:what were they thinking? (nowadays that's not always the case)
  12. funkytoe

    funkytoe In Memoriam

    Jan 17, 2008
    Northern California
    As I mention in another post, I just saw Mama Mia last weekend in Las Vegas. The bass sounded great! Looked down into the orchestra pit and saw it was Danny Miranda - formerly of Blue Oyster Cult and most recently on tour with Paul Rogers and Queen -- holding down the bass chair.

    Hearing a great player like Danny interpret those lines gave me a new respect for ABBA and Rutger Gunnarsson.
    31HZ likes this.
  13. hentor


    Jan 2, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    Having grown up with ABBA and their basslines, I went to see Mamma Mia in the theater and was astounded by the dominance of the bass line in the soundtrack.

    That plus the kick ass octaver laden bass line in the "Name of the Game" made me buy the soundtrack CD as the grooves are thick and sound amazing.

    Okay okay Pierce Brosnan can't sing, but Rutger Gunnarsson still kicks ass on bass...yup, he's the bassist on the soundtrack! Per Lindval (Super Trouper and The Visitors) is on Drums. An awesome rhythm section...
  14. Andy G

    Andy G

    Sep 23, 2008
    Having just learn't virtually the entire abba hit catalogue,for an impending gig!I have totaly been blown away by the inventiveness and technical perfection of Mr.Gunnarsson.

    I totaly agree about the bass being lost in the mix. Some of his runs and even slides, are so hidden it seems sacrilige. As mentioned ,put on ONE OF US.Turn it rite up, and try to pick out the trills.
    31HZ likes this.
  15. Belka


    Dec 10, 2003
    Kiev, Ukraine
    I was listening to them on my phone's mp3 player all morning. Superb bass work. His tone is really nice as well. I've made a point of learning every track on their Number Ones album. It's not just the bass playing either. The arrangements (especially vocal), harmony, and modulations are very interesting.

    They don't make pop like that any more unfortunately.
  16. cetera


    Apr 29, 2004
    Surrey, England
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses & Cort Basses
    I've always been a big fan of Rutger's playing. To me, he's one of a school of creative, melodic bass players from the 70's alongside Peter Cetera, Dee Murray, Tiran Porter, Kenny Gradney, Joe Puerta etc....

    I never tire of listening to players like these and wish there were more current players of that quality!
  17. Growed up listening all those ABBA records late seventies---- And think that´s the BEST pop music ever(for me). Those songs/basslines are amazing. And how in the hell there´s no THE ABBA BASSLINE BOOK(or something like that) out there????? Maybe same style of book like Dr.Licks`s Standing In The Shadows Of Motown "The Life And Music Of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson". Hey! Rutger Gunnarsson played on recordings that´s been sold over 300 millions copies!!!!!!!
    So Hal Leonard and other major music book companies HELLO!! or Rutger if you are reading this, maybe some Swedish music book company would do that book(and you check those trancriptions :)) for all OF US Bass Players. And was very nice to hear that ABBA movie soundtrack!!!:hyper::bassist:
    31HZ likes this.
  18. CoolBabe


    Jul 13, 2009
    New Zealand
    What a Fab Bass Player.... I've never heard anything like his playing since..... No one has his style in a pop song!

    Check out Knowing Me.... Knowing you.... See if you can copy that!!

  19. Stingraybass


    Jan 8, 2010
    I met Rutger in a studio in Stockholm in 1988 and had a long discussion with him on bass guitars and various productions he has been through. He fondly remembers the world tour with ABBA 1977-1980. When we talked i discovered an ordinary man with incredible charisma. I asked him about the song "On of us," how he thought about the song. He said he did not remember what he was thinking, "i just played" he said.
    There is another song that Rutger plays fantastically on. Agneta Fältskog's solo album (Wrap Your Arms Around Me) from 1983 is a track called "The Heat Is On". ( ) Rutger remember the song as a happy song with free bass.
    We finished our conversation when I told him my own bass playing has been influenced by his way of handling bass guitar, he was very pleased. Then I followed him into the studio and listened to his production where he played bass on. He asked me how it sounded. What would I say! An incredible musician who was then 42 years old and many years ahead to please us fans of bassguitar.
    Jostein and 31HZ like this.
  20. eggfan


    Sep 20, 2009
    Lancaster, PA
    Thanks for this thread. My wife will be thrilled that I now mysteriously want to listen to ABBA with her. Seriously.