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May Marks Polar Studios Anniversaries

May 1 marked the 20th anniversary of Stockholm’s Polar Studios closing; the facility was used to record legendary albums by Abba, Led Zeppelin, Genesis and many others.

The Harrison 32 Series analog mixing console used at Polar Studios.
The Harrison 32 Series analog mixing console used at Polar Studios.

Stockholm, Sweden (May 9, 2024)—May 1 marked the twentieth anniversary of the closing of Stockholm’s legendary Polar Studios, which famously featured a Harrison 32 Series analog mixing console, the world’s first 32-bus, inline desk, after 26 years of operation.

ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, together with the band’s manager, Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, owner of the Polar Music recording label, opened Polar Studios on May 18, 1978 in a disused former movie theater in the center of Stockholm. Having recorded previous ABBA albums and singles at a variety of studios in Sweden, the intention was to create a modern production studio where the band could work at its own pace and to provide facilities for other Polar label artists. Anderson founded the label in 1963.

The Harrison 4032 console (a 40-channel, 32 Series desk) was given serial number 045 and was delivered to Polar Studios in January 1978. The input channel modules were modified by Harrison to allow headphones to be fed from buses 25 through 32. The studio later added a 16-channel input extender as a sidecar. The console is now housed in the ABBA museum in Stockholm.

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Gary Thielman, president of Harrison Audio, comments “The 32 Series at Polar really contributed to the soundtrack of an era. I recall a conversation with Dave (Harrison), with me going crazy about all this amazing music being made on our consoles…he was so focused on perfecting designs that he simply viewed it as ‘doing his job’.”

ABBA recorded their final three albums—Voulez-Vous, Super Trouper and The Visitors—and two non-LP singles, “The Day Before You Came” and “Under Attack,” at Polar. The very first song recorded at the studio was the global hit “Chiquitita,” the lead single from Voulez-Vous, which was released in January 1979. The Visitors became one of mainstream pop’s first digital releases in 1981 when it was recorded to Polar’s new 3M digital tape machine. All four ABBA members recorded solo projects at the studio after the band split up in 1982.

Most major Swedish artists recorded at Polar, as did a very long list of international artists, including the Rolling Stones, Backstreet Boys, Chic, the Ramones, Roxy Music and Celine Dion. Led Zeppelin recorded its 1979 album In Through the Out Door at Polar and Genesis recorded Duke there in 1980, with the band’s lead vocalist and drummer Phil Collins going on to produce, with Hugh Padgham, ABBA singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s solo album, Something’s Going On, at the studio.

Anderson bought out partners Ulvaeus and Andersson in 1984 before selling the facility to a business partnership comprising his daughter, son-in-law and Lennart Östlund, Polar’s chief engineer since 1978. The building was later sold to a Swedish insurance company and the building became a private housing cooperative, which raised the rent. With the business no longer economically viable, Polar Studios closed.