Sunday, 28 December 2008

Hitkrant, April 1979: Voulez-Vous album review / Does Your Mother Know single review

Raving reviews of the Voulez-Vous album and the Does Your Mother Know single from Dutch magazine Hitkrant.
ABBA ‘Voulez-Vous’ Polar/Polydor
Who could have ever imagined: ABBA go disco! It’s already been more than a year ago since ABBA astonished friend, but especially foe with their album ‘The Album’. This time, the Swedish foursome has delivered an album that will be talked about for a long time to come, because it namely is of an unprecedented, enormous class.
The group is totally ignoring the existing image and sounds like never before. Maybe Björn and Benny’s visit to the Bahamas has had something to do with it, but in any case, the ten tracks (among them ‘Chiquitita’) are sounding so fresh, so convincing, that this is showing an ABBA that only very few people would have expected.
No, disco is not a stranger to ABBA any longer. Listen to the new single ‘Does Your Mother Know’, but also to ‘If It Wasn’t For The Nights’ and ‘As Good As New’ and you’ll see what I mean!
Apart from the usual ABBA-musicians, the Swedish top guitarist Janne Schaffer is now playing along as well. And on ‘Voulez-Vous’, former Clapton-guitarist George Terry can be heard, among others.
Care to have a dance with ABBA? Voulez-Vous?
Out in the shops on the first of May.

ABBA ‘Does Your Mother Know’ Polar/Polydor
And there it is, the long-anticipated follow-up to ‘Chiquitita’! How ABBA pulls it off time and time again to release a first class single on the market, is a mystery to me, but ‘Does Your Mother Know’ is yet another one of those. ABBA new style? Yes, indeed: the foursome is obviously flirting with disco, but the clear ABBA-sound is unmistakable!
The beginning of the record sets the tone immediately: a thumping guitar/drums intro and sure enough, a lead vocal by Björn, something we don’t get to hear very often. But then the familiar voices of both ladies come in and it’s clear for us to hear: top-drawer pop music. ABBA have once again surpassed themselves.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Muziek Parade, 1977: ABBA-special

Well, actually not really an article, but the pics are nice. This is an ABBA-special from Dutch magazine Muziek Parade, published in 1977. The special featured pics by German photographer Bubi Heilemann. When completely folded out, it had a large ABBA-poster on the backside. Some of the pics shown here are not in Bubi's 2004 book, or alternate shots.



Hitkrant, April 1983: Agnetha cut the knot!

When you are, like Agnetha Fältskog, a member of a supergroup like ABBA, it puts a heavy pressure on you. On the one hand, it’s obviously very enjoyable to be a part of one of the most successful groups in the world, on the other hand, it puts heavy obligations on you. Like making a solo album: of course, you have a lot of contacts and producers, writers/composers, arrangers and musicians are waiting in line to be part of the expected success. But everyone also expects that a solo album like that is going to be good. After all, you are a part of ABBA, aren’t you? Agnetha had to make a difficult decision, but she cut the knot and her album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’ is finished.

Mike Chapman is the name of her producer and with the hits that he – mostly together with partner Mickey Chinn - produced for artists like Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro, Racey and Smokie, you could fill a book. Agnetha met him last summer in America, asked if Mike wanted to produce her solo album and got an enthusiastic ‘yes’ as a reply.

This is how it happened that in the Polar Studios in Stockholm, the blonde singer was assisted by Smokie-members Chris Norman, Terry Uttley and Alan Silson, because Mike had brought ‘his boys’ along. “We definitely needed good backing vocals and that gave me the idea to ask the Smokie-guys for the job.”
Chris, Terry and Alan have been steady ABBA-fans for years and didn’t have to think twice. For five days, the three Brits sang the backing vocals for seven songs on the album and on one song, the only song composed entirely by Agnetha, Alan plays a guitar part.
Without a doubt, Mike is counting on a worldwide success: “I’m positive that we will at least sell five million copies around the world. That’s why we’ve already chosen four tracks that will be released as a single. Four hits, I would say!”

And what about ABBA’s regular composers/lyric writers, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson?
Mike Chapman: “Björn and Benny haven’t contributed to Agnetha’s album, just like they haven’t to Frida’s solo album. This is a product that’s completely her own and that has been the intention from the very beginning.”
So, ABBA has nothing to do with Agnetha’s solo album; only studio musicians were used that usually play on the ABBA-albums as well, but that was only a matter of convenience: they were around anyway. And that’s how all ABBA- and especially the Agnetha-fans are waiting anxiously for ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’. The album should be released at the end of May, according to ABBA’s record company and, as usual, it will be released around the world simultaneously.
A risky venture? A new album always is, even if your name is Agnetha and you are a member of ABBA...

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Joepie, 1982: Frida in the studio without ABBA

The adventure has almost come to an end for Frida. The solo album, that she recorded with Phil Collins as a producer, is as good as finished.
“I’m over the moon about the results,” according to Frida. “Something that was only a dream a year ago, has now become reality. A solo album that doesn’t remind one of ABBA in any way. And a pleasant cooperation with someone who has been one of my musical idols for years. Obviously, I’m very curious about the reactions. According to Phil, I don’t have anything to worry about. But I’ll have to wait and see. With ABBA, we’ve never experienced a flop. But still, this is something different.”
“This album,” says Frida, “doesn’t endanger the future of ABBA. Lately, a lot has been written about a possible break up of ABBA, but I can assure you, for the time being there are no such plans,” according to the singer. “ABBA is taking a rest, after all these years. This gives us the opportunity to realize postponed solo projects. I’m convinced that this will only benefit ABBA. It breaks the routine for a while.”
Whether Frida will record another album with Phil hasn’t been decided yet. Something that has become clear, is that they’ve become friends for life.
“Obviously, there will be stories about a romance in the gossip magazines,” Frida smiles. “But I’ve broken the habit of getting annoyed about that. We flew to New York together. As friends. I’ve had such a good laugh with him. In the studio as well. He keeps the crew together with his sense of humour. Actually, I didn’t expect that from someone coming from a serious group like Genesis. But at the same time, Phil is a perfectionist. Someone who keeps on going, until the result is exactly the way he wants it.”

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Hitkrant, 1981: ABBA-album as a Christmas present

Finally, we can reassure the thousands of ABBA-fans in Holland: the album is almost finished and the atmosphere in the Swedish Polar Studios couldn’t be better. A lot of hard work is being put in to have everything, including the sleeve, ready for the pressing factories on November the 20th. This means that the new ABBA-album may well be in the shops before December the 5th, but certainly before Christmas!

With this announcement from Stockholm, the uncertainty the fans have been living in for more than six months has finally ended. The rumours claiming that the ABBA-members wouldn’t get along very well anymore have been silenced as well.

The titles of the songs that are completely finished at this moment: ‘Two For The Price Of One’, ‘When All Is Said And Done’, ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’, ‘An Angel Passing Through My Room’, ‘Should I Laugh Or Cry’, ‘Head Over Heels’ and ‘I Let The Music Speak’.
A single won’t be chosen yet out of these tracks: ABBA wants to do that when everything is finished, approximately in the second week of November. According to the group’s spokesperson, the deadline will definitely be met, because the collaboration is running smoothly and the same goes for the recordings. “ABBA is more motivated than ever”, according to his comment.

A possible break up after the release of the album is out of the question, because there are no demonstrable reasons for that. Apart from that, ABBA has made a radio special under the title ‘ABBA Live In Concert’.
This program, completed with interviews with the members, will be broadcast on New Year’s Day by the English BBC.
The consequence of all these developments is that the ABBA live-album will not be released until 1982.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Hitkrant, 1982: ABBA: time heals all wounds

It seems quite obvious that it’s not clear sailing for ABBA at the moment: the ABBA-members are starting to grow apart and are very much involved in their own projects.
But ABBA-boss Stig Anderson is now starting to get his hopes up again for the future: “In the best of families, the children are going their own way,” he says. “Indeed, after the two divorces, major problems have risen within ABBA. But problems, no matter how big, are there to be solved. Time heals all wounds, is what I keep saying.”

How much longer will ABBA keep existing then?
“I can’t say that proceedings are running as smoothly as they did five years ago. Now, I have to deal with four separate individuals, instead of two married couples. Those four won’t have anything to do with each other privately and in that scenario, conflicts are occurring more frequently. There are days that they’d love to have a go at each other, but the interest of the group still comes first. All four of them are smart enough to understand that they’re still tied to each other on a business level and that it would be crazy to put an end to the ABBA-enterprise. Indeed, ABBA has become too big to quit at this stage.”

Still, Stig thinks that ABBA will become mainly a studio group. No more travelling, just making records, with an accompanying video for promotional purposes. So the fans won’t notice any difference!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Muziek Expres, 1982: "It´s getting harder and harder to write hits"

For months on end, ABBA has been working on the album ‘The Visitors’. Too long, according to them. “Too much is expected from us. Maintaining that level isn’t easy,” is how Björn Ulvaeus is putting ABBA’s creative problems into words. Together with his friend Benny Andersson he’s now doing completely different things besides ABBA. Just like Frida Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog. Does this mean that ABBA will break up in the near future? ME got the answer from the Swedish superstars...

Compared to Holland, Sweden is almost the North pole. Over there, the temperature has dropped to far below zero. Snow removers are working almost incessantly to keep the roads driveable. A large BMW is sluggishly working its way up Hamngatan, then parking in front of a modest, but stately building on which the words ‘Polar Music’ can be read in small lettering. The driver gets out of the car and, dressed in a long, dark fur coat, he almost seems like a grey wolf, that’s having a hard time working his way through the snow to the front entrance.
A while later, Benny Andersson, still wearing his coat, is sitting in the executive office of ‘Polar Music’, the headquarter of the multi-million ABBA company. Only on the mantelpiece, there are some things that reminds one of ABBA. Awards for their output from all over the world. In the rest of the building, there’s no trace of ABBA to be found. No music, no pictures, just people that are working hard. And also an ABBA-member in the flesh, who has just finished yet another ABBA-project. ‘The Visitors’ album is out in the shops, and Benny is very pleased to announce ‘fantastic sales figures’. As if he expected anything different.
Benny says: “That’s what you are saying, but even if your name is ABBA, it always remains a gamble. You’ll have to prove yourself time and time again. Actually, we’ve been working on ‘The Visitors’ for more than a year. Too long, but the songs don’t come as easily as they used to. Those days are gone. It isn’t easy to maintain that level. It gets harder and harder to come up with hit songs. So much is expected from us. Although we are ABBA, I’m sure that’s not a guarantee for a hit. Only the quality of the song is.”
According to Benny, the rumours about the possible break-up of the world-famous foursome are “without any foundation. And when I say that, you should believe it. Look, we would be able to continue indefinitely this way. Especially if we keep on writing songs of the same quality. Actually, ABBA only exists in the studio when there’s an album to be recorded or a couple of videos to be made. Apart from that, we only see each other occasionally at meetings. But don’t think we’re not having fun. We certainly are. But privately we’ve obviously grown apart to some extent. We run into each other every now and then on our children’s birthdays, but otherwise it’s not really necessary.”
Can we still call ABBA a group then?
Benny: “Why not? We have never been secretive about the fact that we don’t like live performances, but we do like recording music. As a matter of fact, that hasn’t changed at all.”

The foursome is spending quite some time on other projects as well. Can Benny tell us a bit more about that?
Benny: “Yes, Björn and I are working on the musical completion of the ABBA-musical that we have spoken of for years now and furthermore, we are producing a couple of, mainly Swedish, artists. Together with her daughter Linda, Agnetha has recorded a Christmas album, as a present for Björn, but apart from that, she doesn’t have official plans to do other things. She’s playing housewife. Frida is working on a solo-album but I can’t tell you more about that.”
Is that a sensitive subject for him because Frida was his wife?
Benny smiles. “No, not at all. But she wants to keep it a secret, from the three of us as well. Of course, we could have helped her with it, but then it would have turned out as some sort of ABBA-product again. She didn’t want that. Indeed, she has recorded that album with people who haven’t had anything to do with ABBA before. I’m very curious myself.”
In an earlier interview with us, you’ve talked extensively about the Beatles as a source of inspiration. The new ABBA-album is full of Beatles-influences. Agreed?
“Completely,” Benny confirms. “It creeps in, without us being aware of it, I think. We only heard it after it was finished. I really like that. I take it as a compliment...”
A snowball shatters against one of the executive windows. Benny gets up, looks out of the window and smiles. Björn seems to have arrived as well. We decide to continue our discussion about ABBA another time.
Benny: “It may be slippery here in Sweden, but for the time being ABBA will not fall flat...”

Sunday, 7 December 2008

CD Magazine, 1988: Agnetha's recent CD 'I Stand Alone': new proof of her musicality

An article from a 1988 Dutch magazine, promoting the then fairly new CD format.
Agnetha Fältskog is fifteen years old when she performs for the first time with a band. Two years later, she records her first single: ‘I Was So Much In Love’ that immediately becomes her first top 10 hit. Due to that achievement, she becomes ‘Sweden’s big promise for the future’. Between 1968 and 1975 she holds that promise and she develops into a top vocalist with ABBA, a group that achieved worldwide fame.
No wonder, because one hundred million of the world’s pop-lovers bought ABBA’s hits, who have become pop-history for six years now.
But – to quote Wim Sonneveld – Agnetha couldn’t stop herself from singing and now she’s back with a new album ‘I Stand Alone’, for which she remarkably didn’t write any songs herself. About that, she says: “I set very high standards for the songs that I record and considering the short preparation time for this project, I chose other people’s songs instead of my own compositions that weren’t satisfactory yet. Apart from that, these songs strongly caught my imagination.”
This new album, produced in collaboration with Peter Cetera, an ABBA-fan who has always wanted to record something together with her, is characteristic for Cetera’s style and Agnetha’s own way of singing. Both styles are highly compatible and have undoubtedly led to a qualitative high levelled pop achievement by the charming blonde Agnetha, who after twenty successful years is far removed from leaving the pop stage.

Something that’s probably not widely known about Agnetha is that in the meantime she has recorded about eleven solo albums through the years. This new offering ‘I Stand Alone’ is her third solo project after ABBA disbanded. Apart from that, it’s her second project for WEA. And WEA thinks that all efforts have been made to turn it into a success; top producer Peter Cetera, ex-Chicago and in the meantime a successful solo artist; David Foster’s most convenient recording studio in Malibu, and a string of composers such as Albert Hammond, Peter Brown and the duo Cetera/Gaitsch. The first single has just been released and is called ‘The Last Time’.

ABBA’s definitive breakthrough came in 1974 with ‘Waterloo’, the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest, that started the ABBA-era for Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny. The subsequent string of high quality hit-singles turned the group into one of Sweden’s most successful ambassadors of pop-music. Agnetha has continued on that path, also after ABBA split up, with: in 1983 – ten years after her first solo album – ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’; in 1985 the album ‘Eyes Of A Woman’ and in 1987 a Swedish-language album with children’s songs that she recorded together with her son Christian. And now ‘I Stand Alone’, that is a proof of Agnetha’s musicality and success, as a solo artist as well.

Hitkrant, 1987: Agnetha all on her own

Did you recognize her already? Probably not, because these days she’s looking completely different...
We’re talking about Agnetha Fältskog. More than three years ago, she suddenly faded from view, after it became clear that her solo career couldn’t hold a candle to the success that she once achieved with ABBA.

But now she’s completely ‘back in the picture’ with a new solo single, ‘The Last Time’, scheduled to be released in the middle of January, and an album, ‘I Stand Alone’.
The album was produced by no other than Peter Cetera, known from the group Chicago and his hit-single ‘Glory Of Love’.
We’re wondering if the same fate is awaiting Agnetha now...

Veronica, 1985: Frida quits

Frida has decided to cut all ties with showbusiness permanently. She won’t record any more albums or be available for performances. This remarkable news could be read in the October issue of the ABBA-magazine.

The decision came totally unexpected, even for the fans, and will have profound consequences. The reunion of ABBA, still hoped for by millions of admirers, is now definitely out of the question. Frida made no mistake about that. She didn’t clarify the reason for her decision in that first statement.

For the past few years, Frida has been extremely successful as a solo artist. Her recordings, among others produced by Phil Collins, were achieving excellent sales figures all around the world. Too bad.

Hitkrant, 1982: ABBA busier than ever!

You mustn’t think that an artist or group can take a holiday, whenever they’ve released a new album. There’s so much work to do, because to start with, an album like that needs to be promoted: interviews, radio and television performances and things like that, because that’s all part of the package, and that goes for world famous artists like ABBA as well. And at the moment, ABBA is busier than ever.

Obviously, there’s Anni-Frid who’s in the ABBA studios in Stockholm at the moment, up to her ears in the recordings for her solo album, produced by Phil Collins. Therefore, she’ll have no time to occupy herself with ABBA in the coming months. But Benny and Björn are doing that all the more: to them, the latest album ‘The Visitors’ is old already. That’s why they are working hard on writing new songs for the group.

New projects to spare: a musical is still being considered and although ABBA has stated before that world tours are getting far too exhausting, Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida clearly realize that as a group you’ll have to show yourselves to the fans every now and then. So that’s a subject that’s being considered and talked about as well in Sweden.
For the time being, Agnetha hasn’t much to do; after her personal problems after her divorce from Björn, she has found some peace again and the situation surrounding her is starting to stabilize again. In any case, she’s making use of this period in between two albums to regain her senses.

The people that are exclaiming that ABBA is about to come to an end are wrong for the time being. Okay, the group will not be able to last forever, but for now the fans still need ABBA. And vice versa!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Weekend, 1981: Golden chains are keeping ABBA together

ABBA’s blonde singer Agnetha is able to smile again. There’s a new love in her life. His name is Torbjörn Brander. He’s a police-inspector in Stockholm. The twosome met each other when Torbjörn was appointed in a special anti-terror brigade that had to protect the ABBA-members and their children. ABBA has been threatened several times by telephone. Agnetha feels much safer with Torbjörn. But will he be able to cope with the enormous pressure of the publicity surrounding this supergroup?

For a long time it was feared that Agnetha would put an end to ABBA. As a result of her divorce and the telephone threats in which was announced that her children would be kidnapped and would only be released for a gigantic ransom. Agnetha has had to deal with all this by herself. Instinctively, she refused to seek support with her ex-husband, who had remarried in the meantime. Still, she never complained. The first telephone threats came in at ABBA’s headquarter in Stockholm when the group was in Germany for a television performance. The group immediately flew back home. In consultation with Stig Anderson, their manager, the police was brought in. Stockholm’s chief commissioner didn’t take any chances and appointed some of his best people to guard the group and the children.

During the first weeks, the children didn’t leave their parent’s sight. The ABBA-members stayed at home as much as possible and were anxiously awaiting the things that were coming to them. “It was an awful time,” Agnetha would later declare. “We were all scared to death. Not for ourselves, but for our children.” Luckily, it didn’t go any further than those threats. In the media it was suggested that it probably had all been a sick joke. Caused by people who envied the group’s enormous success. But the commissioner took no chances. The guards remained on their duty. They were present twenty-four hours a day. At Agnetha’s apartment, the tall, dark-blonde detective Torbjörn could be spotted every day. A silent, quiet man in his late thirties. The peace that he exuded had a very positive effect on the restless Agnetha, who barely left her house anymore. Torbjörn behaved courteously, but he kept his distance. He had a very responsible task to fulfil and couldn’t get involved emotionally. But it wouldn’t take long before his colleagues noticed that he had more feelings for the famous singer than he let on. Agnetha felt somewhat insecure. She immediately thought the detective was likable but was too confused about her feelings to take any further steps. From their mutual respect, a friendship blossomed. And this friendship turned into love. “Maybe even the love that saved ABBA,” is the opinion of one of Agnetha’s intimate friends. But this relationship is not without problems either. Due to his position, Torbjörn can’t appear in newspapers and magazines too often. His superiors wouldn’t be happy about that. In any case, the crisis surrounding ABBA seems to have come to an end. Because also the other female in ABBA, Anni-Frid, has reconciled to the fact that her marriage to Benny has ended within two years. They’ve both started new relationships. So, ABBA will continue.
“At least for another two years,” according to Björn and Benny. Together, they are again responsible for the fabulous new album that the group has released shortly before Christmas, according to tradition. “We’ve worked harder than ever,” Björn revealed. “We had to make up for lost time.”
Manager Anderson has announced that, although ABBA will continue, there are still some changes to report. The group will not do so many performances any longer. And they will definitely not go on a world tour again. Television shows, at the most. It’s because the ABBA-members want to work on several projects outside the group as well. Björn and Benny want to produce other artists. Agnetha has been playing with the idea of a solo album for years, and guest appearances on Swedish television shows.
For quite some time, Anni-Frid has been saying that she’s aiming for a career as an actress. She has already played a small part and is now considering several scripts and offers. Apart from that, for the past few months she has recorded a couple of shows in which she is the host: the ‘Lite Grand I Örat’.

Anni-Frid: “Around Christmas 1980, the producer of the show called me and asked if I was interested. I had already worked with him before my time with ABBA. I immediately said yes. But then my divorce from Benny happened and I had to ask for a couple of weeks postponement. Although I wasn’t completely up for it, I still did it. In the end, I had to think about my career. On top of that, this job gave me the distraction that I needed. I didn’t want to be consumed by sadness and loneliness, like Agnetha.”
Anni-Frid and Benny have decided to maintain a friendly relationship. Especially for the outer world and to preserve ABBA’s good image. Not too long ago, they flew to New York together to discuss several radio and television shows.

If ABBA were to decide to quit as a group in two years time, then that doesn’t mean that the members won’t have anything to do with each other any longer. On a business level, they remain firmly committed to each other. Or, like someone at ABBA’s management once remarked: “In the old days, the members were tied to each other by golden rings, now by golden chains...”
It is widely known that manager Stig Anderson does a great job in advising the foursome about investing their millions. Otherwise, the group would lose almost ninety percent of their income to taxes. “We’d still have enough to lead a comfortable life, but we’d rather invest our money in healthy business enterprises,” Benny admits. Apart from that, ABBA’s companies are employing a lot of people. When asked, Benny is willing to summarize the businesses that ABBA has invested in. Firstly, in one of Europe’s best recording studios in Stockholm. Not only ABBA is recording there; countless major acts are coming to Stockholm to record their new albums. Furthermore, ABBA has their own publishing company, a company that’s publishing books, an art gallery. And countless houses and buildings. Plus their own islands in the Swedish archipelago.

Recently, the group has invested a lot of money in the development of the video market. “In the future, we will probably record our own shows and offer them for sale,” Benny assumes. “According to us, video will become extremely important. And we want to be a part of it. Not just for the money, but it’s nice to be involved in fresh areas. I wouldn’t rule out that I will be involved as a director at some point as well. That’s a fascinating job.”
He thinks wealth is a doubtful happiness. “Also, wealth is relative. We make a lot of money, but our investments are huge as well. When you lose a couple of millions in a deal, you’ll have to sell a lot of records to compensate for that.” Benny is referring to the losses that ABBA has had to bear, with the acquisition of crude oil that had to be sold with an enormous loss due to a surplus market. The millionaires didn’t lose a night’s sleep over it. On a daily basis, millions are pouring in as a result of record sales and sheet music. The line ‘The Winner Takes It All’ certainly goes for ABBA. And ABBA remains the clear winner.

The BBC will broadcast a ninety-minute radio special about ABBA on New Year’s Day, followed by an interview with the group. Last autumn, ABBA has achieved platinum status in Canada for the fourth time with the album ‘Super Trouper’. That same album achieved gold status in Israel and Brazil, and ABBA is especially proud of a gold single in that last country after ‘The Winner Takes It All’ sold more than 300.000 copies.
The sympathetic Swedes were very happy about the fact that the Dutch audience has appointed them as the best foreign act in September. ABBA received the ‘Dutch Record Award 1981’, awarded by the Dutch record industry, the retail sector and the copyright association Stemra.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Muziek Expres, 1982: "This is only the beginning!"

A Dutch magazine article, featuring an interview with Frida about the Something's Going On album and pictures of the recording sessions and the press presentation.
She did it. Frida Lyngstad is now conquering the world without ABBA. With a Phil Collins-produced album and the brilliant hit record ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’. In an exclusive interview, Frida explains what’s going on...

Frida doesn’t have any peace and quiet anymore. Ever since she took a temporary (?) break from ABBA to record her own international debut album, her life has turned into a rollercoaster. At Stockholm’s Hamngatan, the employees are busy working for Frida day in and day out. There, at the ABBA-office, the Swedish supergroup seems to be completely overshadowed by one group-member: Frida Lyngstad.
At one blow, the dark-haired singer has proven that she’s able to do it without ABBA. Indeed, ABBA hasn’t been involved at all in her new solo-album ‘Something’s Going On’. For the recordings, that took place at ABBA’s Polar Studios, producer and Genesis-frontman Phil Collins took his own musicians with him. Including Earth, Wind & Fire’s horn section, that had helped Phil out already on his solo-album ‘Face Value’. A lot of hard work must have been put into those recordings. You can tell by listening to the record, for which no expenses were spared to turn it into the best product possible. And Frida herself is singing like never before. As if she has never had the chance to develop to full extent vocally in the ABBA-framework. A lot has happened to Frida and there’s a lot going on...
The dark-haired ABBA-singer has a dark voice. With that voice, together with Agnetha, she has just been busy working on recordings for a brand new ABBA-album. The two tracks for the hit-album, intended as a Christmas-present, are finished already. So ABBA is working on new material already. Because solo-recordings or not, ABBA goes on. Frida makes no mistake about that.
“I get so tired of all those sensational rumours. It is understandable that there are rumours, the journalists must have something to write about. After all, we’re still popular. I always think to myself: that’s the consequence of being famous.”
Prepare yourself, Frida, there will be a whole lot more rumours now you’ve made a solo-album and are having success on your own.
“I don’t want to get ahead of the facts. The single ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’ is doing exceptionally well, I’m extremely proud of that. It’s almost the same feeling as winning the Eurovision Song Contest with ABBA in 1974. It’s a triumph, suddenly I feel very self-confident.”
Aren’t you that confident in ABBA?
“Firstly, in ABBA I’m not alone, but I’m singing together with Agnetha. That’s something completely different than recording an album on your own. But I mainly felt insecure because of the difficult period I have behind me now. The divorce between Benny and me didn’t leave me unaffected. I don’t want to get into any details, the gossip-press has already done that. In any case, I have the feeling that I’ve made a mark for myself with ‘Something’s Going On’. I’m extremely proud of that album.”
What do Agnetha, Benny and Björn think about the album?
“In one word, they think it’s fantastic. I think they didn’t expect this, although they knew I was working with Phil Collins.”
What did they expect?
“That’s a good question, I’ve never asked them. It never entered my mind. They had full confidence in the project, that was enough for me.”
Why did you want to record a solo-album anyway?
“Like I said before, I wanted to make a mark. Something had to happen. I wanted to show that I account for something on my own as well.”
Is that the reason why the album reminds one of ABBA so little?
“I take that as a compliment. My intention was for the album to have nothing to do with ABBA, otherwise I might just as well have not recorded the album at all. That’s why no other ABBA-member, apart from myself, has co-operated on the album.”
Why did you choose Phil Collins as your producer?
“That was more or less a coincidence. My daughter adored his solo-single ‘In The Air Tonight’ and she told me to listen to it as well. Phil Collins? At first, that name didn’t ring a bell. Yes, I know, my general pop-knowledge has never been exceptional. In short, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. After that, I bought his album ‘Face Value’ and I played it every day for two months. It was my favourite album and Phil my favourite producer. Then I went to London to meet him. From the word go, he was enthusiastic about the idea to work together.”
What were your intentions for this album?
“A record with much variation, with lots of different types of music. I was willing to give any song a go. When that became known, I received five hundred cassettes with songs. Believe me, it took quite some time, but I listened to all of them. Unfortunately, there was nothing there that I would like to sing. That’s when Phil and I decided to ask composers for a song, of which we knew in advance they would be good. That’s why so many well-known songwriters worked on the album.”
One is missing. The song that Paul McCartney would write for you?
“He actually would, but in hindsight he didn’t have the time. That song will surely come eventually, on my next album.”
Are you already thinking about a next solo-album?
“I dream about it, of course.”
ABBA isn’t thinking about performing any longer. Are you?
“The idea is tempting, but when I think I’d have to be in a different city every day and so on, I can’t imagine doing that. Still, anything is possible. I don’t want to get ahead of the facts. Look, if I were to do another album in some time that would become an even greater success and I’d get the opportunity to perform live with Phil and the other musicians, then I’d probably wouldn’t have to think twice. But we’re not at that stage yet. It may sound strange coming from me, because I’ve had a career with ABBA for ten years, but this is only the beginning...”

Friday, 28 November 2008

Pop Rocky, 1983: I don’t want to be ‘just’ the ABBA-girl anymore

With her solo-album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’ ABBA-singer Agnetha is following in the footsteps of her colleague Frida, who already enjoyed enormous success with her solo-album ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’. In early June, Agnetha launched her much anticipated new album in Musikladen. However, ten thousands of ABBA fans are worried by the success of both ABBA-singers’ solo-careers, and ask themselves if and how the Swedish supergroup will continue. Pop/Rocky talked to Agnetha about her new album and of course about ABBA’s future.

P/R: After Frida’s solo-album you are launching a project on your own as well. Are ABBA going their separate ways?
A: I know, our fans are worried. But I can reassure them, by all means, my solo venture does not mean the end of ABBA.

P/R: After this, ABBA will go on tour again, then?
A: No, that won’t be possible in the near future. If ABBA would go on tour again, the expectations will be very high everywhere. This would mean extensive preparations and countless rehearsals. There just isn’t time for that.

P/R: Is there no time to record another ABBA-album either?
A: At the moment certainly not, but that can change.

P/R: Let’s talk about your album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’. What made you decide to do an album on your own?
A: Frida and I have talked about this for some time now. We both had our own ideas, that could not be fulfilled in ABBA’s framework. That’s why it was only natural to try something on our own.

P/R: Are you satisfied with the result?
A: Yes, very. Everything felt right. The songs are good, and the musicians gave their best. On top of that, the collaboration with Mike Chapman, who has worked with Smokie, Suzi Quatro and Blondie, was fantastic. Mike is a real professional, I learned a lot from him. For the most part, it is thanks to him that the album turned out so well.

P/R: On the album we don’t hear the Agnetha we expect from ABBA. Was that the intention?
A: That’s the reason why I did this solo-album. I didn’t want to sound like ABBA, otherwise this album would have been pointless. On the whole, I think the sound is a bit tougher than what people would expect from me. Still, the songs are about love, tenderness and romance, because we wanted to make a positive album.

P/R: Did working with ABBA help you with the recordings, or was it a disadvantage?
A: I did feel some pressure. The fans expect something special from me. On the other hand, I need this pressure, to come up with something really good.

P/R: Does it bother you that people will compare you to Frida?
A: Oh, not at all. Frida and I are used to that by now, since it has always been this way.

P/R: What kind of reaction on your album do you expect from the fans?
A: My aim is to get recognition as a solo-singer. For years, I’ve been ‘just’ the ABBA-girl. It’s time to take a step forwards.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Bravo, 1978: After their holiday in full swing again: ABBA

These pictures are very rare: they show ABBA in holiday mood. On the next page you’ll see them at their show on the poster. Read about what they did on their holiday and what their plans are now.

It was a kind of military secret. The four ABBA-members, Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny decided: we’ll take a few days off. As a matter of fact, in the Stockholm area. We really want to relax in our own country.
And that’s how the four of them set about: they walked through wonderful forests, took a rest at a lake, took rides on pedal- and rowing boats and acted like ordinary tourists. Benny: “We mainly walked in places that were not too crowded. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to escape from our fans.” And Anni-Frid adds: “By doing that, we had a chance to recover. It was almost like being in my childhood.”

You have to realize that ABBA have been under a lot of pressure since their Eurovision success in 1974, and that they’ve been on the road constantly. Björn: “This past summer we’ve taken it a little easier. It’s no use to wear ourselves out with all the travelling and uninterrupted performances.” Still, the foursome couldn’t live without their job completely. For their single and album, Björn and Benny tried out new songs, that both girls sang, to keep their voices in shape, classic songs. Apart from that, they took dancing lessons and designed new stage outfits.
The single ‘Summer Night City’ has been out in the shops since a couple of weeks. Björn: “On this record we paid hommage to the Disco Sound, that’s ruling the direction of music at the moment. The song is disco-influenced, but still unmistakable ABBA-style.”
The B-side is a medley of the songs ‘Pick A Bale Of Cotton’, ‘On Top Of Old Smokey’ and ‘Midnight Special’. This B-side could be heard already in 1975 on a charity album for the German cancer research.

Their album, recorded at their brand-new recording studio in Stockholm, should be released worldwide before Christmas. The next major trip will take ABBA to Japan. Benny: “In the middle of November we’ll have our own television show in Tokyo. It will have a running time of one hour; we will perform our biggest hits in that show. On our way to Tokyo, we’ll stopover in Los Angeles, to perform on the Dick Clark Show.”
Privately, everything is clear sailing with ABBA. The foursome’s sweetheart is Agnetha’s almost one-year-old son, Christian. The proud mother: “A very sweet rascal. I would love to take him with me on all my trips. But unfortunately he’s still too young.”
Anni-Frid has Bravo to thank for her best experience in the past few years. Like we reported extensively, we succeeded in finding Anni-Frid’s German father in Karlsruhe. The singer: “The meeting with my father, who was believed to be missing without a trace, has meant more to me than any gold record.”

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Veronica, 1984: Benny sweet to Frida

The ABBA-members don’t see much of each other lately. The separate members are working on solo-projects at the moment and that’s why it definitely was a coincidence that three-quarters of ABBA met each other during the Platengala of the Platen-10-daagse foundation.

Benny and Frida greeted each other very exuberantly and by doing that, they indicated that the divorce between Frida and Benny was an amicable one. Benny was even excessively sweet to Frida. Does this mean a reconciliation between the two ABBA-members?

We asked Björn. He said: “Benny and Frida are getting along really well lately. Still, I don’t believe they will ever get back together again. Just like I would never remarry Agnetha.”

Hitkrant, March 1982: ABBA: maybe on tour yet again

After ABBA’s major world tour in 1979, the group announced that it might well have been the last one. The expenses became too high and the strains too much. But a true artist apparently can’t do without his audience, because according to Björn and Benny, there’s now a fair chance that ABBA will be on stage again this year.

“It doesn’t seem to end,” is what Benny told recently, referring to the continuing successes. ABBA’s new album ‘The Visitors’ is breaking all records again. The single ‘One Of Us’ was huge once again, but the second single from that album, ‘Head Over Heels’, reached the top of the charts in our country within three weeks. That’s why Benny sighed: “We have to do something in return for our fans.”

After the previous tour, the group was tired. “We had a lot of personal problems,” Benny says. “We needed some time to get back to ourselves again. That time is hardly available, because you’re always busy with the new album that has to be better yet again. One by one, our marriages ended. That hurt.” But it didn’t take ABBA that much time to overcome their personal problems. Björn and Benny both remarried, Frida has a boyfriend and Agnetha left quietly for Mallorca, where she stayed undisturbed for one month.

The consequence was that the group returned with a new look and very enthusiastically with the new album. Agnetha says: “I needed that month as a rest period. The tabloids are hunting me constantly to find out who’s the new man in my life. But I want peace and quiet. All four of us have changed now, and not only outwardly. We’ve become real friends again.” Agnetha admits that she’s not too fond of Frida’s new look; Björn’s full beard is more to her liking.
Benny has a totally new hobby: he’s very much into race-horses. Two three-year-old horses, named ‘Secret Army’ and ‘Hurtwood Lass’ are Benny’s. At the end of last year, the ABBA-star flew to England on several occasions to see his horses. He is planning to put them in a race very soon.

Frida has a new hobby as well: the past few months she hosted a popular show on Swedish television four times. She explains: “It was so much fun to do. I announced artists and sang along with others or did the backing vocals.” Frida will now rapidly start working on her solo-album that will be recorded in Stockholm. Producer Phil Collins has gone through everything with Frida already and the singer wants to share that the album will be very different from her achievements with ABBA.

So, ABBA is full of courage again. The group is even considering to go on tour again. “We won’t confirm anything yet, but we’re seriously considering it,” Benny says. Whether ABBA will come to Holland as well? They probably will!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Hitkrant, February 1985: "Eric is giving me the freedom that ABBA didn't allow me"

“Of course I’m a little bit scared of releasing something new. Still, I hope I will finally be able to get rid of those annoying ABBA-comparisons. Because I have cut all ties with that empire permanently.”
And there seems to be no way back either. Together with producer Eric Stewart, the blonde singer is working very hard on a contemporary, surprising album that will astonish friend and foe. We were the first ones to be allowed to take a look in the studio.

Agnetha looks a little tired when we see her at the Polar Studios in the evening. All day long she has worked at a feverish pace, the final deadline is drawing near. Still, the former ABBA-singer is very satisfied with the things she accomplished. Especially the collaboration with Eric Stewart, responsible for all major 10CC-successes, turned out really well.
“The funny thing is that today’s best producers have called me to realize a possible collaboration. But I’m really not the kind of person that falls for empty talk and tempting financial propositions. In the end I decided to go for the least obvious guy, a choice I haven’t regretted so far. Eric is the kind of man that doesn’t shy away from the experiment and that’s exactly what I need at this stage of my career. Agnetha Fältskog should definitely sound different to what the ABBA-fans expect from me. Apart from that, Stewart is an exceptionally charming man. He makes you feel at ease very quickly and he definitely helped me to conquer some of my fears.”

“I still hesitate when I sit down at home at my writing-table or piano,” Agnetha explains. “I’m fairly satisfied about the sound of my voice, but writing songs seems to be a totally different craft. This album will include two of my own songs. Eric has really encouraged me to take this on. I also understand that I have to get rid of those annoying ABBA-comparisons, but it takes a lot of guts. Of course, this also has to do with my musical past. With ABBA, the girls weren’t meant to make decisions. We weren’t even allowed. In the end, that was the ultimate reason to cut all ties with that empire.”

Still, Björn and Benny don’t rule out a further collaboration?
“Maybe for old times sake, to recapture that old atmosphere in a way. But for the time being I won’t get really caught up in a group again. It has cost me several sleepless nights to make those decisions, but it was necessary. I want to take control of my own career and establish myself as a full-fledged artist. The album ‘Eyes Of A Woman’ will hopefully bring me one step closer to that ultimate goal.”

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Hitkrant, November 1983: Will ABBA have to make way for Agnetha's children?

Agnetha’s recent bus accident has dealt a severe blow to the Swedish singer’s point of view. More and more, the blonde diva has her doubts if it makes any sense to take dangerous risks while there are far more important things in the life of a mature woman and mother. Now that it has become known that Agnetha is pregnant again, ABBA’s future is more unsure than ever.

“Flying has always been a nightmare for me but now I’m not even safe on a bus anymore,” Agnetha whispers. “When the accident happened, a severe panic came over me. For one moment, a few seconds that seemed to last forever, my life was hanging on a string. When I regained consciousness in the hospital, I immediately asked for my children. It was a true nightmare.”
There’s not a single doubt for the singer that Linda and Christian are the most important people in her life. “I don’t know if I’m giving them the upbringing they’re entitled to,” she says, silently gazing into the distance. “When I was a little girl, I felt terrible when my mother and father were away from home for a few days. When I’m travelling, like I did recently to promote ‘Can´t Shake Loose’, I can’t stop thinking about them. I try to enter into their world. The very idea of them missing me makes me sick with desperation. Of course I still love this business and music will always fascinate me, but first and foremost I want to be a good mother for my two dearest. Forced by circumstances, I sometimes fall short of that aim.”
The Swedish gossip press seldom or never leaves Agnetha alone. Only recently, it was claimed that she and her former husband Björn are having fights about the children on a regular basis. “Absolute nonsense,” Agnetha emphasizes. “In all honesty, we’ve made a suitable arrangement. Linda and Christian are just as often at my place as at Björn’s. If the ABBA fairytale ever ends, my children’s future will be the only cause. Not the personal frictions that the public likes to fantasize about.”
Agnetha’s boyfriend Torbjörn Brander gets along pretty well with her children. “Torbjörn is an ideal father to them. He takes care of my son and daughter as if they were his own children. When our first child will be born in a little while, we’ll start a new future together. A future that’s definitely more important than a wall full of gold ABBA-records.”

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Hitkrant, February 1981: ABBA is finding new ways

There, ‘Super Trouper’ is all finished, every single is becoming a hit yet again, and when it comes to that, ABBA can take it easy for a while. Or rather, as far as you’re able to take it easy as the most successful pop-group of the last, say, ten years. New plans are being prepared already. Björn and Benny are keeping themselves busy with writing new songs. Will ABBA concentrate only on recording music?

Benny: “Look, making records is obviously our main aim. But we’re certainly thinking in other directions as well.”
How about the old idea of writing a musical? The ABBA-masterminds look a bit uneased.
“Actually, we’ve already realized that idea before, during our world-tour, when we staged ‘The Girl With The Golden Hair’. You could actually call that a mini-musical.”
Yes, but at the time there were plans to write a full-length musical. Is that idea still current?
“Who knows,” says Björn and that will have to do for us.

In any case, the ABBA hit factory is not standing still. A new ABBA-album is already hesitantly in the making and this time it should be something completely different. Is ABBA finding new ways?
“We’re constantly finding new ways,” says Benny. “If you don’t do that as an artist, you don’t develop.” And we know: standing still means falling behind. That won’t happen to ABBA.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Dagblad voor Noord-Limburg, July 1988: ABBA, one more time?

The rumour has surfaced once again: ABBA will reunite! Although it seems to be a one-off occasion, it will not dampen the joy of the still many admirers of this group.

The only downside is that we can’t obtain any official confirmation. Not at the Dutch record company. Not at the Swedish one. Not even at the studio where the recordings should take place.
The rumour is based on a remark that ex-ABBA-singer Agnetha Fältskog has made. Not too long ago, her third solo-album was released and on that occasion she stated that the four ABBA-members will get together this summer. All four of them would enter the recording studio. The end result would have to be ABBA’s definitive farewell-album.

Whether that album will see the light of day or not, in the meantime ABBA can be placed among the classic pop-groups. The album ‘Abbaphonic’ is proof of that, on which several top-hits by the foursome are performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London. And that’s a tribute that’s not being paid to any musician representing popular music. The editors of Oor’s Pop Encyclopedia wrote: “The ‘ABBA-sound’, often praised, seldom abused, is often compared to the sound that The Beatles produced in the sixties. With ABBA, the limits of creativity are explored continuously as well. Unlike The Beatles, ABBA is in no way a subcultural phenomenon, though. But the group knows how to combine quality and commercial instinct in a mostly exquisite manner.”

For ABBA, the big success started with ‘Waterloo’, that gave them the victory in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton. The Dutch duo Mouth & MacNeal (Willem Duyn and Maggie MacNeal) finished second. Still, it wouldn’t be until 1975 that the real breakthrough in the charts was achieved. That happened with the single ‘SOS’.

After that, the hits kept on coming faster than the speed of light. Some of them as a reminder: ‘Fernando’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, ‘Name Of The Game’, ‘Thank You For The Music’, ‘Chiquitita’, ‘Does Your Mother Know’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Super Trouper’ and ‘The Day Before You Came’. Things couldn’t get any better for the Swedes, because this list is just a selection.
In a time span of two years, ABBA sold more records than any other group, excluding The Beatles. Even in the Soviet Union, all ABBA-albums were released. ABBA conquered the cinemas with the feature film ‘ABBA – The Movie’ and the group could be admired on television screens regularly. Notable was a special programme in 1979 for Unicef, to commemorate the Year of the Child.

In 1981, when ABBA had existed for ten years, the first rumours started circulating that the group would split up. The cause was the divorce of Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad. Those rumours became even stronger when the singer recorded her first solo-album produced by Phil Collins, shortly after that. Agnetha followed in her footsteps and chose another big name as her producer: Mike Chapman.
In late 1983, the time had come. The ABBA-empire was officially dissolved. The four ABBA-members didn’t sit still since then. Both singers have build a solo-career, the men Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson worked together with Tim Rice on the musical ‘Chess’, that produced hits for Elaine Paige (‘I Know Him So Well’) and Murray Head (‘One Night In Bangkok’).

A number of the biggest ABBA-successes is obviously included on the album ‘Abbaphonic’, that starts with a genuine overture, named ‘Abbature’. That’s how it goes with a classical work. In an overture, a taster is being given for the most important themes that will follow. The highlights, if you will, and in this case there are plenty of them. The arrangements emphasize once again how exceptionally beautiful the ABBA-melodies are. Like in ‘Does Your Mother Know’, that in this case has a running time of almost seven minutes, three minutes longer than the original version. ‘Money, Money, Money’ lasts much longer as well, but with ‘Chiquitita’ it’s the other way around. It now has a running time of less than three minutes, and that’s more than two minutes shorter than the original, where the piano is being used as a solo-instrument.

The album closes with a finale, just like the overture a specially composed ‘medley’ in which snippets of ABBA-hits are used that are otherwise not a part of ‘Abbaphonic’.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Dagblad De Limburger, 1996: ABBA's Frida is working on a comeback

Good news for all thirty-somethings who still get tears in their eyes on hearing ‘Hear The Drums, Fernando’ and keep dreaming about satin hotpants. One of ABBA’s two singers, the pop-group that’s synonymous for Sweden, wants to try her hands on a comeback.

The dark-haired Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Frida for the successful company’s friends, has just finished recording an album that should be released in Sweden late September. The Swedish-language offering ‘Deep Breath’ is produced by Anders Glenmark, who also wrote the songs.
The almost 51-year-old Lyngstad didn’t record any album for twelve years. The close friend of the Swedish queen Silvia was being an active campaigner for animal’s rights from her home near Swiss Bern.
After ABBA had separated officially late 1983, Anni-Frid threw two English-language solo albums on the market under the name Frida. ‘Something’s Going On’ was good for a hit-record with ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’. But after the second album ‘Shine’, the singer faded from view.
The question is whether Frida will be able to step out of the shadow of her former colleagues Björn Ulvaeus, his blonde wife Agnetha Fältskog and Benny Andersson, her second husband. The record company claims that many youngsters of today don’t even know ABBA, let alone Frida. Nevertheless, it has only been a few years ago that ABBA’s glory days were brought to the surface again. The new disco fever created a string of ABBA-impersonators who listened to the original songs and copied their versions in a series of languages up to Hindi.

Pop Foto, November 1984: Doesn't Frida have any dreams left?

When all your wishes in your life have become true, what’s left to wish for? “Simply lead a quiet life,” is what Frida thinks. “And every now and then go into the recording studio to record an album.” But when you look into the bottom of her heart, the ABBA-singer still has one big wish.

Frida clears her throat when we ask her what’s in store for ABBA. Can we expect another album, are there any plans for a farewell tour? “I can only speak for myself,” she starts. “When it comes to Björn, Benny and Agnetha, I really don’t know. We rarely see each other nowadays. I would love to record another album with them, but now Agnetha has left the group, that’s really out of the question. It’s a shame. That’s why I’m concentrating completely on my solo career. I’m really very proud of my new album ‘Shine’. It turned out exactly the way I expected. At first, I was very disappointed that Phil Collins didn’t have the time to produce the album, but when I met Steve Lillywhite, I knew he was the right man for the job. I think it’s very important to work with young people, they’re still very unrestrained and they’re not stuck to old ideas. ‘Shine’ has really become an album of the eighties.”

Frida takes a sip from her champagne and continues: “When I received the first copy, I immediately went to my home in London to listen to it and it really gave me goosebumps. I hope that other people will get that same feeling when they play my album. For me, recording an album is much like giving a piece of yourself. The music is a part of me, and with this album that feeling is stronger than ever. I’m also thinking about performing with a band. But something like that is a difficult decision. It has been a long time since I performed on stage, and the more time passes, the bigger the step gets to tour again.”
Frida gazes into the distance for a while. “I will have to give it some serious thought,” she says. “A small series of performances would be okay, but I wouldn’t be able to do it at the same level that we used to do with ABBA. Those days are gone. Everything I used to dream of, has become reality. The success, money, travelling, really everything! These days I’m concentrating more and more on the things I never had the time for. Simply lead my own, quiet life, just like any other, because I’m in desperate need of that after the hectic existence with ABBA!”

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Hitkrant, 1983: Benny Andersson: "This music will be around forever"

Although ABBA is laying low for a while when it comes to recording music, due to Frida and Agnetha’s solo activities, Benny Andersson is still busy composing. Meanwhile, he was still able to spare a little time to write down his favourite records and give his reaction on our handwriting analysis.

“This is a perfectionist, but also someone who’s very modest,” says the handwriting expert.
“This has to be a decent and precise person. A very balanced human being. With the attitude of a perfectionist. I have a feeling that this is someone who doesn’t like to be the centre of attention, in spite of it all. He or she is very modest and has a somewhat homely nature.”

“Most of all, I like music that will last for five hundred years,” according to Benny Andersson.
“When you look at my list at first glance, it may be a bit old fashioned. But I don’t believe in old fashioned and contemporary music. I only believe in music with a kind of significance for all eternity. In a manner of speaking, it must be able to last for five hundred years. The songs and albums from my list will never bore me. I learn from them, they are my biggest sources of inspiration.
What I think of that character analysis? To be honest, I think it’s all rather flattering. I’m homely indeed, and certainly a perfectionist. But that can be a flaw as well, because I’m never satisfied...”

Studio, 1999: Agnetha's cautious comeback

In the meantime she’s 49-years-old, Agnetha Fältskog, ABBA’s blonde. For years, she lived a secluded life on her estate near Stockholm. But, for the first time in many years, she speaks about ABBA and the life after the success in the documentary The Winner Takes It All.

This year, it’s 25 years ago that ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’. To commemorate that event, the BBC has made a documentary about the group in which all group-members get their say. So, Agnetha as well. She explains how difficult it has been for her. “For ten years, I didn’t play, make or listen to music. I didn’t even have a decent stereo-system. The silence has been necessary. It enabled me to catch my breath, process and recover.”

The recovery was necessary after ABBA’s overwhelming success. The band that sold hundreds of millions of records, was working at a maddening pace. It was especially difficult for Agnetha. “Sometimes it was awful. There was hysteria, obsessed fans that gave me the feeling they would never let go of me.” Apart from that, at the height of ABBA’s fame, the blonde singer had two small children with her former husband Björn. “I was torn in two. There was one part that wanted to be as successful as possible in my career, the other part just wanted to be a mother and take care of the children at home.” Due to lack of motivation with all group-members, but especially Agnetha, ABBA called it a day in 1982. The meanwhile immensely rich singer tried her hands on a solo career in the following years. Except for Sweden, that attempt wasn’t very successful.

In 1987, she radically retired from show-business to devote herself completely to her children. Since then, Agnetha turned out to be a popular victim to the Swedish media. “They write a lot of bad things about me. Some papers are saying that I’m hiding in my house like a Greta Garbo. That’s not true. I’m very normal. I simply don’t want people to know everything about me. But I have nothing to hide.” Exactly because Agnetha avoids publicity consequently, everything she does is still news. Agnetha spotted in the supermarket? The next day it can be read in the newspapers. Agnetha getting sushi from a Japanese take-out restaurant? All of Sweden knows about it. Apart from that, the strangest rumours were circulating. Agnetha wouldn’t dare to leave her house, would be severely depressed and unsociable. But she herself claimed to be an ordinary housewife, who took care of her children, took long walks with her dogs and just wanted some peace and quiet for a while. “I’m very happy,” she says in one of the rare interviews from that time. “I have new friends, I feel great.”

In 1990, she – secretly – married a Swedish surgeon. But that marriage wouldn’t last for long. Already eighteen months later, the singer filed for divorce. Now the children have left home. 25-year-old Linda played a small part in one of her dad’s musicals and debuted in a Swedish movie. Her 23-year-old son graduated from the art academy. The time seems to be right for Agnetha to go out in public again. She released a biography and a Best Of-CD and seems to have made recordings in a recording studio, but those are rumours yet again. And now the ABBA-documentary. She still didn’t want to appear on screen talking. The only images are those of her walking on her estate. Surprisingly, her appearance didn’t change much. And for the first time in many years, she thinks about her career again. “Sometimes I feel the urge to do something. A couple of years ago that would have been unthinkable. But I’m aware that I have a special voice and the door is still open for new ideas, possibilities and my music.”

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Dagblad voor Noord-Limburg, 1984: ABBA-album released only in our country

A Dutch newspaper article about the release of a compilation album, designed exclusively for the Dutch market. The record company was eager to release a new ABBA-product and since there were no new recordings available, they opted for a compilation album. The choice of songs was interesting; the album included rare B-sides such as Elaine and Cassandra, as well as the edited single versions of Frida’s To Turn The Stone and Agnetha’s Wrap Your Arms Around Me. The album was also available on CD for a short period of time.
Out of sight, out of mind, is how the old saying goes. As it turns out, this is not always applicable, considering what’s happening with ABBA at the moment. Record company Polydor, apparently tired of the fact that there’s still no ABBA-news, asked and got permission to release a special ABBA-compilation, titled ‘From ABBA With Love’.

And that is rather special, because the ABBA-clan vetoes a lot of initiatives, that don’t originate from themselves. Alas, this compilation-album will exclusively be available in our country. It includes a lot of well-known ABBA-hits, such as ‘One Of Us’, ‘The Day Before You Came’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ and ‘Head Over Heels’.
To give the album the appearance that it has something new to offer, it also includes two songs – ‘Elaine’ and ‘Cassandra’ – that haven’t been included on an album before. They are, you guessed it, single B-sides. For the time being, we can’t expect something really new from the ABBA-front. An ABBA group-album is on their schedule, but it will definitely not be released this year. As reported, Björn and Benny are working together on a musical double-album. But that won’t be released in our country until next year either. In September, Frida will release a new solo-album, on which several big names from the pop-world will co-operate.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Hitkrant, September 1982: Frida didn't want to sound like ABBA

‘Frida’ is her name now. Simply Frida. Not ‘Anni-Frid Lyngstad’ or ‘ABBA’s Anni-Frid’ or even ‘Anni-Frid’. That’s how she’s in the charts with ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’. That’s her name on the cover of the single and the album ‘Something’s Going On’. And rightfully so, because by doing that, the Swedish singer wants to emphasize that her solo outing has absolutely nothing to do with ABBA, and that she doesn’t want to sound like ABBA either. A completely new experience, as if Frida had committed her voice to tape for the first time.

On page 20 of this issue you’ll find the review of her album and it’s clear that Frida has found new ways. With the help of big names from the international pop-scene: Phil Collins, Russ Ballard, Bryan Ferry, Giorgio Moroder, Rod Argent. Well, for an ABBA-member who wants to pursue a solo career it obviously isn’t very difficult to mobilize the cream of pop.

Frida explains: “When it became known that I wanted to do a solo-album, the songs came pouring in, after I had let the cat out of the bag here and there. Hundreds of lyrics and melodies passed me by, but actually not one of them was suitable for what I had in mind. That’s when we started to approach composers and lyric-writers ourselves.”

No music and lyrics by Björn and Benny this time? “Yes, but very sporadic. I wanted something different to what we had done with ABBA up ‘til now, rock-music instead of pop-music. That’s also the reason why I invited Phil Collins to produce my album. Of course I knew Genesis, but after I had heard Phil’s single ‘In The Air Tonight’, I knew that he and no one else had to produce my album. So I called him and Phil said yes.”

For that matter, this is not Frida’s first solo-album: about six years ago ‘Frida Ensam’ was released, in Swedish by the way, and even before she started to sing with ABBA, she could be heard solo on many occasions as well, albeit with jazzy music. Still, ‘Something’s Going On’ was a very exciting experience, due to the fact that from the beginning, Frida was very closely involved in the composition, preparations, choice of material and recordings. A completely new experience.
But this doesn’t mean that cracks are starting to appear in ABBA, not even now the other ABBA-lady, Agnetha, will start recording a solo-album as well in 1983. ABBA has started recordings already for the new album that should be released next year; this year, a double compilation-album is scheduled to be released, that will include two new songs as well. ABBA is alive, but the 37-year-old Frida has a life besides that as well. ‘Something’s Going On’ is clear proof of that.

Is it any wonder, to be able to make a great album like this one, when international pop-icons are waiting in line to help you with it? It’s a bit easier for Frida than for an average artist, but this album proves that she’s a first class singer, with a voice that can sound sharp and chilly, as well as warm and intimate, an almost perfect singing technique and very convincing.
‘Something’s Going On’ is full of musical finds; the masterful production by Phil Collins is clearly perceptible everywhere (and his drum-sound recognizable everywhere), and the guitar-playing by Daryl Stuermer, the melodic bass by Mo Foster and the wide keyboard-playing by Peter Robinson are gorgeous.
Actually, I should review every track of this album separately, unfortunately: no room for that. I’ll settle for the songs that are, in my opinion, the best: ‘Baby, Don’t You Cry No More’ by Rod Argent and ‘Here We’ll Stay’ (duet with Phil Collins). Less heavy than was suggested, but a magnificent album.

Hitkrant, 1983: How I overcame my fear of marriage

By putting small ads in two of Stockholm’s biggest newspapers, Agnetha Fältskog has announced that she’s going to marry Torbjörn Brander. Three years ago, this Swedish security agent was appointed to protect the safety of the ABBA-singer’s two children. He is the man that has made Agnetha happy again and that she feels safe with. Because of Torbjörn she has overcome her fear of marriage.

When Agnetha divorced Björn Ulvaeus five years ago, tough times were ahead of her, despite the many ABBA-millions. The blonde singer was full of doubts because of her failed marriage and withdrew more and more from everyday life. She herself calls it the darkest period of her life. The many handsome men that were spotted in her company since then didn’t make her happy either. Agnetha was living just for her children. But coincidentally, love still sneaked into her life again in the shape of Torbjörn Brander, the police inspector that was responsible for Agnetha’s children.
“At first, there wasn’t talk of love,” Agnetha says. “But, during the time that my children were threatened continuously, I felt secure with Torbjörn. We became friends and he understood my problems. Our love has grown slowly.”

Friends of the police inspector are saying that Torbjörn Brander had set his sights on Agnetha two years before that. But despite his persistence, Agnetha wouldn’t consider a new marriage. She felt guilty about her failing relationship with Björn and was scared to death of a new commitment. Why is she willing to take that big step now?
“A lot can happen in a time span of five years,” Agnetha says. “Björn has happily remarried and I’m entitled to new happiness as well. Apart from that, I’ve never felt so good in the company of a man as I do now with Torbjörn. He also gets along wonderfully with my children, who have known him for three years, trust him and respect him. With Torbjörn, I’m awaiting a secure future.”

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Story, 1982: New loves are making the ABBA-girls happy again

Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Annifrid are looking satisfied and happy. The holiday that the ABBA-members have just had, has clearly done them good. It made many problems vanish into thin air...

“Before we took a couple of weeks off, the atmosphere within ABBA was particularly bad,” is what Benny recently told, “but we had used up all of our reserves. Never before did the recordings of an album take up so much time. Never before had there been conflicts in the group about the songs either. All in all, it took us almost eighteen months to complete ‘The Visitors’. So it’s no wonder that, right before the album was finished, we were getting in each other’s way constantly and were easier irritated than usually happens. I believe that especially the girls have experienced the past few months as a true torture. To be honest, Björn and I have neglected them too much during that time. But we had a lot of other things on our minds. All four of us could use a rest. That’s why we were craving for this holiday. We thought it would be wonderful to be able to think about something completely different for a while than the new album and other ABBA-business.”

Benny looked happy. Smilingly, he continued: “Mona and I have gotten married secretly on December 1. No one knew about it. But we didn’t think that was necessary. Now our first baby has finally arrived, we are so happy! There are no words to describe it... We mainly spent these days buying clothes for the baby and furnishing the nursery.”
Just like Benny, Björn was in a good mood as well. The preceding weeks, he had been occupied with homely matters as well. “My wife Lena and I have had a few wonderful weeks,” he revealed. “The children, Linda and Christian, stayed with us for a few days, which gave Agnetha some time off. Lena and I love it when the children come to visit. After all, they are just as much mine as they are Agnetha’s. Luckily, they get along great with Lena and our son...”

Both singers seemed to look at the future in a brighter mood as well. A few weeks before, the situation had been completely different: at that time, they were rather down-hearted. “We have made a few clear arrangements after our holiday,” Annifrid explained. “This enables me to spend more time with my children, Hans and Liselotte. They’re right in the middle of puberty and they need me more than ever. Apart from that, this year I would love to record a solo-album. In my spare time, I will remain singing with ABBA, just like Agnetha. You have to keep on looking at this singing as a kind of relaxation. I’ve gotten attached to it and I can’t live without it, so this seems to be the best solution. My boyfriend, Bertil Hjert, a 37-year-old vice-president of a textile company in Uppsala, agrees completely. That’s why I have a wonderful year ahead of me. I can just feel it!”

Agnetha was looking equally happy. “At a recent meeting, indeed a lot of problems have been solved,” she smiled, apparently relieved. “We’ve reached the conclusion that we don’t have to keep on recording music for the money. But all four of us enjoy it tremendously, providing that there’s a pleasant atmosphere. It’s almost impossible for Annifrid and me to continue without Benny and Björn. After all, Benny and Björn are the best songwriters in the world. We can’t write such good songs ourselves. Indeed, Benny and Björn wouldn’t like it at all if we would pursue a solo-career, because they want to continue with ABBA as well. We just don’t want to tour any longer, but in the future just record an album every now and then. Whenever we feel like it, and not because the fans want it so badly. Because all four of us started to lead separate private lives, we have neglected each other just a little bit. Because we wanted to be happy for ourselves again. That’s why we think our private lives are the most important thing right now and we will spend as much time as possible on that. I want to build a new life with my boyfriend Torbjörn Brander, who’s a detective at the Stockholm police. A life, in which he and my two children come first, and ABBA comes second. That’s why my children won’t have to miss me that often anymore. Although all of a sudden I’ve been asked to play Bobby Ewing’s new wife on the American series Dallas. As you might know, Victoria Principal will leave the show in the near future. But if I take that part, I will take Torbjörn, Linda and Christian with me to America.”

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Weekend, November 1978: ABBA conquered the world through the backdoor

In the early sixties, four English guys with, for those days, extremely long hair, dressed in tight suits with small ties, stepped into the ruthless light of the international spotlights from nowhere. The Beatles conquered the world by storm and paved the way for a completely new approach to pop-music. The Beatles went on to become a pop-phenomenon like history had never seen before. After that, actually nothing happened. When the Beatles separated, all eyes were on England and America, awaiting the arrival of their successors. But they came from a totally unexpected corner. From Sweden. Through the backdoor actually. They were called ABBA. And this unique Weekend-special is deservedly dedicated to them.

Anni-Frid was born on November the 15th 1945, as a result of a relationship between her mother and a German officer. Anni-Frid has had a very unfortunate childhood. She has never known her father and her mother died when she was still very young. The hatred and contempt that mother Lyngstad experienced in her neighbourhood became fatal. Anni-Frid left for Sweden with her grandmother, married a jazz-musician and became a mother of two children. To further her career, she divorced and singing as a jazz-singer provided her with a shabby existence. ABBA gave her peace, happiness and a home. After nine years of living together with Benny, she married him in October ’78.

Björn was born on April the 25th 1945 in Gothenburg. He is ABBA’s goodwill-man and, together with Benny Andersson, responsible for the enormous string of hits. With his Hootenanny Singers, Björn Ulvaeus was one of Sweden’s top groups until he came in contact with Benny, with the help of Stig Anderson. It turned out that he could express his passion for music to the max, together with him.

Benny Andersson saw the light of day in the Swedish capital on December the 16th 1946. He is ABBA’s bearded piano-player and a former Swedish rock-idol, for whom screaming teenagers flocked together in the mid sixties and fell into a fainting-fit of pure adulation. When it comes to musical origin, Benny is the complete opposite of colleague Björn. Benny was the untamed rock-star who left his wife and children to devote himself completely to the music. ABBA has calmed him down and polished his talents.

Agnetha was born on April the 5th 1950 in the Swedish match-city Jönköping. She is ABBA’s blonde beauty, married to guitarist Björn Ulvaeus since 1971 and mother of two children. Agnetha was a fairly successful solo-singer who turned her naive image into her trademark. And she continues to do so in ABBA.

The private problems that the four of them were experiencing before their time with ABBA were enlarged upon after their breakthrough.
ABBA combines cool Swedish solidity with American show-perfection, South European passion and utopian joy and happiness. When, on top of that, two out of the three directors not only provide the hits but interpret them as well, is it any wonder that the ABBA-machine is running so smoothly?
ABBA has always been exposed to criticism and has had to clear up scandals and gossip on numerous occasions. Most of the time, it happens with a smile, like the time when a marriage announcement for Anni-Frid and Benny had to be invalidated or when Anni-Frid was being accused of using ABBA as a tool to enhance the sales of her solo-records. But every now and then, the accusations become too much, even for the ever smiling ABBA-members. With the sincere anger of a mother, the fiery, red-haired Anni-Frid snapped, when rumours were circulating that she had abandoned her children from her broken marriage to rush into a musical adventure. “My ex-husband and I got divorced in mutual agreement. The children are most happy with him and it would have been pretty selfish to take them with me to Stockholm.” This was basically Anni-Frid’s answer to the accusations in the Swedish tabloids.

Luckily, nasty experiences like this are just exceptions; ABBA has more ups than downs. With much fondness, the foursome obviously thinks back to their international breakthrough with ‘Waterloo’ at the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in 1974. They still laugh their heads off when they think of Björn and Benny being halted at the stage-entrance, not even being able to collect their fairly deserved award. And they’re still grateful to that Dutch TV-producer, who was the only one to contract ABBA for a performance before their breakthrough. After ABBA, and especially Agnetha in her almost indecently tight stage-costume, had won over Brighton and the judges of the Contest with their new sound, the world was at their feet. Apart from Volvo, ABBA rapidly became Sweden’s biggest export article.

ABBA’s sense for public relations continues in their private lives as well. Björn and Agnetha’s wedding in 1971 was planned in the summer because the media would have their off-season then and they would publish a wedding like this as important news. Like so many times before, Stig Anderson was proven right. The wedding turned into the main occasion of the summer of 1971. The moment that Björn and Benny were appointed as co-directors of Polar Music was front page news as well. This happened after Stig Anderson’s co-founder of the company, Bengt Bernhag, had passed away. Anderson’s innate aversion to strangers brought him yet another lucky hit.
Together with Benny and Björn, he turned Polar Music into one of the world´s largest music publishing companies and together with the twosome he produced the string of ABBA-hits that his co-directors interpret themselves to the max. A formula like that can hardly be beaten.