Part two of the Bravo series about the ABBA-members.
How does Benny Andersson create the ABBA-superhits? How does he live privately? For the first time, he reveals in an interview what no one knew about him yet...
Bravo: For three years, you’ve been writing the melodies to the ABBA-hits. Are you a genius?
Benny: “For heaven’s sake, no. I’ve just learned my craft from the basics. I originate from a very musical family, I learned how to play the flute when I was four years old, and the accordion when I was six. For years to come, this remained my favourite instrument. My parents and I were performing as a trio with Swedish folk music. Around my place of birth Stockholm, I was even some kind of child star and – barely being able to write – had to sign autographs.”
Bravo: When did your pop career start?
Benny: “Already when I was seventeen years old, not many ABBA-fans are aware of that these days. At the time, 1963, the Beatles had their first hit in Sweden with ‘Love Me Do’ and I was fascinated by this new sound. After a long discussion with my father, I left our family trio and founded the Beat group Hep Stars. It didn’t take long before we were called ‘Sweden’s answer to the Beatles’. Around this time, I started to compose my first songs and managed to score my first number one hits in Sweden. Altogether, the Hep Stars received eight gold records, four of these were entirely my compositions. At the time, I thought I was the best, I gladly let myself be celebrated as a star at parties and for a while I had five girlfriends at the same time...”
Bravo: That’s the complete opposite of the current state of affairs, since ABBA is known as the ‘cleanest’ group in the world...
Benny: “Like every young man between 17 and 20, I had some wild times as well. That’s simply how it should be. I don’t like to talk about it much these days, because Anni-Frid tends to get a little annoyed by it.”
Bravo: Did you ever flirt with Anna?
Benny: “A little, obviously, when we just started out. I’m a curious guy and I wanted to find out how Anna is like, whether she liked me. She really delighted me, to be honest. But that was just playing with fire. I’ve never made any serious attempts, because for me, the girlfriend of a mate like Björn is obviously off-limits.”
Bravo: What do you like especially about Anni-Frid?
Benny: “She is a passionate woman in every situation, it doesn’t matter if she’s at home cooking or dancing around like a teenager in a discotheque. Although we have been together for seven years already and have two children, our relationship is full of surprises. Recently, when I came home, Anni-Frid was waiting for me, wearing the same miniskirt that she wore when we first met. This really blew me away...”
Bravo: According to rumours, all ABBA-hits are being composed on an island, the location of which you won’t reveal. Is that true?
Benny: “Indeed, that island exists. It takes an hour to get there (by boat) from Stockholm and it’s so small that you can get around it once in five minutes. Björn, Anna, Anni-Frid and I have two houses there. We spend most of our time there when we are working on new songs.”
Bravo: Do the ABBA-songs come into being with a special formula?
Benny: “Usually, I come up with the melody and Björn with the lyrics. In the beginning, we work separately. While Björn – who’s best at speaking English – is writing the words, I’m simply jingling away on my keyboard, at which only my dog Zappa is allowed to listen in. As soon as I like a melody, I’m singing some dummy lyrics to it in the vein of ‘the pigs have crooked legs and a curly pig-tail’. Very often, children’s songs give me an idea as well. When this work is roughly done, I play it to Björn, who then writes a decent lyric to it. It often takes hundreds of hours of work before an ABBA-song is completely finished. We’ve worked a full three months on ‘Money, Money, Money’, before we were really satisfied. More than a dozen of concepts have been thrown in the waste-paper basket...”
Bravo: With this busy working schedule, is there any time left for some spare time and hobbies? Benny: “We simply take the time. I’m now 30 years old and I don’t want to die from a cardiac arrest when I’m 35. I’m keeping fit with cycling, tennis and sailing. Apart from that, I see to it that I’m not bothered in my private life. The only magazine in the world that is allowed to visit us privately, is Bravo...”