Sunday, 13 June 2010

Popshop, May 1977: Intimate portrait, Anni-Frid (from ABBA)

Anni-Frid is the fourth, auburn-haired, female part of ABBA. She was born on November 15, 1945 in the Norwegian town Narvik. Two years later she moved to Sweden, where she first lived in Torshälla and later on in Eskilstuna (near Stockholm). When she was only thirteen, she already was a singer with an orchestra in a restaurant club. She tried to appear a little older than her actual age and told the manager that she was sixteen. A while later, she had her own dance orchestra, the Anni-Frid Four. She fell in love with the bass player of the orchestra, Ragnar Fredriksson, to whom she got married even before she turned sixteen, because her first child, Hans, was on its way. Later on, she had a little daughter, Lise. When she was eighteen, she won a talent competition in Vasteras with the song ‘Besame Mucho’ (she had picked up the little Spanish that she knew on her honeymoon). This led to a television show and quite a few performances in the Swedish folk parks and to international song contests in Japan and Venezuela. Later on she met Benny, at the time a member of the Hep Stars, and ABBA was already in the making.

Anni-Frid, by some people you are described as ABBA’s mysterious woman. How did that image come about?
“I don’t know actually. Maybe it’s because I’m rather silent. I was also the last member to join ABBA. Most of the time, I’m also in the shadow of the others. Anna with her long blonde hair attracts more attention as well. Maybe it’s because of my childhood, my past?”
Is it true that you have had a rather mysterious and unusual childhood?
“You might call it that. My mother was Norwegian, her name was Synni Lyngstad. She was nineteen years old and completely inexperienced when she met the German officer Alfred Haase towards the end of the war. The Norwegian people didn’t like the German occupants and everyone disapproved of the relationship. The end of the war drew near and Alfred Haase disappeared. My mother was left behind and I was born. When she was twenty-one, she died. No one has ever known what happened to my father. According to my grandmother, who raised me, my father had promised that he would return. But having a child from a German was a disgrace in Norway. That’s why my grandmother moved to Sweden. We could start a new life there. I’m very grateful to my grandmother. She was like a real mother to me. Her entire life, she slaved away to make sure that I was doing well. She also taught me how to sing. As a child, Norwegian and Swedish folk songs. When I was only ten years old, I already sang at birthday parties. No, my childhood wasn’t really unhappy...”
And your first marriage?
“I was very young. I also looked older than I actually was. But the marriage was a mistake, despite the two children. Did you know that our parents planned the wedding? And we didn’t know any better. I suffered most because of the children. When my singing career started to take off, I had to move to Stockholm, away from the children. No one understands how something like that can make you suffer. In the eyes of other people, I was a smiling, happy star. But inside I was a mess. What hurt me most was the gossip talk. People who said that I had deserted my children. One big lie. I wanted them with me, in Sweden. But Ragnar, who was always very understanding, didn’t mind at all and luckily he took care of the children. The children were better off with him than with me. My apartment was far too small for them. But believe me: I shed quite a few tears because of this!”
How did you meet Benny?
“Simply the way it usually goes. Benny, Björn and Agnetha were together already. I was on tour, they were as well. We met each other in the bar of a hotel. Nothing special. Of course I knew him already. The Hep Stars were the most famous group in Sweden at the time. But that first meeting didn’t mean much. We had a couple of beers together. We said hello and goodbye. I didn’t expect that we would meet again in the near future. But a while later, we were in the same television show again. Benny invited me to have diner together and we talked for hours and suddenly we realised that we clicked in one way or another. The divorce between Ragnar and me had just been finalized. We separated as friends. I felt very lonely at the time. I believe that Benny came into my life just in time. I never told this to anyone, but I was sitting alone in my apartment all the time and missed the children terribly. I started to wonder if it was all worth it. I really considered to give up my career and return to my family and children. I think that I missed the safety net of a marriage.”
What’s your opinion about sex?
“Normal. Like most Swedes’ opinion about sex is, but that doesn’t seem to be interpreted the same way in other countries. But I have the impression that we, as Swedes, look at things in a more honest, open and tolerant way. I also lived together with my first husband for a couple of months before we got married, likewise with Benny. Here, it’s being called a ‘Stockholm marriage’. On April 1, 1970 Benny and I started living together. I still remember as if it was yesterday. It was in a tiny apartment. It was so tiny that there was only room for the double bed or Benny’s piano. Benny, a musician in every sense of the word, couldn’t miss his piano. But still we preferred to have the double bed. For the time being that is. Although we are not legally married, we still celebrate the first of April as our wedding day. We even exchange cards and presents, why would it be different from couples who are actually married?”
Who has hurt you the most in your life?
“The people from the gossip press. They showed pictures of me and my first husband, together with the children, and wrote: ‘Anni-Frid abandoned this happy family life for Benny Andersson from the Hep Stars...’. I think this has to be settled once and for all. The divorce had been finalized already long before I met Benny for the first time. It wasn’t a sudden decision. In fact, it’s much easier for me to talk to Ragnar now than when we were still married.”
How do your children respond to Benny, their ‘second’ daddy?
“As often as possible, we try to see them, visit them or have them with us. I don’t want to be separated from my children at all. They get along great with Benny. Why wouldn’t they?”
Don’t you ever argue with Benny?
“Of course I do. Our squabbles have become legendary, maybe not as hot-tempered as the bickering between Björn and Agnetha. At a party at Björn’s home, I once threw coffee cups at Benny. He just stood there smiling, he didn’t get mad at all and that got my temper to boiling point even more. It’s very difficult to get Benny angry. Our personalities are completely different. I like to make plans, I want everything to go according to plan. And Benny, he likes to let things take their course. He doesn’t bother with anything.”
Anni-Frid, it is known that Benny is very fond of classical music. What kind of music do you like best?
“Nothing classical for me. I like quite a few female vocalists and... jazz, from New Orleans to contemporary.”
What irritates you the most?
“In the past especially when I realised that I wasn’t a bad singer myself but noticed that less talented singers were more successful than me! It bothered me enormously but I think that it made me even more ambitious to get ahead in this business. Now that’s all over. Now there aren’t many things that still irritate me.”
What do you think is one of your lesser qualities?
“That I’m too introverted. Due to the fact that I didn’t have the essential warmth and personality, things didn’t go as I wanted initially. I come across as being rather cold with the people.”
Who do you admire the most now?
“Benny! I knew that I had a good voice, technically very good, I could sing in a loud and soft way, but according to Benny too much like an instrument. He helped me cross that bridge. Thanks to him I am what I am today. Now I’m able to move across the stage. I come across in a nicer way.”
Are you superstitious?
“You bet! After we had won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton with ‘Waterloo’, I wore my broad-brimmed sombrero everywhere, as some kind of lucky charm. Rumour had it that I never took off that sombrero because I didn’t have time to wash my hair.”
Is it true that you left the group for a while after ‘Waterloo’?
“Not exactly. About one year after our Eurovision victory, I recorded the album ‘Frida’ (that’s how my friends are calling me) on my own. It became an enormous success: more than 100.000 copies were sold. People wanted to see me on television as a solo artist again, but our manager objected. It would have damaged the image of the group.”
How do you react to criticism?
“I accept criticism on us and myself, when it’s well-founded. But the past few years it’s been envy that made critics grab their pen. Especially in Sweden, there has been a lot of moaning because we were so successful all over the world. And because we made so much money. Why is making a lot of money a bad thing? Everybody wants it, right? Everybody wants to be successful. You have to work hard to reach the top, we’ve had to do that as well. These people seem to forget that we’ve been slaving away for years for a pittance. Now it’s caviar and champagne in Hilton hotels, but a few years ago it was a glass of milk and a sandwich in some obscure motel.”
How do you see your future?
“Undefinable. The money is starting to pour in, but what do you do with it in a country where you have to pay 85 percent to taxes? We have to invest, business wise, in buildings, shares, we have to think about our future. No, we are not cheap. We have finally been able to buy ‘our island’ and we live in new houses, in one of Stockholm’s better neighbourhoods. And I have my own Maserati now. But that’s all. For the rest, we are still the same as we used to be. Working hard with too little time off...”

3 comments:

Karin said...

Michel,

Many thanks for again a wonderful article on one of the ABBA's. I do not react every time you put a new article on your blog, but at least twice a week I check your website to see if there is a new one! As you know I have most of the old Popfoto and Hitkrant articles, but I am very excited about the articles from magazines in Germany and Belgium. Really love it! I know it costs you a lot of time and work, but please know that it is very much appreciated by a lot of (old) ABBA fan! I am one of your "fans". Kind regards, Karin

Michel said...

Karin, thanks so much for your appreciation! Always good to hear that people are enjoying the blog.

Ivana said...

Hi Michel,

Finally got some time to go through all the wonderful posts since July...

This is a very interesting interview and seems pretty frank, but I guess "Frida" was actually "Ensam". :)

I had to laugh at "Benny doesn't bother with anything". That seems so much like him.