It’s now exactly ten years ago since their first single was released. It was called ‘People Need Love’, at the time the four Swedes weren’t called ABBA yet, but Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid.
However, not too many people seemed to care for that record at the time, because only 10.200 copies were sold. But the four were already used to working very hard for their individual careers to let that stop them.
One year later, they released their first single sung in German – ‘Ring Ring’ – the song that didn’t manage to win the Swedish heats for the Eurovision Song Contest but still hit the big time. In 1974, they were selected to fly to Brighton as Sweden’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Meanwhile Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida (who is called Anni-Frid in her passport) had renamed themselves ABBA, taken from their four initials.
In the group, there was a strict division of responsibilities. Benny composed the songs, Björn wrote the lyrics (because he mastered the English language the best) and the arrangements, while Agnetha was responsible for their choreography and stage show and Frida designed the costumes.
Their focused preparation would pay off: as the first Swedish group ever, ABBA won the contest with ‘Waterloo’.
Benny still remembers this day very well: “After our victory we realised that the world was opening up for us. We only had to prove that it hadn’t been a chance hit.”
Undoubtedly, they succeeded at that, after nine times gold, eight times platinum and a further three times gold for more than 750.000 records sold. But Björn admits wholeheartedly: “There are songs that should have been left unwritten. There are others of which we are still proud today. Among them are ‘Dancing Queen’ (1976), ‘Thank You For The Music’ (1978) and ‘The Winner Takes It All’ (1980).”
Do you actually come up with these songs just like that?
Benny: “No, after so many songs it’s actually getting more difficult. You still want to better yourself and therefore you have to pass on a lot. Apart from that, it’s often difficult for me to restrict myself to songs that don’t last longer than five minutes at the most. That’s why I’m looking forward to the musical that I’m going to write with Björn. Then I can finally let off some steam.”
How do the ABBA lyrics come into being?
Björn: “About one year ago, I bought a new house in Stockholm together with Lena. It has about 700 square feet living space and a huge library. I get the best inspiration there.”
Do you still remember the start of your musical career?
Benny: “Sure, I was 14 or 15 years old, walked around with grease (pomade) in my hair, wearing baggy jackets and I was extremely into the German singer Caterina Valente. I’ve watched her movie ‘Du Bist Musik’ several times in the cinema. Still today, I have some of her records. Then I discovered Elvis Presley and I knew that something important was happening in the music scene.”
Björn: “With me, it all started at the age of 12, when I got a guitar and an instruction manual from my father. By listening to rock records, I learned to play the instrument myself.”