Sunday, 9 January 2011

Hitkrant, November 1992: Björn from ABBA crushes all hope: “It’s definitely over”

Once they were the most popular group in the world and sold more records than the Beatles: 200 million copies. Their name is frequently mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records. This year, 10 years after they disbanded, they are at number one in the album charts again in many countries around the globe with their compilation album ‘ABBA Gold’. This accomplishment was the incentive for wild speculations about a possible reunion of the group. In a rare interview with former ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus we get a clear answer to that question...

Björn rubs his beard thoughtfully. We are in Stockholm at his home, where the embassy of Iceland was formerly residing.
“To get straight to the point: no, we will not get back together again. Never again. When we split up in 1981, that was definitely the end, and it will remain that way. I don’t believe in a half-baked comeback. I think it’s a little pathetic, all these old guys that go out on tour again after having been separated for years.”
But you have once said that you think it’s a shame that you’ve never been able to perform in places like Moscow or Rio de Janeiro. What if you were offered 10 million dollars right now to do a show in Moskow?
“No, the answer would still be no, I’m afraid.”
What about the rumour that you were going to release a new single around Christmas?
“That’s not true either. Pure fantasy.”
Only a couple of months after ABBA had won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with ‘Waterloo’, rumours started circulating that the two married couples weren’t getting along privately. Eventually, both Benny and Frida as well as Björn and Agnetha got divorced. Now it is rumoured that especially these personal circumstances are getting in the way of a reunion. It’s denied by Björn with emphasis. Doesn’t matter, at least this conversation is setting the record straight.
“Obviously, there have been certain disagreements between us, but after the divorces had been settled, peace and harmony returned. Now we are getting along in a civilized manner. I have two children from my marriage to Agnetha, that’s why I see her every two weeks. And although Frida is living in Zürich in Switzerland these days, every two months she comes to Stockholm and she always pops in to say hello.”
So, the divorces haven’t been the cause of ABBA breaking up?
“No, we have always said that we would quit when the fire and the energy was gone. And that was what happened. Even the thought of having to get back into the studio had become unbearable. First, we agreed that we wouldn’t see each other for some time and go our separate ways for a while, but this period became longer and longer and then it was over.”
Björn’s wife Lena, a copy writer by profession, enters the room and she puts down some snacks and drinks. She has a striking resemblance to Agnetha. I ask him how long they have been married now.
“About 10 years. When Agnetha and I split up, I was planning to paint the city red and get the most out of my life as a bachelor. Only one week later, I met Lena, fell head over heels in love with her and five months later we got married.”
How dit you meet?
“At a party at Benny’s home. I thought she was wonderful. It was love at first sight. She is beautiful and has a great sense of humour. I think I have a strong urge to settle down. Either way, I do believe that men have the tendency to fall into the arms of a new partner sooner than women after a divorce.”
Is Lena into music?
“She has good taste, definitely. But professionally, she doesn’t have anything to do with music. She is in the advertising business. She has a career of her own, but she does help me with mine. I always sing my lyrics to her, because she speaks English much better than I do and because she knows a lot about literature. She gives me excellent advice.”
You have two children from your marriage to Agnetha and two with Lena. Are they important to you?
“They are the absolute highligh of my life. The oldest is now 19, she wants to become an actress. I’m not too happy about that. I would rather see that she wouldn’t pursue that. About 60 percent of all the actors and actresses are unemployed. It’s the toughest profession in the world. I remember that we were having auditions for ‘Chess’ (a musical written by Björn and Benny). I felt so sorry for all these people. They had to be at their best, and still there’s only a tiny chance to get picked.”
‘Chess’ was the most successful project by Björn and Benny after ABBA. Frida scored a couple of hits in collaboration with Phil Collins and Agnetha could be found on the charts two or three times as well. During ‘Chess’, Björn and Lena bought a house in London, but two years ago they returned to Sweden. How did ‘Chess’ come into being?
“Benny and I had enough of performing. So we decided to sit back in our studio and do some things there, writing for others. In the first instance, that was ‘Chess’. After that we only did something together occasionally. Actually, it’s only since last year, when Lena and I moved back to Sweden, that it got a little more again. At the moment, we are working on a musical about one of the most popular Swedish books, it’s about Swedish immigrants in America around 1850. We’ve searched for a good subject for a long time. We wanted to make use of the Swedish literature, just like the French and the Brits. It’s a hell of a job. The book has 2000 pages and we have to shorten it into a three hour musical.”
ABBA always had the image of a clean and decent pop group for all ages. Fresh and cheerful. Were you like that in reality?
“Not one hundred percent, no. Look, there was no danger that we would fall for sex, drugs and other excesses. We were two married couples, no Rolling Stones or something like that. Not that there weren’t any fans that offered themselves very clearly, in a sexual way you know, but of course we didn’t react to that. But this doesn’t mean that we never got drunk or smoked a joint.”
It appears that Agnetha is living like a recluse somewhere on an island and that she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the outer world. How did that come about?
“Out of the four of us, Agnetha has always been the most sensitive one. The enormous pressure of the fame has always been the hardest on her. Apart from that, she has gone through some nasty experiences. The worst one was that our children were threatened to be kidnapped at some point. I managed to deal with that, but for Agnetha it wasn’t that simple. I think that’s why she withdrew a little from the world outside. The thing that she hated the most was flying. Many times, we had to talk her into boarding a plane. She was scared to death. It all started once when she was on a private plane that ended up in a thunderstorm. That almost went wrong.”
In conclusion, what is – according to you – ABBA’s most important contribution to the history of pop music?
“We have opened the doors for all non-American and non-British bands to still be able to achieve a breakthrough in America and England. Before ABBA, that was almost unheard-of. And just look what happened afterwards with A-ha, Roxette, Europe. Apart from that, I think that we breathed new life into the pop song in its purest form. That’s why they are still hits now. We produced some immortal melodies and I am very, very proud of that.”

4 comments:

Monica said...

Very interesting article. Thank you for translating it.

Anonymous said...

This article seems to be very good, but there's a wrong information on it, that makes me doubtful about the article. It's said that Björn and Lena got married five months after their first meeting, but it's not truth absolutely, because they got married in 1981! It's a gross error.
But, of course, thanks for the article.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, but I really think Björn was/is the most pessimist ABBA member about the own ABBA. The coldest about his own band.

Anonymous said...

I think it`s a true article.
You have to imagine that once the threat of kidnapping the own children. As a mother you must be mad with fear for 24-hours per day!!! And than keep smile for the world . . .