Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Hitkrant, 1992: The ABBA-story, a road of hits and divorces

A 4-page article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant, published in 1992 during the ABBA revival. The information is not quite accurate here and there. For instance, it says that Frida's father died when his ship sank and in the last pic, Benny and Björn's names are mixed up, but that wouldn't be the last time.
After 16 years, ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ is in the European charts again. Although the Swedish supergroup split up eight years ago, their musical heritage keeps on capturing everyone’s imagination. Groups like Erasure, Björn Again and The Radios are no longer hiding their admiration for the four Swedes. Time to recapture the ABBA-story in pictures.

1. Björn Ulvaeus was born on April 25th 1945 in Gothenburg. He got his first guitar when he was 12. He started out playing in a skiffle- and dixieland-group. In the early sixties, he started the folk-band Westbay Singers, with a couple of school-friends. During that time, Björn and Co. came in contact with Stig Anderson, president of Polar Records and later on ABBA’s manager. He was able to persuade the boys to change the name of their group into The Hootenanny Singers.

2. Benny Andersson was born on December 16th 1946 in Stockholm. “I’ve learned all about music from my father and grandfather, who both played the accordion,” Benny explains. “I never had any tuition in music.” At the age of six, he got his first accordion, consisting of bellows. At first, Benny was a member of the group Elverkets Spelmanslag and after that The Hep Stars, a band that achieved eight golden records and therefore was the best group in Sweden at that time.3. Frida – officially Anni-Frid – Lyngstad was born on November 15th 1945 in Björnkasen in Norway. Her mother died when Frida was eighteen months old. Her father, a German marine officer, died when his ship sank. At the age of two, Frida lived with her grandmother in Sweden. It wouldn’t take long for her to be caught by the music bug. She was eleven years old when she first performed. At the age of thirteen, she sang with a group that played Eastern music. For a while, she sang jazz as well with Bengt Sandlunds Big Band. Until she met Benny Andersson, whom she married, and got to know pop-music. She won a national talent competition with the song ‘En Ledig Dag’. After that, Frida built a solo-career with the help of Benny as her producer.

4. Agnetha Fältskog was born on April 5th 1950 in Jönköping. She was 15 years old when she started to sing with Bengt Enghardt’s orchestra in Huskvarna. Before that, she worked at a big garage as a telephonist. Soon, music was the only important thing for her as well.

5. Björn and Benny met each other in ’66, when The Hep Stars helped out The Hootenanny Singers, because some members of that last group were called to the military service and had to cancel a performance. At a party, Benny and Björn came to the conclusion they both had the same musical ideas. Together, they wrote the hit ‘Isn’t It Easy To Say’ for The Hep Stars. That song sealed the artistic union between Björn and Benny. When The Hep Stars came to an end in ’69, they both continued as producers. In ’70, Björn met Agnetha, they were married on July 7th ’71 in Verum. Shortly after that, the first joint single was released: ‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’, under the group name Agnetha Björn Benny Anni-Frid. In ’73, the third single ‘Ring Ring’ became the first international success. At the time, Agnetha was pregnant with her daughter Linda.

6. and 7. The breakthrough came one year later, in ’74. Under the name ABBA (the initials of their four names) they won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’. In a time span of two and a half years, the group sold more records than any other group, except The Beatles. In their home country, the band achieved sales figures of 600.000 units for each album. ‘ABBA – The Album’, released in ’77, reached platinum status in Hong Kong, gold in France and the USA, and double platinum in Canada.

8. ’77: the feature film ‘ABBA – The Movie’ had its premiere.

9. In ’78, the hits kept on coming: ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘Eagle’/’Thank You For The Music’ and ‘Summer Night City’.

10. ’79 was a very successful year, with one top 5 hit after the other: ‘Chiquitita’, ‘Does Your Mother Know’, ‘Voulez-Vous’, ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ and ‘I Have A Dream’. In the picture: Benny and manager Stig Anderson with an award for selling more than 500.000 copies of ‘Chiquitita’ in the UK.

11. In ’80, the highly acclaimed and mature album ‘Super Trouper’ and the hitsingle of the same name were released. Arrangements as well as lyrics became more profound.

12. Despite the fact that the album ‘The Visitors’ and the single ‘One Of Us’ did very well, in ’81 rumours about a possible split were circulating. The reports were fuelled by the divorces between Benny/Frida and Björn/Agnetha. Björn started a new relationship immediately with Lena Kallersjo. “When Agnetha and I separated, I realized I wanted to fall in love again as soon as possible. I’m not cut out to remain single,” according to Björn. Frida’s reaction to her separation from Benny was totally different: “I’m happy for the years that I’ve spent with Benny, but on the other hand the divorce is a relief. I’m able to start a whole new life. For the first time in my life I’m all by myself and I enjoy it.”

13. Still, the ABBA-story hadn’t ended yet. In ’82 the hits ‘Head Over Heels’ and ‘The Day Before You Came’ were released.
14. Frida recorded her solo-album ‘Something’s Going On’, with Phil Collins as her producer, and on drums.

15. In ’83, Agnetha made a solo sidestep as well. She worked with producer Mike Chapman (Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro, Smokie) on her solo-record ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’. All of this didn’t get in the way of the group’s success. ‘Under Attack’ became another top hit for ABBA.

16. ’84: the hitsingle ‘Thank You For The Music’ turned out to be the swansong of the influential and extremely popular group that ABBA eventually was. Björn and Benny were finally able to give their attention to a prestigious project outside the supergroup: together with musical-composer Tim Rice they staged the musical ‘Chess’.

17. Although the separate group members are still active in the music business every now and then (after all, it’s in their blood), none of them think it’s that necessary any longer. Frida, Agnetha, Björn and Benny have made an enormous amount of money during the years, so they are able to retire without a problem. For instance, the musical engine Benny is living quietly with his current wife Lena in the English countryside, in Oxfordshire.

No comments: