Sunday 31 August 2008

Story, 1982: ABBA's Frida could never be truly young - "I already became a mother when I was sixteen years old"

An article from Dutch gossip magazine Story. This interview actually seems genuine, there's even a picture of Frida and the reporter included.
ABBA's Frida: "Alone, but not lonely"
Frida, the popular singer from the succesful Swedish group ABBA, has gone through a difficult time. Her second marriage ended. Still, she kept on seeing her ex-husband, Benny, almost on a daily basis. Frida is now working hard on a solo career. Her new album has been received very well and Frida is beaming again. Openly, she tells Story that she does have a boyfriend, but she'd rather be alone for the time being.
Singer Frida (from the group ABBA) has made some important decisions concerning her private life as well as her career. She left her husband, Benny Andersson, and some time after that she surprised everyone with a solo album. On top of that, the appearance of the singer underwent a drastic change. In an exclusive interview with Story, the 36-year-old Frida was willing to share her reasons for these radical changes in her life...
“I’ve made amends with the past,” Frida Lyngstad starts our conversation. “I want to lead a whole new life!” During the two (fully booked) days that Frida is in Holland, the sympathetic singer still has found the time for an interview with Story. And the first thing that strikes me, sitting opposite her, is that she looks incredibly youthful. “I thought that my new life needed a new look as well. That’s why I changed my hairdo and my clothes drastically. Firstly, I’ve let my hair cut short and about every three months I change it into a different colour. At the moment I like purple very much, so that’s why my hair is that colour now. But I might change it into red next week. Furthermore, lately I wear only clothes that I really like myself. I don’t think twice whether specific clothing suits my age. Age doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. I just wear what I like. And that’s it.”
It’s truly unbelievable how radiant and young she looks. With her bright coloured hair and mini skirt, the 36-year-old Frida looks at least ten years younger. “That’s how I feel as well,” she continues cheerfully. “When I was fifteen years old, I met my first husband. And when I was sixteen, I became pregnant with our son. So I hardly had the time to be really young, and I’m making up for that lost time now. Now I’m doing a lot of things that I missed out on being a young girl. For instance, I finally have the time to go out shopping with some girlfriends. I think that’s delightful. And I’m really planning to enjoy this life of freedom for a while to come. After my divorce from Benny I haven’t met anyone whom I’d want to marry again. I do have a boyfriend. His name is Bertil Hjert and he’s a fashion designer. I love him very much, but I’m not ready for a commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against marriage. And I’m not saying I will never remarry again, but for the time being I have no plans in that direction.”
From her first marriage, Frida has a fifteen-year-old daughter (Liselotte) and a nineteen-year-old son (Hans), with whom she’s very close. “Liselotte is attending highschool in America,” Frida says. “But during the holidays she stays with me. Lotte thinks it’s wonderful that I look so fashionable nowadays and after the holiday she returned to America with a suitcase full of clothes that she found in my closet. Hans is in the music business as well, but he’s mainly interested in the technical side. Since one year he’s not living at home anymore, but he still comes to visit his ‘old’ mother on a regular basis. By the way, it was Liselotte who gave me the idea to record a solo album. She played a solo album by Phil Collins to me and I thought his arrangements and drumsound were just marvellous. I suddenly got the urge to record an album of my own. Luckily this was possible at Polydor. And I wanted to ask Phil Collins to produce this record. It all came together and since a few months my solo album ‘Something’s Going On’ is out in the shops.” Of course, after all this everyone wondered whether this album would mean the end of ABBA, but Frida says very decidedly that all four of them don’t consider that yet. “We work very pleasantly together,” she says with emphasis. “That’s why we don’t see any reason to put an end to ABBA. On the other hand, the group has now existed for ten years and of course we can’t go on forever. In the near future, a new album and a special album will be released and probably that won’t be the last ABBA-records.”
“Still, I’m considering doing another solo album in a while. Because I enjoy it tremendously.” Agnetha, ABBA’s blonde singer, has recorded a solo single as well. And that single, ‘Never Again’, is also a taster for her own solo album. “I know there are rumours going round that Agnetha is trying to copy me because she would be jealous of my success. But there’s no truth in that whatsoever. Agnetha and I are good friends and we both have been playing with the idea of a solo album for a while. Only, my album was released before hers. Just like me, Agnetha wanted to try a different kind of music after ten years of ABBA, and of course this wasn’t possible within the group. Hence our solo albums. For me personally it was important to not only make some changes in my private life, but I thought my career needed a breath of fresh air as well. That’s what happened now. And I haven’t regretted all those changes for one second. On the contrary, I feel like I’ve started my second childhood. I think that's delightful!”

Saturday 30 August 2008

Pop Foto, July 1983: Never again will ABBA go abroad for their holiday

How many people are planning to board a plane this month to enjoy their holiday in a warm and sunny country? Probably a lot, but ABBA won’t be among them. Agnetha tells us why...

“Actually, there’s only one disadvantage of being famous and that’s the constant intrusion on your private life.” Agnetha looks into the distance seriously and continues: “Really, I don’t mind at all doing interviews and having my photograph taken, as long as it’s related to my work. For instance, something that happened recently just went a bit too far. Pictures of me had been taken while I was walking around with a fat belly. Along with these pictures, something was written like: poor Agnetha, heavily pregnant and on top of that left by her man. Well, that was a pure lie, because at that time I was playing the part of a pregnant woman in the movie ‘Raskenstam’. Can you imagine how I felt? I was furious!”
Agnetha takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” she apologizes, “but when I think of that vicious gossip, I get angry all over again. I have extensive talks with my children Linda and Christian about things like this and I hope they can protect themselves against it just a little. Indeed, they have to stay away from my children more than anything!”

Can you still find the time to spend with your children, we ask, following her words.
“Oh yes, of course,” she answers convincingly. “You might think otherwise, but I have lots of spare time. When you’re working on a record, you’re working intensely only for a certain period. For instance, every day for three months. But when the record is finished, things get considerably quieter. And you can bet that I know how to enjoy myself! Firstly, I’m there for the children, but apart from that I can walk for hours with my dog. We have a Leonberger, that’s just as big (and just as beautiful) as a Saint Bernard dog and therefore needs lots of exercise. Furthermore, I love to read and go to the sauna. Wonderful! If there’s one place I can relax completely, it’s right there. Although I’m a very calm person myself. I’m not easily stressed.”

Agnetha takes a break and sips from her mineral water. “My, you get thirsty from all this chatting,” she smiles and then continues: “I always see to it that I’m free during the summer months and we spend that time at our summer house. We always did that with ABBA as well.”
Didn’t you ever go abroad for your holiday? “Oh no, that wasn’t possible,” the blonde singer reacts smilingly. “I’m scared to death of flying! And since we live all the way up north, the sunny south is rather far away. Oh well, we did have a wonderful summer house then where we enjoyed our holidays with the whole group. On top of that, Sweden is a wonderful country with beautiful summers, so it simply isn’t necessary to go abroad. For my career, I’ve had to spend enough scary hours on a plane. That’s why I travelled to Holland by bus and boat this time. It takes me two days to travel over here, but you get to see a lot more than on a plane. The landscape is beautiful. I can highly recommend it, haha. But a holiday abroad? No, we never did that and I guess it will never happen either...”

Pop Foto, November 1982: The 26 surprises of ABBA

An article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto, announcing the upcoming release of the album The Singles - The First Ten Years.
In November, a year has already passed since the release of the last ABBA-album ‘The Visitors’. Except for Frida’s solo-venture, we’ve heard very little from the foursome since then. Anyhow, that’s all going to change now.

The four ABBA-members didn’t exactly sit around and do nothing the past few months. Frida, for instance, has been very busy with her solo album ‘Something’s Going On’. Agnetha could be found on the set of a Swedish movie, in which she’s playing one of the leading parts. Apart from that, she recorded the song ‘Never Again’ with the Swede Tomas Ledin. And Björn and Benny? Since May, they’ve been busy day and night with activities for no less than two new ABBA-albums! “We have now finished a couple of songs for an album we want to release some time during 1983,” according to Björn. “‘Just Like That’ and ‘I Am The City’ are two of those titles.”

“Apart from that, we have written a new single that will be out in the shops just before our double album, that hopefully will be released at the end of November. That record will be full of ABBA-tracks, that have been released as a single the past ten years. There are only two new songs on there: the new single and another song. This all adds up to a total of twenty-six songs! You see, ABBA is still alive and kicking!”

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Pop Biz, 1979: Will Agnetha be able to handle the pressure?

For ABBA, the moment of truth will soon come along. In the middle of September their big American tour will kick off and then it will be a question of sink or swim. Because in America you rarely get a second chance. No wonder that the group is looking forward to this tour with great anticipation. A question of good preparation and trying to keep the internal tensions at a distance. If they will manage...

For the general audience, the divorce between Björn and blonde Agnetha didn’t have any major consequences. The records kept on selling extremely well and the fans remained faithful to their idols. But within the group, extreme care still has to be taken. The situation is not as explosive as right after the announcement of Björn and Agnetha’s separation, but in times of high tensions it doesn’t take much to let the emotions get out of hand.
ABBA spent part of the summer at the Bahamas. The tropical surroundings were an excellent condition to regain their strengths and develop new ideas. Furthermore, the islands served as a base to make short trips to Florida in America. Both Agnetha and Björn were there at a particular moment. Without meeting each other, by the way, because they both went separately. It seems the twosome has accepted that the divorce is final. Björn is often out and about. He is spotted from time to time in the nightlife of the metropoles, surrounded by beautiful women, most of them blonde. In recent times, Agnetha has regularly been seen with a well-known Swedish ice hockey player. When asked about it, Agnetha refuses to comment on her affair. As ever, she remains mysteriously silent. According to friends, the idolized blonde is often very lonely.
Agnetha clearly is the least stable of the two ABBA-girls. More than Annifrid, she has to be encouraged before every performance. Characterwise, she’s less talkative and more withdrawn. On top of that, she values being a star and the entire show business to a lesser extent. But in America the group will have to come across as a strong unity to achieve the desired top-performance. Bad reviews could be fatal.
Will Agnetha be able to ignore the numerous gossip stories that will appear in the American media? Will she be strong enough mentally to keep it going? She will have to cope with it, mostly on her own. The success of an entire group depends on it. Not an enviable task.

Sunday 24 August 2008

Hitkrant, October 1981: ABBA is in good hands

No, we’re sorry, ABBA-fans: the new album still hasn’t been finished and we can’t share any news on the single either. But hard work is being put in at the studio at Stockholm’s St. Eriksgatan. Together with technician Michael B. Tretow, especially Björn and Benny are very busy putting the finishing touch to the new record and it’s common knowledge that an ABBA-album has to stand for perfection. ‘Opus 10’ has to meet that standard as well.

In the meantime, Frida, Agnetha, Björn and Benny have a private life as well, and for at least three of them this means they’re in good hands. After all the tribulation of the divorces and separations, Björn Ulvaeus has found happiness with his new wife Lena, Benny has found a girlfriend in TV-presenter Mona Nörklit and Agnetha is frequently spotted in the company of police inspector Torbjörn Brander.

Only Frida seems to be a bit of a misfit; rumours that the red-haired singer is suffering from depressions and is hardly leaving her house anymore are getting more frequent. In any case, it’s very seldom that she’s spotted at public occasions, where the other three often do appear.
Like recently, at the premiere of ‘Spök!’, a musical entertainment show by Swedish singer Björn Skifs. Lena and Björn, Benny and Mona and Agnetha and Torbjörn were all present at the renowned ‘Maxim’-theatre in Stockholm, to give their full attention to their colleague’s performance.

And in the meantime we keep on waiting for the new album ‘Opus 10’, that should be released in November, and the single. ABBA’s record company has informed the various distributors in all countries that a live-recording is available for single release, but obviously that doesn’t make much sense, because the announced ABBA live-album will not be released for the time being.
Quite rightly: it would only be in the way of ‘Opus 10’ and mistakes like that are not common in Stockholm. So there’s not much else to do than wait in anticipation until a new statement from the ABBA-camp appears.

Weekend, 1983: Agnetha: "Björn neglected me and the children..."

This gossip article was published in Dutch magazine Weekend, shortly after Agnetha had paid a visit to Holland for promotion of her Wrap Your Arms Around Me album in May 1983. During the visit, she performed The Heat Is On and Shame on the ANWB Gala.
Agnetha Fältskog, the blonde ABBA-singer, was in our country recently. In an exclusive interview with one of our reporters she talked openly about her lovelife, her children, her career, her fears and her future.
How time flies. It seems like yesterday that ABBA convincingly won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton. It was the world’s first acquaintance with the Scandinavian phenomenon. The fresh and uncomplicated ‘Waterloo’ easily collected the highest score. For the Swedish foursome it was the start of a golden career. Since then, millions of records found their way to the fans and Agnetha, Anni-frid, Björn and Benny became a household name in pop-music. Their success even comes close to the legendary ‘Fab Four’ from Liverpool, The Beatles, and will probably surpass it. The ABBA-albums achieved gold, platinum and double-platinum awards. Everywhere in the world, their big hits like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Fernando’ and ‘Chiquitita’ could be heard. From a smokey club in Hong Kong to an American supermarket. And the Swedish crowns kept coming in. Together with their business manager Stig Anderson, ABBA built an empire, that today has interests in various fields, from oil to modern art. Each member is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions. Despite their wealth and fame the ABBA-members remained down to earth. That alone can be called an accomplishment, since there are so many stars that can’t cope with their success. The ABBA-members must have a very strong character to be able to handle the crazy circus around them.
The blonde Agnetha knows what we’re talking about. Once it was written that she possessed ‘the sexiest bottom in the world’. A not very substantial tag.
“Oh, that nonsense,” she says in a hotelroom in Amsterdam. “At the time I had a laugh about it. You must be out of your mind to come up with something like that. Now I’m getting older, I’m able to retain some immunity to gossip. It doesn’t bother me any longer.”
Agnetha comes across as a shy person. Seated on a comfortable couch, her eyes are looking across the room incessantly. A while ago she was being threatened by kidnapping. That’s why she is surrounded by security. It’s necessary, she claims.
“When you are in the limelight you have to be prepared for everything. For some people you are almost a goddess. The other day I received a letter from an admirer. The man wrote he couldn’t stop thinking about me all day. How do you deal with that? I mean, I appreciate my fans, but it mustn’t turn into sick adoration. A disturbed person like that could be able to do who knows what, if he ran into me on the street.”
Money doesn’t buy you happiness, is the old saying. Without a doubt, that goes for the ABBA-members as well. Before the foursome became famous, Björn and Agnetha were happily married. Anni-frid and Benny were inseparable as well. Those times are ancient history. Today, all four members go their separate ways.
“Things like that happen. Björn and I separated because he couldn’t think of anything else but music. I couldn’t handle it any longer. I am a domestic type of person. I love to watch television or just sit around, forget about everything. Björn was busy composing all the time. He neglected me and what’s even worse: the children didn’t get enough attention. I couldn’t let it go any further. If I had to choose between my career and my children Linda and Christian, I wouldn’t hesitate a second. The children come first. In the past I had to leave them in the care of a nanny regularly. Not anymore. They need their mother. That’s one of the reasons I hate touring. I know it’s necessary, but I’m always glad to get home. You never know what can happen in the time you’re away. A few years ago we did a world-tour. A fantastic experience, but I would never do it again. In the beginning I called home four times a day, but after a few weeks it can’t be retained. Because of the time difference you have to call in the middle of the night, when you’re exhausted from the concert. Sometimes it’s physically impossible. And I know it’s not true, but I feel like a worthless mother.”

In the gossip press there have often been stories about a new man in Agnetha’s life. Still, she hasn’t remarried.
“I do have a couple of good friends, and sometimes I thought, this is the one. But in the end I was disappointed again. After Björn I never really loved someone. I just couldn’t cope with it. The divorce had an enormous impact on me. I’m a sensitive person. When I give myself to someone, it’s one hundred percent. All or nothing. I never understood how Björn was able to cope with our divorce so easily. A couple of months later he already had a new girlfriend. That hurt. Mentally I was a wreck. I got over it in therapy. Today, I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t become famous. I am very sensitive and don’t allow myself to fall in love easily. I try to keep men at a distance. At the moment I’m much too vulnerable. But who knows, maybe one day my prince will come. It’s still possible. If I would get into a new relationship, he would have to love my children. That’s my biggest wish: a real father for my children. But where to find someone like that? You can have so much success and make so much money, in love it doesn’t help you. That’s what I have learned over the years.”

The rumours about ABBA's future are mostly based on speculation. Already in 1975 there was talk about the end of the group. Still, in 1983 the group is well alive, despite the solo careers of the group-members.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if the group would come to an end. But don’t jump to conclusions based on that statement. I would love to build a solo career. Artistically it definitely gives more satisfaction. You are able to make your own schedule and there are less disagreements. The business side? Well, in the meantime I've become a real business woman. Otherwise it’s not possible to last in this business.”
What does the future hold for Agnetha. Does she have any goals?
“I would love to get into movies. I already played a part in a Swedish movie. That was very exciting. But there are no other definite plans at the moment. I’ve thought about taking a part on Dallas. A few months ago, I got the offer to play the Swedish girlfriend of J.R., but I declined the offer. I’d have to leave my children again. My advisers also said I shouldn’t do it. In Hollywood, I wouldn’t have any freedom at all. Still, when I watch the series, I think: Agnetha Fältskog could be on that screen. But you can’t fulfil all your dreams. One of my biggest wishes is to get my own television special. I’d love to work on that. The ABBA promotional films contributed a lot to the success and I always enjoyed it. Television is the perfect medium for me.”

As if she suddenly needs to get something off her chest, she says: “I don’t use any drugs, I don’t have any plans to retreat in a convent or to move abroad. A long time ago, I did use drugs. But to be honest, I didn’t like it. It’s not for me. I am a health freak, I do watch my vitamins. I easily gain weight. Like many women of my age, I watch the calories. Because my biggest fear is to gain too much weight. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, all sweaty. That’s when I’ve dreamt of having gained two hundred pounds and being on stage together with Anni-frid, while ten thousands of people are laughing at me. And what’s even worse: all those people, men and women, look like Björn.”

Saturday 23 August 2008

Muziek Parade, 1981: ABBA's Agnetha and the year of the truth!

Ever since the Swedish group ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, which was held in the English seaside resort Brighton, a lot has changed in the lives of these humble young Swedes. Millions of records were sold in Europe and even beyond, millions of hearts were lit up by ABBA’s cheerful and happy music. Annifrid and Benny got married during those successful years, Agnetha and Björn separated, the shadows of success. This divorce almost meant the end of the super-group. ABBA’s Agnetha explains what happened in the year of the truth.

Agnetha’s career in music already started when she was 15 years old. Ironically, it all started with a song called ‘I Was So In Love’. Two years later, she recorded that song on a tape and sent it to a local record producer, who was immediately impressed by her voice. Agnetha, as serious as she was, started to take singing lessons and it wouldn’t take long before her first single was recorded, followed by several other tunes. Since 1968, Agnetha was under contract with CBS where she recorded six solo albums, after which she sang solo in 1975 at her own record company, Polar Records. Last year she even recorded a Christmas album with her daughter Linda, who is now seven years old.
“When you are young,” Agnetha explains about her career, “you are able to do anything and when you are successful as well, it doesn’t occur to you that there’s more to life than just success. It seems strange, but everything you experience in life is a continuation of what you have done already. As a singer, I met Björn and fell in love with him. He was a musician as well, so things were as normal for us as could be expected. We were on the same wavelength, we both had success, we understood each other. The success of ABBA was an extension of our talents. Years before the Eurovision Song Contest, we already entered the Swedish qualifying round, but every time we failed to get through. You learn a lot from that, because every following year we came back with a better song. Our manager helped us to make it big with ‘Waterloo’, because for him there wasn’t a single doubt, failing didn’t even cross his mind, he had thought everything out, up to the smallest detail.”

ABBA willingly made use of the given opportunity. In the years following 1974, Benny and Björn produced one hit after the other. They could even be admired on the silver screen in ‘ABBA, The Movie’, of which the soundtrack was praised by both friend and foe. Still, things started to stagnate just a little bit, because the machine didn’t run as smoothly as before. Several experts and fans had been guessing about the reason, but in 1979 it was revealed. Despite the arrival of a baby, Agnetha and Björn’s marriage was on the rocks and a divorce was inevitable.
Agnetha: “In a normal family life, the father goes to his job in the morning and the mother stays at home with the children. What would happen when the woman went along to her husband’s job and they were together all day long? Well, that’s exactly what happened to us. We were in each other’s company all day long, twenty-four hours a day. In the beginning it’s all good fun, the success makes up for much of it, but there comes a time when it goes downhill and that’s when you start to snap at each other. That happened to us. That was the time when we started to get tired with each other, a time when we asked ourselves if maybe the birth of a second child could bring salvation, bring us closer together. In hindsight, it was already too late for that but we didn’t want to accept it. Apart from that, we thought that, if we separated, ABBA would dissolve as well. But there was no escaping it, we were really tired with each other, but still there’s that emotional connection. It’s not a decision you make out of the blue. It was an awful time, I can tell you that.”

“The first weeks after our divorce was officially announced were the hardest,” according to Agnetha, “what would the fans think, would ABBA quit, would it be a good thing if they still continued. We had a very difficult time ourselves. You know, in a way ABBA has saved ABBA. Benny and Frida were a tremendous support to us during that time. I talked to Frida for hours, friend to friend, someone who knew exactly how I felt and Frida and Benny were real confidants between Björn and me. We knew how each of us felt: terrible! I had already made a personal decision then. I wanted to quit, because I was afraid that Björn and I wouldn’t be able to stand each other because of these emotions. My mind was made up, I wanted to focus more on animals, maybe become a veterinarian. But I realized I would only makes things worse. Music is my life, I’ve been singing for more than 15 years. On top of that, that’s how Benny and Frida convinced me, why wouldn’t we see each other anymore, why wouldn’t an artistic continuation be able to help appreciate each other again?
Yes, I did fall in love again after that. I kept a low profile, but I watch carefully if I really love somebody. To have your heart broken is not an easy thing, especially if you have to remain working with your ex-husband, that’s very difficult. One of the worst things I experienced after the divorce was the recording of the album ‘Super Trouper’. I shed a lot of tears singing ‘The Winner Takes It All’. That’s why it was decided that Annifrid would record the song, but she refused, she couldn’t sing it. Strange actually, but Björn was the one who convinced me that I should sing the song. I will never forget what he said to me, not for the rest of my life. He said: “I know that what you’re going to sing is very difficult, but understand that I’ve never been able to explain what happened between us. I’m not a man of many words, everything I have to say can be found in a song. Everything that I have written in that song is about us, I know that, but I feel just as miserable as you and there are a lot more people on this planet who have experienced a similar thing. I also would like to say that you can come out of all this as a winner, as long as you think positive. And if you just don’t bother anymore, then you’ll never resolve anything.” I thought that was very sweet of him. There are more songs on the album ‘Super Trouper’ that refer to our divorce, but we both have something to deal with. Yes, the recording of the album took quite some time, but I think everyone will understand that we couldn’t do it any faster. Now we’re in a situation where we can look each other straight into the eyes and appreciate and respect each other, that’s the biggest victory for us. We’ve had to fight to get on top again, just like in the old days.”

“How our children are doing? Where their health is concerned, they’re fine and they see a lot of their father. It’s just a bit problematic with Linda, because she doesn’t understand it at all, but we’ll be able to explain everything better when she’s older. I don’t know how much better, because I have the feeling she has suffered a lot as well. She’s been very sweet to me during that time. Yes, you could say she got me through it. Some things you have to cope with on your own. That’s very difficult and she sensed that. During that period I also recorded another solo album and I did that together with Linda. You should have seen us, two crazy girls in the studio. We recorded it in Swedish, because Linda doesn’t speak English yet.”
In the meantime, ABBA still continues. If everything goes according to plan, there’s a live-album in the works, that will take us back to that wonderful ABBA-atmosphere, and that’s great for the ones who haven’t been able to attend an ABBA-concert themselves.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Hitkrant, September 1984: Very successful as a solo artist but... Frida still has one big wish!

This article appeared in Dutch magazine Hitkrant, after Frida had paid a visit to Holland to promote her Shine album. On August the 30th, she taped a performance of Shine and a short interview for Dutch TV-show Countdown. In this article, Frida talks about her thoughts about an ABBA-reunion and her plans for a new solo album, to be recorded in February 1985. Sadly, those plans didn't come to fruition.
She looks very cute (a fire red punk hairdo and make-up in bright shades) but at the same time a little tired. Frida talks about her solo career with self-confidence, even discussing her next album already, but when we carefully ask her what her thoughts are about an ABBA-reunion, for the first time her eyes start to glow. Frida would love to...

On her arrival at Schiphol Airport, Frida was met by a warm welcome by hundreds of fans, who even followed her to the Countdown-studios. Most of them were sitting on a wall near the barriers of the NOS-building, some of them even managed to get through to the holy place, the studio where Frida performed her new single ‘Shine’. They are waiting in the hall with an enormous bunch of flowers and try to catch a glimpse of the star that’s quietly eating a sandwich, amidst 5 representatives of the record company, Polar’s Görel Hanser and a Swedish bodyguard. Frida takes it all in with a smile, she remains calm, but above all friendly under this enormous attention. After lunch, the interview can commence. The door of the dressing room closes behind us and people of the record company are guarding the door. There won’t be an ABBA-reunion in the near future. Björn and Benny have worked on the musical Chess for the past two and a half years and in October they will go on tour, together with the London Symphony Orchestra and a big choir. “There will be around 200 people on stage,” Frida says. Agnetha has started recordings for her next solo album as well, so the schedules of the four ABBA-members are fully booked at the moment.
“I would love to record an album again with the four of us,” Frida says from the bottom of her heart. “It would be very exciting to do this, especially since we’ve all learned so much from our solo projects. It would also be a very surprising album, totally different from the previous ABBA-albums.” Frida is completely in favour of recording another album with ABBA, but she doesn’t know exactly how the others feel about it. “Actually, I rarely meet Björn and Benny these days,” she says in a melancholic voice. “They live in Stockholm and I live in London, and the only time we ever see each other is when they are in London, or I am in Stockholm. But when we meet, we do fantasize about a new ABBA-album, how awesome that would be. But it doesn’t go any further, because there are no definite plans yet.”
Why did you move to London?
“In London, I can at least walk the streets in peace,” Frida thinks. “It's such a huge city. They don’t even raise an eyebrow when a famous person walks by. Here I can lead a quiet and anonymous life. In Stockholm I was hounded by journalists constantly. I had the feeling I was suffocating. They followed me everywhere. When I went out for a cosy dinner in a restaurant, it would be in headlines all over the newspapers the next day. I couldn’t stand it any longer.”
Are you a homely type of person?
“Yes,” the singer confesses. “I don’t go out that often. I prefer to invite people to my home for a cosy dinner. I love to cook. Because I’m a vegetarian myself, I cook fresh vegetables and fish, but I’m also very fond of Italian food, pastas and pizzas, but without meat. I do know a lot of people from the music business, but I don’t go to parties. I live a very healthy life. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, apart from a glass of champagne every now and then, I don’t eat meat, and I jog every morning in the park. That way I keep in shape.”
Are you sufficiently in shape to tour with a band in order to promote your album?
“Actually, I’m a little bit afraid of that,” Frida concludes. “Touring is so very hard, and the longer you’re away from it, the harder it gets to get into it again. At the moment I’m not ready for that. Besides, I have an enormous urge to make records. I know exactly what I want and in February we’re going to record the next album already. I feel stronger than ever, inspired by the sound of the eighties. I just can’t help myself.”

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Tros Kompas, 1982: Ten years of happiness and hardship

An article from Dutch TV-guide Tros Kompas, announcing the broadcast of The Story Of ABBA, a Dutch TV-special from 1982 that featured one of the last joint interviews with the ABBA-members.
The rumours about ABBA’s imminent break-up remain persistent. Stories that definitely have a certain validity. The divorces of the couples Andersson and Ulvaeus are one of the reasons for worries. Frida and Agnetha’s solo projects are another cause, that makes one doubt about the continued existence of the Swedish group.

Michael Peterson, employee at ABBA’s Dutch record company, has a different opinion: “ABBA will definitely stay together.” He also explains why: “Recently, I talked to ABBA in Germany. Frida Lyngstad told me during this conversation that she had more fun working with ABBA now than ever before. The members are now working together in a more relaxed manner than in the days when they were still closely involved with each other. The bigger amount of freedom surely benefits the achievements within the group.”
During that same conversation, Frida explained why she and Agnetha (separately) started a solo career: “Ever since the start of ABBA, Agnetha and I were used by Björn and Benny for their compositions. It wasn’t until later that we were involved in their ideas as singers. After ten years, that’s no longer satisfying. Agnetha and I wanted to broaden our musical territory. To do an album on your own not only benefits yourself, but the group as well. After all, you gain more experience.”
So, cheerful reports from the ABBA-camp. But not all is well. Constant Meijers, one of the producers of the TV-programme ‘The Story Of ABBA’ tells us about it: “For ‘The Story Of ABBA’, a small group travelled to Sweden, where we taped an interview with ABBA. In that interview Benny says he’s through with ABBA. There would be nothing left to achieve with the group. However, the other three don’t share Benny’s opinion.”
Still, Benny’s thoughts about ABBA’s future could be the reason that a new ABBA-album is long overdue. After all, Benny is the group’s composer and when he doesn’t write anything, the other ABBA-people can’t do anything else but wait. The last ABBA-album ‘The Visitors’ has been out in the shops for over a year now. Indeed, only recently the double album ‘The Singles’ was released, but there are only two new songs on there. A modest output, actually an emergency solution to shorten the long waiting time. In the meantime, there have been ten years of ABBA. With that feat, the Swedish foursome has nicely survived several other pop-groups, including the Beatles. Those ten years are the theme of ‘The Story Of ABBA’. Constant Meijers: “Apart from the interview with ABBA, we also made use of our trip to Sweden to go through the Swedish film-vaults for one day. There we discovered unique footage. For instance, a recording of the group The Hep Stars, of which Benny was a member for some time. Footage of Björn with his group The Hootenanny Singers surfaced as well. Furthermore, footage of Agnetha and Frida as singers before their ABBA-period.”
It can all be seen in ‘The Story Of ABBA’: a programme not to be missed!

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Pop Foto, November 1976: ABBA's Agnetha: I used to be a simple country girl...

When you see ABBA’s Agnetha steal the show on television, full of confidence, it’s hard to imagine that that same Agnetha used to be a shy, withdrawn girl. A girl, that turned red at the slightest incident, that was never asked out by a guy and that thought her girlfriends were showing off when they put on a hip dress...

At least she’s honest, the now 26-year-old Agnetha Ulvaeus, mother of a 3-year-old daughter, but above all the blonde star of the world-famous group ABBA. She’s not ashamed of old pictures that are less flattering. She can even have a laugh about them, and that is very rare with artists of her standing.

“You know,” Agnetha confesses while showing us pictures from years ago, “I used to be a lump of a girl. Yes, really! You mustn’t forget that Jönköping, where I’m from, was just a small village in the country side in my childhood. And I was a country girl. The girls wore re-adjusted dresses of their older sisters, and because that was very normal, no-one dared to object. I'll tell you something else. Girls who dared to come up with something exceptional, were laughed at. Yes, by me as well! I was the worst of them all. I was very shy in those days.” While she’s telling all this, Agnetha smiles and when you watch closely, you can see her cheeks are starting to blush. “And I didn’t have the nerve to speak. Especially not to boys. It was just a disaster. I blushed and when I knew that a boy liked me, I just wanted to vanish into thin air as soon as he laid his eyes on me. I felt so unattractive in those days.”

When Agnetha was 15 years old, her singing career was starting to get serious already. With her father’s dance-band she toured the country and gained a lot of experience. “Strange really. The moment that I was on stage, the spotlights were on and I heard the music behind me, I was freed of a burden. I could be myself then. All of a sudden I couldn’t care less that all those people were staring at me. That tour was crucial for me, I just had to overcome my shyness, no matter what, because I wanted to become a singer, my mind was set on that. I’m still shy today and I like to stay at home, but I’m a singer as well and I have to show my face. During that tour I’ve learned that you might as well do it right then.”

“So there I was, with my stupid braided hair and my old-fashioned dresses and I could just hear the people whispering: “Sure, she can sing, but she isn’t much to look at!” I was crying for nights on end about remarks like that. And that’s when I decided to do something about it. I was about eighteen years old and already well-known in Sweden when I started to use make-up. Me, who used to think make-up was repulsive. And I went to Stockholm and Götenburg, just to shop for clothes, I couldn’t even dream about that when I was in my father’s revue. But it did help me. I gained more self-confidence. About one year later, I met Björn. In those old pictures you can still recognize that silly girl from Jönköping, but I’m a different person now,” according to Agnetha.
It goes to show, the self-confident Agnetha that dances across the TV-screen, wasn’t born as trendy as she is now. She’s had to fight hard, not least against herself. Just like so many other girls, she felt like an ugly duck and could lay awake for nights over one bad remark. When she was sixteen years old, she was just as vulnerable and sensitive like you and me, and on top of that she was in the limelight as a singer. Jealous of her success, other singers were spreading dreadful stories about her. But still, no matter how many tears and sleepless nights it has cost Agnetha, she did something about it. And now she’s just very happy about that!

Sunday 17 August 2008

Tros Kompas, October 1982: Record with much variation

A review of Frida's album Something's Going On from Dutch TV-guide TROS Kompas.
“My biggest wish has always been to record an album without ABBA. To prove to the music business that I can do it without the group as well. This has nothing to do with the countless rumours that ABBA has become history. The difficult period with the group is behind us, for the time being ABBA doesn’t think about giving up,” says Frida Lyngstad.

With the album ‘Something’s Going On’ the red-haired ABBA-singer has proved that she’s able to start a solo-career as a singer. The album, produced by Genesis-boss Phil Collins, turned out to be a very versatile record, that doesn’t resemble the famous ABBA-sound in any way.
The forceful ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’ is already known from the charts. Phil Collins’ excellent drumming can also be heard on the Stephen Bishop composed ‘Tell Me It’s Over’ and ‘Here We’ll Stay’, in which song Frida is assisted vocally by Phil Collins. The songs ‘I Got Something’ and ‘Baby Don’t You Cry No More’ show that she’s a valuable jazzy-singer as well. The same goes for the reggae-flavoured ‘I See Red’.
The bright and airy ‘Threnody’ certainly has hit-potential, but it will probably never reach the charts because the song was already released as the B-side to ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’. One of the most beautiful songs on Frida’s solo album is the Phil Collins penned ‘You Know What I Mean’ that has a classical feel due to the use of harp and strings.
The album ‘Something’s Going On’ can rightfully be called a good and well thought out product, that proves that Frida is not only a good looking woman, but also an outstanding and versatile singer. Frida has no problems sharing why she chose Phil Collins as her producer. “Actually, my daughter was the cause of that. She was totally in love with Phil’s solo single ‘In The Air Tonight’ and advised me to listen to the record. After a few listens, I was impressed with ‘In The Air Tonight’ as well. Reason enough to buy Phil’s album ‘Face Value’. I listened to that album every day for weeks. That’s when I realized he was the right man to produce my solo album.”
About the preparations, Frida says: “It had to be an album with much variation. After having listened to all kinds of music, Phil and I decided to ask composers to write something for our project. That’s why so many well-known songwriters worked on the album. We also used Earth, Wind & Fire’s horn-section during the sessions and also musicians that played on Phil Collins’ record."
The group ABBA wasn’t involved at all in Frida’s solo album. Still, for the most part the album was recorded at Polar Studios in Stockholm, where most ABBA-recordings were done as well. However, her collaboration with the successful Swedish group is in no danger. Frida: “Recently, we’ve recorded new material and in the end ABBA is still very popular. So no worries.”

Muziek Expres, 1985: Just now, Agnetha is truly happy

After the release of her second solo album, Agnetha is sure about one thing: with ‘The Eyes Of A Woman’ she’s on the right track.

She shines as bright as the sun, the beautiful Agnetha Fältskog. The recording sessions for her brand-new album ‘The Eyes Of A Woman’ have been completed recently, and now Agnetha finally has the time to take things easier.

“I still have to do some interviews, but luckily I can stay in Stockholm for that and I don’t have to go abroad in the near future. As it happens, I hate to fly,” she confesses while smiling kindly.
“A few years ago, there was no escaping that, because I obviously had to adjust to the three other ABBA-members. But now I’m free to decide what I will and won’t do. And to be honest, I feel a lot happier with that.”

Although ABBA still exists officially, for the time being we shouldn’t set our hopes on a reunion too much.
“Indeed, for the time being it doesn’t look like it,” she says. “We all went our separate ways more or less. And with success! Apart from that, all four of us seem to feel a lot more happy and free than a few years ago. In any case, that certainly goes for me. I feel much more mature and confident now. I know exactly what I want, and luckily there are no Bennys or Björns around to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do.”

Pop Foto, July 1982: Annifrid gives it a try without ABBA

An article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto about Frida's upcoming solo album Something's Going On.
For months, Annifrid Lyngstad had been playing with the idea to record a solo album, apart from her ABBA-activities. And that album is on its way now. A record without ABBA, but with several other famous people...

August will be an important month for ABBA’s Annifrid Lyngstad. Because in that month her new solo album ‘Something’s Going On’ will be released.
Annifrid: “With this album, I want to show that I can manage very well without ABBA. It was a conscious decision on my part to collaborate with people who don’t have anything to do with ABBA. Genesis-drummer Phil Collins for example, who was the centre of attention last year with his solo project ‘In The Air Tonight’, is now producing my record. Apart from that, the eleven tracks that are on this album are written by several celebrities. The track ‘The Way You Do’ for instance is by Bryan Ferry, ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’ by Russ Ballard, ‘Tell Me It’s Over’ by Steven Bishop and ‘Baby Don’t You Cry No More’ by Rod Argent. And there are a lot more outstanding songs on there. By the way, the song ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’ will be released as a single and should be out in the shops around the world at the end of July. The album will follow one month later.”

Annifrid took a while to catch her breath before she continued:
“Then I will have a terribly busy time ahead. Because I will have to promote my records everywhere. I will be in Holland for that on October the second and third. Among other things, recordings will be made for television broadcasts. Will ABBA’s activities suffer because of all this? No, not at all. At the moment, Björn and Benny are working very hard in the studio on a live-album, that should be released at the end of November. It’s going to be a double-album, consisting of the best parts of our concerts. That’s really something for the fans, because they haven’t got a live-album yet. Of course, I hope they will be equally happy with my solo records and that they, just like me, will say: see, that Annifrid can manage on her own as well!”

Saturday 16 August 2008

Hitkrant, February 1983: Björn Ulvaeus reveals: "Without ABBA, I would have left Agnetha as well"

You can tell that Dallas was a very popular show around this time, as the Ewing-empire is even compared to ABBA's in this article. And yet another interesting spelling of Frida's name: Anni-Fred.“People have the tendency to overestimate the ABBA-fortune,” says a relaxed Björn. “No-one talks about the enormous effort it takes to live up to that status. Also, there’s never any gossip about the substantial losses that every well doing company has to endure sometimes. Our investments in the oil industry almost led to our downfall. Three million pounds down the drain.”
Just like the unthreatened Ewing-empire, ABBA often has to bear a setback as well. Financial and emotional trouble that wouldn’t be out of place in an average episode of Dallas. Still, Sweden’s number one export product keeps its steady market value. Who of the four members has the secret recipe?
“To keep on developing is undoubtedly one of the essential ingredients to survive in this business,” Björn claims. “ABBA has left the casual pop behind as well, to show more creativity, and also to become more personal. When we started out, we just rhymed the words together and put them on top of the melody. It didn’t really matter then, if they made sense. Three years ago, I felt that we couldn’t go on like that. I was fed up with all this rhyming. Too much emotional confusion was seeking an outlet. ‘Under Attack’ for instance, is very challenging lyrically.”

It’s obvious that the internal ABBA-kitchen, where things can get to a boiling point any second, remains an endless source of inspiration. Has it ever been hard on Björn to air that dirty laundry publicly?
“No, I may say it was even therapeutic. Your sadness and problems have to come out somewhere. It also did the group a lot of good to finally deal with real emotions, the problems that kept us awake at night. The latest songs are a mishmash, an extract – and not rarely a bitter one – of our own confrontations and tensions.”

Was the ABBA-pressure on your shoulders the cause of the two divorces within the group?
“The separation between Agnetha and myself was of a complete personal nature. The crucial problem had nothing to do with the group or our career. The same goes for Benny and Anni-Frid. The past few months I have pondered a lot about that question. But even if I were a carpenter and Agnetha and office employee, the inevitable would have happened as well.”

Wasn’t it terribly hard to keep on working together in those circumstances?
“There have been several rumours about that, but they were complete nonsense. A long period of talking and contemplating precedes a drastic decision like a divorce. I was very confident when I finally made the decision and the others were convinced as well that this would be the best decision for ourselves and the survival of the group. We just kept on going as friends and colleagues. When you claim to be completely professional, you should be able to handle something like this.”

Still, the audience has the impression that both men are calling the shots, and the girls have very little say.
“Not completely true,” Björn claims. “We often have to make a comprise to Anni-Frid and Agnetha, to make things work. That’s what we do in several areas. But artistically, someone has to take the lead. That happens to be Benny and me.”

This and other basic rules that, despite the fact that they’re not much fun, are still maintained, have made ABBA very successful. Since the Beatles there hasn’t been any other group that achieved this amount of success. Of course, having a lot of money is rather nice but even an overwhelming bank account often causes problems.
“Our children are threatened with kidnapping continually. For us, being famous is not always fun either. The amount of threats and abuse aimed at myself has increased alarmingly the past few years. Our wealth has increased gradually. Every year we did a little better. That’s why it’s very difficult to tell if that abundance has really changed you. Firstly, money means a lot of freedom. Other people, who don’t have these means, often have to look for an inferior alternative. We don’t know that feeling. Apart from that, it’s not my style to collect ten fabulous limousines when I don’t have the time to actually take them out for a nice drive. And we make mistakes as well. Just like any other successful Swedish company, we are obliged to invest a part of the money we’ve made in the national industry. Otherwise, it all goes to taxes and that’s even worse. We also took a gamble on a brilliant future for the oil industry and in hindsight that didn’t turn out too well. The immense amount of money that we wasted on that, has been made up for in the meantime, but still it’s a big shock when three million pounds disappear from your bank account all of a sudden!"

Sunday 10 August 2008

Hitkrant, November 1980: 10 years of ABBA - the complete story

Dutch magazine Hitkrant published this extensive booklet in 1980, celebrating 10 years of ABBA.

In November 1970, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad decide to follow a musical path as a foursome. On November 1 they make their debut as the Festfolk Quartet in a theatre in Gothenburg: the start of one of the most successful careers in pop music. That’s right, ten years of ABBA!

A meeting with big consequences - ABBA the beginning

What defines a super-group? How many records should have been sold, how many fans should have attended your concerts, how many letters should have been received and how much money should have been made? Of course, there are no rules, but it has become clear that ABBA belongs in the category of super-groups, just like the Beatles, the BeeGees, the Rolling Stones and a few other legendary groups in pop-music.

When you attract more viewers with a television broadcast than the historical broadcast of the first moon landing (in Australia), when you manage to get your records sold in Eastern Europe as the only Western pop-group, when in your home country, Sweden, you are the most important export product. Yes, then you are a super-group.

We are celebrating ABBA’s tenth anniversary right now, but the story starts at an earlier stage: in 1966, when two, not completely unknown, Swedish pop-musicians meet at a party. Björn Ulvaeus is singing with the Hootenanny Singers, a popular folk/pop-group, while Benny Andersson is playing keyboards with and writing songs for one of Sweden’s most popular groups at that time, the Hep Stars.
Björn and Benny had met each other before, but at this party in Västervik they have more time to talk to each other about music. They shared a drink, and one more, and it’s not known who was the first to say it, but it would have big consequences: “Let’s try to write a song together.”

That’s what they did. That same night, Björn and Benny join together with a guitar and an organ and early in the morning the first Ulvaeus/Andersson offering is ready: ‘Isn’t It Easy To Say’. The Hep Stars would record the song later, but it doesn’t become a hit. No worries: Björn and Benny would create lots of million-sellers together in the years to come.
When Björn is getting tired of the Hootenanny Singers, and there’s room for one more member in the Hep Stars, it all happens very quickly: the collaboration between Benny and Björn is finding its shape and one song after the other derives from that collaboration. The Hep Stars have an enormous hit with ‘A Flower In My Garden’ and songs like ‘Sunny Girl’ and ‘Music Box’ become international hits, in Holland as well.
The Hep Stars split due to internal problems and Benny and Björn are trying to find new ways to explore their musical ideas. At the end of the sixties, Björn had already met a blonde singer, Agnetha Fältskog. That acquaintance led to an engagement in April 1970, during a holiday on Cyprus. Around the same time, Benny had met a red-haired, Norwegian singer named Anni-Frid Lyngstad, which was love at first sight as well. The foursome spent quite some time together and it was obvious that both girls would do the backing vocals on the first joint Björn and Benny record. That was ‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’, but the sleeve only mentioned Benny and Björn’s names. That would change later on...

Swedish foursome finds its Waterloo - ABBA the sequel

‘To find his Waterloo’ means something like ‘to be beaten once and for all’, it originates from the village Waterloo where Napoleon suffered his last defeat. But for ABBA, that saying means something completely different: ‘Waterloo’ was the title of the song that gave the four Swedes the victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton on April the 6th 1974. Their Waterloo meant the definitive breakthrough.

Three years before that, ABBA was hesitatingly beginning to take shape, primarily due to Björn and Benny’s talent in songwriting, who were now famous all over Sweden. They wrote one song after the other, film-music as well as pop-songs, made records and became known together with Agnetha and Anni-Frid after their first joint single ‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’ from 1971. The name ABBA was starting to become known.

On the morning of Björn and Agnetha’s wedding, on the first of July 1971, Björn was offered a job by one Stig Anderson, a former teacher, former singer, now owner of a record company and a music publishing company. Björn and Benny knew Stig already: together with him they had already written a song for a singer. Stig needed a producer and asked Björn for the job. He was fine with that, as long as Stig hired Benny as well. Since there wasn’t enough money for that, Björn offered to split the salary between Benny and him. Stig, being the businessman that he was, agreed and started to work on ABBA seriously.

It was time for action and when the Swedish broadcasting company invited ABBA late 1972 to enter the Swedish heats for the Eurovision Song Contest, they didn’t have to think twice. Björn, Benny and Stig retreated to the now famous island in Stockholm and wrote ‘Ring Ring’; that song should be able to conquer Sweden and subsequently the rest of the world.
That didn’t happen. Although the audience was almost unanimous that ‘Ring Ring’ was the best entry and that ABBA offered the best performance – despite the fact that Agnetha was heavily pregnant – the jury apparently thought otherwise and put ABBA in third place. Ultimately, that jury was proven wrong when ‘Ring Ring’ quickly became an international hit.

The song made sure that ABBA became a household name in Sweden, so they had to go on tour: in the summer of 1973, Björn, Agnetha, Benny and Frida went on the road across Sweden and were very successful! Packed houses and enthusiastic audiences proved that ABBA could do no wrong in their own country. But the rest of Europe was waiting in line as well, with the next Eurovision Song Contest. ABBA had entered the Swedish heats twice now (the first time, with singer Lena Andersson singing Benny and Björn’s ‘Better To Have Loved’ was good for a third place as well) and the foursome was determined to really win this time. They wanted to go to Brighton.

Well, we know what happened: they succeeded. ABBA won the Swedish heats with 302 out of 495 points, and so the whole machinery was started immediately. They didn’t waste any time to release ‘Waterloo’ as a single, the promotional campaign started and in a few days time, Stig visited seven European capitals to overflow the music-executives with ABBA already. Then that momentous 6th of April arrived. Dressed in eye-catching costumes and wearing platform boots, ABBA didn’t have the slightest problem catching the attention of both audience and jury. Neither did ‘Waterloo’: ABBA won with a six-point lead to the runner-up. Within weeks, ‘Waterloo’ reached number one in twelve European charts and ABBA had turned from a fairly unknown Swedish group into a top-attraction.
Conquer the world with music - ABBA the empire

Yes, ‘Waterloo’ got ABBA over the threshold of international success. But you are wrong to think that a pop-group can sit back and relax, take a drink, look at each other and say: “So, that was it.” The real work is only beginning. And although Frida and Agnetha, but especially Björn and Benny, are worn out after the turbulent days in England: ‘The show must go on’. ABBA can’t afford to sit still.

Nevertheless, ABBA were allowed to take a holiday after the tiring Eurovision Song Contest and of course it was spent on the island in the Stockholm archipelago. Additionally, the announced tour across Sweden was postponed and not everyone was particularly happy with that, especially the owners of the venues were furious.

But ABBA didn’t give in: Björn and Benny not only were artists, but producers as well, hired by Polar Music, and there was work to be done, so the time was really necessary. Besides that, a lot of offers for television-performances and other publicity came in, it was only natural that in these early stages of worldwide success, the group couldn’t let any opportunity to show themselves go by. But a tour was necessary as well: Europe wanted to see those four young Swedes, that had won Eurovision, in the flesh. The tour was planned for the Winter of 1974; the premiere would take place in Hamburg, with a try-out in Kopenhagen, and it would take the foursome to Austria and Switzerland. Although the audiences were enthusiastic and the critics were favourable, ABBA wasn’t satisfied: the venues were rarely sold out, the audiences were older than expected and financially the tour wasn’t a success either. Fortunately, the postponed Scandinavian tour, that was about to start, would be a lot more successful!
And now, it was about time to release a new single; although ‘Waterloo’ was still in several charts, a follow-up was eventually needed. In August 1974, ‘Honey, Honey’ was released. The single was a success, except for England where the group Sweet Dreams had already released a cover-version of the song, so it made no sense to release the ABBA-version of ‘Honey, Honey’ as well.
Either way, England was a difficult country for ABBA: it wouldn’t be until the end of 1975 before the mediocre successes of the previous singles were improved upon by a number-one record. That happened with ‘Mamma Mia’.
Alas, the rest is history: after ‘Honey, Honey’ came ‘I do, I do, I do’ and then ‘SOS’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ and – but wait – in the meantime we’re in 1977 and something else did happen along the way.

You can have all the success in the world in Europe, as a pop-group you have truly arrived when you are accepted in America. In September 1974, ABBA visited the large continent and after that, again in November 1975. The first time, the visit was restricted to interviews, press-conferences and activities like that. The second time, things got serious: seven television-performances in a time-span of two weeks, the highlight being a performance on the Saturday Night Show, a very popular TV-show. America had gotten acquainted with ABBA and that acquaintance had been good mutually.
Another continent was easier to conquer: Australia fell for ABBA without hesitation. Half a million albums and 600.000 singles being sold within half a year was enough proof of that. Of course, that meant ABBA had to come to Australia and that happened in 1976. The reception was overwhelming and the TV-show that ABBA taped, achieved TV-ratings of almost 60 percent, more than the broadcast of the historical moon landing. In Australia, the young and the old agreed: ABBA was on top!
In a few years time, the group had become an international attraction. Countries behind the Iron Curtain, such as Poland, East-Germany, and even Russia don’t get a lot of music from the West, but ABBA managed to achieve an unprecedented popularity in those territories. Especially in Poland, sometimes an amount of 250 Dutch guilders is being paid for an ABBA-album.
The third album, after ‘Ring Ring’ and ‘Waterloo’, was simply named ‘ABBA’ and was released in the middle of 1975. The pressing-factories couldn’t keep up with the demand and the reviews were positive. In Sweden, an unprecedented 400.000 copies were being sold, and it wouldn’t be long before ‘ABBA’ reached top-positions in all European album-charts.

The next album was a compilation already: ‘The Best Of ABBA’ contained all of ABBA’s single-hits and – it’s getting tedious – it again reached number one in the charts. An album of single-hits proved to be very appealing because in 1976 ‘The Very Best Of ABBA’ followed. That same year, ‘Arrival’ was released, containing massive hits like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ and ‘Money, Money, Money’.
In 1977, an album was released that is regarded as the best from their career by ABBA-connoisseurs: ‘ABBA – The Album’. ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘The Name Of The Game’, ‘Eagle’ and ‘Thank You For The Music’ marked this album. But of the same importance was ‘ABBA – The Movie’, ABBA’s first feature-film, that was screened that same year. It wasn’t really a movie, but more a documentary about ABBA’s turbulent tour of Australia in 1977, with a storyline about an Australian journalist who doesn’t succeed to get an interview with ABBA, who is having several encounters with ABBA in his dreams and finally, accidentally... yes.
The fifth ABBA Stig Anderson: musician and businessman

He is often referred to as ‘the fifth ABBA’ and that’s not just because he’s the president of Polar Records and Sweden Music: Stig Anderson is a businessman as well as a musician and that makes him the ideal candidate for a successful record-executive. Whatever he is; when Stig left school at the age of 13 and started to work as a help at the grocery-store in the village Hova, he made two Dutch guilders a week. That was in 1944: in 1978, Polar made a turnover of 825.000 each week!
Stig was born on January the 25th 1931 and when he was five years old, he got a gramophone and some records. Later on, when he bought his first guitar from his own money, his career as a travelling musician started. At the age of 16, he wrote ‘Tiveds Hambo’, a musical dance that is still being played. When Stig noticed that his music was worthwile, he started to study music in 1948.
Three years later, he started his study to become a teacher, but he wouldn’t be in a classroom very much. Writing and performing music is where his heart was; his first song was released in 1950 and in 1953, a record of his was released, titled ‘Tivedens Ros’. A music-critic made the following remark about that: “I’m sure that the composer/lyric-writer Stig Anderson has a more prosperous future than the singer Stig Anderson.” The man couldn’t have been more right.
In 1960, Stig wrote the number-one hit ‘Klas-Göran’ for singer Lill Babs and that success gave him the idea to start a music publishing company. That became Sweden Music. Still, Stig kept on writing and in the sixties he was Sweden’s most well-known composer/lyric-writer. In a time-span of 11 years he wrote no less than 2000 lyrics!

The rest is history: Stig was one of the reasons for ABBA’s worldwide fame and the empire that he runs no longer incorporates just a music publishing company and a record company; the interests of the Swedish multinational are diverse: from warehouses to bicycle factories, from oil companies to import- and export companies. And the most important export article is of course ABBA.
Frida has once stated about ‘Stikkan’: “He’s one of the best people I know. Not easy to work with, but he’s incredibly intelligent and he always knows exactly how to handle things.” Benny: “Actually, Stikkan doesn’t exist. We made him up for the journalists.” And Björn: “Stikkan didn’t discover us, we discovered him!”
Divorce, marriage, having children - ABBA the private life
Agnetha, Björn, Frida and Benny are not four musical machines. Just like everybody else, the four Swedish stars have a private life and that’s not always easy. After all, the fan not only wants to know how ABBA makes music, but also how their living room looks like, how the children are doing, whether Benny likes pea soup, and what Agnetha is doing in her spare time. It’s one of the disadvantages of being famous and it’s not always easy on the ABBA-members.

Indeed, both Anni-Frid and Benny have children from previous relationships, but they are not living with them. It’s different for Björn and Agnetha: daughter Linda and son Christian are still small and, just like any other child, they need their parent’s attention. That’s not always easy.
A tour can make a separation like that very difficult and Agnetha isn’t very fond of those treks around the world for months on end. Most of the time, the children travel along on short trips, but that’s not always possible, so the children will have to resort to a nanny.
Especially now Linda is growing up, it’s often the cause of problems and Agnetha has stated on several occasions that she finds this part of her profession very difficult.Then there was the divorce: when Agnetha and Björn decided to separate at the end of 1978, the international media threw themselves on that event like vultures. ABBA would be dissolved, Agnetha and Björn would both have new partners, the stories were going around. Fortunately, a quiet press-conference in Switzerland put an end to all the rumours. The decision to get divorced was an amicable one and ABBA would certainly not break up because of that.

The fact that Frida and Benny decided to get married, after having lived together for years, gave rise to new speculations: the reason for it would be tax-related, the terms of the contract with Polar Music would have something to do with it, the media had a lot to write about. And Benny and Frida just got married...
Of course that’s the only thing to do to keep your sanity amid all the fuss of the media, radio, television and fans: remain calm. ABBA has always been able to do that, also where their private life is concerned. They allow the audience a view behind the scenes, but they never go too far. Everything they don’t want to share is politely, but resolutely denied. And that attitude has only made the group’s unity stronger.
The end is not in sight - ABBA the future
It’s 1979: the album ‘Voulez-Vous’ and the accompanying single ‘Does Your Mother Know’ make many people exclaim in awe: “ABBA goes disco!” No worries: although ‘Does Your Mother Know’ indeed has some disco-influences, ABBA remains ABBA. Or, as Björn puts it: “We make European music with a bit of American and a bit of English.”

Other tracks from the ‘Voulez-Vous’ album indicate that European music: the monsterhit ‘Chiquitita’, the title-track ‘Voulez-Vous’, they all become number-one hits again. And during the sensational world-tour in that year – that fortunately comes to Holland as well – it becomes clear that it isn’t over for ABBA just yet.

We know it: 1980 brings us the latest ABBA-album ‘Super Trouper’, of which the single ‘The Winner Takes It All’ is the forerunner (yes, number one again) and the title-track ‘Super Trouper’ the follow-up. Meanwhile, it has been announced that ‘On And On And On’ will be the next single, while England will get a Christmas-single: ‘Happy New Year’.
ABBA remains on top of the world and has founded a pop-empire that’s unprecedented in history, or it should be the Beatles-empire. But an empire has to be directed, otherwise it will collapse; Stig Anderson is taking care of that, together with his staff, among which the faithful vice-president of Polar Music, Görel Johnsen (who is named Mrs. Hanser after her marriage to a Stockholm photographer) and daughter Marie.

How to continue when you are on top and are planning to stay there? Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny have always acknowledged that they don’t remain in the music business because of the money, or because they need a job and they don’t know anything else to do. No, all four of them are passionate about music and they have chosen the profession that appeals to them the most. Benny: “If we would continue because of the money or to have something to do, we would fall flat musically. The audience isn’t stupid!”
The plans: “ABBA goes on” sounds so corny, but it is true. There are still territories that could have more interest in ABBA. America is not fully conquered yet and slowly Eastern Europe is starting to warm up to ABBA. That’s a task for the organization behind the group. ABBA themselves have to go on making good music. That they are able to do that, has undoubtedly been proven in those ten years.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Popcorn, 1981: Wanna bet... ABBA will never perform again!

This article was published in German magazine Popcorn, shortly after interviews with the ABBA-members had appeared in English newspaper Daily Mirror, hinting to ABBA coming to an end.

The report was maintained for exactly four hours: ABBA – that’s what ‘Today’s Tours’ announced – according to their manager Stig Anderson, will start a world-tour on February the 16th 1982 with 120 dates, among them a dozen in Germany. Immediately, the verdict came from the ABBA headquarter in Stockholm: “This tour is pure speculation. ABBA would like to tour again, but at a much later date.” If there will ever be a live-concert by the super-group again, is more than unlikely. “The motivation to work together is practically zero,” is what a connoisseur of the situation is saying. “Ever since Benny filed for divorce and Björn remarried and became a father again, both girls show absolutely no interest in the group any longer. No-one who knows the atmosphere among the four members, that have fallen out privately, can imagine that ABBA will ever be seen together in public again – let alone go on tour together.” Swedish insiders are placing bets on when the end of ABBA will officially be announced. The moments that are being named vary between the end of 1981 and the spring of 1982.

ABBA themselves have contributed a lot to the fact that they are being given so little time. For example, there have been the unfriendly interviews in the English newspaper Daily Mirror, in which all four members speak their minds about their divorce and talk very grievous about each other. The recent ABBA-recordings also gave cause to the speculations about a split. Already in April, the three new songs ‘When All Is Said And Done’, Slipping Through My Fingers’ and ‘Two For The Price Of One’ were finished. All three of them would be on the next ABBA-album, one of them would be the new single. But then the three tracks failed to impress the international sales executives at the usual test-introduction (the past three years, every ABBA-single was tested this way on its chances for success): no catchy melodies, little hit potential. The four Swedes – who were ready for their holiday – had to go back into the studio.
At the time of writing it’s still unsure if there will be a new ABBA-single at all this summer, or if there will be another track singled out of the ‘Super Trouper’ album. It’s a clear sign of the creative crisis of the group, that has achieved the biggest and most spectacular career in rock-history, after the Beatles.

It all started on a summer day in August 1966. At a party of the Swedish group Hootenanny Singers, Benny Andersson (34) met his future partner Björn Ulvaeus (36). Björn was the leader of the Hootenanny Singers at the time, Benny was a member of the rival group, the Hep Stars. They got on with each other from the word go and became friends, at first only privately. Benny had serious financial problems at the time: the Swedish taxes wanted 259.000 Swedish crowns back-payments from him and Benny didn’t know where to get the money. He wrote songs constantly, hoping he could get rid of his debts by writing one big hit. “I loaned money to produce a record with Annafrid, whom I was together with at the time already,” says Benny, “but that turned into a flop as well.” What was missing in the born musician’s life was a suitable partner, who could turn Benny’s countless compositions into commercial, accessible tunes. In short: Björn was perfect for the job, as a joint jam-session indicated. “We were on the ideal wavelength. Together with Björn I succeeded in picking the essential parts from my many songs and turn them into a whole song.” Stig Anderson, at the time manager of the Hootenanny Singers, was the first to discover the potential of this musical ‘marriage’. The current ABBA-manager persuaded the two to quit their old groups and start a new band. That’s where Annafrid (35) and Agnetha (31), at the time Björn’s girlfriend, came into the picture. Again, this idea came from Stig Anderson: “Two girls and two boys in one group, that was something completely new at that time.”

On November 1 1970, they did their first performance in Göteborg, under the name ‘Festvolk Quartet’. It wasn’t until 1972 that the first single ‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’ was released, after much persuasion at the record company. Still, the breakthrough in Sweden was achieved with the song ‘People Need Love’. On the cover it read ‘Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida’, later on that would turn into ABBA. In 1973, the group entered the Swedish heats for the Eurovision Song Contest, but were eliminated. One year later, ABBA made it: with the hit ‘Waterloo’ they were able to go to Brighton, and they won.
ABBA, from this day on it would be a trademark that conquered the world. Cleverly managed by Stig Anderson, one success after the other was achieved. Exactly every four months, a new single was released: in 1974 it was ‘Waterloo’, ‘Honey, Honey’ and ‘So Long’, in 1975 they continued with ‘I do, I do’, ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’. Along with the accessible, cleverly arranged songs, that made their mark on both teenagers and grandmothers, came the ideal image: two couples in love make music for millions, it was almost like a fairytale. Over and over again, ABBA stated in interviews: “Our career wouldn’t be possible without our private harmony. We are happy, and that’s what you can hear in our music.”

Today, now the ABBA-couples have separated, we hear a different sound. The latest ABBA press-release literally reads: “Although there are no marriages within the group any longer, the ABBA-members are still very good friends and want to continue working together, like before.” It almost sounds like a vow.
Anyhow, the latest remarks about each other by the ABBA-members, who talked about the collapsed relationships in the English newspaper Daily Mirror, weren’t exactly friendly. Björn about Agnetha: “I couldn’t even talk to her anymore.” Annafrid about Benny: “We are totally different, we were simply incompatible.”
About ABBA’s future, Björn explained: “We are rich. There are no financial reasons to stay together.” And Benny was even more clear: “I think ABBA will go on for two more years, with two new albums.” Fact is that, according to their contract with their German record company, ABBA has to release records for four more years. “But a contract like that – much like the contracts of soccer-players – isn’t worth much more than the paper it’s written on,” is what an insider thinks. “If ABBA wants, they can get out of a contract like that at any time, even though it’s going to cost them a lot of money.” It wouldn’t be too difficult, to buy themselves out. According to their tax-declaration, that has been made public in Sweden, every member has made more than four million German marks in the past year alone.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Pop Foto, October 1978: Will ABBA move to America?

Have the four musical Swedes that we all know as ABBA now surrendered to the big money? To the American dream and the Hollywood promise? Can we, continental Europeans, kiss ABBA goodbye now? Or are the stories about ABBA moving abroad just rumours and can Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid stand a lot more rudeness of the Swedish media, before they exchange Stockholm for Los Angeles?

One thing is for sure in the total confusion surrounding ABBA’s future. There are things happening around the Swedish super-group, that clearly point in the direction of a move to America.
Firstly, the group has rented a luxurious residence in the centre of American pop-music, that’s big enough for themselves and the two Ulvaeus-children. Secondly, the past year there have been so many unpleasant reports about the group in the Swedish media that the ABBAs are getting sick and tired of it. Thirdly, for quite some time especially Björn and Benny have been playing with the idea of a second ABBA-movie; and what better place is there to tape it than Hollywood?
It all sounds rather disturbing, and you’d almost get the impression that the ABBA-move is definite already, but luckily this isn’t true. Because ABBA has a lot of reasons to stay in Sweden! Of course, there’s the upbringing of little Christian and his sister Linda that – Agnetha is adamant about it - has to take place in Sweden. And then there are the splendid, brand-new houses and the recording-studio, that ABBA has build. Don’t forget those either. Of course, Björn and Benny haven’t build that money-consuming thing to go off and record their records in the US now. On the contrary, ever since the studios were ready, the two ABBA-men have been busy with new ABBA-material, that will be used for the next album. The record should be finished around Christmas and will definitely be recorded in Sweden.
Because the people to whom it concerns refuse to make any remark in the direction of the move-issue, we can only focus on the hopeful words by Stig Anderson, the ABBA-mastermind. “ABBA leaving Sweden? That will never ever happen! They’re much too Swedish for that!”
Let’s leave it at that.