Sunday 28 September 2008

NCRV Gids, June 1984: With ABBA, anything's possible

An article from a Dutch TV-guide, published the week that ABBA-The Movie was broadcast on Dutch TV.
Whoever watches ‘ABBA-The Movie’ this week, will get to see a piece of top-drawer pop-history. A movie from 1977 that would have been impossible to make in 1984, for the simple reason that ABBA actually doesn’t exist any longer. Only on paper. Seven years ago, that was all different: at the time, ABBA was in the midst of touring and the ABBA-hitmachine was still working flawlessly. In 1984, the Swedish pop-group has nearly become history. “ABBA? I don’t even know if we still exist,” is what singer Frida said a couple of months ago. “I haven’t seen Björn and Benny in ages and how Agnetha is doing? I wouldn’t have a clue. I hope the three of them are healthy.” Still, Frida kept things up in the air as well, when a reporter asked her about ABBA’s future. “Anything’s possible,” the singer stated vaguely.

It’s exactly what manager Stig Anderson is expecting from his singing and playing goldmine: leave ABBA’s future up in the air. After all, to an audience of millions, ABBA is still alive and kicking, albeit that the members of the group are exclusively concentrating on solo projects. And you can still sell records from a group that hasn’t dissolved officially yet. A lot of records. And healthy record-sales mean: money in the drawer. Money, that Anderson and the ABBA-members can still use, although the parties concerned will not really be standing in line for a loan just yet.

Stig Anderson is more than just ABBA’s manager, he handles all matters that concern the group and he’s the man at the top of the ABBA-concern, that actually has a pretty clever construction. Polar Music Invest is the company that manages all financial matters, invests money in all sorts of projects and buys shares here and there. Polar Music Invest has three subsidiaries and one of those subsidiaries, Kuben, didn’t do so well last year. Kuben was even on the verge of bankruptcy. An investment trust was willing to cover the loss (40 million Dutch guilders), but only under the condition that they’d get control over Kuben as well.
Stig Anderson: “Yes, bad luck has really haunted us last year. But ABBA is certainly not bankrupt: we possess a capital of more than 200 million Dutch guilders that’s divided over several different business-interests. No, we can really handle a setback.”

About ABBA’s future, Anderson preserves a mysterious silence. “Benny and Björn wanted to write a musical very much and I grant them that pleasure with all my heart. It will only cost them two years of their ABBA-activities. And where the singers are concerned: naturally, they now have ample opportunity to undertake different solo projects. Something like that would have been impossible, if they’d be on tour with ABBA. In the meantime, Benny and Björn have told me that they’ve composed a large number of new songs for ABBA. At least: songs that would be suitable to be recorded by ABBA.”

When ABBA celebrated their tenth anniversary last year, it was a special matter. No one would have guessed that the group that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with ‘Waterloo’, would go on and build a business-empire based on perfect pop-music. And perfect it is, ABBA’s music. With the Beatles and Italian hits as the most important sources of inspiration.
“Italy has never been far away in our songs,” Björn stated last year while reminiscing on 10 years of ABBA-songs. He also said: “We never tried our hands on pure rock-songs. Rock is not within our possibilities. We are and remain European and our device has always been: if you don’t feel how it should sound, then don’t do it.”
Nevertheless, for ten consecutive years, ABBA has delivered pop of a high level, always varying in sound and always ingenious. ‘Honey, Honey’, ‘I do, I do, I do’, ‘SOS’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘The Name Of The Game’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Super Trouper’... and those are not even all of them, the big song-successes of the Swedish foursome. ABBA never would have dreamed that they’d conquer the world of pop-music by storm after ‘Waterloo’.
“We were already over the moon that we were able to do a television show in Belgium, after winning Eurovision,” according to Benny. “Next came Holland, and some time after that, we didn’t know what was happening to us when we heard we were at number one in the Austrian charts. Things like that were simply out of the question. Pop-music from Sweden didn’t count for anything beyond our borders. And honestly, sometimes I still don’t understand how we turned out to be a world-famous group.”

Saturday 27 September 2008

Studio, 1982: ABBA's Frida solo

When ABBA’s brunette Frida gets to make her own album, she can obviously enjoy the fruits of the fame and fortune that she’s gathered over the years. She has the best songwriters, producers, studio-musicians, recording-facilities, and so forth, at her disposal. When it comes to that, she’s just like a little princess, that gets a music box, decorated with jewellery, for her birthday, instead of a humming top.
As you know, meanwhile Frida has been able to make that own record. It’s called ‘Something’s Going On’, named after the Russ Ballard-penned song, that has already managed to become a hit. Apart from Russ Ballard, among others, Stephen Bishop, Peter Belotte & Giorgio Moroder, Rod Argent, Bryan Ferry and Phil Collins have contributed songs to the album. On top of that, Phil Collins acted as a producer for this album, that was recorded in Stockholm for the most part. The names of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus are notably absent from the list of songwriters and musicians. It’s clear that Frida needed to create something that wouldn’t remind one of ABBA in any way.
Frida can sing beautifully, but lacks a strong personality. Because of that, her work inevitably remains somewhat thin. But Phil Collins did the best he could with the available material, and the result is an entertaining pop-album, of which ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’ is clearly the strongest track.
I guess now we’ll be looking forward to a solo album by Agnetha as well. Still, we hope that these outings will not be at the expense of ABBA, because in that context, the ladies are still at their best.

Friday 26 September 2008

Hitkrant, October 1982: Agnetha and Tomas: tasteful duo

You might wonder whether Tomas Ledin and Agnetha Fältskog’s single ‘Never Again’ would have reached such high chart positions if the blonde ABBA-singer had not sung on the record. Of course it’s a very clever move by Polar Music, ABBA’s record company, to include one song on Tomas’ new album on which the tasteful duo sings together and release that song as a single, because let’s be honest: for a whole lot of ABBA-fans, Agnetha is obviously enough reason to buy that single.

And who might that Tomas Ledin be? Those who experienced the ABBA-concert at the Ahoy’ in 1979, have seen him already. Not only as ABBA’s back-up singer, but briefly as a solo-artist as well in the song ‘Not Bad At All’, written by Tomas himself. Indeed, it wasn’t bad at all, but Tomas already has an extensive experience as a singer and pianist.
In the meantime, the 28-year-old Swede has released eight Swedish-language and three English-language albums, and in Sweden he’s a very popular guy.

Indeed, this only happened after he signed with Polar Music in 1979. During that time, ABBA also asked Tomas to go on tour with them and that turned out to be a very wise move: ‘Not Bad At All’ was received enthusiastically everywhere.
It was released as a single and became a hit in many countries. And Tomas doesn’t sit still in other territories either: he entered the Swedish pre-selections for the Eurovision Song Contest five times. The fifth time he won and stepped into the limelight in the final in The Hague (1980). No first place, but a growing reputation that undoubtedly will continue to grow now!

Monday 22 September 2008

Hitkrant, 1981: Rush hour for ABBA

Just a few more weeks to go and the new ABBA-album will be on the fans’ turntables. After months of delay and uncertainty, it finally became public the past week that the Swedish foursome is very busy putting the finishing touches to the new song-material. Everything has to be finished before November 20, so this means rush hour for ABBA. Although Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida are working under high pressure, the atmosphere in the studio is friendly. After all the commotion surrounding the private lives of the ABBA-members, everything seems to be at peace again. What’s more: ABBA is now a closer unit than ever before and the collaboration is going so well, that for the time being, breaking up is out of the question.

The past few months have been horrible for the writers-duo Benny and Björn. For the album, initially to be released in May, not a single note had been put on paper by August. The twosome traveled to a far-off, sunny island to gather inspiration. They partly succeeded: the instrumental part came along quite well, but a few weeks back, Björn still had to write all the lyrics.

In the meantime, seven tracks have been completed: ‘Two For The Price Of One’, ‘When All Is Said And Done’, ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’, ‘An Angel Passing Through My Room’, ‘Should I Laugh Or Cry’, ‘Head-Over-Heels’ and ‘I Let The Music Speak’. A single won’t be chosen until all tracks are finished and will probably be released shortly before the album.
But that’s not the only thing that’s keeping ABBA occupied: during the past few months, the group has made a, no less than ninety-minute long, radio-special, ‘ABBA Live In Concert’. The British BBC added interviews with the ABBA-members to the programme and will broadcast the special on New Year’s Day.
In the meantime, the records keep selling: in Canada, 600.000 copies of the ‘Super Trouper’ album were sold, achieving platinum status. Furthermore, 300.000 copies of the single ‘The Winner Takes It All’ have left shops in Brazil and in Israel, both the single and the album achieved gold status.
That’s how the ABBA-company is working at full force and the people to whom it concerns, Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida, are at peace with that. During the years that they’ve been on top, they’ve grown accustomed to this life of pressure. During the recording sessions for the new album, it has become clear that the four are very supportive to each other, despite all the gossip. There are no reasons to quit now, on the contrary, ABBA seems to have recovered completely from the dark period in their career. They’re back in business with fresh courage. That’s promising something for 1982!

Sunday 21 September 2008

Hitkrant, December 1980: ABBA threatened / Attack on ABBA's happiness

ABBA is grounded: Agnetha, Björn, Frida and Benny are under severe police protection and are not allowed to leave their homes. The cause of all this is that the famous foursome has received an anonymous threat. The Stockholm police wouldn’t tell us what the nature of those threats was, but the rumours vary between kidnapping to murder. Therefore, the appearance on the German television programme ‘Show Express’ became uncertain. Nonetheless, the ZDF has found a solution: a direct link between the studio and Stockholm has been set up, that will enable ABBA to show the 3 songs they were supposed to perform, from a safe place in Stockholm; the programme will be broadcast tonight (thursday).

The terrorist threat has affected ABBA more than the group wants to admit. During the few days that ABBA received several European journalists in Stockholm, it becomes clear that there’s an enormous fear. The pop-group that is making so many millions has difficulties coming to terms with a possible attack on their happiness.

Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid are sitting at a round table in the boardroom of the ABBA-headquarter. In a time span of five years, the Swedish group has managed to become Sweden’s biggest export product: in the past five years, ABBA has gathered together no less than 1 billion Dutch guilders! Their latest album ‘Super Trouper’ is on top of the charts all over Europe and within three weeks, the album sold 2 million copies.

Despite the enormous success, there are still people who think ABBA sounds ‘plastic’. Benny says: “All right, we’ve been hearing that criticism for years now, but we will never get used to it; we do accept it. I think it’s because we don’t use any drugs, don’t tear our hotel rooms apart and aren’t drunk all the time.”

Benny adds: “People don’t have any idea how much time we spend on one song. It often takes weeks before we’re satisfied. We don’t write for a certain group of people, we write for ourselves. If we wouldn’t do that, the whole thing would have collapsed a long time ago.”

When the subject of the kidnap threat of Linda Ulvaeus arises, which was the reason for ABBA not being able to leave the country last week, tears well up in Agnetha’s eyes. “We don’t want to talk about that,” Björn says. And Agnetha says: “Sometimes I burst into tears, when I just think about the state of the world at the moment and all the things that could happen to us.”
“The nuclear bomb, for instance. Are we all facing our death, we and our children? I want my children to grow up in a better world. Then it all gets too much for me at times, because I think that better world won’t happen anymore. All the money we’ve made can’t change that!”
‘The Winner Takes It All’, is what Agnetha sang on the previous single. But what is that ‘all’, you might wonder...

Studio, 1983: Agnetha Fältskog without ABBA

Before ABBA brought together the careers of Frida, Björn, Benny and Agnetha, the last of these four, Agnetha (‘the blonde’) already had a solo career in Sweden. She had her first hit in 1968 with ‘Jag Var Så Kär’ and enjoyed her biggest success with ‘Om Tårar Vore Guld’. During a television show where she performed this song she met Björn Ulvaeus, at the time member of the Hootenanny Singers.
Now ABBA has achieved all there is to achieve, both in highs and lows, the members are working more for themselves again. Like Frida, Agnetha has recorded a solo album as well, produced by Mike Chapman. When you have the amount of money and influence like Agnetha Fältskog, you can do pretty much what you want when it comes to choosing producers, songwriters and musicians. The fact that Agnetha chose a successful producer of typical chart-pop (among others, Chapman produced Sweet, Mud, Racey and Smokie) indicates that in her spare time she has no other pretensions than making lightweight pop.
From Agnetha’s LP ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’, ‘The Heat Is On’ is known already. That was a pleasant song, that can be considered as one of the best on the album. The rest is not bad, but isn’t saying much. None of her ABBA-colleagues contributed to this album. Three singers of Smokie did.

Saturday 20 September 2008

Hitkrant, 1983: ABBA has money troubles

Behind the scenes of the ABBA-companies, a struggle for power is going on, of which Agnetha, Benny and Björn appear to become victims. But, as it turned out, Frida has managed to sell her interests in the ABBA-business last year. By doing that, she not only escapes the financial scandal, but also the loss of about two billion.

Feverish meetings are taking place at the offices of the various ABBA-companies in Sweden these days. Too much investments in the oil-business seem to have big consequences for Agnetha, Benny and Björn, but for the many small investors, who entrusted their hard-earned money to the ABBA-group, as well. It is now certain that about two billion has been lost and that’s not a piece of cake, not even for the pop-millionaires. Several assets of the ABBA-company have been sold already or are for sale, to be able to cover the losses. But Sweden is talking about a financial scandal and obviously that’s not good advertisement for the group. To great astonishment, it turned out that Frida, who moved to England last year, doesn’t have anything to do with the ABBA-company any longer. Last year, she sold all her shares because she no longer believed in the politics of the ABBA-group. She was proven right.

The question is, whether this crisis will bring the ABBA-members closer together or, on the contrary, drive them even further apart. Rumours about the expected break-up are getting more frequent every day and there are sources that say that ABBA is about to die a dismal death. Now that the financial separation between Frida and the other group-members has become public, this seems the obvious conclusion. But then again, Agnetha has a different opinion. “Frida and I have more fun working with ABBA now,” she stated recently. “Our collaboration is more relaxed now than a few years ago. The bigger amount of freedom is definitely beneficiary to the group’s achievements. We won’t let ABBA bleed to death, we all love the group too much for that.” Agnetha is even convinced that a new ABBA-album will be released in 1984. “The fans will have to have patience for one more year. In the meantime, I hope that Frida and I will be able to keep the ABBA-audience satisfied with our solo records.”

Hitkrant, 1980: Super Trouper album review

“Yeah, yeah!” I hear everybody saying. “The new ABBA-album: Hitkrant will probably make it Album of the Week again!” Listen, I really can’t help it: once again, ‘Super Trouper’ turned out to be a quality product, a sublime album that many, so called ‘serious’, pop-groups don’t even come close to. The familiar complaints of ABBA being commercial or plastic are nonsense; ABBA simply is a serious pop-group.
Björn and Benny’s surefire compositions and the musically perfect and inspired execution of all, I repeat: all songs, make sure that ‘Super Trouper’ is a new milestone in the ABBA-journey.
Examples: the marvellous, folk-inspired ‘The Piper’, ‘On And On And On’ (gets stuck in the groove), ‘Our Last Summer’, sung beautifully by Frida, ‘Me And I’, that could be the next hit. Next hit? There are ten of those on this album!
I rate this four and a half, because five means ‘can’t get any better’ and it seems that ABBA is capable to do better with every album.

Friday 19 September 2008

Hitkrant, April 1984: ABBA's future is more unsure than ever!

“Paris is beautiful in the spring,” Frida smiles. “Unfortunately, for the past few weeks we haven’t been able to see anything else from the city than the four walls of this studio.” We went for a visit to the Studios de la Grande Armée, where the ABBA-singer is recording her second solo album, together with hot producer Steve Lillywhite.

Are you starting to get a clear view on your new album already?
“Yes. In any case, it’s going to be a very versatile album with lots of different moods. That’s no surprise either, when you look at the list of composers who contributed to the album: Big Country’s Stuart Adamson, Chris Rea, Steve Lillywhite’s fiancée Kirsty McColl, my son Hans, ABBA’s Björn and Benny. For the first time, I’ve written a song myself as well.”
Why did you record the album in Paris?
“Working or recording in Sweden has become impossible for me, due to tax reasons. Paris and London were the two other options. Because I live in London Centre, I thought it would be a good idea to cross the sea for the recordings.”
Is your break from ABBA now permanent, to be able to pursue your solo career?
“There’s not much I can say about that. The future of the group is more unsure than ever. Björn and Benny have been working on their musical for months and that will probably stay that way until 1985. They could barely find the time to write one song for my album. Anyhow, this is the very first time that they don’t produce one of their own compositions themselves.”
How much time has passed since you saw the other members of the group?
“Months! Some time ago, I ran into Benny in London. Coincidentally, Björn was at the ABBA-offices in Stockholm when I was there and I met Agnetha while she was doing her promotional tour for her album.”
Does ABBA still exist?
“I hope so!” (smiles) “I know that there are no official plans to split up. But I have to admit that I often try to find a reason why ABBA should still continue and I don’t find any. Still, it’s not out of the question that we will record another album together. Sentimentally, we’re still very much attached to each other.”
Why did you change your producer after the success of your first album?
“Phil Collins, who produced my first album, is very busy these days with Genesis and his own solo projects. I would have loved to work with him again and I must confess I was disappointed when Phil wasn’t available. Actually, I didn’t have an alternative immediately. We thought about Sting for a while, but of course he wasn’t available either. I knew Steve Lillywhite from his records with Joan Armatrading. Later on, I listened to U2, Simple Minds and Big Country and his sound won me over immediately.”
Is there an obvious difference between Phil Collins and Steve Lillywhite?
“Of course. They both have their own personalities. It’s absolutely useless to compare the two. Maybe a satisfying answer could be that Steve is not as good a drummer as Phil is.” (smiles)
Are you scared of the reactions of the loyal ABBA-fans?
“No. My first solo album sold about two million copies. I think that speaks volumes. Maybe I will reach a wider audience with Steve’s specific sound. Actually, I don’t really care whether this album does as well as the previous one. I did my best, Steve did his best and all the musicians have put their heart and soul into the album. That’s the most important thing for me. Time will tell if I’ve made the right decision.”

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Paravisie, February 1997: ABBA's spiritual mission

In 1997, Dutch magazine Paravisie published this article with a very unusual view on ABBA, to say the least. Mind you, this is a magazine about supernatural phenomena (among others), so it's very exceptional that they pay attention to a pop-group.
Thanks to Karin, for providing the scans of this article!
While ABBA is very much in the picture lately, a mysterious book has come to our attention, in which it is claimed that ABBA is in contact with extraterrestrials and has a spiritual mission to fulfil on earth. Did or does the most successful pop-group since The Beatles have a greater influence on mankind than many would have thought possible?

At the Dutch ABBA-fanclub, that still has a few thousand members, spirituality is a hot item at the moment. The occasion is a book by German writers Görd Kaa and Sasa Merts: ‘ABBA, Die Besucher’, that was published back in 1985, but only recently has grabbed everyone’s attention. In the book, the authors claim that the group is having close connections with extraterrestrials and is having a spiritual mission to fulfil on earth. It’s even claimed to be possible that the group-members are aliens themselves. Görd Kaa received several impulses (others call them visions) in which he was commissioned to write the piece. “They seem like love-songs, but that’s the tricky part: there is a hidden message in there.” The lyrics have been analysed and, among other things, there’s talk of the ABBA-religion, the ABBA-love and the ABBA-lifestyle. Especially in Germany, this movement is starting to gain more and more followers, but in Holland people are increasingly taking these things seriously as well.

Especially ABBA-singer Annifrid Lyngstad, better known as Frida, seems to be the centre of almost endless imagination. Apart from the fact she still sings occasionally, she spends her time as the spokesperson of the Swedish environmental movement, and she recently shocked the Swedish nation by appearing on television with a bucket full of worms, as an example of natural garbage recycling. Although ABBA has stopped recording for some time now, it is said that their ‘spiritual work’ continues in their personal projects. But the German book only leads up to 1985 and is not for sale anymore. That’s why copies of the piece are spread among fans. No one has ever heard of the authors again and attempts by German fans to contact them have not succeeded. That’s why a group of fans from Berlin, one of them being Thomas Zimmerman (30), have updated the piece themselves to 1996. “ABBA’s lyric-book is sort of a Bible to me. I’ve had many quarrels about that with my catholic father. He thinks it’s blasphemous to make such comparisons. And he really looses it when I tell him that the word ABBA is also in the Bible. In there it means ‘father’. But for me, one thing doesn’t necessarily exclude the other. I draw inspiration from the Christian Bible, but even more from ABBA’s lyric-book. It covers everything. They deal about everyday life and provide tools to encounter life in a positive way: ‘Something good in everything I see’ (from ‘I Have A Dream’). And all from an individual point of view. It’s pure new age. And the good thing is, that it transcends all religions and world-views, because there’s no condemnation in any of the lyrics. And it’s all very casual. In the lyrics it doesn’t get any more binding than in ‘Take A Chance On Me’ and ‘Voulez-Vous’. Everyone is able to interpret the lyrics in his or her own way.”

“In the songs, tools are being given to improve your own situation. And often, they elaborate on that in subsequent songs, of course in the shape of love-songs like ‘I Wonder’. At one time I had to make a radical decision in my life. Would I take that new job and leave everything behind by moving to the other end of Germany? Or would I not? Instinctively, I listened to that song. The answer was there to be found: ‘Oh no, I’ll be strong, one chance in a lifetime, yes I will take it, it can’t go wrong. I’m not a coward’. It can’t go wrong. ABBA gives positive powers. I decided to leave and haven’t regretted it for a moment. I’ve heard of other fans having identical experiences. A song like ‘Move On’ is full of messages as well. Life is a trip through time and space. We are commanded not to stay put, because the rhythm of life is a cycle. Earlier on, it was already pointed out in ‘Waterloo’: ‘the history book on the shelf is always repeating itself’.”

But what is the extraterrestrial part in all this? Thomas: “First of all, there are the visions many people have had. It’s also perceivable in ABBA themselves. Their appearance, their album-covers, their lyrics. But it’s all very subtle. Secondly, when you look at certain photographs closely, especially Frida, you can’t reach any other conclusion than that her majestic charisma must come from outer space. But the lyrics are full of references to extraterrestrial, cosmic forces. Like in ‘I’m A Marionette’. It literally says: ‘As if I had come out of space’.”
In the book, the song ‘Eagle’ is named as a distinct example. The lyrics deal with ‘they’ who come from far away, know the answers to everything, speak strangely, but ‘I’ (= ABBA) understand. According to the authors, the importance of the song ‘The Visitors’ becomes clear due to the fact that the book is also titled ‘Die Besucher’. In the title-track of ABBA’s last complete album, the actual meeting with extraterrestrials is believed to be described. The song deals with the excitement, but also the fear of ‘them’ who ring the doorbell. There are parts about ‘secret meetings’. And ‘now they’ve come to take me’.

Has ABBA been abducted by UFO’s? That’s what the authors of the book are wondering about. ABBA should be well-prepared to the arrival of the extraterrestrials, but still be afraid to finally get the answers to so many questions. It makes your earthly existence collapse: ‘My whole world is falling, going crazy. I feel I’m cracking up’. According to Zimmerman the song would be an ideal soundtrack to the better science-fiction movie. “Not just because of its lyrics, but the music itself is a different story as well. Frida’s voice sounds extraterrestrial in this song.” The fact that Frida’s voice has been treated by an electronic harmonizer (sampler) for this song, doesn’t convince Thomas otherwise. “That may be true, but on so many other records harmonizers are being used, and that really doesn’t make a voice sound like this. So either the harmonizer comes from an UFO, or Frida herself.”

According to the book, the subtle references to the cosmos and space are even clear in the Swedish record-label that enjoyed the fruits of ABBA’s success: Polar Music. At first, it was a globe and later on, the stage setting of ABBA’s second world-tour: three pyramids, were printed on the label. “Especially the pyramid is a symbol of cosmic energy in many spiritual movements,” the book says. “Also, the ‘Voulez-Vous’ album cover uses a pyramid, with a photograph of Agnetha and Frida wearing futuristic belts adorned with delicate heavenly bodies, or rather little stars.”

Many fans of the German ‘ABBA-UFO club’ are having meditation-sessions with ABBA-music and claim to reach a certain state of ecstasy. “We just sit together, put on some ABBA-music and open up our souls using yoga-techniques,” says Thomas. “Then we get a marvellous feeling. ABBA is mood-enhancing anyway, but in such a session you really get the feeling you’re contacting the cosmos. It’s like you reach a higher frequency. You’re in a different dimension. Especially songs like ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’, ‘Move On’, ‘I Let The Music Speak’ and ‘The Visitors’ are perfect for this. But also Frida's Swedish-language solo album, released last year, called ‘Djupa Andetag’ is full of music to reach that state of ecstasy. Especially ‘Älska Mig Alltid’, ‘Även En Blomma’ and the heavenly ‘Lugna Vatten’ are very elevating.”

Anita Nootenboom, president of the Dutch ABBA-fanclub thinks it’s all nonsense. “Those people in Germany have really lost it. And now I notice that a group of fans in Holland is also starting to go crazy, I’m getting worried. When I see that people are forming these meditation-groups or starting to practise yoga at our coming fanclub-day in April, I will throw them out. I don’t want anything to do with that.”

Gerard Hesen (32) from Venlo, ABBA-fan since day one, has his doubts too, but is a bit more open-minded. “The extraterrestrial stuff is a step too far for me. I’m too reserved for that. I do think that German book is very interesting. I’ve read it six times. But primarily to see how they fully analysed those lyrics. I don’t have a problem with people meditating at the fanclub-day. It really doesn’t bother me. I’m just not going to join in.”

According to the authors of the book, the ABBA-members are possibly not even aware of their mission. But what was the reaction when Agnetha and Frida were confronted with the book? Frida made a joke about it. “Didn’t I tell you earlier that I come from Mars?” and she didn’t want to elaborate on that. It’s remarkable that the authors haven’t noticed that Frida has recorded a solo song in 1975 called ‘Liv På Mars’ (Life On Mars). Agnetha only said two words about the book: “How interesting!” Gerard Hesen says the reaction of the two ladies is very sensible. “They leave it up in the air. If they say they indeed have a mission and are in contact with extraterrestrials, people won’t take them seriously anymore and they will be ridiculed. But if they had firmly denied it and discarded the book as pure nonsense, the myth would have been gone. And that doesn’t do their enormous star-standing any favours.”

Still, recently ABBA’s Björn thought it was time to reveal something about the song ‘The Visitors’. For years he firmly refused to say who those visitors were. Insisting wouldn’t help at all. But when the stories of extraterrestrial meetings reached his ears, he said about that song: “’The Visitors’ deals with dissidents in dictatorships who get caught by the secret service, like for example the dissidents in the communistic Soviet Union.” But the German fans who believe the extraterrestrial book think this explanation is too convulsive and hasty too believe. Björn didn’t want to talk about UFO’s either. He just said: “I’ve heard those stories, but I think it’s best not to say anything about it at all.”

In Germany and beyond, the euphoria reached its peak recently when reports appeared in newspapers that ABBA would reconvene to record another album. “Their work is not finished yet. There has to be another album. Especially after all those solo projects, the forces have to be combined again,” Thomas thinks. “That this is possible, has been proven already, because after Frida’s first English-language solo album ‘Something’s Going On’ and Agnetha’s single ‘Never Again’, ABBA went back into the studio to record the songs ‘The Day Before You Came’, ‘Under Attack’, ‘Just Like That’ and ‘I Am The City’. After that, it was over. But now... in the passing of time the separate members all have developed tremendously. If you combine that, the outcome would be the most fantastic album ever.”

The disappointment couldn’t be bigger when Mono Music in Stockholm replied that there wasn’t talk of a reunion at all. “The reports in the media were based on a misunderstanding. For the future, a reunion isn’t ruled out, but there definitely aren’t concrete plans for it. And it’s very questionable if it will ever happen,” says Görel Hanser, spokesperson of the ABBA-headquarters in Sweden. The fans find hope in the fact that the group never officially broke up, due to several business interests. To help matters, the fans in Germany have started meditating to release cosmic powers that will get ABBA back together again. If it will help... time will tell.

Joepie, 1982: "It was wonderful working with Tomas"

“I felt as if I was involved in the start of my own career,” Agnetha says. “Since a year or so, I’ve been keen to let myself be heard in a different way than with ABBA’s work. The song that Tomas had lying on a shelf seemed to be an ideal opportunity to realize that dream.” A dream that came true. ‘Never Again’, the blonde singer’s first sidestep without the group became an enormous hit. Another golden record can be added to the trophy display cabinet. Still, this casual success means more to Agnetha. In this conversation, she reveals the true motive behind that plan.

Obviously, ABBA remains Agnetha’s most important trump card. Still, the good-looking singer likes to give new challenges a try. “Actually, Tomas is not completely new to this business,” Agnetha says. “He’s been working on his career for years already, but the definitive breakthrough hasn’t happened yet. Actually, he’s one of our employees. Anything that’s good for Tomas’ career, has a positive effect on our company as well. So it’s very natural for me to help him to get on the right track.”
That solo sidestep meant a breath of fresh air to Agnetha.
“When I heard the song, that Tomas needed a female voice for, it seemed like a unique opportunity for me to make my own mark on a production. With ABBA, Björn and Benny are obviously the ones who set out the musical direction. Working with Tomas was a true adventure for me, because I had more say in the matter. There wasn’t a stress-situation at all, like we experience with ABBA sometimes. As an artist, I couldn’t let that chance go by. This golden record proves that my gamble seems to have turned out right.”

Sunday 14 September 2008

Randstadpop, 1982: ABBA, how much longer?

ABBA’s album ‘Visitors’ had already achieved gold status in many countries even before its release. Still it seems (also because the album was released later than planned) that dark clouds are starting to appear above the heads of the four Swedes. Arguments and misunderstandings are no exception in the successful group that, apart from Volvo, is the most important export article of the country.

The small lettering on the somewhat modest building indicates that we’re at Polar Music. That’s the name that makes us recognize that we’re at the headquarter of ABBA’s multinational. Heading the business is the 50-year-old manager of the super-group, Stig Anderson, who’s responsible for the extraordinary success of the foursome. If we have to believe what Stig is saying, all seems to go very well, and the sales of the album ‘Visitors’ are once again extremely healthy. About tensions within the group or the break up of ABBA, he says: “Tensions always arise in a group that people expect so much from, still we get along great. Problems are always cleared up immediately. That’s how you can intercept most tensions. A break up is out of the question.” When we ask if it hasn’t become more difficult, now decisions have to be made by nine people (four new partners) instead of the usual five, he answers: “Of course, it’s not easier, but all of us realize that we need each other and considering all the business investments that ABBA has done over the years, you could say it’s a financial marriage, that’s practically impossible to dissolve.”

Of course, that’s all true but still, rumours are going round that all ABBA-members are concentrating on solo productions or other projects. “That’s true,” Benny says. “Björn and I are producing several Swedish artists. Apart from that, we’re very much interested in video lately.” Benny still gets along great with his musical friend Björn, whom he sees a lot of in his spare time as well, apart from the obligatory hours. The situation is completely different when it comes to his ex-wife Frida (Anni-Frid) whom he only sees incidentally at meetings, apart from the hours in the studio. “It’s not easy,” Benny says, “to keep seeing each other as good friends after our divorce. Fortunately, we still respect each other. The fact that I’m still able to work with Frida is based on that, but apart from that we don’t have much interest in each other anymore.”

Frida is clearly following new paths. The fact that she refused every involvement from the other ABBA-members in the solo project that she’s working on, is an indication of that. The other three members aren’t even allowed to listen to the project until it’s completely finished. After the divorce from Benny, Frida also wanted to spend more time with her children Liselotte and Hans, from her first marriage to Ragnar Frederiksson. About that , the dark-haired singer says: “I wouldn’t want the judge to give custody of my children to their father once again. Apart from that, I think they should be able to count on their mother, especially during this period, and that takes time. That’s also the reason that I no longer feel like performing with ABBA. I still enjoy working on recordings in the studio with the group, but still the time is gradually coming that I’m considering a solo career as well.” When we ask if she has any plans to leave ABBA, she answers: “As long as the fans are willing to buy our records, I will continue with ABBA.”

The blonde Agnetha is leading a rather similar life as her female colleague, the difference being that Björn still comes to visit her privately on their children’s birthdays. About the stories that she would leave the group to go and live in America with her new boyfriend Torbjörn Brander, she says: “Ever since it is rumoured that I’m going to play a leading part in Dallas, the strangest stories are going round, but for the time being I want to continue working with ABBA, although that doesn’t mean that I’m not doing anything else. To live in America? No, that’s not part of it.” The Swedish singer doesn’t talk very much about her private life, but doesn’t give the impression either that she has any problems with that. She looks good and her face reveals very few tensions. “Of course I have a little more spare time after all the recordings for our last album. I want to spend it completely on myself and my family,” according to Björn’s ex-wife.

Björn’s new wife has a striking resemblance to Agnetha. Insiders claim that Björn is still very fond of his former wife and that may be the reason that he chose a lookalike as his new partner. About that, Björn himself says: “The fact that my new girlfriend looks like Agnetha, has nothing to do with the fact that I’d still be in love with her. It’s just a coincidence, that’s all.”
Does he still have feelings for Agnetha, or doesn’t he want anything to do with her? “Just for the sake of ABBA and our children, I’m still seeing Agnetha. You will always have feelings, but I love my new wife Lena very much, and see Agnetha as a friend now.” What does he think about ABBA’s future? “Very few performances and lots of records,” he concludes with a smile.

Saturday 13 September 2008

Pop Foto, March 1978: ABBA was being told off by a mysterious voice

Everything was set. Annifrid and Agnetha had made themselves comfortable in two big hammocks. Benny and Björn behind them. The photographer just wanted to point his unrelenting camera at the famous foursome, when suddenly a raspy, almost frightening sound filled the studio. “You sing out of tune! Bunglers!” it sounded in a squeeky voice. Everyone looked up dumbfounded. Where in heaven’s name did that mysterious voice come from?

It happened shortly before the birth of Agnetha’s son. ABBA gave a couple of photographers from around the world the opportunity to take some beautiful pictures, it would be the last opportunity for a long time to come. Our own pop-photographer got the chance as well to get ABBA in front of his camera. A unique opportunity. No wonder that he went to great lengths to make the most of it. Beautiful hammocks, enormous exotic plants. Lots of things were being dragged in. He even borrowed two colourful parrots at a local pet shop. The photo shoot was going very well, until suddenly that mysterious voice messed things up. “You sing out of tune,” it sounded, “bunglers.”
Agnetha and Annifrid were so startled, they almost fell out of their hammocks. Immediately, a scouting expedition was set out to find that non-musical intruder. They looked everywhere, but without results. Eventually, the photo shoot continued with much reluctance. The next day, our photographer took the borrowed parrots back to that pet shop. “Well?” the friendly retailer asked, “did they say anything?” “W-what do you mean?” The photographer looked at the retailer questioningly. “Well, that red one used to be owned by a choirmaster and he teached him several nice phrases.” “It depends on what you call nice!” the photographer stuttered...
ABBA soon forgot about the occurrence. After all, little Christian was born.

Friday 12 September 2008

Veronica, 1984: Frida has found her way

Meanwhile, she’s 39, singer Frida Lyngstad, and with ABBA she has made so much money that she would never have to work again. Still she can’t help but continue. To get better and better. And not lose contact with the youngsters. In her style of music she seems to get younger and younger, in her appearance likewise. How does she manage that?

If it was up to Frida, she would get into the studio tomorrow to start working on new recordings. That’s how enthusiastic she is about her third, recently released solo album ‘Shine’, that we talk about, in between recordings for ‘Countdown’. It turns out that, in spite of everything she has accomplished in her life already, she has remained a friendly and, above all, sweet human being, with a very modest and reserved attitude.
On arrival at Schiphol airport, earlier that day, she would easily stand and sign autographs for half an hour, while knowing she was expected at the studio. Her fans come first at these moments, and the technicians will have to have patience for a while, is Frida’s reasoning. When fans at the studio are saying that they think her new single ‘Shine’ is awesome, Frida smiles. “My new album is very modern and a bit heavier than the previous one as well,” she says. “It’s more rock-oriented and I’m very happy about that. I didn’t worry about the fans’ reactions to that. I will never underestimate them. And I know, they will grow with me.”
Frida recorded her first solo album ‘Frida Ensam’ in 1975, the year after she won the Eurovision Song Contest, together with Agnetha, Björn and Benny, with the song ‘Waterloo’. Her second solo album, that was produced by no other than Phil Collins and was called ‘Something’s Going On’, was released two years ago. Frida’s brand new solo album saw the light of day under supervision of top producer Steve Lillywhite (known of his work for groups like U2, Simple Minds, Big Country, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Joan Armatrading and XTC).

“Actually, I wanted to work with Phil Collins again,” says Frida, “but he couldn’t find the time for me. His schedule was already limited due to his marriage and accompanying honeymoon. And I didn’t want to wait that long. That’s when I approached Steve, who I liked very much as well, and I still do. There may not be a lot of people aware of this, but I have an unbounded admiration for rock-singers like Pat Benatar. I want to follow that path as well. And Steve helped me a great deal. I started to raise a little aversion to the music of ABBA towards the end. The title-track of our last album ‘The Visitors’, for instance, is more to my liking than the rest. I know I don’t have to work anymore, I have often been told, but I like what I do and at the moment I’d rather concentrate on the youngsters than on the whole family. This may have something to do with my children, thanks to them I’m starting to feel younger and younger, the older I get.”
For the past two years, Frida has lived in one of London’s suburbs, together with her two children. Not only because of the not so favourable Swedish tax environment, but also because of the music happening in England, that inspires her a great deal. “That’s why I see very little of my ABBA-colleagues,” according to Frida. “I haven’t spoken to Agnetha for a while. I’ve heard that she’s collecting material for her second solo album, that will be produced by 10CC’s Eric Stewart. And Björn and Benny are very busy with their musical Chess. After the recordings of my new album at the Studio de la Grande Armée in Paris, we had a reception over there and Benny and Björn were there as well. They wrote the song ‘Slowly’ for me, that appears on ‘Shine’. Apart from that, Steve Lillywhite’s wife, Kirsty McColl worked extensively on the album, and to my surprise, Big Country-singer Stuart Adamson came up with a song as well. This way, I get a chance to mingle with totally different musicians.”

Frida leads a rather secluded life. She tries to combine her housekeeping and her career as good as possible and one of the few men that she’s very close to, is her father. Chances are slim that we’ll be able to see her perform the coming months, because Frida will probably not get to that. All collaborators on the album have other engagements. Apart from that, a good upbringing for her children is important to her. She thinks it’s excellent that they are now leading a bilingual life and she wants to be with them as much as possible. And to lead a life with them as normal as possible.
“But we also stimulate each other musically,” Frida concludes. “They’re with me all the way and encourage me to continue, to get even better. For the first time, a song written by myself is on this album, something that should happen more often in the future. And together with my son Hans and Kirsty McColl I’ve written the B-side of the single ‘Shine’. Those are very nice things, that are happening to me all of a sudden. And I enjoy it tremendously... Only now, I feel totally responsible for my work. And quite rightly, I can be proud of that!”

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Muziek Expres, 1983: Frida doesn't always want to be the star

Björn and Benny are writing hit after hit for ABBA. But now they’ve tried their hands at something completely different: a real musical. Recently, the premiere of Abbacadabra took place in London. And who was present as well? Frida!
“Don’t these songs by Björn and Benny sound fantastic?” ABBA’s own Frida sighs after the premiere of the musical Abbacadabra. She smiles for a while and then continues: “Yes, that may sound very strange coming from me, after all, I’ve sang them myself for years now, but when you’re suddenly in the audience and hear them being sung by different people, that’s really a very extraordinary experience!”
And of course that’s true! Frida was one of the guests of honor at the premiere of the musical, a showpiece in which several fairy-tale figures make an appearance such as Cinderella – played by Finola Hughes who also played a leading part in ‘Staying Alive’ – and Pinochhio. But, among others, a robot and a pirate-queen as well, a part played by Elaine Paige, who became known for her part in the musical Evita a few years ago. So, a multi-coloured company.
The songs and the music are all by ABBA’s Björn and Benny. Apart from old ABBA-successes, a couple of songs written especially for the musical can be heard. Together with the Scottish singer B.A. Robertson, who’s responsible for the part of ‘The Beast’ in Abbacadabra, Frida has recorded one of the songs from the musical: ‘Time’. But apart from that, she’s not taking part in the musical. Smilingly, Frida confesses: “Actually, I like it much better to sit in the audience, listening to the songs that we’re usually singing ourselves!” Still chuckling, she disappears in the festive crowd.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Pop Foto, 1977: Why Agnetha cried silently...

Another hilarious article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto that's bound to make you roar with laughter.
She was fed up with it. She was so terribly fed up with it all that tears were running down ABBA’s Agnetha’s cheeks. For weeks she had been pushed back and forth with her pregnant belly and still everyone was snapping at her. For the ABBA-movie Agnetha would do almost anything, but this just went a bit too far for her!

“Come down now, dear, you will be all right!” Björn was standing at the bottom of the high stepladder and shouted impatiently at his wife. Everyone had been being impatient with her lately. Why couldn’t they just leave her alone? Agnetha felt the tears welling up in her eyes. A sad feeling got hold of her throat. Couldn’t they all understand that she wasn’t able to do everything as quickly, now she had been pregnant for six months. Certainly not rushing off a high and shaky stepladder! A big teardrop was running down her cheek, and another one. Björn was swinging the stepladder to and fro. “Would you hurry up!” he shouted angrily from beneath. Agnetha stood still, clenched her fists and held her breath. She would love to be at home right now, to prepare herself peacefully for her second child. But instead, everyone shouted at her and she hardly saw her little daughter Linda... Her back was aching and her legs were shaking from exhaustion. “Shove it!” she suddenly yelled furiously. “You can all shove it with your stupid movie!” With one stroke she ruined her smudged make-up and sat down at the top of the stepladder, sobbing silently!

“But, but...” a startled Björn stuttered. “Shut your mouth and get her off that stepladder, mister,” Annifrid snapped, whose attention had been caught by Agnetha’s furious exclamation. “Don’t you understand this is all too much for her? You guys seem to think that having a baby is just a piece of cake!” She pulled Björn into the shiny metal elevator that went up from the film studio. “And you are taking her home right now, you hear,” Annifrid growled, just before the elevator doors opened and Björn helped his exhausted Agnetha up, “because when she breaks down, things will be a lot worse!”
Ten minutes later the giant film studio was deserted. Agnetha and Björn had rushed home in a limousine and Annifrid, Benny and a couple of photographers and camera men, all worn out, drank coffee from plastic cups. The outcome of a day’s filming: a few recorded scenes, some photographs for Pop Foto, an exhausted cast...
“It’s all very strainful,” Annifrid beamed, “and we will have to spare Agnetha a little more, but that movie will be finished, you can bet on that!”
Do you want to know more, or actually everything, about this ABBA-movie, that will be in the cinemas at the end of this year? A movie, in which ABBA is pursued by an Australian pop-journalist, who’s after a juicy ABBA-story. Make sure that you don’t miss the next issue of Pop Foto!

Monday 8 September 2008

Hitkrant, 1985: "First and foremost, I want to be a good mother"

“With ABBA I’ve experienced good and bad times,” Agnetha Fältskog says. “Especially all the traveling and seeing so little of your loved ones is not very easy in the end. It’s not completely impossible that a new ABBA-album will see the light of day someday in the future, but there won’t be any firm group collaboration any longer.” An honest conversation about past, present and future.

Is there a big difference between Agnetha the singer and Agnetha privately?
“Definitely. I think that the image the audience has of me is totally wrong. Everyone seems to think that I’m a very vulnerable woman, who has difficulties standing up for herself. In reality it’s not like that at all. I am very shy, but I know exactly what I want. I like to go my own way. For instance, I realize now, more than ever, that in your life you always have to give priority to the things that are most important to you. For me, those are my children. That’s why I try to travel as little as possible. But I can record an album, I think.”
Why did you choose Eric Stewart as your producer?
“Indeed, finding a suitable producer is not very easy. I had met Eric and the other guys from 10CC a few times already during ABBA’s heyday. But it was risky, because beforehand you never know how you will get along. But things turned out for the best, because Eric is a calm man, it was very pleasurable working with him.”
Why did you write so few songs for the album yourself?
“Because I have very little time for that. Composing songs takes an enormous amount of energy and patience. And every time I get more critical when it comes to the songs. Apart from that, I don’t want to neglect my children anymore, the way I used to do when I was with ABBA.”
There are a lot of love-songs on your album. Is that a coincidence?
“Yes and no. All composers mostly write about love. It’s probably because a human being is full of emotions, that he wants to release while writing a song. Personally, I feel very comfortable with sentimentality and romance.”
Why did you choose ‘I Won’t Let You Go’ as a single?
“Eric and I left that to other people to decide on purpose. When you are recording an album, you’re so much into it that you can’t decide which song should be the single yourself. A convincing majority of my advisers went for ‘I Won’t Let You Go’”.
Are you considering any live performances?
“I don’t rule it out. I would like to get up on stage once again, especially in Stockholm. Actually, I see myself more as a recording artist than a performer, but I still enjoy to perform live.”
Any chances of a career as an actress?
“Why not, actually? I played a part in a Swedish movie not too long ago and I had to play several characters in a television special as well. It felt very good. Singing and acting seems like a fun combination.”
What are your plans for 1985?
“The spring is devoted completely to promoting the album. After that, I want to take an extensive break. At the end of this year, my son Christian will be going to school for the first time. I wouldn’t want to miss that for the world. It’s even possible that I will record a children’s album with him. As you can see, being a good mother comes first for me from now on.”

Sunday 7 September 2008

Story, December 1982: Agnetha and Frida: "Because of ABBA our marriages failed"

Is ten years of ABBA something to celebrate? Björn, Frida, Agnetha and Benny have their doubts about that. They not only look back on big successes, enormous fame and financial prosperity... ABBA destroyed their private lives as well. The foursome, once made up of two close couples, has memories of sorrow and loneliness as well.
ABBA has been together for ten years! So it seems, reason enough for the members of the group to have a celebration. But whether Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny will actually do this? In an exclusive interview with Story, Agnetha and Frida reveal how ABBA destroyed their private lives...
It’s amazing how things can change in ten years time! In 1972, Agnetha Fältskog, Frida Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson recorded their first song. And none of the four dared to dream that they’d be famous all over the world a few years later, as the group ABBA. That first record, called ‘People Need Love’, applied to the foursome very much. At the time, Björn was madly in love with Agnetha. And Benny couldn’t keep his eyes off of Frida. And their dream was for the four of them to be happy and famous. And that dream came true. Because in 1974 the young group ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘Waterloo’. And from that moment on they scored hit after hit. In the meantime, Björn and Agnetha had gotten married and Frida and Benny had tied the knot as well. “The four of us are so extremely happy in our work as well as in our private lives, it’s sometimes scary,” is what Agnetha once told a journalist. Their happiness seemed to last. Björn and Agnetha had two children together, Linda and Christian. And Benny and Annifrid made a happy family with Hans and Liselotte, the children from Frida’s first marriage.
And then it suddenly went wrong! Enormous problems started to arise for Agnetha and Björn. “Björn was absorbed completely by the music, he hardly paid attention to me anymore,” Agnetha says now, three years after the divorce. “Characterwise, I’m a very homely type of person and I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than sitting on the couch with my husband, watching a good movie on television. When we were just married, Björn felt the same way. But while ABBA was doing better and better, our relationship was getting worse. Towards the end, we only saw each other in the recording studios. I got more and more depressed and eventually I saw a psychiatrist almost every day. Together with him I came to the conclusion that I had to end my marriage to Björn as soon as possible, before I would become a mental wreck. Björn wasn’t surprised at all when I told him I wanted a divorce. He had seen it coming, but he didn’t know how to save our marriage. For Björn, his job will always come first.”
And as if there hadn’t been enough tears shed, a while after that, Frida and Benny’s marriage ended as well. “We’d had some problems for a while,” Frida explains honestly. “But in the beginning we wouldn’t face them. We just ignored them. You can keep that up for some time, but eventually you really have to do something about it. As time went by, Benny and I had made a life of our own and eventually we only came home to sleep. Some time after that, I discovered that Benny had an affair with the 37-year-old TV-presenter Mona Nörklit and from that time onwards he didn’t come home at all anymore. Well, why stay married then? Isn’t it much better for the both of you to start all over again? Since that time, I feel it’s a relief to be alone again. My two children are living independently. Hans is 19 years old and he has made music his profession as well. And Liselotte, aged 15, is attending highschool in America. I finally have time for myself. I love it! I travel a lot and, as you know, I recorded a solo album. What more could you want!?“
Björn and Benny claim to be very happy in their private lives as well. They have both remarried and become fathers again recently. A proud Benny is walking through the ABBA offices with the nine-months-old Ludwig, but when our photographer wants to take a picture, he says sternly: “No pictures, please. I want to keep my private life out of the media as much as possible.”
But Agnetha wants to share something about her children. “I’ve promised myself to spend all my spare time on Linda and Christian from now on,” she says decisively. “In the past, I’ve had to leave their upbringing to the nanny too much. That won’t happen anymore. They need their mother. I don’t want to do any tours anymore either, that will take me away from home for too long. I would have the feeling that I’m failing them and I definitely don’t want that. I took Linda with me to America once, but we both didn’t enjoy it. When I’m at home with Linda and Christian, I’m perfectly happy, so I want to keep it that way.”
So it seems that the fairy tale of ABBA will have a happy ending after all.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Pop Foto, December 1980: Pop Foto's David managed to get many secrets out of ABBA

Pop Foto’s comic strip hero David has been friends with ABBA’s Agnetha for years. When the Swedish group showed up in Paris recently for a television performance, our Dave was the only European who could persuade the foursome to do an exclusive interview. Clever as he is, he managed to get many secrets out of Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida.
About 15 million Frenchmen watched the brand new music programme ‘Stars’ recently. No wonder, since only top entertainers such as Julio Iglesias, Olivia Newton-John and ABBA appear on the show. The successful Swedish group performed their new single ‘Super Trouper’, a track from the album of the same name. During their stay at the picturesque Nogent-sur-Marne, only Pop Foto’s comic strip hero David managed to persuade the four to do an exclusive interview.
Benny, about the last album: “Without a doubt, all four of us think this is the best one we’ve done so far. With all previous albums, we always thought there were one or two songs that we had our doubts about. We don’t have that feeling now!” The others nod consentingly.
David: Where does the title ‘Super Trouper’ come from?
“A supertouper is a gigantic searchlight, like the ones they use in the army. Recently, we used one of those big ones at a photo shoot,” Benny says, “and the results were fantastic! Apart from that, it’s a pleasant sounding word that fits the image of the group.”
When asked about the origin of the tracks, Björn answers: “Most songs are the results of experiences in your life, that you want to express in one way or the other. But you do need inspiration! That’s why Benny and I went to the Caribbean Islands a while ago. Barbados, for instance, is a guarantee for good songs, as far as I’m concerned.”
In what way do the lyrics of ‘The Winner Takes It All’ relate to you, Agnetha?
She sighs, before she answers reluctantly: “I don’t like to talk about that, you know. When we taped the promotional film at the marina in Märstrand, I was close to crying. Yes, it was really difficult for me.”
Frida, who is sensing that the subject is rather painful for Agnetha, steps in: “We’ve had problems with our promotional films more often! We wanted to make some recordings at Piccadilly Circus in London, with wild animals, clowns, jugglers... we wanted to create a real circus. But we couldn’t go ahead with this idea, since some stuffy clerks dug up a law from some archive, that declared it’s not allowed to walk around disguised or abnormally in a radius of three miles around that area. Alas, we had that party at the studios near Stockholm.” You have been able already to see some of that footage.
After Benny revealed that he likes the Stones, Queen and Kate Bush, it’s Björn’s turn to name his favourites. Smilingly he says: “First and foremost ABBA, then there’s a big gap, well and then... I like the Eagles a lot. Fleetwood Mac too, but their latest album is horrible!”
Agnetha thinks they actually have too little time to listen to other people’s music. Frida adds: “Except for the groups that do their recordings at our studios. Genesis and Led Zeppelin for instance. We’ve witnessed the realization of the last Led Zeppelin-album from start to finish. That’s why the death of drummer John Bonham was a big shock for us. We’ve had so much fun with him in Stockholm...”
David: Is there any truth in the rumours that you want to leave Sweden? For a while, all four look at each other, wondering who is going to answer.
Agnetha: “Actually, we did think it over, yes. Only two countries were considered: England and Holland. We just think those are the cosiest countries in Europe. But when we were about to go out looking for a place to live and work over there, the disadvantages became clear: the economical climate in England is not that great, and in Holland there’s the language barrier. Especially for our children, attending school!” Frida puts forward that she still prefers Holland, so if there are any plans to move in a few years time...
Björn (jokingly): “But we’ve become a little lazy, that’s why we won’t be visiting Holland for promotion. We will only travel to France, Germany and England. For the time being, there are no plans for a world tour either."
David: Are you still able to make ends meet?
“We can’t complain,” Benny laughs. “In ’82 or ’83, we will be on the share market. People will be able to buy shares in Polar Music International, a company, founded by us, which trades in real estate, loans, food, bicycles and... art!”
David: Do you have anything else to add?
Frida reacts spontaneously: “Don’t forget to give our best regards to all ABBA-fans in Holland!”