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.

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