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.”

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