Sunday 28 December 2008

Hitkrant, April 1979: Voulez-Vous album review / Does Your Mother Know single review

Raving reviews of the Voulez-Vous album and the Does Your Mother Know single from Dutch magazine Hitkrant.
ABBA ‘Voulez-Vous’ Polar/Polydor
Who could have ever imagined: ABBA go disco! It’s already been more than a year ago since ABBA astonished friend, but especially foe with their album ‘The Album’. This time, the Swedish foursome has delivered an album that will be talked about for a long time to come, because it namely is of an unprecedented, enormous class.
The group is totally ignoring the existing image and sounds like never before. Maybe Björn and Benny’s visit to the Bahamas has had something to do with it, but in any case, the ten tracks (among them ‘Chiquitita’) are sounding so fresh, so convincing, that this is showing an ABBA that only very few people would have expected.
No, disco is not a stranger to ABBA any longer. Listen to the new single ‘Does Your Mother Know’, but also to ‘If It Wasn’t For The Nights’ and ‘As Good As New’ and you’ll see what I mean!
Apart from the usual ABBA-musicians, the Swedish top guitarist Janne Schaffer is now playing along as well. And on ‘Voulez-Vous’, former Clapton-guitarist George Terry can be heard, among others.
Care to have a dance with ABBA? Voulez-Vous?
Out in the shops on the first of May.

ABBA ‘Does Your Mother Know’ Polar/Polydor
And there it is, the long-anticipated follow-up to ‘Chiquitita’! How ABBA pulls it off time and time again to release a first class single on the market, is a mystery to me, but ‘Does Your Mother Know’ is yet another one of those. ABBA new style? Yes, indeed: the foursome is obviously flirting with disco, but the clear ABBA-sound is unmistakable!
The beginning of the record sets the tone immediately: a thumping guitar/drums intro and sure enough, a lead vocal by Björn, something we don’t get to hear very often. But then the familiar voices of both ladies come in and it’s clear for us to hear: top-drawer pop music. ABBA have once again surpassed themselves.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Muziek Parade, 1977: ABBA-special

Well, actually not really an article, but the pics are nice. This is an ABBA-special from Dutch magazine Muziek Parade, published in 1977. The special featured pics by German photographer Bubi Heilemann. When completely folded out, it had a large ABBA-poster on the backside. Some of the pics shown here are not in Bubi's 2004 book, or alternate shots.

Hitkrant, April 1983: Agnetha cut the knot!

When you are, like Agnetha Fältskog, a member of a supergroup like ABBA, it puts a heavy pressure on you. On the one hand, it’s obviously very enjoyable to be a part of one of the most successful groups in the world, on the other hand, it puts heavy obligations on you. Like making a solo album: of course, you have a lot of contacts and producers, writers/composers, arrangers and musicians are waiting in line to be part of the expected success. But everyone also expects that a solo album like that is going to be good. After all, you are a part of ABBA, aren’t you? Agnetha had to make a difficult decision, but she cut the knot and her album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’ is finished.

Mike Chapman is the name of her producer and with the hits that he – mostly together with partner Mickey Chinn - produced for artists like Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro, Racey and Smokie, you could fill a book. Agnetha met him last summer in America, asked if Mike wanted to produce her solo album and got an enthusiastic ‘yes’ as a reply.

This is how it happened that in the Polar Studios in Stockholm, the blonde singer was assisted by Smokie-members Chris Norman, Terry Uttley and Alan Silson, because Mike had brought ‘his boys’ along. “We definitely needed good backing vocals and that gave me the idea to ask the Smokie-guys for the job.”
Chris, Terry and Alan have been steady ABBA-fans for years and didn’t have to think twice. For five days, the three Brits sang the backing vocals for seven songs on the album and on one song, the only song composed entirely by Agnetha, Alan plays a guitar part.
Without a doubt, Mike is counting on a worldwide success: “I’m positive that we will at least sell five million copies around the world. That’s why we’ve already chosen four tracks that will be released as a single. Four hits, I would say!”

And what about ABBA’s regular composers/lyric writers, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson?
Mike Chapman: “Björn and Benny haven’t contributed to Agnetha’s album, just like they haven’t to Frida’s solo album. This is a product that’s completely her own and that has been the intention from the very beginning.”
So, ABBA has nothing to do with Agnetha’s solo album; only studio musicians were used that usually play on the ABBA-albums as well, but that was only a matter of convenience: they were around anyway. And that’s how all ABBA- and especially the Agnetha-fans are waiting anxiously for ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’. The album should be released at the end of May, according to ABBA’s record company and, as usual, it will be released around the world simultaneously.
A risky venture? A new album always is, even if your name is Agnetha and you are a member of ABBA...

Sunday 21 December 2008

Joepie, 1982: Frida in the studio without ABBA

The adventure has almost come to an end for Frida. The solo album, that she recorded with Phil Collins as a producer, is as good as finished.
“I’m over the moon about the results,” according to Frida. “Something that was only a dream a year ago, has now become reality. A solo album that doesn’t remind one of ABBA in any way. And a pleasant cooperation with someone who has been one of my musical idols for years. Obviously, I’m very curious about the reactions. According to Phil, I don’t have anything to worry about. But I’ll have to wait and see. With ABBA, we’ve never experienced a flop. But still, this is something different.”
“This album,” says Frida, “doesn’t endanger the future of ABBA. Lately, a lot has been written about a possible break up of ABBA, but I can assure you, for the time being there are no such plans,” according to the singer. “ABBA is taking a rest, after all these years. This gives us the opportunity to realize postponed solo projects. I’m convinced that this will only benefit ABBA. It breaks the routine for a while.”
Whether Frida will record another album with Phil hasn’t been decided yet. Something that has become clear, is that they’ve become friends for life.
“Obviously, there will be stories about a romance in the gossip magazines,” Frida smiles. “But I’ve broken the habit of getting annoyed about that. We flew to New York together. As friends. I’ve had such a good laugh with him. In the studio as well. He keeps the crew together with his sense of humour. Actually, I didn’t expect that from someone coming from a serious group like Genesis. But at the same time, Phil is a perfectionist. Someone who keeps on going, until the result is exactly the way he wants it.”

Saturday 20 December 2008

Hitkrant, 1981: ABBA-album as a Christmas present

Finally, we can reassure the thousands of ABBA-fans in Holland: the album is almost finished and the atmosphere in the Swedish Polar Studios couldn’t be better. A lot of hard work is being put in to have everything, including the sleeve, ready for the pressing factories on November the 20th. This means that the new ABBA-album may well be in the shops before December the 5th, but certainly before Christmas!

With this announcement from Stockholm, the uncertainty the fans have been living in for more than six months has finally ended. The rumours claiming that the ABBA-members wouldn’t get along very well anymore have been silenced as well.

The titles of the songs that are completely finished at this moment: ‘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 yet out of these tracks: ABBA wants to do that when everything is finished, approximately in the second week of November. According to the group’s spokesperson, the deadline will definitely be met, because the collaboration is running smoothly and the same goes for the recordings. “ABBA is more motivated than ever”, according to his comment.

A possible break up after the release of the album is out of the question, because there are no demonstrable reasons for that. Apart from that, ABBA has made a radio special under the title ‘ABBA Live In Concert’.
This program, completed with interviews with the members, will be broadcast on New Year’s Day by the English BBC.
The consequence of all these developments is that the ABBA live-album will not be released until 1982.

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Hitkrant, 1982: ABBA: time heals all wounds

It seems quite obvious that it’s not clear sailing for ABBA at the moment: the ABBA-members are starting to grow apart and are very much involved in their own projects.
But ABBA-boss Stig Anderson is now starting to get his hopes up again for the future: “In the best of families, the children are going their own way,” he says. “Indeed, after the two divorces, major problems have risen within ABBA. But problems, no matter how big, are there to be solved. Time heals all wounds, is what I keep saying.”

How much longer will ABBA keep existing then?
“I can’t say that proceedings are running as smoothly as they did five years ago. Now, I have to deal with four separate individuals, instead of two married couples. Those four won’t have anything to do with each other privately and in that scenario, conflicts are occurring more frequently. There are days that they’d love to have a go at each other, but the interest of the group still comes first. All four of them are smart enough to understand that they’re still tied to each other on a business level and that it would be crazy to put an end to the ABBA-enterprise. Indeed, ABBA has become too big to quit at this stage.”

Still, Stig thinks that ABBA will become mainly a studio group. No more travelling, just making records, with an accompanying video for promotional purposes. So the fans won’t notice any difference!

Sunday 14 December 2008

Muziek Expres, 1982: "It´s getting harder and harder to write hits"

For months on end, ABBA has been working on the album ‘The Visitors’. Too long, according to them. “Too much is expected from us. Maintaining that level isn’t easy,” is how Björn Ulvaeus is putting ABBA’s creative problems into words. Together with his friend Benny Andersson he’s now doing completely different things besides ABBA. Just like Frida Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog. Does this mean that ABBA will break up in the near future? ME got the answer from the Swedish superstars...

Compared to Holland, Sweden is almost the North pole. Over there, the temperature has dropped to far below zero. Snow removers are working almost incessantly to keep the roads driveable. A large BMW is sluggishly working its way up Hamngatan, then parking in front of a modest, but stately building on which the words ‘Polar Music’ can be read in small lettering. The driver gets out of the car and, dressed in a long, dark fur coat, he almost seems like a grey wolf, that’s having a hard time working his way through the snow to the front entrance.
A while later, Benny Andersson, still wearing his coat, is sitting in the executive office of ‘Polar Music’, the headquarter of the multi-million ABBA company. Only on the mantelpiece, there are some things that reminds one of ABBA. Awards for their output from all over the world. In the rest of the building, there’s no trace of ABBA to be found. No music, no pictures, just people that are working hard. And also an ABBA-member in the flesh, who has just finished yet another ABBA-project. ‘The Visitors’ album is out in the shops, and Benny is very pleased to announce ‘fantastic sales figures’. As if he expected anything different.
Benny says: “That’s what you are saying, but even if your name is ABBA, it always remains a gamble. You’ll have to prove yourself time and time again. Actually, we’ve been working on ‘The Visitors’ for more than a year. Too long, but the songs don’t come as easily as they used to. Those days are gone. It isn’t easy to maintain that level. It gets harder and harder to come up with hit songs. So much is expected from us. Although we are ABBA, I’m sure that’s not a guarantee for a hit. Only the quality of the song is.”
According to Benny, the rumours about the possible break-up of the world-famous foursome are “without any foundation. And when I say that, you should believe it. Look, we would be able to continue indefinitely this way. Especially if we keep on writing songs of the same quality. Actually, ABBA only exists in the studio when there’s an album to be recorded or a couple of videos to be made. Apart from that, we only see each other occasionally at meetings. But don’t think we’re not having fun. We certainly are. But privately we’ve obviously grown apart to some extent. We run into each other every now and then on our children’s birthdays, but otherwise it’s not really necessary.”
Can we still call ABBA a group then?
Benny: “Why not? We have never been secretive about the fact that we don’t like live performances, but we do like recording music. As a matter of fact, that hasn’t changed at all.”

The foursome is spending quite some time on other projects as well. Can Benny tell us a bit more about that?
Benny: “Yes, Björn and I are working on the musical completion of the ABBA-musical that we have spoken of for years now and furthermore, we are producing a couple of, mainly Swedish, artists. Together with her daughter Linda, Agnetha has recorded a Christmas album, as a present for Björn, but apart from that, she doesn’t have official plans to do other things. She’s playing housewife. Frida is working on a solo-album but I can’t tell you more about that.”
Is that a sensitive subject for him because Frida was his wife?
Benny smiles. “No, not at all. But she wants to keep it a secret, from the three of us as well. Of course, we could have helped her with it, but then it would have turned out as some sort of ABBA-product again. She didn’t want that. Indeed, she has recorded that album with people who haven’t had anything to do with ABBA before. I’m very curious myself.”
In an earlier interview with us, you’ve talked extensively about the Beatles as a source of inspiration. The new ABBA-album is full of Beatles-influences. Agreed?
“Completely,” Benny confirms. “It creeps in, without us being aware of it, I think. We only heard it after it was finished. I really like that. I take it as a compliment...”
A snowball shatters against one of the executive windows. Benny gets up, looks out of the window and smiles. Björn seems to have arrived as well. We decide to continue our discussion about ABBA another time.
Benny: “It may be slippery here in Sweden, but for the time being ABBA will not fall flat...”

Sunday 7 December 2008

CD Magazine, 1988: Agnetha's recent CD 'I Stand Alone': new proof of her musicality

An article from a 1988 Dutch magazine, promoting the then fairly new CD format.
Agnetha Fältskog is fifteen years old when she performs for the first time with a band. Two years later, she records her first single: ‘I Was So Much In Love’ that immediately becomes her first top 10 hit. Due to that achievement, she becomes ‘Sweden’s big promise for the future’. Between 1968 and 1975 she holds that promise and she develops into a top vocalist with ABBA, a group that achieved worldwide fame.
No wonder, because one hundred million of the world’s pop-lovers bought ABBA’s hits, who have become pop-history for six years now.
But – to quote Wim Sonneveld – Agnetha couldn’t stop herself from singing and now she’s back with a new album ‘I Stand Alone’, for which she remarkably didn’t write any songs herself. About that, she says: “I set very high standards for the songs that I record and considering the short preparation time for this project, I chose other people’s songs instead of my own compositions that weren’t satisfactory yet. Apart from that, these songs strongly caught my imagination.”
This new album, produced in collaboration with Peter Cetera, an ABBA-fan who has always wanted to record something together with her, is characteristic for Cetera’s style and Agnetha’s own way of singing. Both styles are highly compatible and have undoubtedly led to a qualitative high levelled pop achievement by the charming blonde Agnetha, who after twenty successful years is far removed from leaving the pop stage.

Something that’s probably not widely known about Agnetha is that in the meantime she has recorded about eleven solo albums through the years. This new offering ‘I Stand Alone’ is her third solo project after ABBA disbanded. Apart from that, it’s her second project for WEA. And WEA thinks that all efforts have been made to turn it into a success; top producer Peter Cetera, ex-Chicago and in the meantime a successful solo artist; David Foster’s most convenient recording studio in Malibu, and a string of composers such as Albert Hammond, Peter Brown and the duo Cetera/Gaitsch. The first single has just been released and is called ‘The Last Time’.

ABBA’s definitive breakthrough came in 1974 with ‘Waterloo’, the winning song of the Eurovision Song Contest, that started the ABBA-era for Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny. The subsequent string of high quality hit-singles turned the group into one of Sweden’s most successful ambassadors of pop-music. Agnetha has continued on that path, also after ABBA split up, with: in 1983 – ten years after her first solo album – ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’; in 1985 the album ‘Eyes Of A Woman’ and in 1987 a Swedish-language album with children’s songs that she recorded together with her son Christian. And now ‘I Stand Alone’, that is a proof of Agnetha’s musicality and success, as a solo artist as well.

Hitkrant, 1987: Agnetha all on her own

Did you recognize her already? Probably not, because these days she’s looking completely different...
We’re talking about Agnetha Fältskog. More than three years ago, she suddenly faded from view, after it became clear that her solo career couldn’t hold a candle to the success that she once achieved with ABBA.

But now she’s completely ‘back in the picture’ with a new solo single, ‘The Last Time’, scheduled to be released in the middle of January, and an album, ‘I Stand Alone’.
The album was produced by no other than Peter Cetera, known from the group Chicago and his hit-single ‘Glory Of Love’.
We’re wondering if the same fate is awaiting Agnetha now...

Veronica, 1985: Frida quits

Frida has decided to cut all ties with showbusiness permanently. She won’t record any more albums or be available for performances. This remarkable news could be read in the October issue of the ABBA-magazine.

The decision came totally unexpected, even for the fans, and will have profound consequences. The reunion of ABBA, still hoped for by millions of admirers, is now definitely out of the question. Frida made no mistake about that. She didn’t clarify the reason for her decision in that first statement.

For the past few years, Frida has been extremely successful as a solo artist. Her recordings, among others produced by Phil Collins, were achieving excellent sales figures all around the world. Too bad.

Hitkrant, 1982: ABBA busier than ever!

You mustn’t think that an artist or group can take a holiday, whenever they’ve released a new album. There’s so much work to do, because to start with, an album like that needs to be promoted: interviews, radio and television performances and things like that, because that’s all part of the package, and that goes for world famous artists like ABBA as well. And at the moment, ABBA is busier than ever.

Obviously, there’s Anni-Frid who’s in the ABBA studios in Stockholm at the moment, up to her ears in the recordings for her solo album, produced by Phil Collins. Therefore, she’ll have no time to occupy herself with ABBA in the coming months. But Benny and Björn are doing that all the more: to them, the latest album ‘The Visitors’ is old already. That’s why they are working hard on writing new songs for the group.

New projects to spare: a musical is still being considered and although ABBA has stated before that world tours are getting far too exhausting, Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida clearly realize that as a group you’ll have to show yourselves to the fans every now and then. So that’s a subject that’s being considered and talked about as well in Sweden.
For the time being, Agnetha hasn’t much to do; after her personal problems after her divorce from Björn, she has found some peace again and the situation surrounding her is starting to stabilize again. In any case, she’s making use of this period in between two albums to regain her senses.

The people that are exclaiming that ABBA is about to come to an end are wrong for the time being. Okay, the group will not be able to last forever, but for now the fans still need ABBA. And vice versa!

Saturday 6 December 2008

Weekend, 1981: Golden chains are keeping ABBA together

ABBA’s blonde singer Agnetha is able to smile again. There’s a new love in her life. His name is Torbjörn Brander. He’s a police-inspector in Stockholm. The twosome met each other when Torbjörn was appointed in a special anti-terror brigade that had to protect the ABBA-members and their children. ABBA has been threatened several times by telephone. Agnetha feels much safer with Torbjörn. But will he be able to cope with the enormous pressure of the publicity surrounding this supergroup?

For a long time it was feared that Agnetha would put an end to ABBA. As a result of her divorce and the telephone threats in which was announced that her children would be kidnapped and would only be released for a gigantic ransom. Agnetha has had to deal with all this by herself. Instinctively, she refused to seek support with her ex-husband, who had remarried in the meantime. Still, she never complained. The first telephone threats came in at ABBA’s headquarter in Stockholm when the group was in Germany for a television performance. The group immediately flew back home. In consultation with Stig Anderson, their manager, the police was brought in. Stockholm’s chief commissioner didn’t take any chances and appointed some of his best people to guard the group and the children.

During the first weeks, the children didn’t leave their parent’s sight. The ABBA-members stayed at home as much as possible and were anxiously awaiting the things that were coming to them. “It was an awful time,” Agnetha would later declare. “We were all scared to death. Not for ourselves, but for our children.” Luckily, it didn’t go any further than those threats. In the media it was suggested that it probably had all been a sick joke. Caused by people who envied the group’s enormous success. But the commissioner took no chances. The guards remained on their duty. They were present twenty-four hours a day. At Agnetha’s apartment, the tall, dark-blonde detective Torbjörn could be spotted every day. A silent, quiet man in his late thirties. The peace that he exuded had a very positive effect on the restless Agnetha, who barely left her house anymore. Torbjörn behaved courteously, but he kept his distance. He had a very responsible task to fulfil and couldn’t get involved emotionally. But it wouldn’t take long before his colleagues noticed that he had more feelings for the famous singer than he let on. Agnetha felt somewhat insecure. She immediately thought the detective was likable but was too confused about her feelings to take any further steps. From their mutual respect, a friendship blossomed. And this friendship turned into love. “Maybe even the love that saved ABBA,” is the opinion of one of Agnetha’s intimate friends. But this relationship is not without problems either. Due to his position, Torbjörn can’t appear in newspapers and magazines too often. His superiors wouldn’t be happy about that. In any case, the crisis surrounding ABBA seems to have come to an end. Because also the other female in ABBA, Anni-Frid, has reconciled to the fact that her marriage to Benny has ended within two years. They’ve both started new relationships. So, ABBA will continue.
“At least for another two years,” according to Björn and Benny. Together, they are again responsible for the fabulous new album that the group has released shortly before Christmas, according to tradition. “We’ve worked harder than ever,” Björn revealed. “We had to make up for lost time.”
Manager Anderson has announced that, although ABBA will continue, there are still some changes to report. The group will not do so many performances any longer. And they will definitely not go on a world tour again. Television shows, at the most. It’s because the ABBA-members want to work on several projects outside the group as well. Björn and Benny want to produce other artists. Agnetha has been playing with the idea of a solo album for years, and guest appearances on Swedish television shows.
For quite some time, Anni-Frid has been saying that she’s aiming for a career as an actress. She has already played a small part and is now considering several scripts and offers. Apart from that, for the past few months she has recorded a couple of shows in which she is the host: the ‘Lite Grand I Örat’.

Anni-Frid: “Around Christmas 1980, the producer of the show called me and asked if I was interested. I had already worked with him before my time with ABBA. I immediately said yes. But then my divorce from Benny happened and I had to ask for a couple of weeks postponement. Although I wasn’t completely up for it, I still did it. In the end, I had to think about my career. On top of that, this job gave me the distraction that I needed. I didn’t want to be consumed by sadness and loneliness, like Agnetha.”
Anni-Frid and Benny have decided to maintain a friendly relationship. Especially for the outer world and to preserve ABBA’s good image. Not too long ago, they flew to New York together to discuss several radio and television shows.

If ABBA were to decide to quit as a group in two years time, then that doesn’t mean that the members won’t have anything to do with each other any longer. On a business level, they remain firmly committed to each other. Or, like someone at ABBA’s management once remarked: “In the old days, the members were tied to each other by golden rings, now by golden chains...”
It is widely known that manager Stig Anderson does a great job in advising the foursome about investing their millions. Otherwise, the group would lose almost ninety percent of their income to taxes. “We’d still have enough to lead a comfortable life, but we’d rather invest our money in healthy business enterprises,” Benny admits. Apart from that, ABBA’s companies are employing a lot of people. When asked, Benny is willing to summarize the businesses that ABBA has invested in. Firstly, in one of Europe’s best recording studios in Stockholm. Not only ABBA is recording there; countless major acts are coming to Stockholm to record their new albums. Furthermore, ABBA has their own publishing company, a company that’s publishing books, an art gallery. And countless houses and buildings. Plus their own islands in the Swedish archipelago.

Recently, the group has invested a lot of money in the development of the video market. “In the future, we will probably record our own shows and offer them for sale,” Benny assumes. “According to us, video will become extremely important. And we want to be a part of it. Not just for the money, but it’s nice to be involved in fresh areas. I wouldn’t rule out that I will be involved as a director at some point as well. That’s a fascinating job.”
He thinks wealth is a doubtful happiness. “Also, wealth is relative. We make a lot of money, but our investments are huge as well. When you lose a couple of millions in a deal, you’ll have to sell a lot of records to compensate for that.” Benny is referring to the losses that ABBA has had to bear, with the acquisition of crude oil that had to be sold with an enormous loss due to a surplus market. The millionaires didn’t lose a night’s sleep over it. On a daily basis, millions are pouring in as a result of record sales and sheet music. The line ‘The Winner Takes It All’ certainly goes for ABBA. And ABBA remains the clear winner.

The BBC will broadcast a ninety-minute radio special about ABBA on New Year’s Day, followed by an interview with the group. Last autumn, ABBA has achieved platinum status in Canada for the fourth time with the album ‘Super Trouper’. That same album achieved gold status in Israel and Brazil, and ABBA is especially proud of a gold single in that last country after ‘The Winner Takes It All’ sold more than 300.000 copies.
The sympathetic Swedes were very happy about the fact that the Dutch audience has appointed them as the best foreign act in September. ABBA received the ‘Dutch Record Award 1981’, awarded by the Dutch record industry, the retail sector and the copyright association Stemra.