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.

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