Saturday 31 January 2009

Muziek Expres, 1982: Something's Going On album review

This is an amazing album. Together with Genesis-drummer and singer Phil Collins, Frida Lyngstad has succeeded in delivering an album that doesn’t sound anything like ABBA. That’s especially commendable because Frida simply is half of ABBA’s vocal recognizability. Just try to get away from that.
She did it, also due to the fact that Phil Collins has had a considerable amount of influence. The magnificent title-track – written by hit-composer Russ Ballard – was an enormous surprise already. On Frida’s album, there are ten more of these examples. The creative duo Frida and Phil went for a musical concept as diverse as possible, in other words: rock ‘n’ roll (among others ‘I Got Something’), ballads (‘Strangers’, sung in a very sultry voice), jazz (‘Baby, Don’t You Cry No More’ with Earth Wind & Fire’s horn section that blows you away), slow-disco (‘To Turn The Stone’ by Donna Summer-composers Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder and ‘The Way You Do’ by Bryan Ferry) and reggae (‘I See Red’ with Phil Collins in a rhythmical leading part).
Astonishment all around, even more so when you hear what Collins wrote especially for Frida. ‘You Know What I Mean’ is almost a classical song in which Frida is only accompanied by the harpist Skaila Kanga.
Frida Lyngstad has gotten the opportunity, more so than with ABBA, to prove herself as a singer to the best of her abilities. But, with so much creative talent surrounding you and so much good song material, it’s almost inevitable that you grow to unprecedented heights.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Muziek Parade, 1977: ABBA-special

ABBA-special from Dutch magazine Muziek Parade, 1977. The pictures are all by German photographer Bubi Heilemann.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Story, 1981: ABBA's Agnetha fears for her children's life

Agnetha is desperate. Ever since the blonde ABBA-singer knows that her children are being threatened by kidnapping, she doesn’t sleep a wink. Anni-Frid is trying to help her friend and colleague but, being a mother herself, has this fear as well.

“My children are my most precious possession,” says the 31-year-old ABBA-singer Agnetha with emphasis. “Can you imagine that I don’t sleep a wink ever since anonymous letters have been received by the police, in which my children are being threatened by kidnapping? I’m desperate. Obviously, I immediately asked for police protection. Our house is being watched day and night at the moment. Linda’s school is being guarded constantly as well. And whenever I take a walk with Christian, a police officer is always around.
But this isn’t a life, is it? No human being is able to cope with that. Although fortunately nothing has happened yet, I’m still scared to death. Whenever someone in the street is coming too close to Linda or Christian, I immediately think he wants to kidnap them.”
When Agnetha and Björn decided to get a divorce, Linda (8) and Christian (3) stayed with their mother. They’re living not far from Björn and his second wife Lena Kallersjo. Agnetha regularly takes the children to visit their father.
“Björn is worried about those threatening letters as well. But still it’s clear that I have to be a father and a mother at the same time, now that Björn is not living with us anymore. I still consult Björn on several issues, but for instance, he doesn’t know how terrible I feel because of those awful letters. It’s strange really, for Björn I try to keep a brave face, because I don’t want to burden him with my problems. But of course, I realize very well that they are his children too. And that it’s very normal to find a solution together. Oh well, maybe I’m just too selfish.
Look, my children are everything to me. They are the only thing that’s still really important in my life. That’s why I try to spend every free moment with them. Actually, I don’t want anyone to interfere in their upbringing. Not even their father. Because deep in my heart I’m afraid there will come a day that they’d rather live with him. And then I won’t have anyone anymore.
Of course, it’s unreasonable to think that way, because Björn will never try to take Linda and Christian away from me. He only wants to help me as much as he can. But I think that every divorced mother has the fear in her heart that the children want to go to their father all of a sudden. But you can’t compare that feeling with what I’m going through right now. Ever since I know that someone wants to kidnap my children, I can’t live a normal life anymore. I hear strange noises in the house constantly.”

“I don’t dare to answer the phone anymore. And I don’t trust anyone anymore. Not too long ago, I even cancelled a performance with the group in Germany. Not at any price will I leave Linda and Christian with the nanny now. Luckily, the other ABBA-members understand my fear very well. Anni-Frid has even offered to come stay with me with her children for a while. But still, that didn’t seem like the right solution to me.”
Anni-Frid, the dark-haired singer of ABBA, has been startled by the threatening letters too. Ever since she divorced Benny nine months ago, Anni-Frid lives alone with her two children as well. Liselotte (13) and Hans (17) are children from her first marriage and have lived with their father, Ragnar Frederiksson, as well.
“When Ragnar and I got divorced, Hans and Liselotte stayed with their father,” the 36-year-old sympathetic Anni-Frid explains. “Because the judge thought I wouldn’t be able to raise them due to my busy schedule as a singer. But when I got married to Benny later on, they were allowed to live with me after a while. Now that Benny and I are divorced, I’m still going to raise them myself. And I will make sure they won’t be forced to go to their father again.
But when Agnetha told me that someone threatened to kidnap her children, I got scared as well. After all, everybody knows that all four of us are making a lot of money with ABBA and it’s mostly children of rich parents that are being kidnapped. I can only hope it’s all a terrible joke, but I wouldn’t be surprised to receive such a letter as well. In any case, I took the necessary precautions and I’m letting my house being guarded day and night. Hans, my son, thinks it’s all nonsense. He says I’m worrying about nothing. Hans thinks, with his seventeen years, that he’s old and wise enough to take care of himself.”
Chances are that Hans is going to follow in the footsteps of his mother. For a while now, he’s been singing in a group, in which the son from Benny’s first marriage, 16-year-old Peter, is playing as well.
“Actually, I think it’s quite nice that Hans is interested in singing and music,” Anni-Frid continues. “And I hope they will achieve great success with their band. But I’ve always taught my children, from a very young age, that the price you pay for fame can be very high. Just look at what’s happening to Agnetha right now. She’s now scared to death that her children are going to be kidnapped. And I guess she has been wondering lately whether the enormous success she has achieved with ABBA, is worth all this sadness!”

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Hitkrant, 1984: Shine single and album review

Reviews of Frida's Shine single and album from Dutch magazine Hitkrant. The single was very well received with a rating of 4 out of 5. The album review was considerably less positive.
Frida/‘Shine’/Polydor 881 282-7
Yet again, this is a completely different Frida than the Frida we’ve come to know from her previous solo album, produced by Phil Collins. A delightful rock-song, written by Guy Fletcher, among others, and produced by Steve Lillywhite. Kirsty McColl is singing along on backing vocals. A very contemporary, danceable track, sung with attitude. I’m very curious about the album.

Frida/‘Shine’/Polydor 823 580-1
With clenched fists, Frida is portrayed on the album sleeve; with her new solo album and her new producer, Frida apparently wants to prove that she has kept up to date. Actually, she underlined that already with the single ‘Shine’, the title-track. ‘Shine’ is a delightful rocker, sung with attitude. I wish she had sung the rest of the album like that! Unfortunately, on the contrary. Of course, Frida is certainly not a bad singer. She has a recognizable tone of voice that stands apart, but on ‘Shine’ her singing is generally very whimpering and whining. Of course the songs are to blame as well. There are nice songs on the album, especially ‘Slowly’ by Björn and Benny, a song with beautiful lyrics, that are tailor-made for Frida. The rocker ‘Chemistry Tonight’ by Simon Climie and Peter Glenister has some spunk as well. For the rest, the album is very disappointing to me. I think especially side 2, that contains slow, almost tiresome songs, is bad. It's a shame, it could have been so good. After all, a lot of big names have collaborated on the album, that was recorded in Paris. The fans will probably not thank me for this, but I can’t make it any better than it is. This really isn’t a first class album. Perhaps Frida should act a little less modern.

Friday 16 January 2009

Apeldoornse Courant, 1980: ABBA breaks through disco-barrier (Super Trouper album review)

A review of the Super Trouper album from a Dutch newspaper, brightened up with pics from a 1980 fanmagazine.
On hearing certain types of pop, jazz or other light music, some people who only like classical music are saying: “If Bach or Mozart could hear this, he would turn in his grave.” I think that Bach or Mozart would do just that on hearing ABBA, but then to keep on listening to so much musical beauty and murmur to themselves: “My, finally we’ve gotten some competition.”
Especially ‘Super Trouper’ (Polydor 2344.162), the Swedish group’s latest album and by far the best one since ‘Arrival’, at least validates my opinion that up until now the world has only known three popgroups that musically are of a truly international class: the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and ABBA.

Are you even allowed to say that, when their records are selling like hotcakes and therefore seem to fulfil a certain need? Isn’t especially ABBA a group that’s riding on a commercial wave and therefore needs to make concessions?
I’ll gladly admit that musically and lyrically, especially ‘Voulez-Vous’ offered too much compromises to the disco-children. In the meantime, the ABBA-members could actually be their parents. But on the other hand: why only consider the older side of your audience, when it also consists of youngsters?
It seems to me that a stronger argument for ABBA getting ‘commercialized’ is that, especially in pop music, trends come and go.
And that for example a world-class group like ABBA, with their previous album, just had to join in the disco wave, that was just up and coming at that time. It would have been a shame if Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid had stuck to those attempts. But fortunately, that didn’t happen. On ‘Super Trouper’, there’s still a lot of disco, but the Swedish foursome has had – just like it’s the case with the old rock they’re still putting into their records – the inspiration and the courage to digest that trend so well, that they’ve actually grown above it and incorporated it into their style, that’s completely their own.
Isn’t that style commercial then? Especially the repeating of it? And the constant repeating of certain parts and effects? Maybe so. But then, Bach and Mozart would have to be commercial as well, because on hearing their compositions, you can immediately tell that they’re Bach’s or Mozart’s, without ever having heard these gentlemen play, let alone see them perform in a theatre or on television.

What ABBA (and then mainly the boys, who write the songs) have in common with Bach and Mozart is their preference to musical beauty, the exploring of all chances of their musical creativity to get there. In the past, this hasn’t always happened without a good sense of commerciality, but that element isn’t important any longer as soon as you hear the enormous dose of musical beauty, that’s especially present on the B-side of ‘Super Trouper’, and that immediately takes hold of you.

There’s another reason why I like to compare ABBA to the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac: all three of these groups have achieved their best performance in times of internal turmoil. The Beatles with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’, Fleetwood Mac with ‘Tusk’, and now ABBA with ‘Super Trouper’.

Lyrically, the complete A-side seems like the reflection and artistic digestion of blonde Agnetha’s personal problems. For the sake of convenience, I will review the songs one by one.

First, there’s the title-track ‘Super Trouper’, that deals with the member of a supergroup and the anxiety and the comfort of his (or in this case, her) success on stage, when she wants to be happy outside of that concept as well, with her lover in that other world of the audience. She feels cold in this world of glitter. The comparison to ‘Star’ by Janis Ian (Conny Vandenbos: ‘Kind, Je Bent Een Ster’) is unavoidable: here the star is singing herself.

Then comes the familiar ‘The Winner Takes It All’, about the sadness and the reconcilement of someone who has been abandoned and who’s love has been taken away abruptly by the cheater, the new partner and justice.
In ‘On And On And On’, he/she tries to forget all personal problems and the burdens of the world, simply by keeping on dancing: ‘Keep on rocking, baby, / ‘til the night is gone’.
Then comes ‘Andante, Andante’, a splendid lovesong in the style of beautiful Italian ballads from the sixties, like ‘Gondoli, Gondola’ by Caterina Valente.

The new love of ABBA’s blonde? In any case, the psychiatrist enters the scene in ‘Me And I’, the signature song of the split personality, that looks upon his/herself. It all sounds funny, a bit crazy even, but it’s all about the era of the individual. Even Freud gets a mention.

By the way, as it turns out, ABBA seems to know even more intellectual writers because the fantastic B-side opens with ‘Happy New Year’, in which Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World gets attended to. Typically a song for the future. It’s all about encouragement at the start of the eighties. A message, for which especially a world-famous group like ABBA is the right medium for all ages: ‘Seems to me now / that the dreams / we had before / are all dead / Nothing more / than confetti / on the floor / It’s the end of a decade / In another ten years time / who can say / what we’ll find / what lies / waiting / down the line / In the end / of eighty-nine?’.

Immediately followed by a ten-year retrospection via ‘Our Last Summer’: to the hippies in Paris around 1970 (the boyfriend from that time has now turned into a confined civil servant who likes football).

Subsequently a song with a double meaning: ‘The Piper’. The first verse makes you think of the charms of flute-players like James Galway and George Zamphir, the second verse of flute-players on a market plaza from the Bible and the third of the dictators with their mass hysteria.

After ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’, despite the disco-rhythm a lovesong with a chorus like a chorale, the record ends with ‘The Way Old Friends Do’, that lyrically reminds one of ‘L’amour Des Deux Amants’ by Jacques Brel (‘Liefde Van Later’ by Herman van Veen), and musically of an old Scottish melody, of ‘Amazing Grace’, of the title-track of ‘Arrival’ as well. And unfortunately, due to the singing in unison at the end, of the universal effect of ‘Alle Menschen wirden Brüder’ by Beethoven. Unfortunately, because actually I don’t grant ABBA that comparison to the big classical masters based on their universal music. As it happens, this effect is at least as commercial as the bombastic end of Beethoven’s ninth symphony. After all, there is no serious and light music? Only good and bad music! Well then, ABBA: watch out for the temptations of the night from the third verse of ‘The Piper’! Your old friend: Jan van der Kleij.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

De Telegraaf, 1984: Chess needs a lot of finetuning

A Dutch newspaper report about the Chess concert performance at the Amsterdam Concerthouse.
Because Benny Andersson, Tim Rice and Björn Ulvaeus obviously had seen it coming that the old saying ‘let the cobbler stick to his last’ would be the main focus of all criticism, at the concert performance of their musical Chess they explicitly chose the position of underdog.

That’s how Rice addressed the owner of the car with licence plate this or that with the request to remove his car, “coincidentally the brand name of our sponsor”, from the entrance of the Concerthouse.
All three of the multi-millionaires sang an off-key song, in which they swore to be willing to kill for “merchandising”. In the end, Ulvaeus confessed that tonight was actually all about the Swedish entry for the 1985 Eurovision Song Contest.
All of this, to make the mortuary atmosphere in the Concerthouse, created by an unusual mixture of guests and people who had been willing to pay 75 Dutch guilders for a ticket, just a little less solemn.
With so much exuberantly displayed modesty, the very heavy character of Chess was even more conspicuous than it had already been on the album, but on the other hand it was also notable that pretensions and ambitions could be fulfilled for the most part.
Even in the static concert performance – it won’t be a genuine stage play until next year – Chess was an impressing spectacle, almost perfectly executed by the full London Symphony Orchestra, a band, two choirs and soloists such as Murray Head, Elaine Paige and the Swedish opera singer Tommy Körberg, who claimed the applause for the most part.

Rice, Andersson and Ulvaeus are all notorious perfectionists, but in the interaction between 233 (!) individuals, just enough tiny things went wrong to turn the concert performance of Chess into a job done by actual people, distinctly much more lively, and especially with much more warmth than the version on the perfect, but almost produced to death double album.

In the concert performance, the genuinely terrifying thin storyline about Russian and American chess players and their political and amorous motivations wasn’t all that obvious, but for West End and Broadway, Chess needs an awful lot of finetuning to turn it into a real musical.
But anyone who knows the “Track Record” of its creators, has no doubt whatsoever that Chess will eventually get there.

Sunday 11 January 2009

Veronica, 1983: Agnetha Fältskog: "The Heat Is On"

A Dutch TV-guide announcement of the broadcast of Agnetha's 1983 television special, promoting her Wrap Your Arms Around Me album.
This afternoon, Veronica brings you a music special about ‘The Heat Is On’, the first English-language solo album by Agnetha Fältskog, one of ABBA’s singers. Elsewhere in this Veronica magazine, Agnetha will get her attention extensively, so that we can restrict ourselves in this column to her television programme, in which she, apart from ‘The Heat Is On’, will sing ‘I Wish Tonight Could Last Forever’, ‘Mr. Persuasion’ and ‘Shame’, among others. She will be assisted vocally by Chris Norman, Terry Uttley and Alan Silson. These members of the English popgroup Smokie came to the Swedish Polar Studios at the request of Mike Chapman, producer of Agnetha’s album and, in the past, hit-provider to Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro, Racey and of course Smokie.
“I have always admired Mike Chapman for his easy accessible compositions,” according to Agnetha Fältskog, “and it was an enormously inspiring experience to be able to work with him. The fact that my television special has turned out so well, it’s mainly thanks to Chapman’s work. After all, it’s all about the songs that you perform in a special like that...”

Saturday 10 January 2009

Privé, 1983: ABBA-Agnetha's nightmare

“Never again,” is what blonde ABBA-singer Agnetha Fältskog announced when she got off with a fright a few years ago after her plane had gotten in trouble during bad weather. “It was a nightmare,” Agnetha said and she hasn’t travelled by plane ever again since then.
But now, Agnetha found herself in such a nightmare all over again when the bus, that she had constructed specifically for her tours, tumbled over twice.
Once again, the blonde singer got off with a fright, but that fear was intense. In a Stockholm hospital, it turned out that Agnetha wasn’t even bruised, but she did catch a shock.
Agnetha, who’s expecting a child with her bodyguard Torbjörn Brander, for a few years now the new man in her life, had just gotten up and walked along the central aisle of the bus when the accident happened. She was propelled out of the window and landed in a ditch.
The rest of the company got away with some scratches and bruises as well. But if Agnetha will now say ‘Never again’ to bus transport as well, travelling will become pretty difficult.

Sunday 4 January 2009

Limburgs Dagblad, October 1984: Frida - free from ABBA - is rocking better than ever!

In the old days, it used to be practically impossible to rope one of the members of the group ABBA in for an interview, these days it’s a piece of cake. Ever since Agnetha and Frida are musically on their own feet, they travel all around Europe to advertise their product personally. Therefore, Frida was in our country a few weeks ago. A conversation with Frida passes off rather formal. She restricts herself to short answers and cleverly manages to leave most questions about her personal matters unanswered.

The thing that she does want to talk about is her new album. This time, the album was produced by the well-known producer Steve Lillywhite, known for his productions with U2, Simple Minds, XTC, Big Country and Peter Gabriel. Indeed, an album that differs considerably from the previous one ‘Something’s Going On’, that was produced by Phil Collins, although both producers prefer a powerful drum-sound. From this, it becomes very clear how big the input of the producer is and how relatively small Frida’s own part actually is. Although the singer herself has a different opinion.

She explains that she has been involved from start to finish in the choice of the song material and for the rest everything proceeds in good consultation with the producer concerned. Obviously, it’s true that a really good producer puts his stamp upon the product, but it can’t come to the point where the album is saying more about the producer concerned than about the singer who actually should be the centre of attention. But fact is that both the first album as well as now this new album are extremely successful. Just how much this is due to Frida’s reputation as an ABBA-singer will probably always remain a question mark. And fair is fair, as Frida is getting older and breaking away more and more from the ABBA-genre, she is rocking better than ever.

The album contains ten tracks that are versatile in composition, due to the fact that various people are responsible for the music. On the album, there are songs by, among others, Chris Rea, Guy Fletcher, Kirsty McColl (Steve Lillywhite’s wife), Stuart Adamson (Big Country frontman), a song written by Frida herself as well as a track by ABBA-colleagues Björn and Benny. The album was recorded at the Studios de la Grande Armée in Paris.
Frida explains that she actually would have loved to have continued with Phil Collins, but as it turned out, he didn’t have time for her. She admits to having been a bit disappointed by that, but everything turned out well in the end. Her manager sent her a couple of records produced by Steve Lillywhite, among them one by Joan Armatrading, and Frida was impressed by them. Also on a personal level, the singer and the success-producer, who is ten years younger, hitted it off.

Anni-Frid Lyngstad was born in 1945 in the Norwegian town Narvik. Her mother died soon after she was born and her father, a German officer, returned to his native country immediately after the war. A few years ago, Frida met him for the first time, but “then it was too late as far as I’m concerned”, according to Frida. She was raised by her grandparents, who moved with her to Eskilstuna in the North of Sweden. She chose music as her profession and found herself in Bengt Sandlunds Big Band. There she met Ragnar Fredriksson, whom she married and later on she started the band Anni-Frid Four with him.

Marriage, motherhood and musical aspirations were hard to combine and this resulted in her first divorce and the end of Anni-Frid Four as well. At the end of the sixties, she met Benny Andersson, who was a pianist with the at the time extremely successful group the Hep Stars, at a club in Swedish Malmö. They started an affair. Meanwhile, Benny was writing music together with Björn Ulvaeus, who played with another Swedish top-group, the Hootenanny Singers. They contacted manager Stig Anderson and he suggested that Björn and Benny’s music needed female singers. What was more natural than ask both girlfriends. This is how ABBA came to be.

At the moment, Frida still says that she doesn’t know whether or not ABBA still exists. She leaves open the possibility of recording an album at some point in the future. In any case, the group definitely needed a break, also in view of the problems between the band-members on a personal level. Frida and Agnetha rushed into a solo career and Björn and Benny wrote the musical Chess together with the extremely successful Tim ‘Evita’ Rice. This musical will have its premiere in London at the end of 1985, but the complete London Symphony Orchestra, together with a rock-group, a choir and a couple of solo vocalists, among them Murray Head, will venture on a short tour, starting this Saturday in London, then coming to Paris on Sunday, arriving in Amsterdam on Monday October 29 and then subsequently via Hamburg going to Stockholm. A gigantic production.

In conclusion, Frida says to be very impressed by this musical by her colleagues Björn and Benny. We can convince ourselves at the end of this month by going to the Amsterdam Concerthouse or simply by buying the soundtrack that will be released at the end of this month as well.

Friday 2 January 2009

Veronica, 1983: Agnetha: the volcano under the ice

The Heat Is On… Agnetha has finally introduced herself as a solo artist. Her first solo project after the ABBA-successes. Musical firework that has seen the light of day in collaboration with the English producer Mike Chapman, among other things known from Blondie’s hit albums. He has seen to it that the volcano within the outwardly so cool blonde has erupted. Now that colleague Frida has cooled down a bit, Agnetha has paid a promotional visit to several European capitals. In front of the cameras she delivers craftsmanship. In between proceedings she moves like a cat in a strange warehouse. A tad presumptuous, she makes the most of her regained freedom as an individual; communication problems prevent her from feeling truly self-confident.

Agnetha hates to fly. Fear is a big part of that. That’s why she made the trip to the European capitals for the most part in a speedy limousine. Enjoying her freedom as much as possible. As an ‘ordinary’ tourist, she could for example go and see the sights of Amsterdam. Armed with a video camera: so that she’s able to view it again at home, in peace and quiet. She’s accompanied by ABBA manager Stig Anderson’s daughter and a muscular Viking, that is stationed outside the door of her dressing room. For the occasion, Agnetha has a new, slightly frivolous haircut. As if she has had two fingers in an electric socket. But she’s still beautiful. And insecure, whenever questions are fired at her. During the years, her verbal skills in English have hardly increased. Let alone in French. But everybody is happy that she is at least speaking, this incomprehensible, and often unjustly discarded as mindless, nightingale from the land of the Northern sun.

“I’d been toying with the idea of a solo album for years. After the American tour I discussed it with Stig. He preferred to wait a while longer. Not get in the way of ABBA. After the album ‘The Visitors’ I felt that the time was right. But first, I’ve made a movie, a nice project although I’m still a rookie in the movie world. Then I wrote down the names of a couple of favourite producers. Chapman was my first choice. I admire his approach: commercial but still with quality. I could have asked Benny and Björn. But then it would have turned into an ABBA-album again. I definitely wanted something different. Chapman had the time. Perhaps because of the cancellation of a Blondie project. I collaborated with the man perfectly. I want a commercial record of a high level that doesn’t sound like ABBA, I said to him. That wasn’t necessary. He already felt what I wanted. He is a man that understands his craft. But everybody knew that already.

I don’t live with a competitive feeling towards Frida. We’re still good friends. A possible rat race between the two of us is invented and played out by the media. Obviously we didn’t want to release our first solo albums simultaneously. That doesn’t make sense. But in the future it’s possible that we’ll be in the charts at the same time. When the novelty has worn off, we will not be dragged into our ABBA-past any longer. That takes some time. As a recording group, ABBA can still go on for years. But Stig will have to have very strong arguments to get me to tour again. For this solo album, I want to do some travelling. That’s for my own good. I now decide myself how much interviews I’m willing to do and whether or not I want to pose. With ABBA, I always had to participate on behalf of the joint interest. It’s fun to do a couple of TV-shows, but I prefer to stay in Sweden. Then I’m able to see my children every day.

For many artists, America is a matter of prestige. I don’t have that assertiveness. The one tour we did there was an ordeal already. That country is immensely big. It’s travelling and performing. I lose track of myself completely. The two hours on stage I’m truly happy. My enthusiasm is sincere, I love to sing. But I don’t care at all for the other commitments. At the time, I brought my children along, but that wasn’t the right solution either. I didn’t see them for more than one hour a day. Perhaps my state of mind will change when the children are independent. Just like it is with Frida. Without thinking twice, she can close the door behind her and go off. Her children will manage. Frida loves to travel. She wants to see everything, do everything. A tour can’t last long enough for her. She’s definitely not a homely type of person. In this business, that’s better. When I realized the problems of a supergroup, I was already so deeply involved that I couldn’t go back. Then you become the prisoner of your own success. It’s practically impossible to get away. Winding down, like we’re doing right now is the best solution. Just now, I have the feeling that I’m getting control of my life.

The stories about my possible collaboration on the series Dallas are made up. Brought to the fore because of my relationship with Gunnar Hellstrom. He has produced a couple of episodes of Dallas. We play in a movie together. He plays an elderly womanizer, a marriage fraud. I’m a naive country girl that ends up pregnant with his child. I could handle that part. Ten years ago, I was just as naive as the young woman I portray. If you knew everything beforehand... When ABBA took off, I had hardly been outside of Sweden. I was a national celebrity. Björn and Benny were much more mature. They had already achieved some success with their respective groups abroad. In Holland and Germany, among others. Stig was the driving force behind ABBA. He immediately said that we had to achieve our breakthrough with the Eurovision Song Contest. A realistic vision. Within three minutes, you get through to six hundred million people. And we succeeded too. Benny writes fantastic songs. He’s now working on a musical with Tim Rice. He’s looking for new challenges.
I’m happy about the development of promotional films. It enables an artist to show his or her product to the audience anywhere in the world without having to go there immediately. We made use of that a lot with ABBA. Our feature film was actually a long promotional film. My solo album will be accompanied by a couple of films as well. I will not get on a plane for every new single to fly to Paris or London. In Stockholm, I can pretty much move around without being bothered. I try to be a devoted mother. I’m not under any illusions about having a normal life. But on behalf of my children, I want to limit the damage.”

Thursday 1 January 2009

Muziek Expres, 1984: Why is Phil Collins letting Frida down?

Whenever he’s not on stage himself, musical wizzard Phil Collins is always willing to help out other artists in the studio. But recently it all got too much, even for Phil, and ABBA’s Frida became a victim of that.

“If you only knew how much I regret that I don’t have the time to produce Frida’s second solo album...!”
Phil Collins emphasizes his words with a sad look in his eyes. “I don't mind confessing that I thought it was amazing to help her out on ‘Something’s Going On’. And I was very satisfied with the result as well. Yes, Frida and I had quite a party when it turned out that her first solo album dropped like a bomb! And when she asked me if I wanted to work on her upcoming album as well, I’ve tried to put everything aside for that. But unfortunately, it’s impossible for me to take part this time. A big disappointment for both of us, because we are very fond of each other and our collaboration went very smoothly. But you can’t have it both ways, can you? As it is, I make music myself as well, with Genesis and of course as a solo artist.”
Phil takes a deep breath and then continues: “I’ve just finished an extensive American tour with Genesis and at the moment I’m producing Eric Clapton’s new album. And right now I’m very busy with my new solo album that will probably be released this year.”
Again, we hear a weary sigh from Phil, but then he suddenly concludes briskly: “Yes, I’m a very busy man. If I wasn’t going bald already, my hair would turn grey, hahaha!”

Story, 1983: Agnetha: "I don't know if there will be any more ABBA records..."

When the Swedish singer Agnetha was in Holland recently for a couple of days, I obviously had a chat with her. It was inevitable that we also discussed the future of the group ABBA. And judging from the conversation with Agnetha, who released a solo album not too long ago, it has become clear to me that the end of ABBA as a group is now drawing near.
“There are no problems between Frida, Björn, Benny and me,” Agnetha assured me. “But when you’ve been working together for such a long time, then it’s very pleasurable to be able to go your own way for a change. Whether or not we will keep on recording music with the four of us, we will always keep in touch. We’ve experienced too much for that. Apart from that, we have a lot of mutual business interests, for which we have to see each other on a regular basis. Things have been quiet around ABBA for a while now. It has been a long time since we performed together. That was a conscious decision. We have given each other the freedom and the opportunity to each go our own way. Frida has released solo records now, just like me. Benny and Björn are very busy in the studio. They are producing other artist’s records. We do exactly what we love the most now. In about a year we will probably discuss our future together. Whether or not we will record any more albums is still a question mark...”
Agnetha looked fit and cheerful. “A result of the fact,“ according to the Swedish singer, “that I’ve been able to work in a relaxed manner on my new solo album the past few months. I think it’s wonderful to be able to make my own album now and perform on my own as well. With ABBA, we’ve always been under an enormous pressure and that disappeared when I went on to sing on my own.”