Sunday 29 March 2009

Pop Foto, 1977: ABBA had to disappoint a celebrity

Recently, ABBA received an important award for Swedish groups in their own country. The group was proclaimed the ‘Best Group of the Year’. To celebrate the occasion, a huge party was being held at the Opera Restaurant in Stockholm. An enormous celebration with lots of champagne, several tasty delicacies and obviously an amount of rather to very well-known Swedes! There, the ABBAs met an equally famous compatriot, namely the world champion skiing Ingemar Stenmark.

At the same time as ABBA, this young man received an important award as well. At the party, that was hosted by a big Swedish newspaper, it turned out that the five Swedes got along exceptionally well, because they had a lot of fun together. On the accompanying picture, taken in front of the ‘modest’ background of the royal palace of King Carl Gustaf, Ingemar is positioned in the middle. The Scandinavian skiing freak had become such a big ABBA-fan after this pleasant afternoon, that he invited Anni-Frid, Agnetha, Björn and Benny to take free skiing lessons. Without a doubt a fantastic offer, that’s what the four ABBA-members thought as well! But no matter how much they’d love to do it and how much fun they thought it would be, the world’s most famous group simply didn’t have the time. Regretfully they thanked Ingemar. To which he responded unaffectedly: “Well, that’s your decision. But then I won’t record an album with you either!”

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Oor, January 1978: ABBA - The Album album review

A review of ABBA - The Album from Dutch magazine Oor. From the opening lines, you can tell that writers of so-callled serious magazines were slightly embarrassed to review an ABBA-album, as if it was a chore that nobody wanted to do.
Since I was the only reviewer who had the guts to put ‘Arrival’ in my year list – and that takes some courage, you might not be taken seriously any longer as a serious writer – I was given the honour to review ‘The Album’ by Swedish teeny-bopper group ABBA. Like some may have thought, it wasn’t a corny joke, therefore we’re going to review the record seriously.
Everyone in the record industry, from label manager to producer, is drooling like Pavlov’s dog on hearing ABBA’s name, because it’s synonymous with success. As a phenomenon, Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid (that’s ABBA) are more influential and sociologically speaking just as interesting as the whole punk and new wave movement together. Time and time again, ABBA knows how to combine catchy music and lyrics with an exceptionally refined show of the ladies, that gives children glowing hands and moist eyes and dad a hard-on, however without mum realising that this might be caused by the prominently (well) swaying asses of the blonde and the dark one. I mean... what else could you wish for!
The often heard exclamation that the ladies can’t sing isn’t relevant either, because it’s all about the complete package, and apart from that, technically speaking they’re still head and shoulders above a similar singer like Deborah Harry, the empty-headed blonde that seems to have so many hidden qualities.
‘The Album’ has been released almost simultaneously with the feature film (‘The Movie’) and just a little while after the book about ABBA, a case of clever business insight of the man behind the scenes, Stig Anderson. I don’t know if these simultaneous projects are the reason, but it’s a fact that ‘The Album’ will easily exceed the already gigantic sales figures of ‘Arrival’. The lyrics are obviously superficial, but that’s how they should be, to appeal to the masses. Apart from ‘The Name Of The Game’, Stig Anderson is responsible for two other lyrics on this album, that clearly stand out compared to the others. Just like ‘Arrival’, ‘The Album’ is produced to perfection and full of potential hits. The strong aspect of most of the songs is that you can sing along to them effortlessly after playing them twice. Isn’t recognizability the pillar of every commercial product?
The three songs from the mini-musical ‘The Girl With The Golden Hair’ are disappointing, because they are a much too obvious pile of clichés from ‘Tommy’, ‘Hair’, ‘Evita’ and other, more traditional musicals. But that’s not the worst part; especially in songs like ‘Thank You For The Music’ and ‘I Wonder’ they are trying to give the music a profundity that the group doesn’t have. It remains a phenomenon of the biggest common divisor and its qualities are to be found in its broadness. Their so-called deeper feelings are plastic and adolescent, not even Clearasil or DDD will fix that. Luckily, this quasi-sensitivity remains limited to the pretentious musical. The rest is of a standing that will give any hit producer wet dreams every night and in the morning a hangover at the thought that they will have to make do with Guys And Dolls, Teach In, Champagne and Brotherhood Of Man.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Pop Foto, December 1978: Secretly, Benny and Anni-Frid celebrated their big day

An article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto about Benny and Frida getting married in all secrecy in October 1978.
Even for very close friends it was a complete surprise. Only a couple of days before the event they received an invitation for the big party. But still, it has finally happened... Anni-Frid and Benny from ABBA are married!

Seven years ago, there had been some severe disorder in front of the Verum church in the district Skäne in the south of Sweden. The occasion then was the marriage between Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog. But despite the fact that this was yet another ABBA-marriage, not a living soul could be spotted on Friday October 6 at the rustic little church of the island Lidingö. It was dead quiet. Not because ABBA is less popular now than seven years ago, but only because Benny and Anni-Frid wanted it this way.
Carefully, they had kept their wedding date a secret. Even for close friends of the couple the wedding came totally unexpected. It wasn’t until the last moment that they were called to the big party that Benny and Anni-Frid were hosting at their beautiful residence on the Stockholm island Lidingö, after the ceremony in the church.
Obviously, there had been rumours circulating for quite some time about a possible marriage. But no one really believed it would actually happen. Especially since Benny and Anni-Frid, when asked about it, maintained sternly that the unmarried life they had been leading so far had worked out just fine for them. Only two years ago, roaring with laughter they rejected an offer from an American television company, that wanted to bear the costs of a fairytale-wedding, only if they were allowed to broadcast the happening on the screen.
But just now, when the rumours have died down a bit, it has finally happened. Only family members and close friends were allowed to be a part of it. Reporters and photographers, as far as they were aware of the event, were kept at a distance. Benny and Anni-Frid wanted to have this day all to themselves. And quite rightfully. Congratulations... Benny and Anni-Frid!

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Studio, June 1984: ABBA The Movie on TV

A Dutch TV guide announcement of the broadcast of ABBA - The Movie.
Although ABBA officially still exists, there hasn’t been any group activity for a considerable amount of time. Together with Tim Rice, Björn and Benny are working on the musical Chess, that should be finished in January. In Paris, Frida has just completed the recordings for her second solo album, produced by Steve Lillywhite who also worked with U2, Big Country, Simple Minds and Joan Armatrading, among others. The album will be released in September. In the near future, Agnetha will start working on a second album, probably with 10CC’s Eric Stewart as her producer.
Whether the four will ever do something together again as ABBA remains a big question mark. How things were going in ABBA’s glory days can be seen once again coming Saturday in ABBA – The Movie. For the most part, this movie is a report of an Australian tour of the group in early 1977. In the middle of the concert footage, among which a gigantic open air performance in Sydney, there’s a little storyline about a reporter who wants to interview the group time and time again, but always shows up just a bit too late. Apart from that, first and foremost a lot of ABBA-hits.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Pop Foto, 1983: "You never create a hit on your own!"

A 1983 article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto about Agnetha's then recently released solo album Wrap Your Arms Around Me.
“I knew beforehand that my album would be compared to Frida’s successful album,” Agnetha says about her recently released solo album. She told Pop Foto why she still dared to take that gamble...

With cheeks blushing with anticipation, Agnetha listens to the first mix of ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’. Mike Chapman, the composer of this monster-hit and also the producer of her solo album with the same title, watches matters smilingly. He’s very proud of this successful album, that everybody has been waiting for eagerly. Still, this isn’t Agnetha’s first album. On the contrary! Before ABBA even existed, the – then very young – blonde singer was already very well-known in Sweden. She recorded no less than 6 (!) albums, one of them even produced by herself!
“That doesn’t take away from the fact that this album, my first album in English, was very important to me,” Agnetha says without hesitation. “Because you can bet that it’s terrifying to come up with a solo album after the success of ABBA. I also knew beforehand that people would compare my album to Frida’s. But either way, I do love a good challenge every now and then, hahaha!”
That the album eventually became such a huge success, is for the most part thanks to Mike Chapman, a man who already has an extensive string of hits credited to his name. Mike was what you could call ‘the big man’ behind the number one hits of Smokie, Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Exile, Mud, Blondie, Tony Basil, and we could continue like this for half an hour.
“I used the group Smokie as backing vocalists for Agnetha’s album. Four or five years ago, Smokie was an extremely popular band. You might remember songs like ‘Needles And Pins’, ‘Oh Carol’ or ‘Living Next Door To Alice’. Agnetha has always been one of their biggest fans, and when I told her about my plans, she immediately was very enthusiastic. Obviously, the boys of Smokie were very honoured.”
“It shows once again,” the blonde singer says softly, while looking at Mike gratefully, “you don’t create a hit on your own!”

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Veronica, 1984: Platengala with many stars

A small article from Veronica magazine about the Dutch Platengala (at the time this was an annual event, promoting the record industry). Björn and Benny were there to promote Chess and Frida to promote her album Shine.
The recent Platengala attracted many international artists to our country. Especially the attendance of the Everly Brothers turned out to be a highlight of the evening.
The same could be said of Elaine Paige, a leading character from the ‘ABBA’ musical Chess. Also due to the fact that the composers of the musical, Björn and Benny from ABBA, had come to the gala, and ABBA-singer Frida did a solo performance, an extra sparkle was added to the evening. The ABBA-trio was only missing Agnetha. ABBA’s record company did go through some trouble to get the missing ABBA-member to Holland. Unfortunately, they didn’t succeed. You will be able to see Elaine Paige live on October 29 at the Concerthouse in Amsterdam. There she will be the star in the musical Chess.

Muziek Expres, 1984: Agnetha is leaving ABBA

Actually, ABBA has not existed as a group for a long time now. Only in name, but the members of ABBA have been going their separate ways for quite some time. Björn and Benny as a writers duo and Agnetha and Frida as solo singers. Recently, the blonde Agnetha has said goodbye to the group officially.
“I want to concentrate even more on my own career,” according to the comment of the 34-year-old singer. “Apart from that, I’m becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I’m still regarded as a ‘piece of ABBA’. And I want to get rid of that. I’m simply an independent, working woman. Someone who wants to shape her own course. And ABBA prevented me from doing that.”
Indeed, when her career is concerned, everything is going Agnetha’s way. From her solo album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’, almost one and a half million copies were sold all around the world! Not a bad ‘start’...

Sunday 1 March 2009

Joepie, July 1982: ABBA's life was indeed hanging on a string

For the first time, the ABBA headquarter has admitted, in the words of Benny, that the famous foursome was in danger of not making it into 1982. For that matter, he did that with much pleasure, because all private and professional problems have been solved gloriously. And at the same time, he revealed what the group has in store for us the coming months.

“Indeed, we have a difficult and awful time behind us, that could have meant the end of ABBA,” Benny admits. “For starters, all four of us were over head and ears in relationship problems after the divorces. On top of that, we started to doubt our musical future, because we had the feeling that we didn’t offer enough variety with our compositions. We talked about it day and night and finally decided to let the audience have the last say in the matter. The success of our new album ‘The Visitors’ would determine whether ABBA would live on our die. Well, the sales figures were overwhelming and they were still going upwards which was the clear sign for us to continue.”
“The atmosphere is excellent now,” Björn steps in. “Probably because we allow every member more time to catch their breath and focus on what he or she likes to do. So it isn’t very surprising that all four of us are working on our own projects, without damaging the interests of the group. This way, we could continue for years to come.”
“Last year, I’ve said several times that ABBA would make one more album, that it would be over after that,” Benny says slightly bored. “I take that back. Ever since most problems have been solved, I’m taking a rosy view at my life and my career again.”

Björn and Benny didn’t sit still the past few weeks. Together with Frida and Anna they’ve recorded a couple of new tracks, that will be released as singles in the near future.
“It’s our intention to release a new single this summer, and another one in the autumn,” Björn clarifies. “Two out of these four tracks have been finished already (‘Just Like That’ and ‘I Am The City’). After that second single, a double compilation album will be released: 26 tracks among which those two new A-sides. This means that there won’t be an album with exclusively new material this year, but there will be in 1983. Benny and I are very busy working on that.”
In August, two new songs will be recorded in the studios in Stockholm. After that, the foursome will go on a promotional trip throughout Europe, to promote the double compilation album.
“We will do a couple of TV-shows that will focus on our unique string of hits,” according to Benny. “We are really looking forward to that, because in the meantime it has been quite a while since we were out on the road together.”
Which immediately evokes the question whether ABBA has any plans for live concerts.
“It’s not completely out of the question that we will set up a new world tour in ’83,” according to Benny’s diplomatic answer. “Stig has already cleared a couple of months in our schedule. He is now considering the various possibilities. So far, nothing has been decided yet. But with the atmosphere as it is, chances are that it will happen.”

ABBA’s new fervour doesn’t mean that the solo projects of the four members are a thing of the past. In the meantime, Björn and Benny have worked on their musical plans, that they want to launch next year as well. And after Frida, Agnetha is now working on her solo album too.
“Initially, Barry Gibb was going to produce her album, but those negotiations didn't lead to anything,” says Benny. “In the end, it turned out to be Mike Chapman, the man behind Blondie. Anna wanted to record the album in Los Angeles, but Mike preferred our studios in Stockholm. He had heard so many good things about them, that he didn’t want to let that chance go by. If things work out well, he wants to come here to record with Blondie. The recordings with Anna are planned for the middle of November. Until then, she’s very busy with ABBA.”