Sunday, 5 April 2009

Veronica, July 1977: The ABBA-girls are facing a difficult time

A Dutch article from mid-1977, a time when the media loved to speculate about the disagreements between the girls, the couples and ABBA's finances.
On an island, thirty miles from the Stockholm coast, the steel doors are closing tightly. In ABBA’s pop factory, plans are brooded over. Manager and composer Stig Anderson is frowning his bushy eyebrows. There is work to be done, because ABBA has reached a delicate stage. The musical formula that they developed, is being imitated all over the world. What do they have to do to keep the attention focussed on them? It’s not easy.

In the autumn, a new album will be released. This year it’s still clear sailing. But is ABBA going to make it until 1980? The problems are huge. That’s why they are working in full isolation on their private island. No one is being allowed in. Stig and company are protecting their musical process as if it were a secret recipe. “I’m aware of it,” he says worriedly. “The first new trend in music can wipe away ABBA completely. We are now concentrating on America. If we succeed in conquering that entire country with a tour, the absolute peak will be reached for us. Unless we will be able to get a break in Russia, China, North Korea and Vietnam. Those are the only countries where they’ve never heard of us.”
There is one question that’s torturing the ABBA-pivot. When will it be over? Benny Andersson (pianist, composer and Frida’s husband) says: “We don’t have to continue for the money. We’re now many times a millionaire already. The finances are being invested sensibly. We could live comfortably on that for the rest of our lives. We’re tired, but not broken yet. Still, I don’t want to wait for the moment that we have to quit because our records don’t make number one in the charts anymore. ABBA should become history as a legend. And I don’t see Agnetha and Frida take to the stage as grandmas either. We’re in our thirties, aren’t we?”

Benny is consumed by doubt and confusion. He knows very well how the atmosphere is within ABBA: polite, but not amicable. When there’s no reason to perform or record, the two couples remain completely separated. Björn and Agnetha go their own way, and Benny and Frida as well. The guitarist and his blonde wife bought an island in Viggsö. The pianist and the difficult Frida had a luxurious residence being constructed on the island Lidingö. The place where all rich Swedish celebrities are living.
The source of all the tension between the two couples is Frida. This dark-haired beauty seems so self-confident and friendly whenever she is surrounded by journalists or cameramen. The reality is different. Frida is often suffering from depressions. She is still having difficulties with an inferiority complex.

Her problems started long ago in the Norwegian town Narvik where she was born. Her father was a German soldier. Because of that, her mother immediately got the tag ‘German’s sweetheart’. Her father promised to return after one year when things had settled down. He never showed his face again. For little Frida it was better to grow up in Sweden. Although she couldn’t help her descent, she would face a difficult childhood in Norway. Together with her grandmother she emigrated to Sweden when she was only one year old. Craving for love, she married a musician when she was eighteen years old. At that stage, she had already sung for five years, among others with her own band ‘Anni-Frid Four’. Frida had two children, a son and a daughter. Their marriage deteriorated and she left for the Swedish capital. Living life to the fullest. Frida didn’t find happiness there either. Her relationships were limited to brief sexual contacts. Until she met Benny. A divorced man with two children. The judge gave her custody of son Hans (13), so their family consisted of five people.
“I didn’t make things easy for Benny,” she said. “Time and time again, I was drawn back in moods of deep melancholy. He always helped me to get through it. Without him, I would have remained a little and cheerless bird.” Her gloom doesn’t do the atmosphere within ABBA much favours. From the beginning, she felt she was in the shadow of the attractive blonde. It was the incentive for mutual rivalry. Many arguments preceded the current truce. The ladies only exchange the necessary information and with pleasure they add a cynical undertone to that. Apart from that, there’s the fact that Benny and Frida are night owls. They love to go out and as a consequence, the next morning they appear at appointments too late. A thorn in the flesh of the other couple.

Frida tried to overcome her supposedly disadvantaged position by recording a solo album. The first bomb, threatening ABBA. Stig Anderson dismantled the explosive immediately by forbidding television performances. Frida agreed under protest. Benny silently resigned to the awkward situation. There’s also some talk of her being displeased with the division of the ABBA-millions. The shares in the company are divided between Stig, Benny and Björn. Because of her marriage to Björn, Agnetha is getting her share as well. Frida doesn’t want to get married, but because of that she has to make do with a minor percentage of the turnover.
Opposed to that, Frida and Agnetha are both presidents of the general music company Polar Music. Both of them are on the payroll there for 200.000 Swedish crowns a year. Still, ABBA doesn’t know how to put away all that money. They’re buying art as if their lives depended on it. The Picassos are piling up. It’s their intention to start a large gallery in the near future, to exhibit and sell all their works of art. They are also starting their own book publishing company, of which their own autobiography ‘The Phenomenon ABBA’ is the first issue. The third leg on which their continued financial existence will stand, is a production company for promotional films. This company will get establishments abroad as well, because the Swedish economy is thriving more than enough on their tax assessments. That one urgent question still remains: when will the finishing line be in sight? We will know more in five years time.


Henriette van Deibelschmid said...

What do you think about this article to yourself?

Michel said...

Well, like I said in the introduction, most of it is speculation and gossip about supposed tensions between the girls and the couples.
The part describing Frida's uprbringing is fairly accurate, I guess. Apparently she did suffer from depressions around this time, but I don't think this was the cause of tensions between the girls or the couples. Just my two cents.