Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Veronica, September 1980: ABBA's popularity remains undiminished

An article from Dutch magazine Veronica, published in the week that the Live In Concert special was aired on Dutch television.
‘The Winner Takes It All’, you can hardly think of a better title for an ABBA record. This Swedish family company is now unthreatened on top for six years already. And the end is not in sight, despite the inevitable tensions within the group. Although the members are taking things a little easier at the moment.

“After that energy-draining world tour we had to get into the studio immediately to get an album ready before the end of the year. We can afford to work in a relaxed manner and take the time to work out every detail to perfection. Actually, the activities have only been interrupted by some short vacations. But even then, in our minds Benny and I are very much occupied with our work. We are what the Americans call ‘workaholics’, people who are addicted to their job. We just happen to love it,” according to Björn Ulvaeus, blonde Agnetha’s ex-husband and co-writer of all ABBA hits.

Has the divorce between Agnetha and him been a time bomb under the group or not?
Björn: “When we made our divorce public, we had already dealt with it. Agnetha and I have already talked out the problems at an early stage. Also at the advice of our manager Stig Anderson. I don’t believe the continued existence of the group was ever in danger. Agnetha and I haven’t taken a dislike to each other. The marriage just didn’t work out. We realized that in time. We stand next to each other on stage without feelings of hatred. In the beginning it has been a strange experience. But you get used to it. Now we’re colleagues. I have a new girlfriend and Agnetha is looking for a new life partner. It’s not easy for her. She’s not a butterfly. She wants a solid relationship.”

Don’t you miss the children?
Björn: “We’ve come to a very satisfying agreement. Basically, I can meet the children whenever I want. They also came along to the US. I’m reconciled to the fact that Agnetha was given custody of them. She spends more time at home than me. We try as hard as we can to let the children suffer as little as possible from the divorce.”
Is that the price to pay for success?
Björn: “That’s hard to say. Everyone has their own ideas about marriages in show business. Usually marriages like that come to an end because the partners don’t see enough of each other. Well, with us that certainly wasn’t the case. We saw each other every day. I don’t find it interesting to reflect on that. Things happened the way they did. We’ve both made a new start. Be as it may.”

Your life consists of tours, recordings, television performances and so on. Don’t you get tired of it at some point?
Björn: “I shiver at the thought that I’m not allowed to do that any longer. Agreed, those long tours are particularly exhausting, you shouldn’t do that too often. Apart from that, it doesn’t earn us any money. But for the rest, we’re having a great time. You mustn’t forget that it was a conscious decision for us to become an artist. We started out with ABBA with the intention to get to the top. We knew what was ahead of us. But our manager sees to it that we’re able to relax for a while after a few weeks of work. And after a few weeks of vacation I’m longing to get back to work. The same goes for the others as well. We love this business and gladly take the difficult times into the bargain.”

Are you still able to motivate yourselves after so much success?
Björn: “That won’t be a problem as long as we keep loving what we do. Financially, I think we’re strong enough to quit. But what else is there to do? We make music because it’s our life. I couldn’t live without it. There’s no pressure whatsoever. We can release records whenever we want to. There’s no one knocking at our door with the announcement that a song should be finished the next day. We look at every new album as a challenge. Something like that builds slowly. It starts out with a few loose ideas, a couple of guitar riffs and a piano line. It’s always very exciting to hear what emerges from that. In the studio we work at a quieter pace than during a tour. Then it can be difficult to remain stable. We feel very much at home in the recording studio. And I can unleash possible tensions in my work.”

There are rumours circulating that Agnetha and Anni-Frid want to do other things apart from their work with ABBA.
Björn: “These desires have been around for quite some time. Anni-Frid has played a small part in a movie, Agnetha has started composing herself. With success. Whenever ABBA is not on tour and Benny and I are messing about in the studio, Anni-Frid and Agnetha have a little more spare time. Apart from that, it’s sensible to not concentrate completely on one project. They are extremely creative women.”
Agnetha has gotten some bad publicity recently in connection with that non-smoking campaign. Does that hurt your popularity?
Björn: “Artists are living in a house of glass. She participated in a non-smoking campaign on television. Later on, she was photographed with a cigarette in her mouth and bombastic stories appeared in the media. What’s the use of that? No, I don’t think it will hurt us. Thankfully, the fans are ignoring sensational stories like that.”

It has often been suggested that the world tour was a farewell of sorts.
Björn: “Nonsense. ABBA goes on. We did that world tour because we thought the time was right. We’re now taking things easier. Extensive tours are not on our schedule. At best, some television and a one-off performance here and there. At the moment, the television special that was recorded during the tour is going around the world. This way, the fans that weren’t able to attend the concerts can see us perform.”
Vicious rumours are claiming that you were far more vibrant during the shows that were filmed.
Björn: “It only seems that way. A camera records everything up close. You see us sweating and our facial expressions. You don’t get to see that when you’re in the middle of a huge arena. During the whole tour we gave everything we had. You can’t fool your audience.”

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