Thursday 30 July 2009

Joepie, June 1978: ABBA on the job and in their spare time – “Actually, we’re leading an ordinary life”

A 1978 article from Belgian magazine Joepie about ABBA’s preparations for the new album and their activities in their spare time. The text is almost an exact copy of the article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant, published in May 1978 (see 14 June 2009 entry).
Up till now, 1978 has been a comparatively quiet year for ABBA. Or, so it seems to the outsider, because Björn and Benny are already very busy working on the new album. “And it takes a lot more hard work than you think,” Benny says. “Since February, we’ve been busy discussing musical ideas and developing them further.”

The four members of ABBA realize very well that it’s not going to be easy to come up with yet another smash hit album. The previous two long-players, and their accompanying singles, have achieved millions of sales all around the world. Both ‘Arrival’ and ‘The Album’ were monster successes on a musical and financial level. That’s why they don’t leave anything to chance.
“We’ve taken a rather strict work schedule upon ourselves,” Benny says, “we’re even working in some sort of office hours. Every day, from ten o’clock in the morning till five o’clock in the afternoon, our whole world revolves around the piano and the guitar. Only at the weekend, we’re taking things a little easier, but from Monday till Friday we can’t be reached during these hours. Then we’re always to be found in the working space at my home. It’s easier that way, because Björn and Agnetha have to get up early anyway with their two small children at home. This way, I can sleep late, and it’s a bit quieter here as well.”
How is a new ABBA-album being born? “The first couple of weeks, nothing much happens actually,” Björn says. “Benny and I present our ideas to each other, but it doesn’t get any further than talking and a couple of musical chords. It’s always difficult to really get going again. After all, creativity can’t be ignited on command. But luckily, I can tell you that we are making progress again lately. It has eased our conscience to some extent, because we definitely have to be ready before the summer begins. Because all four of us want to spend a relaxed holiday then, on our island in the Stockholm archipelago.”
The two ABBA-couples do have other opportunities to keep themselves occupied. “Björn and Agnetha like to be at home as much as possible,” Benny says, “to occupy themselves with the children. They very rarely go to clubs or shows. Frida and I are having a much busier social life. For instance, we often go to see Björn Skiffs, the singer that represented Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest. He’s a good friend of ours. We also play a game of tennis regularly, since it’s a good way to keep ourselves in shape. I never used to be a very sporty kind of guy, but that has changed since I have my own boat. I’m taking two different classes to learn how to command my boat as good as possible. And Frida is not resting on her laurels either, she’s taking singing and dancing lessons with Inga Sundström and Graham Tainton, two of the best teachers you could possibly find. So both of us are keeping very busy.”
But the four ABBA-members don’t complain. Jointly, they say: “People think that we are leading an extraordinary and outrageous private life. But that’s nonsense. We’re enjoying ourselves, very well even. But that doesn’t mean that we are pursuing enormous luxury or that we are partying in an incredible way. We get our biggest satisfaction from our music, and from the response of the people who like it.”

Sunday 26 July 2009

Mikro Gids, December 1999: ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog: “Behind the scenes, I felt like a wreck”

This article, based on quotes from Agnetha’s book As I Am, was published in a Dutch TV guide in the same week that a television special was broadcast on Dutch TV. The special celebrated 25 years of ABBA’s success in Holland and featured snippets of several rare ABBA-performances and interviews for Dutch TV. Just like in many other countries, ABBA enjoyed another full-scale revival in Holland in 1999. A compilation album, designed exclusively for Holland, reached the number one spot and was one of the best selling albums of the year.
Which CD crossed shop counters the most in the past ten years? Was it Madonna’s? Was it Oasis’? Or was it the Spice Girls’? Not exactly. With the year 2000 on the threshold, the general audience is going back to the golden days of ABBA on a massive scale. In the meantime, no less than 25 million copies of the CD ‘ABBA Gold’ have crossed shop counters. An unprecedented success, that make the pop idols of today turn pale. Agnetha Fältskog about the life after the legend.

Who doesn’t know her? Agnetha Fältskog, the pretty, blonde singer that made many boys’ heart beat faster. She is now 49 years old, still attractive but much more sophisticated. Actually, she hardly got older. Just like the legendary creation ABBA. In their heyday scoffed at by the critical press, now they’re even immortalized at the renowned Nordiska Museum in Stockholm. Twenty-five years after ‘Waterloo’, ABBA is not only widely respected for their intricate musical structures, their avant-garde contribution to the time spirit of the seventies and the eighties is being acknowledged all over the world as well. Agnetha hardly seems to realize this. The way she talks about ABBA, reveals a certain naivety.
Agnetha: “When we called it a day with ABBA in the beginning of the eighties, I thought we would be forgotten after a few years. I never realized how big the impact of our group was. But now, in the nineties, ABBA is back with a vengeance. In my life as well. Meanwhile, the revival has become so strong, that we can’t ignore it any longer. You know, when our music has lasted for such a long time, and is still appealing to so many people all over the world, then there has to be something special about us as a group?”

For years, Agnetha has wanted nothing more than to be at home and lead a private life. She has no desire for the spotlights. It is often suggested that she’s living like a recluse, shut off from society. But in reality, she’s in the centre of life. She regularly shows up at parties and premieres. But she doesn’t perform any longer.
Agnetha: “I want to show my talent, my aim is not so much to be worshipped by loads of people. After the immense success of the group, I wanted to prove I was more than ABBA’s Agnetha. That’s why I realized a lifelong dream when I got the opportunity. I accepted a part in a movie, in order to prove myself as an actress as well. After my movie, I recorded my first international solo album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’, together with Mike Chapman. The fact that this album sold 2,5 million copies, gave me the feeling that I could be successful on my own as well. But by then, my children were my priority already. The projects that I’m really proud of are the albums that I’ve recorded together with them. These days, I’m keeping myself occupied with managing my horse-riding centre and the supervision of my capital. Who knows, I might even sing again, a movie soundtrack or something like that. Just for fun.”

Out of the four ABBA-members, it was especially Agnetha who started her solo career full of ambition. Indeed, she was already successful as a solo singer in Sweden, even before ABBA existed. With ABBA’s major breakthrough and the numerous hits that followed, Agnetha’s ambition strangely diminished. What came instead was the care for her children and uncontrollable fears. This resulted in the dramatic divorce from Björn and several conflicts in the group.
Agnetha: “I enjoyed the success, but I had the feeling that I was torn in two. On the one hand, I was a star, and on the other I was a mother. On top of that, I developed an enormous fear of flying, after a near plane crash. I was afraid that my children would be left behind without parents. I missed them when I was standing there singing my umpteenth hit, far away from home. That’s why I rather wanted to stay at home at a certain point. Björn and I had many arguments about that. He thought that I couldn’t let certain opportunities go by. But the children were my priority. I didn’t have any problems with television performances, because they were always brief. But I wasn’t up for the tours that lasted for months on end. After our divorce, I agreed to one more world tour. This tour was very difficult for me. On stage, I was radiating, but behind the scenes, I felt like a wreck.”

Still, the divorce didn’t mean the end of ABBA immediately. Many regard the records after the divorce as the group’s finest moment. The melodies are more complicated, the lyrics are less superficial and sometimes even painfully personal.
Agnetha: “At a certain moment, Björn and I just had to face the facts. Things just weren’t working out between us. When we eventually had decided to separate, an enormous pressure disappeared. We were free again, and could go out with other people again. This had a positive effect on the atmosphere in the group. It’s definitely true that our work got more profound because of it. We wrote better songs, with more real emotion and pure feelings. I still regard ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘One Of Us’ and ‘The Day Before You Came’ as our best songs.”

When Benny and Frida’s marriage comes to an end as well, due to Benny having an affair, ABBA is doomed. But none of the ABBA-members has the nerve to break away from the ABBA-heritage officially.
Agnetha: “That was the strange thing about the whole situation. None of us really felt like it any longer, but none of us had the nerve to say: ‘I quit’. We had achieved everything there was to achieve, we had written good songs and achieved an enormous success, and then there comes a time when you want to move ahead. At a certain point, I said during an interview that I preferred a solo career to ABBA, and that I couldn’t imagine that we’d ever be on stage together again. I gave that interview only a year after our last recordings, but during that short time I had become so far removed from ABBA, that I hardly noticed that I had put an end to an era by saying that. Since then, I’ve decided to lead my life at my own pace. This has made me much happier.”

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Popfoto, January 1980: What are you dreaming about, Agnetha?

Dutch magazine Pop Foto musing about Agnetha's thoughts in this picture, taken at a press conference during the 1979 tour.
What does this far off gaze in your cool Swedish eyes mean, Agnetha? What are you desperately longing for, being someone who has everything that others can only dream about? Could it be your heart that’s bothering you?

Does ABBA’s blonde singer Agnetha Fältskog give herself away? It sure seemed like it every now and then during the recent ABBA-tour through Canada, America and Europe. Time and time again, Agnetha, with a fresh, short haircut, was spotted gazing in the distance, absorbed in thought. If you didn’t know any better, you would think that the twenty-nine-year-old blonde from Jönköping was in love. And if you didn’t read the newspapers, the tabloids and pop magazines the past year, you might even think that Agnetha was reminiscing about the happy years before the ABBA-success. About that sunny afternoon in July for instance, when she said ‘I do’ to Björn in a small Swedish church and life was still full of promises...

Of course, we all know better. Obviously, we’re all familiar with the pictures of the dramatic divorce, Björn’s new love Lena and Agnetha’s brief fling with ice-hockey player Lars-Eric Eriksson... but still. Actually, Agnetha only seemed happy when her children Linda and Christian were flown in during the aforementioned tour and, if only for a short while, she got the feeling to be reunited with her little family again in London and San Francisco...
But still... despite the fact that girlfriend Lena Källersjö was travelling along with Björn on the tour, the formerly married couple was suspiciously often spotted together, not only with their children and during rehearsals, but in their spare time as well. This was especially obvious because the love birds of yore, Frida and Benny, were just behaving less friendly towards each other the past few months. The couple that was always known for their quiet, friendly behaviour, now excelled in quarrelling on stage, at their hotel and during public appearances such as press conferences...
It was obvious that Agnetha was dreaming about love, in between the busy ABBA-schedule. And what’s also obvious to everyone, is that love hasn’t been kind to the members of Europe’s most successful group. But what it will bring in the future, that’s the secret behind that mysterious glance of Agnetha...

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Pop Foto, July 1979: Is ABBA going to lose Anni-Frid?

A Dutch article from 1979 about Frida playing a part in the Swedish movie Gå På Vattnet Om Du Kan, filming for which took place in February 1979 in Spain.
Vicious rumours in Sweden are claiming that Anni-Frid has become so attached to acting after her first serious film part, that she is seriously considering to abandon ABBA for that. Is the continued existence of ABBA uncertain or is it false alarm...?

Now that the new ABBA-album ‘Voulez-Vous’ is finally available in the shops, more than a year after the previous long-player, and the rumours about the foursome’s private life seem to have been extinguished, suddenly a very shocking report turns up from out of nowhere. And this time, the thirty-four-year-old Anni-Frid, up till now the least talked about ABBA-singer, is the gossip’s victim. Recently, when Benny and Björn spent a couple of weeks on the Bahamas to gather new inspiration, Anni-Frid flew to the Spanish city Seville for a small part in the Swedish movie ‘Just Try To Walk On The Water’.
“I had the time for it and I really wanted to do it,” according to Anni-Frid. “Despite my previous experiences with the ABBA-movie, that in the meantime has been seen by more than five million people, a whole new world opened up for me during the filming of ‘Just Try...’. I’ve said that I wouldn’t mind doing some more acting.”
And because of this last statement, the rumours have started, according to Anni-Frid. “I meant to say that I look at this acting more as something for the future. I’m definitely not planning to abandon my colleagues at the moment. ABBA is doing better than ever. It may sound strange, but ever since Björn and Agnetha’s divorce, who were constantly quarrelling before that, the atmosphere in ABBA has cleared up considerably. The four of us are having fun again. It will take a whole lot for me to say goodbye to ABBA!”
That’s why it will probably take a while before Anni-Frid is able to accept a next film part. Because after the well-deserved holiday that ABBA is enjoying at the moment, the hard work starts again. The group has to rehearse extensively for the upcoming tour, that will commence at the beginning of August. The Swedish group will definitely surprise Holland with a concert as well. And apart from the tour, there are also the festivities surrounding Agnetha who’s celebrating her tenth anniversary as a singer this year. In honour of her anniversary, a solo album will be released that will be called ‘Agnetha’s Greatest Hits’ and that will also include a completely new song, written by Agnetha herself...

Monday 20 July 2009

Privé, October 1979: The ABBA-family is taking a rest…

This article was published in Dutch gossip magazine Privé in the same week that ABBA performed in Holland on their 1979 tour. The pictures were taken in September 1979 in Los Angeles where ABBA was relaxing at the swimming pool of their hotel. Agnetha does not look too pleased in the second picture. Meanwhile, Görel Hanser is mistaken for Björn’s new love interest.
ABBA’s gigantic tour through the United States, Canada and now Europe is an enormous success. The tickets for the concerts were sold out months in advance. Indeed, the performances turned out to be something very special. This week, on the eve of their performance, ABBA-fever has started to spread in our country as well. Privé paid a visit to the Swedish group on their American series of concerts, the start of the tour. Everyone had settled at the swimming pool of the hotel where they could relax for a while before the exhausting concert started every night.
Agnetha and Björn’s children, six-year-old Linda and one-year-old son Christian, were allowed to travel along on this tour. Most of the time, they stay at home alone, but the blonde singer found it irresponsible to leave her children alone for a couple of months.
However, it was striking that Agnetha’s ex-husband Björn didn’t occupy himself too much with the children; he had his eyes on the female beauties that were present. But one of the ladies clearly had Björn’s preference. He spent the entire day at the pool, chatting away with this blonde beauty, meanwhile leaving the care for the children to his ex-wife. For that matter, for six-year-old Linda the tour is a once in a lifetime experience.Two months of tagging along with her mum and dad. Very often, she has to stay at home alone while the marriage of her mum and dad is over. For her, this is a whole new world that she visibly enjoyed. For the group, this was a moment of relaxation before their big task began.

Sunday 19 July 2009

Hitkrant, May 1978: ABBA is going to conquer America!

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about ABBA’s attempt to conquer the American market in 1978. The campaign did generate some promising results and proved that ABBA would have been able to crack the US, if they had wanted to. Take A Chance On Me became a huge hit, peaking at number 3 (some even claim that it was their most successful US single, considering sales figures and popularity) and ABBA – The Album became ABBA’s highest charting original album in the US, peaking at number 14. Inexplicably, ABBA’s American record company did not build on this momentum and decided to release no new ABBA-product for a whole year.
Anyone who wants to achieve something in the long run, will have to make a planning. ABBA has made a so-called ‘Plan ‘78’, in which it is exactly described how they are planning to conquer America this year.

Manager Stig Anderson has thought out an ingenious plan in which all activities in the year 1978 are aimed at getting the United States completely won over by the Swedish foursome. For starters, at the end of April the group has left for Los Angeles to execute the whole operation from there.

The Scotti Brothers, who are taking care of the publicity and the promotion of, among others, Bellamy Brothers, John Denver and Barbra Streisand, will occupy themselves with the practical execution of Plan ’78. This means: promoting the records, setting up interviews with important people of the press, having conversations and making deals with promoters and record dealers.

In America, you have to hire professional people for things like this, otherwise you won’t stand a chance. But: it costs loads of money!
One of the ideas is that ABBA will make a television special together with Olivia Newton-John, who is a huge star in the States, if only due to the success of her hit single with John Travolta, ‘You’re The One That I Want’.

ABBA still knows Olivia from the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 in Brighton, where ‘Waterloo’ became the winning song and Olivia finished in fourth place. This way, the Australian-born singer is an important tool for ABBA on their way to the big American success. Time will tell!

Friday 17 July 2009

Joepie, 1982: How Anna helped her desperate colleague out of trouble!

An article from Belgian magazine Joepie about the duet single that Agnetha (in this article still called Anna) recorded with Tomas Ledin in 1982. The article shows a picture of ABBA posing with Ted Gärdestad, although the writer of this piece will have you believe that it’s Tomas Ledin. The single did quite well in Belgium, reaching the top ten. In Holland, it was a moderate chart success, peaking at number 24.
With his head slightly bent in sorrow and a distant look in his eyes, Tomas Ledin walked out of the office of his manager Stig Anderson. He didn’t even notice that Anna was having a chat with the telephonist and walked straight passed her.
“I had never seen Tomas like that,” Anna explains. “For years, I had known him as a friendly, cheerful guy who was always ready for a joke. Afterwards, Stig told me what was wrong: he had just shown him the sales figures of his latest single. Tomas had expected a lot from it, but the result was not up to the mark. ‘I think that I’d better quit’, he said in an almost whispery voice and walked out.”

“I just couldn’t forget that desperate look in Tomas’ eyes when I sat at home that night,” Anna continues. “With ABBA, we had been successful from the very beginning. It never crossed my mind that there are other artists that had been less fortunate than us. Although we had an example in our own stable, because Tomas has been with Polar for years. Yes, we had posed with him before for a picture, but he didn’t get any more support from us than that. I started feeling some remorse. Why did we leave this young bloke to his fate like this? Had we really gone blind for the troubles of less fortunate colleagues? I wanted to make up for that mistake no matter what.”
“The next day, I paid him a visit at his home,” Anna continues. “The desperation could still be read in his eyes. He played a couple of self-written songs for me, that he wanted to put on a new album. ‘But I don’t know if it’s any use to release them anymore,’ he added. One of those songs, ‘Never Again’, appealed to me a great deal. At first, the thought crossed my mind to record it myself for my upcoming solo album with Mike Chapman. But then I came up with a much better idea: why not record it as a duet! With my name on that record, it would suddenly get more attention. If it would become a hit, that album of Tomas would stand a much better chance. I saw that spark in his eyes again. We talked it over with Stig. He liked the idea immediately, and within a week we were together in the recording studio.”

Obviously , that duet recording was the ideal ammunition for the Swedish gossip press. But that doesn’t bother Anna.
“After all these years, I’ve broken that habit,” she says. “After my failed love affair with Torbjörn, I’m far from being ready for a new romance. With every day, it’s getting harder for me to deal with men. They look at me too much as a star and fail to see my own personality. Tomas is definitely not my new boyfriend. We’ve known each other for years, we get along great, but that’s all. As far as I’m concerned, they can write what they like about me, but I could perfectly do without the publicity generated by the gossip press. But for Tomas, it’s obviously important that his name is seen everywhere. I wish him all the success in the world, he deserves it like no other.”
Because of this artistic marriage, Anna found herself in the charts as a solo singer sooner than was initially planned.
“My solo album with Mike Chapman will not be recorded before the autumn,” she says. “I had to postpone it for a couple of months, because there was other work to be done. The movie, that I’ve discussed earlier, and recording sessions with ABBA. Because no matter what they’re saying, ABBA will continue. Recently, an article appeared in a Swedish magazine, claiming that I was jealous of Frida, and that I hastily made this duet recording with Tomas because of that. I thought that was awful. That reporter didn’t even bother to inquire about the true story. He simply had his own view on the proceedings and put it on paper without hesitation. I’m not jealous of Frida, I grant her the success that she’s experiencing at the moment. I even think that her album is very good. Some people seem to forget that it’s beneficiary to each ABBA-member that every solo project is doing well. With or without ABBA, all five of us – including Stig – are shareholders of Polar.”

Thursday 16 July 2009

Joepie, October 1978: “Every day it’s getting harder to come up with original songs”

A Belgian article discussing all the money that’s coming in ABBA’s drawer and the difficulties surrounding the writing and recording of the new album Voulez-Vous.
It would be a hopeless task to try and find out just how wealthy ABBA is at the moment: the large sums of money are tied up in several business enterprises and the balance-sheet is changing from day to day, therefore the four don’t even know themselves how much money is in the golden drawer.

“But we are definitely not Sweden’s wealthiest company, like has often been claimed lately,” Björn ardently contradicts. “We are making enormous profits, that’s true, but I think it’s sad that people refer to ABBA as a company, an enterprise. It’s not like we are writing songs while we are thinking about the profits. We leave the financial side to other people, that we’ve employed especially for that matter. We are not money-grubbers, you can take that from us! However, money is important to us, in the sense that we’ve been able to establish a record company of our own and therefore have less limitations on an artistic level than any other group. But for the rest, we haven’t had much opportunity to enjoy our money, for the simple reason that we don’t have any spare time. Benny and Frida have purchased a boat recently, that’s the first present that they’ve allowed themselves in all those years. Anna and I have made a few changes in our home, that’s all. Look, every month we get an allowance from our own company, transferred to our personal account, to support ourselves and things like that. It has never occurred that we’ve taken extra money out of our own company to afford ourselves some kind of extravagance. Isn’t that proof enough that the money is not the most important thing for us?”

A huge part of ABBA’s income goes to taxes, and for a while there has been talk of moving abroad. It has been discussed, and eventually our four friends still decided to stay in Sweden.
“Even when we considered moving abroad, it was not in the first place due to taxes. But because we wanted to live in a sunnier country. Look, it’s not that difficult for an English artist that moves to the States. For starters, they speak the same language over there! At first sight, that may seem unimportant, but in the long run it will start to weigh heavily! No, I believe all four of us would get homesick pretty soon. A true Swede is rather home-loving...”
In all those years, the large sums of money have given ABBA the freedom that every artist dreams of. But it also has its disadvantages, Björn claims.
“When you are wealthy, you’re also in danger of kidnapping and robbery. To be honest, we’re not that well guarded at home. A simple alarm system, that’s all. It’s not that we hear very much about kidnapping and theft in Sweden, but you never know! But we have one security: our maid is worth her weight in gold! She’s a judo expert, she would give possible burglars or kidnappers a difficult time!”

At the moment, ABBA is busy recording the new album. Björn doesn’t know yet when it will be released exactly.
“These days, we need more time than we used to,” according to Björn. “At the moment, we’ve finished only five songs. It’s not because we’re such perfectionists! We hardly worked a couple of weeks on our very first album. But it’s getting more difficult than ever to come up with original songs. To write a song that doesn’t resemble one or the other old song. I think that’s a problem that every artist, that has been on top longer than two years, has to deal with. It’s not very easy to reach the top, but staying there is even harder.”

Sunday 12 July 2009

Viva, March 1980: The two ABBA-women: “We would like to quit, but we can’t”

Agnetha and Frida being interviewed in between recording sessions for the Gracias Por La Musica album. The ladies talk about the pressure that comes along with being a part of ABBA. The article appeared in Dutch women’s magazine Viva in March 1980.
A lunch with ABBA-singers Anni-Frid and Agnetha, that’s the world scoop that Viva’s staff member John McFarlane had in Stockholm, much to his own astonishment. For several years, the two singers have not appeared at press conferences, let alone considered an interview. Sharp-minded due to made-up stories or drastically distorted statements, the ABBA-management decided that only Björn and Benny would appear facing the press army from now on. Even in America, that had to be conquered urgently by the Swedish foursome, the singers stayed away.
And now this lunch, together with a couple of technicians and an Argentine team of interpreters, called in for assistance with a Spanish album.
Anni-Frid: “Enjoy your lunch, we’ve heard that you are trustworthy. We’re sick and tired of all those made-up stories. Recently, I’ve even approached a Swedish editorial staff to ask them to finally stop harassing Agnetha with her divorce. We’re fed up with it all, we’re in need of peace and quiet, especially in a difficult time like this. Apart from that, I’ve had enough myself of stupid questions like ‘how do you apply your make-up, why do you have this haircut’, as if the exterior is the only thing that matters. They forget to see me as a woman who tries her utmost best on stage and who tries exactly to forget about all the private problems then. Let them ask us questions about the music and judge us on these qualities. We are not a machine, but four ordinary people who have got ahead by working very hard and in the meantime are bringing joy to other people.”

Up till now, they’ve always kept silent. Anni-Frid and Agnetha, the two ABBA-women, have always left the publicity to ‘the boys’. Viva still got the opportunity to have a conversation with them. That conversation didn’t pass off that hopeful for the numerous fans of the Swedish foursome. Because ABBA is starting to get tired of it. “The moments that I’m fed up with it are getting more frequent,” Anni-Frid says.

Just an ordinary working day in Stockholm. Outside, it’s cold and snow is being cleared. Inside, the atmosphere is getting to a boiling point. There, behind the sound-proof glass of the Polar Music recording studio, ABBA’s singers Anni-Frid and Agnetha are trying to record the audiotape of a Spanish album. This simply means: singing out of tune? Stop. Again. Wrong pronunciation? Stop. Again. Not starting simultaneously? Stop. Again. So there’s a lot of sighing, moaning and cursing going on. The humiliation of two world stars? For a moment they apparently sense it like that. Then they refuse to go on until all unwanted spectators have been removed. Behind the mixing console, the remaining technician Michael Tretow smiles: “Isn’t it wonderful to work with perfectionists like that.” But Anni-Frid later confesses: “Those are the moments that I get fed up with it. And to be honest, they’re getting more frequent...”

Is the end of the ABBA-era in sight? Isn’t it clear that these four Swedish artists will collapse under the burden of world fame as well? During the lunch, Anni-Frid’s often smiling face tightens at these questions. “Do you want an honest answer? The question is whether we will be able to quit. I think all four of us are still enjoying what we’re doing, but we do find it more and more difficult to be ABBA. We’ve been in the music business for fifteen years now. As ABBA, we’ve been on top for six years. And every time, we have to live up to that. Gradually, we have to watch out that we don’t start repeating ourselves. But it’s very difficult to get new ideas time and time again. We have to keep on developing and we can only do that when we have a clear aim. Well, that’s our problem. We’re not that youthful, glittery bunch, that we were six years ago anymore. Meanwhile, we’ve been through a lot. As women, we’ve matured, developed and especially got older as well. We look at life in a different way and then it becomes less fun to be ABBA. Because we actually have to switch off ourselves for that. Because we are the ‘property’ of so many millions.”
Agnetha mingles in the conversation: “Just think about Benny and Björn. They know that we are slaving away here, and they’d like to help out, but not without a reason they’re far away on Barbados. What they call relaxing, but actually thinking and talking about new ideas every second. Those two have to see to it that we don’t run dry. The existence of the group depends on their creativity. That responsibility for our repertoire never and nowhere leaves them alone. And we just have to wait and see whether there actually will be something new or we will see the well run dry tomorrow. There’s a tremendous pressure upon the both of them.”
Subsequently, manager Stig Anderson underlines just how heavy that pressure is with a couple of statistics. Chain-smoking, he mentions: “Last year, we had a turnover of seventy million. That means a profit of thirty million Dutch guilders. We are still growing, mainly because we’ve invested successfully as well. They’re saying that ABBA is Sweden’s second biggest export product, but we also own Europe’s third largest art gallery, a bicycle factory and recently we’ve bought a company that rents offices and buildings. Then I haven’t even mentioned our own company, the ‘ABBA factory’ slash music publishing company. Then it’s not so weird that we keep our gold records tucked away in the basement. That’s yesterday’s news. It’s all about tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow.”

Agnetha: “For the time being, we will have to carry the consequences of the profession that we have chosen. That sense of responsibility keeps us going. The public doesn’t always realize that. They see us as four glamorous characters on stage: slick music, beautiful voices, sexy show. Many people think that we’re off in some kind of fairytale world afterwards until the next time. They forget about the travelling, the hours spent in the studio on recordings, rehearsing, getting to bed at three o’clock at night and getting up at seven, packing and unpacking of suitcases, being away from home for weeks. That’s just plain hard work. Of course we make enormous sums of money, but we’re living under an enormous pressure as well. Just like any other human being, I have these moments that I’m tired of it all. Then there are concerts where I feel I haven’t given myself completely and I blame myself for that. Then the others can talk all they want, but I can’t be convinced. At these times I’m so disappointed in myself that it makes me depressed. It always ends in terrible crying fits. At these moments I think: now it’s over, I won’t do it any longer.”
Anni-Frid: “The tours are the worst part, we’ve come to realize that again recently. Precisely on a tour like that, we have that pressure of the enormous responsibility. Because we’re ABBA, everything has to be perfect. It takes an enormous effort, mentally and physically. It’s easier to digest for men than it is for women. Just consider our periods on a tour like that. I think that’s the worst thing that can happen to me, because no matter what, I have to get up on stage, smiling and hip throwing. The pace that you’re living in is frightening. You’re completely charged and don’t get a chance to unwind. We hardly ever take the time for a quiet little drink afterwards. And in the back of your head you’re obviously concerned about what’s happening at home as well, the fear that something might happen to the children, no matter how well our houses are protected by alarm systems. Conclusion: after such a tour we’re completely exhausted and there are times when we say out loud: guys, shall we call it a day...?”
Hastily, she adds: “This doesn’t have anything to do with internal tensions. Of course, they occur, but they get solved very quickly as well. It’s much too time-consuming and costly for us to spend our time arguing. Perhaps we are just too professional for that, no matter what the press is writing about us.”

Disturbed internal relationships might eventually lead to the end. In advance, we had agreed with the twosome that we wouldn’t talk about the private matter of the failed marriage between Björn and Agnetha. But Graham Jackson, the group’s dance teacher, had told us beforehand: “Lately, Agnetha just isn’t doing that well, I don’t know if she will hang in there for much longer. Ever since the divorce, she doesn’t feel like it very much anymore. For a while, she has been very depressed. It’s taking me a lot of effort to get her self-confidence, that has taken a severe blow, back to the old level.”
When asked specifically about this, Anni-Frid seems much more optimistic: “Agnetha and I have been far too independent from a very young age to not be able to cope with difficult times. We also find a lot of support with each other. Of course, we’re both dependent of the people that we work with, but we would be able to manage as women on our own. Since her divorce, Agnetha lives alone with her children. Obviously, she doesn’t have to worry about a thing financially speaking. But that strong sense of responsibility that she has for us as a group, is playing a part in her private life as well. She is very strong, a true survivor. She will definitely not sit down in despair. As a matter of fact, that goes for all four of us, otherwise ABBA would have stopped existing a long time ago.”
When Agnetha hears these last words, she confesses: “I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian. I’m crazy about animals. It’s now probably too late, although...?”

The ABBA-laboratory
The distinct ABBA-sound originates from Michael B. Tretow’s ‘laboratory of sound’. He explains: “It was in 1970. While tuning a twelve-chorded guitar, I came up with the idea to copy that heavy, full sound of such a guitar on an old piano. It offered a majestic sound. I made a couple of recordings and continued ‘over-dubbing’ the piano, until I had the sound of fifty pianos at the same time. With Benny and Björn, we started experimenting with other instruments. Even today, the two boys come into the studio alone to record the backing track. Very often, Agnetha and Anni-Frid enter the studio without having any clue what Björn and Benny have produced. That’s due to the fact that we go into the studio immediately to experiment, when they suddenly come up with an idea. When a song has been put together, the girls come in to record the vocals after listening to it a couple of times. It may seem disorderly for such a professional group, but it works perfectly.”

Friday 10 July 2009

Hitkrant, June 1979: Honey, Honey album review

ABBA’s first album Ring Ring was finally made available in Holland in 1979, albeit with different artwork, title and running order. Also, I Saw It In The Mirror and the Swedish version of Ring Ring had been replaced with She’s My Kind Of Girl and Honey, Honey. The album even got a fairly good review in Dutch magazine Hitkrant, but unsurprisingly it failed to reach the Dutch charts. In the eighties, a CD-version of the album was available for a short period of time.
ABBA ‘Honey, Honey’ Polydor/Polydor
Like generally is known, this is actually ABBA’s primal album ‘Ring Ring’, re-released under the title ‘Honey, Honey’. For that matter, ‘Ring Ring’ is included here as well, just like ‘Honey, Honey’ itself and more of these old familiar songs that should prick up any ABBA-fan’s ears.
Therefore, a feast of recognition and a good opportunity to sit down and listen how the ABBA-sound has evolved through the years. That is to say, for the better: while this album is still showing a rather hesitant start of a world group, the comparison with (for instance) ‘Voulez-Vous’ is quite considerably in favour of the latter. Still, ‘Honey, Honey’ is an absolute must for the ABBA-fan. Finally!

Pop Foto, February 1983: Agnetha was being seduced by the producer of Dallas

An article from Dutch Pop Foto magazine about Agnetha’s activities outside the ABBA-frame: the Swedish movie Raskenstam in which she played a leading part and her soon to be released first international solo album. The ABBA-poster included here comes from the same magazine.
She’s very good at singing. There’s no doubt about that. But Agnetha wants more. Acting, for example. Therefore, she didn’t hesitate for a second when the producer of Dallas offered her a fantastic part.

There’s no harm in trying everything in life. And even though you have numerous hits credited to your name, and you are really world-famous, even then it’s never too late to try something completely different. ABBA’s Agnetha thinks exactly the same about that and accepted a part in a Swedish movie.
“In the beginning, it wasn’t particularly easy,” the blonde singer explains candidly. “To be good at acting, you have to be able to enter into your part. And coincidentally, the character that I’m playing isn’t like me at all. In the movie, I am Lisa, the sweet and innocent daughter of a poor fisherman. The story is set in the forties. In that time, a notorious womanizer was living in Sweden, named Raskenstam. This Casanova has seduced at least 120 women. Inconceivable, isn’t it?” Agnetha bursts into a laugh, before she continues. “Gunnar Hellström, a well-known Swedish director and actor, thought this story was so remarkable that he’d love to make a movie about it. Gunnar has become very famous as the producer of Dallas. He’s playing the part of Raskenstam himself and he is my co-actor. As one of the many women, I’m seduced by him as well. So there’s no lack of romantic scenes.” Agnetha winks naughtily.
“Because the entire movie is being made in the style of the forties, I’m dressed in a terribly outdated way! When I saw myself in the mirror, I couldn’t stop laughing for ten minutes. No, it doesn’t look good on me at all! But oh well, you get used to everything and in the end I didn’t even change my clothes anymore when I had to run an errand in between. It really was a magnificent experience,” she says enthusiastically. “I’m very curious whether the movie will be a success, and whether I will be a accepted as a movie star. But my fans won’t have to worry that I’ll say goodbye to music,” she continues reassuringly. “At the moment, I’m very busy with an album that will most probably be released this spring. Michael Chapman is producing the record. He is very good, because he recorded several hits with Smokie, The Sweet and Suzi Quatro. As you can see, I’m not resting on my laurels. And I’m definitely not planning to do that in the time coming. Michael sees me as a challenge. He wants to do his job equally well as Phil Collins, who produced Anni-Frid’s album so masterfully. So he won’t be lacking in dedication, and where I’m concerned, well, I’m not in the studio for the first time either. No, I am really very confident about it all. It’s going to be splendid!”

Tuesday 7 July 2009

Hitkrant, January 1981: Ilona interviews ABBA

A report from Hitkrant magazine about a Dutch television special that was put together at the end of 1980. Staff-member of the Dutch fanclub, Ilona van Hilst, was invited to travel to Stockholm to interview Björn. The taping of the interview took place on December 19, 1980 at the Polar office and the special was broadcast on Dutch TV on Monday January 12, 1981.
It was quite a shock for staff member of the ABBA-fanclub Ilona van Hilst when she heard that she, together with an AVRO camera crew, director Theo Ordeman and someone from ABBA’s record company, could go to Stockholm for an interview with none other than Björn Ulvaeus. Last Monday, you have been able to watch that special about ABBA on AVRO television.
Ilona wrote us that her nerves were almost worn to shreds, but everything turned out fine in the end. Björn was extremely cooperative, told nothing about his marriage (more about that elsewhere in this magazine) but did tell about a possible solo career for Agnetha, ABBA’s move to France (now it’s France?) and more interesting stuff like that. An unforgettable experience for Ilona, especially when she met Agnetha as well, who asked her to give her regards to all ABBA-fans in Holland. So herewith.

Transcript of the interview

Hello! Happy new year, by the way.
Björn: “Thank you! The same to you.”
Well, first of all. I want to congratulate you with the new album. I think it’s fantastic! And, also I think it’s the best you’ve ever done. Do you think the same way like me?
Björn: “Exactly. I feel it’s the best one so far. But the next one is going to be even better.”
Do you think so?
Björn: “I hope so.”
You’ve called your album ‘Super Trouper’. Can you explain to me, what is a Super Trouper?
Björn: “A Super Trouper is one of the huge spotlights that we use on every tour. It’s very, very big and it can pick out from a long distance. It can, you know, pick out just a face. And, as you may have noticed on the sleeve, on the album sleeve there’s a spotlight coming from above. And so we called it ‘Super Trouper’.”
Could you tell me something about ‘The Piper’?
Björn: “’The Piper’, the inspiration for the lyric on ‘The Piper’ comes from a very good book that I read. It’s an American book, it’s called The Stand, by the same author as The Shining, which has been filmed. So, that’s where it comes from.”
Because I thought, you said: ‘he gave them a dream, he seduced everybody in the land, the fear was a weapon in his hand’, I thought of dictatorship.
Björn: “Yes, you’re right.”
And ‘Happy New Year’, what can you tell about that?
Björn: “It’s about people having negative thoughts. All people nowadays, especially at this moment, they think that the future is going to be very, very bad. So what we need now is to look at the future in a positive way. That’s exactly what we need and that’s what the song is about.”
The death of John Lennon, do you regard this as a great loss in pop history?
Björn: “Oh yes, and as a great personal loss as well because John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the two reasons that Benny and I started writing in the first place. In that time, ’63-’64, the groups didn’t write their own music. It was like there was this composer, this songwriter giving a song to the artist. And they changed the whole thing. Suddenly, groups like the one I was in and the one Benny was in, they felt that: why, let’s try and do the same thing. And that’s what we did. So it was a great loss for a lot of people. And what’s happened after John Lennon’s death, I mean so many people mourning and all that, shows what a big importance he had on the history of pop music.”
On the album, you’ve recorded a live version called ‘The Way Old Friends Do’. Why did you do that?
Björn: “As you may know, we had it as an ending of the show the last tour. And we thought it had such, you know, good atmosphere that it would be a perfect ending for the album as well. And the song is really about what we feel among the four of us.”
Frida is now studying the French language. Does she simply think it’s a nice language or are you planning to leave Sweden and settle in France?
Björn: “No, I think it’s because she likes the language so much. She has a couple of friends who speak French fluently and I guess they were an inspiration as well.”
Well, it is said that you want to go on tour in China. Is that true?
Björn: “That’s just a rumour. We never talked about it even.”
Are you going on tour again?
Björn: “This is something you never know. I mean, every, it seems like every two years we feel the urge to see the fans face to face again. And, well, it’s only been a year now since the last tour. If you come back in a year and ask me the same question I might say yes, but right now I don’t know.”
Then I come to the question, do you come to Holland soon?
Björn: “Same answer, I don’t know. But of course we feel Holland is actually one of the countries outside Sweden where ABBA first became popular. So we feel kind of related to Holland, it’s always been like a second home country to us.”
That’s nice.
Björn: “Well, it’s true. I think that Holland was among the first countries we went to do television outside Sweden as well. So, I hope that we’ll be able to come to Holland soon, at least for a vacation or just a couple of days.”

The following part was not included in the broadcast. After the taping, Ilona asked Björn if he had time to chat a little more. This part was printed in a Dutch fan magazine in 1981. While being at the Polar office, Ilona coincidentally ran into Agnetha as well (see the picture included here).
Björn, you know that I’m from the Dutch ABBA-fanclub. Do you have anything against fanclubs?
Björn: “Oh no! Absolutely not. I think they’re doing a great job and that’s why we want to cooperate as much as we can. But we always have the condition that they’re able to support themselves. So we can’t back them financially.”
As you know, in England there’s a monthly magazine, called ABBA Magazine. Now a Dutch translation has appeared in Holland. We’re a bit scared that it’s going to cost us some members; could you help us out a little more?
Björn: “You know what? Let’s make a deal that I will call you every now and then whenever there’s important news to be announced? You’ll have to contact Görel later on and explain the situation and tell her what I’ve just promised you. She will see to it that we will contact you every now and then.”
How kind that you’re willing to do that for us. You have a Swedish fanclub as well. Could you tell me a little more about that?
Björn: “Oh yes! Our fanclub is very big, because we admit fans from all over Scandinavia. Just don’t ask me how many members we have, because we’ve lost count. In the beginning, every new member received a number, but at a certain point it got out of hand. We have lots of merchandise for sale for the members. When you go downstairs later on, you should take a look at the things we’re selling. Maybe you could use some of it for your fanclub in Holland.”
Before I forget... would you be willing to write something down for the fans in Holland?
Björn: “Sure! Can I draw myself?”
Naturally, go ahead!
Björn: “I’m going to draw him really ugly.”
Oh yes, I can see that. How do I make our readers clear that you have drawn this yourself?
Björn: “Well, they’ll just have to take your word for it and by the way, no one can draw me like I do myself. I wish I’d be able to come to Holland for a vacation. I really love Holland. Apart from that, the people are very nice over there.”
Görel Hanser has informed me that Agnetha has recorded a Christmas album with Linda. How is that coming along?
Björn: “That’s right, they’ve recorded that album, but unfortunately something went wrong with pressing the records, therefore it couldn’t be in the shops before Christmas. That’s why Agnetha decided to wait until Christmas 1981.”
Did she compose the songs herself?
Björn: “Oh no. They are all Swedish Christmas songs. The album is also completely sung in Swedish and therefore it will only be released in Sweden: ‘Nu Tändas Tusen Juleljus’ which means something like: ‘Now we’re lighting a thousand candles’”.
We’ve already discussed a live album. I really don’t understand why you won’t release an album like that. I’m convinced that it will sell very well.
Björn: “That’s not the point for us. We always want to release a good product and apart from that, there will be a lot of people saying that such a live album isn’t necessary because most songs are already on other ABBA-albums.”
But why are you making music? You’re doing it to make people happy. And every ABBA-fan would be happy with a live album.
Björn: “That’s not the only reason, we’re also doing it because we enjoy it ourselves. We would want to include something new... it’s difficult to make a decision about that. But we might do it at some point in the future, however I can’t promise anything. Maybe we will wait until the next tour.”

Ilona asks Björn to sign one of the pictures taken of ABBA at the BMW factories in Munich on October 27, 1979.
Björn: “Hey, where was this? Oh yes, now I remember. We were in Germany for a performance and BMW had invited us to come and take a look at the BMW factories. So we did. Afterwards, they asked us if we were willing to pose next to one of their BMW models. That’s how this picture came to be. So it was not a matter of us flying to Germany specifically for this visit.”
How nervous I was during the interview! What is your attitude towards interviews?
Björn: “Well, I can’t say that I really take an explicit dislike to them. It just comes with this business. It all isn’t that bad, as long as you’re not being interviewed every day. So we don’t do that, we rarely do interviews. We make a selection, that’s the only thing we can do. If we would say yes to all the invitations we receive, we would be in front of the cameras every day. We can’t let ourselves get into that!”
Björn, I don’t want to keep you from your work any longer. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. See you in Holland, I hope.
Björn: “I hope so too. And thank you as well. Will you give our regards to our fans in Holland?”

Monday 6 July 2009

Hitkrant, 1983: Wrap Your Arms Around Me album review

Agnetha’s first English-language solo album Wrap Your Arms Around Me reviewed in Dutch magazine Hitkrant. Included here is a promotional postcard from 1983.
Agnetha Fältskog/’Wrap Your Arms Around Me’/Polydor 813 242-1
The blonde ABBA-singer really let herself go completely on her first English-language solo album: free from ABBA, musically as well, although the closing track on its B-side, “Stand By My Side”, comes close.
Furthermore, very diverse music, obviously because of all those different songwriters.
Mike Chapman produced the album very accurately, although he did use his complete studio trickery, which resulted in a perfectly produced and executed album, with “Once Burned, Twice Shy”, “Can’t Shake Loose” and “Take Good Care Of Your Children” as my favourites.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Hitkrant, November 1983: Financial miscalculation was threatening ABBA

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about ABBA’s financial mishap in 1983. The article gives the impression that Stig was still very much in control of ABBA’s activities. There's even talk of a new ABBA-album to be recorded out of the leftovers from the Chess sessions. In reality, the four members were going their own way. The poster included here comes from a 1981 Hitkrant magazine.
Is ABBA broke? Have the wrong financial investments that the newspapers couldn’t stop writing about the past few weeks sealed the group’s fate? There’s someone who has the answer to these questions and recently that someone stopped over in Holland for reasons unknown: the ‘father of ABBA’, super-manager Stig Anderson. We had an exclusive interview with him, in which Stig revealed what’s going on with ABBA. Indeed, gigantic financial setbacks, but for the time being Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny are still making a very decent living.

Let’s take a moment to explain how the gigantic ABBA-enterprise is set up: the company that manages the finances and works with the capital by buying shares and investing money in all sorts of projects is called Polar Music Invest. That company has three subsidiaries: Badhus, that deals in real estate, Infina, that engages in the territory of stocks and bonds and Kuben, that has the manufacturing of bicycles by subsidiary Monark as its main activity. And Kuben fell flat.

The bicycles weren’t sufficient and last year Kuben started to get more and more in debt by speculating on the oil market with borrowed money. As it turned out, it has brought Kuben on the verge of bankruptcy; the trading company Aritmos is willing to cover for the loss of 40 million Dutch guilders, but then they will have to get control over the company as well.
ABBA has 53 percent of the shares and will have to sell due to this oil fiasco. “Indeed, it has cost us a lot of money,” Stig Anderson explains, “but not to the point that we would go bankrupt. However, it’s true that at a certain point we didn’t know anymore what to do with all those millions pouring in from record sales and publishing rights; just for fun we started investing in all kinds of things. Soon, Frida and Agnetha weren’t very interested in that anymore, they didn’t understand it that well either. That’s when they sold their shares, which left Benny, Björn and me with 24 percent of the Kuben shares. Well, they are now worth about half as much.”

ABBA’s capital is estimated at 200 million Dutch guilders and that gigantic amount is caught up in all kinds of businesses. “We own supermarkets, financing companies, recording studios and several music publishing companies. Polar Music Invest is now completely separated from Polar Music International and in that last company it’s all about music. If ABBA would break up today, millions would still be pouring in from the publishing rights for the next fifty years,” Stig Anderson states.
But Aritmos is now willing to make up for Kuben’s loss, but in return they want to get hold of shares in Polar Music: ABBA would have to give up 21 percent of Polar Music. And it remains to be seen if it will all work out: there are so many different interests involved that it seems like an indissoluble knot.

“But ABBA is definitely not dead,” Stig says. “We couldn’t go on for a while; last year I had to take precautions to keep the group together. Benny and Björn finally wanted to write a musical; that would take them two years and I have given them that time. Meanwhile, I’ve put Frida and Agnetha on their solo projects and as you know: with success. Agnetha is going to do a promotional tour around the world and next month Frida will get into the studio again with Phil Collins for her next solo album.”
“Benny and Björn are almost finished with the musical and there are a lot of songs left, that could be extremely well-suited for ABBA; an album will be compiled from those songs. So there’s definitely more ABBA-music to be heard! The musical will have its premiere at Broadway, but ABBA will not appear in it, because a successful musical is on stage for ten years and do you see ABBA performing on Broadway for ten years?”
So there are major financial setbacks, but still enough plans. And as long as Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida occupy themselves with their music, it all seems to be serene!

Saturday 4 July 2009

Hitkrant, October 1984: “Tim Rice saved us from unemployment”

This article appeared in Dutch magazine Hitkrant in October 1984, shortly before the Chess album was released. Later that month the musical would be introduced through five live concerts in big European cities, starting in London on October 27.
“The future of ABBA is indeed very unsure,” Benny Andersson confesses. “One thing is indisputable though: nothing and no one can separate me from Björn. Especially since we’ve found the ideal lyricist for a genuine rock-musical.” The male half of ABBA reveals its big plans.

Just like Frida, Björn and Benny are hesitant to speak their minds about ABBA’s future as well. “Nothing is certain,” the bearded pianist smiles. “I think all four of us would love to work together again, but it’s practically an impossible task to get the four of us together in the studio at the same time in the near future. We are all extremely busy with our own projects. For the time being, there are no ABBA-recordings or concerts planned until the end of 1985, but the fact that Agnetha has started her own production company doesn’t mean that the group is now permanently a thing of the past.”
It’s clear why we haven’t heard anything from the Swedish foursome for more than two years already.
“When we had just completed the recordings for the “Visitors” album, we met Tim Rice rather by coincidence,” Björn explains. “His Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita have always been our favourite musicals, together with West Side Story. That’s why we felt extremely flattered when he suggested that we’d compose the music for his brand new project. On top of that, we were a little tired of the ABBA-formula. You might say that Tim has saved us from unemployment.”
Tim, Björn and Benny worked on Chess for two years without interruption. “The musical is the story about a couple of chess players,” Tim Rice explains. “Except for being an entrenched cricket fanatic, I’m a passionate chess player as well. I’m a very mediocre player myself, but when the American Fischer and the Russian Spasski clashed with each other for the world championship in 1972, I came under the spell of that game in such a way that I decided then and there that at some point in the future I would write a musical with a sportsmanlike East-West confrontation as its subject.”

Chess has become an extremely expensive project. “The recording alone has cost about 400.000 dollars,” Benny says, “and we don’t even dare to think about what it will cost to let the stage play travel around the world in one year’s time. That’s why we’re very happy that the Swedish automobile giant Saab has come to our aid to finance the try-outs that will take place in five big European cities at the end of this month. Chess was tied to the promotional campaign regarding the latest Saab automobile. I can assure you that there wouldn’t have been any talk of a collaboration if a new combat plane had been on the stocks.”
The musical is yet another example of Björn and Benny’s craftsmanship. “We complement each other perfectly,” Björn says. “Benny is the dreamer, the creative spirit who is occupied with his music continuously. I’m far more down to earth. Still, I want to get rid of that ‘clever businessman’ reputation. With the lyrics of most ABBA-songs I think I have proved that I’m a true artist as well. Benny and I still get along extremely well and with Chess we hope we can prove that we have more to offer than nice three-minute pop songs. I think we will succeed at that with performers such as Elaine Paige, Murray Head and the well-known English top actor Dennis Quilley. Obviously it’s unsure whether Chess will be just as successful as the ABBA-records, but Benny and I won’t lose a night’s sleep over that.”

Friday 3 July 2009

Weekend, December 1980: Will the Christmas Days be lonely for ABBA-singer Agnetha

After Björn and Agnetha’s divorce, the press just loved to speculate about lonely and abandoned Agnetha. This article comes from Dutch gossip magazine Weekend.
Ever since her divorce from Björn Ulvaeus, ABBA’s blonde Agnetha hasn’t found real happiness yet. Björn did, he has a new girlfriend. But Agnetha, adored by millions of men, is still roaming around solitary in her world of glitter and glamour. She and her children are celebrating Christmas with her parents.

Shortly before Christmas, ABBA threw a fabulous party in Stockholm for friends and guests. An enormous studio was reconstructed into a circus and several major attractions graced the event with their presence. The radiating centre of attention of this very expensive event were the four ABBA-members themselves. All dressed in white, the popular foursome mingled in the festivities and conversed with the guests in a relaxed manner. Only the attractive Agnetha mostly kept to herself. Only when a picture was taken of her, a sad smile came to her lips. Therefore, Agnetha looked a bit like a blonde Mona Lisa at these moments. Friends, that watched her flutter from one guest to another like an exhausted butterfly, glanced at each other with understanding. They could notice as well that Agnetha wasn’t the spontaneous, happy woman from the past anymore, after her divorce from Björn. Within the ABBA-frame, the divorce has always been dealt with in a professional manner. Björn and Agnetha seemed to be moving on as good friends. At performances, Björn makes jokes about his ex-wife and they pose together, smiling happily and with their arms around each other.
But for Agnetha, this relaxed attitude is just a charade. The very few relationships, that she has started cautiously after the divorce, seem to end due to unwanted publicity. Agnetha was first spotted with a famous Swedish ice hockey player. It didn’t take long before the young man saw his picture on the front page of all newspapers. He couldn’t go anywhere without a photographer following him. Even his achievements on the ice started to suffer. Agnetha soon watched him leave.
Of a more recent date is her friendship with a well-known character from the Swedish fashion industry, a wealthy businessman, with whom Agnetha appeared at a few parties. Again, the media rose to the bait and every friendly glance between the two was explained as an oath of eternal faithfulness. This relationship wouldn’t last long either. Not everyone likes to live in a house of glass.

Not too long ago, Agnetha was involved in a commotion concerning her persona. A photographer caught her off-guard in a Stockholm discotheque, with a cigarette in the corner of her mouth. And this happened shortly after she had collaborated on a non-smoking campaign for Swedish television, aimed at the youngsters. And this rankled a lot of Swedes and Agnetha was called to account by the media.

For the time being, Agnetha’s children are accommodated with her parents. Apart from that, a nanny sees to it that the young children are not lacking anything. Although there is nothing that can replace the love of their parents. All ABBA-members are celebrating Christmas in their domestic circle. Benny, Anni-Frid and the children, from Anni-Frid’s first marriage, are singing Christmas carols under their own Christmas tree in their cosy apartment in the Swedish capital. Björn is spending one day with his in-laws together with his girlfriend, and after that he’s taking a skiing holiday.

Agnetha is spending the holidays with her parents and children. Maybe the cheerfulness of her small children will make her forget about her loneliness for a while. But privately, she may be hoping for a miracle.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Joepie, February 1979: ABBA’s unstable future

Like many other articles in 1979, this Belgian article speculates about the consequences of Agnetha and Björn’s divorce for ABBA´s continued existence.
As could obviously be expected, the divorce between ABBA’s Agnetha and Björn remains a very valuable subject matter for all kinds of rumours and presumptions about the group. Especially the continued existence of the group is becoming a doubtful matter to many people. All this in spite of the fact that Agnetha and Björn repeatedly emphasized that their divorce will not lead to the break-up of the foursome in any way. On the contrary, because the official announcement of their failed marriage immediately put an end to a lot of tensions within the group, since they were obligated to put on a ‘marital charade’ to their audience and the world. And since then the collaboration is better than ever, is what they’re claiming. Joepie went on site to find out if all this is really true and if it can stay that way.

Agnetha and Björn themselves are silent as the grave about the reason that has led to their divorce. Fellow employees of the group are claiming to know that an incident that took place in Paris about two years ago is the basis of the end of their marriage. Allegedly, Agnetha disappeared all of a sudden during a promotional trip in France. She stayed away for three days. It is said that Agnetha, completely stressed from all the travelling, performing, promoting and being far from home, had gone out head over heels, painting the town red. On top of that with a male promoter of the company that looks after ABBA’s interests in France.
Understandably, Björn was not amused and it turned out that his trust in Agnetha was deeply damaged. In the hope of patching up their marriage, they decided to have a second child. But the gap between them was wider than they actually thought themselves. Agnetha and Björn grew further and further apart, until in the end they decided to live separately and at Christmas last year to separate permanently. To prevent the circulation of every possible rumour, about a week ago they decided to announce the end of their marriage officially, through the Swedish newspaper Expressen.

It remains to be seen whether their divorce could mean the end of ABBA as well. Fact is that it will definitely not be easy for Agnetha and Björn, who have lived together as husband and wife for over nine years, to keep seeing each other constantly in the frame of the group and their show-activities. Especially since they’re now just colleagues again, who are free to do as they please and certainly don’t owe each other an explanation.
On the other hand, they both have so many business interests in ABBA and secondary companies that it actually would be crazy to put an end to the group. Although the travelling and performing together could turn into an intolerable situation for the both of them in the long run. But this doesn’t have to stop Björn and Benny from keeping on composing their hits like before and ABBA the group from keeping on recording them, without Agnetha and Björn being forced to be present in the studio at the same time. And then, most importantly, there are still their children. Linda (6) and Christian (1), to whom they will forever remain their parents, no matter what.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Bravo, October 1980: ABBA, the group that’s out of square with the rest

A German article from 1980 clarifying several ABBA-rumours: Benny leaving Sweden due to heavy taxes, a cancelled tour of South America and Agnetha and Björn getting back together...
The past few weeks, things were boiling tremendously in the rumour-kitchen surrounding ABBA. Almost every day a fresh piece of bad news came to the table. Allegedly, Benny wanted to leave Sweden and find another home in England to decrease taxes. Supposedly, Agnetha had an argument with the other ABBA-members, because they couldn’t go through with a tour of South America due to her refusal to travel along. It was also rumoured that she got back together with Björn, after she had a quarrel with her boyfriend Dick Hakansson.
When we give Benny a call in Stockholm and ask him about these rumours, he starts laughing. “None of that is true,” he then says earnestly. “There has never been talk of moving to England. However, it’s true that taxes are very high in Sweden. But we have a very competent financial adviser. That’s why each of us receives a salary that’s a sufficient means of existence. Because of that the tax burden isn’t that heavy,” he explains.
And what about the cancelled tour of South America? “There was never any talk of a tour, not to South America either,” Benny says. “That’s why there’s no reason at all to quarrel about it. But if a tour were planned, we would talk this through together, just like everything we take upon ourselves. When one member in the band has objections, he or she explains the reasons and we talk about it. Then we take a vote about it.”
And the final matter is: did Agnetha and Björn get back together? “That’s not true. However, her relationship with Dick isn’t as tight as it was a few weeks ago. But they are good friends. Agnetha is now living with her mother in the south of Stockholm. This way it’s easier for her to care for her daughter Linda who will be starting school. It’s true though that Agnetha hasn’t found the right partner yet since her divorce from Björn. It’s not fair to turn every new acquaintance into a big love affair. But that’s just a disadvantage of being so well-known.”