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?”

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