Sunday 30 August 2009

Pop Foto, April 1980: ABBA don’t want to travel themselves into poverty any longer!

An article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto, published around the time that the Japanese tour was completed and recordings for the Super Trouper album had been started.
“We’ve never longed for a holiday as much as after that terribly exhausting world tour,” Björn stated. Add to that, the fact that ABBA hasn’t made any profit on that energy-draining tour and you can ask yourself whether the group will ever take on such a journey again...

The four Swedes had to take weeks and weeks to catch their breath after their tour through America, Canada and Europe. Benny and Anni-Frid spent their holiday at the Caribbean Sea and sailed from coast to coast with a luxurious sailing boat. Meanwhile, Björn and Agnetha stayed behind in Stockholm, but they both went their separate ways. Björn with his girlfriend Lena Källersjö and, according to rumours, Agnetha with her new love interest Mats Ronander, guitarist with ABBA’s band.
When everyone had taken enough rest, more work was already waiting for them. But this time it was a chore that the quartet was far more excited about than such an extensive tour. In the Polar Studios in Stockholm, recordings for the new ABBA-album began. An album that will primarily contain songs that Benny and Björn have composed on the Bahamas.
“We want to take as much time as possible to record that album,” according to Benny. “After the tour through Japan, taking place this month, we will continue with the recordings at our own pace. Every album should be better than the previous one. And that takes time!”
And manager Stig Anderson is willing to grant ABBA that time. Stig: “When we had to grant every request for concerts and television performances, we would be on the road for the next ten years. But for the time being, I’m turning every offer down.”
Besides, those tours only cost money. A large sum of money had to be paid to make up for the costs of that world tour. But what do you expect, when you take along an extensive company of band members, technicians and tour managers for three months.
“The tour through Japan will probably be the last one for the time being,” according to Stig Anderson. “I think we won’t do any live performances for the next two years. Apart from that, we all want to take some more time for our private life as well.” And rightfully so...

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Hitkrant, October 1978: ABBA is going to conquer the Eastern bloc! – 40 million albums shipped to the Soviet Union

While the Summer Night City single was climbing the charts in Western Europe, Dutch magazine Hitkrant published this article about ABBA’s success in Eastern Europe.
First, there was Europe. Then the successes came in Australia; a few weeks ago we already reported that ABBA was taking the United States by storm as well. But ABBA wants to conquer the entire world and therefore, the Swedish quartet has its eyes set on the East: ABBA is on the verge of becoming a household name in the Eastern countries as well.

ABBA is no longer just a pop group; they have grown into a multi million company that’s making gigantic profits every year. And manager Stig Anderson is doing his best to keep it that way and even improve on that. Now that ABBA’s popularity in Europe is slightly decreasing, Stig has started conversations with the Russians.

In the near future, a Russian delegation will travel to Stockholm to sit down and get to business with Stig and the members of ABBA. And then, decisions will be made!

One deal is as good as closed already: the Russians want to buy the rights to the ABBA-movie ‘The Movie’, while the Russian broadcasting company has already bought all the promotional films that have ever been made by the group.
Furthermore, the Russians have already started pressing no less than 200.000 ABBA-albums. This will mark the first time that official ABBA-records will be available in Russia. Up till now, the fans – and there are a whole lot of them – had to make do with ‘white’ records.

More importantly, a tour through the Soviet Union is already in the making. The Russian teenagers’ fascination with Western pop music, and especially ABBA’s, seems to be so overwhelming that music executives can’t resist the pressure any longer and have asked if ABBA wants to come on tour.
But it’s not only Russia. Poland, Tsjecho-Slovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria are falling for ABBA as well. In all, more than one million ABBA-albums have been sold in those countries in the meantime. For that matter, the goods are not being paid in cash, since the currencies of the Eastern countries aren’t exactly favoured in our area. Therefore, accounts are being settled in oil, cement or canned food.

Once again, this indicates that Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn, Benny and especially Stig are sitting on a goldmine. ABBA is far from being at the end of their game, that’s even more obvious. Europe was conquered, Australia and the United States were next; now it’s the Eastern bloc’s turn and after that it’s high time to invade China...

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Veronica, December 1981: ABBA: it’s getting harder to come up with new ideas

This article appeared in Dutch magazine Veronica, shortly after the album The Visitors was released and featured a telephone interview with Björn about the new album and ABBA’s future plans.
Six months ago, there was some turbulence at the ABBA-front. Private developments were extensively discussed in various magazines and with regularity, rumours started to spread from Sweden that ABBA would call it a day. For instance, it was announced that ABBA would not be performing any longer. The new album was not making good process either. The delay was allegedly caused by a lack of inspiration on the part of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the two group members that are responsible for all of the group’s music.

On the occasion of the newly released ABBA-album ‘The Visitors’, Veronica gave Björn Ulvaeus a call in Sweden.

Veronica: We’ve had to wait for the new album longer than was intended initially...
Björn: “That’s true. We started composing in February and from then onwards we haven’t done anything else than writing new songs and recording. This lasted until November 15. The delay of the album has nothing to do with a lack of inspiration because that’s only five percent of the entire package. The remaining ninety-five percent consists of hard work, which means being very critical of your own work. A whole lot of songs ended up in the dust-bin because we definitely didn’t want to repeat ourselves. That’s why I think this album is the best product that ABBA has ever released. But then again, the time that we needed to reach this result turned out to be longer than we had expected. Don’t forget that it’s getting ever more difficult to come up with original ideas when you’ve recorded so much music already.”
Veronica: There has been a rumour that ABBA would only record music from now on and never tour again...
“Our group has been quoted inaccurately many times by the media lately. When we say that we don’t have any definite plans for a possible world tour at the moment, that doesn’t mean that we will never appear on stage again. Apparently, journalists take statements like this as an indissoluble absoluteness. For the time being, I’ll have to disappoint the ABBA-fans in Holland, but whenever we think it’s necessary to go on tour again, it will definitely happen.”
Veronica: Are Agnetha and Anni-Frid going to record solo albums?
Björn: “We have indeed talked about that. We are busy discussing it and it looks like we can tell you more at the beginning of next year. By that time, we hope to have elaborate ideas about this subject.”
Veronica: Do you and Benny have any plans to write songs for other artists and possibly produce them as well?
“We do have plans like that. Although it is actually too premature to talk about it. It’s the same with this matter, there will be more definite plans in January. So I can’t give you any artists’ names yet, although we do have an idea about the direction we will be heading.”
Veronica: When we talked to you in Rotterdam, right after the concert, you stated that it was one of your biggest wishes to achieve a breakthrough in countries such as China, Russia and South America at one point. How is that coming along?
Björn: “’Chiquitita’ has become an enormous hit in South America. Truly unbelievable. We were famous in an instant. Where Russia is concerned, I can tell you that we are selling a lot of records over there. And recently, I had a conversation with a journalist from The New China, a Chinese newspaper, and he told me that ABBA-records are available in that country as well. The difficulty is that they are very hard to obtain for people who are interested, so what happens? The albums end up on the black market where each copy is sold for large sums of money. All in all, the picture is rather distorted due to the limited distribution.”
Veronica: Did you take the American market into account on your new album?
“No, not at all. That would be a bit too far-fetched. We are making music the way we think it’s good and then you can only hope that the Americans will take ABBA to their hearts.”
Veronica: Do you have any regrets about the fact that ABBA never made it really big in America, while you did have a go at it with this tour, for instance...
“Don’t be mistaken, ABBA has sold a lot of records over there.”
Veronica: But you haven’t been able to achieve the status of superstars, like you have in Europe.
“That’s actually true, but you know what’s fortunate about that? (seriously) That I’m able to go to New York peacefully every once in a while and walk around without being recognized or bothered on the street.”

Sunday 23 August 2009

Hitkrant, February 1985: ABBA robbed

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about the tapes that were stolen from Björn’s car around 1983. The tapes included outtakes from ABBA’s 1981/82 recording sessions. The recordings have surfaced on numerous bootlegs since then.
“When a couple of cassettes were stolen from my car one and a half year ago, we were hardly worried at first,” ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus says. “The tapes only contained some leftovers from our recording sessions of that time. With the passing of time, it has become clear that we’ve put these songs to great use later on. Since the theft, a flourishing trade in mysterious ABBA-cassettes has come into being.”

“Actually, it’s all my fault,” Björn says worriedly. “In 1983, we were planning to put a couple of songs that we had recorded during the ‘Visitors’ album on a new long-player. For a moment, I left my car unattended at the parking space of the Polar Studios in Stockholm. When I returned to my car a few minutes later, the harm had been done. Someone had stolen a couple of tapes from the glove compartment.”
At first, the theft didn’t seem to be a disaster. “The album would be released a couple of months later,” Benny Andersson steps in. “The only risk was that the songs would be played on the radio before the release date of the album. That’s a bit annoying, but definitely not a catastrophe.”
This all changed when several weeks later it was decided to leave the album unreleased.
“The sales figures of the singles ‘The Day Before You Came’ and ‘Under Attack’ were very disappointing,” Björn explains. “Apart from that, Frida and Agnetha were busy with their solo projects, while Benny and I were working on our Chess musical. This meant that ABBA-songs would see the light of day without our permission, due to these stolen cassettes.”

Björn and Benny’s fear became reality. “During last year, tapes with songs like ‘Opus 10’, ‘I Am The City’ and ‘Just Like That’ suddenly appeared on the market,” Benny says. “In England, the cassettes were even sold at extortionate prices. It turned out that the starting point of this trade was Germany, which suggests that the thief could possibly be a German ABBA-fan.”
Björn and Benny are clearly burdened by the situation. “Especially, since these are unfinished versions of the songs,” Benny explains. “Most of these songs have gotten a different destination since then. That’s how the highly classical sounding ‘Opus 10’ is called ‘Anthem’ nowadays. It’s being performed by Tommy Körberg in the musical Chess. The song ‘Every Man Needs A Helping Hand’, initially sung by Agnetha, was used in Chess as well, under the title ‘Heaven Help My Heart’.”
Still, the twosome will not sit down in despair. “It’s a very annoying situation,” Björn and Benny say. “Especially, since we had plans to go into the recording studio with Frida and Agnetha just now. We still have a couple of leftovers from Chess, that we want to record with ABBA. As soon as the confusion surrounding this cassette-business is over, we will get back to work at full force. In the future, ABBA will still have to be reckoned with, no matter what.”

Saturday 22 August 2009

Bravo, June 1974: Love is playing a part with ABBA

An article from the very early days, published in German magazine Bravo only two months after ABBA had won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. It’s clear that there was still a lot to learn about ABBA, since this article ‘revealed’ what no one knew yet; ABBA consisted of two couples in love.
The things that one should know about the four ABBAs: how they live, how they love, how they play.

Anni-Frid wants to get married soon
Anni-Frid Lyngstad was born on November 15, 1945 in Eskilstuna. Before she joined ABBA, she was already well-known in Sweden as a solo singer due to several TV-shows. Anni-Frid is the group’s quiet, mysterious girl. Apart from that, she’s responsible for the colourful, glittering stage costumes. Since two years, she’s in love with Benny, since one year she’s engaged to him and still this year she wants to get married to him. Both of them are living in the neighbourhood of Björn and Anna: in the Stockholm suburb Vallentuna where they have rented a house.

Benny is doing the business
Benny Andersson was born on December 16, 1946 in Stockholm. He is the group’s pianist and manager. On a daily basis, Benny is reading – that’s his passion – at least twenty newspapers from all over Europe. Benny knows exactly when and where ABBA has which position in the charts. At the moment he has plenty to smile about: in almost every European country, ABBA is at number one with their ‘Waterloo’. As the group’s pianist, he is now producing an album for his girlfriend Anni-Frid as a side project. “We all have the freedom to record albums of our own in Sweden,” Benny says...

Anna likes to play housewife
Anna Fältskog was born on April 5, 1950 in Jönköping. Before she joined the group, she had a big hit in Sweden in 1968 called ‘I Was So In Love’ and she was Scandinavia’s top singer. Despite her career, Anna loves the family life and she loves to cook. Anna is married to Björn and since one year they have a daughter together, named Linda. Just like Anni-Frid, Anna is releasing her own solo records in Sweden as well. Anna is a typical Swedish girl: blonde, full of life and she does as she pleases. Her secret ‘flaw’ is shopping at the supermarket for hours on end.

Björn is the secret boss
Björn Ulvaeus was born on April 25, 1945 in Göteborg. He can play several stringed instruments and in the recording studio he is responsible for the ABBA-sound. He has gathered experience with the Swedish folk group Hootenanny Singers, he played with them up till two years ago. Whenever Björn is not on the road with ABBA, he is producing other Swedish stars such as the 17-year-old singer Ted Gärdestad. Still, instead of spending time at the mixing console, he’s having more fun performing live with ABBA, where he is playing bass and guitar. Since several years, Björn is driving a red VW.

“This triumph has cost us a great deal of nerves,” blonde Anna sighs when she picks Bravo photographer Bubi Heilemann and me up at the Sheraton hotel in Stockholm in the morning. “Ever since we won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’, we’ve been on the road constantly. London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Madrid, Hamburg. Now we’re back home again since three days,” Anna says. “Thank God!”
Anna prefers to be here in Stockholm. In the city with its many canals, boats, the pretty girls and the fun discotheques, where Anna has to show her identity card most of the time when she wants to order a Gin-Tonic. Because in Sweden you are allowed to drink alcohol at the age of 21, and Anna looks as if she’s 18. Time and time again, occurrences like this are a welcome opportunity for ABBA to joke around. They love to laugh a lot. And their device is typically Swedish: work to live. And not the other way around.
Since Brighton, ABBA is known as the most successful Swedish pop group. Bravo found out what no one knew yet: at the same time, ABBA are two couples in love (Björn and Anna, Benny and Anni-Frid), a joyful bunch that’s producing good music...
On a small, secret island, a two-hour drive from Stockholm, the foursome owns a house and a sailing boat. The quartet spends its happiest hours there.
Anna and Anni-Frid, the two singing and dancing girls, are the main attraction of ABBA at the moment. Originally, it was the other way around. Two years ago, Björn and Benny contracted these blonde girls as backing singers. Not only because of their talents. It was love at first sight with all four of them, and it has remained that way up till this day...
At three o’clock in the afternoon, we’re strolling with ABBA through Stockholm’s Old Town. Suddenly, they get the urge to do something crazy. Björn and Benny hurry into a music store, to get a guitar and a banjo. And right in the middle of a small, idyllic market place, they start to play. Women with shopping bags, working men, police men, boys and girls are standing still, spontaneously singing along, clapping their hands. ABBA happens to be a group, that not only on the television screen, wins a person’s heart by storm...

Friday 21 August 2009

Story, April 1979: Why is ABBA’s Frida now going her own way as well?

Another Dutch gossip article, this time from Story magazine. Of course, there is speculation about the end of ABBA, but also reports about a tour of Eastern Europe, Hungary, Poland and Russia...
ABBA is buying ‘half of Sweden’
It seems like ABBA has been caught by a spending fever. After (like Story reported earlier) the foursome bought a warehouse and a boat factory, they now acquired a merchant bank, a supermarket, a gas station, a motorcar paint shop and yet another warehouse, for 43 million Dutch guilders.
Because of this, obviously the rumours claiming that ABBA will split up in the near future have become stronger.
“Pure nonsense,” according to Björn. “We won’t split up at all. We are buying these things because we think it’s a good time to invest at the moment. What else should we do with all our money?”

Although ABBA still has commitments for the rest of this year, the end of this successful group seems to be in sight now. Although Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny deny it with emphasis.

“I couldn’t talk to Björn any longer. He has become a slave to his own success. All the time, he thinks about nothing else than ABBA. And then he doesn’t even notice when someone is speaking to him. In the end, I didn’t say anything to him anymore. And in the long run, I just couldn’t take it any longer,” Agnetha explains.
The sadness can be seen in her eyes. Restlessly, the singer is stroking her long blonde hair. The divorce from Björn after seven years of marriage has clearly affected her. But for her it was the only way out. She simply had to leave him with their two children Linda (6) and Christian (1). Otherwise, she couldn’t have coped with it any longer.
“I’ve tried everything to save our marriage,” she says, sighing deeply and desperately. “That’s why Björn and I went to the psychiatrist Håkan Lönngvist, at the advice of our family doctor. I hoped that he could help us out. But Björn only came along once. ‘I really don’t have the time for this nonsense,’ he said to me after that visit. Henceforth, I went on my own. A lot of people now believe that I’m having an affair with Håkan. That’s not true. He’s a good friend of mine, but just a friend, really. It’s very easy to talk to him. I need him, because I haven’t been able to express myself for a long time. Eventually, Håkan has convinced me that Björn and I couldn’t go on like this. That the situation was hopeless and that I should cut the knot now.”
The announcement of the divorce between the two ABBA-members Agnetha and Björn Ulvaeus came like a bolt from the blue. ABBA’s good image has taken a severe blow because of this.
“We’re so popular because we are making such a happy impression,” is what Benny said when someone asked him about ABBA’s successful formula. “We are never involved in scandals and one has never been able to say or write something negative about us. There’s nothing to gossip about where ABBA is concerned. According to me, that’s the reason why we have fans all over the world in all age groups.”
This statement by Benny dates back to less than a year. So much has changed since Agnetha and Björn’s divorce! All of a sudden, there’s seems to be no end to the gossip about ABBA.
Pessimists are predicting that it’s very well possible that ABBA will split up in the near future. They are suggesting that there are enough facts pointing in that direction. For instance, Agnetha will now probably not feel like being around Björn too much. Apart from that, ABBA is investing enormous amounts of money in warehouses and factories lately. To make sure they will have a steady income, when ABBA falls apart? And why is Frida going her own way since recently? No, not on a personal level – she and Benny are as thick as thieves – but she is clearly working on a career outside of ABBA.
The dark-haired singer will be the last one to deny it. “I’m going to play a part in a movie,” she says. “It’s a small part, but perhaps I will get more and bigger offers because of this. I would love to be an actress. Besides ABBA, that is to say, because ABBA will remain my top priority. Why wouldn’t I be able to do something else as well? My children are adolescents already, so they really don’t need me anymore. But take it from me, ABBA will keep existing. The movie is only a sidestep for me.”

The other three members are also strongly denying that the end of ABBA is in sight. Benny: “Not a bit of it. Obviously, it’s very sad that Agnetha and Björn have separated, but you have to be able to not mix business and your private life. Their private problems have nothing to do with their work.”
Björn: “Even if we wanted to, we wouldn’t be able to quit. We have far too much commitments for that. The entire year 1979 and a part of 1980 has been fully booked. In the spring, we will go on tour in Eastern Europe, Hungary, Poland and Russia. After that, Canada and America are on our schedule and so on.”
And Agnetha is not planning to chuck it either. “We have never talked about splitting up. I really wouldn’t want that either because I’m far too attached to ABBA. The main difference between me and Björn actually was that I wanted to do other things as well apart from ABBA, while ABBA is exactly the only important thing for Björn. But apart from this big difference, Björn and I have remained good friends. I actually enjoy keeping in touch with him. Our collaboration with ABBA will not suffer from our divorce. It might even be possible that it will get better, now that we don’t have anything to do with each other anymore privately, and therefore don’t have to annoy each other any longer.”

Monday 17 August 2009

Weekend, May 1981: ABBA’s misfortunes

Dutch gossip magazine Weekend speculating about ABBA’s continued existence, shortly after the divorce between Benny and Frida had been announced. The poster included here, featuring the same photograph as seen in the article, comes from Dutch magazine Pop Biz. The picture was taken on the occasion of ABBA's appearance on Show Expres in Germany. Due to kidnap threats, ABBA was unable to travel to Germany, therefore the performance was taped in Stockholm on November 27, 1980 and linked to Germany by satellite.
ABBA has never been closer to a permanent break-up. The divorces have disturbed the mutual understanding within the supergroup. Are the vast amounts of money going to win from love and passion? Is ABBA finally going to find their own Waterloo?

The future of supergroup ABBA is unstable. Due to the recent series of personal dramas behind the scenes of the world famous pop group, the continued existence of ABBA is now more unsure than ever. The group shook to its foundations when it became known that Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson would go their separate ways. And to think that they were considered to be the happiest couple in show business! A severe blow for the fans and for the success of the group ABBA on a business level, because not too long ago, the other ABBA-couple, Agnetha and Björn, announced their divorce as well.
The group’s manager Stig Anderson talks about this string of difficulties: “There’s a heavy price to pay for success. The difficulties on a personal level are caused by the fact that an almost unbearable tension arises when you live and work together for years on end. Still, we will do everything in our power to keep ABBA together as a group.”

The constant publicity surrounding the group definitely doesn’t make this task easier. Benny was rapidly exposed when he tried to hide his relationship with the 37-year-old television presenter Mona Norklit, newly divorced as well. That was the immediate cause of the divorce between him and Frida. For a long time, they had been able to hide their personal problems, but now they ruthlessly surfaced.
“We will remain good friends,” is what the ex-spouses are saying, but it remains to be seen whether this can be maintained when there are lots of concerts to be done. In the meantime, Björn got married to Lena Källersjo, who by the way is a dead ringer for Björn’s ex: Agnetha. When Agnetha and Björn got married in 1971, there was almost a riot outbreak by the many thousands of fans that didn’t want to miss anything of the fairytale event. But this time, Björn was more cautious. He and his sister got married at the same time. In a small village church, under absolute silence of the local pastor and on top of that, on a national Swedish holiday, when no newspapers appeared.

The one person that seems to be the victim of this marital tragedy seems to be Agnetha, who turned the appropriate song ‘The Winner Takes It All’ into a worldwide hit last year. She still hasn’t found a new love. “I still haven’t met somebody. On a daily basis, I receive hundreds of letters with marriage proposals of men from all corners of the world. Of course, I hope to run into Mister Right someday... but when will that be? Meanwhile, I try to enjoy my so-called freedom as much as I can and that’s only relative, because whenever I go out with an acquaintance, it’s all over the newspapers that same day. For that matter, I don’t believe in the notion of a ‘happy divorce’. It really hurts when you separate. I went through hell.”

As if the problems of the amorous kind weren’t big enough already, recently the group had to deal with the terrifying threat of a kidnapping ‘of one of the group members, or the children’. They were placed under police protection. Obviously, a fear like that makes the life of a top artist unbearable. The members of ABBA now only see each other during recordings or concerts. ABBA, the top group that once won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’ and after that had no less than 17 top five hits, is shaking. There’s only one more chance for the group to keep existing and that’s the excellent understanding between Benny and Björn, the creators of the ABBA-successes. Whenever they don’t feel like it any longer, it’s definitely over.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Pop Foto, December 1978: Mozart is causing Agnetha nightmares

An article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto about ABBA’s promotional schedule in December 1978 and January 1979. The pictures of Agnetha, working with singing instructor Inga Sundström, were taken in September 1978.
For quite some time, Agnetha has been aware of the fact that it takes more than just a sweet face to remain on top of the pop business. That’s why she’s doing her sport exercises every day, she’s following her dancing lessons willingly and... at least once a week she’s dreaming about a man that couldn’t do any harm at first glance...

The subject of Agnetha’s nightmares is called Mozart and it’s not so much the person Wolfgang Amadeus himself that Agnetha takes a dislike to, but the singing scores that this child prodigy once wrote. For that matter, twice a week Agnetha can be found at the house of singing instructor Inga Sundström in Stockholm, where she works for hours on end with this famous lady on the quality of her singing voice, with the help of Mozart’s melodies and musical pieces by other classical composers. Agnetha doesn’t really mind Inga saying ‘stand up straight’ and ‘let your tongue relax’, but this Mozart is a different matter...
Still, Agnetha realizes that she will have to work on that famous, clear ABBA-sound, because ABBA’s schedule is chock full with important dates, at which one wrong note could mean a fiasco in the eyes of millions. Before and after the Christmas days, the ABBAs have a couple of dates for important television performances. While a small mistake during recordings of a new album or single can always be corrected in the studio, in front of the television cameras you will have to give the best sound that you’ve got, because nothing can be done a second time!

The first important television show after ABBA’s trips to Tokyo and Los Angeles, BBC’s Mike Yarwood Christmas Show, where ABBA performed two songs, has already been recorded. But after their well-deserved Christmas holiday, ABBA is in for a true mega-assignment. At the beginning of January, they will be performing at the Unicef Gala, you know, that magnificent music celebration, initiated by the Bee Gees and the American TV-presenter David Frost, the proceedings of which will go to Unicef, the organization that’s raising awareness for children all around the world. When you keep in mind that, apart from ABBA, the following artists will perform in New York: Andy Gibb, Olivia Newton-John, Barry Manilow, Elton John, Rod Stewart, the Bee Gees themselves, Kris Kristofferson and his wife Rita Coolidge, then you’ll understand that ABBA will have to sound at their utmost best!
Apart from all these important appearances (at which there’s yet another BBC-show, that we’ll probably not be able to admire on the screen before Easter), Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny are working very hard on the last recordings for their new album and single, that are almost finished and are due to be released in January. All these busy affairs put together are making it impossible for ABBA to even consider a new (world)tour for the first few months. “But,” the ABBAs themselves are saying, “fortunately, our fans in Europe and America will not get the chance to forget about us, thanks to all these shows and new records!”

Monday 10 August 2009

Muziek Expres, June 1977: ABBA’s sleeping beauties

These pictures, taken by German photographer Bubi Heilemann in the autumn of 1975, inspired Dutch magazine Muziek Expres to write an article about the quality of ABBA’s beds on their tours.
Agnetha and Anni-Frid, the two delicious eye-catchers of ABBA, have one thing in common: they hate having to sleep on uncomfortable beds while being on tour. Muziek Expres enticed the girls to share some of their bed secrets...

Being at the top of the pop business can be pretty exhausting. ABBA can definitely have their say about that. Especially the girls Agnetha and Anni-Frid aren’t in the best physical shape, ever since the packed schedule of their manager Stig Anderson hardly leaves any space for the badly needed rest. The eight hours of sleep, that every human being either is entitled to or needs, is not sure and certain for ABBA either every twenty-four hours. And even when they are able to get under the covers at a proper time every now and then, this isn’t a guarantee for a reviving rest at night.

Anni-Frid: “I can’t even begin to describe the lousy beds that I had to sleep on during tours. In America, it was the worst! Even in a first class hotel. The bed in that place was cracking like crazy and I’m a rather restless sleeper, therefore I was wide awake all night due to my own tossing and turning. Benny was snoring away comfortably beside me, but oh well... he can even sleep well in a coal-shed, when he’s tired.”
If it were possible, Agnetha would drag her own bed along everywhere as well. “It’s unbelievable that most of the time I end up with a bed with these holes in the mattress. It’s simply awful!” according to the blonde beauty, who surely won’t have such a rough time in the future, now that manager Stig has promised that he will check the sleeping equipment in person from now on.
In case Stig gets enough of it, Muziek Expres is willing to take over that chore from him...

Sunday 9 August 2009

Hitkrant, February 1983: ABBA has not reached the finishing line yet - “Persevere until people in the jungle are whistling our songs”

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about ABBA’s ambitions for the future.
“I remain a dreamer, no matter how high on the stepladder I stand. Only after each mountain top is overcome, the vision broadens again.” Or the ABBA philosophy in a nutshell. Björn doesn’t ask himself the question whether it’s possible to reach even higher after a long string of hit singles. “An artist has to keep on looking for challenges. If necessary, create them himself. The musical that we’re working on at the moment is a good example of that.”

The word ‘discipline’ is not often used anymore in our time. Still, strict agreements and an exceptional devotion are the only way to survive for ABBA as well. Björn and Benny look each other up every working day and work on new material non stop for six hours. After a first rough concept, both gentlemen withdraw to take a little off the edges and fine-tune the end result into a unique masterpiece. Can it still be done, ten years after their first success?
“Indeed, it’s getting more difficult to put songs together,” Björn admits wholeheartedly. “After such a long time, it’s inevitable that you get the feeling that you’ve said everything there is to say. Every sentence that I write down, even the most personal revelations, inevitably remind me of earlier work. An iron writing discipline is the only way to escape that. Inspiration for fifteen years of songs can’t be found in a bottle. It has to come from the inside, from your own heart. Otherwise, it’s practically worthless. Even when there’s a day that things don’t run very smoothly, holding on is the message.”
Despite the fact that the criticism on the Swedish foursome was very severe after their almost legendary Eurovision victory, Björn still regards ‘Waterloo’ as one of the most important chapters from ABBA’s collected work. Still, change forces itself upon a person, in order to keep the craft interesting.
“A dream that I’ve been cherishing for a long time, is now starting to become reality,” Björn smiles mysteriously. “Together with Benny, I’ve travelled to London a couple of times to discuss the plans for a musical with Tim Rice. We’ve wanted to do that for a long time, but it could never be done because we were too busy. Tim is the man behind huge successes like ‘Evita’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you more about it at this stage. The negotiations about the production and the casting are still taking place. Only when it comes to the musical part, Benny and I are having a clear vision.”

The areas in which ABBA operates are being expanded every year. Regularly, this concerned risky investments that threatened the future of the group in the past. Frida has moved to London permanently, Agnetha is going to work with Blondie-producer Mike Chapman and possibly star in a movie. It’s possible that the plans surrounding the musical are not final yet, but it’s widely known that both ABBA-singers would love to get up on stage again. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the leading parts would be assigned to Frida and Agnetha. Despite the successful sales figures, Björn regrets the fact that he will have to miss the contact with the fans for even longer. Isn’t it high time to defrost the touring plans?
“It’s of the utmost importance that you are able to see the faces of the people that you’re ultimately doing all this for. Crying or smiling – it doesn’t matter – but you have to see them. One look at the charts leaves me contented, but artistic gratification is a different matter. I doubt that we will go on tour again before 1984, but I do want to get through to even more people. If something like a record player exists in the jungle, an ABBA-single must be put under the needle. That would be the ultimate goal. Only recently, I was watching Russian television. A programme from the barren East of the Soviet Union. On the screen, a couple of youngsters with some ragged amplifiers, but they did play one of our songs!”

Thursday 6 August 2009

Pop Foto, November 1980: Pop Foto attended the big ABBA-party

An article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto about the photo session for the Super Trouper album cover, taking place on October 3, 1980, the same day that recording sessions for the song Super Trouper commenced. It was a busy day for ABBA, since scenes for their new music videos were shot that evening as well.
A huge, colourful circus... That’s how everyone that had been attending described the party that ABBA threw recently. And indeed, Pop Foto ascertained that Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny had gone to great lengths to entertain their guests!

The employees of the Polar Studios were having enormous fun in the afternoon already. Because from miles around Stockholm, recruited circus artists gathered together with their animals and their equipment, to assemble themselves in connection with the huge spectacle.
Trapeze artists, clowns, acrobats with horses, yes even fire breathers could be spotted there! A row of magnificent horses, enjoying the hay bales, was standing in the parking lot, where otherwise ABBA’s touring cars can be found. In the lobby, several clowns were having a gathering to define their strategy...

In the evening, large numbers of friends and associates of the ABBA-members, who arrived in carriages, came pouring in, mostly dressed up with wigs and masks! Among the persons present were the next of kin of the group and the Swedish singer Tomas Ledin. During the party, pictures were being taken for the new album sleeve and recordings were made for the new ABBA promotional film.

Pop Foto was there as well and in the next issues you can expect to see more beautiful pictures. Eventually the party, that lasted until the break of dawn, came to an end when the horses, that had stayed in the studio during the proceedings, couldn’t hold up their natural droppings any longer...
An expensive party, but this world famous group could afford it. Did you know that ABBA, at the moment busy with television performances all over Europe, is popular in China as well, even to the extent that a tour is being considered?

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Story, January 1977: The trolls were sweet to ABBA’s Agnetha

This article was published in Dutch magazine Story in January 1977. The headline referred to the very first song written by Agnetha at a very young age, Två små troll. The black and white picture shows ABBA arriving in Holland for a promotional visit in November 1976. On the occasion, they received an award for being number one in the Dutch Top 40 (a feat they accomplished with all three of their 1976 singles). Note the instructions on the award: face the camera and be happy.
With a self-written song about trolls, the long-haired creatures from the Swedish forests, blonde Agnetha started her singing career as an eight-year-old girl.

In the very early afternoon, the darkness covers the Swedish landscape with its dark veil. In a beautiful bungalow at sea, not far from the capital Stockholm, nanny Karin draws the curtains. Together with four-year-old Linda she waits...
Exhausted after a long day of rehearsing, dancing lessons and trying on clothes, Agnetha Fältskog, the blonde ABBA-girl, gets out of the car. Her husband Björn Ulvaeus, the short guitarist of the group to whom Agnetha has been married for six years already, is completely worn out as well. But when they get into their cosy home, hear the sputtering flames of the fireplace and see the happy little face of their daughter Linda, their exhaustion seems to disappear. And it doesn’t take long before Agnetha is enticed by the little girl to tell a story about trolls.
“The trolls have always played an important part in my life,” Agnetha says smilingly. “I was only this small,” her hand indicates a height of about 135 centimetres, “when I sang a song about trolls in a show. It was my own composition. You might even say that the trolls were the start of my career. They’ve been good to me!”

“Every now and then, it is suggested that we don’t have any time left for a family life these days,” Björn says, “but that’s not true at all. We, and when I say ‘we’ I mean Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson as well, try to have as much time off as possible for a private life, for contact with family and friends and for relaxation. Once in a while, you can see me jogging in the woods.”
Björn does this jogging without Agnetha, since she is far too happy to be able to sit down and relax when she gets the chance. The perfect movements that Anni-Frid, or Frida as she is mostly called, and Agnetha are making while singing their songs, don’t come easy to them. Every week, they are taking four to six hours of dancing and movement lessons.
“We also spend a lot of time on our clothes,” Björn sighs. “Two guys from Stockholm are creating everything for us. We come up with ideas, and obviously they often have ideas as well, that we discuss with each other.”
However, Björn and Benny spend most of their time on composing new hits. “We are working very, very hard on that. Do you know why most people are not able to compose properly? Because they don’t have any discipline! For a good composition, you need ten percent of inspiration and ninety percent of discipline. Boy, if you could only see the way that we are slaving away ever so often!”

“But you shouldn’t think that we’re always dead serious while we're working,” Björn chuckles. “We do have time for a joke every now and then. For instance, it has become a habit that our employees play some kind of trick on us on the closing night of a tour. On one of these closing nights, we came on stage unsuspectingly, grabbing the microphone with a beaming smile, to immediately let that smile pass into weird grimaces. What had happened? Those comedians had thoroughly rubbed gorgonzola cheese all over the microphones. It was a disgusting smell! It took us a great deal of effort to compose our faces again, but we saw it through until the bitter end. After all, we are a show group, aren’t we?”

Sunday 2 August 2009

Hitkrant, April 1981: ABBA can choose

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about the preparations for the new ABBA-single in 1981. As it turned out, the single would not be released until the end of the year.
Alright. Love doesn’t play any part in ABBA any longer: the two couples have become four group members, everything is settled, Björn has remarried, Benny has found his true Mona (what a desert!) as well and Anni-Frid and Agnetha will probably land on their feet as well. Indeed, that’s not what it’s all about in the ABBA-empire: the most important thing is that new things are being produced: especially music. And ABBA is already very busy doing just that.

Like we reported earlier, the Swedish group is in their studio to record the new single. That doesn’t mean that a song pops up before their eyes, they rehearse it and then commit it to tape. No, several days of discussions between Benny and Björn have preceded this. Subsequently, four or five songs are being written. Everything is arranged, orchestrated and everything that comes along with that, and then all five are recorded as well. Only then a new single is being chosen. Because ABBA can choose.

Benny: “We are in a fortunate position, we are free to choose in everything that we do, we don’t have to do anything that we don’t want to do.”
What does that mean? Does ABBA operate unthinkingly?
Benny: “Not exactly, obviously that’s not what I mean. You have to see it like this: we have enough time to write songs, we have a studio of our own, we have more than enough money and an excellent reputation. This means that we are able to seek out the best material possible at our own pace and that means more quality.”
There’s no reason for ABBA to complain about the lack of quality of Björn and Benny’s music, is there?
Benny: “No, not in general, but that’s because we are able to do it meticulously. Look, we are able to keep on developing musically. Especially since my songs are brand new; I can take the time to get the best out of me and that’s obviously very important.”

Apart from the music, there’s the business as well: ABBA is not a little music group any longer, ABBA is an enterprise. There are companies to be managed, new purchases and investments to be made. This all takes up a lot of time: at least once a week, the foursome can be found in the office of ABBA-mastermind Stig Anderson where conferences are being held. Obviously, about the new single and album, but especially about what’s to be done with all that money. After all, you don’t become Sweden’s most successful company just like that, with a turnover of 60 million Dutch guilders (two years ago) and more than 25 million Dutch guilders profit!
For how much longer will ABBA keep on doing this?
“For the most part, that depends on the fans,” Benny says broodingly. “As soon as they don’t like it anymore, we’ll have to quit straightaway, because otherwise it will all go downhill musically in a matter of time.”
But suppose that ABBA will fade from view musically, will that be the end of the company ABBA as well? The only answer that we get from Benny to that is a little smile...