Saturday, 19 September 2009

Studio, December 1976: ABBA

A report from Dutch TV-guide Studio about ABBA’s brief promotional visit to Holland, taking place on November 19, 1976. At a press conference, ABBA were presented with numerous awards for their record sales in Holland. They also appeared on the highly rated TV-show Eén Van De Acht, hosted by Mies Bouwman, where they performed three songs from their newly released album Arrival.
You may think what you like about ABBA’s music, but on November 19 it became clear that it had been many years ago since a pop group could gather so many people together for a press conference, a pop group that is realising its song ‘Money, Money, Money’ literally at the top of the charts at the moment. Nathalie Kester was present at this press conference for Studio. On February 4, ABBA will give a one-off concert in Holland.

It’s half past five and the temperature in the Bel Air Hotel in The Hague is reaching boiling point. The commotion in the fully packed room concerns a group of four people who turn everything they lend their voices to into gold, under the name ABBA. With a beaming smile, they enter the room, get up on the small stage and keep on smiling during the speeches that are fired at them in disastrous English. They accept a load of gold and platinum records, while the smile on their faces doesn’t fade away at any moment. Someone shouts through a megaphone that the reporters in the room can now ask their questions. All hell breaks loose. The assembled reporters and photographers are throwing themselves at the small stage that threatens to collapse under this assault. Blonde Anna almost faints in the stampede and is being guided to a chair in the corner of the room by her husband Björn. Two reporters from women’s magazines throw themselves at Björn and I’m joining in the fight for Anna. At the same time, she desperately tries to sign the records that are shoved in her face, answer numerous questions and on top of that say ‘Happy New Year from ABBA’ in a microphone for someone from a hospital broadcasting.
When I ask Anna, in between the most outrageous and shameless questions (“Do you and your husband fight a lot?” – “Will your daughter be a singer as well?” (Anna’s daughter is three and a half years old) – “Is there a lot of animosity between the couples in the group?”) how they are planning to live up to their ABBA-sound live on stage, when the group goes on tour later on, she looks at me gratefully. Finally someone who asks about their music. “We will start our tour in Oslo on January 25. To reproduce the sound of our records as close as possible, we will take along a thirty-piece orchestra from Sweden. In every country, we will hire a couple of extra violin players.”
Have you been on tour before? “To be honest, we’ve only done a small tour in Scandinavia once. Now we will travel through, among other countries, Scandinavia, Holland and England to America and finish in Australia. We’re preparing ourselves as good as possible. That’s why Frida and I are now taking ballet lessons as well.”
I’m interrupted rudely by people who ask about ABBA’s tax problems and who entice Anna to make the statement that she’s very happy about the new, more right-wing government, because before that, at least 85 percent of ABBA’s income went to the country’s tax authority. For that matter, it remains to be seen whether that will change now.
Desperately trying to get back to the music, I ask Anna whether she plays an instrument herself. “I play the piano. Not that well, but it’s nice that I can read music.” On the other side, Frida is complaining that her make-up is starting to fade. But the girls keep on smiling. And then, after only half an hour, ABBA’s manager appears to remind the group forcefully, that it’s high time for television recordings. Well-behaved, they go along. After all, it’s all about ‘Money, Money, Money’.

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