Thursday 29 October 2009

Hitkrant, October 1979: ABBA played a successful home match

A report from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about ABBA’s first concert on the European leg of their 1979 tour, taking place on October 19 in Göteborg, Sweden.
Göteborg, October 19: the Scandinavium, the gigantic concert hall in the Swedish city is being besieged by young as well as older people. They all came to watch their own ABBA perform in Europe for the first time on their world tour. So it’s a home match, that’s being mastered by Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny and Björn very favourably! A dazzling concert; you wouldn’t think it’s possible that the quartet has already completed 18 shows on this tour.

They look radiant, all four of them and judging by the tempo of this performance, you wouldn’t think that the tour is already halfway through; there are still 22 shows in Europe on their schedule and last Wednesday in Rotterdam, you’ve been able to see with your own eyes that ABBA is younger than ever before!

Obviously, the invitation that Hitkrant received to attend the first concert in Europe was taken with pleasure. Therefore, we could see and hear with our own eyes and ears what ABBA is capable of.

We’ve listened to 22 sparkling songs. Among them obviously the familiar hits, like ‘Voulez-Vous’ (that opened the show), ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, ‘Chiquitita’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, the new single ‘Gimme Gimme’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Does Your Mother Know’ and the closing song ‘Dancing Queen’.
But we also heard and saw two brand new songs: Agnetha’s solo at the piano in ‘I’m Still Alive’ and ‘The Way’, in which Benny took out his accordion once again. There was also one song without the four stars: ‘Not Bad At All’, with tour manager Thomas in a leading role.

An experience, this concert, and living proof of the fact that ABBA – contrary to all the rumours – is still alive and kicking! For that matter, the pleasant after party that we were invited to after the show was an experience as well. Hitkrant’s Dream Wish winner Yvonne van der Meulen from Apeldoorn (the invitation applied to her as well!) got the opportunity to meet her favourite stars, hand over a present and chat about the performance.
But more about that in the next Hitkrants! Our photographer Aad Spanjaard has taken so many pictures that we could fill twenty Hitkrants with them. We won’t do that, but in the near future you will be able to enjoy exclusive and wonderful shots of ABBA, like they are today: four genuine artists who prove that they rightfully belong to the main attractions of pop music!

Sunday 25 October 2009

Joepie, 1978: ABBA about their distant future – Björn and Benny in the music business, Frida solo and Anna-Frid the children!

An article from Belgian magazine Joepie in which Agnetha is called Anna-Frid. The picture once again shows that there was no doubt about who were ABBA’s visual attraction.
In the entire show business, there is probably not a single celebrity, no matter how big his fame may be, who is convinced that his success is going to last a lifetime. Obviously, they hope it will but there’s a major difference between dreams and reality, meanwhile many superstars are well aware of that. The biggest pop phenomenon of the past five years, ABBA, knows it as well and we discussed this issue with the Swedish pop millionaires.

It strikes us that the ABBA-members are actually far less concerned about their musical future than the rest of the business of which they are the centre of attention since ‘Waterloo’. They’ve made it, they became pop millionaires, but so what?
“For me, ABBA was far more exciting in the beginning than it is now,” Frida readily admits. At which Björn puts the concepts of fame, image and money in the right ABBA-proportion. “The perfect satisfaction for an artist is when people love what you are doing,” he says. “When they buy your records, it proves that they love your music. It’s not a question of making lots of money, but knowing that everybody loves what you’re doing. Therefore, it would be a complete lie to claim that we wouldn’t care at all if the audience would stop buying our records. But we know that it’s bound to happen sooner or later, unless we will put an end to ABBA ourselves before it happens.”
The ABBA-members actually never cared much for the glitter and glamour of superstardom and never did something special for that either.
“We’ve never been hungry for the outward appearance of success,” Björn emphasises. “The glamour might not be there, but the music is, and that’s the most important thing, that’s what it’s all about.”

We wonder if they haven’t reached their peak by now, after having achieved the absolute top in Europe and many other countries in the world.
“It’s hard to say,” Björn muses. “Where is that absolute top? Last year, we sold about three million records in Australia and in a way that’s an absolute top for that country. It looks like this will happen in Germany and England this year. But in the United States, we actually haven’t sold that many records, up till now two platinum albums. And that’s not an absolute top at all in that giant pop country. Therefore, we can still achieve a new peak over there. We are still breaking into new markets. Although we probably do have the feeling that it would be all over for us if we wouldn’t sell any records in our own country any longer, even if we would still sell millions of records abroad.”
For that matter, if the record sales would slow down, there will still be enough musical chores in the several companies that they own, and in their highly modern recording studio that will open at the end of April in Stockholm. Looking forward to this occasion, Frida is dreaming out loud about a solo career.
“I have already recorded a couple of solo records,” she says. “I have an enormous admiration for Barbra Streisand’s singing technique and I’m doing everything in my power to enhance mine. I want to be prepared for the time when ABBA is all over.”
And what about Anna-Frid, we ask Björn. “And what about our children,” he smiles diplomatically...
“Actually, we don’t like being recognised constantly,” Frida adds, “but there is no other way for a successful pop group. Although I have to admit that it felt rather pleasant in the beginning while it’s a little annoying now.”
At which Benny says in a friendly way: “I won’t have anything to do with all the outward appearances of fortune and fame. I don’t even want to have an image! If we have one anyway, then that’s actually forced upon us from the outside. We deliver our music and that speaks for itself.”

Saturday 24 October 2009

Bravo, December 1976: Benny reveals his secret

Part two of the Bravo series about the ABBA-members.
How does Benny Andersson create the ABBA-superhits? How does he live privately? For the first time, he reveals in an interview what no one knew about him yet...

Bravo: For three years, you’ve been writing the melodies to the ABBA-hits. Are you a genius?
Benny: “For heaven’s sake, no. I’ve just learned my craft from the basics. I originate from a very musical family, I learned how to play the flute when I was four years old, and the accordion when I was six. For years to come, this remained my favourite instrument. My parents and I were performing as a trio with Swedish folk music. Around my place of birth Stockholm, I was even some kind of child star and – barely being able to write – had to sign autographs.”
Bravo: When did your pop career start?
Benny: “Already when I was seventeen years old, not many ABBA-fans are aware of that these days. At the time, 1963, the Beatles had their first hit in Sweden with ‘Love Me Do’ and I was fascinated by this new sound. After a long discussion with my father, I left our family trio and founded the Beat group Hep Stars. It didn’t take long before we were called ‘Sweden’s answer to the Beatles’. Around this time, I started to compose my first songs and managed to score my first number one hits in Sweden. Altogether, the Hep Stars received eight gold records, four of these were entirely my compositions. At the time, I thought I was the best, I gladly let myself be celebrated as a star at parties and for a while I had five girlfriends at the same time...”
Bravo: That’s the complete opposite of the current state of affairs, since ABBA is known as the ‘cleanest’ group in the world...
Benny: “Like every young man between 17 and 20, I had some wild times as well. That’s simply how it should be. I don’t like to talk about it much these days, because Anni-Frid tends to get a little annoyed by it.”
Bravo: Did you ever flirt with Anna?
Benny: “A little, obviously, when we just started out. I’m a curious guy and I wanted to find out how Anna is like, whether she liked me. She really delighted me, to be honest. But that was just playing with fire. I’ve never made any serious attempts, because for me, the girlfriend of a mate like Björn is obviously off-limits.”
Bravo: What do you like especially about Anni-Frid?
Benny: “She is a passionate woman in every situation, it doesn’t matter if she’s at home cooking or dancing around like a teenager in a discotheque. Although we have been together for seven years already and have two children, our relationship is full of surprises. Recently, when I came home, Anni-Frid was waiting for me, wearing the same miniskirt that she wore when we first met. This really blew me away...”
Bravo: According to rumours, all ABBA-hits are being composed on an island, the location of which you won’t reveal. Is that true?
Benny: “Indeed, that island exists. It takes an hour to get there (by boat) from Stockholm and it’s so small that you can get around it once in five minutes. Björn, Anna, Anni-Frid and I have two houses there. We spend most of our time there when we are working on new songs.”
Bravo: Do the ABBA-songs come into being with a special formula?
Benny: “Usually, I come up with the melody and Björn with the lyrics. In the beginning, we work separately. While Björn – who’s best at speaking English – is writing the words, I’m simply jingling away on my keyboard, at which only my dog Zappa is allowed to listen in. As soon as I like a melody, I’m singing some dummy lyrics to it in the vein of ‘the pigs have crooked legs and a curly pig-tail’. Very often, children’s songs give me an idea as well. When this work is roughly done, I play it to Björn, who then writes a decent lyric to it. It often takes hundreds of hours of work before an ABBA-song is completely finished. We’ve worked a full three months on ‘Money, Money, Money’, before we were really satisfied. More than a dozen of concepts have been thrown in the waste-paper basket...”
Bravo: With this busy working schedule, is there any time left for some spare time and hobbies? Benny: “We simply take the time. I’m now 30 years old and I don’t want to die from a cardiac arrest when I’m 35. I’m keeping fit with cycling, tennis and sailing. Apart from that, I see to it that I’m not bothered in my private life. The only magazine in the world that is allowed to visit us privately, is Bravo...”

Sunday 18 October 2009

Muziek Expres, August 1979: Singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad is ready for a solo adventure… “ABBA can do without me”

While the Voulez-Vous single was climbing the Dutch charts, Muziek Expres published this article about Frida having solo ambitions. I don’t think there were any serious solo plans at this time, but it would take only three more years before it actually would happen. By the way, this article features one of my favourite Frida photographs of all time.
These days, not everything is smooth sailing in the ABBA-circle any longer. After the unexpected divorce between Björn and Agnetha, Anni-Frid now has outrageous plans as well...

A lot has happened since ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in ’74. During the past five years, the Swedish group succeeded in continuously delivering hits, that always achieved a top ten placing and, in most cases, the number one spot in several charts as well. Only recently, Japan was conquered as well and the ABBA-concern just couldn’t wait to walk all over the United States. But right at the time when a concert tour through ‘the land of unlimited possibilities’ was being planned, two members of the Scandinavian group single-handedly put a stop to it. Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog decided to put an end to their marriage. A decision that didn’t harm the image of ABBA at first glance. But the Swedish ladies and gentlemen reckoned without their host. The divorce didn’t improve the mutual understanding and collaboration, rather it worsened. Lately, the quartet only gathered together for business meetings. Apart from that, Benny Andersson had his hands full in his own ABBA-studio with his latest solo discovery: Anni-Frid Lyngstad...

The ABBA-office really looks very impressing. It’s all gold that glitters, if only for the string of gold records that are hanging on the walls of the office. The only one present besides ME is Anni-Frid herself. No other band members, no manager Stig Anderson, no bodyguards. Therefore, nothing is preventing Anni-Frid from giving chapter and verse about all the problems surrounding ABBA in an honest way.
Indeed, she did not mince matters: “It’s true that I’m busy exploring my own talents. Or rather: try them out. Benny and I are doing that in the shape of several test recordings. For that matter, we haven’t decided on the right musical path yet. It’s not that easy either. Obviously, a lot of people will recognise me as ‘that dark ABBA-singer’. The kind of music that I want to sing will have to be completely different from ABBA’s music. More mature as well.”
While she poses for our photographer for a moment, she says that the idea of a solo career has been a long time coming.
“We’ve waited this long because there simply wasn’t time for it. No, this doesn’t mean that I’m going to quit working with ABBA. But I have to think about my own future as well. What all four of us have achieved with ABBA in all those years borders on the unbelievable. Still, it’s inevitable that this enormous popularity will diminish one day. Gone. I want to create a safety net for problems like this. Björn and Agnetha have to continue working with ABBA, but that’s not much fun, of course. For that matter, they don’t have any idea yet what they want to do exactly after the ABBA-era. I want to think ahead. Be ready for my own adventure. In case it will be all over next year, I will have a new job right away.”
The photographer interrupts us and Anni-Frid poses like a proficient model. She says that she “couldn’t be happier that people are finally interested in only me. I always played second fiddle. According to everyone, Agnetha was always a little better vocally. She has proved that ABBA can do without me. That’s fine, but the time will come that I’m going to prove something as well...”

Saturday 17 October 2009

Veronica, October 1979: ABBA is coming – success world tour exceeds all expectations

An article from Dutch magazine Veronica, published shortly before ABBA’s Dutch concert on their 1979 tour.
In the night of October 23, more than 7.000 ABBA-fans will barely be able to sleep a wink, if at all. Those are the happy few that have managed to obtain a ticket for the concert that the popular Swedish group will give at the Rotterdam Ahoy venue on October 24. Hours before the start of the show, they will be lining up in front of the Ahoy, over and over again checking if their precious entrance ticket is still in their pockets. The lines will be varying in ages from 6 to 60. Because ABBA is offering entertainment for the whole family. The hits will be sung along to word for word. A performance in Holland is like a home match for ABBA. Only in Australia, more ABBA-records were sold per head of the population.

The one-off concert in Holland, although the demand for tickets exceeded the supply approximately a hundred times, is part of a still expanding world tour that kicked off on September 13 in the Canadian city Edmonton. A flying start, at which the more than 20.000 strong audience almost tore the place apart. After Canada, it was the United States’ turn, still the most important pop country. It marked the first time in their existence that ABBA dared to face the Americans. Unique, when you consider that the group has already achieved a remarkable string of gold singles and platinum albums over there, merely thanks to a couple of television performances and an effective promotional campaign.

In America, you have to be mighty persuasive to get the public, that gets overflowed with hundreds of new records every week, interested in the musical achievements of a couple of fresh-looking young people from Sweden. Nevertheless, the clever promoters succeeded with slogans like ‘ABBA – the group that sold more records than the Beatles’. Even the imperturbable editors of authoritative pop magazines like Rolling Stone and Cream took notice of this. As a consequence, they started to pay extensive attention to the Swedish phenomenon. Because selling more records than the Beatles, who are still considered gods in America, is not a flimsy affair. Although this doesn’t say anything about the quality. But coincidentally, that’s at a very high level with ABBA as well. Because, although the outward image is mainly defined by the angelic Agnetha and the red-haired Anni-Frid, about whom a British reporter once wrote that she is so sexy that she could get the tower of Pisa to stand in an upright position, for years the extremely talented Vikings Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson have been responsible for a neverending string of exquisite compositions that are all good for millions of sales.
Time and time again, family matters were given as a reason for an American tour failing to occur. Fact is that the ABBAs have a big family. Björn and Agnetha, who formed a fairytale couple of sorts until their divorce, have two children. Anni-Frid and Benny, who were given a hard time in moralizing magazines until they got married, both brought along children from previous marriages. But the true reason was that manager Stig Anderson thought that ABBA simply wasn’t ripe yet for a successful attack on the Americans. That’s why he let the group gather experience in the rest of the world, where their success was secure in advance. Apart from that, the record sales in countries such as Japan, Germany and England was so gigantic that America wasn’t really necessary. Stig let his joyous quartet stimulate the American record sales with a performance in Olivia Newton-John’s TV-show, one of their opponents in Brighton, and short promotional trips to important radio stations. The results were very good.

It was the same Stig Anderson, an institute as a musician in his home country, who grasped the qualities of the foursome when they were still fooling around without any direction in the early seventies. In the sixties, Björn and Benny had been playing in well-known Swedish groups, that came to an end due to declining success and financial mismanagement. As a daughter of a bandleader, blonde Agnetha had an easy start of her career and through a part in Jesus Christ Superstar (she must have been the first blonde Mary Magdalene) she became a Swedish Trea Dobbs of sorts. Frida was the result of a short affair between her Norwegian mother and a German officer who beat a retreat after he had shot his bolt. Only recently, he was tracked down in Germany and father and daughter met each other for the first time. Agnetha and Anni-Frid, not hindered by any sense of rhythm, are the strongest eye-catchers that a group could ever wish for.
But in 1972, they were only the girlfriends of the ‘stars’ Björn and Benny and they were allowed to assist the twosome, then already under Stig’s supervision, vocally on a couple of records. Stig thought this combination was dynamite and urged the quartet to tighten their collaboration. They agreed. After all, this allowed them to mix business with pleasure. At the end of 1972, ‘People Need Love’ was released worldwide after some success in a Song Contest in Tokyo. Eventually, the record label only mentioned Björn and Benny but at Stig’s insistence, the girls were added as well. In America, they were still named Björn, Benny and Svenska Flicka. After this early success, Björn and Benny were ready to take America by storm. But Stig suggested that they should concentrate on conquering Scandinavia and Europe first. A shortcut to the European record-buying public is the Eurovision Song Contest, that attracts about 500 million viewers on a yearly basis. However, in 1973, their ‘Ring Ring’ didn’t manage to get any further than a third place in the Swedish pre-selections. Nevertheless, the single became a hit in several countries outside Sweden. Among others, it achieved a high placing in the Veronica Top 40. It was our first acquaintance with ABBA who, at the despair of many DJ’s who had never got to start a course of Swedish for beginners, were still named Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid and Anna. Stig acknowledged this problem for the non-Swedish DJ’s and changed their name to ABBA. Under protest of the group members, because in Sweden that’s a familiar brand of canned herring.

In Brighton in 1974, they hit the mark with ‘Waterloo’. The rest of Europe, including Olivia Newton-John and our Mouth and McNeal among others, were resolutely sung to a distance. The victory was followed by a couple of television performances in most European countries and a short tour. The success of the Swedes hadn’t remained unnoticed in America either. Sid Bernstein, an American promoter who had managed to sign up the Beatles for the gigantic Shea Stadium, offered Stig to set up a tour in the States. Stig was not at all keen about it. He pointed out to the group that record sales had to generate the big money in the fist instance, because extensive tours were getting ever more costly. After ‘Waterloo’, the group scored a couple of minor hits, but achieved a definitive breakthrough at the start of ’76 with ‘Mamma Mia’, a song that made ABBA a household name all over the world. They consolidated their position on the world market with songs like ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Fernando’, ‘Money, Money, Money’ and so on. The British trade journal New Musical Express called their music a stylish combination of the Beatles and Phil Spector.
The idea for a documentary about the group on tour grew into a full-length movie: ‘ABBA – The Movie’. Björn and Benny developed into renowned songwriters, slightly less ingenious than Lennon and McCartney, but ever so successful, judging by the sales figures. To be able to work for long periods of time and without interruption, an old movie theatre in Stockholm was rebuilt into a studio. It has such quality that groups like Led Zeppelin and Genesis are using it as well. On a business level, Stig kept a tight rein. Everything remained under one umbrella: the music publishing company, the merchandise and so on. Stig only doesn’t have a hold over piracy. It is assumed that in Hong Kong and Singapore, five illegal pressings are being sold in one regular ABBA-record. This didn’t prevent ABBA from becoming the bestselling group of all time.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Privé, November 1979: ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus: “Agnetha is still in my thoughts”

A 1979 article from Dutch magazine Privé, stating that Agnetha composed Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! I guess this song got mixed up with I’m Still Alive.
Everywhere where the Swedish supergroup ABBA performs on their European tour, the audience is ecstatic about the dazzling show that the foursome brings to the stage. But how is the private understanding between the divorced couple Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog. Insiders surrounding ABBA have claimed that they actually didn’t want to work together any longer. In an exclusive interview, that Privé’s Charles Zwarts had with Björn, he has now revealed that his ex-wife is still on his mind.

ABBA’s guitarist and hitmaker Björn Ulvaeus, dressed in a brand new, shiny black suit, is beaming in front of me, on the eve of one of ABBA’s concerts. He says: “ABBA is doing really well, the tour is a grandiose success. Nothing but enthusiastic people. That’s why we will continue after this tour as well. ABBA will not break up. The rumours claiming that the four of us would not be able to work together anymore, are complete nonsense. Allegedly, especially Agnetha and I would not speak to each other anymore nor want to perform together after our divorce. That’s absolutely not true. I can imagine that many people thought the group would be finished after my divorce from Agnetha. Indeed, in the beginning it was very difficult for us to continue. You have lived together day and night, as husband and wife, and you even have two children together. Then, when you decide to separate, but still have to continue working together, it’s very difficult. We told each other that we would have to see each other as good colleagues from now on. We are sufficiently professional to realise this,” he says with an undertone of disappointment in his voice.
“After all, we know each other through and through after eight years of marriage, that’s why I still interfere in Agnetha’s life regularly, but then she lets me know in a calm way that she is now leading her own life and I accept that, but she will never be out of my thoughts.”
Indeed, during the concert and afterwards as well, you can clearly notice that blonde Björn often looks at his ex-wife and wants to look after her, but Agnetha ignores him most of the time.
The 34-year-old, but still boyish Björn says in a hopeful voice: “Now that all the private problems have been solved, I have regained my fervour and got back to work. I just love to play in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Everywhere we go, it’s fantastic. Even in the United States, where we haven’t had the same reputation as in Europe up till now, the venues were packed to capacity. We have had a reasonable breakthrough over there as well. In the American media, I have read that we would be too cool, too synthetic. ‘They seemed like four marionettes,’ is what they wrote. I didn’t notice any of that from the audience’s response. We have played in venues with an audience of 38.000 people, then it’s hard to imagine people saying that you are making cold music.”
Smilingly, Björn continues: “When this tour is over, we are taking only a short break to regain our strength and then Benny and I are off to Florida in January to write songs for the new album in peace and quiet. We can take our ease at composing over there. This means that we will spend day and night together, sometimes nothing will sprout from that, but all of a sudden, you are on to something and then we move very fast. In February, the four of us want to go into the studio to record the album, we don’t want to keep our fans waiting. After a tour like this, we can’t deny them an album. This new album will also include the four new songs that we play in our show. One of these songs, ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’, is written and composed by Agnetha. It will become a huge hit.”

While he glances through the Privé with Agnetha and Anni-Frid on the cover, that I have brought along, he says: “The major advantage of ABBA is that we have developed. Not all songs are necessarily contributed by Benny and me any longer, Agnetha loves to compose as well. In our show, she even plays the organ herself while singing a song. Apart from that, we have the guitarist of our nine-piece band, Mats Ronander, who sings a song accompanied by Tomas Ledin, our backing singer, on the organ. Now we have the opportunity to try something different. We don’t have to write music for the sales figures any longer. We don’t think about the cash register. Now we make music because we enjoy it, the songs are coming from our heart. When you are writing and composing, you shouldn’t think in the back of your mind that this song has to become a hit yet again. We can now allow ourselves to release a single that doesn’t sell as well and doesn’t become a hit. If we had been forced to write for the cash register, then we would probably have broken up already. You can’t deal with this pressure for years on end. ABBA has now existed for six years, that’s a long time. Very often, you see groups, that are successful with a song, breaking up again after one or two years at the most, because the hits have stopped coming. Indeed, a lot of pressure comes along with that.”
I ask him if the private relationships of the quartet and being together constantly are a source of added tensions.
“That’s history now,” Björn says, “we allow each other our freedom. I’m often on my own, every day I sleep late until about twelve o’clock. Then I’m off jogging, I take a shower and rehearse with the group. A bad habit of mine is that I stay up too late, I read a lot.”

“When the tour is over, we won’t be seeing each other on a daily basis, only during recording and composing sessions. It’s a good thing to be able to work in this manner. That’s why ABBA can continue for years to come. We understand our craft. Agnetha and Anni-Frid are good singers and Benny and I are, I think I can say that, excellent producers. And now that we see less of each other in our private lives, we are able to work with the group in a more professional way.”
Isn’t it so that Agnetha wants to spend more time at home and therefore less time working with the group, now that your daughter Linda is starting primary school?
“After this tour, the performances are over with for the time being. In the next two years, we will only record albums. That way, Agnetha has enough time to spend at home with the children,” the blonde hitmaker states, “that’s not a problem at all. Agnetha is now able to see things in perspective and that’s why she’s determined to continue working with ABBA. And all four of us are very happy with that.”

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Story, June 1981: Will Agnetha’s love problem mean the end of ABBA?

Gossip article about ABBA’s marital problems from Dutch magazine Story.
Only with the utmost effort, Agnetha is able to bring a smile to her face. The blonde singer of the successful Swedish group ABBA is dealing with a big love problem. She’s wondering if she is still able to pay the high price that she has to pay for her success.

And they lived happily ever after... Most fairytales end with these words. Unfortunately, for the members of ABBA, it doesn’t look like their group, that started out as a fairytale as well, will live happily ever after. There’s a lot of turmoil within the so successful Swedish group. Therefore, it’s getting harder and harder for manager Stig Anderson to keep the quartet, that’s worshipped all over the world, together. The personal problems of Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid are heating up to the extent that they are a serious threat to the unity of the group.
After Agnetha and Björn’s divorce, everything seemed to be serene. “Our personal problems have nothing to do with our work,” is what Björn claimed at the time. “ABBA goes on. However, Agnetha and I have come to terms with the fact that it’s impossible to be together twenty-four hours a day. It just doesn’t work out. That’s why we decided to put an end to our marriage.”

Agnetha’s reaction was clearly more sensitive: “Björn is a slave to his job. I’ve tried everything to save our marriage. At the advice of our family doctor, I even went to see a psychologist, together with Björn. He came along once and after that single visit, he said: “I don’t have time for this nonsense.” After that, I went to the consultations alone.”
Psychologist Hakan Lönngvist convinced the blonde singer of the fact that it would be better for her to end her marriage. Shortly after the divorce, it turned out that the psychologist had started an intense relationship with Agnetha, but a long lasting love didn’t evolve from that.
It’s clear to see that blonde Agnetha doesn’t feel very happy. The recent emotional tensions have had a physical effect on her as well. She’s complaining about headaches, pains in her chest and stomach. Only with the utmost effort, she is able to bring a smile to her face.
Agnetha is suffering from her love problem. She says: “For us, it’s practically impossible to start a new life. What do you have to offer to someone else? Being away from home for months on end! You simply can’t build a relationship when you spend most of your time on rehearsals, television performances and tours abroad. Anni-Frid and the boys don’t think it’s that bad, although they are dealing with these problems as well. They see it as a price for our success. But I’m starting to doubt more and more whether this high price is all worth it...”
Although Agnetha claims that Anni-Frid is dealing with her problems more light-heartedly, it turns out that the dark-haired singer’s life is not a bed of roses either. Two years after Agnetha and Björn’s divorce, Anni-Frid and Benny announced that they couldn’t cope living together any longer either. Anni-Frid, who had already experienced a failed marriage before she met Benny and now has to deal with the problems surrounding a divorce a second time, is still not able to conceal her sadness.
“I don’t want to talk about my first marriage ever again,” she says. “It was downright awful. It wasn’t until I met Benny that I experienced true love. He was so understanding. And that’s exactly what I needed at the time. I had a very difficult time after my first divorce, because my children had been taken away from me as well. My first husband was given custody of them, because they assumed that I wouldn’t be able to give them enough attention due to my busy schedule as a singer. This caused me a whole lot of grief. I found comfort with Benny.”
Still, it turned out that Benny and Anni-Frid weren’t able to spend day and night together either. Problems started to arise on a business level, and they turned into personal dissatisfaction. Anni-Frid: “Added to that, Benny started an affair with a 37-year-old TV-presenter. That was the last straw for me. Our marriage could not be saved anymore. In all fairness, we ended our relationship, but we agreed on one thing: we will continue working with ABBA! With Björn and Agnetha, we had already seen that it is possible to be divorced and still work together.”

“The music keeps us together,” Benny says. “Music is communication. You create an effect on other people.” Björn, with whom he composed all of ABBA’s hit-successes, completely agrees with his colleague. The two ABBA-men are truly possessed by their work. Preferably, they withdraw on their small island, where they can work on new songs in peace and quiet. Most of the time, they don’t even notice what’s going on around them.
However, slowly but surely, tensions are starting to arise for the ABBA-men as well, that are a threat to the unity within the Swedish group. After the break down of their marriages, new love problems are starting to appear.
“Obviously,” according to Agnetha. “You can’t lead a personal life when you’re travelling around the globe for the most part of the year. Is that nice for the one you’d like to spend your life with? No, of course not. That way, a relationship is bound to fail. I don’t believe in fairytales any longer...”

Sunday 4 October 2009

Joepie, September 1979: A triumph for new ABBA-show

A report about the opening night of ABBA’s 1979 tour from Belgian magazine Joepie.
More than 20.000 overheated spectators of all ages have given ABBA an unforgettable start of their world tour ’79, that kicked off in Canada. The ovation was so overwhelming that Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny had a hard time to keep their emotional tears from flooding. In their voices, the emotions of pure joy were shining through as well and it wasn’t until the fourth song that they could control their inner feelings of joy and gratitude. But what did it matter, ABBA was there live, with a new, gigantic show that would last more than two hours and every member of the audience was on top of the world because they had managed to get hold of a ticket for what’s now already being called ‘the tour of the century’.

Every single seat in the giant hockey stadium in Edmonton had been completely sold out, only a couple of hours after the tickets had gone on sale. A long queue of thousands of young fans kept waiting in line until the show started, hoping to be able to obtain a ticket at the last minute.
Meanwhile, the enthusiastic happy few in the hall formed a tremendous choir that made the venue shake to its foundations. Seldom had one seen such a crowd of genuinely happy people together.
Backstage, stricken with nerves, the four ABBA-members could hardly believe their ears. Obviously, they had expected a warm welcome, but they couldn’t have imagined that their fans would turn it into such a marvellous, unprecedented spectacle. On stage, an exquisite ABBA-logo was flashing on and off to the rhythm of the applause. When ABBA’s backing musicians appeared on stage, dressed in spotless white suits, the roars and screams even gathered strength. This would last until the four ABBA-members appeared in the spotlights, despite an instrumental medley of ABBA’s biggest hits. Indeed, the intro was even dragged out longer than foreseen because this supersonic welcome had taken Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny’s breath away. This was quite an experience!
When ABBA finally appeared at the microphones, in a scene of blue, red and yellow lights, it seemed as if an earthquake had set in. The stadium was shaking to its foundations. The crowd erupted in one movement. One long ABBA-outcry was tearing through the intense reception.

Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s voices broke a little in the opening song ‘Voulez-Vous’, out of pure gratitude. They looked adorable in their white outfits, coloured with light and dark blue stripes in a V-shape. Stage manager Björn introduced the group right away, then turned to ‘my ex-wife’ Agnetha, who subsequently took on ‘As Good As New’. After that, it was Björn’s turn to take the lead in the rocker ‘Rock Me, Roll Me’, followed by Anni-Frid’s lead vocals in ‘One Man, One Woman’. Obviously, each time accompanied by the beautiful vocals of the other ABBAs.
A touching moment was when the children’s choir of Edmonton joined ABBA for an exuberant ‘I Believe In Angels’. Björn couldn’t have been more right when he said afterwards: “I enjoyed this so much that I think we should do the song once more”. And naturally, the song was reprised. ABBA promptly decided to make an appeal to a local children’s choir for every subsequent performance.
With a multitude of hits, the concert was taken from one highlight to the other, at which Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny changed into new, striking costumes three times. ‘Fernando’, ‘SOS’, ‘What’s The Name Of The Game’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and many other chart-toppers were sung along to by the entire audience over and over again.
In the end, the ovation just wouldn’t end and if it weren’t for their manager Stig Anderson, who guided ABBA, soaking wet and exhausted but happy after several encores, to their dressing-room, they would still be performing in Edmonton as we speak! Björn expressed ABBA’s joy poignantly, right after the performance. “When you’ve experienced something like this, then there can’t be any talk of quitting!”
These are the words that ABBA-fans from all over the world have been waiting to hear.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Weekend, 1977: ABBA, Beatle-mania equalled

The two Swedish couples who form the group ABBA together, spend more of their time travelling than sitting quietly at home nowadays. The ABBA-mania is spreading further and further. Holland has been completely won over and invariably sends the records of the foursome to the number one spot in the charts.
But in England – where there is no shortage of gifted pop musicians – the Swedes have become idols as well, of the calibre of the former Beatles.
Quite rightly, ABBA is very proud of this and therefore they keep on smiling, while getting in and out of cars, in and out of airplanes, and in and out of concert halls.
After all: that’s show business!

Bravo, November 1978: ABBA’s new hit factory – Bravo was able to watch them in the studio

The grey-painted building in the centre of Stockholm is rather inconspicuous, and doesn’t distinguish itself in any way from the other houses and office buildings in the neighbourhood. Only insiders know that this is the studio that ABBA has built for themselves.
“It has been finished since May, and that’s just about the time that we’ve worked on our new album as well,” Björn explains. He is sitting in the control room at the mixing console, together with sound engineer Michael B. Tretow. Björn calls the 33-year-old Micke. He is the fifth member of ABBA – at least in the studio. He has worked with the group since the first ABBA-record. He knows exactly what Björn and Benny want and he is a world champion in finding new sound tricks.
On this day, Björn and Micke are trying out a new sound effect, while Benny is sitting at the piano, playing a melody again and again. “In the meantime, we’ve completed six songs,” Björn says. “We are trying to finish the entire album still this year. After all, almost twelve months have passed since our last album was released.”
Björn and Benny have composed enough songs. That’s not the problem. But for them, the hard work really begins in the studio.
“In the studio, we write the lyrics to the songs and make the arrangements. And that’s the most complicated, but most important work as well. It’s only because of the arrangements that a melody turns into a good pop song. Then it comes down to which instruments we will use, when they will sound louder or softer, and deciding if we will use new sound effects. This takes up most of our time. Apart from that, we don’t want to get pushed into anything. We need a quiet and relaxed atmosphere when we work,” Björn explains.
That’s why ABBA has built this studio for about 1,5 million German Marks.
In the past few weeks, ABBA has been very productive. Almost day and night, Björn and Benny spent their time in the studio. Only on October 7, they had a small break from work. “That’s when Anni-Frid and I got married,” Benny explains. “No one had any idea. We didn’t even tell Agnetha and Björn beforehand. The announcement took them by surprise completely.”
One day later, they threw a small party at their home in the urban district Lidingö. Only their closest friends, relatives and colleagues from Polar Music were invited. “If we had made the announcement beforehand, our wedding would have turned into a circus. We wanted to prevent that from happening,” Benny explains.
Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid have made a lot of plans for the month November. “We will fly to Los Angeles to perform on television on the Dick Clark Show. At the moment, that’s the most popular TV-show in the USA. Right after that, we’re off to Tokyo. During a one-week stay, we will record a 45-minute-long television special. And we will travel to Paris for a television performance as well, but that will be all. Then we’ll go back home to continue our work on the new album and prepare ourselves for Christmas.”
I ask Benny, why they are now favouring the disco sound, at least on their latest single ‘Summer Night City’. Benny: “Actually, we don’t think that’s really disco, perhaps we’ve been influenced to some extent by the Bee Gees. We think it’s good what they are doing. But we’ve maintained our own sound. At least, the new album will be proof of that.”