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.”

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