Sunday 29 November 2009

Joepie, 1977: ABBA, the oil barons of pop! Behind the Iron Curtain worth their weight in... oil

An article from Belgian magazine Joepie about ABBA’s success in Eastern Europe.
There are only very few countries in the world where ABBA-mania isn’t raging at the moment. The Swedish quartet is even on its way to surpass the record-breaking achievements of the late Beatles. And this success isn’t of the kind that is simplifying the business interests of this four-piece pop industry. Especially since ABBA has become successful behind the Iron Curtain and particularly in Poland and Russia. Concerning this matter, Benny revealed the following to us on the phone:
“The problem in these countries is that you have to spend the money that you make over there primarily in that country and that you can’t take it abroad. In the beginning, you think it won’t be that bad and you buy things that are far cheaper over there than at home, like for instance caviar, salmon, fur coats, leather garments, cameras, yes even our own apartment in the centre of the Soviet country. But you’ll understand that you can’t keep buying these things as your earnings are increasing. And now that our records can be bought over there since a couple of weeks and we are entitled to a fair amount of copyrights, we were forced to think of another solution if we wanted to make a penny out of it.”
But the ABBA-members and their manager Stig Anderson have proved more than once in the past that they are clever business people and it was clear that they would come up with something within a matter of time. A plenary meeting was being held and the matter was thoughtfully pondered on.
“We have founded a new company, the umpteenth,” Benny smiled at the other end of the telephone line. “It’s going to look after our interests behind the Iron Curtain and specialise in converting our money assets over there in oil and oil products, because we can never have enough of these goodies in Sweden. The people in Russia and Poland have already agreed to that. Therefore, our company will transport all our oil acquisitions to our country and then resell them. Simple, isn’t it? But still you have to think about things like this. From now on, we will no longer occupy ourselves only with music, but we will be up to our ears in oil as well!”

Thursday 26 November 2009

ABBA Info, November 1984: Frida in Holland again

Here’s a report from a Dutch fan magazine about Frida’s promotional visit to Holland in October 1984. It also includes an interview with Frida that shows that she was still full of plans at the time, considering a new album and even a tour.
For the second time in one month, Frida arrived at Schiphol Airport. We were at the airport very early and later on, we saw some other fans. Frida arrived at five minutes to eleven. When she saw us (we were waving at her) she walked up to us leisurely and gave Görel and Jan Bakema (Polydor) a sign that they had to wait for the suitcases. Of course, we walked to the door as quickly as possible but Frida thought it was better to stand in the middle of the hall so that we wouldn’t bother anyone. We gave Frida some flowers and took our time to take pictures. Meanwhile, we talked a little about ‘Shine’ and about several other artists. We gave her a compliment for her appearance on Met Mike In Zee in Belgium. Frida was rather surprised that we had seen it. Frida told us that she had been listening to Sade on the plane, on her walkman. She also told us that she had just got back from America where she had been with Hans and Liselotte.
Frida asked us if we didn’t have to go to school because it was an ordinary weekday (Tuesday October 9). When we told her that all of us were terribly sick, she laughed in her familiar way. We were fortunate that it took quite some time before the suitcases arrived. Therefore, we could talk to her in a relaxed manner about for instance Cyndi Lauper, of whom she thought ‘Time After Time’ was a very good song, about Chicago that she loved to listen to and about Sade, the singer who, as Frida explained, brought back some of the old jazz music for the first time in many years. The jazz music that was the start of Frida’s long career as an artist.
Finally, Görel and Jan joined us. Of course, we had flowers for Görel as well and when we gave her a nice bouquet later that same day, she whispered in our ear: “That’s the reason why we come back to Holland time and time again, those flowers are so beautiful!”
Görel was dragging around a strange long bag. When we made a joke about it and asked whether she was planning to play some golf, she smiled and told us that it wasn’t her bag, but Frida’s. For that matter, in the bag was the instrument that has to provide new songs for Frida’s next album.
That’s right, Frida’s own keyboard that lays the foundation of her songs. We didn’t hear any complaints from the hotel, but it’s certain that she had been playing it for a while. The suitcases in the car, the flowers on the hat stand, the collars wrapped tight around the necks, since it was a typical Dutch rainy day, and Frida was off to Rotterdam.
We travelled along with Frida in our car. Headed for the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam where the rehearsals for the Platengala would take place in the afternoon.
The security of the Ahoy knew that we were coming so there were no problems getting in. Luckily, the same went for the other fans who were waiting in the hall. Frida had walked by already but when she realised she had already missed the first rehearsal, she went to the hotel first to put away all her stuff. After that, she came back to the Ahoy venue where she was welcomed extensively by the AVRO people who were taking care of all the proceedings.

Frida had just arrived when they started preparing her rehearsal. We were allowed to get into the hall and we picked a spot in front of the stage so that we could take good pictures and wouldn’t have to miss anything. Frida gave the impression that she was freezing since she had her hands tucked away in her dark blue suit. The scarf she was wearing was appropriately coloured in dark blue (to go with her suit) and red (the same as her hair). Matched with blue glasses and some jewellery, Frida was a remarkable appearance between all these technicians and artists in jeans. The rehearsal went very smoothly, actually it was only a test for the sound and lights, because Frida said she would put on more of a show tomorrow and walk around the stage more. This was immediately briefed to the cameramen by the floor manager who informed Frida about the plans for the show, the camera positions and so forth. The first song ‘Shine’ would be filmed from a wide angle and ‘Come To Me’ with Frida in close-up. A decision that would have some consequences for the recordings the next evening.
As usual, Frida walked up to Görel immediately after the rehearsal to discuss the performance. Görel gave some more suggestions and pointed Frida to the fact that there would be a lot of people sitting behind the stage as well. We followed Frida on her way to the dressing room. Thanks to Jan Bakema, who asked Frida if she had some time for her fans and the fan club, we could go with her to the artists’ lounge where we could sit cosily around a table with a group of about twelve people, take a drink and have a chat. As usual, Frida made a very relaxed impression and she apparently felt at ease. On the next pages, you can read what we talked about. But first, some quotes from Frida, taken from a Swedish interview with the magazine Revyn on the occasion of the release of her new album.

“The events in my childhood were some of my strongest driving forces when I was young. After all, insecurity doesn’t disappear just because you are successful. It’s only now that I’m starting to enjoy myself and I can be myself.”
“My hair is now extremely red, the stuff that I put into it is called ‘Crazy Colour’ and the colour is called ‘Fire’.”
“I started to write songs because Phil told me to. He said, if others can do it, you can do it as well. I wrote about ten songs by now. I might have a talent for this after all.”
“Going to concerts is too time-consuming for me. I’d rather listen to records at a high volume.”
“The most expensive garment was a sable fur coat that cost about 60.000 Dutch guilders. That’s quite a price. I can’t describe a typical day from my life. There are no typical days for me. Sometimes I work in a very disciplined manner for four or five hours a day, when I’m filming a video it’s totally different. On other days, I like to be lazy. Meet people or read good books. Most of the time, I read in English to keep that up. I also read trade magazines like The Business World.”
“My musical dream is a new album with ABBA. That could turn out to be a big surprise, since we all have new experiences now. It’s a dream!”

In the artists’ lounge of the Ahoy venue, we talked to an admirable woman about her new album, the fans and herself.

Can you explain how you feel now, after the recording of ‘Shine’, because so much has changed since ‘Something’s Going On’.
Frida: “I’m exhausted.”
Frida: “No, I feel fine. The album represents exactly the direction of music that I was looking for. I had something special in mind and I’ve found it.”
You wanted the album to turn out like this?
Frida: “I’ve tried to enhance my music and put some more rock ‘n’ roll into it. That’s the direction I was looking for and the plan was that I would see where we would end up. When I’m going to record my next album, it will probably be produced by Steve again. We have a lot to give to each other.”
Steve said almost the same thing at the Polar Studios, that you inspired each other a great deal.
Frida: “Yes, that’s definitely true.”
It just clicked.
Frida: “Yes, it all felt very natural from the start and we had a great time in the studio. However, Steve wasn’t the only one I worked with in the studio. The others have helped me a lot too. We had so much fun together and that gave me a boost. They deviated from the schedule and weren’t afraid to try something new.”
Maybe because they were so young.
Frida: “Yes, and because they don’t have that musical tradition like older musicians who have been working in the music business for years”
Don’t you have that problem after twelve years with ABBA? After all, you have chosen a completely different musical direction.
Frida: “No, Benny and Björn wrote our songs and our sound was created by them. I have always loved to listen to other music as well. I’ve had my own musical taste for ages.”
First it was jazz, now it’s rock ‘n’ roll.
Frida: “Yes, rock ‘n’ roll mixed with jazz, because I feel that music always comes back, we go around in circles. Music always goes back to its roots. I notice that young people feel that too. The old styles of music are mixing again, that’s exactly what I want as well.”
So there won’t be a real jazz album by Frida.
Frida: “No, those times are gone.”
What do you think about the fact that most articles about you first and foremost are about ABBA and only the last few lines about you?
Frida: “Yes, they all do that. But I think it’s impossible to get rid of your past. I will always carry ABBA with me. And I don’t mind that either. Two years ago, I started out as a solo artist and I’ve worked with ABBA for twelve years. Things don’t happen that fast. I have to be patient.”
What you are doing at the moment is completely different from ABBA, yet they keep calling you Frida from ABBA.
Frida: “Yes, true. But they also say Benny and Björn from ABBA and Agnetha from ABBA.”
You mean that we can now read about the ‘ABBA’ musical Chess?
Frida: “Exactly, and ABBA has nothing to do with it. It’s Benny, Björn and Tim Rice but I think we’ll have to get used to it. And ABBA has meant a great deal to me, so I don’t mind. For that matter, ABBA still means a great deal to me.”
At Schiphol Airport, you told us that ‘Twist In The Dark’ was your favourite song from the album. Why that song?
Frida: “I think it’s a very dramatic song. It comes from the inside and I feel very strongly for that song. It sounds a bit ordinary, but that’s why I think the song is so good.”
So there will be more songs like that on your next album?
Frida: “Yes, I think I will be heading in that direction.”
You wrote ‘Don’t Do It’ yourself, a very quiet number, and ‘That’s Tough’, a tougher track. Will there be more of your own songs on the next album?
Frida: “I hope so, I don’t know yet.”
Is that the reason why you brought your keyboard along?
Frida: “Yes, I’ve been in America for a week and you get so much inspiration when you listen to the radio over there. They have a special kind of music there, it’s more rock ‘n’ roll. You rarely hear it here in Europe. It gave me a kick and when I got back home, I started writing. I started yesterday.”
Frida: “Yes, I have a melody already.”
How do you usually start out?
Frida: “Just with the melody. First, I record my voice on a tape, so that’s only the singing and then I work with my keyboard.”
When did you start playing the keyboard?
Frida: “Two years ago. Haha, no, I played the piano when I was ten, just like everybody else.”
Well, I can’t play.
Frida: “Well, almost like everybody else then. I started when I was ten years old and I was quite good at it. But when you haven’t played for such a long time, you have to learn how to play all over again and get used to it.”
Obviously, there are so many possibilities with a keyboard.
Frida: “Oh yes, all you have to do is push a button and you have a melody.”
Some groups make their music like that.
Frida: “Yes, but that makes it a bit too easy. When you are composing, it’s better when you don’t have to think about everything. And you don’t have that problem when you are singing and playing the keyboard. After that, I go into the studio and record a demo of the song, to see if it’s any good. Whether it’s good or bad.”
Do you ask for the opinion of other people?
Frida: “No, because with this album there were so many people involved who all had their own opinion. That can be very confusing, so I stopped doing that and did exactly what I wanted to do myself. That’s actually the only way to do it.”
What do you think about the fact that you’re back in the same hall after five years?
Frida: “To be honest, I don’t really remember, haha. But I know that we’ve been here to perform, but you know, all these arenas are the same. When you have seen one, you’ve seen them all.”
Isn’t it strange to wake up, not knowing where you are?
Frida: “Well, it’s not that bad. I always know in which city I am, but I don’t know exactly in which hall or arena I’m performing.”
Do you remember MIES, the show that you did two years ago?
Frida: “Yes, I remember, that show was great fun with a lot of enthusiastic fans. I guess it will be more difficult for you tomorrow in that big hall with 7000 people. But when you start screaming, the rest of the audience might join you or something like that. But I want to hear you tomorrow night!”
What’s the deal with ‘Shine’ in America?
Frida: “The album hasn’t been released over there. They don’t think it’s good. They don’t want to release it. Probably, it’s because the album isn’t really American, it’s more British oriented. We are now considering to record a special single, only for the American market and then see what happens. If they want it, we can still release ‘Shine’.”
Does it bother you that the Americans didn’t take to the album?
Frida: “No, I don’t mind. For the time being, Europe is enough for me. I’m not aiming for the kind of success that we had with ABBA. That’s far too much work. I want to do it at my own pace and I don’t want to travel too much. I want to concentrate more on Europe than America. Lately, I’ve been thinking about doing a tour in Europe, not too big, not too many gigs.”
Görel: “She’s even thinking very hard about it!”
Frida: “I would love to do a tour, but first I would like to record another album and that depends on Steve’s time schedule. Maybe we will record the album in Paris again or London, but I think that we will end up in the Polar Studios because Steve likes them very much.”
By the way, the video for ‘Shine’ was very good!
Frida: “Thanks, I worked on it for three days. Twelve hours. The rest of the crew worked on it day and night. So I was pretty lazy. We have also filmed a video for ‘Twist In The Dark’. I think that’s the best one.”

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Bravo, December 1976: Anna opens her heart

She looks like anyone would imagine a Swedish girl would look like: blonde, blue-eyed, long-legged and sexy. Anna revealed to Bravo in an honest and intimate interview what she is really like...

Bravo: Anna, you are often called Agnetha as well. Which name is the correct one?
Anna: “According to my passport, my name is Anna, Agnetha Fältskog – therefore both names are right. When I started my career as a solo singer in Sweden eight years ago, I called myself Agnetha. With ABBA, I changed it into Anna, because it was the start of a completely new career for me. My husband Björn calls me Anna as well.”
Bravo: When did you get in touch with music for the first time?
Anna: “Since my father was the leader of a television ballet, we sang, danced and made a lot of music at home. When I was five years old, I got a children’s piano and I wrote my own songs about trolls, the goblins of the Nordic fairytales. When I was eight, I started a classic piano education, that I kept up for ten years. At the time, I played the church organ regularly. When I was eighteen, my father introduced me to people from the show business and not long after that I recorded my first single. It was called ‘Jag Var Så Kär’ which means something like ‘I Was So In Love’.”
Bravo: Were you successful right from the start?
Anna: “Strangely yes, although I actually didn’t want to become a singer. My wish was to become a psychologist or a veterinarian. But since my first single became a hit, even my parents advised me to try my luck as a singer. Altogether, I recorded five albums and fifteen singles, before I joined ABBA. There was even a German single: ‘Geh’ Mit Gott’ and ‘Tausend Wunder’ were the titles of these songs.”
Bravo: Is it true that you were engaged to a German guy?
Anna: “Yes, it was a guy from Berlin, that I met when I was recording a German single over there. It was really more like a fling. He was living in Berlin, I was living in Stockholm. It just couldn’t work out. Apart from that, Björn came between us...
Bravo: How did you meet?
Anna: “We met at a big midsummer night show, in which we both performed. At the time, Björn was playing with the Hootenannys, a well-known folk group. Not much happened at this first meeting. We only watched each other secretly in the dressing room, but we didn’t speak a word to each other. Two days later, a record by the Hootenannys was sent to me by mail, on which Björn had marked his head and written: ‘I’d like to see you again’...”
Bravo: Is Björn somewhat shy?
Anna: “And how! I even had to take the initiative. When we met each other again at a television show and sat together with some colleagues afterwards, I asked Björn if he’d like to take a walk. He wouldn’t have dared to ask. Then, when we were alone, sparks were flying immediately...”
Bravo: Are you in reality actually how you look like: a typical Swedish girl, a blonde poison?
Anna: “You should ask Björn about that, but I believe he’s not dissatisfied with me. In any case, I’m faithful one hundred percent. I object to partner swap and quick flirts.”
Bravo: Is it true that you are so attached to your little daughter Linda that you will take her along on the upcoming ABBA-tour?
Anna: “Then I would be a bad mother. After all, Linda is only three years old. But it’s true that I suffer from every separation from Linda. That’s why we arranged our European tour in such a way that we will have two to three days off every week. Björn and I will fly back to Stockholm to Linda every chance we get...”

Sunday 22 November 2009

Hitkrant, October 1980: The new clothes of Empress Frida

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant, featuring pictures of Frida that were published first in Swedish magazine Damernas in July 1980.
Anni-Frid from ABBA is very passionate about fashion; that’s the reason why she has a huge amount of influence on designing the clothes in which ABBA always performs. Therefore, she thought it was great fun to seek out her favourite clothes for a fashion spread and pose in them. Like a trained professional, she browsed through the clothes racks, and after that, she posed in front of the cameras in her favourite dresses.
For a garden party by moonlight, Anni-Frid chose a summery spotted dress in which she found herself up in the clouds. When you, like Frida, have to attend a party at a real palace every now and then, you can move around most quickly on roller-skates. When you, on top of that, dress up to the nines as well in a beautiful laced dress and you are being blindfolded, then you don’t know what’s coming over you!
Frida didn’t know what came over her at all when she was chatting away at the poolside. The photographer gave her a little push and there she went, with her trouser suite into the water! Luckily, she could have a good laugh about it. The trouser suite had such quality that she could still easily appear in it on a ‘royal’ party anytime.

Muziek Expres, 1984: Shine album review

A (very) short review of Frida’s second international album Shine from Dutch magazine Muziek Expres.
With a producer like Steve Lillywhite and musicians from young groups like, for instance, Big Country, it isn’t surprising that Frida’s album ‘Shine’ sounds extremely contemporary. Concerning content, it’s a mixture of solid rock songs and sensitive ballads.
The track ‘Slowly’ was written by Björn and Benny, but for the rest, the album doesn’t sound like ABBA in any way. Frida has chosen her own path and we can only compliment her with that.

Magazine unknown, 1976: ABBA

A short report about ABBA’s visit to Holland in November 1976, highlight of which was their performance on the television show Eén Van De Acht.
Finally, it was Friday, the day that ABBA would come to Holland. So we were off to the press conference, together with a photographer! It would start at five o’clock, but at half past five, the quartet still hadn’t arrived. The room had become pretty crowded by then. Finally, ABBA, the most popular group in the world since the Beatles, was standing on the stage. All four of them received a gold and a platinum record and a gold cassette, and after these official moments, the press was allowed to ask some questions.
Benny, the bearded guy, was willing to share some things about the group: “Actually, it all started with the Swedish group the Hep Stars, that I joined back in 1963. I started to write songs for them and after I had met Björn in 1966, we went on to write together. We wanted to continue on our own and started looking for two singers. Anni-Frid and Agnetha turned out to be those singers. We had a lot of fun together, not only on stage and while recording music, but in our spare time as well. Meanwhile, Björn and Agnetha got married (they got a daughter in 1974) and Anni-Frid and I have been living together for years. We don’t have any children together, but we both have two children from previous marriages and we took them along when we got together. We’ve never performed in Holland, we simply didn’t have the time. Most groups are on tour during the entire year. I don’t understand how they cope with that. We can’t live in hotels and write our songs in hotel rooms. The way that we approach things, suits us fine. We do whatever we like and every now and then we go on tour to show that we actually do exist for real! In February, we will come to Holland for a one-off concert in the Jaap Eden hall.”

Veronica, July 1975: ABBA, do you mean the pop group or the Swedish herring?

An article from Dutch Veronica magazine, July 12, 1975. At the time the SOS single was at number 3 and the ABBA album at number 4 in the Dutch charts. Another example of a journalist who didn’t do much research on his subject. According to this article, Benny was Stig’s son and Frida and Benny were already married. Allegedly, Benny said in this interview that they liked to dress Frida in stylish clothes and Agnetha in sexy clothes. Did the girls have any say in the matter?
ABBA has conquered the world. With ‘SOS’, they softened the ears of millions yet again. Not bad for a Swedish group. We decided to go and see how these two married couples are doing. They are getting richer and richer, but happier as well?

They are pure Swedish. ABBA is so Swedish that the younger generation over there thinks that a certain kind of herring is named after this super quartet. That’s not true, because as a kind of herring, ABBA has existed for years already. ABBA as a popular singing group dates back to 1972. Since the release of ‘Ring Ring’, they have acquired a spot at the absolute top in Scandinavia, but in the rest of Europe they are keeping their end up as well. From their album ‘Waterloo’ (named after the winning Eurovision song), more than 300.000 copies were sold. That speaks volumes.

Their new album was Album Of The Week, their top ten hit ‘SOS’ was the week’s Chartbuster and with this achievement they’ve made their permanent mark. For the time being, they won’t be present in Holland in the flesh. Recently, ABBA was here to film a television special for the NCRV. This show will be broadcast at the end of August. Four young people, who look great and make nice music. A treat for the eye and the ear. Good heavens, what else could you long for.
Benny: “We still want to achieve a definitive breakthrough in England and America. Then, we will have achieved everything that’s within our possibilities. Our records always made the American top 100, but we still haven’t been really accepted.”
Pianist and composer Benny Andersson is more or less the mastermind behind the group. He is the son of the famous and powerful Swedish music publisher Stig Andersson. He knows the music business like no other.

Benny: “I already started as a pop musician back in 1963. Simply in a band called the Hep Stars. But the Beatles paved the way for us. Within a matter of time we were the Swedish Beatles, the top group in Scandinavia. I met Björn during a tour in 1966. He played in the skiffle group the Hootenanny Singers. We talked a lot and it turned out that we had a lot of things in common. Every now and then, we worked together but it wasn’t until 1970 that we really set our minds to it. At the time, I had achieved eight gold records with the Hep Stars and that seemed enough for the time being.”
In the meantime, Benny got married to singer Anni-frid Lyngstad, who was very well-known in Sweden. Björn had tied the knot with a beautiful girl as well. That was the blonde and sexy Agnetha Fältskog, who had scored a couple of number one hits in Stockholm and its surroundings. The quartet was already very famous as individuals. Therefore, it was a sensation when both couples decided to join forces. Initially, they were launched as Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Frida. An unutterable name for foreigners, therefore it was changed into ABBA rapidly, after the Swedish herring. With ‘Ring Ring’, they got European recognition, but ‘Waterloo’ conquered the world.

Benny: “Since the Eurovision Song Contest last year, we’ve been travelling all over the world. Sometimes it got so crazy, that we asked in the television studios in which country we were. To prevent ourselves from going completely insane, we gave our manager a clear assignment. Every now and then, we’d like to be at home for a while. All four of us love sailing, but we prefer to do that separately. We live close to each other in a beautiful area just outside Stockholm, but consciously we don’t see too much of each other in our spare time.”
ABBA is paying a lot of attention to their outward appearance. They wear the most outrageous clothes. We already saw that at Eurovision, but in later television performances they kept surprising us with their tasteful clothes.
Benny: “That’s really our image. We don’t care much for all that glitter, but nice and extraordinary things are always appealing to the audience. My wife Frida is rather sophisticated, therefore she looks more stylish than Agnetha. She is very sexy, therefore we prefer to dress her in mini skirts and things like that.”
Does husband Björn think it’s okay that men are drooling over his wife?
Björn: “I really don’t care one tiny bit. They can do what they like. Agnetha is around me most of the time, so why should I worry.”
Last question before they get in front of one or the other camera for the umpteenth time. For two couples, it can sometimes be hard to bear to spend even two weeks together when they go on a holiday. Isn’t it an enormous task to last this long under these circumstances?
Benny: “Obviously, tensions occur sometimes. That’s only natural. But first and foremost, we are friends and only then we are colleagues. That’s a big difference. All four of us know that we mustn’t give each other a hard time, or annoy each other and then nothing earth-shattering will happen. And if one of us is down or too tired or disheartened, then there are always three others to give some shelter. We have developed a nice collaboration. We can be completely honest to each other and we talk about everything. So you don’t have to worry about that aspect.”

Saturday 21 November 2009

Weekend, April 1977: Why ABBA’s blonde beauty doesn’t have a private life anymore...

This was the moment of truth for the Swedish group ABBA, the first group that was able to conquer the world after the legendary Beatles. For the first time in their dazzling career, they performed live in front of a huge audience. Afterwards, the beautiful, blonde Anna Fältskog told Weekend why she thinks her private life is now over and done with forever...

Anna Fältskog (26), the most remarkable singer in the world, is sitting opposite her husband Björn (31), somewhat tense after her first live show. Just a moment ago, they have performed for the first time in front of a gigantic audience, together with their group ABBA. Previously, they only worked in the studio and made records. Now, they are going to perform on stage as well, especially now this evening has turned out that they are successful in a big concert hall as well. Because this wasn’t just a pop concert. This was really show business. During twenty-five minutes, they performed a musical-like show called ‘The Girl With The Golden Hair’.
Afterwards, there was a small party where Anna told us: “After what happened tonight, I think that we are no longer a recording act that only works in the studio. This was the first time that I was facing a big concert hall and I can tell you, it sent shivers down my spine...”

Björn, her husband: “Fifteen minutes before we were due on stage, we were so nervous that we didn’t speak a word to each other... I wanted to call the whole thing off at the last minute, but I didn’t know how exciting it was to appear in front of such a huge audience!”
Their work in the studio, that resulted in hit after hit up till now, was always a guarantee for a quiet private life. Björn and Anna have a three-year-old daughter together. Benny and Frida from ABBA have been living together for a considerable amount of time. Through their many television performances, they are the only group in the world that has been able to equal the Beatles. In a time span of only three years, they sold more than forty million records! But now they decided to stop working only in far-off studios. Now they want to be in the spotlights in front of a huge crowd. Anna: “Only our bank accounts showed us that we were successful. It has been a terribly exciting experience for me to stand in front of a big audience. Afterwards, the fans also presented me with a lot of flowers and other nice gifts. You don’t notice things like this if you only work in the studio...”
Anna continues: “The past few months we’ve been very busy with all those television performances. Now we will be busy twenty-four hours a day. But I think our fans have the right to see us in the flesh.”
Isn’t this devastating to your private life, is my question. Anna: “Of course... Björn and I see each other every day at work, but there isn’t much time left for a private life. Both of us realise that very well. But, well... we talked about it and know that ABBA is now on top all over the world. And if you want to stay there, this will always harm your private life... that’s the consequence if you want to remain popular in show business. And we accept that...”

Thursday 19 November 2009

Muziek Expres, 1981: The Visitors album review

Short review of ABBA’s The Visitors album from Dutch magazine Muziek Expres.
Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus needed a very long time to write the nine songs for the new ABBA-album. But ultimately, ‘The Visitors’ turned out to be yet another creative album on which ABBA is aiming at a slightly older audience more than ever.
The hit single ‘One Of Us’ is some kind of transition from young to old, but the smart thing is that this single is suitable for both groups. Except for the title track ‘The Visitors’ and ‘Head Over Heels’ (what a magnificent pop chorus!), the other songs have a somewhat quieter undertone and fall into the category of ‘after midnight’ music.

Hitkrant, 1982: That’s when Agnetha dumped Captain Sensible

Clearly, there were no limits to the imagination of some editors. In 1982, this highly unlikely story appeared in Dutch magazine Hitkrant, claiming that Agnetha had once been the girlfriend of Captain Sensible, a British singer who scored a minor hit in 1982 with Wot.
It seems an unlikely couple. But still, that crazy Captain Sensible once was the steady boyfriend of ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog for months. “Oh well, everybody has been in love once,” Ray Burns sighs, better known as the bass player of The Damned and as Captain Sensible.
“The romance between Agnetha and me dates back to fifteen years. That’s ancient history. I do think it’s a shame that things didn’t work out between us, because otherwise I would have lived together with a world-famous star now!”
And Ray has not forgotten his Agnetha yet. “Actually, I still have a little crush on her,” he confesses. “But don’t let her hear about that. She will strongly refuse to admit that we were a couple once. Still, that’s the way it is. Did you know we even had plans to form a duo together? But then, Björn came into her life… and all of a sudden she dumped me. Who knows, when I become famous in Sweden as Captain Sensible, she might think: ‘Hey, I know that crazy guy!’ Maybe we could go for a night on the town again, just like in the good old days.”

Sunday 15 November 2009

Joepie, 1979: Final ABBA-concert under the spell of the mafia – Dublin made for a wonderful finale

A report from Belgian magazine Joepie about ABBA’s final concert on their 1979 tour, taking place exactly thirty years ago today in Dublin, Ireland.
The Irish city Dublin was turned upside down on November 15. ABBA performed their final concert of a world tour that gave the group the greatest triumphs in North America and Europe during two months. Obviously, Joepie was present to wish ABBA a well-deserved hibernation.

Two days before that, ABBA performed in the Scottish city Glasgow. Lonely Agnetha arrived in Dublin one day earlier than the others. On the day of the concert, Frida, Björn and Benny arrived in a helicopter. One could feel the tension and the rising fever in the city.
A taxi driver told us that the city – he called Dublin a ‘jungle’ – was breathing the same atmosphere as at the arrival of... the Pope! The Irish radio stations played one ABBA-hit after the other and shouting groups of youngsters were walking the streets, dressed in ABBA-shirts and shawls. In the afternoon, several thousands of fans assembled in the busy O’Connell Street. In front of the hotel where ABBA had taken residence. The busy city traffic came to a standstill immediately. Through radio announcements, car drivers were given the advice to avoid the area of the O’Connell Street as much as possible. The thousands of fans just wanted to catch a glimpse of their idols, because only 4000 Irishmen had been able to get an entrance ticket for the concert. When the tickets went on sale three months ago, they were sold within two hours. One could still get entrance tickets on the street which were sold by the mafia on the black market at prices up to 80 pounds (320 Dutch guilders). At the time, the mafia had been able to get their hands on 700 entrance tickets.
The Irish children’s choir that was allowed to sing ‘I Have A Dream’ on stage with ABBA, was the acclaimed Rising Stars Choir. A few weeks earlier, they had been invited to sing for the Pope on his high profile visit to Ireland. But the girls and boys honestly admitted that they had more fun singing for ABBA.

However, the night belonged to Frida. She celebrated her birthday on November 15 and turned 34 during the final concert. The children’s choir presented her with a birthday cake and the members of the band surprised her with flowers and kisses. Agnetha, who would later perform a snappy ‘Gimme, Gimme’, had a few compliments for Frida as well.

The concert was also attended by a lot of foreign journalists. Some of them hoped to get a sensational scoop about ABBA’s future. The rumour that this might well have been the very last concert of the group was obviously an immediate cause. In the ecstatic, enthusiastic hall, everyone turned quiet as a mouse when Benny acted as a spokesman through the microphone and said, clearly moved: “This is our last... (long pause)... performance... of this tour...”
On the other hand, it turned out that Björn had remembered the remark of our chief editor Guido van Liefferinge about the introduction of his ex-wife Agnetha to the audience. Björn now introduced Agnetha as ‘a good friend of mine’.
In the good, overseas tradition, the barriers in front of the stage were trampled by the ecstatic teenagers at the end of the concert.
Thank You For The Music, ABBA, and see you in March for the scheduled tour of Japan.

Story, May 1977: Plane crashes are spoiling the happiness of ABBA’s Anna

Terrifying images of crashing airplanes are going through the mind of ABBA’s blonde singer Anna. That’s why the group has decided to travel separately as much as possible.

“Sometimes I wake up screaming in the middle of the night. Then I’ve had yet another dream about a crashing airplane. I watch it go up in flames and in those flames I see the face of my little daughter Linda. It’s horrendous! I’ve talked about it to a doctor once, but it seems that it can’t be cured. Subconsciously, I think far too much about all the things that can go wrong in an airplane and that’s why I dream about it so often at night. I’m having nightmares.”
The always radiant face of the blonde ABBA-singer Agnetha, in everyday life simply named Anna, now looks serious. Of course, she enjoys being celebrated all over the world, but success can have its disadvantages as well! Anna talks very openly about these disadvantages, as if it’s a warning to all of those young people who are trying to find a future in show business. Anna is afraid! Afraid that she doesn’t pay enough attention to her five-year-old daughter Linda, afraid that the success might be all over at some point in the future, but especially afraid of flying.
She says: “We’ve decided to spend half of each month at home. If it was up to our manager, our record company and our fans, we would never see our house again. But now we are travelling ‘only’ fifteen days each month. Especially for television recordings in several countries. Although I would prefer it, it’s obviously impossible to do all of this by car and boat. Therefore, we just have to travel by plane all the time. I know that less plane crashes occur than car accidents, but still I’m afraid. I always think: you might be in that wrong plane...”

“That’s why Björn and I decided to fly separately as much as possible. Björn usually catches an earlier flight and waits for me at the airport. He is happy to do this for me because he knows that’s it’s a comfort for me. I don’t even dare to think about the both of us dying in a plane crash. Then our daughter would suddenly become an orphan. I once read somewhere that people from the royal family are travelling this way and then I said to Björn: ‘that’s exactly what we should do as well’.”
For the dark-haired singer Frida this isn’t really a problem. She always travels along with Agnetha just for fun, while her ‘eternal’ fiancée Benny (with beard) likes to keep Björn company. Frida has children as well, two with her first husband and two with Benny, but she’s more down to earth.
“Oh well, I think exactly the opposite. Like: why would I be on that particular airplane that has engine trouble? So many airplanes go up in the air every day, so that would really be a coincidence. When your time has come, then so be it, is what I always say. Still, I will never laugh at Anna because of this. I have other problems.”
For Frida, the biggest downside of the immense success is always having to look spick and span. “We always have to look our very best. I get so tired of that. Every day we have to wash our hair, put in hair curlers, wear beautiful dresses and there we go again... We are not a pop group, but a group that appeals to people from 2 to 80 years old, therefore we have to behave like that. But every now and then I get fed up with spending hours in front of the mirror every day. Therefore, I’m often not much to look at on the days that we spend at home.”
Anna and Björn and Frida and Benny and their children live very close to each other, in a suburb of Stockholm. Frida’s children from her failed marriage – she got married when she was still a teenager – live with their father and only spend the weekends with Frida, when their mother is at home, that is. The four ABBA-members spend their holidays in their beautiful country house at the Swedish coast. To the two ladies’ dissatisfaction, there isn’t much time to really enjoy their holidays, because Björn and Benny are simply hooked on their music and spend every free minute to come up with new songs together. Even on the days that they are at home and don’t have to travel, they can be found in their office in Stockholm at nine o’clock sharp.
Benny explains: “We write the songs together with our manager Stig Anderson. Sometimes we write ten songs in one day, and often all of them end up in the waste-paper basket. All three of us consider what we will and what we won’t use. Especially Stig has a good ear for what’s going to be a hit and what isn’t. Only when these choices have been made, Frida and Anna come into the picture. With their dance instructor, they rehearse the performance and with us, the music. We often have great fun.”

Up till now, more than thirty million ABBA-records have crossed shop counters, and that number is considerably higher than the Beatles’. Of course, we don’t have to tell you that this obviously brings in a lot of money.
Björn: “Of course we are millionaires. We get a steady salary, which is 150.000 per year for each of us. The rest is invested in the company that we have founded. With that money, projects like supermarkets and houses are being financed. So we don’t get our hands on that money. We didn’t want that either because we don’t have the time to spend it all and this way we are making good use of it. Apart from that, money isn’t the most important thing for us. Otherwise we would have left Sweden a long time ago, because we have to pay piles of money to taxes.”
Anna smiles tenderly for a while on hearing these words and says: “The success is the most important thing for Björn and Benny. They don’t have much interest in the money. I wouldn’t know what to do when everything would be all over, because it would be devastating to Björn. That’s why I will keep on going for the time being!”

Veronica, June 1981: ABBA is sponsoring Jan Lammers

The successful Swedish family company ABBA has been through turbulent times. Their lives and the lives of their children were threatened. All of them are now under strict protection around the clock. And Anni-Frid and Benny have separated, totally unexpected. Only the business interests seem to keep the four grown apart ABBA-members together.

The news about ABBA’s life that reaches the media is most probably only a tip of the iceberg. The fact that the whole thing hasn’t gone to pieces already, is largely thanks to Stig Anderson, the group’s manager. Now that the women, Agnetha and Anni-Frid, are not able to fall back on their male partners any longer, they find comfort with him.

At the time, Stig saw to it that the controversial divorce between Agnetha and Björn was announced at the right time. And that it didn’t lead to the break up of the group. After a lot of talking, the ex-partners were even able to complete a world tour successfully. An incredible achievement, considering the tensions. Björn has a new wife, Lena. Agnetha will continue on her own and has stated: “There’s no such thing as a happy divorce.” ‘The Winner Takes It All’ was a heartbreaking testimony of that.

Six months ago, ABBA’s mental resilience was once again tested to its limits. While filming a television show in Munich, they received the (umpteenth?) phone call that their children were going to be kidnapped. The quartet flew back to Stockholm head over heels and lived in fear for a considerable amount of time. The assassination of their colleague John Lennon underlined how real the danger is.

To let their nerves calm down a bit, manager Anderson decided not to plan any new activities for the group. Björn and Benny worked on a new album, Anni-Frid took some classes in French language and Agnetha devoted her time to a non-smoking campaign. But like a thunderstruck in a clear sky, Anni-Frid and Benny recently announced that they were putting an end to their marriage as well. Shortly after that, Benny introduced his new, ten years younger girlfriend. And Stig was back to his headaches. The question is whether ABBA still exists. The members only see each other in the studio during recording sessions. They are only linked to each other on a business level. On the other hand, the four of them might be able to distance themselves from the emotional side and continue working as musicians. We hope so, for the fans. And for racing driver Jan Lammers as well, because since recently, ABBA is his sponsor. More about that soon in our pop journal.

Monday 9 November 2009

Pop Foto, November 1978: ABBA doesn’t want any scandals

ABBA’s latest 1978 summer pictures inspired Dutch magazine Pop Foto to write a story about ABBA’s difficulties to achieve a breakthrough in the US. According to this article, the reason was the lack of scandals...
Despite the enthusiastic response to ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Take A Chance On Me’ in the authoritative American charts, the Americans don’t trust ABBA one tiny bit! They think it’s ridiculous that ABBA still hasn’t caused any scandal yet!

It happens to be a fact that people are raised with scandals on the other side of the ocean, it’s just a part of American show business, and that’s exactly why the two, almost perfect ABBA-couples are observed with suspicion in the USA. In Australia, it was exactly that lack of gossip and scandals that made sure that one in every four Australian households had an ABBA-album in their record collection, and made them incredibly popular down under. The Germans clasped ABBA, and especially the lively Anni-Frid, to their hearts for eternity when it became known that Frida’s father was none other than the German Alfred Haase!
And here in our own little country, we were already won over by ‘Waterloo’. “We discovered all these kinds of things when we started paying attention to them!” is what the ABBAs themselves are stating. “We were wondering why ABBA was received with so many mixed feelings in America, and this is actually the most logical explanation. Imagine, when Agnetha threw a herring at Björn’s head in a hot tempered mood, it made huge headlines, the Americans couldn’t stop talking about that. But in the States they hardly paid any attention to the birth of Christian, the youngest ABBA offspring, while European journalists tripped over each other to obtain those first pictures of Christian. Isn’t it strange, how different the reactions of people can be,” ABBA-mastermind Stig Anderson clarifies. “But that definitely doesn’t mean that we will start creating artificial scandals!” Benny rapidly explains. “We are mature people, we refuse to behave differently to how we really are! Getting drunk at press conferences, we leave that to the young punks. And if that’s not enough for the Americans, well, then so be it!”
Luckily, there are plenty of other things that the American record buyers know how to appreciate. Like the impressive business empire that Benny, Björn and Stig have built with their ABBA-earnings. And the marvellous success of ‘Money, Money’ in the top ten of the Soviet Union!
“Just wait until our new album is released at the end of this year,” Anni-Frid grins. “Then they will change their tune in America!” And while the latest ABBA-blockbuster ‘Summer Night City’ is making its unrelenting way up the charts over here, one significant question remains unanswered: Will they, or will they not go... to America?

Saturday 7 November 2009

Hitkrant, August 1977: ABBA’s island - Agnetha and Björn want peace and quiet

In the blue water of the sea at the Stockholm coast, there are hundreds of islands, varying in size from tiny to middle-sized. One of them has been bought by ABBA and except for being a splendid and rough piece of land, there are a small recording studio and three houses as well. It’s there where you’ll be able to find Agnetha around this time of the year, who will be soaking up the sun together with Björn and Linda.

It’s going to be a very special holiday, this time. Not only because, for the first time in years, the ABBA-members have the opportunity to catch their breath for a while, but also because Agnetha and Björn will be able to prepare themselves in all peace and quiet for the arrival of their second child, in November.

Frida and Benny will probably not join them: they love to spend their holidays at far-of, exotic beaches. But Agnetha and Björn prefer to stay close to home.

There isn’t much comfort on the ABBA-island, but Agnetha and Björn don’t think it’s that important.
“The most important thing is that we’re not bothered by anyone,” Agnetha says and Björn adds: “There is no telephone and although that’s less convenient for Agnetha...” A thump from his blonde wife prevents him from finishing his sentence, but then Agnetha herself admits: “Yes, I have a habit of hanging on the telephone for hours, especially with my mother who always wants to know exactly how Linda is doing.” “The highest phone bill in Scandinavia,” Björn says, who has to hide away rapidly to avoid another thump.

The only thing that the Ulvaeus family is concerned about on their island is peace and quiet. And that’s just what they’ll get in abundance; lounging around, soaking up the sun, taking a ride with the boat and most of all, playing with Linda. Because Agnetha and Björn don’t see very much of their daughter and that’s why they grab every opportunity they can to spend time with her.
They will need their holiday, because after that there’s another busy time ahead of them. That’s why we grant Agnetha, Björn and little Linda their little time off wholeheartedly.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Muziek Parade, June 1977: The ABBA Story, part 2

Part two of the ABBA-story, as published in Dutch magazine Muziek Parade in 1977.
In part one of this exclusive ABBA-story, you’ve been able to read how the quartet grew up and when and where they’ve had to deal with which problems in their short life. But a well-known musicologist once said: “Not everything is coming up roses on the way to the top. You must have experienced the pricking of the thorns as well.” Well, Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn and Agnetha surely did. All four of them have experienced their own worries and through these experiences they’ve become richer and stronger. Especially richer in the sense of ‘character’. Or you might say ‘hardened’, because only the strongest are able to pursue the road through the jungle to the top. But, the foursome had not reached that top yet.

There were four young people, with their special qualities and talents. How did those four get together and who lit the fire to success? Because that was actually the situation that the four of them were in. The same situation in which the Beatles once found themselves. Four talented people had to meet someone like Brian Epstein to make them immortal.
For ABBA, that person was Stikkan Andersson. He was called Mr. Show Business in Sweden. A relentless worker, who managed to pave his way to the top with his brains. Stikkan, a former school teacher, grew up without a father. His mother wasn’t married. Nowadays, people in Sweden shrug their shoulders about a situation like that, but at the time in the town of Hova, near Gothenborg, people thought otherwise. Especially in 1931. Stikkan felt like some kind of underdog, a misfit and to stand out, he decided to study and work very hard. He took all kinds of jobs after school-hours to get the money for a real guitar. When he barely had one, he started playing in local bands to make even more money... to be independent. He was fifteen years old when he left school and he started writing songs right away. He wanted to make money to finance his studies. His aim: becoming a teacher. He was eighteen years old when his first song was published. Stikkan’s biggest problem was that he couldn’t write music. He played like a devil and he had the best ears, but he couldn’t write. He made up all kinds of songs: folk songs, revue pieces. He sang and played them in the parks near Gothenborg. Alone, but together with a friend as well. In between all these activities, he succeeded in becoming a teacher and he started to teach chemistry and maths in Stockholm.
Even then, he found the time to perform in the evenings and write songs. In 1960, his job as a teacher came to an end. He wrote a song for the well-known Lil-Babs: ‘Are You Still In Love With Me, Klas-Goran’. It became a big hit. Then, Stikkan actually realised that show business was his future. Now, Stikkan tells MP: “It had taken me a whole lot of effort to achieve what I wanted: becoming a teacher. But show business got hold of me. If I had remained a small force in that merry-go-round, I would have returned to my old job, but everything pointed to the fact that I could reach the top.” It just goes to show, that you can’t plan everything in your life. After his song for Lil-Babs, there was a huge demand for songs by Stikkan. Everyone wanted to record something that he had written. That’s why he rented a place, put a desk in it with a ragged typewriter on it and he started his own publishing company. It seemed as if a breath of fresh air was going through the music business in Sweden. An exporter had been added, because the first thing that Stikkan did was write letters and send them out all over the world. In every letter he asked: do you want to translate my songs and have them recorded? He also asked these foreign publishing companies to give him songs that he could translate into Swedish. Alas, Stikkan worked like a slave. In Sweden, people said: “He is a living dynamo.” And that’s true. Even now. “You can only achieve something by working very hard,” Stikkan says now, “I work eighteen hours a day and I still don’t have enough time.” Stikkan rapidly changed his name into the simpler Stig. His hard work and understanding of the business once took six of Stig’s songs into the top ten, an absolute record in Sweden. After having worked five years as an independent, he counted the number of songs that he had written: 3.000... Like we said, Stig brought new life into show business. Up till then, it had been an drowsy bunch. He whipped it into shape and everyone saw that it was good. Does he have bad qualities as well? “Yes,” he says, “I’m very selfish and I have the nerve to admit that I work hard and have talent. My biggest mistake: I can’t relax.”
An honest guy as well, that Stig. Due to his approach, that was completely his own, his hard work and his know-how, Stikkan became Sweden’s biggest music publisher. He dominated the charts. He was the man who could spot a talent at a mile’s distance. It was that Stig, who acquired the nickname Mr. Show Business. It was that Stig, who caught Björn in his nets. Stig says about Björn: “I saw his talent right away. Björn is musical, he is intelligent, he’s also a good leader. And you mustn’t underestimate that last aspect. Show business is a very hard profession. There’s a huge amount of gossip. It demands a lot from a person. Björn has the trait of being a match for these tensions, that are inherent to this crazy world of being an artist.”
Meanwhile, Stig had founded his own record company (Polar Music) and presented his plans to Björn. “I knew Björn pretty well, but when I told him about my plans, it was as if I was talking to my reflection in the mirror. Björn was bursting with ideas and he offered suggestions that I hadn’t even thought about myself.”

The Swedish pop scene of the sixties was dominated by a small group that hardly knew or saw each other, because they were constantly touring all over the country. It was only by coincidence that they met each other. Benny and Björn met each other at one evening in a motel, just outside Västervik, Björn’s place of birth. The Hep Stars were there and the Hootenanny Singers as well. In the bar, they were chatting and gossiping along. But Benny and Björn engaged themselves in a conversation about music. How it should be played, what should be played and Björn now remembers: “It was like I was talking to myself. I was amazed by the fact that Benny thought the same way about the music business as I did.”
Björn and Benny agreed about one thing right away: the Hep Stars and the Hootenanny Singers should only sing their own compositions, instead of putting covers on their repertoire. It was that same evening – or rather night – that Björn called his father and asked where he could rehearse together with Benny. Believe it or not, but a place was found with a piano in it. All other amplifiers and so on were carried to that place and Björn and Benny played till the break of dawn as if their lives depended on it. Björn had worked with other people and Benny had written songs with friends as well, but never before had there been such an understanding from the word go as there was now. Early in the morning, Björn and Benny had to leave the rehearsal room because the local farmers had to work there. But one thing was certain: a new twosome had found each other. A lot of sessions would follow in Stockholm and some time later, the first joint song saw the light of day: ‘Isn’t It Easy To Say’. It was recorded by the Hep Stars. The second song: ‘Flower In My Garden’, once again for the Hep Stars. “We couldn’t write a single note,” Benny tells MP, “and we had our own way of working. We just played along and as soon as we had found a hook that we liked, we elaborated on that. Writing lyrics wasn’t an easy task for us either, so we saved that for last. We started with some ‘lalalala’ and then we moved on to words that suited the notes. It’s just as well that no one has seen us on the job,” he remembers while roaring with laughter, “otherwise they might have put us away in a mental institution.” Still, it took a few more years for Benny to leave the Hep Stars. To MP: “It’s not easy leaving your friends.” But still, he chose to go his own way and he suggested to Björn to continue writing songs together. Björn introduced Benny to Stig Anderson who remembers now: “I was rather surprised that Björn introduced Benny to me. Two completely different personalities who wanted to start something together. Obviously, I support every initiative and later on, I understood why those two complemented each other so well. Because of the music.”

The commercial Björn founded his own company together with Benny, Union Songs, and put it in Stig’s stable. It was the intention that Björn and Benny would compose the songs and that Stig would supply the lyrics. In show business, nothing is more difficult than the kind of collaboration that Björn, Benny and Stig had. But the threesome got along splendidly.
Björn tells MP: “The collaboration was running smoothly. Benny and I worked out our ideas and put them on tape. Only then, Stig was involved. And he always had something good to add. The good thing is that we actually never had any arguments among the three of us. Of course we’ve had some disagreements about compositions, but arguments, no, never.” And Björn adds: “In our profession, you can’t have any arguments, it’s disturbing and paralysing. You can’t create something good with someone that you don’t get along with.” And the threesome was a success because of the amicable bond between them. That foundation turned this threesome into probably the best team in the history of music.
Stig, with his commercial insight, suggested to provide all the songs with English lyrics from now on. Stig: “When you write in Swedish, you only sell records in Sweden. But show business is an international business and English is pop music’s language.”
A candid Björn: “I feel most comfortable when I have to prepare a recording session.” He likes to take care of everything. “I feel at home in the studio. There’s always a wonderful atmosphere. An exciting atmosphere as well. I like that. On stage, I’m rather shy and withdrawn. If I had to choose between performing on stage and working in the studio, my choice would be the studio. In the long run, I want to end up in the studio anyway. I can’t go on traveling forever.”
What very few fans know is that Björn travelled along with the Hep Stars for a while... and together with Benny, he recorded an album, titled ‘Happiness’... which was an enormous flop. They recorded a single together (‘My Kind Of Girl’) which became a hit in Japan, but not anywhere else. The Hep Stars and the Hootenanny Singers both fell apart. The four remaining Hep Stars formed another group under the name The Rubber, but eventually had to give up.

Björn - Agnetha
A romantic bird would probably be inspired by the following lines: It was on a Sunday... just out of a sad love song... sad and slowly the rain was falling down... a gloomy day. But Björn thought otherwise. He bounced out of his bed because Sunday is his day. To get out and get some fresh air. He turned on his radio and... all of his intentions vanished into thin air: he heard a crystal-clear voice, sentimental, sweet, engaging. He listened to the entire song. The dry announcer said: ‘I Was So In Love’, sung by Agnetha Fältskog. Björn fell in love instantly... with the voice. Still, it would take a few more months before he would meet this girl. He bought the record and listened to it a thousand times. “I was fascinated. I hadn’t heard such a sweet voice before. I even took the record along while travelling and played it when I was alone in my room. That girl just had to be sweet, soft and nice.” This is what Björn says now. A couple of months later, it happened in Gothenborg. The Hootenanny Singers and Agnetha would perform there. “A dream of a girl walked up to me,” Björn says, “and she said: ‘Hello, I’m Agnetha, I’ve always wanted to meet you’.” And it turned out that Agnetha loved Björn’s music. Björn and Agnetha gazed in each other’s eyes... love at first sight. Björn: “She was exactly like I had imagined she would be.” Agnetha: “In reality, Björn looked far more handsome than on the record sleeves.” Only three months later, they got engaged and decided to live together in the Kungsholm area in Stockholm.

“I had to get used to this delicate doll,” Björn explains, “because in reality, she’s a temperamental girl. Whenever we have an argument, she throws all kinds of things at me, but then she’s over it. Agnetha needs all that tossing and throwing.” They didn’t stay together very long, because Björn had to go on tour through the country with his Singers and Agnetha had to perform at several venues as well.
The blonde beauty: “I thought it was awful to be alone again. Okay, he called me constantly, but that’s not the same as being together. I missed Björn terribly, to the extent that I didn’t want to perform any longer. Not because of the travelling, but because I could hardly see Björn, if at all.”
Still, Agnetha and Björn found the time to go on a holiday to Cyprus and this laid the foundation for a tighter collaboration. Back in Sweden, the couple recorded their first album together. In October 1969, they got engaged officially. The papers wrote: ‘The pop romance of the year’.
Agnetha and Björn got settled in a three-room apartment in the expensive Lilla Essenger district in Stockholm. Thinker Björn had decided something else: “Agnetha, I believe it would be better if we don’t perform together too much. If we see each other day and night, our relationship might come to an end rapidly, statistics are proof of that.” Although Agnetha thought otherwise, she agreed. Agnetha and Björn got married on July 6, 1971. In Sweden, it’s any girl’s dream wish to get married in the summer. That’s the time of liberation. The snow has melted... the country is being kissed by the warm sun and... caressed by the crystal-clear sky. That’s what the poet says. Agnetha became the most beautiful bride that Sweden had ever seen. Björn had found an old Gothic church. As white as a sheet. In the idyllic town of Verum in the county of Skane, in the south of Sweden. This marital year also turned out to be the year that Agnetha, Björn and Benny went on a joint tour. “Our threesome received a very good response,” Björn tells MP, “but still something was missing. We weren’t complete.” Their lives became even more incomplete when Björn got the news from Stockholm that his mentor Bengt Bernhag had committed suicide. Bengt had had surgery and he would remain an invalid. He couldn’t bear this thought and ended his life.
Bengt had been working closely with the boys for years and was Stig’s partner as well. Björn and Benny got in a boat and steered it to the middle of a nearby lake and talked about the situation. Björn and Benny still do this today whenever they have to make difficult decisions. On that lake, they decided to take Bengt’s place, beside Stig. At the same moment that Bengt passed away, a record produced by him was in the top ten, titled ‘Never More’... The artists: Hootenanny Singers.

Motels are strange places. Lonely places. But also places where contacts are being made easily. We’ve seen this with Björn and Benny’s first meeting. It was this night ‘on the road’. After a performance, Benny went into the bar to get a nightcap, he felt tired and hung over. A beautiful, elegant girl was sitting at the window. With beautiful hair. Benny recognised her but he couldn’t place her. He asked the bartender who she was. “Her name is Anni-Frid Lyngstad. She’s a good singer,” was his answer. A while later, Benny sat down at her table, after having introduced himself. Obviously she knew Benny from the Hep Stars. Anni-Frid remembers: “Actually, nothing special happened. There was no sparks flying, or anything. We drank something together, chatted with each other and said goodbye.”
And Benny: “I didn’t expect that we’d meet again.” But then they run into each other again in a radio studio. They are guests on a game show. After the recording of the show, Benny asks Anni-Frid to go and have some dinner. She accepts his invitation and that evening, they talk more than they eat. They talk to each other for hours on end and all of a sudden: they have a connection...
Up till then, Anni-Frid had been living a lonely life. She had divorced from Ragnar Fredriksson in a pleasant way and now lived in Stockholm. “I met Benny at the right time,” she says now, “I was very lonely, spent most of my time alone in my apartment and thought about the children constantly. I was withering away. I missed the solid base of a marriage. I need something to hold on to.” And her career wasn’t running very smoothly either. She had released nine singles in the past three years and two of them made the charts. She did some irregular TV-performances. Actually, Anni-Frid was looking for the right material to record. Time and time again, she had declined all the pop material that she had been offered.

Anni-Frid and Benny started to live together on April 1, 1970 in the Vasastan district in Stockholm. It was a small apartment on the first floor near a busy street, that they turned into a love nest. But it was too small, because there was no room for Benny’s piano. The double bed took up a lot of space and there was hardly any space for a chair due to the piles of records. Benny to MP: “Although it was small, it was wonderful being with Anni-Frid. It’s just that we went out a lot, especially to people who had a piano. Or I would go to the church to play the organ.” Benny and Anni-Frid are still not married, but every year they have a celebration on April 1. And that’s no joke. Benny and Anni-Frid don’t really believe in a marriage certificate. “We got engaged in August 1969, that was an important decision for us.” They got engaged at a well-known restaurant called Hamburger Bors, where Anni-Frid was performing at the time, together with pianist Charlie Norman.
Anni-Frid experienced a severe backlash from the press when she got engaged to Benny. Headlines like ‘singer leaves her family to play with the big boys’ were the order of the day. The media weren’t easy on her, but she fought her way back, together with Benny. “You can’t fight the gossip that appears in the papers,” Anni-Frid says, “that’s why it’s so important to have a strong person beside you, who helps you through a backlash like that and Benny was there for me. I’m eternally grateful for that.”
For a while, Anni-Frid even considered bringing her children into the apartment, but there wasn’t even room for a piano, let alone for two children. “Then I made the decision to leave them with their father permanently.” A while later, the couple moved to a romantic, eighteenth century house in Stockholm. Why? “Now we get much more space. I can have my children to come over for visits here,” Anni-Frid says.
Life goes on, Benny keeps on touring and Anni-Frid has some travelling to do as well. And the thing that happened to Björn and Agnetha, now repeats itself: Anni-Frid and Benny can’t live without each other. They think it’s awful having to work separately. Even to the extent that she would rather not fulfil several engagements with Charlie Norman to be able to be with Benny in Stockholm, at least for a few days. That decision led to the discontinuance of the contract with Charlie.
Anni-Frid is fully welcomed in the group that Stig Anderson has assembled around him. She’s a complete part of the package, although a musical collaboration is not in the cards, not yet. Björn and Agnetha and Anni-Frid and Benny get along great, visit each other’s homes, go to the opera together, attend ballet performances and even initiate classical-themed record evenings for friends and acquaintances.