Thursday 31 December 2009

Hitkrant, December 1977: Hooray, it’s a boy! - ‘ABBA The Album’ is on its way

Announcement of the birth of Björn and Agnetha’s son from Dutch magazine Hitkrant.
There was quite a consternation when we suddenly heard that Agnetha and Björn Ulvaeus were enchanted with the birth of a healthy son! Phone calls and telex messages were going back and forth between Stockholm and Amsterdam and we have taken the liberty of congratulating both ABBA-members (and Anni-Frid and Benny too, of course!) on behalf of all of you.

As you can read in the accompanying printed telex message, the name of Agnetha and Björn’s son is still unknown. At the time of writing (Monday morning) we still don’t know.
But what we do know is that the proud parents couldn’t be happier with their new son. Now Linda has a little brother and everyone in the Ulvaeus household had been hoping for that.

You can also see that the birth weight of the young Ulvaeus is known: not 3780 gram, like it had been reported earlier, but 3750 gram. Out of the contestants that took part in the Hitkrant ABBA competition, we have already found someone who guessed the right birth weight and he will get an amazing prize during the Hitkrant world premiere of the ABBA-movie.

Even more good news: the new ABBA-album is on its way! It will be available in the shops in the beginning of January. Its title will be ‘ABBA The Album’.
On the A-side of the album are the songs ‘Eagle’, ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘One Man, One Woman’ and ‘The Name Of The Game’. The B-side contains ‘Move On’, ‘Hole In Your Soul’ and three scenes from the mini-musical ‘The Girl With The Golden Hair’: ‘Thank You For The Music’, ‘I Wonder’ and ‘I’m A Marionette’.
All tracks have been written by Benny and Björn themselves and the album sleeve looks terrific (the photograph included in this article is from the inner sleeve).
So there’s reason enough to be happy. Because a new member has been added to the ABBA-family and because it won’t be long before we can enjoy the new album of a group that may well be the most popular pop group in the world at the moment!

Joepie, December 1977: Barely two weeks after the birth of Anna’s baby... ABBA back on the job!

The life of a pop star has its advantages. Fame, popularity, money, how many young people aren’t dreaming about that? How many artists wouldn’t sell their souls for that? But still there are a couple of less attractive aspects of show business. ABBA’s blonde Anna has experienced this only recently. Barely two weeks after the birth of her son she had to get back to her job. There was no such thing as maternity leave.
“Yes, two weeks before the baby was born, I wasn’t allowed to do anything on doctor’s orders,” blonde Anna explains in between two recording sessions. “However, the problem was that I still had to do a couple of things for the new album, and I wasn’t even allowed to do that. That’s actually the reason why the album wasn’t available in the shops before the holidays. We were forced to postpone the release of the album...”
Our photographer returned with the accompanying pictures from Sweden, where he witnessed a couple of hours of recording sessions. Brand-new mama Anna looked radiant.
“I only have to get rid of that belly,” she said. “I’m doing special turn exercises for that. I can’t afford to have a belly. How the baby is doing? Excellent! It’s a very well-behaved child: sleeping, eating and sleeping again. Obviously, Linda is up in the clouds as well. Very often, she takes a chair and sits next to the cradle. For hours, she just sits there and stares at her little brother...”
Anna was always very attached to her little daughter and thought it was awful that she had to leave home so often. How will this work out with two kids, we asked her.
“I do not want to go through the hectic period that we’ve been experiencing the past two years again,” she says resolutely. “But leaving ABBA is out of the question! Because I realise that this would mean the end of the group immediately. Not that I think that highly of myself, but if I would quit, then Björn would leave the group as well. Probably, Benny and Frida wouldn’t be as successful as a duo. Neither would Björn and I, if we would continue as a duo. ABBA has very much the image of two couples. Replacing someone – like this happens with other groups regularly – is out of the question with us...”

Sunday 27 December 2009

Popshop, 1977: ABBA-scandal on its way?

In ABBA’s heyday, some editors were clearly desperate to have any article about ABBA in their magazine. In 1977, Belgian magazine Joepie suggested that ‘Dancing Queen’ was plagiarism.
ABBA remains the centre of attention. Especially their private life is the subject of daily conversation; and of the written word. Except for the quarrels among the four of them, there’s very little startling news to report. But the rumour that’s been circulating since recently is exceptionally shocking. If it’s true, of course, because up till now it’s just been a rumour. ‘Dancing Queen’, ABBA’s biggest hit up till now was allegedly not written by Björn and Benny...

Most of the time, it’s difficult to verify where a rumour – sometimes the beginning of a scandal – has started circulating. Mostly in pubs or venues where people from the pop world can be found. Sometimes, someone lets something slip out, albeit while enjoying a good glass of beer. Many rumours don’t live very long, due to a lack of interest.
But when a group like ABBA is concerned, everyone pricks up their ears. Because ABBA is always news. These days, no one bats an eye anymore when it becomes known that there have been spats again among the members. Even when Anni-Frid pours out a glass of Campari over Benny’s successful head in public, photographers aren’t grasping for their cameras anymore. The ‘free marriage’ of the couple has been long accepted as well.

But from Germany, through different channels, a rumour started to seep through, that we wanted to know more about. Allegedly, ‘Dancing Queen’ hasn’t been written at all by the famous composing duo Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, but by Drafi Deutscher, a former idol in Germany.
Drafi Deutscher is not completely unknown in our own country either. His ‘Marmer, Stein Und Eisen’ was a top ten hit over here several years ago. In Germany, it is said that it’s not completely out of the question that Drafi – when his career started to go downhill – started to peddle with his own compositions and found a response at the ABBA-concern.
But once again, this is just a rumour that our editorial staff intercepted. We haven’t been able yet to check whether this rumour can be proven. But you know what they are saying: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And this isn’t a new phenomenon either. It has happened before that a composer sold his work and agreed that his name would not be mentioned.

Pop Foto, November 1979: ABBA is tired of all the gossip!

ABBA’s ambitious world tour has just kicked off with a dazzling concert in Vancouver, Canada. However, before the group packed their suitcases, Pop Foto paid a quick visit to the extensive rehearsals that preceded the trip. Enticed by ominous rumours...

Still, there are these vicious rumours about the impending end of ABBA. Despite strong denials by ABBA’s manager Stig Anderson, the rumours are still going round that this tour will be the last one and that the quartet will go their separate ways after that.
And since Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid were working so intensely and very hard during the rehearsals, that there was barely any time for a chat (just for the accompanying pictures), Stig Anderson took us to his office at the ABBA headquarter under the cloak of: “I’m getting so tired of all this nonsense. I think I’m going to put an end to all these delusions once and for all, by telling more about ABBA’s future plans than I’d actually like to. Then you’ll be able to hear for yourselves that ABBA is not over with at all!”

And that’s why we all sat down and listened to what he had to say. “First, shall I tell you about my big dream?” Stig mumbled. He leaned over and slowly said: “ABBA on the Red Square in Moscow.” He plumped down in his chair and cheered: “Well, wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Stikkan smiled contentedly, he already saw it happening before his eyes. “I think the Red Square has room for at least one million people. Splendid, and that concert could be broadcast on television all over the world directly via satellite.” All of this should take place during the Olympic Games next year. “They would love to see us in Russia. We’ve already had several offers from that country. And apart from that, an American television company has announced that they would be willing to take care of the broadcast and pay for the costs. So the plan isn’t as crazy as it sounds!”
But there are even more plans bubbling in Stig’s mind. Like a tour through South America. “‘Chiquitita’ was recorded in Spanish. The result: the number one spot in the charts in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Venezuela. It would be a good idea to perform in these countries. Even today,” Stig says carelessly, “I got a question from Montevideo to let ABBA perform there in a huge stadium.” Talk about football stadiums. Stig Anderson is playing with the idea to do a summer tour in Europe and perform at the biggest stadiums: Wembley in London, the Olympic Stadium in Munich and, who knows, maybe even the Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam.
“In short, we have more than enough plans,” according to Stig. “Really, as long as we are still having fun, we will continue!”
Before leaving Stockholm, we quickly took a peak at the rehearsals, where Björn and Benny were fine-tuning some arrangements together with the band leader, where Agnetha, sweaty and exhausted, was sitting in a corner and where Anni-Frid was going through her dance routine for the umpteenth time. Oh well, ABBA doesn’t now when to stop.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Privé, November 1979: How jogging clears Björn Ulvaeus’ mind

Recently, there were standing ovations for ABBA in Rotterdam during their concert at the ‘Ahoy’. Despite the fact that they have to perform almost every evening during their European tour, the show of the quartet is a dazzling succession of hits. Especially Björn Ulvaeus is tireless. To Privé, he revealed the secret of his remarkable physical and mental fitness: jogging. And he was even willing to show his daily exercise routine. Exclusively for Privé, he ran 25 rounds on the athletics track.

Twelve o’clock sharp, ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and I meet in the hall of the hotel. Dressed in a blue jogging suit and shoes of the same colour, a towel around his neck, one of the four ABBAs is walking up to the shiny black Mercedes that’s waiting to take us to the athletics track where Björn, exclusively for Privé, will demonstrate the secret of his fitness: jogging, ten kilometres long.
During the dazzling show that ABBA brings to the stage night after night on their European tour, it was already unmistakable that the 34-year-old Björn is in great physical shape. During the concert, the guitarist of the world famous Swedish foursome is jumping around the stage as if he was a fly. He mounts the stairs, that are part of the stage design, like a hind, just as quickly he gets down from them and then dances across the entire stage again.
For two hours straight, because the ABBAs don’t allow themselves any break during the show. After the show, I asked him directly how he is able to cope with that, night after night.
“When you wait for me at the hotel tomorrow at twelve o’clock, then I will show you how I do it. I will then demonstrate my exercise routine, that I’ve been doing faithfully every day for the past five years and that keeps me fit and slim.”
On our way to the athletics track, we stop for a while in front of a sports store. The chauffeur is being sent out with the mission to buy a stopwatch and a headband (to avoid transpiration getting into the eyes).
When we resume our ride, Björn tells about his exercise programme that he’s been executing faithfully ever since the success at the Eurovision Song Contest. He says: “When we play concerts and stay at hotels, I feel the need to let off some steam. I can’t wait around in some kind of room until we are allowed to get up on stage. That’s why I decided five years ago to really stay in shape. But in an easy way. And that’s jogging. You don’t run really fast, but it isn’t walking either. When you jog, you can clear your mind. You are able to straighten yourself out. From the beginning, I’ve always jogged ten kilometres. I started at an easy pace, later on I went a little faster. And now I jog at the same pace every day. I loose as much bodily fluids as during a concert. When I’ve jogged, I feel completely purified, all the dirt is getting out of my pores and I think it enhances my musical achievement as well. I really feel fulfilled.”

At the entrance of the athletics track, the Swede is being welcomed by the supervisor. With pleasure, Björn lets himself be shown around the catacombs of the stadium. He says to me: “Actually, I don’t think it’s any fun to jog on an athletics track, because then I have to run rounds of 400 metres time and time again. I’d rather have a territory where I can run straight ahead without any turns.”
During his jogging, Björn holds a stopwatch in his hand to keep track of his own time. Twenty-five rounds long, I watch ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus pass me by. He runs a total of ten kilometres in less than an hour. Afterwards, he looks toned but not really tired. He says: “That’s because I’m able to determine my own pace. I know when it gets to much. Then I take some more time for a round and when I feel I’m up to it, I speed up again. That’s the ideal situation for me.”
At my question why not all ABBA-members have an exercise programme like this, hit composer Björn Ulvaeus smiles mildly and says: “For the time being, no one wants to jog with me, but I don’t really mind, as long as I am keeping fit myself.”

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Pop Biz, 1979: ABBA Live

Report about the 1979 tour from Dutch magazine Pop Biz.
ABBA is better than ever before. That’s the conclusion of the editorial staff members that followed the popular Swedish quartet close upon their heels during the past few weeks. We saw them in Canada, we talked to them in America and we saw them in Europe. Obviously, we were very curious about the response in America. Has ABBA now conquered this trend-leading pop country?

We see the group in concert for the first time in Anaheim/California, the fifth show since the start of their world tour in Edmonton/Canada. After a show of nearly two hours, in which practically all the hits were being performed, the group, tired but fulfilled, receives a thunderous applause. Despite this, Björn and Benny are not completely satisfied afterwards. Why is that?

Björn: “During the first hour, we were far too strained. Everything went according to plan, but we were paralysed with nerves. The audience doesn’t really notice, but the people from the media do.”
Benny: “Still, I’m satisfied with how the tour is proceeding. The first week is always difficult.”
Then why did they start their tour in America?
Benny: “We’ve talked about this for a long time. Should we start out in Europe to loosen ourselves up or burn loose in America right away. In the end, we went for the second option. We would have been nervous either way.”

The ABBA-ladies are willing to talk, but we are not allowed to take any pictures. They are still marked by fatigue. What did Agnetha think about the response in America?
Agnetha: “Up till now, it’s reasonably good. It’s safe to say that half of the audience consists of fans. But you will have to win the other half over with a good show.”
Was she stricken with nerves as well?
Agnetha: “I was scared to death that I’d loose my voice due to my nerves. America is really important to us. We won’t get a second chance.”

Monday 14 December 2009

Joepie, 1977: Anna is pregnant

Announcement of Agnetha’s second pregnancy from Belgian magazine Joepie.
Blonde Anna from ABBA is pregnant and expecting a second baby in November. “Anna’s got her head up in the clouds,” is what Björn told us over the phone (it was clear that he couldn’t be more proud). “Actually, we already wanted to have a baby at the beginning of this year, but it took us a lot of effort to persuade Anna to wait a little longer, for the sake of our European tour. She has to take things a little easier, because with Linda, not everything was plain sailing. Although the doctor has assured us that everything is going fine now. The album is now almost finished, which means that Anna is able to relax until November. Her parents will move in with us for a while, to help Anna out...”
And Björn jokingly adds: “We might even give him (or her) a Belgian or Dutch name, because the ‘accident’ must have happened while we paid a visit to your countries...”
One more thing: Anna would love to have another girl, while Björn is counting on a boy.

Joepie, 1977: A brand new hobby for ABBA

Now that Björn and Anna are preparing for the arrival of their second baby, the quartet has time to spare. Time to re-catch their breath, to start exploring forgotten hobbies again, or discover new ones. Like horse riding, for instance.
“A new hobby for Björn, Anna and myself,” Benny smiles under his beard. “But not for Frida. She used to do this when she was still a teenager. But you know how the story goes: your job takes up all of your time, and there isn’t any time left for hobbies. But now that we are more or less forced to take things easier for the sake of Anna, all of a sudden we have time to spare. It was Frida who has pushed us to try some horse riding. All four of us went to a riding school here in Stockholm, and during a couple of days, we took some private lessons with an experienced horseman.”

Only one week later, Björn and Benny would surprise their wives with a highly original gift: four genuine racing horses.
“Yes, that experience turned out better than we thought,” according to Benny. “Now we can trot around at home as much as we want. It’s really pleasant. And relaxing...”

Sunday 13 December 2009

Story, January 1981: ABBA’s Agnetha: “I wanted to be sure of Dick’s love.”

A gossip article from Dutch magazine Story about Agnetha’s relationship with Dick Håkansson.
Agnetha, ABBA’s blonde singer, is going through difficult times. After her divorce from Björn, she kept having problems that seemed to be solved when she fell in love with Dick Håkansson. But after a few weeks, Agnetha found out that she was mistaken...

Never before had the staff of the Metropol hotel in Stockholm seen so many beautiful women together as on that evening. Whence all this female beauty? Dick Håkansson, owner of the exclusive Dots Design boutiques, had organised a fashion show in which his latest collection was being shown. The most famous models presented Dick’s designs to the selected guests. Somewhere among the guests was the, to Dick Håkansson, most beautiful woman: Agnetha Fältskog, the blonde singer from the group ABBA. A few months ago, you’ve been able to read in Story that Dick was Agnetha’s new love. At that time, they were more than happy with each other. Unfortunately, after a few weeks Agnetha discovered that she actually wasn’t ready yet for a new man in her life. After her divorce from Björn, the problems for Agnetha had not been completely solved.

“Obviously, Björn and I didn’t get divorced head over heels,” Agnetha explains. “Until the very end, we’ve tried to give our marriage a chance. Both of us wanted to make the best of it. We even went as far as deciding to have a second child, that could perhaps bring us closer together again. To our regret, we didn’t succeed and after having been married for nine years, we eventually had to cut the knot and we both went our separate ways. But you mustn’t think that all difficulties were over and done with after that. Since we kept working with ABBA, Björn and I still saw each other every day and that didn’t make things easier. Especially in the beginning, I found it very difficult to sing together with Björn as if nothing had happened. To be honest, I got more and more depressed and I even thought about leaving the group. Of course I changed my mind about that, because then I would be disappointing my colleagues as well. Still, I was more and more down-hearted. And at that time, I got to know Dick. He talked to me for days, or rather: he listened to me. I started to see a brighter future. Dick had a little daughter from a previous marriage and she got on perfectly with my children, Linda and Christian. And I felt happy with Dick. After a couple of weeks, he already moved in with us and it seemed as if all problems had been solved.”
For a while, Agnetha stops talking. Thoughtfully, she gazes in the distance, but then continues: “Still, that wasn’t the case. Without giving it too much thought, I had started a new part of my life, while I still hadn’t dealt with the previous part. It all went much too fast. Perhaps you can compare it with starting to read a new book, when you have just finished the previous one. So that you haven’t been able to digest the first one in a proper way.”

“I’ve told this to Dick as well and he understood completely. The situation was different for him. He had been divorced for several years and rarely saw his ex-wife, if ever. I explained to him that I cared a great deal for him and that I probably wouldn’t be able to live without him, but that I didn’t want to start a new life with him until I was really ready for it. Now, I’m telling all this in a businesslike manner, but you can take it from me that I burst into tears, everytime I talked to Dick. He was so sweet and understanding that it caused me a lot of pain to talk to him about my mixed feelings. Another man probably would have said that I’d have to choose and that he’d leave me otherwise, to never return again. Dick’s reaction was completely different. He said that he would go to his own house and that I could reach him day and night. As soon as I had straightened myself out, I had to tell him and then we would start talking again.”
Agnetha grabbed this opportunity with both hands, which left her alone with her two children once again. Still it was completely different from the first time. During rehearsals with the other ABBA-members, she was cheerful and upbeat again and since then, she was able to talk to Björn in a normal way and sing with him as well. Several weeks passed by, which gave Agnetha the opportunity to put things in perspective. She came to the conclusion that Dick had started to mean so much to her that she missed him already.
“And all of a sudden, his invitation for the fashion show was lying on my doormat,” Agnetha continues. “My first reaction was not to go, because I didn’t think it was the most suitable place to talk to Dick. On the other hand, I understood very well that it would be a very important evening for Dick, and that he would love to have the woman he loves by his side. That’s how I walked around for days, not knowing whether to go or not. In the end, I decided to go at the last instant. I thought it would be better to not go on my own. That’s why I brought a girlfriend, who is also Linda and Christian’s nanny, along. As soon as we had entered the big hotel doors, I saw Dick standing in the hall and a few seconds later, he turned around and looked me straight into my eyes. I can’t describe what went through me at that moment, but I had the feeling that a swarm of butterflies was flying through my stomach. He walked up to us straight away and I could see in his eyes how happy he was that I had taken his invitation. Obviously, there wasn’t much time to talk, but we got that opportunity after the show. I still can’t say how our relationship will develop. I’ve taken the first step by going to his show. That has to be a sign for Dick, concerning how I think about our future. I will now leave the rest up to him...”

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Bravo, May 1978: ABBA Star-Album

ABBA: their profiles, their autographs.

Björn Ulvaeus was born in Göteborg on April 25, 1945.
Heigth: 1,76 metres – Hair: blonde – Eyes: blue.
Björn has been married to Anna since July 6, 1971.

Anna was born as Agnetha Fältskog in Jönköping on April 5, 1950.
Heigth: 1,72 metres – Hair: blonde – Eyes: blue.
Together with Björn, Anna has a daughter Linda and a son Peter Christian.

Anni-Frid Lyngstad was born in Eskilstuna, Norway on November 15, 1945.
Heigth: 1,72 metres – Hair: brown – Eyes: green-brown.
Anni-Frid has been living together with Benny since 1970. Two children from a previous marriage.

Benny Andersson was born in Stockholm on December 16, 1946.
Heigth: 1,80 metres – Hair: blonde – Eyes: blue.
Two children from a previous relationship.

ABBA: a look into their family and career album. Important photographs from Anna, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid’s lives.

1952: Benny got an accordion when he was six years old.

1963: Together with friends, Björn (second from left) starts the group the Hootenanny Singers. Until 1969, they are one of the most successful groups in Sweden. They sang folk songs and schlagers.

1971: Björn and Anna get married on July 6. They had known each other for two years.

1968: Anni-Frid records songs with Lars Berghagen; but she’s making a name for herself as a solo singer as well.

1968: Anna is working on a solo career. Until the autumn of 1975, she has released records under her maiden name Agnetha Fältskog.

1970: Anni-Frid and Benny move in together. From her first marriage to Ragnar Fredriksson, she has a son Hans and a daughter Liselotte.

1974: On April 6, ABBA wins the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton with ‘Waterloo’. Their career takes flight.

1975: ABBA performs on their first own television show in Germany on Musikladen in Bremen. It turns them into eternal superstars with us as well.

1977: ABBA films the movie ‘ABBA’ in Australia. Here a dream scene with Anna and Anni-Frid with the persistent disc-jockey.

1977: During their last German tour in January 1977, Anna and Anni-Frid present themselves in skin-tight outfits and they are wearing wigs.

1977: In December, Björn and Anna have a son, Peter Christian.

1978: Exclusively for Bravo, ABBA let themselves be photographed all day long.

1978: A Bravo-reader presents them with the Bronze Otto 77. It is their third. In 1974, they achieved Silver.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Hitkrant, October 1977: ABBA’s quiet guy - Music is in Benny’s blood!

Benny in the limelight for a change. A cover and an article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant, October 1977.
Every member of ABBA has something that makes him or her stand out. With Benny Andersson, it’s not always that obvious. After all, he is a quiet and rather inconspicuous young man. But Benny has a secret weapon and his life partner Anni-Frid reveals what it is: “Benny is the ideal man, because he has so much charm and a sense of humour. That’s why every woman is falling for him.”

Benny looks a little reserved on hearing these words, but he still confirms: “Yes, that’s actually true. During the period that I was playing with the Hep Stars, I could indeed get as many girls as I wanted; at the time, I thought that was awesome. But now, Anni-Frid can get as many men as she wants to. We’re even!!”

Benny was born in Stockholm on December 16, 1946 and he actually listened to music already from his cradle: his parents made music and his grandfather taught him the basic principles. When he was six years old, he got his first accordion When he was seven, he already started performing together with his parents. Actually, he never had any real music lessons, but music is in Benny’s blood!

Until he turned seventeen, he kept performing together with his parents and in the meantime he had met Christina Grönvall, a girl that he fell hopelessly in love with. When Benny was fifteen years old, the couple got engaged. But their marriage deteriorated later on. It was dissolved and the two children, Helen and Peter, stayed with Christina.

When Benny was playing with the group Elverkets Spelmanslag, the then fairly well-known band the Hep Stars came to see them one evening. Coincidentally, the Stars were looking for a keyboard player and in 1964, Benny joined the group. That’s when everything started: the Swedish media tagged them as the Swedish Beatles. They achieved their major breakthrough with a song called ‘Cadillac’: the Hep Stars were famous.
But financially, everything was one big mess: paying taxes, no one had ever heard of such a thing. It has been very difficult for a couple of years and also during the ABBA-period Benny has had to bend over backwards to pay off all kinds of back debts, all the more because Benny attributes very little value to money and easily gives away hundreds of Dutch guilders when he thinks that someone needs it. Stig Anderson hasn’t been able to completely break this habit.

The rest is history: in 1966, Benny met his later ABBA-partner Björn and with that, the foundation was laid for one of the most famous pop groups that music has ever known. This leaves Benny rather unaffected, a friendly young man who prefers to spend his time sitting on his island and composing. But who still has his secret weapon!