Sunday 28 February 2010

Bravo, April 1978: Bravo with ABBA – Meeting place Stockholm: as the only magazine, Bravo was allowed to photograph the Swedish quartet exclusively.

A report about the photo session that ABBA did with German photographer Bubi Heilemann on April 3, 1978 in Stockholm.
“If it were up to the photographers, we wouldn’t have any time left for concerts, television performances or recording sessions. We would have to let ourselves be photographed every day. That’s why we turn down requests for photo sessions whenever we can,” Björn says. For the first time in months, ABBA can be found in a photo studio again. It’s the first session since the birth of Peter Christian, Björn and Anna’s son. And it will be the last one for months to come...
At eleven o’clock sharp, Björn and Anna arrive at the photo studio, together with Lars Svensson, their costume advisor. “We nearly had to cancel the session, Anna was still in bed yesterday. She had the flu. But she feels a little better now,” Björn says. Anna is wearing a light leather coat with a fur collar, skin-tight yellow Cord jeans and a T-shirt. Björn is dressed casually in blue jeans, a white shirt and a black coat that almost touches the floor. Lars Svensson is dragging along 14 suitcases with the latest costumes that he has designed for ABBA.
Five minutes later, Benny and Anni-Frid arrive in a dark-red BMW. They’ve had this car for over four years already. Both of them look good, they are slightly tanned. “Indeed, we have just returned from our holiday. We were in Austria, in Lech, to do some skiing,” they smile. “Meanwhile, we were freezing here in Stockholm with ice and snow,” Björn and Anna reply.
The atmosphere within the group is fantastic, it seems better than ever. Both girls immediately disappear in their dressing room to apply make-up to their eyes and lips. Anni-Frid is powdering her face. “To keep the skin from looking shiny, that doesn’t look good in pictures,” she explains to me. In between proceedings, Benny reveals a genuine surprise: “We are planning to get married this year. In May, we will go to America for two weeks, we will record a couple of television shows over there and do some interviews. On May 11, we will be in Germany for an appearance on Starparade. Possibly in the summer, we will go to the municipal registry.”
I can’t believe it, but Anni-Frid confirms it as well: “It’s Benny’s idea. I’m not too keen on it myself. After all, I’ve been married once before. But the last word hasn’t been spoken about this yet. Benny would love to get married. For him, it’s his first marriage.”

ABBA get dressed; for nine hours long – until after 8 o’clock in the evening – they are patiently changing into new costumes, they pose and smile at the camera. They have brought along the double album ‘Saturday Night Fever’. The album side containing the Bee Gees songs is playing incessantly for hours. Anni-Frid: “At the moment, this is our favourite record.”
The four of them don’t even allow themselves a lunch break. Hellas, an associate of their record company, gets two hamburgers for each of them. With that, Björn and Benny are having a beer and Anna and Anni-Frid black coffee. In between, they are signing postcards. Finally, the job is done. Exhausted, Anna says: “This was the longest photo session that we’ve ever done. But after all, we do have a special understanding with Bravo. You were the first one that was interested in us, even before we achieved our enormous success.” Anni-Frid: “And after all, it was Bravo that helped me find my long lost father.”
Before we say goodbye, we are allowed to take a look at the recording studio that ABBA is building at the moment for two million German Marks. It should be ready in the beginning of May. Then, ABBA wants to record their new album there as well. You will soon be able to see the pictures that were taken at the session in Bravo: we are preparing a huge ABBA Star-Album for magazine number 20...

Bravo, January 1977: Björn reveals ABBA’s plans

What will ABBA’s highly anticipated stage show look like? What will be next? Four weeks before the start of their tour through Germany, Björn gives the answer...

Bravo: On January 28, your first concert of your European tour will take place in Oslo. Are you having stage fright already?
Björn: “The girls do, but Benny and me don’t have any time for that. Since weeks, we’ve been rehearsing with the 10-piece orchestra that will accompany us on the tour. We want to reproduce the original sound of the recordings on stage, and sometimes that is darned difficult. Especially ‘Money, Money, Money’ is causing some difficulties.”
Bravo: Can you reveal something already about the show?
Björn: “We will perform without an opening act and therefore we will be on stage for a full two hours. Apart from the orchestra, we will also be joined by three backing singers. Obviously, we will play all of our hits, but as a surprise we will also perform three brand new songs, that have not been recorded yet. The song that turns out to be most successful on the tour will be our next single.”
Bravo: In which costumes will you perform?
Björn: “They are still in production at this moment. It’s sure and certain that Anna and Anni-Frid will change costumes three times during the show. The girls have made the designs themselves. I only want to reveal that they will look very sexy...”
Bravo: Is it true that you will fly to every concert in a helicopter?
Björn: “Definitely not, all four of us hate to fly. This rumour only came about because we are sitting in a helicopter on the album cover of our latest album ‘Arrival’. We will simply drive to our concerts by car.”
Bravo: How many concerts will you perform on this tour?
Björn: “16 shows have been planned in Scandinavia, Germany, Holland and England. With five concerts, we will spend most of our time in Germany on this tour. Since several dates have been changed, I want to confirm the dates for Germany once more: on February 2, we will perform in the Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, on February 3 in the Sporthalle in Cologne, on February 6 in the Grugahalle in Essen, on February 7 in the Eilenriederhalle in Hannover and on February 8 in the Congress Centre in Hamburg. The demand for tickets has been overwhelming. We could have sold out our concert in London 148 times...”
Bravo: With 30 million records sold within three years, you are the most successful pop group in the world. What gave you the idea to form a group consisting of two guys and two girls?
Björn: “Everything already started ten years ago. At the time, I was playing in the Swedish folk group Hootenanny Singers and I met Benny, who was with the Hep Stars. We both were the composers of our groups and on one evening we got together at some bar. From the first moment on, we noticed that we were on the same wavelength and that we complemented each other wonderfully. Right on that first evening, we completed five songs within three hours. One of them was ‘Ring Ring’, for that matter. Subsequently, Benny and I wanted to sing as a duo, but in the studio we thought that the sound was too thin. That’s why we brought in both our girlfriends the next day and the four of us sang, and all of a sudden everything sounded perfect.”
Bravo: Still, success wasn’t right around the corner...
Björn: “There had never been a group of this kind before, that’s why the record companies were sceptical. But we were not in a hurry either. Benny and I kept on playing with our bands, the girls recorded solo albums, and ABBA was just a side project. But I knew that we would make it one day. Our finest hour then arrived at the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in 1973...”
Bravo: Has this striking career actually changed you personally?
Björn: “Since I had already been a successful musician in Sweden, the international success didn’t hit me over. Benny, Anna and Anni-Frid were in the same situation. We got together and decided that we wouldn’t let ourselves be destroyed. That’s why we rarely go on tour, do very few television performances and see to it that we have a stable private life. The family life with Anna, our daughter Linda and our dog Ada gives me the peace and quiet that I need to compose and write lyrics.”
Bravo: What does ABBA’s future look like?
Björn: “Up till March, our schedule is fully booked and after that we will start recording a new album. Obviously, all four of us are dreading the day at which our success series, that every single reaches number one in the charts, will be broken...”

Saturday 27 February 2010

Joepie, 1978: ABBA’s money problems

They have taken things a little easier the past couple of months, but thanks to their feature film and their new album, the four members of ABBA are once again the centre of attention. Therefore, the coming months will be very busy for the Swedish quartet and Anna will more than once – with a broken heart – have to leave her newborn baby to the care of the nanny. There aren’t any definite plans for 1978 yet, but there’s a lot of work coming at them.
“We have now engaged five girls who do nothing else than pick up the phones all day long,” according to Benny. “They’ve had a special training. The caller needs to explain to them what it’s about, and the girls have to judge whether it’s interesting enough to pass the call to Stig. They also have a schedule at hand, that has all the dates when we’re tied up already. When someone calls who wants ABBA on such a date, then the girls are there to respond. Before that, all these calls were answered by Stig, but it went over his head...”
What Benny didn’t say, is that there are even more girls working in the accounting department. Ten, to be exact. And it’s a necessity, because the millions are pouring in on a daily basis. “Money is starting to become a problem,” according to Benny. “In the long run, we don’t know what to do with our fortune anymore. We would be satisfied with ten percent of what we are making now. We try to invest the money in as many ways as possible, but it all goes so fast that we simply don’t have the time for it. We could give it all to the tax collectors office, but we don’t think that’s very pleasant. We would rather see that our children, our grandchildren and the generations after that are able to have some advantage of our success, than that we would just give it all away...”
For a while, there was talk of ABBA moving to America, but that solution seems to be completely off the table now. Which doesn’t mean that they are planning to stay in Sweden. “Our manager has been in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks, to explore the territory. When it comes to taxes, America is an ideal country, but the social environment doesn’t appeal to us. The climate is appealing, but the mentality of the people is a turn-off. When you are living in Los Angeles, you’re a star and you go along in the merry-go-round. Parties and things like that. And press photographers who are spying on you! We prefer a more relaxed environment, where we can spend our spare time in a normal way. We have now set our minds on Switzerland...”
These days, fame and fortune have become synonymous to heaven on earth. But is that really true?

Thursday 25 February 2010

Hitkrant, 1988: I Stand Alone album review / I Wasn't The One (Who Said Goodbye) single review

Agnetha’s album I Stand Alone and single I Wasn’t The One (Who Said Goodbye) reviewed in Dutch magazine Hitkrant in 1988. Although none of the album’s singles reached the Dutch top 40, the album itself did reasonably well, peaking at number 22 on the album charts.
Agnetha Fältskog ‘I Stand Alone’ WEA
Agnetha Fältskog’s first two solo albums after ABBA’s split were somewhat disappointing, but with ‘I Stand Alone’ the singer lashes out forcefully. Obviously, producer Peter Cetera plays an important part in that. Together with Bruce Gaitsch (co-writer of Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’), Peter has provided the album with a refreshing pop sound. The songs are sometimes swinging, sometimes wavering, but always current and fresh. Let’s hope that ‘I Wasn’t The One’ will be released as a single, after ‘The Last Time’. A slow duet with Peter and clearly the best song on the album.

Agnetha Fältskog ‘I Wasn’t The One’ WEA
The fact that ex-Chicago singer Peter Cetera was sitting in the producer’s chair during the recording sessions for the new album by ex-ABBA singer Agnetha Fältskog obviously made it inevitable that he would sit down behind the microphone as well, to record a sizzling duet with the blonde Swede (that’s nature!).
This is the result, a sad ballad, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Still, I expected more of the combination of top notch talents like this.

Agnetha did very little international promotion for the album. However, she was interviewed by Dutch interviewer Ivo Niehe for his television programme TV-show Op Reis which was broadcast in March 1988. The broadcast also included snippets from the The Last Time video. It turned out to be her last television interview before she withdrew from the music scene for many, many years to come. Here’s a transcript of the interview.

From what moment did you decide, when you were young, that you wanted to become a singer or an artist?
Agnetha: “That was very early, I must say. Because I started to write songs when I was five years old. And then I started with a dance band when I was fifteen. And I also composed a lot of songs during this time.”
Did your father influence you in any way?
Agnetha: “A little bit maybe, but he was in a... well, that was more local in Sweden. He was not very well-known, but he was still very good. So I think I had that inside me very early and I listened also to a lot of female singers like Connie Francis and Brenda Lee.”
During your ABBA period, you once said: ‘this way of living doesn’t allow me to be a good mother,’ since you were talking about your girl, you also have a son. Are you a better mother now than you were then?
Agnetha: “It’s always hard to combine. And I think I don’t get a better mother but I feel more relaxed and I like to be at home and to spend my days with my children. So that probably makes me a better, or at least a calmer mother, so to say.”
But what were the problems during your ABBA period in this respect. Can you tell us about it?
Agnetha: “Well, we were travelling so much around the world. I mean, we were everywhere, nearly. We went to Japan and Australia a couple of times and America. Everyone wanted us at the same time. So that was the problem.”
Yes, and being a good mother is more important to you than having a successful solo career?
Agnetha: “Yes, but sometimes you can’t choose. So I knew that I had to do it and I love it as well. And I think it’s also important that you can do this sort of job if you feel that is your life. Because that makes you a better mother if your are satisfied with your work as well. But I think it’s always hard to combine it. And when we had this enormous success with ABBA, I missed my children so much, because they were also so small by that time, so it was hard to explain for them. They didn’t understand why we were away so much.”
You’ve had a lot of problems with the gossip press. But you refused to accept that, because you even wrote a letter to the Dagens Nyheter, the most important newspaper in Sweden.
Agnetha: “Yes, that’s right. I’m impressed that you knew that.”
For what reason did you react like that?
Agnetha: “Well, I don’t want to... I mean, people look upon you as silly or stupid if they, I mean, week by week get wrong things from you. And I react because I get very angry. And I know a journalist, a very serious journalist, female, that worked for this paper. So she contacted me and then I already had written an open letter, so to say. So I gave it to her and she changed some bits and then they took it in this newspaper.”
And that was the start of a national discussion, let’s say, on the gossip press. Has your action been worth all the trouble? Did you have any results with your action against the gossip press?
Agnetha: “For a period, it was better. But now, when I have this record and I show myself more often in, you know, television and newspapers as well, because I want to talk about my record, it starts again.”
It starts all over again.
Agnetha: “Yeah, but I consequent... (in Swedish) I’m keeping a close watch. I react consistently to all articles that tell nonsense.”
It’s so nice that I’ll have to read the answer in the subtitles.
Agnetha: “It’s a bit like... it’s not very far from Holland.”
Yes, so you still get angry if you read wrong things about yourself? Things that are not true.
Agnetha: “Yes, of course, of course. I do.”
Looking back to the ABBA period, what did it bring to you. More positive or more negative things?
Agnetha: “Both positive and... maybe equal. I think more positive, really. I think we are all four very proud of what we have achieved. It was an enormous success all over the world.”
Yes, are you still in touch with each other, the four of you?
Agnetha: “Not very much. Two members have moved abroad. And I have contact of course with Björn because he’s the father to my two children.”
The price you’ve paid for everything you achieved. Wasn’t it after all a very high price? If you have the group, two divorces in one group is a lot, I think. Wasn’t it too high a price for everything you did?
Agnetha: “I don’t look upon it as a price, a bad price. Because I think that would have happened anyway, really. I mean the divorce.”
The success didn’t play an important part in there, because you were working twenty-four hours together?
Agnetha: “Oh yeah, but I don’t think it was depending on that only, no.”
Wasn’t it very difficult, because I saw you performing in Rotterdam then, that you made a world tour, even after all the problems you had, the four of you? Was it still possible to work so closely together?
Agnetha: “Yeah, we went on working together. And that also shows that that was not the problem. I mean, we liked to work together. It was very difficult sometimes, but we chose to go on a while even after the divorce. Because – I mean I can only talk for myself and Björn – we were very much agreed about our divorce.”
Do you consider yourself a privileged woman?
Agnetha: “I think you are. If you have experienced this sort of success, you get privileged because it’s easier. People know who you are. So it’s easier to come up with a new thing now than it is when you start. I mean, when no one knows you.”
The fact that you consider yourself privileged, does that mean at the same time that you consider yourself happy? Are you happy?
Agnetha: “Ehm, it’s very difficult. It changes from day to day. One day you feel very happy and the next day it’s awful. So I’m like anybody else. But most of the time I’m happy. And I think... I want to think positive. I don’t want any negative thoughts or looking back and regret things. I want to look into the future and look positive.”
Thank you very much. And your English was great today.
Agnetha: “Thank you, wasn’t it? Thank you.”

Saturday 20 February 2010

Manchester Evening News, April 1978: ABBA Special

Is this newspaper heaven? I believe it is. In April 1978, Manchester Evening News published an entire newspaper special about ABBA, and it even included a couple of rare pictures. It took me forever to scan this item, so please take your time to enjoy it. ;)
To read the article, click on the pictures to enlarge.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Privé, July 1981: The never-before-told sadness of ABBA

After Benny and Frida had announced their divorce in February 1981, the tabloids had plenty to speculate about, and that’s what they did. If I’m not mistaken, this story appeared first in English newspaper The Daily Mirror and then it was copied in lots of magazines all over the world.
What went wrong with ABBA, the most successful pop group in the world? While the group achieved everything there is to achieve in pop music, the private lives of Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn and Agnetha have turned into a disaster. Instead of two loving couples, they are now two divorced couples. They all go their separate ways and they talk about the day that the group will fall apart... forever. For the first time, the Swedish stars talk openly about their heartaches and their prospects, now that they have completely grown apart.

Agnetha: “When Björn remarried, I cried.”
She is a quiet, lonely, blue-eyed angel. The divorce has clearly been the hardest on Björn’s ex-wife Agnetha Fältskog. Not too long ago, the media proclaimed her as the woman with the sexiest bottom in Europe. But this could cause a distorted view of her image. The vulnerable side of her personality is clearly revealed when she talks about the emotional turmoil that her divorce has caused.
Agnetha tells: “You remember all the pain and the struggles and you ask yourself: do I really want to go through all this again? It’s frightening. If I would find the perfect man, then I would get married again. But it’s difficult. It’s very, very difficult.”
While talking, she smokes one cigarette after the other and drinks litres of coffee in a living room, situated above the recording studio of the group.

Agnetha has pearl-white teeth and her hair is a crisscross of blonde curls. In a girly whisper, she says: “I am someone who is afraid of a lot of things. I have phobias, sickening anxieties. I’m afraid to mingle with people. I can’t go shopping. I can’t go out and go to restaurants or bars. If I do go out, people stare at me and I can’t cope with that. That fear to go out the door is my biggest phobia. I’m a very anxious kind of person. I am able to handle some fears that I have, like my fear of flying. Before my plane takes off, I have a drink. When we are up in the air, I have another one and just before we land another one. That way,” the attractive, 31-year-old singer says, “I’m half-drunk when I reach my destination. Then I don’t worry about flying anymore.”
Since her divorce from Björn, she is even less able to control her fear of going out. A good friend of hers said: “Agnetha has devoted herself completely to her two children, since she got divorced. It’s like she is punishing herself for something wrong that’s in her imagination. She never goes out. Her whole life revolves around working and her children.”

Agnetha: “Swedish newspapers always write untruths about me, so I know that no one is going to believe me, but I really don’t have a steady boyfriend. I mostly spend my time at home, with my children. I read a lot and I compose songs that I would like to sing myself at some point. Of course, I meet men,” she says, “and when a man tells me that I’m beautiful or sexy, because he really thinks so, I don’t mind at all that he tells me that; I just don’t agree with him at all. I don’t think I’m beautiful or sexy. I don’t have any confidence in that. But I do have confidence in what’s inside my head. I do think that I’m intelligent. Men really seem to be impressed by me and by the fact that I’m rather smart. They also seem to be scared off by the knowledge that I have built a big career. I don’t know why, they should be proud of my career, but they are not.”

Agnetha is clearly still saddened by her divorce. “I’ve gone through an extremely painful depression. The thought that I had to continue on my own, drove me crazy. Björn always took care of everything because we were very young when we got together and all of a sudden I had to stand on my own two feet. And it did affect me, when he met Lena. But when he remarried, I cried. It hurt. It hurt a lot and it was so weird that he had found someone else so soon.”
Just like the other ABBA-members, Agnetha thinks the day that ABBA will stop existing is drawing near. She has thought a lot about how her life will continue after that. “I want to be a movie star,” she confesses. “I hope that a producer will be interested in me.” The other important part of Agnetha’s life is being a mother to her two children, Christian (3) and Linda (8). “To be a good mother, a woman needs to have confidence. And to feel confident, I need a career. We have stopped travelling with the group. We’ve done that for so many years. Look at all the damage it has done: we were two couples when we started out, now we are four individuals.”

Björn: “I was single for only one week.”
Lyric writer, singer and guitarist Björn Ulvaeus is usually very reluctant when it comes to talking about intimate details about his private life. But this time, he agreed to tell everything to Privé. “To clear things up, once and for all.” Sitting relaxed in ABBA’s recording studio in Stockholm, he talks about the end of his marriage to Agnetha: “When you talk to someone, like I talked to Agnetha, and you honestly try to discuss things, solve your problems and you don’t succeed, then you know it’s time to call it a day. So that’s what we did. But we didn’t give up on our marriage easily or quickly. It took two years before we eventually agreed to get a divorce. First, we went to a psychiatrist and he helped us to discuss our problems in an honest way. At the end of those two years of continuous talks, we were completely sure that we were making the right decision, believe me. There was no tension, but of course there were tears. What do you expect, we had been together for thirteen years!”
A good friend of the couple claims: “Björn was truly impossible. He found mistakes in everything that Agnetha did or didn’t do. And he was getting ever more jealous, without any reason.” When the divorce became final, two years ago, the children were still too young to realise what was going on. They are now living with Agnetha, but their father can see them as often as he wants. And that’s almost every day. Two years ago, Björn left the house, after having discussed the divorce with Agnetha, and moved to a nearby apartment. He was single for a short period of time, something that’s now a source of amusement to Björn.

He says: “I was single for one week and then I met Lena.” Lena is Björn’s new wife and he proudly announces: “My wife is pregnant. I don’t care whether it’s a boy or a girl, as long as she and the baby are healthy. After all, I already have a son and a daughter. But there’s no jealousy between Lena and Agnetha. They have met each other and all three of us are good friends.”
It was a dazzling romance. He met Lena (32), who is a television personality from Stockholm, at a party that was, ironically, organised by Benny and Frida. Within five months, they were living together. Björn and his Agnetha are divorced but the group remains intact, at least for the time being. However, for the first time Björn reveals that he is thinking about the definitive end of ABBA. “We no longer have any financial reason to stay together,” he says. “Each one of us has more than enough money.”

Björn (36) says that he wouldn’t change much if he could go through the past ten years again. Still, there have been problems. Like last year, when the ABBA-concert for German television had to be cancelled, due to a kidnap threat of Björn’s children. “It was awful,” Björn says. “John Lennon had just been shot which made us even more aware about the danger that was threatening us; we try to protect ourselves while we are living our lives. John Lennon’s death has affected me deeply. Although we never met him, he inspired Benny and me to start composing songs. That’s why it seemed as if we had lost a close friend.” Björn still loves to compose songs and he says that he really likes his job. But with the end of ABBA in sight, for the first time Björn had to think about what he wants to do in the future. “I have a crazy idea,” he says with joy in his eyes. “I would like to be a writer for the stage. I would love to write a play and listen to actors and actresses making my words come to life.”

Benny: “Mona is my new life partner.”
The other composer of the supergroup ABBA, Benny Andersson, is a bundle of nerves. His hands are shaking when he talks about his failed marriage and he is nervously busy with his cigarettes without interruption. He says: “I don’t know how other people deal with things like this. Frida and I are still partners in ABBA. We are still friends. We are just not partners in marriage any longer.” His marriage to Anni-Frid Lyngstad ended in a dramatic way, according to friends. “Benny came home one day and said that he had found another woman. Frida was devastated,” someone said who knows the group up close. The new woman in Benny’s life is Mona Nörklit, a 37-year-old Swedish television personality. Benny confirms: “Mona is my new life partner. You can call her that. Frida and I are still friends. I respect her and she respects me for what we both can do on a musical level.”

But that’s not completely true. There’s a clear tension between the two. There’s nothing left of the fun and joyous atmosphere of the old days. Benny is very nervous. It’s clear that he has suffered the most. “We have discussed whether the group would be able to stay together after our divorce,” he says. “But we thought that ABBA had already survived Björn and Agnetha’s divorce. Therefore, the group would be able to survive ours as well.” During the conversation with Benny, one gets the impression that it’s getting ever more difficult for him to find the motivation that’s needed to continue with the group.
He says: “Financially speaking, we no longer have any worries. And our dreams of becoming superstars have exceeded our wildest imagination. We love our musical creations and as long as we do that, we will keep on going. We will quit when we think it isn’t fun anymore. What we are doing now, is not a skilful job. I know that we sell a lot of records, and that we make an enormous amount of money, but in fact it doesn’t mean anything. I like to create music, create a melody from nothing. We never thought that we would get as big as we are now. After all, we are just ordinary people, leading a normal life. In the morning, we go to our job, we go to restaurants a couple of times a week, and at the weekend we go out boating. I think all of this has happened without us having any influence on the matter.”
Just like the other members of the group, Benny sees the end of ABBA drawing near as well. He thinks the group will last for two more years, or two more albums.

“The ABBA-sound is created by the girls. Björn and I may compose the songs, but the girls are the ones who create the sound. There’s no ABBA without them.”
Regarding ABBA’s most recent album ‘Super Trouper’, of which millions of copies were sold all over the world, it’s interesting to know that Benny thinks that the biggest change in their music has been the technical development. After the two-hour conversation, during which Benny drank three cups of coffee and smoked half a pack of cigarettes, he sums up his feelings about ABBA. “I don’t think we have any power as individual artists,” he says. “I don’t even know if we have any power as a group. No one would buy a Volvo just because ABBA says so. We are mainly family people with a strong family background. Ten years ago, we got together to perform and we’ve lasted for a decade. We are not the angels that some people think we are. We are normal people with all the problems that normal people experience as well. But apart from that, we happen to be a group that’s called ABBA.”

Frida: “A divorce was the only solution.”
There’s a new man in ABBA’s Anni-Frid’s life. But the dark-haired singer, that got divorced not too long ago, carefully hides him away from publicity. But she did introduce him to her ex-husband Benny, and all three of them are good friends, according to Frida.
The beauty with the flame red hair denies that her lover is her chauffeur Lars Blomberg, like many newspapers reported. He is a rich Swedish businessman. “I’ve learned from my mistakes from the past,” she says. “I don’t want to expose my boyfriend to all the publicity and all the questions and that’s why his name remains a secret. But you can tell everybody that I’m in love and that Frida has a new boyfriend. He is not in the music business and I think that’s great. He is a part of my life, but I’ve come to realise how important it is to develop interests outside the show business as well.”
She has two children from her first failed marriage, Hans (18) and Lise-Lotte (14). Her second marriage, to ABBA’s Benny Andersson, ended as well. Now she says: “Marriage isn’t important to me any longer. But love is. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.” Does she want any more children? “Hans and Lise-Lotte are already grown,” she says. “I’m not sure if I would want to start all over again.” Last February, Benny and Frida announced their divorce and within six weeks, her new man came into Frida’s life. “Benny and I are better able to work together, now that we’ve separated,” she says. “Our personal relationship is more relaxed now. Benny and I are good friends and we like each other a lot. Actually, what has happened isn’t sad at all. We just grew apart due to different interests in life. We’ve always been honest to each other. We talked and talked and talked and eventually we both came to the conclusion that a divorce was the only way out.”

However, the direct cause for the divorce was the fact that Benny, after having lived together with Frida for nine years and four years of marriage, had found another love. When he had told Frida, they started talking about a divorce. A good friend says: “It was like a bolt from the blue to her and she was devastated. There was a lot of crying and talking, but once he had told her, there was no turning back and a divorce was inevitable.”
Out of all the ABBA-members, Frida is the most publicity-shy. More than the others, she feels like a victim of inaccurate, twisted and made-up stories. “The way that people look at us has a lot to do with their imagination and very little with us as human beings,” she says. “They only see the surface, they don’t have a deeper view of us as people. They only see the fun side, our costumes, the things we do, the things that all those made-up stories are saying. When I started out, I wanted to have an audience that would know me as a human being. The perception that they were having of me was completely wrong. But I don’t care about that very much anymore. I feel safe and secure about the way that I am. I don’t have to explain that to everybody anymore. I would have reached this stage either way, but being in love has definitely helped me.”
As a thirteen-year-old girl, Frida dreamt of being a big star. She got her first spark of hope that this would come true one day, when ABBA recorded their first album. Now, she is a superstar and a fashion icon that inspires girls all over Sweden to go to the hairdresser and ask for a wild, flame red hairdo like Frida’s. She started dying her hair years ago and it became ever more red. But at the start of ABBA’s career, not everything was looking rosy.

“The first time that the group performed, was in 1971 at a local restaurant,” Frida says. “We were horrible. The audience hated us and we thought that we might be out of our minds.” Obviously, ABBA is now world famous and during the past six years the group has sold records at the amount of nearly one and a half billion Dutch guilders, which turned all four members into multi-millionaires.
Ironically, Frida is still worried about money. “Once every month, we have a meeting to discuss our investments,” she says. “All our decisions have to be unanimous. And I really worry whether I’ve made the right decisions.”
Years ago, when Frida was still married to Ragnar Fredriksson – the marriage from which both her children were born – she seemed to be predestined for a traditional life as a wife and a mother. In the evenings, she sang with local cabaret groups, but her life mainly revolved around her family. Now she says: “I couldn’t have coped with that.”
For two days, she talked openly to Privé. “I’m taking the chance,” she says. “But maybe people will really get to know me this time.” It seems that Frida wants to share even more of her soul with her audience. The truth about her as a human being. The true, deep story.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Pop Foto, January 1977: ABBA didn’t want to see a living soul anymore…

Here’s another silly story from Dutch magazine Pop Foto, 1977. Oh well, the pictures are (very) nice...
For a while, it seemed that things would all go wrong with ABBA. The once so tight bond that kept the members of the group together seemed to be broken... Anni-Frid and Agnetha had a huge argument in public and it seemed as if the boys couldn’t stand each other either. ABBA was sliding towards their downfall at full speed, but Björn fixed it...

“Oh,” ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus sighed, while he plumped down in a chair. “I wish I had never got started in this business. Why was it necessary for me to become an artist? And not simply a car mechanic? Or a window-cleaner? An artist, yuck, what a dreadful job!”
Agnetha and Anni-Frid, who had been standing face to face as quarrellers only one second before that, stopped their bickering and looked at him. “Girls, do you know what we need?” Two pairs of flickering eyes looked his way. Björn spread his arms with a wide gesture and said: “Calmness! Absolute calmness. Not seeing a living soul anymore. Not hearing a word about music or ABBA anymore. Simply lock ourselves away and put a couple of landmines around our house, so that no one can reach us anymore. Because otherwise, things will go horribly wrong with us. Just take a look at yourselves. Anna, Frida: you are arguing! One year ago, you wouldn’t even dare to dream about that. And take a look at Benny and me, we can’t stand each other anymore, when we’ve always been the best of friends. We will just take one week of absolute silence, talk about our personal problems and look at the snow, deal?”

And this is how it happened that the four members of ABBA withdrew, more or less disappeared off the face of the earth and took a week-long winter holiday in the Swedish snow. Hidden away from everyone, they prepared themselves for their big European tour and recovered from all the previous tours. Whether a week of relaxation will be enough? You will be able to see that with your own eyes when they will perform their gigantic concert at the Jaap Eden hall in Amsterdam on February 4!

Saturday 13 February 2010

Privé, November 1979: The ABBA-women are fond of each other

The headline of this article provides a welcome change of tune to the things that were usually written about ABBA’s leading ladies. Ironically, the same magazine had previously published articles that claimed the opposite.
“As a group, we are happier than ever,” is what ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus revealed recently after their concert at the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam. The exclusive pictures on these pages by Privé photographer Joop van Tellingen, who was the only one who managed to capture the intimate rehearsal of the Swedish group, prove that there is no doubt about it that this statement is actually true.
Extremely relaxed, dressed in a bathrobe, with ballet shoes on her feet, leaning over Benny’s keyboards, Anni-Frid is whispering sweet words in her husband’s ear.
The ABBAs are happy with each other, this clearly shows at this moment where they are caught unawares and they don’t have to smile professionally at the photographer.
Only Privé managed to capture these intimate moments in pictures. Agnetha and Anni-Frid are truly fond of each other. Giggling like young schoolgirls, they walk across the stage and then they suddenly hug each other spontaneously, tenderly kissing each other. And the way they look at each other, also during the show, doesn’t need any explanation.
The ABBA-women are two very close friends. In this atmosphere of heart warming friendship, the group will definitely be able to stay together for a long time to come.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Hitkrant, June 1980: ABBA received Hitkrant-award

In 1980, a reporter from Dutch magazine Hitkrant travelled to Stockholm to present ABBA with the Group of the Year award, awarded to them by readers of the magazine. At the time, ABBA was busy in the studio, working on their Super Trouper album.
In January this year, it was announced: in the competition ‘Artist/Group of the Month’, ABBA was proclaimed ‘Group of the Year 1979’, four points ahead of the runner-up, The Police. Obviously, this deserves a Hitkrant-award and Hitkrant’s Ton Vingerhoets and photographer Aad Spanjaard grabbed ABBA’s invitation to come to Stockholm to hand over the award and at the same time find out how the recordings for the new album are coming along, with both hands.

A new album is not a piece of cake. Composing, writing lyrics, making arrangements, recording, mixing: this means months of hard work for Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid. Therefore, it’s quite understandable that a group doesn’t want to be disturbed during these hectic months.

That’s why it was a big honour that ABBA invited us, by way of exception, to come to Stockholm, right in the middle of the recording sessions. A broiling Stockholm by the way, where we were perspiring already at half past ten in the morning, while standing in front of the door of the splendid ABBA studio at Sankt Eriksgatan. Thankfully, the building has air-conditioning and inside it was perfectly cooled.
Benny was already working hard, the other three hadn’t arrived yet. From the open door of the studio, the unmistakable sounds of an ABBA-song were floating towards the hall. New, very new. It sounded a bit like ‘Thank You For The Music’, but it was a lot heavier: we were met with a roaring guitar solo. Together with Benny.

Is this going to be the new single, is what we wanted to know after the friendly welcome. “It’s almost sure,” Benny confirms. “We just don’t have a title for it yet, but it will be released at the end of June. The album is progressing nicely as well. Eight tracks are now completely finished, out of the fifteen that we are going to record. Probably twelve of them will make it onto the album.”
In the meantime, three other sumptuous BMW’s had parked behind Benny’s grey BMW at the studio’s parking-lot: Agnetha’s red one, Björn’s equally red one and Frida’s green one. The company was complete and welcomed us most cordially.

“Just a little while longer and then we are off for a holiday,” Frida sighed, dressed in an orange trouser suite. “It rarely happens that the weather is this nice in Sweden,” Benny adds. “As soon as those eight tracks have been mixed, we will quit and withdraw on Lidingö (the island in the bay of Stockholm, where ABBA lives). Then we will do absolutely nothing for a couple of months, not even composing, like we do otherwise. After that, we will go into the studio again. I reckon that we will need two to three weeks to complete the album, so you can expect it to be released at the end of September or the beginning of October.”

For the time being, a new tour is not on their schedule; ABBA still has to recover from the last one, no matter how successful it was. The album is more important at the moment. “We hope that you’ll understand that we don’t have time for you all day,” Benny said. “Usually, we don’t do these kinds of things, but the Hitkrant-award...” Laughter.
Indeed, the award. This time it’s made of gold coloured metal and it’s received gratefully, after Benny had quickly put on a jacket and Agnetha had run a comb through her hair and put on some make-up. For the pictures.

We decided not to bother the quartet any longer and said goodbye. “Say hello to Holland!” Agnetha called on our way out. Hereby, we are doing just that, together with ABBA’s thanks to you, Hitkrant-readers, for the election of ‘Group of the Year 1979’ of a group that once again showed that they are still on top. More to come!

Saturday 6 February 2010

Muziek Expres, February 1981: The ABBA Business

Here’s part one of an interesting interview from Dutch pop magazine Muziek Expres that was held in November 1980 and published in February 1981.
The posters included here are from Dutch magazines Hitkrant and Pop Biz, that were published around the same time.

Frida Lyngstad, Anna Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. Four people who are responsible for record sales that are coming frightfully close to the world record that was set by the Beatles. Four people who have been responsible for the past five years for a pop virus that’s spreading all over the world: the ABBA Fever.
A golden team that owns a dictionary that consists of only one word: hits. And they are scoring them. One after the other. ABBA is the absolute phenomenon in the current pop business. And the smart pop machine keeps on producing. Creativity seems inexhaustible. How does this ABBA phenomenon actually work? Apart from gossip and slander, very little is actually known about the famous group. Therefore, this month we present you part one of a two-piece report: “The ABBA Business”. Rupert van Woerkom and Govert de Roos are reporting exclusively from Stockholm.

ABBA’s headquarter is situated in a grand mansion in the more expensive part of Stockholm. And Stockholm isn’t very cheap, for that matter. A beer at 7,50 Dutch guilders. A pack of cigarettes, 5 Dutch guilders. And of course, it doesn’t stop there...
When a taxi drops us off at Polar Music (the name of ABBA’s company) after a ten-minute drive (25 Dutch guilders), we are just in time to catch a glimpse of a ghastly photo session taking place on the lawn. The ABBA-boys are dressed in long mink coats, in between them the ABBA-girls dressed up as Santa Claus.
A while later at the top of the building. Hello Anna and Frida, hello Benny and Björn. ABBA smiles. The way ABBA always smiles. On the wrong side of their mouths. What’s even more remarkable: ABBA is complete. And that doesn’t happen very often lately. The quartet only gets together on a professional basis these days. Apart from that, they don’t. This only causes complications. As you know, half of the quartet – Anna and Björn – has separated. That’s why. I rather avoid questions about that subject. Indeed, they only agreed to do this interview under the strict condition that private matters would not be discussed. The reason for that is obvious. Nevertheless, the subject will come up in this interview.
The conversation has a rigid start. The ladies are doing all kinds of things in between. They chat with each other and sign Christmas cards, greeting cards, photo books and ‘Super Troupers’.
Their lack of interest is not received with thanks by me. That’s why I concentrate completely on Benny and Björn who are extremely talkative.
Later on, it turns out that it didn’t end there. The ladies feel as if they are redundant and demonstratively leave the room, but not before they’ve made it clear to me that I act “as if ABBA consists of two people” and that it’s “bullshit to talk about the criticism on ABBA instead of the music”. The ladies are gone. Good riddance. It will be a lot more fun talking to Benny and Björn. Especially about music.

Most articles about you have money and private matters as a subject. Doesn’t that make you sad?
Benny: “Money is a magical word. With ABBA, it’s actually the other way around. The work that we do, brings in the money. The work is magical. But whether there are these publications or not... you might say that we still get rewarded for our creative efforts. No matter how much negativity is written about us. We don’t always read it, but it does hurt.”
Björn: “In the first instance, the journalists themselves are to blame. We didn’t exactly cooperate. And the public is not to blame at all. They are the delusions of people who call themselves a journalist, which they are not, and work for magazines that deal in lies. They think that gossip is interesting for the public. That the public much rather wants to read sensational stories about the lives of the ABBA millionaires than about the music. I think that they are wrong...”
You don’t agree with the theory ‘publicity is publicity; it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad’?
Björn: “That’s not the point. It’s about principles. You cooperate on a photo session and that’s a lot of fun. But then they add an absurd story to it.”
Benny: “There has never been a band, a band in our genre, that’s been taken seriously. You are only taken seriously when you play loud ‘heavy metal’, look interesting, write obscure lyrics or follow the pop trends closely. Only then, you are working seriously. And the most ridiculous criticism on what we are doing is that our motives would be commercial. But you have already made the commercial step when you turn fully professional and want to make a record. So commercialism isn’t a dirty word.”

Do you write your songs with a certain target group in mind?
Björn: “We don’t think about that. We only write for ourselves. We never think about which people we could reach with which songs. That has never been our aim. There was only one aim: making the kind of music that we liked. And it’s still like that. I’m extremely proud of what we are doing. That’s not arrogance, but pure enthusiasm.”
I’ve read somewhere that ABBA tries to reach every potential target group with their music?
Frida: “Oh, don’t be silly. You should never believe anything that you read.”
Even when I have written it myself? Like this interview?
Björn: “Well, almost everything that’s published about us has some untruths.”
Then why do you still give interviews?
Björn: “That’s a good one. Well, I can tell you this. We are far more selective nowadays. We think that the journalists of the few magazines that we still talk to won’t slander us.”
Benny: “You must have prepared yourself very well on this interview. I have no doubt about that. But you haven’t found the truth in all those clippings about us.”
Then it’s up to you to tell me what the truth is. (Benny and Björn burst into laughter). Sometimes, you are compared to the Beatles, when it comes to popularity, that is...
Benny: “The Beatles were a social phenomenon. Every comparison between ABBA and them is completely out of order. The success might be similar, but there are more groups that are having success. What they did was so unbelievable, so extreme. We are just a group like many other groups. We only have a little more success. The level that the Beatles have reached at the time, that level remains unbeatable. Did you know that the Beatles gave me the kick to start writing myself. Those first things with the Hep Stars and things like that, it was all the Beatles, man.”

Don’t Agnetha and Frida think it’s a shame that they are not writing songs anymore?
Agnetha: “I’m not as ambitious as the boys. Although I’m now going to write a song for the Swedish heat of the Eurovision Song Contest. I still have to write the song. Apart from that, singing with ABBA is an extremely tough job. Don’t forget that it’s the sound of ABBA. And it takes a lot of time as well. We are doing the vocal arrangements. I don’t believe that there are two masterminds in the group ABBA, but four. Even though Benny and Björn are doing all the preparatory work, that doesn’t mean that we don’t count.”
Frida: “We don’t miss the writing of the songs. We are satisfied with the way things are going now. For that matter, I’ve often wondered if I could ever write a better song than Benny and Björn. The answer is no. There’s an absolute democratic spirit in our group. All four of us make the decisions, but apart from that, we do have some kind of distribution of tasks. Everyone of us has their speciality. Where we are the sound, Benny and Björn create the possibilities for that sound. It’s all about the quality of our input and not about the quantity.”
Agnetha: “In the end, we are very creative in the studio. And that’s what I like most about this job. The recordings.”
Frida: “Furthermore, we do a lot of things besides ABBA. ABBA is definitely not our only sanctifying interest. For instance, I’m busy on a... how do you call that, Björn?”
Björn: “... a crash course...”
Frida: “... a crash course in French. That’s three months instead of two years.”
Benny: “But apart from that...”
Frida: “... I believe that the contributions by Agnetha and myself are just as important as Benny and Björn’s.”
Benny: “Definitely. Just imagine Björn and me doing all those television shows on our own. ABBA is nothing without Agnetha and Frida.”
Frida: “We would never continue working with ABBA if we wouldn’t have fun doing it.”
Björn: “One of the most important things that keeps the fun within the group at its highest level, is the fact that we don’t repeat ourselves. ABBA’s music is full of variations. There isn’t any song that resembles another and sometimes they are complete opposites. I also believe that’s ABBA’s forte. Because, artistically speaking, it remains identifiable, while it still changes all the time.”
Benny: “A lot is possible in the ABBA frame. Mostly, members of a group will go into the studio separately as well because the band that they are playing in is stuck in a certain musical pattern. That’s why they record a solo album. It gives them the opportunity to finally do something different. To satisfy their own creativity. We don’t need these solo albums. Simply because there are possibilities to do other things within the ABBA frame. ABBA is not stuck in one and the same musical pattern.”
Björn: “It seems very tiresome to me. The same style, time and time again...”
Anna and Frida’s Swedish cackling, straight through Benny and Björn’s answers, is starting to annoy the gentlemen. From the mouthful of annoyed Swedish coming from Björn, aimed at his female colleagues, I conclude that the ladies have to be quiet. He can’t concentrate and Benny nods as well.
This only adds fuel to the fire. First, we are overwhelmed by an abundance of female Swedish exclamations, then the twosome turns to me. They ask if I’ve forgotten that the agreement was to talk about ABBA’s music? And that ABBA consists of four persons and why I only concentrate on Benny and Björn? I try to defend myself by saying that my questions are first and foremost aimed at ABBA and not at any person in particular. And that the ladies are rather playing themselves down. They’ve had enough when I conclude my argument by saying that talking about a crash course in French is not relevant for this interview. Agnetha and Frida put on their masks of steel. If looks could kill.
Björn: “This wasn’t according to plan. I do not know what kind of nonsense this is. But don’t let it get you down. You know what women are like and we are still here, aren’t we.” He winks.
Benny: “Where were we?”
Björn: “The fun.”
Benny: “The fun has remained because we keep on doing different things. Of course, you might think that it’s easy to say now. But the proof is there. ‘Waterloo’ is something completely different than ‘Does Your Mother Know’.
Talking about ‘Waterloo’. Did you think at the time that a lot more was in store for you?
Björn: “We never thought it would get out of hand this massively.”
Benny: “But I did have the feeling that we were on to something that wouldn’t consist of only one hit. There was more to come, although it hadn’t been written yet. But that it would grow into these proportions, we didn’t even dream about that.”

What kind of standards do you have when you release a single?
Björn: “In principle, our aim is that every song that we compose, should be a potential hit single. When we go into the studio with a song, there should never be a feeling of: ‘we’re going to record a B-side’. It has to have single power, otherwise it’s not a good song.”
Benny: “We choose the singles, but the opinions of certain people obviously do count as well.”
How do you get to work?
Benny: “It starts at the beginning. Composing. Slaving away on an out of tune piano and, if necessary, an out of tune guitar. I can’t actually describe that stage. Something comes into existence from a couple of chords or a catchy lyric. ‘Super Trouper’, two exquisite words for a spotlight, because that is its literal meaning. The title was there before the song. It’s one of the few songs that we wrote in the studio. The exception proves the rule. Usually, we have a clear overview of a song in advance. In general, a song is already completely thought out before we’ve recorded one note. At the same time, ideas that originate in the studio are sometimes so good that they end up in the song as well.”
Sometimes, you are playing hit singles by other groups in the studio. Is this done to get in the mood or do you use parts of them as well?
Benny: “You mean that we are copying something? No, we don’t do that. Maybe, it’s done sometimes to get in the mood, yes. To create some kind of atmosphere. You can’t always explain everything in words. Sometimes an atmosphere from another song can do the trick.”
What are your sources of inspiration?
Björn: “Mostly separate singles, but if you do want to hear a couple of artists’ names, who are not only admired by us, but whose atmosphere can clearly be found in some ABBA-songs: Beach Boys, Beatles. BeeGees.”
Benny: “The Beach Boys can be found in every ABBA-song.”
How do you compile an album?
Benny: “We don’t have one specific concept. There is never a specific direction that we are moving in. We never know how an album will be like. That’s determined by the songs. They are all highly different from each other. We think in songs. Song by song. When we have an album full of songs, it will be released.”
Björn: “Actually, it’s been like that for years. We still have the same working method.”
Could you finish this sentence. ABBA became famous because of...
Björn: “Hundred thousand factors.”
Benny: “But first there was the music. That’s where it starts. Let’s just say that it’s wonderful when you’ve reached a recognizability. When people start to recognise your sound. And they always hear the voices first. I think it’s also a fact that our songs don’t have any gaps, that it’s one hundred percent music. From start to finish. And you can call the rest talent, for all I care. I think it’s a feeling.”
The best album is always the next one. Are you satisfied with ‘Super Trouper’?
Benny: “You are never satisfied...”
Björn: “‘Super Trouper’ is a warm album. Warmer than ever. It is a naked album, due to its simplicity. But I’ve never felt this warm while listening to an ABBA-album...”
Polar’s vice-president enters the room. Above all, she’s the group’s confidant. The conversation continues in Swedish. There’s a sudden mood swing. You can see it in the faces of both gentlemen.
Benny realises that we don’t understand what’s being said. “I’ll explain later...” What was up? ABBA would travel to Germany the next day for a performance on the television show Show Express. This was cancelled due to a telephonic kidnap threat that was confirmed in writing. ABBA thought that going to Germany was too dangerous and decided to cancel. Subsequently, the television show would go ahead anyway but then live from a Stockholm television studio, and especially without an audience. It was far too dangerous. Hence the uptight mood of the ladies. And now Benny says that he is strained as well. Because the two biggest Swedish evening papers Expressen and Aftonbladet have suggested a person to be kidnapped to the kidnappers: Linda (7), Agnetha and Björn’s daughter. She is even on the front page of Aftonbladet, looking sad. Words like ‘immoral’ and ‘those bastards’ are flying around. Interview over.

The next evening, seven o’clock sharp, we are standing at the gate of the Swedish television studio at Strindberggatan in Stockholm. The security inside makes a couple of phone calls, and the gates open. On our way to Studio B, the security is standing practically shoulder to shoulder. Dressed in camouflage green and equipped with flashlight, walkie-talkie and baton. The hermetically guarded studio makes a striking contrast to what’s happening outside. An intimate canteen party of sorts. ABBA having coffee and the thee extra musicians Ola Brunkert (drums), Mats Ronander (guitar) and Rutger Gunnarsson (bass), about ten television people complete the company, together with us.
Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny, in full regalia, have to take to the floor. The light above the sign ‘sändning’ pops on. It means broadcast, but it’s just a dress rehearsal for the three songs that will be recorded in half an hour: ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘Super Trouper’ and ‘On And On And On’ (the next single after ‘Super Trouper’). And to make things even more complicated. Nothing is left to chance. The broadcast in Germany will take place tomorrow night, but just in case something might go wrong on that particular evening, then they will have the tape that’s been recorded this evening.
The rehearsal and the recording. It all goes effortlessly. As if nothing has happened. That’s how ABBA looks. And that’s also how ABBA looks when Govert de Roos is allowed to take some pictures for a couple of minutes in a back corner of the studio. “One minute,” Agnetha shouts, but it appears to be a joke. Govert asks if she wants to see a Polaroid picture. “To get an idea of how it will turn out.” She nods and reacts with a “that’s nice”. Immediately followed by: “it’s not thát nice”. But that appears to be a joke as well.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Privé, 1982: ABBA’s Benny as a ‘houseman’ with social security

Peacefully, multi-millionaire Benny Andersson (35) is strolling around with his little son Ludvig, while his wife, Mona Nörklit, is at work at the Swedish broadcasting company. When ABBA-star Benny divorced ABBA-singer Frida to get married to television presenter Mona, he promised himself to take things a little easier in the future. He even went as far as changing his profession. Benny is now a ‘houseman’ and receives, according to the Swedish law, a monthly allowance from social security!
While both ABBA-singers Frida and Agnetha have started successful solo careers, Benny is devoting himself completely to the baby.
For that matter, this wasn’t the first time that Benny Andersson became a father. This already happened when he was only sixteen years old and when he was eighteen, he got his second child. At the time, Benny was a member of the rather unknown Swedish group the Hep Stars. He almost doesn’t have any contact with these children. But Benny can spend as much time as he wants on Ludvig. And the Swedish government is even paying him for it...

Hitkrant, August 1982: Anni-Frid laments

A small report about the imminent release of Frida’s first international solo single. I remember the day it was premiered on Dutch Radio Veronica. I thought it was a very exciting and daring debut single and I still think the record has stood the test of time.
Tomorrow, August 6, ABBA’s Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s long-awaited single will be released, and like we reported already, the A-side will be called ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’, actually the title track of the album, since it was named ‘Something’s Going On’.
The B-side has now been announced as well, and that gave us a scare, because its title is ‘Threnody’, an English word that’s not used particularly often, which means ‘lamentation’ or ‘funeral song’.
What’s this? A funeral song on a single by a member of ABBA? We are just as curious as you are.

Monday 1 February 2010

Privé, March 1981: Will private problems mean the end of ABBA? - Swedish supergroup burdened by tensions

The Swedish supergroup ABBA is distressed by tensions and problems. After Björn and Agnetha’s divorce, Benny and Anni-Frid decided to separate as well. Kidnappings are threatening the little happiness they still have left. Is the end of ABBA in sight?

Is the fairytale of ABBA over? After Agnetha and Björn, Anni-Frid and Benny are now divorced as well. Their twelve-year-long love affair, that was sealed with a marriage in 1978, is over. Just like the other ABBA-couple, that divorced in 1979 after an eight-year-long marriage.
Benny and Anni-Frid stated: “The decision to get divorced was made after serious consideration and with mutual understanding. This decision will not stand in the way of ABBA’s future plans in any way.” A spokesperson of their Swedish record company added: “Spouses may separate, but the most important thing is that the two composers Björn and Benny will keep working together.”
The rumours about a second divorce in the Swedish supergroup started circulating last year when Benny and Anni-Frid ordered a division of their properties in court. The ABBA-members themselves explained that this was done for tax reasons. After the divorce was announced, it didn’t take long before Benny’s new love was introduced: the 37-year-old television presenter Mona Nörklit, who has her own television show at the Swedish broadcasting company. Still, friends of Benny and Anni-Frid denied that Mona was the reason for their divorce: “Just like it was the case with Agnetha and Björn at the time, their problems can be attributed to the tensions that were brought on by living and working together during all these years.”
Perhaps, Björn and Agnetha’s divorce has quickened Benny and Anni-Frid’s separation. Undoubtedly, Agnetha and Anni-Frid have regularly talked to each other about their private life. After all, it was Agnetha who ended her marriage to Björn. She said: “I didn’t choose to be free for nothing. I’m happy about it.” And probably this has helped Anni-Frid to make up her mind.
Recently, Björn married his Lena, a Swedish blonde that looks a lot like Agnetha. It must have been a difficult decision for Anni-Frid and Benny. Both of them had been married before and they each had two children from their previous marriage. Anni-Frid is mother of Hans (18) and Lise-Lotte (14), while Benny has a 17-year-old son Peter and a 15-year-old daughter Helena. But the tensions in the group had to be solved. Only a few months ago, Björn said: “When Agnetha and I were having problems, I thought that the group would fall apart due to the tensions. But ever since we decided to separate, the group has become tighter than ever before. Now, we have a strictly professional relationship and all those difficult undertones have disappeared.”
Anni-Frid and Benny’s divorce has to be considered the same way. Because it was in the group’s interest that they decided to go separate ways. Benny once said, at the occasion of the divorce between his fellow group members: “Of course there’s friction when two people separate. But there’s an awful lot of money involved in ABBA. We know that we won’t make any money if we stop making records. Therefore, we continue.”

This has also played an important part in making the decision to divorce Anni-Frid. But divorces won’t solve every problem. ABBA is rich, immensely rich. Each member is a multiple millionaire. But with that, they are also potential victims of terrorists and other criminals, who want to get a huge ransom out of a kidnapping. And ABBA has already been threatened by kidnapping!
This happened when the group was preparing for a German television show. Eventually, the show was recorded in the slightly safer Stockholm. ABBA has turned into a music factory, that has to keep on producing. But the four members are having a hard time. They are distressed by tensions and problems. Therefore, the international show business is starting to wonder how much longer Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid will be able to keep their fairytale, turned into a monster industry that’s depending on creativity, alive.