Sunday, 4 April 2010

Joepie, January 1977: ABBA was only founded after their victory at Eurovision

An ABBA special from Belgian magazine Joepie, published on the eve of ABBA’s 1977 tour.
Without any doubt, ABBA is the most popular pop group at the moment. Their record sales, amounting to millions, underline this fact more than enough. To give you yet another example: for their one-off concert in London, the organisers received so many ticket applications that ABBA could have performed there 147 times in a sold out concert hall. And also for the concert that will take place on February 5 at the Arena Hall in Deurne, the demand for tickets was much higher than the supply. As a taster for the lucky ones among you who have been able to get such a ticket, and as a small comfort for the others, there’s an ABBA special on the next few pages, wherein the two boys and girls talk more extensively than ever about the past, the present and the future. With accompanying pictures as a bonus...

A bored teenager with two children.
Anni-Frid (the dark-haired lady) is the oldest of the girls. She was born in Narvik, a little village in Norway, on November 15, 1945 as Anna Frida Lyngstad. Two years later, she moved to Sweden with her family. “I was ten years old when I taught myself how to play the guitar. A couple of years later, I started taking dance lessons, and when I was fourteen I founded my own band. We played at school parties and things like that, not much was happening. Until I met a boy, when I was sixteen, and gave up everything for him. I didn’t want anything to do with music any longer, because he wasn’t really into that. We were madly in love with each other. We got married two months after we had first met. Here in Sweden, that’s not out of the ordinary in any way, even our parents didn’t have anything against it and they organised the entire party. Twelve months later, my son Hans was born, and later on Liselotte, who is two years younger. I’ve experienced wonderful moments with my husband, those first three years were like heaven on earth for me. But the being in love passed by and I started to get bored. Due to his profession, my husband was out quite often and I was left alone. I was nineteen years old, mother of two children and being a housewife was my profession. For a lot of girls, that would be sufficient but not for me. At one night, my husband came home while I was crying. We talked everything out – we chatted until 8 o’clock in the morning – and decided to separate. I see my husband every two months when I visit my children, who stayed with him. Despite everything, we’ve remained good friends.”
There were no obstacles anymore for Frida, and she could start working on a permanent career in show business. In the meantime, her husband has remarried, but Frida still carries his name. “That’s right, my passport still mentions the name Fredriksson. We did get divorced officially, but I omitted to have it changed on my documents. And apparently, now it’s too late for that...” Frida went on to live alone in an apartment and took a job as a ballet dancer. “I was lucky that I never gave up dancing, not even when I was married. Otherwise I may have turned into a bulky woman, and paled into insignificance.”
Within a few months, Frida managed to work her way up and she even got a contract to work for Swedish television. “In one of these shows, I was allowed to sing a song, a Christmas song, I remember it very well. That came across so well on the television screen that I found four record producers on my doorstep the next day, waving with a contract. I chose the best one, and my first record was a duet with the Swedish singer Lars Berghagen. It became a hit, and after that I recorded some more solo singles, that all ended up in the charts...”
Her first meeting with Benny took place at a broken coffee machine. “I remember as if it happened yesterday,” Frida smiles. “Coincidentally, we were guests on the same television programme and – again coincidentally – we were thirsty at the same time. But it turned out that the machine didn’t work, and that’s why Benny invited me to quickly have a drink across the street. After the show, we had another drink, but this time in a more relaxed setting. What attracted me in Benny was his charm and his sense of humour. Later on, I learned to appreciate him as well for his seriousness and his love for his profession...”
According to Frida, Benny is the ideal man for her. Do they never argue then? “We do, and that even happens regularly when a new ABBA single is being made. Because then, Benny gets worked up by everything and nothing. Every cigarette I smoke is too much, and he gets furious immediately when he can’t find something in the kitchen. Believe me, those few weeks that precede a new release, Benny isn’t easy to live with. Luckily, he is the complete opposite when he isn’t nervous.”

Benny had five sweethearts at every finger.
Benny Andersson (the bearded one) was born on December 16, 1946 and he originates from an extremely musical family. He was only four years old when he learned how to play the flute, three years later he knew his way with the accordion as well. “From the age of seven until seventeen, I performed with my parents in a family trio. We were very popular in Stockholm and its surroundings. I remember that I had to learn how to sign my autograph to keep the fans happy, because I didn’t know how to write yet at the time. But in ’63 – I was seventeen – I heard ‘Love Me Do’ on the radio, sung by an English group who called themselves the Beatles. I was so fascinated by the sound that they produced that I wanted to start a group like that as well. But the only problem was that I was still playing with my parents. At one night, I talked about it openly with my father, and his reaction was really cool: you do that, boy, just forget about the trio. For that matter, my parents decided to quit as well. I started playing with the Hep Stars, and it didn’t take long for us to score our first hit. A prominent Swedish paper gave another boost by calling us Sweden’s answer to the Beatles. All in all, we’ve achieved eight gold records, among them four compositions written by me. In those days, I was quite a big star in Sweden. At receptions, I was often the guest of honour, in the streets I was stormed by teenagers and I had five sweethearts at every finger. At the time I thought that was extremely cool, obviously. Frida always looks a little upset when I bring up stories like that...”
Benny is regarded as ABBA’s strong man. He writes the music and afterwards Björn writes the lyrics.
“Recently, Björn and I have bought a little island, about 20 kilometres from Stockholm. We each have our own house there and whenever we have to compose, we always go there together with the girls. The island itself isn’t that big: you can walk around it in five minutes. But it’s extremely cosy and very quiet. Whenever a melody springs to my mind, I go to the piano and then I only tolerate my dog Zappa as my company. I play the piano and sing as well, the most inconsistent sentences, because Björn is specialized in lyrics. Out of the four of us, he speaks English the best. Yes, then I sing any nonsense lyrics that come to mind. When Björn has finished his lyrics, then we complete the rest together. And sometimes that takes quite some time! We worked on ‘Money, Money, Money’ for three months...”
Despite his busy life, Benny makes time for his two children, Helen (8) and Peter (7). And he is doing sports as well, like cycling, tennis and rowing. “I’m thirty years old now. But in five years time, I still want to be around...”

Anna’s first boyfriend was a German.
Blonde Anna was born as Anna Agneta Fältskog on April 5, 1950 in the Swedish village Jönköping. Her father had a revue hall there, and it probably won’t surprise anybody that Anna made her debut on stage at a very young age. “There was a lot of singing going on at our home. When I was five years old, my father gave me a piano as a present and three years later I got a classical education. For years, I played the church organ every week. But when I turned fifteen, I wanted to make a more contemporary type of music and I joined a local dance band. Every week, we had to perform somewhere in the neighbourhood. My father has always been a big support for me. For instance, without my knowledge, he sent one of my tapes to a record company and that’s how I managed to get my first recording contract. I recorded a song, ‘Jag Var Så kär’ (I Was So In Love) and it became a hit in Sweden...”
A dream come true? “Not exactly,” Anna says. “Because, despite my musical past, as a teenager I dreamed about becoming a psychiatrist or a veterinarian. My uncle had a farm and animals have always interested me. The fact that I ended up in show business, is thanks to my father...”
Before she joined ABBA, she released 15 singles and 5 albums as a solo singer. All of them became hits in Sweden, one of them bigger than the other. She also made a couple of German recordings. “Most people think that Björn was my very first love, but that’s a little lie. During the time that I spent in Germany to make some recordings, I met a boy who worked in the studio. I was madly in love with him and vice versa. We’ve experienced wonderful moments. But well, he lived in Berlin and I lived in Stockholm, and after some time we lost track of each other...” Much later, she met Björn. “That happened at an open air show somewhere in Sweden, where we both had to perform. He was part of the Hootenanny Singers, in Sweden a fairly well-known folk group. In the dressing room, our eyes met several times, but it didn’t come to a conversation that day. Björn was – and still is – extremely shy. But a couple of days later, I did receive one of the records of his group. He had drawn a circle around his face and had written: I want to see you again. And that happened two months later in a television show. Together with a group of people, we went to the bar of the building to have some drinks and again we stared at each other without saying anything. Then I realized that he was very shy, that’s why I asked him myself if he wanted to come walk with me. The ice had been broken, because that same evening he told me that he had fallen madly in love with me...”
Apart from Björn, Anna has yet another big love: her three-year-old daughter Linda. “Linda is my life,” she says. “I’ve scheduled our concerts – or rather, had them scheduled – in such a way that we will have a couple of days off every week. Then, Björn and I will fly back to Stockholm to pay her a visit...”

Björn brought the two girls together.
Björn Ulvaeus was born in Gothenburg on April 15, 1945. Eleven years later, he moved with his parents to the village Västervik, where he founded a dance band together with some school friends. Later on, he ended up with the folk group the Hootenanny Singers, with whom he achieved an enormous success in Sweden. “At one night, Benny and his group performed on the same programme as the Hootenanny Singers. Since we were both the composers of our respective groups, we started a conversation in our dressing room. And right away, we felt that we were on the same wavelength. That same night, we stuck around after the show to chat some more in a bar, until deep in the night. Within barely seven hours, we composed four songs there, among them ‘Ring Ring’. Benny and I would, as some kind of hobby, record that song the following week in the studio. There was no talk of splitting up with our respective groups, because it was only an experiment. The recordings turned out great, but after listening to the tape we just felt that the song sounded too empty. Coincidentally, it came up for discussion that we were both engaged to a singer, and that’s why we decided to bring along the two girls the next day and record the song again. That day, Anna and Frida met each other for the first time. In a sense, they were each other’s competition, since they both released solo singles. But still they got along great. And yes, ‘Ring Ring’ sounded wonderful with the four of us, and it also gave us our first hit outside the Swedish borders. Still, we pursued our own activities for one more year (Benny and I with our groups and the girls on their own). It wasn’t until our victory at the Eurovision Song Contest that all four of us became fulltime ABBAs. ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest without existing officially...”
At last, we ask Björn to reveal something about the upcoming concert. “Well, we will be on the road with a ten piece orchestra, and added to that three backing singers. There will be no opening act and we will be on stage for two hours without an intermission. The girls will change their costumes three times. We will sing our hits, and added to that we will perform three brand new songs that haven’t been released on record yet. But I won’t tell you more than that, it has to remain a surprise more or less...”

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