Monday 24 May 2010

Joepie, November 1980: ABBA is preparing a new hit assault!

ABBA fans never knew how incredibly close to a split the quartet came when they had reached the peak of their success. It wasn’t until now that it was revealed how a last minute decision kept ABBA together. For the first time, Joepie reveals what happened behind the scenes.

The marriage between blonde Agnetha and Björn found itself on quicksand three years ago. Their private differences immediately endangered the continued existence of the quartet, that has been on top in show business since ‘Waterloo’ in 1974. Benny was extremely worried when he found out that Björn and Agnetha weren’t getting along anymore. Right away, he saw ABBA’s professional future in danger and he lost several nights of sleep over it. Benny took the bull by the horns and paid a visit to Agnetha and Björn. “I won’t beat around the bush,” he told them, “but I would rather see the end of ABBA than the end of your marriage.”
Agnetha and Björn were stupefied. They didn’t know what to think. For days, they talked about their difficulties. And then they decided that ABBA had to keep existing, regardless of their break up as a married couple.

Agnetha says: “Björn and I thought that we couldn’t go on as a married couple any longer. It was a joint decision. We both didn’t take the first step. The end of a marriage doesn’t have to mean the end of a group as well. For that matter, Björn is still a good friend. You can’t spend eight years together, have two children together, without still having some feelings for each other. The only thing that I can say is that our music had absolutely nothing to do with our marital problems.”

Nowadays, Agnetha and Björn only meet each other when they are working on new recordings in the studio or when they go on tour. “Agnetha and I have both bought a house,” Björn says, “it’s hardly a five minute walk from each other. We primarily did this for the sake of the children. We think it’s essential that the children are able to see a lot of both of their parents when they grow up. It would be hopeless for the children if we would live hundreds of miles away from each other.”

Björn’s new girlfriend is the thirty-one-year-old Lena Källersjö, a divorced woman, who looks a lot like Agnetha. “They give the impression that they are very happy,” Agnetha says, “and I think that’s alright.” It’s obvious that the gossip press is lurking around. They are hot on the heels of Agnetha’s whereabouts. “Everyone wants to link me to a new man,” she smiles, “if only for the exclusive pictures in the newspapers. And that’s not much fun. There really isn’t a new man in my life.”
Frida, the cool member of the quartet, makes a joke about it: “I will find you a husband, honey!”
“I used to get a lot of letters from young girls,” Agnetha says, “but lately I get piles of marriage proposals from men. Sometimes these letters are quite touching...”

At the moment, Björn and Benny are putting the finishing touch to a new ABBA album, the seventh in a row. This is happening in their own recording studio in Stockholm, a former cinema, that they had rebuilt for 70 million Belgian Francs (4,6 million Dutch Guilders). “We know that this is the best recording studio in the world,” Benny grins from behind an impressive mixing console, “we have the perfect equipment at our disposal.”
Their new album is called ‘Super Trouper’. For that matter, it’s the nickname that insiders have attributed to the central spotlight in a theatre.
The title track will probably be released as a single. In December and January, a new ABBA invasion is expected on the international charts. Some pedantic music critics have described ABBA’s music as ‘sugary and tedious’. “That doesn’t bother us anymore,” Benny says, “especially since millions of people all over the world keep on buying our music. We serve our customer, the only one who decides what’s good or bad. I think it’s less fun to hear, after having spent a whole year working very hard on a new album, that you didn’t make an effort. But we even learned to live with remarks like these.”

“Our wildest dreams have become reality,” Benny continues, “we have nothing left to prove. We have more than enough money to spend the rest of our lives in retirement. But you have to have a goal in life. Otherwise you’ll wither away. For a while, we thought about leaving Sweden because the tax burden became too high. But despite everything, we will stay in Sweden. Sweden is a beautiful country and we have to think about our future as well. We’ve found a solution to the problem. We avoid taxes by investing all the money that we make.”
And this doesn’t always work out for the better. Recently, they invested millions in crude oil. But then the prices suddenly dropped and ABBA took the blow. With a coolness like Dallas’ J.R., Björn plays down their bad luck: “It’s not a big deal. We will manage all right without this oil disaster.”

Sunday 23 May 2010

Joepie, April 1981: 10 years of ABBA

More than one and a half million copies in England, 800.000 in Germany, 360.000 in Sweden, 450.000 in France and Belgium, 180.000 in Japan, 400.000 in Canada and 550.000 in the United States – the sales figures of ABBA’s most recent album, ‘Super Trouper’. Mind-blowing results of a group that’s being mentioned in the same breath as phenomena like Elvis Presley and the Beatles. And rightfully so, because this isn’t the first time that the Swedish quartet has achieved figures like this. Since they won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton in ’74 with ‘Waterloo’, the musical empire grew bigger and bigger every day, and ABBA turned into the pop phenomenon of the seventies.
One of these days, a brand new single will be released, undoubtedly the next one in a long string of number ones. In the meantime, Anna, Frida, Björn and Benny don’t rest on their laurels. At the moment they are working on a TV special in a studio in Stockholm, that will be called ’10 years ABBA’. Negotiations with a well-known American superstar are well underway. Allegedly, that superstar is going to host the programme and interview the four members about the past, present and future. In between, old clips of songs are being shown. Indeed, it’s ten years ago that Anna, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid released their first single under the name ABBA, the initials of their names. Björn, who had founded the Hootenanny Singers in ’63 and achieved considerable success in Sweden with that group, got to know Benny, the mastermind behind the Hep Stars, likewise a popular group in Sweden. Both of them were hired as composers and producers by Stig Anderson, who had started the record label Polar Music together with a friend. In ’69, Benny met Frida, and Björn met Anna. While the girls initially stayed at home when Björn and Benny were working in the studio with other artists, later on they were recruited regularly to do backing vocals. Both Anna and Frida had been working as a singer before that, solo or with local groups. In ’70, the four of them performed together for the very first time, as the once only group Festfolk Quartet (Engaged Quartet). It wasn’t until one year after that that they would reach for the top under the name ABBA.
So, ten years ago the musical fairytale started. On our next two pages, a short overview of this extraordinary career...

1971: Björn and Benny are primarily working as producers at Polar Music, the label that was started by ABBA manager Stig Anderson. For their studio work, they are regularly recruiting their respective girlfriends, Anna and Frida. The duo writes the soundtrack for ‘The Language Of Love’ and they receive an international award for that. Björn and Anna get married on July 1. A couple of months later, the first ABBA single is released, ‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’. Only Björn and Benny are featured on the sleeve.
1972: Beyond all expectations, the record becomes a giant hit in Japan: half a million copies are being sold. ‘People Need Love’ is the next single (this time, all four are featured on the sleeve), and this record is quite successful in Japan as well.
ABBA enters the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo. That same year, another record is released, ‘Better To Have Loved’. In the meantime, Björn and Benny keep on producing and composing for other Swedish artists.
1973: ABBA decide to try their luck in the Swedish heat for the Eurovision Song Contest, with the song ‘Ring Ring’. They are the top favourites, but they only finish in third place. Two weeks after the festival, Linda, Björn and Anna’s daughter is born. Despite the disappointing result, ‘Ring Ring’ becomes a hit in Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria and South Africa. Among other things, ABBA is guest on Slalom with the song. In the summer, their first tour in their home country is being planned.
1974: ABBA takes another chance in the Swedish heat for Eurovision, and this time they win. On March 4, they represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton (England), with ‘Waterloo’. They finish... first! It becomes the first, and up till now the only, Swedish win in the Eurovision Song Contest. A first, small-scaled, tour is being planned, with the Beatmakers as their opening act.
1975: Most European countries have surrendered to ABBA’s charms... except England. The group Sweet Dreams covers a song from an ABBA album, ‘Honey, Honey’, and scores a big hit in England. ABBA sees a first opportunity to conquer England go by. Three big European hits set the tone for the ABBA year ’75: ‘I Do, I Do, I Do’, ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’. Furthermore, they finish a Scandinavian tour and they do their first television shows in America.
1976: ABBA expands their success: with ‘Mamma Mia’, the quartet manages to reach the top spot in the British charts for the first time, and in Australia a true ABBA mania is on its way. A television show is breaking all records over there and ABBA turns out to be even more popular than the Beatles at the time. ‘Fernando’ is the next single and it becomes another worldwide hit. In ’76, the Swedish king Carl-Gustav is getting married, and especially for this occasion ABBA writes ‘Dancing Queen’. The song, that initially wasn’t intended for single release, gets into the American top ten. The year is finished off with ‘Money, Money, Money’.
1977: ABBA has turned into a world group and a first, serious world tour is being planned. The set list is primarily based on the album that was released in November ’76, ‘Arrival’. During the tour, a film crew is tagging along, to catch the shows on film. For the acted scenes of ABBA’s first feature film, ‘The Movie’, the quartet travels to Australia. Due to the tour and the movie, there’s a lack of time and only two singles are released: ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ and ‘The Name Of The Game’. ‘The Movie’ has its premiere at the end of ’77.
1978: The movie is a huge success all over the world. ABBA can afford to take things a little easier. Björn and Benny need a little more time to prepare the album ‘The Album’. Björn and Anna have a second child, son Christian. This year is finished off with two singles as well: ‘Take A Chance On Me’ and ‘Summer Night City’.
1979: Like a bolt from the blue, Anna and Björn announce that they have decided to separate, in mutual understanding. The first rumours start to circulate: ABBA is about to fall apart, the divorce is the final blow! ABBA doesn’t respond to the rumours. On top of that, confusion is caused by Stig Anderson’s remark at the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel that the contract with ABBA will come to an end in ’80. Everything points to a permanent split up, but ABBA returns with a series of hits (‘Chiquitita’, ‘Does Your Mother Know’, ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’, ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘Voulez-Vous’), with the album ‘Voulez-Vous’ and a major world tour that starts off in Canada in September.
1980: ABBA takes a break for a couple of months, in the meantime they release ‘I Have A Dream’ as a single. Björn and Benny interrupt their preparations for the new album to tour extensively in Japan. For three weeks.
In the summer, they score another big hit with ‘The Winner Takes It All’. Anna has an affair with ice hockey player Dick Håkansson, but for the rest there’s a complete silence. New rumours about a possible split up start circulating. But at the end of the year it’s all about ABBA again, thanks to the new album ‘Super Trouper’. The single of the same name reaches the top of the charts, true to tradition.
1981: The year is still fresh, but the fans have had to digest two big surprises already. Björn marries Lena, a secretary that he met shortly after the divorce. And a couple of weeks later, Frida and Benny announce that they are getting a divorce. At the moment, ABBA’s plans are rather vague. A new single is on its way, meanwhile Benny and Björn are working hard on the new album.

Sunday 9 May 2010

Viva, February 1977: A day with ABBA, a colourful but decent circus

Have the turbulent days of the Beatles returned? It seems as if a new quartet is going to turn the world upside down. Their name: ABBA, lettered in gold please, because the millions are already pouring in. When the joyous Swedish foursome paid a visit to our country a couple of weeks ago, Viva spent a – tiring – day tagging along with them and watched the whole circus from a distance. Turbulent it was, but smooth, decent and completely programmed as well.

ABBA is Big Business in capital letters. And this means that every step they take and every handshake they give can be worth a lot of money. From the moment that the swinging group from Sweden set foot in our country at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, a machinery was set in motion that hasn’t met its equal yet. On my way over in the car, our photographer Gijsbert Hanekroot already warned me that it would probably turn into a battle today. And he was proven right in that respect. Photographers and reporters jostled each other to get as close as possible to ABBA and even the security staff from our national airport was willing to let possible hijackers get away to take a picture of ABBA. That’s how hundreds of professional and amateur reporters with their cameras at the ready or their note-pads at arm’s reach were waiting for the singing quartet. One officer didn’t even feel embarrassed to take a picture of the group with his carbine on his back. And from the moment that ABBA arrived, everything was going according to plan. Months in advance, record company Polydor had already gone to great lengths to make sure that everything would go according to plan, and now that the moment had arrived, as little as possible should be left to chance.
When the group started to move a while later, the herd of fans, representatives from the press and curious people followed ABBA hot on their heels. The customs office was being passed effortlessly. ABBA didn’t have to hand over anything and the other bystanders quietly walked under the fences so that they wouldn’t lose sight of ABBA for one second. That’s how it goes, when you are famous or when you are able to follow in the wake of the stars. Their arrival at Schiphol was hardly over when the group was taken to The Hague in a shiny limousine, where the rest of the ‘festivities’ was waiting for them. Rehearsing at Mies, grabbing a bite to eat, talking to journalists, a dress rehearsal at Mies, a press conference and their performance at Mies.
They get to bed late at night and the next day they are on their way to the airport again, because in France the same kind of programme is waiting for them. That’s how things are when you are Europe’s number one group. Stuck between promotion and publicity. Dream and reality. Hits and luxury.

“Actually I think outings like these are disgusting,” guitarist Björn says to Viva in one of many five-minute-interviews, that I’m going to have with the foursome this day. “I’m not keen on this publicity campaign at all, but it goes with this business. I’d rather be at home with my children and compose new music in all peace and quiet. That’s what we do during eight months of the year. The remaining four months, we surrender to this circus. You have chosen a career like this and you have to bear the consequences. Your fans want to see you and apart from that, it benefits the sales figures.”
No one can deny that. Ever since ABBA paid a visit to our country at the end of November, the record sales – that hadn’t been insignificant anyway – increased to astronomic heights.
“All in all, things have gone insanely fast for us,” Björn says. “At one moment we were a national group with a couple of nice hits, and at another you are well-known all over Europe and all over the world.”

Just like there’s an important manager behind every major group, it’s no different with ABBA. And in almost exactly the same way as the late Brian Epstein ‘made’ the Beatles, Stig Anderson did the same for ABBA. He even came up with their name, when he was looking for a good name for the group on a rainy afternoon, because they would enter the Eurovision Song Contest. “And a good name makes up for half of the success,” Stig pondered. While playing with the initials of the quartet, the name ABBA entered his mind. Still, he took no risks. With the help of a public opinion poll, he inquired if the name ABBA would be sufficiently popular with the Swedish public. Nothing was left to chance. They had reasonable success with ‘People Need Love’ and the second single ‘Ring Ring’ became a hit in America.
The big breakthrough came when the group achieved the pole position with ‘Waterloo’ at the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, which was the incentive for millions of Europeans to rush to the record stores the next day and clasp ABBA to their hearts. This success was followed by a period of relative silence. Although they did produce several nice hits, the definitive battle for world domination was settled in favour of the Swedes in 1976. All of Europe was able to witness how the group could not be pushed away from the number one spot with three of their hits in several charts for weeks on end, and even in America ABBA is starting to become the number one group more and more with every day that passes. And to emphasize this fact, after their performance at the Jaap Eden hall, ABBA will be off to the United States for three weeks to start up the publicity machine coast to coast over there. When this is settled, chances are that the sales figures of the Beatles will be beaten. “Only in Japan and China, people don’t seem to warm up to our music yet,” Benny says when I ask him about the worldwide success of the group.

And his manager Stig Anderson immediately adds to that: “We are popular with an audience that ranges from eight to eighty. That’s because we are making music that’s understandable for everybody. Apart from that, the group has the atmosphere of a happy family life. Björn and Agnetha are married and have a little daughter. Benny and Anni-Frid are engaged. People will never hear sensational stories about ABBA’s sex life, affairs with drugs or other excesses. Actually, ABBA is the answer to the dream image of many people. A decent group that makes nice music. Very clean, but especially decent. What else could you want?”
Stig Anderson knows what he’s talking about. Once he was a teacher, but he rapidly traded that job for a function as a freelance lyric writer and a music publisher. And in this respect, it’s nice to know that Anderson was the man responsible for the Ria Valk hit from 1961 ‘Houd Je Nog Van Mij, Rocking Billy?’ The same kind of hit sensibility that Anderson exposed at that time, is being displayed time and time again when he writes songs for ABBA with Björn and Benny and practically always he achieves a fantastic result with that.

The business side of ABBA is taken care of nicely as well. Because ever since hits are being mass-produced, the millions are pouring into Sweden and this means that 85 percent is going to the tax collection office. A vast amount of money. Blonde Agnetha has once suggested to say goodbye to their home country for that reason, just like tennis player Björn Borg, racing driver Ronnie Petterson, director Ingmar Bergman and actors Max von Syndow and Liv Ullman have done. “But it’s such a wonderful country,” she says now. “I don’t believe that we would have become happier outside Sweden.”
But Stig Anderson had the answer to this ‘money problem’ as well. ABBA was accommodated in a company, called ‘AB’ and this company started to invest their millions in houses, real estate and shares. Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid and Agnetha each received a year salary amounting to 150.000 Dutch guilders and this way the rest of the money could stay out of the tax collection office’s hands.
Agnetha, when asked about ABBA’s big success: “We make the music that we like and luckily there are a lot of people who agree with us. Obviously, it’s some kind of fairytale land that we hold out, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Most people attach importance to a warm, cosy and homely existence. They like to look for security and they like to cuddle their children when they come home. We appeal to that image with our music. People are able to dream away with it. Apart from that, according to many people, Sweden is synonymous for sex and drugs. We want to rectify that image. I believe that we are representing Sweden as it really is. We are just as ordinary as the music that we are making. No one has to second guess it. We love music and that’s what we carry out.”
And indeed, anyone who has ever met the group would have to agree that they are friendly, very friendly. From the beginning of this turbulent day in Holland until the end, the quartet kept on smiling and answering the questions – sometimes asked a dozen times – politely. During the press conference, they were even hardly able to answer any question, but still they kept on smiling. Because while the lights of the photographers, the film people and the heat in the exquisite room of the fancy Bell Air hotel in The Hague were reaching boiling point, the foursome chatted entertainingly on a very small stage with everyone who wanted to ask a question. It was striking that all four of them gave practically identical answers, that all could come out of a fairytale book. Everything was sweet and beautiful, good and well-behaved. Benny stated that he didn’t want to reveal which political party got his vote at the last elections, although Björn hinted that he was happy with the victory of the conservatives. But apart from that, the answers were nice but they weren’t very revealing, such as “we are interested in politics” or “we are interested in a lot of things”.

In a perfect way, entertainment music is being executed. Benny: “We only want to make music. The rest is nonsense. Necessary, but nonsense. But it’s simply a fact that you have to open your mouth when you are having success.”
In any case, it’s clear that the whole commercial industry around the group is starting to take shape. During their stay in Holland, magazine Hitkrant grabbed this opportunity to launch itself through ABBA’s success and Polydor T-shirts appeared with the name ABBA on it. It seems that this is the time of tea cups, ties, posters, caps and stickers. Benny: “Success. Yes, it comes with the territory. We are not keen on it, but apparently we meet a certain demand.”

Performance – with an orchestra – in Amsterdam
ABBA is a name that rings like a bell. Simple and effective. Just as clever as the music and the lyrics of the joyous quartet from Sweden. ABBA stands for Agnetha (the blonde), Björn (her husband and the group’s guitarist), Benny (the pianist) and Anni-Frid (his fiancée, the brunette). Four letters that are shining as high in the hit heaven of the seventies as this used to be the case with the Beatles. On February 4, they will return to our country for one evening. At the Jaap Eden hall in Amsterdam, for the first time in a live performance, a crowd of four thousand people will be able to get acquainted with this phenomenon, that will perform all the hits from the past years, accompanied by a ten-piece orchestra. Blockbusters like ‘Waterloo’ (that gave the group their Eurovision victory), ‘Fernando’, ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Money, Money, Money’, to name but a few of their recent bestsellers.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Hitkrant, November 1979: ABBA more than satisfies the fans!

Edmonton, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Concord, Anaheim, San Diego: every evening a different concert hall, every evening a new stage, every evening a different audience. ABBA on their world tour; will it be the last one? Although it is being strongly denied in press conferences and statements from Stockholm that the Swedish hit factory is about to split up, the rumours keep persisting.

For that matter, on stage it doesn’t look as if the quartet is about to split up. An enormous amount of enthusiasm, tempo and especially craftsmanship is being shown there! Although several songs are being performed that Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Björn must have sung a hundred (thousand?) times by now, there are no signs of fatigue or going through the motions. Not in Gothenburg (the nineteenth show), not in Rotterdam (the twenty-third show). No, ABBA doesn’t exactly disappoint their fans. Everything that the group has to offer when it comes to musicality, show and personality is being displayed.
On the other hand, the fans don’t disappoint ABBA either: an ecstatic audience, sold out venues and sometimes distinguished guests, for instance during the performance at the ice hockey stadium in Stockholm, where the Swedish royal family was in attendance, cheering the group on just as enthusiastically as the rest of the audience!
Speaking of ice hockey: Anni-Frid had the idea to put on an ice hockey shirt at every performance during a couple of songs, in the team colours of the city where ABBA was performing at that moment. Especially in Canada and Sweden (where ice hockey is just as popular as soccer is here) this caused waves of enthusiasm. These same waves of enthusiasm arised in Stockholm during the song ‘I Have A Dream’, when the audience spotted Agnetha’s little daughter Linda in the children’s choir that joins ABBA in that song.
Apart from that, there is also a less pleasant incident to be mentioned: the stage design behind ABBA mainly consists of the same pyramids that you’ll probably recognize from the ‘Voulez-Vous’ album cover. The construction of that stage design started without notifying the designer of the album sleeve and he won’t put up with that: the man flew into a rage and now he demands a huge amount of money for the use of his design.
But that’s about the only dissonance in the two month long tour, wherein ABBA proved and proves their class yet again!

Sunday 2 May 2010

Televizier, December 1977: ABBA in the cinema

When you are Sweden’s most important export article, make millions on every single you release, buy complete companies and blocks of real estate, and you are able to ignore the immense American market, simply because you don’t need it, then you are able to make a movie as well. That’s exactly what ABBA did, in between proceedings. This week, ‘ABBA – The Movie’ will have its premiere. There will probably be a run on tickets.

“What’s the name of the game, ABBA?” Money, that’s the name. A popular joke in Sweden goes like this: “ABBA is money, but only spelled differently.” Envy? Without doubt. But above all, admiration for the wizard Stig Anderson, president-director of Polar Music International AB, the mastermind behind the empire when it comes to business. Within three years, he has turned two boys and two girls, who endeared the world with ‘Waterloo’, into Sweden’s biggest export article. Music is the basis, it still is, but the millions, that ABBA’s black gold has brought in, are continuously invested in very diverse projects and all kinds of companies.
Anderson’s secret is, in his own words, very simple. A combination of courage, self-confidence and craftsmanship. Like no other in the music industry, the man with the longest moustache in Scandinavia has managed to break through the monopoly position of the record companies by simply keeping everything under one umbrella: production, contracts and distribution. He uses the record industry to his own wishes and on his own conditions, based on an unprecedented success. By doing that, the major part of the mountain of gold is flooding back to ABBA and achieves a height of which even groups like the Beatles and the Stones can only dream.
And this has its advantages. Not only where money is concerned, but in life as well. Agnetha and Björn have children with whom they want to spend as much time as possible. Worldwide tours that go on for months don’t fit in that picture. And they don’t have to. When ‘The Name Of The Game’ is released, ABBA makes one promotional film that is distributed all over the world, to our own TopPop as well. Because the times when director Popma could ask the group to come over for recordings in his own TopPop scenery, have long gone. Take America for instance. ABBA is big in Scandinavia, Western Europe and especially Australia. But in the United States ABBA has achieved gold status a couple of times as well. Despite the fact that the lovely quartet has never appeared live over there. America is waiting for ABBA, craving for ABBA. But the Swedish gods and goddesses don’t have the time and (for the time being) the desire. Stig Anderson keeps the cows in the meadow on a tight string, because they are producing more than enough milk. Only when he himself – and no one else – feels that ABBA is completely ready for America, he will strike. “And then success will be guaranteed,” he has stated already.

According to the same intricate concept, ‘ABBA – The Movie’ has come into being, that will have its world premiere on Saturday December 17 at the City theatre in Amsterdam. How does something like this work with mister Anderson? Firstly: ABBA doesn’t give interviews. Too time-consuming, not necessary either, you simply distribute a newspaper under the name ABBA News that provides all the information. Enough to keep the copywriters occupied. No interviews, hey, that’s an idea. We will make a movie wherein a desperate journalist tries to get an interview with ABBA, something at which he just can’t succeed. Only in his dreams, wherein the sweet Agnetha and the beautiful Anni-Frid even fall in love with him as well. And that’s the dream of every journalist, isn’t it?
Illustrate this sublime script with a substantial dose of musical ABBA successes and there you go, a movie. Filmed in Australia while being on tour, so that was convenient as well. So don’t expect a super movie with illustrious character roles, exciting pursuits and a thundering finale. ‘The Movie’ is aimed at the whole family, provided that everyone loves ABBA. A lot of live music on different stages with a very enthusiastic audience at every venue and a little storyline with a small trace of a dream love to turn it into a movie. With a variation on the familiar advertisement slogan, it can be said: “ABBA, good for you”. And good for Sweden as well, because the box-office results of this new export article (followed in January by the new album ‘The Album’) are expected to reach astronomic heights again.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Mix, February 1979: ABBA’s Agnetha: “Why wouldn’t I be able to work with my ex-husband?”

The marriage of Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus, together half of the world famous pop quartet ABBA, seemed like a fairytale. But after eight years, their romance still came to an end. Will this mean the end of ABBA as well?

“I don’t believe that we will ever be able to let go of each other completely,” blonde Agnetha says pensively. “Björn and I have gone through too much together... and apart from that: we have children together... even though we can’t live together as parents any longer, we have to consider the interests of Christian and Linda...” A little more cheerful, she adds: “But our fans can rest assured: ABBA will go on. Our divorce won’t have any consequences for the group...”
Despite this reassuring statement, the divorce between twenty-nine-year-old Agnetha and thirty-three-year-old Björn, who make up half of ABBA, the pop quartet that conquered the world, came like a bolt from the blue for the fans of the Swedish group. Even though insiders already knew that there were tensions within ABBA.
Last year, when ABBA launched the single ‘Summer Night City’ in Paris, Mix already noticed that there were conflicts in the group. Since then, the business interests that drove the quartet apart have only become bigger. And how big those interests are, is clear for those who know that the profits of ABBA’s company are bigger than the profits of Sweden’s largest automobile factory Volvo...
ABBA’s manager Stikkan Anderson remains optimistic about the group’s future. “Of course there are internal tensions every now and then,” he admits. “Which group doesn’t have them? Don’t forget that the ABBA members have been together for years day in and day out. Because of that, futilities can be blown out of proportion. That’s quite understandable. Only those insane stories about the jealousy between Agnetha and Anni-Frid... I can really get furious about that.”
For years, those ‘arguments’ between the girls have been the façade after which ABBA hid away their true differences. And practically everybody believed in it... because the fairytale was that good... Björn and Agnetha had been an example of happiness ever since they got married in 1971. And only last year, Benny and Anni-Frid got married. Whatever could be wrong with this picture, except the jealousy between the women? Agnetha gives the answer: “It just didn’t work anymore... Björn and I can’t live together any longer. We have known that for some time but we have tried to keep it out of the publicity. Simply because it doesn’t have anything to do with ABBA. The fact that Björn and I have decided to separate has nothing to do with our job. The team will really remain intact. Why not? We still get along wonderfully in that respect. Our new album, that will be released around Easter, will be the proof of that. It’s really just a private matter, things like this happen all the time. Just look at Fleetwood Mac... the singer of that group has divorced as well, but she is still perfectly able to work with her ex-husband in the group. That’s what we want to accomplish as well... although it will be difficult at times. And all in all, it’s really our own business. The public doesn’t have anything to do with it...”

On the occasion of his divorce, Björn remembers vividly how he got to know Agnetha: “I heard a song on the radio,” he says. “It was called ‘So In Love’ and I thought the voice of the girl who sang it was wonderful... it was one Agnetha Fältskog, but that didn’t ring a bell.”
Björn fell madly in love with the voice of this unknown singer. He bought the record and played it incessantly. “It was strange actually,” he remembers. “I was in love with that voice, while I had no idea how Agnetha looked like. And what’s even more strange: the image that I had of Agnetha turned out to be exactly right. When I met her eventually, it was like I had known her for years. How was I to know that she was a fan of the Hootenanny Singers, the group that I was a member of at the time...”
Coincidentally, Björn and Agnetha met each other in 1969 on a television show. It was love at first sight. Björn remembers: “When I saw her, I could hardly breathe.” If only because Agnetha said: “I’m happy to see you in reality, because I think the Hootenanny Singers are Sweden’s best group.” The Swedish papers immediately labelled it as the pop romance of the year. And Björn still remembers their wedding day in 1971: “Agnetha was such a sweet summer bride...” That romance has ended now. Everyone wonders if this will mean the end of ABBA as well. But the four Swedes are determined to continue.