Monday, 14 June 2010

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: How roll mop herring turned into ABBA

A lot has been written about ABBA the past few years. Truths and untruths. Now, there is finally the first real and authentic life story about the Swedish superstars. Told by ABBA themselves. As a book. In English. We have translated it for you. Exclusively in Freizeit-Magazin, you learn everything about ABBA. And you will be astounded: the real story about Anni-Frid, Agnetha, Björn and Benny is far more exciting than every novel. Because their career is like a fairytale come true!

If there was one favourite in the Swedish heat for the Eurovision Song Contest, then it was ‘Ring Ring’ by ABBA. Only Agnetha’s impending childbirth seemed to be an obstacle. Of course, things turned out differently: the winner of the contest was the duo Clabbe af Geijerstam and Goran Fristorp with their song ‘Summer That Never Says No’. Things just didn’t go ABBA’s way again; ‘Ring Ring’ finished only in a disappointing third place. It was hard to swallow for ABBA and Stig Anderson. Each one of them had assumed that ‘their’ song would make it. An English version of the song had already been pressed, Neil Sedaka had written the lyrics, promotional records and press material were ready. The musical conquest of Europe was ready to start. And now this. But there was still some joy: Agnetha gave birth to little daughter Linda almost one week after their performance...
Björn: “There was no Swedish song that stood a better chance than ours. But on the other hand, it was an advantage that we had to wait for one more year. We learned an awful lot during this time. How things work in other countries. We went to Holland, Belgium, Germany and Austria and we got to know the people that worked with our records. Later on, when we won the contest with ‘Waterloo’, the whole organisation was working perfectly. We were far better prepared.”
But even without the help of the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Ring Ring’ became an international success. In Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Austria and South Africa, it reached the number one spot in the charts. Only in the two biggest pop territories, England and the USA, ‘Ring Ring’ was a flop. Initially, it wasn’t even released in the USA. In England, the record companies tossed the single aside like an old sandwich. In the end, CBS released the song without much enthusiasm.
On the other hand, ‘Ring Ring’ hit like a musical earthquake in Sweden. The song occupied the first three positions in the charts: the Swedish version was at number one, the English version at number two and the album at number three. Even the Beatles had never enjoyed a success like this. All of a sudden, ABBA became a new trademark in Sweden.
Stig Anderson explains how they came up with their group name: “I was getting tired of having to mention their full names to the reporters. As a joke, I called them ABBA. After their initials. And it wouldn’t take long before the newspapers would only use that name. At first, Björn and Benny didn’t quite agree with all this. Because ABBA is a well-known company name as well, that sells salted and roll mop herring. But soon we all agreed that it was the best name. It’s easy to pronounce in every language. Before we went through with the whole thing, we contacted this company. They thanked us for the extra advertisement and sent us a package of tuna fish.”
In the summer of 1973, Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid went on tour in Sweden. It was no picnic. The quartet performed in the folk parks in the weekends. 80 concerts had been scheduled. This meant that there were days with up to three performances. Especially the girls had difficulties coping with this hectic and stressful life. Anni-Frid lost almost seven kilos and Agnetha was craving for her little daughter.
But their enormous success outshined all the strains. When ABBA performed in their colourful and outrageous costumes, wearing their platform shoes with five centimetres high heels, the fans were ecstatic. And this time, the newspapers wrote more about them than a few nice sentences.
Then it was autumn. A hectic period began. The Swedish heat for the Eurovision Song Contest was around the corner again. This time, ABBA was in it to win it. They were in search of a cracker of a song. The question was: would they finally succeed. And a hectic period started in the ABBA team. Hundreds of songs were tested and then they found their cracker...

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