Thursday 29 July 2010

Pop Biz, 1979: Will ABBA be able to take the crown from the Bee Gees? – The Vikings set their sights on America

Hustle and bustle in the pop business. On the highest possible level, the competition is on between the two most successful groups in the world: ABBA and the Bee Gees. A competition that – for the largest part – is going on between their respective managers: Stig and Stigwood, two shrewd managers that – apart from their names – have more similarities. The outcome of this competition largely depends on their inventiveness...

Since the days of the Beatles and the Stones, it hasn’t happened that two non-American groups are fighting for world domination. This time, the competition is between ABBA from Sweden and the Bee Gees from Australia, although the brothers Gibb were actually born in Great Britain.

To be accepted as the number one group in the world, you’ll have to get America at your feet, no matter what. Because – although you may sell millions and millions of records in Europe, Africa, Japan and Australia – if you are unable to conquer America, you just can’t rule as the masters of pop. ABBA realizes this all too well. And that’s why their manager Stig Anderson sat down in his headquarter in Stockholm like a chess grandmaster to brood on an ingenious move that would leave the Bee Gees checkmate. Because the immensely rich Swede is terribly bothered by the fact that the Bee Gees actually did conquer America, while his protégées are still coming a day after the fair.
Meanwhile, the Bee Gees’ manager Stigwood is laughing in his sleeve. Two years ago, when ABBA’s emergence seemed unstoppable, his group took the wind out of the Swedes’ sails with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, up till now the best selling album ever. And it was the Bee Gees, and not ABBA, who spearheaded the upcoming disco craze with new musical inventions. And this at a time when Stig Anderson had made elaborate plans to finally unleash his quartet on the American market.

But Stig is brooding on revenge. And after the flop of the Sgt. Pepper movie – another idea of Robert Stigwood – the clever Swede understood that things were going his way. He advised Björn and Benny to adapt their musical style to the disco trend. However, without losing the specific ABBA sound.
In the meantime, he made sure that ABBA performed on the Unicef Gala – watched by millions of Americans – so that there wasn’t any increase in arrears. For a while, it seemed that there would be a crisis in the ABBA team when Agnetha announced that she and Björn had divorced. But this crisis didn’t have any severe consequences. To make sure that they wouldn’t lose any ground in the continents that they had conquered already, Stig saw to it that ABBA filmed a couple of television specials before they – after a short holiday break – will truly start conquering the Yankees with their singing skills.
And while ABBA presented their new album ‘Voulez-Vous’ to the world and appeared in front of television cameras in several countries, Stig was working on his master plan. It’s going to be a matter of all or nothing, because if the plan fails, the four sympathetic Swedes will not get a second chance very easily over there. And then the Bee Gees will remain the number one group in the world...

Muziek Expres, 1978: ABBA – The Album album review

In the scope of the trilogy of movie-album-book, after ABBA – The Movie, ABBA – The Album has now been released. Obviously, commercially speaking it’s a completely well-thought-out product (who would have expected anything different?), but still I’m posing a couple of question marks at the ongoing intellectualisation of the ABBA sound. Where – according to me – their biggest forte has always been the utmost simplicity – that in fact wasn’t all that simple at all – now the foursome is bringing in more and more strategic tricks.
My prediction that ‘The Name Of The Game’ was not going to make it, came true. Therefore, I safely dare to claim that this album will only achieve high sales figures because ABBA has become such an institution over the course of the years. In other words, if the name ABBA wouldn’t have such a magical ring to it, ‘The Album’ would never be the chartbuster that it will undoubtedly be now. All of this doesn’t take away from the fact that the album contains a couple of beautiful songs. The choruses of ‘Move On’ and ‘Thank You For The Music’ even start exceptionally beautiful.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Popshop, June 1977: Intimate portrait, Benny (from ABBA)

Benny Andersson, the jovial, bearded member of ABBA, was born on December 16, 1946 in one of the Stockholm suburbs. In school, he didn’t show much interest in anything, except music. When he was fifteen, he had had enough. Without taking his final exam, he said goodbye to school. At the time, he already knew his way with the accordion, but he soon changed to piano. For two years, he played with an anonymous group. Svenne Hedlund, singer of the – then very popular group in Sweden – Hep Stars, saw him playing once and when their keyboard player quit, Benny took the offered opportunity with both hands. The Hep Stars turned into the most famous rock group in Sweden, until ABBA entered the scene. In fact, the Hep Stars were more or less the Swedish answer to the Beatles, but of course they weren’t. Benny: “We played some kind of country and western music with a German beat, if you understand what I mean, and at the time we thought this was IT and luckily everybody in Sweden seemed to agree!”
In 1965, he wrote his first song for the Hep Stars, ‘No Response’, and it immediately became a hit. From that moment on, Benny was the steady hit composer of the group. The two most successful ones from the sixties were ‘Sunny Girl’ and ‘Wedding’. In the beginning, he was the only one in the group with short hair, but that wouldn’t last for long and soon he turned into the idol of the Swedish teenage girls. The Hep Stars became so popular that they decided to start their own music publishing company (Hep House) but it turned into a disaster.
Musically, they knew the ropes but they didn’t know anything about business and financial policy, especially Benny. During that time, Benny met Björn, who performed with the Hootenanny Singers, and they clicked immediately. They started to work together and their first song ‘Isn’t It Easy To Say’ was recorded for a Hep Stars album. A couple of years after this first meeting, Benny left the Hep Stars and together with Björn he founded Union Songs. Right away, the foundation was laid for what would later turn into ABBA.

How was your childhood like, is it true that you were a bad pupil?
“I don’t have any diploma. Actually I do. One! I have a driving licence! I passed that final exam! The only one. No, school has never interested me. The only subject that interested me was English. I absorbed that language as a sponge. And for the rest, I was only interested in music, although I couldn’t read a single note myself. Studying musical notes is not for me. Too difficult! And all that theory that goes with it! No thanks. But I have always played musical instruments, from my infancy onwards: accordion, harmonica, everything that I could get my hands on. My father and grandfather were both well grounded in music. They were just like me. They could handle any music instrument. I have a strong feeling that I have inherited that musicality. They were especially into folk music, the older and cornier, the better. I learned a lot of those old melodies from them, but now I’m happy that my music doesn’t suffer much from that anymore...”
There are a lot of rumours about a secret adolescent love, a mysterious girlfriend. What’s the deal?
“When I was sixteen, we are talking 1962, I met Christina Grönvall, a pretty, red-haired girl that was in my class. It was my big adolescent love, you know. Inexperienced but pure. We stayed together for four years. In Sweden, it’s customary that engaged couples live together for years before they get married. That’s what we did as well. Christina got two children, a boy (Peter) and a girl (Helena). For years, I refused to talk about this relationship because I thought, and I still do, that this is a private matter, that isn’t anybody’s business. There has been a lot of gossip about my past. My name has been slandered quite a few times. For instance, it was claimed that our romance should be kept a secret because in the sixties, it was lethal for the popularity of a pop idol if his fans would find out that he had a girlfriend and children. A couple of months after our divorce, Christina even provoked me via a Swedish magazine to tell the truth about what she called ‘a wife and children that didn’t have a place in the glittery world of a pop idol’. It must have been a severe blow to her, to blab that the only contact between me and the children were the Hep Stars records...”
Is it true that you never worry about anything, that you are lazy and that you never get mad?
“When I joined the Hep Stars, I was the newcomer, the rookie, but I didn’t care about that. I thought it was enough that I could join in, the rest left me cold. ‘We’ll see what happens’ is my device. The money didn’t interest me much either, especially at that time. The only thing I wanted to do was make music. I couldn’t – and I still can’t – care less about the rest. But I think that I was lucky. That I always had the opportunity to make music and then the money came with it. Lazy? What is lazy? I can spend hours at the piano, working, making music, composing. The others are asleep then or doing something else. They probably think ‘that Benny is crazy’ but is it really ‘working’? It’s different when pressure is put upon me, when I’m being asked to have a certain composition ready at a specific day, then I have the tendency to postpone everything. I rather think that I’m nonchalant. In the old days, with the Hep Stars, we were having more fun. It was more relaxed. When the Hep Stars started to believe in big business, it was all over. We lost our money faster than we had made it. We even invested in a movie picture, that would be filmed in Africa, but not an inch of celluloid was ever filmed. We flew to London in a private jet, to capture the English sound in a Soho studio. The record was never released! After my period with the Hep Stars, I was much wiser, but much poorer as well!”
How do you actually write these hits? What’s the secret? How do you manage when you are not able to read music notes?
“I still write songs like I used to do years ago. I just play around on the piano until I have found a couple of chords that I like. Then I try to turn them into a melody. Only then, I start to look for appropriate lyrics. I may be a Swede, but the English comes quickly and easily. After that, I make an appeal to someone who can put the notes on paper, because I still haven’t learned how to do that! When you work in pairs, for instance with Björn, it’s much easier. We inspire each other, we motivate each other, we push each other along. The lyrics are always the most difficult part. When the melody is finished, Björn and I try to find the words, initially they are only syllables. You should hear us on the job. But it’s better that you don’t. Outsiders would probably think that we’re insane. Luckily, the walls of our workplaces are soundproof. To get back to the subject of being lazy: ever since I was fifteen, I’ve been working at the most irregular hours. Most people think that we are just having some fun and improvising. But it isn’t always that much fun. After years and years of composing and playing, this night work is starting to take its toll.”
What’s your opinion about sex, the girls and... Anni-Frid?
“Where the first subject is concerned, you should ask a Swede! We seem to be raised like that, sex is a habit, a need, just like eating and drinking. In the old days, we used to be bothered by ‘groupies’ a lot more than now. We are not young anymore, that’s probably the reason, and apart from that the fans know more or less what the situation is with Anni-Frid and me and with Björn and Agnetha. In the sixties, I was – what you would call – a teenage idol for the girls. I thought that was wonderful. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it caused restrictions for my second hobby: enjoying a good meal and restaurants. I just couldn’t go to a restaurant openly anymore, I had to disguise myself! After I had met Anni-Frid, we started living together from April 1, 1970 onwards. Since then, we’ve always been very happy together. We used to live in a small apartment in Vasastan near Stockholm and it was so small that we didn’t even have room for a piano. For the first time in my life, I was living somewhere without a piano. But love conquered all. And luckily I had a friend from whom I could borrow the church organ. I could make music for hours in that empty church.”
Why don’t you get married?
“If we had the guarantee that a marriage would make our relationship even better, then we would get married tomorrow. And we’ve been saying this for seven years. Perhaps it will actually happen one day. We simply don’t have the time! Character wise, we are actually quite different, but that makes it fun. Anni-Frid is the one who makes the plans and takes care of everything and I’m not bothered with anything. Whenever tensions arise between us or in the group, I sit down at the piano and start playing. That’s mostly soothing. I love classical music, especially Tchaikovsky, Rossini and baroque. Anni-Frid prefers jazz music. In a small apartment, this can cause arguments. But I think that I have won the battle. Whenever we have the time, Anni-Frid comes along with me to opera and ballet performances. During an American tour, Dinah Shore suggested that we got married right away on her show, in Las Vegas, just like that in front of the cameras. We managed to turn down the invitation politely...”
What’s your opinion about pop music critics?
“As long as they don’t tell any nonsense, I think they are alright. We had to digest a severe blow just before our Eurovision victory (Brighton, 1974). It even came from the Swedish pop journalist Christa Lundblad who wrote that ‘Waterloo’ was a succession of ‘borrowed’ fragments from 10CC, Foundations, Junior Walker and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. Of course, I was aware of these styles. But to suggest that ‘Waterloo’ consisted of stolen material, that was stupendous nonsense. Luckily, that criticism didn’t make much impression on us at the time, because we knew that what we did was completely ours and totally original.”
How do you see ABBA’s future?
“After our British and Australian tour, we will work on our new album from April to October. It will be a matter of severe concentration. A new album, a step ahead: it’s the only way to survive. After that, we will probably go to South America and the United States for promotion and television performances. If our new album does well in the States, then we want to concentrate completely on conquering America during the course of 1978.”
What’s your opinion about the heavy tours?
“I think they are tiresome. From one plane into the other. From one hotel into the other. Luckily, there’s eating. For me, eating is the only fun part about touring.”
How about that island of yours? Does it really exist?
“A couple of years ago, we had already bought a small island near Stockholm, together with some other families. But we had to leave there, the news leaked, it got into the papers and soon the island was stormed by thousands of curious tourists that wanted to take pictures of us and the girls in their bathing suits. We’ve learned our lesson then. We have a new island now, it’s about a one hour drive by car or a speedy boat from Stockholm, but this time, a wall of silence was built around the island. It’s ideal for spring and summer, to take a rest and to work. It’s impossible in the winter: Swedish winters are too severe. Whenever we go to the island with our boat, it’s like a heavy door closes behind us. The hustle of the city disappears and the inspiration starts to flow. The island is our inspiration, the island is our muse. There are no telephones either. Wonderful. The only luxury article on the island is a piano... Buying that island has been a dream of mine for years. Don’t think that we are that rich, the island wasn’t even that expensive, it was the price of a house.”

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Joepie, August 1981: Big boss ordered ABBA to take a vacation – To overcome artistic and private problems

Things are not looking up for ABBA at the moment. Although you immediately wonder what could possibly dampen the festive spirit in the Swedish superstar camp. Because for starters, there is the increasing success of their newly released single ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’. Apart from that, a very mysterious remix of that very same track, originating from Canada, is currently a top favourite in all the trendy discotheques. Meanwhile, the ‘Stars On 45’ part 2 medley of all the ABBA hits seems to become a guaranteed number one hit in virtually every country in the world at the moment. Reason enough for a telephone conversation with the quartet’s big boss, Stig Anderson.

The fifth ABBA, as Stig is often called, is actually not surprised at all when we ask him why an umpteenth single was culled from the ‘Super Trouper’ album instead of the announced new composition. Allegedly, four brand new tracks for the upcoming album have been completed.
“That’s true, but in the end we decided to pass on them,” he admits honestly. “We listened to them for days but our unanimous decision remained the same, we don’t think they are strong enough to release as a single. Oh, all of these songs would probably be able to occupy a position on the charts but our reputation has become more important to us than a hit that we’re not completely satisfied with. We don’t want to mislead the fans in any way.”
Likewise, the album that was initially scheduled for a September release has been postponed for six weeks and it probably won’t be available in the shops before Christmas and the holiday season. Artistic and technical problems, is what we understand.
“As you know, Benny and Björn are adamant about coming up with new compositions that are not a copy of something they have already done before,” according to Stig. “After everything they’ve done already, that’s definitely not an easy task. And it becomes more difficult with every album. Björn and Benny are worried about that too. They were even prepared to postpone their holiday so that they wouldn’t fall behind. But I objected to that. As a matter of fact, I’ve ordered them to take a holiday. They were living so stressfully that they wouldn’t have lasted for a couple more weeks. On top of that, there are the private problems that all four of them have been suffering from and that they may not have digested yet. Apart from that, ABBA now consists of four members, who don’t have anything to do with each other privately any longer, which doesn’t make it easier to plan things and work together. But, believe me, we will manage.”

Where popularity is concerned, the four Swedish superstars don’t have anything to worry about for the time being. Their market value is enormous, even to the extent that there are always clever guys lurking around to get a piece of the ABBA fever. That’s how an illegal version of ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ made its way to Europe from Canada and is now a very popular track in our discotheques. The 12-inch mix is several minutes longer than the single version because the disco-flavoured intro of the song is repeated indefinitely at the start of the song and it’s also sequenced in between the verses.
“These are things that you have to deal with when you are successful,” says Stig. “The Beatles have experienced this as well, so has Elvis. In a way, you have to take it as a compliment. But I do intend to try and take legal actions. After all, we don’t get any royalties from an illegal record like that, and we are entitled to that. No, I much prefer the creator of the ‘Stars On 45’ ABBA compilation. For a change, we are making some money without having to work very hard for it. But what’s even more important is that a compilation like that could provide a complete breakthrough in the few countries where we haven’t managed that yet. The first ‘Stars On 45’ reached the number one spot in the United States. Just imagine that the second one with ABBA songs will follow the same path. This could mean a complete breakthrough in that territory for us. Although some of our records did chart in America, we haven’t reached the absolute top yet. Well, if ‘Stars On 45’ can get us there now, we can only thank the man who is the creator of it all.”

Thursday 15 July 2010

Story, March 1979: ABBA’s Agnetha: “Even a second child couldn’t save our marriage”

A gossip article from Dutch magazine Story about Björn and Agnetha’s then recent divorce.
The ABBA fans were in shock when they heard the news about Agnetha and Björn’s separation. Would this mean the end of ABBA? And how was this possible? Didn’t Agnetha and Björn have a son only one year ago? The ABBA couple told Story what was the reason for Christian’s birth...

What no one had ever expected, did actually happen. Barely one year after the birth of their son, ABBA’s Björn and Agnetha decided to get a divorce. As it turns out now, the birth of Christian was their last attempt to patch things up.

“Actually, we started to grow apart from the moment that we got married, which is now seven years ago,” says Björn, the male half of the ABBA couple that was considered as the ideal couple by the admiring outer world. A couple of weeks ago, the news about their divorce came – and this is no exaggeration – like a bolt from the blue. “Last summer, we came to the conclusion that it was better to separate, despite the birth of our son Christian.”
The divorce has been finalized – before and after the first sensational reports – rather silently. Especially since Björn and Agnetha initially denied that there was ‘someone else’ in their lives. It wasn’t until the dust from the announcement had settled that it turned out that Agnetha actually did have a lover, the 33-year-old Haken Lonnback. However, this psychiatrist, with whom the blonde ABBA star tried to find a cure for her depressions, can hardly be seen as the instigator of the ‘evil’. He can rather be considered as the last straw.
“When we got married in 1971,” Björn explains, “we were extremely romantic and madly in love. But that soon passed. The successes with ABBA managed to keep us together for several years after that, but oh well, it may sound strange, even success can turn into a routine.”

Agnetha and Björn both realized that their marriage wasn’t very good. Because of that, they managed to keep talking about the matter. During one of these talks between the spouses, the thought of a second child (daughter Linda is six years old) came up. Björn: “Obviously we didn’t think that a son or a daughter would be able to simply solve the problems that we had. It was more like ‘do you remember the good times we had when Linda was born’. Hoping that we could experience that happy occasion once again, we made our decision.”
To no avail. Little Christian was of course welcomed with love, but the baby wasn’t able to make its estranged parents feel happy in their marriage again.
It’s striking that even ABBA manager Stig Anderson wasn’t aware of the impending divorce. Only Anni-Frid and Benny, the other ABBA half, knew what was going on. “That’s hardly surprising,” says Björn, “because they are regularly in our company twenty four hours a day. Then it’s hard to keep a secret. Especially a secret like this. Even if we wouldn’t discuss the matter, they would still notice.”
For that matter, the divorce won’t have any consequences for ABBA’s continued existence. Björn: “Of course we have thought about that. But our divorce doesn’t have to have any consequences for the group. We separated without any arguments. If such a thing as a happy divorce exists, then ours is one of them.”
And the children? Björn: “Indeed, that was the most difficult part of the whole matter. Obviously, Christian doesn’t realize anything yet, but Linda is six years old and she understands very well what’s going on. We’ve had some difficult times before we were able to tell her. And when we finally did – it had to happen eventually – we ended up crying, all three of us...”
The ‘fairytale’ is over. Agnetha and Björn will go their separate ways from now on. Of course the children won’t be lacking anything. But still, they will probably be the only ones who won’t benefit from the divorce. In the end, nothing can replace parental love...

Sunday 11 July 2010

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: A worldwide hit and 40.000 casualties

‘Waterloo’ was born on ABBA’s small island in the archipelago of Stockholm. Björn, Benny and Stig had retreated to this island to tinker on their hit. In the beginning, it was only a demo on which you could only hear piano, guitar and stamping feet. However, the melody was there. What was lacking, were a title and the lyrics. And that was Stig’s assignment. Stig: “I’ve thought about it for almost a week. A couple of ideas were running through my head. One of them was ‘Honey Pie’. I looked it up in my wife’s cookbook. But somehow it wasn’t right.”
Finally, the title was decided upon – ‘Waterloo’. Stig: “When you have the idea and the title, the lyrics come pretty quickly. On a Saturday afternoon, I wrote them within a couple of hours. Then I called Björn and Benny, I played the tape and I sang the lyrics to them.” And what did Björn and Benny say? Stig: “Excellent!”
At the same time, Björn and Benny had composed another melody. Stig took it with him on a cassette to his holiday on the Canaries. The Spanish broadcasting company provided its title. Every night, the newsreader said goodbye with a cheerful ‘Hasta Mañana’ (until tomorrow).
The next morning, the guests in the hotel lobby were shocked. Stig was on the telephone, singing the lyrics to Björn and Benny. In a rather loud voice. The telephone connection to Sweden wasn’t the best.
For ABBA, this meant a tough decision. All of a sudden they had two good songs. Which one should they pick?
Stig: “I rooted for ‘Waterloo’ and said to Björn and Benny that – in case it would turn into a fiasco – they could cut my throat afterwards.”
The two of them didn’t have to grab their knives. At the Swedish heat for the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Waterloo’ received exactly 302 points out of 495. ABBA had finally made it!
The Dome in Brighton, built by the Prince of Wales, was a lordly stable for 44 royal horses. Today it’s a modern concert hall for 2000 guests.
On April 6, 1974, the hall was packed to capacity. With artists from all over Europe, representatives from record companies, music publishers, TV producers, journalists and photographers. The Eurovision Song Contest had started. 500 million viewers all over the world watched it on television.
There wasn’t a clear favourite. And if there was any, it certainly wasn’t ABBA.
Björn: “No one knew us when we arrived in Brighton.” A state of affairs that would change rapidly. ABBA’s performance turned into a treat for the ears and the eyes. In glittery costumes, wearing platform boots, singing ‘Waterloo’, they brought a breath of fresh air in the contest, that had become slightly dull in recent years. When the nerve-racking drama of the results calculation had been completed, it was clear: ‘Waterloo’ had won.
Each of the four Swedes reacted true to character. Agnetha lost contact with reality. For her, it was all like a dream. Anni-Frid was shivering all over. She was unable to form any clear thoughts. Björn and Benny just couldn’t believe it. They thought that somebody would shout ‘mistake!’ at any minute. But no one shouted ‘mistake’. It wasn’t a dream. After fourteen years, Sweden had finally won the contest.
The joy about the victory was only overshadowed by a Swedish TV reporter’s question: “Why did you call your song ‘Waterloo’? 40.000 men died there.”
Stig: “I was so perplexed that I couldn’t answer him. Why do they have to turn everything into politics. Wouldn’t it have been better if he had just congratulated us?”

Thursday 8 July 2010

Muziek Parade, 1980: ABBA-special

A poster special, published by Dutch magazine Muziek Parade around the time of the release of the ‘Super Trouper’ album. It had a large poster from the ‘Super Trouper’ photo session on its backside but it’s obviously too big to show here.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Hitkrant, 1986: “With Gemini, we can do what we like behind the scenes” – ABBA’s Björn and Benny launch a new Swedish duo

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about the release of the first Gemini album, for which Björn and Benny wrote six songs (among them ‘Just Like That’, a rejected 1982 ABBA recording). They also co-produced the album with Anders Glenmark. Despite a European promotional tour, the album and single failed to set the international charts alight and Gemini quickly faded from view.
At the London Hamilton Arts Centre, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus presented their latest pop project Gemini at the – merely champagne sprinkling – font. We had an exclusive drink and chat with both gentlemen and asked Karin and Anders Glenmark how it feels to be labelled ‘the new ABBA’ right at the start of their career.

The cameras were clicking at the happy entrance of Gemini in the illustrious world of pop and money. Smiling broadly, Karin and Anders Glenmark are walking through the gallery that’s adorned with expensive rock portraits by Steve Rapport. A while later, Björn and Benny follow, from the looks of it barely impressed by this frenzy. Their hands loosely in their pockets, greeting complete strangers: professional carelessness. While Gemini’s first album is blasting through the room, hands are being shaken and glasses are being refilled, unasked but explicitly. Meanwhile, we are able to watch a video as well. The previous evening, Gemini appeared on the highly rated Wogan show, from a promotional point of view undoubtedly the best introduction one could get in the English market. The two former ABBA boys, who have clearly turned into quiet gentlemen, disappear from view as quickly as possible, but – after some insistence by the Polydor people – they show themselves to the assembled people after all. “Cheers,” I say in Swedish, barely able to keep a salmon sandwich in my mouth. And – not letting the attention fade – I ask: “Why this project?”
“Karin and Anders are not complete strangers in Sweden. But we dragged them out of anonymity to take care of the backing vocals for the musical Chess. And to be honest, we were really impressed by them. Apart from that, we felt like doing a couple of pop songs again. We had composed them already, but we hadn’t been able to find someone with whom we could record them. On the Gemini album, there are six songs written by Björn and me. The other three are written by Karin and Anders.”
You don’t miss anything now that you are only working behind the scenes?
“Not at all, really, honestly,” he says with emphasis. “I think it’s fun to work on a project like this. It enables you to keep busy without realising it. Every now and then, I still think about ABBA but without any desire to go back to that. However, I carry that past with me, but I can’t change anything about that now. I could have known that in advance, so I mustn’t complain about it now.”
“Yes, I’m living in England permanently now,” he says a while later. “After all, it’s only a two-hour flight from Stockholm. I live just outside London, I have a couple of horses and I’ve become a real family man. I’m still in contact with Frida and Agnetha, very friendly even. But we won’t work together creatively anymore, that’s for sure.”
You don’t have any regrets about those ten years with ABBA. Or do you have the feeling you could have been even more successful?
“We never succeeded in conquering America completely, but I’m not losing any sleep over that anymore. If I had to relive those ten years again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Only less tours and other commitments. I’m fed up with those, I really am.”

Karin and Anders have finished their first afternoon of ‘being nice to reporters’.
“We really have to get used to this kind of success,” says Anders. “Apart from that, an awful lot is expected from us, Benny and Björn believe in us unconditionally and that’s rather stressful. The fact that we are brother and sister does make our collaboration easier. We know each other through and through and little tensions and discussions are easily eliminated. Without someone getting hurt or angry.”
Anders Glenmark has gone through a long apprenticeship but pop has always remained his true love. “Still, I want to have something to say, I hope that my lyrics are a little better than the average. And I’ve learned an awful lot from the ABBA boys. Our collaboration has been one big party. Despite their gigantic successes, they have remained honest and ordinary people. That’s how I would want it to be in the future as well.”
For the rest, Karin is facing some difficult and busy times. “Due to all this travelling, I don’t have any time for my two children anymore,” she says. “And they are the most important thing in my life. That’s why we agreed to build our career at a slow pace. First we want to sell a large amount of records and only then we will go on tour.”
She sighs. She apologizes for her poor command of the English language while it is still considerably better than the English of an average French-speaking journalist.
“My mother should have seen me sitting here,” she says, a little impressed by the commotion surrounding her. “At home, they won’t believe their eyes when pictures of this event appear in the music magazines.”

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Bravo, 1981: In these houses, ABBA is hiding!

By July, their new single should have been released, and for that reason they’ve been in the recording studio for weeks on end. But the critical masterminds of ABBA, Björn and Benny, still weren’t able to make up their minds. They gave green light to a holiday, after which they will continue their recording sessions again.
Especially Agnetha was very relieved: now she will be able to spend the summer with her children after all...
“We have finished recording four brand new songs for the new album,” Björn explained: ‘When All Is Said And Done’, ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’, ‘Two For The Price Of One’ and ‘An Angel Passing Through The Room’. All songs are composed by Björn and Benny and all of them are good songs, but: “These songs aren’t suitable to become a single A-side. That’s why we’ve decided to postpone the release of the new single until September/October. That’s the reason why we have to keep you in suspense for such a long time.”
The album should be released in November. But still, ABBA has prepared a summer surprise for their German fans: the tracks ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’/‘On And On And On’ from the ‘Super Trouper’ album have just been released as a Disco-Maxi-Single in our country.
In the meantime – until Björn and Benny will get back to work in the studio in August – the four Swedes have withdrawn in their homes with their new life partners. Benny shares his town house with his girlfriend, television presenter Mona Nörklit.
The wildest rumours are going around about the new boyfriend of the dark-haired ABBA singer Anni-Frid. Because Benny’s ex-wife won’t reveal whether it’s her bodyguard and personal driver Lars ‘Blomman’ Blomberg or the Swedish financial manager Bertil Hjert (37). His Mercedes Coupe is often parked for days in front of Anni-Frid’s residence.
Instead, blonde Agnetha is making no headlines at all. Since her divorce from Björn, she has withdrawn with both her children in her country house.
Björn and his second wife Lena Källersjö are living a quiet life in their Stockholm residence as well. Their ‘love nest’ is hidden behind a wall, protected by an intercom. In October, the same month wherein the new single is due to appear, Björn and Lena are expecting their first baby.
Even though the ABBA members are devoting their time completely to their families these days, they are still successful on a musical level: in the beginning of June, when ABBA manager Stig Anderson and John Spalding were in New York to renew the record deals for New York and Canada, the group was proclaimed ‘Vocal Group of the Year’ over there.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Muziek Parade, September 1977: The ABBA Story, part 5

After Brighton: the champagne marathon!
They had a good night’s sleep, after all the tensions. After months of preparation. And the morning after their victory, ABBA was awakened by the officials of their British record company CBS. A champagne breakfast had been organized for the group. And not only on that sunny morning. A succession of champagne receptions was on their schedule. Stig Anderson didn’t sit still either: the world wanted to see ABBA, well, the world was going to get ABBA. Stig Anderson had prepared the contracts already, with their time schedule near at hand. Only the signatures were still lacking. But that wouldn’t take long of course. Stig signed one contract after the other.
And Anni-Frid said: “I’ve never seen this much champagne in my entire life. The sprightly bubbles jumped up to my nose, as if they wanted to say: congratulations, we are seeing success and prosperity on the horizon. And that’s how I felt as well. I felt: my life is now really going to take off.”
Along with the champagne, a series of photo sessions followed. During these days, ABBA was accompanied by people from the press, with their entourage. ABBA was being interviewed hundreds of times. And numerous photo sessions were being set up, about which Benny now says: “It was really crazy. We had to stand in all kinds of positions and keep on smiling. My face couldn’t do anything else anymore than produce that grin that I used for photos. It really made me feel quite nauseous, but oh well, it’s part of this business and actually I was very happy with all this attention. We had worked very hard for this.”
And only now, Björn makes an astonishing statement: “Actually, we have to be very honest and say that we didn’t expect to win and we certainly didn’t expect all those doors to open for us in the world because of Brighton. During the contest, I thought Mouth & McNeal would win. I believed that the judges would be more Holland- than Sweden-minded. Apart from that, the duo had a fantastic song: ‘I See A Star’. I thought they were the best!” And Björn, the father-to-be, confesses: “There was another wonderful moment when Mouth & McNeal came over to us and congratulated us spontaneously. They thought that the best song and the best group had won. It was very generous of these people.”
Agnetha remembers: “I experienced the entire event in Brighton as if it was a dream. The tensions are too high. The thought that hundreds of millions people are watching me, paralyzes me and almost takes my breath away. You can’t think straight at a moment like this. Then you hear that you have won and it all turns into a frenzy. Everyone kisses you. Everyone wants to talk to you, photographers. What would have happened if we hadn’t won. And there you are, with a glass of champagne in your hand. You get ever more tired, but you keep on smiling. When it was all over and we were back at the hotel, I awakened from that dream and I remember exactly what I said to Björn: ‘Pinch me. Did it all happen for real. Won’t they take that trophy away from us?’ And Björn put his arm around my shoulders, kissed me in my neck, caressed me and whispered: ‘This was a madhouse, but it did happen! And... brace yourself. For the time being, it will remain this way. We have to keep our feet firmly on the ground, and not let ourselves get carried away!’” Sensible words from the ‘computer’ of the group.
Björn set up a meeting with Stig, Benny, Anni-Frid, Agnetha and some other people from Polar Music. In their hotel room they discussed the future, the series of contracts that Stig had signed, their days off. “From the beginning, I want to organize things properly,” Björn said, “we mustn’t allow our lives to be taken over, and definitely not say yes to everything. We have to last a little longer than these couple of months.” A clear – and sensible – statement, that was put forward in the Napoleon suite of the hotel. Stig Anderson advised the foursome to get some sleep and take a long walk in the afternoon. Later on, they would get together in one of Brighton’s best restaurants. That (Sunday) evening, Stig had organized an intimate dinner for the members of the Polar team, who had worked so hard for this success. Champagne was flowing again and an enormous fish-dish was being served. Meanwhile, Stig read out telegrams, 200 of them. Many from Sweden. On Monday after the contest, the group drove to London in a limousine and ABBA happily plumped down in the car seats, when the car radio played ‘Waterloo’. It seemed as if the four of them heard the song for the first time. At their hotel, the champagne corks were popping again, the BBC cameras were entering their suite and a live interview on Top Of The Pops was filmed. Björn and Benny said how happy they were that the contest was taking place in England, that the whole organization was flawless, that the people were so friendly. It was a tribute to the British Empire. Followed by ‘Waterloo’.

The phones kept ringing and the telexes kept rattling. Offers, offers and more offers for ABBA to come and perform, to appear in talkshows, to do commercials, to perform in films. And Stig said to everybody: “How wonderful that you have called us and it’s even more wonderful that you have considered us, but we are fully booked...” And that was true: ABBA was fully booked for the entire year.
Benny, completely exhausted, withdrew in his room, switched the TV on and watched a horror movie. Now he says: “I had had an awful lot of champagne and I was really worn out and then it’s funny that a horror movie can be relaxing.”
Another dark cloud appeared in the sky: Agnetha was complaining about a sore throat. “My tonsils are troubling me,” she said, “always when I’m overtired, they start nagging me.” The doctor was called in, injections and... rest. It did help. You wouldn’t even dare to imagine that Agnetha would have been bothered by her throat before their performance. That rest suited her well. Agnetha and Björn went out shopping and beer drinker Benny couldn’t be happier when he found himself in a real pub. Those days in London were very pleasant for the foursome, clothes were bought, they went out, in short: the much-desired relaxation after their hard work. For that matter, there was a lot going on in London during that time. London was the swinging centre of Europe, where everything was happening. ABBA made use of the situation. ABBA saw everything.

Busy ending in London
Benny: “To me, those days in London were a big party. I like to have a beer and then you can go to the pubs. I think the people that visit these pubs are wonderful. They are relaxed and always seem to be in good spirits. Drinking beer is a much more social happening in England than it is in Sweden. Björn didn’t like it that much, he thinks that having a drink on a Friday or Saturday evening is quite sufficient. He was truly astounded that everyone in London is having a beer in his favourite pub every day.”
On the last day of their stay in London, there was another photo session scheduled in Hyde Park. The girls had bought special dresses for this occasion and Benny had bought a genuine nappa jacket. After that, the whole bunch went to the Swedish embassy, where the ambassador – a man called Ole Jodahl – spoke the following words to them: “This is my finest day in England, as an ambassador. Never before did I have such fantastic assistants, all four of you are goodwill ambassadors for Sweden, not only now in England but all over the world. Sweden can be very proud of you. Make sure that Sweden can remain proud.”
And after that, the BBC cameras entered the room again, followed by a television interview, this time by deejay David Hamilton.
Agnetha felt nauseous and had a fever. Anni-Frid had hardly gotten any sleep the previous nights. It seemed as if they really started suffering from nerves now. But Agnetha didn’t want to stay in the hotel and after their visit to the embassy and after the BBC interview, she joined the others for a photo session at Waterloo Station, this time for Daily Express: the photographers provided wonderful clothes and they got a lot of attention. And Agnetha kept on smiling, despite the penicillin and antibiotics, that she had been injected with. Björn was very considerate and kept people away from her as much as possible, to give her some peace and quit in all this frenzy.

Back at the Park Lane Hotel, Stig had gathered the international pop press around him and ABBA for the last time. A farewell press conference of sorts. Benny said: “It’s been one big champagne party here. I even had my cornflakes with champagne, but I want to thank you all.”
Björn got up and said: “I think it’s marvellous to be here with you and simply chat about the show business. And not about politics. In Sweden, they always ask questions about our political preferences and we don’t know anything about politics at all. I think it’s even more fun to go back to Sweden now, where we have had some difficult times. In our home country, they didn’t see us as the big conquerors or as a special group. After this overwhelming success, they will have to surrender and stop comparing us to Sweet and Mud, we are different.”

At that meeting, Agnetha confided in a reporter and told her: “Right before the final, I wanted to cut my hair short because it’s so much work, but Stig wouldn’t let me. He said ‘if we lose, then you can cut it’. But we won and since pictures of us had been spread all over the world, I couldn’t cut my hair short all of a sudden. It had become part of the ABBA image. In hindsight, I think it’s a shame that it has to remain long, it’s so much work, but on the other hand I’m very successful with it, especially in Italy and Spain, where they love blonde girls with long hair.”

Here are a couple of other reactions after Brighton.
The well-known lyric writer Harold Spiro: “With ABBA, a new era has started in the Contest. From now on, more countries are going to send groups to the Eurovision Song Contest.”
An enthusiastic Stig Anderson: “After everything that I have experienced here, I believe that we are beginning to outgrow Sweden, we have to get out there, to Australia, America, Japan. How wonderfully big the world is, when your own country is rather small in its surface area.”
Rosemary Horide in Disc Magazine: “After the Song Contest on April 6, 1974, the Eurovision Song Contest is dead, thankfully. Gone are the days that more or less beautiful boys and girls are simply singing a song. Now we expect more than that: a good song, a good show, a good outfit. ABBA has introduced a new formula and we can only be happy about that.”
Participant Paulo de Carvalho from Portugal was angry: “We all had to sing live, but ABBA had brought backing tracks. That’s not fair, I object.” A BBC spokesperson replied: “It is allowed to use backing tracks. Objection denied.”
A somewhat sour Olivia Newton-John, who failed herself with ‘Long Live Love’ thought: “‘Waterloo’ is not the song that I would have picked myself, but I think it’s rather nice. I didn’t believe in my own song at all.”
After the final, Stig received a phone call from Sweden. A reporter asked: “Did you know that forty thousand people died in Waterloo?” Stikkan, completely astounded, replied: “Don’t you realize that we only used ‘Waterloo’ as a symbol, instead of the word ‘loss’?”

When the people from Polar went back to Sweden, Agnetha was the happiest of them all: “I can’t wait to get back to Linda. Of course it’s fun to travel, but it’s a big task for me to leave Linda at home. Maybe that’s why I felt so bad here.”

Via Hamburg, where an Easter television show was quickly filmed, ABBA arrived at Arlanda airport in Stockholm. Their arrival had been kept a secret. ABBA came back into the country through the backdoor, because the employees at the customs office respected their request: to get back home as soon as possible!
Agnetha and Björn were taken back home first, in Vallentuna. Benny says about his homecoming: “I plumped down in a lazy chair. Anni-Frid opened a bottle of champagne – as if we hadn’t had enough of that already – put up a game of chess and we played for a couple of hours. Now we were at home. Really at home. Far away from all these people. Peace and quiet.”
The next morning, Anni-Frid, Benny, Agnetha, Björn and Linda drove out of Stockholm together with Stig and his family, to an island just outside Stockholm. There they celebrated Easter together. They took walks together, went out fishing. “Those couple of days were terrific,” Agnetha says now.

In the summer of 1974, a storm of protest went through Sweden. ABBA had cancelled all their concerts in the country, all thirty of them. Stikkan had the following excuse: “The group has a lot of contracts to fulfil in the world. The boys have to write new songs for their own album. And they have to make preparations for new recordings by other Polar artists.” The organisers of the concerts were furious, threatened them with legal actions and demanded financial compensations. The newspapers were called in. Anderson defended his strategy like this: “What would you do if you were us? We have to go to Paris, to London and so on. Do we have to cancel this because we have to perform here in front of a few hundred people. Would you do that?” The riot escalated in such a way that they resorted to television, where Björn – in a highly rated programme – defended ABBA and the decision they had made. He talked extensively about their preparations that had led to the success in Brighton. About their experiences in England and he concluded: “Of course we would love to do these thirty concerts, but that means that we would have to face yet another tiring month – after the exhausting Eurovision experience – before we will go on a world tour again. I’m asking for understanding from every Swede for this joint decision we have made. We want to spend one month working on our new album and other Polar recordings.”
Of course the word ‘world tour’ had been chosen somewhat dramatically, because ABBA would go to countries like England, France, Germany and Belgium. But they had achieved the desired effect. ABBA travelled through Europe and it wasn’t until one year later that they did a 15-day tour through Sweden, that was concluded with a gigantic concert at the Tivoli in Stockholm. But even on this tour, not everything went according to plan. Agnetha was having throat problems again, concerts were cancelled and/or postponed. And of course the newspapers didn’t hold back on their criticism. The press in Sweden has always been a little reserved towards ABBA. For instance, they objected to the fact that Stig Anderson had stipulated a portion of the turnover at all these concerts. And Stig replied to the criticism: “It seems reasonable to me that ABBA gets paid a higher amount when a lot of people show up to see them. In the end, ABBA is simply a big international group.” And the press kept quiet again for a while.
And then it was Björn who had an argument with a reporter. Björn replied to his question like this: “You always ask us about making money and our political preferences. We are popular, so we are making a lot of money, therefore we pay a lot of taxes as well. We don’t mind that at all. I don’t want to talk about politics. What is socialism, what is democracy? I wouldn’t know. I just want to write good songs for as many people as possible.” And the reporter was silenced.

Benny: “I really don’t understand all this whining by these reporters. We are still the same guys. We prefer the simple things in life. Of course we are having a larger financial budget now, but I still eat one steak. I still like the same movies. I like to spend time at home, with a glass of beer. All of that doesn’t change because you are popular all of a sudden.” And Björn agrees with these words.
After their big success in Brighton with ‘Waterloo’, Stig advised to release ‘Ring Ring’ in England as its follow-up. It was an oldie for ABBA, but for England it was something new. And the chief was right once again. Proudly, he said on Top Of The Pops: “Now this is the song that could have won Eurovision last year.”
Despite all these successes, negative reports kept appearing in the international media, like: ‘ABBA is a one-hit-wonder’ or ‘ABBA is a gimmick group’.
Stig Anderson: “When you become really successful, stories like this will inevitably appear in the newspapers. On the one hand it’s a good sign. It proves that you are following the right path. On the other hand, it tends to spoil the fun of the successes for which you’ve worked so hard. I’ve always believed in ABBA. Even without the Eurovision Song Contest, they would have become really big. Brighton has been an extra push. A push towards a speedier recognition. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
And Anderson is obviously right. The Eurovision Song Contest is being watched by hundreds of millions of people, but countries such as America, Japan and Australia have never even heard of this contest and in those countries ABBA is a major force as well.

Friday 2 July 2010

Hitkrant, January 1977: All about ABBA – Song Contest brought world fame

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant, published right after one of ABBA’s most successful years in Holland. Note the mix-up of Björn and Benny’s names in the first part of the article...
Is it possible that any other group has gotten more attention in all those music magazines lately than ABBA? After their big breakthrough with ‘Waterloo’ at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, ABBA has rocketed to the heaven of popular music. Effortlessly, success after success was achieved by the Swedish foursome. Well, effortlessly: Anni-Frid, Agnetha, Björn and Benny are working very hard for their success. An important factor in all these worldwide successes is the professional way in which they handle their career.

Meanwhile it’s widely known that the name ABBA is made up of the four initials of the group members: Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid. And to avoid any further misunderstandings: Agnetha is married to Benny and Anni-Frid is Björn’s life partner. These letters also show up in the name of the company that’s looking after all the interests of the group, which is simply called AB. So, again the names of the ABBA members make an appearance, added to the fact that AB is the Swedish abbreviation for Aktiebolaget, the Swedish name for a public limited company. That characterizes ABBA as well: everything fits together, it all adds up...

The beginning
The history of ABBA begins in 1963: Benny Andersson joins the group Hep Stars, at the time the most popular group in Sweden. They were popular to the extent that the scenes at the group’s performances resembled a Beatles concert. This resulted in eight gold records for the Hep Stars. Benny composed four of them. In 1966, Benny met Björn Ulvaeus during a tour and this resulted in writing songs together. Björn had been in the music business since 1963 as well, with a group called the Hootenanny Singers (for that matter, he had been founding several groups since he was eleven years old). It was clear that Benny and Björn clicked and all of their songs became hits.

The ladies
But it wasn’t until Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid (you can call her Frida) Lyngstad joined forces with Björn and Benny that the actual history of ABBA started. Agnetha was already very popular in Sweden at the time, a popularity that began with her record ‘Jag Var Så Kär’ (‘I’m So In Love’) in 1968. When she was fifteen, she already performed in her father’s revues, who was some kind of Swedish René Sleeswijk. Later on, she performed with her own orchestra as well.
Frida – the only non-Swedish member of ABBA, she was born in Narvik, Norway – already had a career as a singer behind her as well when she got in touch with the other three: she already performed at the age of ten and in Sweden she became a well-known television personality, among others in the popular programme Hylands Corner. She had a couple of hits in Sweden as well.

Björn married Agnetha and Benny and Frida got engaged (and they still are). Both gentlemen withdrew from their respective groups and in 1972, the foursome recorded their first single under the name Björn & Benny, Anna & Frida: ‘People Need Love’. The success was so big that it wouldn’t take long for a second record to be released: ‘He Is Your Brother’. But the overwhelming success came with ‘Ring Ring’, that reached the number one spot in the charts of four European countries. This also led to their participation in the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, where they achieved a convincing first place with ‘Waterloo’.

Then it al went very fast. ABBA became an international group and their trademark (the name ABBA with the reversed B, legally registered!) became an institution in many countries. One hit after the other stormed the charts: ‘Honey, Honey’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, ‘So Long’, ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ all sold millions of copies. ‘Fernando’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ beat those records yet again: the figure of six million copies that were sold of ‘Fernando’ speaks volumes!
And now ABBA is a permanent force in the hit business; during the years, the group’s music has evolved from simple tunes for everybody to music that has its own place among all the forces in pop music, which can be credited to producer and composer Stig Anderson for a large part.

The Swedish group has always had a special place in the hearts of the Dutch people: the Hep Stars already had a hit in our country with ‘Sunny Girl’, while ‘Ring Ring’ (at the time credited to Björn & Benny, Anna & Frida) made it into the top ten. All records that were released after that achieved top positions in our national charts and we only have to take a look at the popularity polls and the Top 100 of 1976 to find out how popular ABBA has become in our country. That’s why the Hitkrant trophy that was awarded to them at the ABBA-Hitkrant party on November 19 in The Hague wasn’t in vain!
On February 4, we will finally be able to see and hear them in the Jaap Eden hall in Amsterdam: a one-off concert in Holland, for which the group will interrupt their busy schedule. Because ABBA and Holland simply have a special connection...

Thursday 1 July 2010

Pop Foto, 1979: The tension is rising with ABBA!

Despite the smiling faces of Frida, Agnetha, Benny and Björn, the tension in the ABBA headquarter is rising. They are working extremely hard, because this year it has to happen! This year, the group is going to show something so big and astounding that the – only yet to be conquered – continent America simply will have to surrender to the musical charms of the Swedish quartet. Whether they want it or not...

The lazy life that Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida have been able to lead the past few months is over and done with. There is work to be done. Which means that they will have to rehearse from early in the morning until late in the evening. Rehearse extremely hard! Because the four ABBA members want to be as well prepared as possible later on during their confrontation with their millions of fans. Not in vain, ABBA has proven in all those years that perfection is their priority. And they want to keep that reputation. Not a single concert during their two-month-long tour through America, Canada and Europe can be a failure, every single fan should get his or her money’s worth, those are the words that you will hear from Stig, Benny, Björn and of course both girls. And there’s nothing wrong with that, is what we thought. Apart from that, the upcoming tour, that will kick off in Canada and America on September 15, will have to secure the definitive breakthrough on that immense continent.

Because half of the globe may have fallen unconditionally for the outstanding compositions by Benny and Björn, up till now America hasn’t enthusiastically taken part yet. And now it has become a matter of honour for the popular Swedes to achieve a breakthrough in the land of Uncle Sam this year. Because if they won’t succeed this year, they never will, is what ABBA boss Stig Anderson thinks – perhaps rightfully so. That’s the reason why the group doesn’t leave anything to chance in these six weeks of preparation. And that’s also the reason for this mysterious behaviour in the apartment building in the middle of Stockholm, that is rebuilt from a hotel into a headquarter. The security people are taking special precautions. They have to make sure that not one single unauthorized person can find his way in. And even for the assembled press the doors remain hermetically closed. Still, Benny, Björn, Anni-Frid and Agnetha are having a lot of fun together in this busy time. Because they really do everything together, including having breakfast, lunch and dinner! That’s how the bunch found itself in a fancy restaurant in Stockholm. One of the waiters got so nervous due to these – in his eyes – ‘highly distinguished guests’, that he suddenly dropped the dinner plates for the ABBA girls out of his hands. The man made a thousand apologies, but for ABBA this hilarious occurrence was a welcome interruption in these stressful times. This intense preparation makes it clear for an outsider that there can hardly be any talk of a possible break-up of the group in the coming year, a nasty rumour that startled every true fan. When we discuss this disrupting rumour quickly with Stig Anderson, he and his secretary Görel start to chuckle in advance. “They keep on trying, don’t they?” they react unaffectedly, “as long as ABBA has existed, there have been people that can’t stand the success of the boys. It’s simply a matter of jealousy. And it seems that people like that just love to get as much negative reports about ABBA as possible into the world. But we won’t let that get to us! You can count on that...”