Monday 30 August 2010

Pop Biz, 1978: ABBA will stay in Sweden

It looks like ABBA’s fame will probably never be extended to America. A fantastic offer to move to the States permanently has been kindly declined by the Swedish quartet.
“ABBA’s music could very well make it big here, but they will have to come and live here,” a spokesperson of their American record company explains. “There’s so much competition over here, that ABBA would have to tour constantly. They have to be available for television shows as well. If you are not a guest on one or the other television show almost every week, you will never get enough publicity. That’s just how this business works here. I don’t know what they want to do there in Sweden but they will have to find out for themselves.”
ABBA, just returned from a short visit to the States, has a different opinion about the matter. “We are going to do this our way, just like we have always done. Didn’t we get extremely popular in Europe as well? And we don’t exactly rush from one television studio to the other here. That’s why we always make our own promotional films,” manager Stig Anderson says. “We are happy here in Sweden, and we don’t have to do it for the money. Indeed, I still see it as a challenge to try and conquer America in our own way. In a year or so we will see who is proven right...”

Sunday 29 August 2010

Joepie, October 1977: Frida found her long-lost father – she had never seen him yet and she didn’t know if he was still alive...

It all seems like a fairytale with a happy ending, but the story that we are telling you here actually really happened. And the key figure is none other than Frida, the red-haired singer from the Swedish group ABBA.
The German officer Alfred Haase has to go to Norway in the spring of 1944. The World War is still in full swing. But there’s not a lot of fighting going on there. Alfred and his friends have more than enough time to explore the neighbourhood. And that’s what they are doing. At one day, Alfred meets a girl from the neighbourhood. They fall in love with each other, and they promise to be faithful to each other forever. Plans are being made, the twosome is only waiting for the war to end. And then all of a sudden, Alfred is called back to his home country. The girl that he leaves behind is pregnant with his child, but Alfred doesn’t know. Frida is born. Her mother is being criticized harshly by her neighbors and she moves to a different area. Three years later she dies and Frida is left in the care of her grandmother.
Did the father try to look for his girlfriend after the war? Did he lose track of her because she had moved? It still remains a mystery. In all those years, Frida didn’t even know if he was still alive. It was rumoured that Alfred Haase’s legion was caught in a crossfire with the hostile air force on their way from Norway to Germany, and that no one had survived the attack. Those questions are now solved forever for Frida. Thanks to a German magazine, that published Frida’s life story, Haase realized for the first time that he had a daughter. He contacted Frida, who saw the man that gave her life for the first time.
“Of course, I knew ABBA, I was even a fan,” the good man said when he arrived in Stockholm. “But you can imagine how much of a shock it was when I realized that Frida... was my daughter...”
Frida’s father is a baker in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Saturday 28 August 2010

Joepie, 1977: ABBA back home

Extremely tired but satisfied as well, the four from ABBA have returned to Sweden recently from a European tour that lasted several weeks, followed by a somewhat shorter promotional trip to Australia. “We never craved for our homecoming as much as we did now,” according to Anna. “As a matter of fact, it was the first time that we spent such a long time abroad.”

ABBA could use a couple of days off. “The first few days, we hardly did anything else but sleep,” Anna continues. “After this sleeping cure, I picked up my Linda who stayed with our friends. She was exuberant when I arrived there. It turned into a big party for her, because I had brought along a suitcase full of toys. Among other things a giant green bear, that I received as a gift from a fan in your country...”
Björn didn’t get as much sleep. “We moved to a different place a couple of months ago and there were still a few things left to be done. Yes, I know, we have more than enough money to hire an expert, but I’m simply a natural handyman. I could occupy myself with things like that for days on end. Another hobby of mine is filming and photography. During our European tour I took pictures everywhere in the afternoons and I have developed them all myself. And I filmed our Linda as well. As a souvenir for the future. If she ever gets married, I’m planning to show that film about her childhood at the wedding party...”

For one week, ABBA just didn’t exist. On one side there were Björn and Anna and on the other there were Benny and Frida. They got together again at their offices in Stockholm. “We spent half a day browsing through newspapers and magazines to see what had been published about us during the time that we were away. We keep up with everything. The articles that appear in your magazine as well. Our dancing teacher was present as well, because it isn’t like we can stop practising now that the tour is finished...”
That same night, the foursome was together again, this time to toast to their success. “We invited all our friends to a private party, somewhere in a nice club in Stockholm. Friends that we have known for a long time and don’t have anything to do with show business. Our parents were there as well. It was quite a night, there was a lot of laughing going on. Benny and Björn even got so drunk that we had to get home in a taxi...”

Thursday 26 August 2010

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: On the road

ABBA on tour – burdened by stress and hastiness they fly to their next performance. Other groups are on the road for 300 days every year. This is impossible for the four Swedes. They rarely appear on stage.

ABBA’s first European tour kicked off on November 17, 1974 at the Falkoner theatre in Copenhagen. The omens weren’t very positive. On the contrary. For starters, there were vicious attacks by the media and bitter criticisms. Long before their triumph in Brighton, ABBA had announced a tour through the Swedish folk parks. The date: midsummer. The duration: one month. After they hit the number one spot with ‘Waterloo’, everything changed. All at once, television broadcasting companies all over the world were interested in the four Swedes. Europe was waiting for ABBA. For ABBA this meant: we have to strike the iron while it is still hot.
ABBA and Stig were spending their Easter holiday on their island and they discussed the problem. Their decision was unanimous: the tour through Sweden would be cancelled.
The media and the tour organisers reacted with furious criticism: “With the help of the Swedish population, ABBA has won an important international music contest. And now this...” Another newspaper wrote about “an extremely bad business decision.” A promoter said: “Without any doubt, this is by far the most malicious betrayal that I have experienced during all those years in this business.”
Stig was surprised about all these vicious reactions: “I expected a little more understanding for our motives.”
From ABBA’s point of view, the cancellation was understandable. Finally, the four musicians had the chance to achieve an international breakthrough. With this tour through Sweden, they would lose two important months and on top of that they would perform in front of an audience for which the four ABBAs were already a household name.
ABBA started preparations for their first European tour with zest. As their opening act, they engaged The Beatmakers, who also functioned as ABBA’s musical accompaniment. Agnetha and Anni-Frid took dancing lessons with the well-known choreographer Graham Tainton.
The show had its premiere in Copenhagen. After that, performances followed in Hannover, Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Nürnberg, Düsseldorf, Bremen, Hamburg, in Austria and Switzerland. Although the audience was impressed everywhere, the tour wasn’t an overwhelming success. The concerts attracted enough visitors, but they weren’t sold out.
The tour itself was no picnic either. Anni-Frid: “We were on the road for fourteen days and performed almost every night. When we didn’t sing, we travelled. The only things that I remember are buses, airplanes, concert halls and hotels.” Especially for Agnetha, who hates to leave her little daughter Linda alone, it was a heavy mental ordeal. She admits: “I can’t be away from home for more than 10 or 14 days. For me, it’s very difficult to travel around constantly and change environments.”
And Benny explains the fact that ABBA – unlike other groups – rarely performs live like this: “Björn and I are working as producers and composers as well. Because of this, we can’t – like other groups – be on the road for 300 days per year and accept every television offer.”
The tour ended in January 1975 with performances in Scandinavia. And here, ABBA finally found their big success for which they had been working for so long. Sold out venues everywhere. Their performance in Gothenburg attracted 7.000 fans. A couple of thousands had to stay outside. There just wasn’t room for them anymore.
In Stockholm, the concert hall was completely sold out as well. Among the enthusiastic audience was the well-known promoter Sid Bernstein, who was working on ABBA’s breakthrough in America. Sid was overwhelmed by the performance: “One of the best shows that’s out there at the moment.”
ABBA’s tour through the Swedish folk parks was the icing on the cake after their European tour. Due to Agnetha’s illness – she caught a severe bronchitis and had a 40 degree fever – the date had to be postponed, but at the end of June the time had come. Their concerts turned out to be highlights in the Swedish show business. 19.000 enthusiastic fans saw ABBA perform at Grona Lund in Stockholm, 8.000 in Liseberg Gothenburg, 12.000 in Malmö.
But there wasn’t much money to be made of a tour like this. Björn: “There’s only one place in this world where you can make money of a tour. That’s America. There are enough venues that can hold 20.000 or 30.000 fans over there. But at the same time, America is the most strenuous thing that’s around in show business.”
Why does ABBA still go on tour then? Stig: “We simply want to show the fans that ABBA is alive and that they are not a studio project, that they can sing live with an orchestra.”

Sunday 22 August 2010

Muziek Parade, October 1977: The ABBA Story, part 6

Up till now, Muziek Parade has published five complete parts of the ABBA Story, wherein the individual members of the group were addressed extensively. We talked about their ups and downs. Their success and their troubles. The difficult early years, the opposition of the Swedish media. But MP has reported extensively about the victory in Brighton and its consequences as well. The end of this story is drawing near. It’s not the end of ABBA, because we dare to predict that ABBA will be present at the top of the international show business for years and years to come, since the success of ABBA is based on the tight mutual bond between Stig, Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny and Björn. This intense collaboration is even more powerful due to the enormous musical inventiveness of the fivesome and their nose for knowing what the general public wants. And ABBA meets the taste of the audience completely, without making any concessions by the way.
Slowly but surely, ABBA managed to get the Swedish media behind them after all. For instance, Expressen wrote about ‘Mr. Biz’ Stig Anderson: “There are not many people who know the real Stig, who have looked him in the heart. He turned Sweden into the centre of international attention. He gave Sweden the devices that it needed and still needs. Stig is some sort of world champion. He has an enormous amount of ambition and pushing power. He owns record companies and music publishing companies. He is proud of his successes, and isn’t he allowed to? Stig believes in himself. There’s no false modesty. He is a clever musical bullet. He brought the deathly Swedish music industry back to life and we realised that far too late and we ought to be ashamed of that.”
That’s a clear statement. However, ABBA barely got any support from the Swedish television broadcasting company. They thought that their music was too commercial and that they were only beefing up the bank accounts of the group and Stig, instead of meeting the wishes of the Swedish population. That’s why the group decided to do a concert in their home country in january 1975, at the Concert Hall in Stockholm. ABBA was just as nervous as they had been in Brighton. The group had been away too long and they felt that they had alienated themselves from their own fans. That nervousness wasn’t necessary. It turned into a real triumph for ABBA. ABBA ended their performance with ‘Waterloo’ and it seemed as if the venue was turned upside down. Girls were fainting and several of them were fighting to keep themselves from bursting into tears. The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, that hadn’t been very kind to ABBA in the past, reported the next day: “These are idols at work, supported by at least 2.000 enthusiastic fans. ABBA is back in Sweden, let’s try to keep them here because ABBA is better than ever.”
The well-known American manager Sid Bernstein – who had once organised a huge Beatles concert – was in the concert hall as well and he told the press: “ABBA now belongs to the biggest acts in the carousel that’s called show business.” He – who had seen so many artists perform already – was very impressed with ABBA’s performance. “What a show,” he exclaimed.
For a full ninety minutes – it seemed like a soccer game – ABBA went through their repertoire and they kept growing and growing. Bernstein was very enthusiastic about the group’s clothes. Anni-Frid’s white overall with the green cap. Agnetha in a tight outfit as well. And later on Anni-Frid’s mini skirt with the white boots.

After this performance, Anni-Frid recorded a solo album that was titled ‘Frida’. It became a big success, selling more than 100.000 copies. Panic broke loose due to this success. Is Frida going to leave ABBA now? Will she continue on her own? Requests for solo performances came in but Stikkan Anderson put a stop to everything and said: “Frida wanted to make an old dream come true. She succeeded. Good for her and everyone who bought the album but Frida will not perform on her own in television shows or at concerts. She is too important for the group.”
Frida: “In the beginning I was disappointed by Stig’s veto but later on I understood. He wants to prevent us from growing apart. He wants to prevent the audience from getting confused about what’s going on with ABBA.”
One of the aspects of the group’s contract with Stig is that he can put a stop to certain changes in their career whenever he feels that it’s going to hurt ABBA. In Frida’s case, he just had to interfere.

After this occurance, there was another important moment in ABBA’s career: Agnetha’s tonsils. She almost had to skip Brighton, because her swollen tonsils kept bothering her. Because of this, Agnetha was also struggling with a cold and she wasn’t able to reach certain notes any longer. The tonsils are equally important to a singer as a meniscus is to a soccer player.
Agnetha tells about it now: “In consultation with Stig and the others it was decided that my tonsils had to be removed. I was very anxious about it and in a state like that it always works out badly. I had a local narcosis and was able to witness the entire treatment. Afterwards, I regretted that I went ahead with the operation. I felt awful and I could hardly talk, let alone sing. It would take a couple of weeks before I could utter a few words. I was really scared that I had lost my voice. Carefully, I started to speak again and after some weeks it was time for the final exam: singing.”
Agnetha was driven to the studio, everything was set out and... Agnetha sang like a bird. What a relief. There were no problems and her voice was better than ever.

From that moment on, their success was unstoppable. It seems as if a buckload of gold and platinum records were floating to Stockholm. There seems to be no end and it looks as if ABBA is going to surpass the big successes of the Beatles. ABBA was being called a one-hit wonder by insiders. Pessimists were claiming: “After two singles we won’t hear from this group ever again.” They were all proven wrong. After ‘Waterloo’ came ‘Ring Ring’ and ‘I Do, I Do’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Fernando’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘SOS’ and ‘Honey, Honey’ and ‘Money, Money’.
Stig Anderson told MP’s reporter Cees van Leyde during a meeting in Stockholm: “In Holland it was Eddy Becker who acknowledged ABBA’s qualities immediately. While other producers were still hesitant, he made me an offer right away. That’s why Becker has a special place in our hearts.” A huge compliment for Eddy Becker, who can be seen on our television screens far too little. Some more statistics, always fun: ABBA has had 5 number one singles in England, 5 in Germany, 3 in France. There’s an ABBA album in almost every Australian household. In Australia, no less than 1.000.000 copies were sold of the album ‘The Best Of ABBA’ and this record was broken later on with ‘Arrival’. In Australia – 13 million people are living there – ABBA is bigger than the Beatles have ever been. In the first week after its release, 700.000 copies of the ‘Arrival’ album were sold. When you realise that you get a gold record for sales of 25.000 copies, you can imagine how much gold was struck by ABBA.
Stig Anderson: “I believe that we are bigger in the Benelux than any other group has ever been in history.” That’s typical Anderson: not being embarrassed by a statement like that. He knows exactly what he is and where.
Take America for instance. ‘Waterloo’ was a top ten hit and the contracts and telexes were pouring in. But ABBA simply said: “We don’t have any time at the moment.” An incomprehensible reply for an American, accustomed to strike the iron while it is hot. When ‘SOS’ had sold more than 1.000.000 copies, the group flew over. Not to play concerts, but to do a couple of coast-to-coast interviews. They performed on three television shows that were being watched by more than 100.000.000 people. The Merv Griffin Show, The Dinah Shore Show and The Jack Paar Show (someone like Willem Duys). Sid Bernstein had made the right preparations and that’s how these performances had the same result as a heavy tour of about 30 days would have had.
The Merv Griffin Show was broadcast from Las Vegas. Finally Vegas, is what the group thought, but it turned out differently. There was hardly any time to do some sightseeing in this peculiar city in the desert and whenever ABBA went out of Caesar’s Palace for a while, the group was stormed by excited fans that regarded them as new idols. Björn did have the time to buy a new guitar but Agnetha just had to stay inside the hotel, because of Linda. The little girl was shaken up by the huge time difference. At the times that she had to sleep, she walked around cooing and at the times when she had to play, she was vast asleep. A very complicated matter, that caused Agnetha sleepless nights.
In The Dinah Shore Show, Benny and Frida had to face another problem. Miss Shore asked if they loved each other. “Yes,” they nodded. If they wanted to get married. “Yes,” they nodded. Haven’t had the time yet? “That’s right,” they nodded. “Well,” miss Shore said, “you can get married here within two minutes. Now you can’t say that you don’t have the time.” And Benny and Frida were put on the spot. What would they say. How would they get out of this situation. But Benny took care of the solution with a relaxed smile: “Frida and I are engaged, we want to get to know each other a little better and then we will get married. And we want to pick the place where that will happen ourselves.” And everyone was happy.

What is the most wonderful thing according to Stig Anderson, now that practically every success has been achieved? “I’ve travelled a lot around the world,” Stig says to MP, “I still think the most wonderful thing is whenever an ABBA record is being played on the radio. I was in Kenya some time ago. In my hotel room I turned on the radio and... an ABBA song was being played. I think that’s wonderful. People have told me that so many ABBA records have been sold all over the world. Every minute, there’s an ABBA record being played in at least three places in the world. I think that’s simply amazing. And not only because I make some money of it.”

Which country is closest to ABBA’s heart? Stig: “You want me to be honest, don’t you? That’s Australia. I have respect for the people that are working over there. They have all left their own country to build a new future. I respect that, you don’t turn your back on your native country easily. Apart from that, the group’s popularity is tremendous over there and it’s being expressed so wonderfully. I can hardly describe it. An example: whenever ABBA arrives in the country, it seems as if a foreign head of state is coming. A week before, there’s already a nervous buzz. People are putting out the flag. Special measures are being taken so that nothing can happen to the group but people will still be able to see something. You haven’t experienced something like that before. Wonderful. In Australia, we are also number one in the charts of the highest rated television shows. A record, by the way, that we share with Frank Sinatra. That’s not bad company, I would say.”
Stig forgets to mention that he has done something very special in Australia. ABBA would perform in Sydney at the Showground Stadium. A venue that can hold about 40.000 people. The tickets could have been sold with ease. Then Stig decided to sell only 20.000 tickets and perform two concerts. He made the stadium a little smaller, to make it more pleasant and... to give the people their money’s worth. After some hesitation, Stig says: “Commercially speaking, it’s of course better to play twice for 40.000 people, than twice for 20.000, but still I chose the latter. I don’t want to make the impression that I’m out to make buckets of money. ABBA asks a good price and the people will get an excellent concert for that.”
This decision has made headlines in the newspapers and it has made Stig Anderson at least as popular as the members of the group. The downside of their amazing Australian success are the ‘white records’. The ABBA albums have been copied by thousands, reproduced in illegal record pressing factories and released on the market for a cheaper price. This has caused a riot. The police has been able to seize thousands of records and prevent worse things from happening. Later on, these illegal records were also made in Singapore, Italy and Hong Kong. In Taiwan, they have discovered a pressing factory in time.

Good memories? “Thousands of them,” says Stig Anderson. “I’m going to write a book about that in the future. I have wonderful memories of the launch of the ‘Arrival’ album in London. We landed there in helicopters during a reception. The people loved it. Oh well, actually it’s fun everywhere we go to launch an album or to receive gold records. It’s like having a birthday every day and who isn’t happy on his birthday. Happy faces everywhere.”

A less pleasant moment was their performance on Top Of The Pops. According to the British law of labour, a British orchestra had to be used. It’s not easy – not even for the best musicians in the world – to learn how to play the complex ABBA arrangements with its special effects within a couple of hours. That performance on Top Of The Pops turned into a fiasco and the unions refused to let them use their own backing tracks. And that’s how they are trifling with the interests of millions of viewers.
Earlier this year, in January, ABBA toured through the United Kingdom and they wanted to get paid in German Marks or Swiss Francs, two strong currencies. Organiser Danny Betesh passed this on to the media who took the opportunity to write nasty reports.
A nice occurance: the invitation of the German president Walter Scheel to perform during the visit of the American president Gerald Ford. It is known that Ford is a huge ABBA fan. But ABBA had to cancel due to commitments elsewhere.

ABBA won’t let themselves be photographed like this anymore!
It is known that ABBA follows a clever strategy when it comes to photo sessions. Only the best photographers are allowed to take pictures of ABBA. Like the photo sessions in Muziek Parade, by Wolfgang Heilemann or the upcoming photo sessions, by Barry Levine. Only the very best of them are considered. Even these photographers – who are widely known – have to hand over a plan of action that states clearly what will be photographed and how. And in which clothes.
Photographers go to great lenghts to find nice subjects, beautiful colours and special settings.
Usually, photo sessions take up about seven days, because everything is talked through with the group. There are always some adjustments or observations to be made. But when the photo session is eventually finished, a unique series of pictures will see the light of day. A lot of them are not allowed to be published by the critical group. Then Stig puts in his veto. Despite all these precautions, despite all the conversations and despite all the decisions, some pictures have been put into circulation that ABBA themselves would rather have seen unreleased. Hereby, MP publishes one of these pictures. Naked ABBA, wrapped in tinfoil. ABBA themselves regret the fact that the pictures from this session have slipped through. Pictures like this are damaging ABBA’s image, is what they think. That’s why saucy pictures like this will never be taken and/or published ever again. Stig will make sure of that.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Joepie, 1976: ABBA is conquering Poland

A report from Belgian magazine Joepie about ABBA’s trip to Poland in October 1976.
“Within a few minutes, we will be landing in Stockholm, where the temperature is now 8 degrees Celcius. We hope to see you again soon on one of our flights...” Listening to the pilot’s voice, you can hear that a landing like this is just a formality to him. Just like we use the brakes of our car. Marcel is peaking through the window carefully to see how everything is going and together we sigh with relief when the plane puts its wheels safely on the ground. Flying is simply not our favourite hobby...

It’s very chilly when we step out of Arlanda airport, but we don’t mind, we have arrived. Sweden, the ultimate holiday resort, like we had been told. The city centre of Stockholm is approximately 40 kilometres from the airport and that bus trip already costs us 240 Belgian francs. You get tired of looking at the landscape pretty quickly, you don’t see anything else but trees and more trees. Stockholm itself is an impressive city: broad streets, large stores, monumental buildings. In short, a city that’s a couple of years ahead of its time. But also impressively expensive: you pay 80 Belgian francs for a coke in a random café. After a short walk through the city – within 15 minutes we are of course completely lost – we decide to get back to our hotel. The next morning we are having an appointment with ABBA. To fly along with them to Poland...

The appointment was at 8 o’clock at Arlanda airport. There were already a couple of people walking around when we arrived, because ABBA had invited some Scandinavian friends to the trip as well. Björn and Benny were fifteen minutes late, but they were excused. Traffic jams and things like that, you know. The duo plumped down in the relaxing chairs at the bar and welcomed everybody with a little wink. Benny asked us if we had brought along the most recent Joepies so that he could glance through them while waiting for the plane to arrive. “Oh yes, that interview about our European tour,” he winks. “Did I really say all this?” he asks us when he sees that – for him incomprehensible – text. It wasn’t until five minutes later that Anni-Frid caught our eye, who was reading something in a silent corner. “I don’t like all this fuss at the airport,” she told us. “I’d rather seclude myself to do some reading.” Anna was nowhere to be found, we thought. Anni-Frid must have read our minds. “Oh yes, Anna has left for Poland one day early. Björn and Anna mostly travel separately, for the sake of their children. If something goes wrong, they will still have their father or their mother. Anna travelled together with her father...” There was a Polish camera crew as well, to film the entire trip for television. To show as an introduction to the special that they were going to film in Warsaw.

Only minutes before we boarded the plane, Benny dropped in the tax free shop for a while. “He always does that,” Anni-Frid smiles. “He only smokes Swedish cigarettes and you can’t get them anywhere else...” The plane is full of Swedish guests. It’s a language that you can’t understand at all as a Fleming. There’s a communal laughter in the plane when the Polish pilot welcomed the group ABBABA on the speaker. “Definitely not a fan,” Benny joked. The motors started running and the second torture in the sky was about to start for us. During the entire flight, the new ABBA album was played, namely ‘Arrival’. But for the take off they had chosen an appropriate song, namely ‘SOS’. To put our backs up even more...

ABBA is extremely popular in Poland. You noticed this immediately when the plane landed and thousands of Polish reporters and fans were waiting for the group. Anna was there too, with her father. She was beaming. “I’m not afraid of flying myself,” she said when we got off the plane. “But I’m ever more worried about the flight of the other three. Even if the plane is only five minutes late, I’m biting my nails with nervousness...”
We wouldn’t see much of ABBA that day anymore. With a special taxi they were rushed off to the television studios, while we had some time to stay at our hotel. An hour later we were in the studio as well. There’s not much to say about that, because all television studios look the same, no matter where you are in the world. And the working method is identical: rehearsing, taking a break, rehearsing again and then filming. That first day ended with a press conference for Polish journalists, at the Novotel. You could tell by the questions that were fired at ABBA in the first fifteen minutes that ABBA’s success in Poland is still very fresh. There was even someone who asked if they had ever considered to enter the Eurovision Song Contest.
The atmosphere got a little more tense when they started asking rather offensive questions about financial and political aspects. At some point, Anna even replied resolutely that this was none of their business. The final blow was dealt to the atmosphere when an arrogant character remarked without batting an eye that ABBA was better at singing than talking. The president of Pagart, the Polish agency that’s taking care of ABBA’s business, decided to go ahead with the closing ceremony of the evening, namely handing over a couple of gold records. A busy day had come to an end and at the hotel we had the opportunity to talk to Anna about this first visit to Poland. “I think the people are extremely friendly over here, and although they are not as rich as us, they look very happy. However, I thought that the media were rather arrogant, I have to say. But it’s been an exhausting day, I’m very tired. I’m glad that we will be able to take a stroll through the city – just like a normal tourist – tomorrow.” You can see and read in our next issue how that visit to Warsaw passed off.

Popshop, 1977: Until the baby has arrived… Frida won’t let Anna out of her sight for a minute!

Every now and then, Anna and Frida argue about nothing, after all they are only people of flesh and blood. But when something important is going on, the two beauties of ABBA become a united front. For instance, now that Anna is expecting her second baby, Frida won’t let her out of her sight for a minute.
“At moments like this, there are certain things that can better be dealt with by a friend than a husband,” according to Frida. “When I was pregnant myself, I loved to chat about baby clothes and things like that. Men usually dislike things like that, they don’t think it’s important enough. And then there’s also the fact that Björn and Benny are often away from home, to try out new songs in the studio. I don’t want to leave Anna alone, I help her out as much as I can with the dishes and things like that. Because the nanny has made use of this quiet period to take a leave of absence. No, let the people do their talking that Anna and I can’t stand each other, we know better than that...”
Anna herself is over the moon. She is now taking prenatal turn exercises. “Every day a nurse comes to my home, that helps me to do all kinds of exercises. I don’t want any painkillers when I’m giving birth, I want to do everything as natural as possible. It may be old fashioned, but I don’t care about that...”

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Bravo, 1981: Is Agnetha annoyed now? – Björn secretly married her best friend

Ever since Björn got married to his girlfriend Lena Källersjö – who is a deadringer for Agnetha, his ex-wife – in the beginning of this year, the rumours are heating up again. Because Björn’s walk down the aisle in the little town Grythytta in the middle of Sweden took place in all secrecy – far away from publicity and even without the other ABBA members.
In spite of the fact that Björn met the 30-year-old advertisement assistant Lena at a party at Benny and Frida’s home. Lena and Anni-Frid were close friends and it wouldn’t be long before a cordial friendship developed between her and Agnetha as well. Agnetha even regularly entrusted Lena with both her children Linda (7) and Christian (3). During the last world tour, Björn’s new girlfriend spent quite a few weeks with the other ABBA members as well. So why this secrecy?
Björn: “Secrecy and dark clouds are not an issue with ABBA. Our wedding was purely a private matter. As a matter of fact, it was the wedding day of my sister Eva-Margarete, who got married to the Swedish racing driver Leif Asterhag in Grythytta. Lena and I just joined in.”
Isn’t Agnetha – in the bottom of her heart – a little annoyed at Lena, who has now permanently blocked her way back to Björn?
Agnetha: “Nonsense. I’ve already dealt with my divorce from Björn – mentally as well – some time ago. Lena has nothing to do with that. I wish her and Björn all the best in their joint future. After all, at some point there will be a new life partner for me as well.”
But, where men are concerned that show up at Agnetha’s side, publicity is keeping a close watch, which irritates the blonde ABBA singer. Some of her furious reactions were even explained as an intention to leave the group.
Agnetha: “It bothers me that – due to ABBA’s popularity – my private life has been publicised to the extent that every man that is spotted with me is labelled as a possible new husband. But that’s no reason for me to leave ABBA. I can understand very well that Björn and Lena got married in all secrecy. I will look for a new life partner in all peace and quiet – without publicity – as well. But this has nothing to do with ABBA. We will stay together, as long as the audience still likes our music.”
The other members share this opinion as well. But still, all four of them are trying to take root musically on their own as well, outside the group.
Björn and Benny are writing a musical that should have its premiere even this spring. Anni-Frid and Agnetha are having solo plans. Agnetha has already taken the first step in that direction. At the end of last year, she recorded a Christmas album together with her daughter Linda, although its release has been postponed for a year, so that it wouldn’t have any effect on the sales of the ‘Super Trouper’ album.
“That’s all true,” Anni-Frid confirms. “But firstly, at the moment I’m not having any concrete solo plans yet, and secondly, it wouldn’t hurt ABBA in any way. Many groups – like for instance Status Quo – are riding on a double track and they still stick together. Why wouldn’t that be possible with ABBA?”

Sunday 8 August 2010

Joepie, 1978: ABBA sneakily moved to London

For quite some time, there have been rumours that ABBA was planning to leave Sweden, because of its heavy tax burden. First there was talk of moving to Los Angeles, then it was Switzerland, but the eventual choice fell upon London, more specifically the residential district Mayfair.
Mayfair, almost a square-shaped neighbourhood, is more or less fenced in by Marble Arch, Picadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. It’s not exactly clear why they decided to take residence officially in England (the taxes are at least equally heavy), although it is generally assumed that they – as foreigners – will be able to benefit from a special and profitable arrangement. Their assets in Stockholm have not been sold, because the four of them are planning to keep on living there. It’s just that they will have to stay at their official residence a couple of days per year, in order to be eligible for that special arrangement.
Anna, Frida, Björn and Benny themselves have not spoken one word about this mysterious move. The aforementioned facts are neither being denied nor confirmed, which more or less equals a silent confirmation.
In the meantime, a track from the new album – ‘Eagle’ – has been chosen as the new single. A song that will undoubtedly provide them with their umpteenth worldwide hit...

Saturday 7 August 2010

Bravo, 1981: Agnetha: during her first performance, her pants fell down

Since her divorce from Björn, Agnetha Fältskog is living a lonely life with her children in her mansion in Lidingö. The new man in her life is called – or rather: was called – Dick Håkansson. They met each other in the spring, but in the meantime they have ended their relationship.
These days, Dick is still a welcome guest at Agnetha’s home. “We are friends and see each other every now and then,” Dick commented. There’s no doubt about it: Agnetha has known happier times in her life...
She was born in Jönköping, on April 5, 1950. Her father’s name is Ingvar, her mother’s Birgit. Ingvar Fältskog was the man who came up with most of the ideas for the local New Year’s revue, for which he wrote the dialogues. Meanwhile, he also performed himself in several parts.
Mother Birgit loved to sing, and often as well, but not in front of an audience. That’s how little Agnetha grew up in a very musical home. At the age of six, she made her debut in a scene of a Christmas entertainment show, that had been organised by her father.
Agnetha performed the well-known and popular ‘Billy Boy’. A performance that’s still the talk of the town in Jönköping today. But not because of Agnetha’s voice, but because of something that happened during the second chorus of the song: The zipper of Agnetha’s pants broke and her pants fell down.
However, this incident didn’t prevent Agnetha from carrying on with her blossoming career. In that same year, she started taking piano lessons. In the beginning, she practised on the neighbour’s piano, until she got one of her own at the age of seven.
At the age of fifteen, she started singing; she performed with the dance band ‘Bernt Enghardts’. During the day she worked as a telephone operator at a car firm and in the evening she sang with the band. In the long run, she wasn’t able to combine her singing with her job – she quit her job and concentrated on her career as a singer.

The band sent a demo to the then very well-known ‘Little Gerhard’, who was a singer and a producer at a record company. The company thought that the band was mediocre, but they thought that Agnetha’s voice was wonderful. Even more so because she sang melodies that she had composed herself.
Agnetha was called to Stockholm for some test recordings and she recorded two singles. The first one was called ‘I Was So In Love’. On January 23, 1968, this song entered the Swedish charts at number three. After that, further records kept on coming, like for instance ‘Without You’ and ‘Everything Has Changed’ and ‘Once We Were Together’.
These three were the most successful ones and they were composed by Agnetha herself. In less than a year Agnetha Fältskog had established herself and she became one of Sweden’s most popular artists. Already then, the media were starting to take an interest in everything she did. Large headlines appeared in the summer of 1968, when she got engaged to the German record producer Dieter Zimmermann.
For six months, Agnetha lived in Germany; she recorded several songs in German, but her international career didn’t take off and the engagement was broken off.
Back in Sweden, in the summer of 1969, Agnetha was a star in the big TV shows and she sang songs by Jules Sylvain. Among the other participants were the Hootenanny Singers.
One of their members was called Björn Ulvaeus. He had already met Agnetha earlier, during a folk park tour. But it wasn’t until the summer of 1969 that they discovered their love for each other. In April 1970, they got engaged during their holiday on Cyprus, and they got married in July 1971. Among the guests at the wedding were Benny and Anni-Frid. The four of them would work together intensely in the future...

Sunday 1 August 2010

Rocky Das Freizeit-Magazin, October 1979: ABBA up close – On stage... and completely private

Even on the black market it’s out of the question: ABBA’s five concerts in Germany are completely sold out. “The tickets were sold out within two days, even two months before the show,” according to the organizers. “If we had to fulfil all the ticket applications, ABBA would have to perform a concert in Germany every night for three months – the demand is that high.”
At the moment, Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s super show is blowing away the German fans, who had to wait so long for this event. Not one movement, not one sound, not one joke – nothing has been left to chance. Even the harshest music critics will have to agree that ABBA has put together the most perfect, even the best show of the entire year. To reach this result, an enormous amount of dedication is needed, that only few other groups can achieve and that takes up almost two-thirds of their recompense. However, manager Stig Anderson – the grey eminence behind ABBA – isn’t bothered by that. “What’s most important is that the costs have been secured,” he says, “apart from that, the record sales will benefit from this world tour. We will get everything back through the backdoor.”
Fifty people are travelling along with ABBA: musicians, backing singers, sound engineers, stage workers, even a hairdresser and a lady for the costumes are present. And the reporters from Rocky Das Freizeit-Magazin. ABBA only has one bodyguard, the Swede Bo Nörling, a blonde hero who is claimed to be as strong as five other bodyguards together.

For this tour, ABBA rented the best and most expensive amplifying equipment from a company in the United States – 10.000 dollars per night. Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny only manage to cope with their extensive tour (41 concerts have been planned all over the world, with a possible prolongation to Japan) because they are completely closed off from all the commotion in their spare time. Only their closest friends, their children, their management and our reporters are allowed to get close to them.
In America, ABBA were able to catch their breath in between the shows at the swimming pools of their hotels. Benny spent his time with Stig Anderson, playing a game of chess. Meanwhile, the girls were getting tanned in the sun. Björn preferred cool, alcohol free drinks and hamburgers – apparently his favourite food during the US trip.
He caused the biggest surprise behind the scenes: his new girlfriend Lena Källersjö was present as well. She and Agnetha, Björn’s ex-wife, get along great. “That’s why I brought Lena along,” Björn explains, “if they hadn’t accepted each other mutually, my girlfriend would have stayed at home, to prevent tensions from arising.”
At a press conference, Agnetha caused a sensation. She stated: “Next year, I want to spend more time taking care of Linda, who will start school then. Especially in the first few months, she will need me!” The next morning, the US newspapers appeared with the ominous headline: “Will ABBA fall apart?”
Rocky Das Freizeit-Magazin learned from Björn: “That’s nonsense. We will go on, but we will take things a little easier. Because in the past few years, our private life has always come second.”
ABBA travels from concert to concert in their own Lear jet, a comfortable jet airplane with a telephone, a colour TV, stereo equipment and a big house bar on board. Björn: “If we wouldn’t be able to afford this kind of luxury, we would be exhausted after only one week. Because the shows are extremely fatiguing.”
ABBA will be in Germany for three more days. Anyone who has a ticket can be very pleased. Because who knows when we will see them again.