Friday 29 October 2010

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1977: ABBA, now they are taking a break

Their efforts were enormous – therefore their success was overwhelming. Now the successful quartet has returned home.

After 22 days of touring in Europe and Australia, Agnetha, Björn, Anni-Frid and Benny have returned to Stockholm. Completely exhausted, but happy and satisfied.
“Up until the end, I have been anxious about this long tour. Of course we knew that the fans would have very high expectations. But the overwhelming success has taken away my last doubts as well: we didn’t disappoint our audience!” Just like the other three, Anni-Frid has burned herself out completely and now she is enjoying the quiet hours at home.
“Of course, Björn and I have been longing for our little daughter Linda. Although we were back in Stockholm in February to pay her a visit, we are very happy to be at home regularly again!” Agnetha tells the Magazin.
And what about the two men? Did they long for this breathing pause as well?
Benny admits: “Obviously, it has been very demanding. But the enthusiasm of the audience has taken away all the strains!” Benny already has plans for the coming period. But Björn is putting him off. “’Money, Money, Money’ is still doing very well in several countries. We don’t have to worry about a new hit for the time being, because the next single will be taken from the album ‘Arrival’. Now, ABBA is taking a break!”
Although both couples mostly spend their days off separately, every now and then they see each other to have a nice cup of coffee together. And the girls are already having a big problem then: “What are we going to wear at our next performances?”

Thursday 28 October 2010

Story, 1978: ABBA Anna too skinny?

Anna (or Agnetha) – the one with the long blonde hair – is beautiful, although she would be the last one to admit it. “I don’t think I’m beautiful at all. When I was a little girl I had a huge gap between my teeth. The dentist has done some work on that; for four years I had to wear braces. I didn’t dare to smile anymore, because then you would see those iron wires. Thankfully, it all worked out fine in the end.”
Anna has long blonde hair, beautiful but laborious. “I have to wash my hair every other day, it’s not very convenient. I’d love to cut my hair short, but I’m not allowed to.”
Whenever she doesn’t have to perform, she hardly uses make-up. “On stage, I wear fake lashes and blue or brown eye shadow. Most of the time, we wear glittery clothes, real show stuff, because that fits our music. I decide myself what I wear during performances. I like red and blue. I wear everything, including Björn’s pants. But I’m not that crazy about clothes that I need to have something new all the time. For me to buy something, I really need to find something at random. But first I want to put on some weight. Yes, I think I’m too skinny! Nobody thinks that, but I do. Ever since the baby was born, I’m getting skinnier every day. I really don’t know what’s the cause of that, maybe it will pass.”

Sunday 24 October 2010

Hitkrant, 1978: What does ABBA’s future look like? – Making hits is getting ever more difficult

It all started in November 1973: Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Stig Anderson came together on their little island and wrote ‘Waterloo’. On April 6, 1974, ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with that song and then the fences were down. A supergroup was born and at this moment ABBA is an institute for millions of people.

But how long will Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny be able to last? Can you keep on scoring hit after hit? Apparently not, we’ve been able to see that in our own charts: ‘The Name Of The Game’ didn’t get to number one, because Father Abraham with ‘The Smurf Song’ and Queen with ‘We Are The Champions’ prevented it from getting there.
At the time of writing, ‘Take A Chance On Me’ is kept off the number one spot as well. Again by a Dutch artist (although she is actually singing in English): Yvonne Keeley. Are these the first signs? Is ABBA’s popularity diminishing?

Becoming a star isn’t easy. Being a star is equally difficult. But remaining a star is even more difficult. Especially if you want to have a private life as well, apart from your life as an artist.
Agnetha is having problems with that the most. Her little daughter Linda – who has just turned five years old – and her son Christian who was born in December demand more of her attention every day. In the end, she and Björn are not only pop stars, but first and foremost parents as well!

The question about ABBA’s future has been asked many times before. What are they going to do then? Agnetha and Björn already have plans: “We want to buy a farm somewhere in the countryside and then have a lot of animals. Maybe we will become farmers!”
Either way, Agnetha wants to get out of the show business then. Björn isn’t very keen on that: “I’d like to keep on producing and writing music and that goes for Benny too. That is to say: if I can make enough money with that!”

That doesn’t seem to be problem according to us: most probably, the ABBA members have made enough money already to be able to live without worries for the rest of their lives.
But meanwhile the problem remains: how do we stay on top? They are working very hard on that. The musical masterminds of ABBA – Björn and Benny – are feeling more and more pressure. Composing, always looking for a sound that’s different than other people’s music. Working very hard and keeping in shape, that’s the only way to last in the pop scene. Doing business is part of the package as well, something that especially Björn is very good at. Managing the enormous ABBA fortune is something that’s not only looked after by manager Stig.

ABBA is still a supergroup. But not all ABBA singles are becoming number one hits anymore. In 1976, the four Swedes won the Hitkrant trophy with a convincing lead, but our readers clearly went for Queen in the popularity poll of 1977. ABBA will have to think hard about following new paths in their career, if they want to maintain their gigantic success!

Saturday 23 October 2010

Popcorn, September 1983: Strong words from Agnetha – Sensational, what Agnetha Fältskog has to say about herself and ABBA...

She came fresh from her three-week-long holiday on a Swedish island, she was tanned and eager to talk: Popcorn correspondent Mathias Danneels met Agnetha Fältskog – who will introduce her new single ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’ in the TV show Wetten Daß on September 3 – in Brussels and heard astonishing things...

After Frida, you have now established yourself as a solo singer as well. Will the two of you have any desire at all to keep on working as ABBA’s ‘choir singers’?
Agnetha: “Well, for the time being it will definitely remain that way, but it certainly can’t last forever. In the meantime, each one of us is having so many own ideas and interests. For instance, I’ve ventured out in the acting business – the movie Raskenstam, in which I’m playing the lover of a Swedish Casanova, can actually be seen in Swedish cinemas right now. This movie making was enormously exciting and it was much more fun than filling up the empty spaces in the ABBA sound.”
Does this mean that you’ve had enough of singing with ABBA?
Agnetha: “That’s probably a little exaggerated. But I want to be able to breathe within the group as well. I experience every break from ABBA as very pleasant.”
What is bothering you about ABBA?
Agnetha: “Everyone knows how things are with us. The boys are writing the songs, they are doing all the work in the studio and they only call us when we have to sing. In the long run that’s not satisfying. Because I have a lot of good ideas as well that I can’t execute with ABBA. That’s why working on my solo album was so much fun for me, because I’ve been creatively involved from the first note to the last one.”
Do you believe that Frida thinks the same way?
Agnetha: “I can’t speak on behalf of Frida, we don’t see enough of each other for that. But either way, more than ever Frida is doing her own things too. She is working on her second album and just now she has started filming for a movie in Stockholm. It’s going to be a comedy and Frida is playing the secretary of an industrial executive. Frida as a secretary – you couldn’t even imagine a thing like that...”
No one believes that there will be live performances or a tour anymore. Can we still speak of ABBA as a group?
Agnetha: “Concerts and tours are not the trademark of a group. I have always considered ABBA more as some kind of studio band. Sure, being on stage for two hours and seeing how happy you are making the audience is wonderful. But the travelling and the separation of my children Linda and Christian, the whole stress of a tour is simply too much for me. We have worked so hard in the past ten years that you only realize afterwards that there are so many things that you have had to pass on.”
You are talking about the last ten years as if this period is over permanently...
Agnetha: “In a way, it is. I have tons of wonderful memories but I wouldn’t have the energy to do it all again. I am 33 years old now, I want to concentrate on things that are far more valuable than success.”
In hindsight, what was the most important thing for you in these ten years?
Agnetha: “Definitely the success. And that we have proved for ten years that we are creative, that we are not a one-hit-wonder. After our victory at the Eurovision Song Contest, we were not sure if we would make it. I wasn’t even confident about my voice. Actually, it’s only now – by working on my solo album – that I’m convinced that I’m able to reach a wider range than with my ABBA voice.”
What are your next goals?
Agnetha: “For me, my solo album is the first step on which many others will follow. I want to compose more myself, I don’t want to exist in the heads of the ABBA fans as just a singer. In the near future, I will work a lot in the studio. For me, that’s some kind of toy that the ABBA boys have denied me up till now...”
Will you go on tour at some point?
Agnetha: “There are no such plans. I want to be there for my children Linda and Christian permanently, I think that’s very important. In Sweden there are so many sad stories about young people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol or trying to commit suicide. When I was young, I didn’t even know what suicide was. I will do everything to raise my children with a positive attitude.”

Thursday 21 October 2010

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: Non stop hits

In show business, everyone is playing hardball. Anyone who rests on his laurels will find that he will be rushed off his feet very soon. One swallow does not make a summer, one hit does not make an international pop group. After their triumph with ‘Waterloo’, ABBA was looking desperately for a new hit record. Or rather: first they tried their luck with an ‘oldie’: ‘Ring Ring’.
One year earlier, the song indeed became successful in continental Europe, but not in the UK. But now ABBA gave it another try. ‘Ring Ring’ was revamped, it was made poppier. The signs were good. ABBA was going to perform the song on the BBC’s most popular entertainment show Top Of The Pops. You couldn’t wish for a better promotional opportunity than that. When the four Swedes arrived in London, it turned out that the BBC technicians were on strike.
The next string on their bow would be ‘Honey, Honey’. The song appeared on the same album on which ‘Waterloo’ had been included as well.
‘Honey, Honey’ made it to number two on the German charts, in Belgium it even shot to number one. In the UK, the song reached number six in the charts – but it was the cover version of the British group Sweet Dreams. Despite their victory in the international Song Contest, Merry Old England didn’t seem to like the four Swedes very much.
“We really had to fight for it in England,” Björn remembers. And he continues: “In the beginning, the British newspapers wrote very little about us.” However, when they did write something, it was in the vein of: ‘Poor old ABBA’. For instance, Melody Maker wrote about the ABBA song ‘I Do’: “It’s so bad, it hurts...”.
Not only the newspapers – so it seemed – had turned their backs on the four Swedes. The music industry was doing everything to cut the ground from under foreign artists’ feet as well. Björn: “Whenever we performed on Top Of The Pops, we were not allowed to use playback, because no British musicians had been involved in the recording. Of course, British groups did use playback.”
It wasn’t until ‘Mamma Mia’ hit number one on the British charts in January 1976 that things were starting to look up for ABBA.
On the other hand, things were quite different in the USA. Although they only performed on the Mike Douglas Show during their first visit in September 1974 and they only shook hands with strangers at press gatherings. But during their second outing in November 1975 they performed on seven television shows in two weeks time.

Everything was going ABBA’s way at this point. Their records were selling like hot cakes, their concerts were sold out. But there were still a couple of thousand miles between them and the location of their biggest triumph: the distance between Sweden and Australia.
The fifth continent was namely the scene of something that ABBA could not have imagined in their wildest dreams. What the Australian newspapers were writing was definitely not a hoax, but reality. They said: “ABBA is the most exciting thing that has hit Australia since the hurricane Tracy.”
Just like everywhere else, the big success in Australia had started with ‘Waterloo’. After that it was blow upon blow. In six months time, the four Swedes sold 1 million records – half of them were albums. When they appeared on television with their song ‘Mamma Mia’, the telephone lines of the broadcasting company broke down, and in the stores the records were literally snatched out of the shop assistants’ hands.
At the invitation of the commercial TV station Channel 9, Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny paid a visit to Australia for the first time in March 1976.
“When we got off the plane in Melbourne, I was looking at Anni-Frid,” Agnetha remembers. “She had tears in her eyes. Just like me. The people in Australia were fantastic. It was a pleasure to be there.”
The highlight of ABBA’s visit was a 45-minute television show. 58 percent of Australian television viewers were fixed to their screens when it was broadcast. More people than had watched the moon landing.
In April 1975, exactly one year after their Brighton triumph, ABBA’s third album was released. Meanwhile, they had been established as an international pop group. Four unknown Swedish musicians had turned into stars, one hit had turned into many hits.
Things were looking up for ABBA in England too. ‘Mamma Mia’ reached the top of the charts, but its successor ‘Fernando’ came as a real bombshell. The British music magazines were starting to realize that ABBA was a force to be reckoned with. There was no talk anymore about ‘poor old ABBA’.

Monday 18 October 2010

Privé, 1979: ABBA’s Anni-Frid, moviestar

Although the mutual tensions in the group ABBA have reached boiling point lately and the divorce between Agnetha and Björn has left its mark on the relationship between her and her husband Benny as well, there’s still no reason for Anni-Frid to sit down in despair.
It even seems as if she is on the threshold of a new career. Recently, her talent as an actress has been discovered and now they want to explore that.
A few weeks ago, under the burning Spanish sun of Seville, Anni-Frid made her debut as a leading actress in the movie ‘Try To Walk On The Water If You Can’.
The director of the movie is Anni-Frid’s compatriot Stig Björkman. The Swedish mother and multi-millionaire did very well during the first days of filming.
Her colleagues are ecstatic about her. “She is such an enormously kind-hearted woman and she has such a strong character that you can’t help but be astonished by her almost every day,” one of them said. Luckily, Anni-Frid has been able to gather some experience in making movies a couple of years ago, because the feature film ‘ABBA – The Movie’ – that was made about the group ABBA – demanded a fair share of her effort too.

Panorama, 1979: ABBA had dinner with the Swedish royal couple

Every year, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia from Sweden invite about 150 distinguished guests to a dinner party at their palace in Stockholm.
This year, ABBA was present as well. And although Björn and Agnetha are going their separate ways these days, it could not be noticed on this festive evening. They acted like a perfect married couple.
“And that’s how it should be,” Agnetha said. “Because Björn and I are still good friends.”

Sunday 17 October 2010

Hitkrant, 1977: ABBA has now achieved a breakthrough in the USA as well

No matter how successful ABBA has been all over the world in the past few years, it always remained very difficult to achieve a breakthrough in the country where you can sell so many records and therefore make a lot of money too: America.
The United States are still the promised land for a pop musician and ABBA has bent over backwards to achieve a breakthrough over there. It appears that these efforts are starting to pay off.

Meanwhile, Anni-Frid, Agnetha, Björn and Benny have grown accustomed to getting gold and platinum records; they have received numerous of them already. But still they were very happy about the gold disc that they received recently for the sales of their album ‘ABBA’s Greatest Hits’ in America: sales of more than one million dollars...

This year in March, ABBA reached the number one spot in the American single charts with ‘Dancing Queen’ and this is clear proof of the fact that America has given in to the Swedish supergroup as well. All three single charts that are being compiled in the States are having ‘Dancing Queen’ at the top spot. An unprecedented achievement.

That’s why manager Stig Anderson traveled to America right away to see what more could be done in that immensely big country. Things like this are taking up an awful lot of Stig’s time. At the moment, he is spending so many weeks and even months on traveling and business meetings that there isn’t any time left anymore to write lyrics.

ABBA isn’t planning on doing any television shows this year. However, promotional films of their new singles will be available at any time and this will probably be necessary too to keep the television stations satisfied...
Stig Anderson is planning to make only one television special per year and he is going to do that in America, to promote their new albums.
It’s starting to turn into an international enterprise, this ABBA...

Hitkrant, September 1977: Anni-Frid is feeling insecure

When you see ABBA perform, the group comes across as one unity: four happy young people who are in perfect harmony with each other. But it hasn’t always been that easy for the auburn-haired Anni-Frid. She is more or less the stranger of ABBA, the quiet girl that always stayed a little in the shadow of blonde Agnetha.

Anni-Frid has gone through a lot. She was born on November 15, 1945 in Narvik in Norway. Her father was a German officer, not married to Anni-Frid’s mother; he promised to marry her but he disappeared without a trace during the war. Unwantedly, this has put a heavy pressure on Anni-Frid, not least because of her mother’s death when little Frida was only eighteen months old.

Her grandmother raised Anni-Frid in Sweden and she was a substitute for her mother. Frida learned to stand on her own two feet at an early age and soon she got acquainted with music: when she was ten she taught herself to play the guitar, when she was eleven she performed for the first time. A life filled with music had started.

When Anni-Frid was sixteen, she met Ragnar Fredriksson. The two of them fell madly in love and got married two months later. One year later, son Hans was born and two years after that came daughter Lise-Lotte. So there Frida was, nineteen years old, a housewife, two children. She couldn’t take this any longer, the music was more appealing than the household. The passionate feeling of being in love vanished as well and Frida and Ragnar separated. The children stayed with Ragnar and Anni-Frid now sees them every two months, just like her former husband, with whom she is still good friends.

From that moment on, her career as a singer really kicked off: working very hard and her first record ‘En Ledig Dag’ turned Anni-Frid Lyngstad into the most popular singer in Sweden overnight. And then she met Benny. Again love at first sight.
“Benny is the ideal man for me,” says Anni-Frid. “After I had told him about my failed marriage, it turned out that he had gone through such an experience as well. We found comfort with each other.”
ABBA is doing very well, so Anni-Frid is doing well too. But her insecurity remains; she isn’t as calm as she appears to be. And no matter how well she is getting along with Agnetha, somewhere there is still that feeling of being inferior, although no one can claim that there is a reason for that. But that’s just how the stranger of ABBA is...

Popshop, June 1977: And Anna was gone

Anyone who thought that sweet, blonde Anna from ABBA was such a soft and shy girl that danced to every man’s pipe should read this story. Anna thinks that she can speak her mind as well!
When the Swedish foursome had to go to France recently for some promotion, they decided to travel to Paris a couple of days in advance to do some sightseeing. For one reason or another, Björn and Anna got into such a thundering argument that the hotel was shaking to its foundations.
With slamming doors Björn left the room and went to the bar to have a drink so that he could cool off a little. Thirty minutes later, when he got back to the room – with plans in his head to restore the peace – Anna was nowhere to be found. For two days she seemed to be vanished into space, and she only returned right before their television performance. She had simply booked herself a room in a different hotel. The reunion went smoothly and they forgot about their argument within a couple of minutes. Björn and Anna seemed to be more in love than ever before...

Saturday 16 October 2010

Joepie, February 1977: ABBA’s premiere in Oslo

At the moment, ABBA is in the middle of their European tour, a couple of days ago it was our country’s turn. We don’t have to tell you how successful it was. An extensive report about this unique ABBA happening will be published in our next issue. However, Joepie was also present at the quartet’s premiere in Oslo and - as a taster - we offer you this exclusive report.

“We traveled to Oslo a couple of days in advance,” Frida told us. “To be able to relax a little before getting to work. We were lucky, it had just been snowing. You have to understand that all four of us are crazy about snow. Every year we go on a winter holiday somewhere in Sweden, we have a mansion there in the mountains. Actually we prefer the snow to the sun. Apparently it’s healthier as well: you exercise more, the temperature is better for your body and you don’t get the urge to lie down and do nothing...”
The day before the premiere there was a television show on their schedule. “Frida was pampered a little extra,” Benny told us. “You must know, she has Norwegian origins and in a way she is the national pride of the Norwegian people. You mustn’t tell a Norwegian that ABBA is purely a Swedish affair. He would set the record straight immediately...”
After the television show, the quartet was awarded with a gold record for the umpteenth time.

“None of us slept a wink the night before the premiere,” Björn continues. “I don’t know how many times I got up to smoke a cigarette, but I think I had more than one pack. At the hotel I was going back and forth from Benny’s room to mine, and vice versa. I thought about something, I got up and went to his room to talk about it. And ten minutes later, Benny thought about something and he came knocking on my door. Around three o’clock we made a wise decision and took a sleeping pill. Around eleven o’clock in the morning we woke up. We had had a good rest, but the nerves were still there...”
Despite all these worries the premiere was an overwhelming success, just like the concert in our country. But you will read more about that next week!

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Joepie, 1977: ABBA – The Movie, more than a movie, an event!

At the end of December , the first ABBA movie will have its world premiere in Belgium and The Netherlands, along with Australia and Sweden. We were one of the first to go and see the ABBA quartet in their movie debut and the result is simply marvellous. This is more than a documentary or a movie. It’s an event!

The idea to make a movie about ABBA isn’t new. When Benny was still a member of the Hep Stars and the money was pouring in, he and his friends decided to make a movie. This happened in the second half of the sixties. A crew of half a dozen technicians traveled to Argentina for the filming, after which they worked in the studio for fourteen additional days and all of this resulted in five hours of tape. But then it turned out that there weren’t any financial means to edit the whole thing and the entire project ended up in the waste-paper basket. Therefore, Benny wasn’t very thrilled when he was told that a Swedish-Australian crew would use their tour in Australia as the ‘backdrop’ for a new feature film. To make things as spontaneous as possible, the ABBA members weren’t informed about what was in store for them. For the first time, a pop music movie was filmed in Panavision (wide screen), a treat for the eye and the ear!

The Australian DJ Ashley (splendidly played by the sympathetic Robert Hughes) gets the assignment from his boss in Sydney to land an exclusive interview with ABBA for a special radio broadcast. ABBA has just arrived in Australia and they are getting ready for their first concert in Sydney. But the DJ Ashley forgot to bring his press card and doesn’t manage to get inside the sports stadium where ABBA is performing in front of ten thousands of fans. Somewhat disappointed he gets back to his hotel room and collects as much material about ABBA as possible. The next day, ABBA is traveling to Melbourne already and the DJ has to tag along with them, hoping he will be able to catch them there. But he is lost without his press card and he barely manages to even get close to ABBA. Because their bodyguards won’t be fooled by a sympathetic flatterer. Once again, he misses the chance of a lifetime and he is forced to travel along with them to Adelaide, but he can barely get close to them there either. He can only dream about Anni-Frid and Agnetha! But the end of the tour is drawing near and ABBA is preparing for their last concert in Perth. At the last minute, Ashley succeeds in getting his interview with ABBA and just before they leave Australia, the programme is ready.

ABBA – The Movie is a magnificent spectacle, wherein the ABBA fans get the opportunity to see what’s happening with their idols behind the scenes. The DJ Robert Hughes is a handsome, sympathetic personality and even ABBA’s manager – the tough Stig Anderson, also known as the fifth ABBA – comes across very likable. And then there’s of course the ABBA sound and their hits, from ‘Waterloo’ to ‘The Name Of The Game’. The movie also contains songs from their new – yet to be released – album. Several strong tracks are included, definitely future hits such as ‘Thank You For The Music’, ‘I Wonder’, ‘I’m A Marionette’ and ‘Get On The Carousel’.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Bravo, March 1983: ABBA ’83, more beautiful and radiant than ever

Time and time again they are pronounced dead as a group, the four Swedes whose initials turned into a worldwide trademark. But the fact that ABBA – being Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid (also known as Frida) – is more alive than ever is proven by the latest pictures from Stockholm. They are looking more radiant and beautiful than ever.
Although privately the two boys and the two girls are going separate ways after their divorces, and although all four of them are having solo projects on the side, when it comes to ABBA as a group they are fully committed.
Like recently for the British television programme The Late, Late Breakfast Show wherein Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny were ‘cabled’ onto the British television screens via a live set-up from a studio in Stockholm.
For anyone who hasn’t grasped the intention yet: more and more ABBA is going down the path of a studio group. They won’t have anything to do with touring anymore.
Benny and Björn: “Only the preparations are taking up a year of our time already and therefore we will have to pass on a new album. That’s why we’ve always decided against a tour up till now.”

And Frida admits: “To be on stage is really a tremendous feeling. But we all have our families that we don’t want to be separated from for such a long time. Benny and Björn are having small children at home. Apart from that, every day a different hotel room, packing suitcases and waiting at airports is just too stressful for me.”
For 1983, the decision about new activities has been made already. A new album will probably be released in the autumn, perhaps accompanied by a big television special in the style of the American Dick Cavett Show, wherein the four Swedes chatted extensively about their job and their private lives in 1981.
Still this spring, Agnetha’s solo material should be crossing shop counters. Only Frida is still keeping her fans in suspense. In London, her new place of residence, she is thinking about a second album with Phil Collins. But the course of action has not been determined yet.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Story, 1983: ABBA’s goodbye to the rich life

The end of ABBA is now definitely in sight. They had barely dealt with their personal problems when the group had to face a major financial setback. Recently, the news became public that the ABBA concern has made a practically insurmountable loss of 20 million Dutch guilders.

The ABBA fairytale is over. The love that tied the quartet together in two pairs was long gone already and now that a financial setback of about 20 million Dutch guilders has made the ABBA empire waver, the rich years of love, success and money seem to be over permanently. The four musicians and their manager have made a substantial loss on a business transaction through their real estate company called Kuben and the ABBA members have to make up for this loss of 20 million out of their own pocket. Only the dark-haired Frida isn’t losing any sleep over this, because apparently she sensed the catastrophe and sold her Kuben shares just in time. Apart from that, she moved from Stockholm to London a while later, where the tax environment is much milder.
“And because I want to concentrate primarily on my solo career at the moment, I thought it would be better to distance myself from ABBA and everything that goes with it,” is what Frida told Story a couple of months ago about her move to England. This was probably a wise decision because on a musical level things aren’t going well with ABBA either. Björn and Benny may still work from nine to five every day at the office of their own recording studio Polar Music, but a new single – let alone a new album – still hasn’t appeared yet. But they are planning to release some kind of ABBA compilation album in the spring of 1984 that – according to manager Stig Anderson (51) – will achieve gold status within a matter of time.

“Concerts and new records or not, ABBA is still the most popular group in the world and their records are selling like hotcakes,” according to Stig who also introduced ‘his’ quartet into the world of the big money. For instance, ABBA invested 6 million in a supermarket, 15 million in a multi-storey car park, 15 million in a shopping mall, 10 million in recording studio, 20 million in a luxurious hotel, 8 million in a gasoline depository with a motor car paint shop and 150 million in a warehouse chain. And in many Swedish warehouses trousers, shirts, blouses and socks of the brand ABBA can be found. But there are ABBA books and magazines as well. All in all, the ABBA concern – with a turnover of 180 million Dutch guilders per year – is one of the biggest companies in Sweden. And when Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Björn were invited to a gala dinner with Queen Silvia and King Carl Gustaf in 1979, it was rumoured that the ABBA members had more money than the Swedish royalty. Still Benny insisted to the Swedish press recently: “Money doesn’t mean much to me. I think it’s much more fun to create great music than make a lot of money. When I get up in the morning in a bad mood, it disappears right away when I sit down at the piano. I could live without wealth, but I would die without music.”

But Stig Anderson, who has become a very wealthy man thanks to ABBA, has a different opinion about the matter: “You have to regard music as a consumer article, just like bread and butter. People can hardly live without it. It would be silly if you wouldn’t take advantage of that. If they want music, they are going to get it. ABBA will see to that. In my office there is a sign that says: ‘Everybody talks about money. We don’t. We make it.’ And underneath that I should actually write: ‘And we know how to deal with it as well.’ And that’s the truth, because I turned Benny, Björn, Frida and Agnetha not only into stars but into entrepreneurs as well. And it’s fine by me if the people know that.” It wasn’t a coincidence that Stig wrote the worldwide hit ‘Money, Money, Money’ for ABBA.
Of course it’s true that the four ABBA members owe a lot to Stig both on a musical and on a business level, but he forgets to mention that he has made enormous financial miscalculations as well. For instance, with money from the ABBA concern he bought lithographs by Marc Chagall amounting to 4,5 million Dutch guilders. Unfortunately they turned out to be fake. Gone 4,5 million!
A couple of months later he lost 2 million Dutch guilders in the oil business. That money was coming from the ABBA company as well. At the time, the concern still had enough financial means to cover the losses. But this was different when it turned out recently that Kuben had made a loss of 20 (!) million Dutch guilders. Now Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Stig will have to lend a hand themselves. None of them wanted to comment on the matter.
Only Frida who – like we said earlier – doesn’t have any interests in Kuben any longer, said openly: “These financial setbacks and our personal problems are causing the group to fall apart, slowly but surely. I started a solo career and I moved to London. I’ve said goodbye to ABBA already. Agnetha, Benny and Björn aren’t able to do that yet. But in the near future they will have to realize as well that the fairytale of ABBA is over!”

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Pop Biz, 1978: Björn reveals latest plans: ABBA wants to but is too busy

Although we don’t hear much from ABBA lately, behind the scenes the Swedish group is extremely busy. That’s why Pop Biz decided to go and see how the land lies at Polar Music, ABBA’s very own record company. One of its presidents, one Björn Ulvaeus, revealed all the latest plans...

The conversation with Björn is taking place one day before the group’s departure for Japan. Actually he wanted to cancel the appointment at the last minute because he only found out about this unexpected trip himself very recently. However, when he realized that we had already arrived in Stockholm, he still wanted to give us one hour of his time. So let’s get down to business: what’s up with ABBA?
Björn: “Too much... no, joking aside, we are very busy these days. Even busy to the extent that our scheduled Christmas album has now definitely been postponed. We just couldn’t finish it in time.”
We’ve heard rumours that ABBA doesn’t want to go on tour again. What are the things that are keeping you busy?
Björn: “That’s partly true. We won’t be able to go on tour in the near future because first and foremost we have to write and record new songs for the next two albums. Added to that, there are many – and often very unexpected – promotional trips to be made. As you know, we are working on conquering the United States at the moment. This mainly concentrates on television appearances.”

“We are performing in several American TV-shows and we wouldn’t have time for that if we went on tour. Just look at what’s happening now (he shows us a pile of telexes), these are invitations for American TV-shows that we received yesterday. The recordings will be in two weeks time already, so we have to react rapidly. Tomorrow we will be off to Japan, for television performances as well. Right after that, we are travelling to Los Angeles on the American west coast. We will tape three television specials there. When that is finished we will be back in Sweden for one weekend only. On Monday, we will travel to London where we will be guests on the Mike Yarwood Christmas Show. We are going to perform two songs there. We will spend the Christmas days at home, but in the beginning of January we are off to New York where we will appear at the Unicef Gala – organised by the Bee Gees – on January 8, 9 and 10. However, the rehearsals will already start one week earlier. As you can see, for the time being we don’t have any time to go on tour.”

But what plans do you have after the gala in New York?
Björn: “Did you think we were going to take things easier then? Well, forget about it. Right after the gala, we’ll have to continue working on the new album. We don’t even have much time for that because a couple of weeks later we will go back to England for a big TV-show called The Snowtime Special. In that show we are going to perform five songs from our new album, if we have them finished in time. That show will be broadcast across Europe around Easter, so we’ll have to make a strong impression.”
So you probably don’t have the time either for new photo sessions?
Björn: “Indeed, we don’t have time for that. But we just had a couple of new photos taken (he takes a small pile of pictures out of his drawer) and you will have to make do with them for the time being.”

The group is looking good on the new pictures. Anni-Frid’s hair is slightly curled, just like we’ve seen her already in the Olivia Newton-John special. Agnetha seems to have gotten prettier again, she looks extremely happy and relaxed. Benny’s face is a little skinny, while Björn has put on some weight.
Björn: “The girls are looking better than us guys, but they have less worries too, haha. Benny and I are involved in the business aspects as well, while a lot is expected from us on an artistic level too. This isn’t easy for us, although we are very happy with our job. When the new album is finished we hope to have a little more time off, but who knows what will be in store for us then.”

The ABBA fans can rest assured, there are no real problems. In Björn’s office we listened to some rough recordings for the new album. It sounds fantastic again, although you will see that there are a lot of changes. Like always, the old, familiar ABBA sound is keeping up with the latest trends and you can clearly hear disco influences every now and then. So we will have to wait until Easter before we can get acquainted with the ‘new’ ABBA officially.
ABBA sends all their best regards to you from Sweden and keep an eye on your television screen, because sooner or later a lot of foreign productions will be broadcast on our screens as well.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Bravo, 1981: Agnetha: I believe in a higher power

Often I’m being asked what kind of profession I would liked to have had if I hadn’t become a singer. I think I would have worked with children. I might have been a teacher, perhaps a singing teacher. Although I always wanted to become a dentist when I was still in school. I was very interested in that. But I already started singing professionally when I was fifteen years old. In addition I lost my interest in teeth. Since then I’m fully occupied with my job and I’m enjoying the little spare time I have twice as much.
Whenever I have a day off, I at least jog through the woods. These days I only manage to do this twice a week. Approximately two or three kilometres. Apart from that I swim a lot and I like to listen to music. I love classical music, especially Tchaikovsky. I don’t like heavy rock music. Obviously I spend most of my spare time with my children. I rarely go out. Fashion isn’t very important to me either. I like to look at it but I don’t buy the latest trends. The trends change so frequently, I’d rather stick to my personal style. I don’t relate to punk fashion and that whole wave at all. I believe that punk is a cry for help from the young generation.
I have my own perceptions of a relationship with a man. In my opinion, honesty is the most important thing in a relationship. And reliability – that you can depend on someone. This creates an atmosphere wherein one can feel secure.
Unfortunately, these days a lot of young people are trying to replace the feeling of security with drugs. I reject drugs. And I’m sorry for all the people that use drugs. They must be very unhappy. Especially here in Sweden it’s very bad. Very young teenagers are already taking drugs. That frightens me. I barely smoke myself, maybe only at parties. When I’m alone, I try to avoid cigarettes. Drinking – well, I like to have a glass of red wine or champagne every now and then, but hard liquor, absolutely not.

In interviews, I’m always being asked how I was in school. In the beginning I was very good, until I turned twelve or thirteen, then it started to go downhill a bit. I hated Physics and Chemistry. Mathematics was okay. I loved Music, English and German as well for that matter. I was very good at languages. I was known as a quiet pupil in school. Only a couple of times the teachers objected to my behaviour when I exchanged messages with my friends. Sometimes we sent each other chewing gum this way. Or we communicated the latest things about boys, how the previous night had been or something like that.
At the time, my pop idols were Connie Francis and Neil Sedaka, Brenda Lee, Dusty Springfield and Sandy Shaw. My favourite song is ‘Soul Shadows’ by the Crusaders. Apart from that I like to listen to the Pointer Sisters.
Now something about my own characteristics. I am very honest because I expect that from others too. I think I am generous as well. And I’m a mother with my body and soul. I love my children more than anything. My worst feature is that I’m very stubborn. I rarely take advice from others because I believe that I always know myself what’s best for me. But things have always worked out well with this method. Whether it’s good or bad, I always make up my own mind about things, when it comes to music or movies as well. I am a real movie fan, I especially like movies by Polanski. I thought ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ was especially good. I like movies that make you think. I don’t care much for Science Fiction movies. My favourite actors are Jill Clayburgh and Gene Wilder. I’m fascinated by dynamic scenes. For instance, privately I like to drive my car as well. I passed my driving test very quickly. I was eighteen when I got my driver’s licence.
When it comes to religion: yes, I believe in God. But I don’t go to church regularly. But at least at Christmas. I believe in a higher power. On the other hand, horoscopes leave me cold. Still I read them every now and then and it’s always fun when a prediction comes true. But I only notice the positive things in horoscopes. I quickly forget about the rest.
In general, I have a very positive attitude in life. But if I could live my life all over, I think I would rather be a different person. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But none of them were so bad that I regret them. Up till now, I’ve lived my life true to my character. My main goal in life is being a person that’s accepted by others and that everyone likes.
Although I like to be with other people, there are only very few of them that I would take along to a desert island. Among them are my children and a man. But only one – not more. Apart from that I would pack something to eat and music by the Pointer Sisters, Crusaders, Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand.