Tuesday 28 December 2010

Pop Rocky, 1983: Girl talk with Agnetha: “I would love to get married again...”

With the catchy tune ‘The Heat Is On’, the solo career of ABBA singer Agnetha (33) has started successfully – but privately she isn’t that happy...

The uptempo caribbean song ‘The Heat Is On’ is storming the charts worldwide – not least because it sounds a lot like ABBA. Was that on purpose?
Agnetha: “With ABBA, I have the clearer voice that is less capable of modulation. That’s why I am much more identifiable as an ABBA member than Frida. Apart from that, I didn’t want to seek a contrast to the ABBA sound – like Frida did. I like all ABBA songs. On my solo album, I don’t feel the need to bray out everything that wasn’t possible in the ABBA framework.”
What do your ABBA colleagues think about your album?
Agnetha: “Benny and Björn think it’s a good album. Both of them have had a peek into the studio every now and then and they witnessed the emergence of the project. I can’t say anything about Frida, because I haven’t seen her since she is living in London.”
Will you pursue your solo career as intensively as Frida, who can be seen often on the televison screens and is even planning a tour?
Agnetha: “Oh no, that just isn’t possible in my case. First of all because of my two children, who are far more important to me than any kind of professional success. And secondly, because of my fear of flying. Ever since we ended up in a storm during a flight on a private plane with ABBA and we were out of radio contact for half an hour, I have a panicky fear of flying. That’s why I made my promotional trip to England by bus, for instance. But this takes an enormous amount of time.”
What about the rumour that Mauricio de Angeli of the Oliver Onions – who have written a song for you – is your new boyfriend?
Agnetha: “No, that’s absolute nonsense. That was made up by Swedish newspapers, that saw us having dinner together and photographed us at that occasion.”
Is there a new man in your life?
Agnetha: “No, I live alone with my two children, as I have been doing. It’s not that easy for a woman like me to get to know someone. I wouldn’t want another musician, and I barely meet other men. But I would love to get married again. I’m not the kind of person that could live alone eternally.”
Did the divorce from Björn cause any scars?
Agnetha: “I wasn’t the one who left, but he was. I believe that would leave scars with any wife.”
What are your further plans?
Agnetha: “First of all, I’m having a holiday in Sweden – spending time outdoors with the children. On August 19, my first movie will have its premiere in Stockholm. I’m very excited about that. I don’t know yet what’s going to happen after that.”
Do you think that both male ABBA members will record solo albums as well?
Agnetha: “No, they are working on their musical like before. They don’t have any time for that.”
What do you think about ABBA’s future?
Agnetha: “I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be another ABBA album at some point in the future. But there are no definite plans.”
Don’t you think that your answer must be very depressing for ABBA fans?
Agnetha: “I can understand that. But the situation at the moment is simply the way that I described it.”

Tuesday 21 December 2010

POP, 1979: Sporty ABBA

A report about ABBA’s time in Leysin, Switzerland, where they filmed the ABBA in Switzerland TV special in February 1979.
One could already see in the film ABBA – The Movie that Anni-Frid is extremely fit. Because during the ABBA world tour, the red-haired Frida worked hard on her condition every morning, to be able to endure her demanding stage show.
That Frida is the most sporty member of ABBA, she proved in the snow as well, when ABBA had to swap the stage for skis and ice skates for a British television special during Easter in Leysin in the Swiss mountains.
The pictures on this two-page spread show what the outcome was.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Das Freizeit-Magazin, December 1976: ABBA wishes you a Merry Christmas

1976 has been the most successful year for the four Swedish pop singers Björn, Benny, Anna and Anni-Frid. Never before did you show so much enthusiasm for a group as you did with ABBA. The quartet is saying a heartfelt thank you to all the Magazin readers for that.

The ABBA headquarter in the upscale diplomatic neighbourhood of Stockholm was decorated festively. This time, Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn and Anna didn’t talk about their upcoming performance dates, but they were having a discussion about how to thank the loyal Freizeit-Magazin readers.
“After all, the readers have contributed to the fact that we are now one of the most successful groups in the world,” Benny says.
Despite their countless appointments, they have taken the time for a thank you. During this celebration, Anni-Frid was the Queen of Lights.

“Here in Sweden, the Queen of Lights is something like Baby Jesus in Germany,” Anna explains. “Then we lit the candles on Anni-Frid’s crown of lights and we sang a song together, a musical thank you to all our fans. Obviously, we will celebrate Christmas again in a private gathering.”
At Christmas, the foursome will be able to let off steam to the top of their bent. There are even home-baked delicacies.
Benny says with light sorrow: “Christmas is the only time when we actually have some time for ourselves. That’s why we surprised the Magazin readers beforehand with a poster in issue number 50. Christmas is completely dedicated to the family. Once again, a Merry Christmas to our numerous friends from Magazin. There won’t be any interviews until next year. We deserve a break. Friends should understand this,” he adds astutely.
After Christmas, it’s back to business again for ABBA. They are rehearsing for their German tour, that will kick off on February 2. There will be concerts in Berlin, Cologne, Essen and Hamburg.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Bravo, 1981: Björn: I would love to fly to the moon

As a teenager, I loved to listen to rock ‘n’ roll, but at the same time I was into folk music too. For instance, I liked the Kingston Trio. Apart from that, it was easier to start a folk group than a rock ‘n’ roll group. You only needed a couple of acoustic guitars. That was all.
Most of all, I liked Tommy Steele and Elvis. Nowadays, I think Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ is the best album of the last year. At the moment, my favourite is Barbra Streisand’s album ‘Guilty’.
For that matter, we have a subscription to the top 30 of the USA and England. These singles are sent to us every week, all of them on a cassette. This enables us to listen to the latest stuff every week. And whenever an important album is released, like the Eagles, Streisand, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd or Stevie Wonder, we obviously listen to those as well.

At one point, we met the Sex Pistols when they performed here in Stockholm. That was very funny because they told us: “Please don’t tell this to anybody, but when we are at home, we like to listen to ABBA more than anything.”
Personally, I have nothing against punk, because finally something was happening again in the music scene. A further stage of that is now new wave. There are very good groups around. I listen to everything new that’s released on the market. In my opinion, some of this new wave stuff doesn’t sound that new to me, but whatever...
In former times, I never believed that I could have a career as a musician, because my father always wanted me to become an engineer. So in school I was only interested in things that could be useful in my profession later on. Actually, I was a very good pupil. Especially in arithmetic, physics, languages and chemistry, I did very well. The rest didn’t interest me very much, unfortunately, I have to say today.
For instance, in history class I never paid attention. In general, I had fun at school. But my teachers not as much, I’m afraid. Because it was difficult for me to sit still and keep my mouth shut.
I got to know the facts of life in school. Because in Sweden, you get educated in that respect quite early, and everything is explained in a factual manner. But you only find out in reality yourself and together with friends, outside the class room. You learn the facts in school, the earlier the better.
But sex isn’t the most important thing in a relationship for me, but humour is. It’s nice when you are able to laugh together. You also have to respect your partner as a person and you mustn’t try to control each other. I think that preconditions like that are far more important.
I have a good sense of humour in every respect. That’s why my favourite actor is John Cleese. I used to like Richard Burton too, but these days he makes too much lousy movies. I prefer horror and science fiction movies. I particularly liked ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’, ‘Repulsion’ and ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ by Polanski.

Whenever it would be possible for private persons to fly to the moon, I would definitely do that. But I still have other dreams that I want to realise.
There are still so many countries that I’d love to see, for instance in Asia. I haven’t seen Tibet, India and Africa yet, to name a few. The most wonderful adventure for me would be a trip to China. One day I will have enough time to do it, that’s for sure. In a lot of these countries, there’s still poverty or wars are raging. Those are the biggest problems of this world for me.
The saddest thing in the industrial countries is that no one is looking at the future with confidence anymore. Everyone is having a negative attitude. People are afraid of changes.
The politicians are worse than ever. To me, they are worthless, because they have lost contact with the people. They don’t have any ideals anymore, they are managing their country. That’s all. They only peer at the votes, without really accomplishing anything. For instance in the sixties, when I was growing up, things were still different. I was looking forward to my future, my life, all the things that I was going to experience. These days, it seems to me that the brakes are put on young people. That’s why so many of them are taking drugs. They don’t have any reason to look at the future joyfully, because that’s where unemployment, crises and economic problems are waiting. And they are escaping this hopelessness with alcohol and drugs.
Myself, I only smoke at parties at the most. And I rarely have a drink. I sometimes have a beer when I’m in Germany, and a glass of wine when I’m in France. Here in Stockholm I only drink wine when I’m having dinner.
Whenever I’m asked about my goals in life, I always reply that I have already achieved my goals. It may seem that I’m already resting on my laurels. But that’s not true. I still think it’s exciting to have a number one record somewhere.
Privately, my only goal is being a good father to my children. Apart from that, I want to enjoy my life. That’s very important. Because when I feel good, the people around me are feeling good as well. If I had to live my life all over, I wouldn’t change a thing. Because I didn’t make any bad mistakes.
I’m actually not religious. I believe in something, but I haven’t decided yet what that is. Either way, I don’t believe in the religion of the church. I never go to church. I don’t believe in life after death either.
I could imagine living on a lonely island for some time. Most certainly, I would bring along my wife Lena. She is the most important thing. Perhaps my children as well. But I believe it would be better for them to stay in Stockholm. Then I would pack a whole bunch of books, a guitar, a record player and records by Herbert von Karajan, Beethoven, Bach, the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Bravo, 1975: Bronze Otto winners ’75: ABBA

ABBA winning the bronze Otto 1975 in German magazine Bravo.
1975 was an ABBA year as well: Anna, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid were successful with the three hits ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’. That’s why 4.090 Bravo readers voted for ABBA. In 1974, the Swedes won the silver Otto. Here’s a review of their steep career.

Clockwise from top left:
Privately, ABBA harmonise wonderfully as well: Anni-Frid, Benny, Anna and Björn are happy as couples.

It all started in Brighton: ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 with ‘Waterloo’.

Fancy costumes are a speciality of both Swedish girls. You will rarely see them in long dresses like they are wearing during this performance in Disco ’75.

On their German tour and in several TV-shows, Anni-Frid and Anna appeared in sexy mini skirts.

ABBA are the uncrowned pop kings in their home country Sweden.

ABBA as beaming Otto winners 1974.

Monday 6 December 2010

1998: The fairytale princess of pop music

Even today, men are still getting shiny eyes when Agnetha is the subject of conversation. “I was once madly in love with her” or “my first big crush” – that’s how the blonde Swede is mostly remembered. As an ‘A’ from ABBA, Agnetha Fältskog has remained unforgettable. Apart from that, the singer has always been more than one quarter of the Swedish foursome, whose success can only be compared to the Beatles: for years, Agnetha was the fairytale princess of pop music. A new CD with tracks from her time with ABBA and as a solo singer awakens memories of those pop years gone by.

In 1982, ABBA split up. Musically and privately, they didn’t have anything in common anymore. Agnetha’s marriage to fellow band member Björn ended in 1978 after seven years of being together. Their colleagues Anni-Frid and Benny were married from 1978 until 1981.
After the disbandment of ABBA, Agnetha went her own way. With the Brit Mike Chapman – who put Smokie, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro and Blondie on a successful course – she recorded her first english language solo album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’ in 1983. Chapman himself penned the catchy title track, that still reminded one strongly of ABBA and that made it into the top ten of several European charts. The single ‘The Heat Is On’ even made it to number one in Sweden and Norway and number two in Holland and Belgium. Both of these most familiar hits from Agnetha’s solo career are among the stronger tracks on the new CD.
Several renowned names from rock and pop music worked on her subsequent solo projects: Eric Stewart from 10CC, Jeff Lynne from Electric Light Orchestra and Peter Cetera from Chicago. In 1987, she recorded the duet ‘I Wasn’t The One’ with the avowing ABBA fan Cetera.
Even before her time with ABBA, Agnetha composed and produced several songs herself. On her 1984 project “Eyes Of A Woman” she resorted to her pen once again and she composed the song “I Won’t Let You Go” that was released as a single. Still, this track and its accompanying B-side “You’re There” remained the last compositions that Agnetha released up till now. “I still try to compose, but to be really good and to create something truly original, you need to be very disciplined, at least in my case,” she explained at the time.

After a break of several months, Agnetha appeared on top of the single charts again in her home country in November 1986 with “The Way You Are”. The song was part of the Swedish promotional campaign for the Olympic Winter Games 1992 and is included as a bonus track on the new CD, just like its B-side “Fly Like The Eagle”. Although the campaign remained fruitless, it was the start of a very productive year for the singer. In 1987, Agnetha recorded two albums: firstly, an album of Swedish children’s songs together with her son Christian, and secondly, her third international solo album ‘I Stand Alone’ together with Cetera. However, apart from her Nordic home country, this album remained unsuccessful.
In the following years, Agnetha withdrew from the limelight. In 1990, she married the Swedish surgeon Tomas Sonnenfeld. Even the ABBA revival in the first half of the nineties, couldn’t entice Agnetha out of her self-chosen seclusion. What remains for the fans is the memory of her unprecedented career as a singer with ABBA. Two tracks on the ‘Greatest Hits’ CD bring this period back to life once more: firstly, the song with the appropriate title ‘That’s Me’ on which Agnetha is sharing lead vocal duties with Frida and a song that she considers as one of her favourite ABBA songs; secondly, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ which undoubtedly is one of the group’s best songs and shows Agnetha’s voice at its best.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Bravo, 1981: Benny: he was already engaged at the age of 15!

He was a jump starter: in the area of music – and in the area of love as well.
Benny Goran Bror Andersson (that’s his full name) was born in Stockholm on December 16, 1946 and he grew up in Grimsta, in the western part of the city. When he was six years old, he got his first music instrument as a present, an accordion. His father and his grandfather – enthusiastic musicians themselves – taught him the first tricks and practised with him every day.
That’s how Benny already got acquainted with music at a very young age. Through the years, this developed into a dedicated passion. Still today, Benny can’t walk past any instrument, without stopping and trying it out. He is a born musician.
On his tenth birthday, Benny got a piano. Already a couple of years later, people could admire him as a gifted young piano player in the Stockholm bar ‘Youth Garden’.
In this music bar, Benny met his first big love as well. It was the amateur singer Christina Grönvall, who Benny accompanied on the piano. Soon, the twosome was inseparable and ultimately they got engaged, when they were both 15 years old. Although they were never married, two children were born from this relationship: Peter, now 18 years old and Helen (16).
After his first assignment with the completely unknown group Elverkets Spelmanslag, Benny ended up with the Hep Stars in 1964, as their keyboard player. One year later, he had his first big success in the television programme Drop In with the song ‘Cadillac’. This melody shot to number one on the Swedish charts.

But the anticipated subsequent success failed to materialize, although Benny was writing songs for his group industriously. The business side of the group started deteriorating, on top of that there were enormous tax debts. In 1967, the Hep Stars disbanded permanently.
Not long after that, Benny took his first step towards ABBA. He met Björn Ulvaeus. They wrote their first melodies in an office of a paper factory, where Björn’s father worked and in 1969, they performed together.
One year earlier, Benny had met his future wife Frida Lyngstad. They first met during a radio broadcast; sparks were flying immediately. But it wasn’t until 1978 that they got married in all secrecy in the church of Lidingö in Stockholm. They were inseparable and very happy for almost thirteen years. That’s why the announcement of their divorce came as a shock, both to the fans and their close acquaintances.
The divorce was dealt with rather smoothly. Benny came home one day in their mansion and told Frida that he had met another woman. It was the 38-year-old Mona Nörklit, who had been working at the Swedish broadcasting company up till then.
“Still, Frida and I have remained good friends,” says Benny, “not least because of our joint work with ABBA. We have a good rapport, she respects me and I respect her. We talk a lot about music. And we see each other very often because of the children. They shouldn’t suffer from our divorce.”