Sunday, 16 January 2011

Popshop, May 1976: Is Anna going to leave ABBA?

ABBA is a group that has already established itself in pop history. It is namely the only group that has kept on scoring worldwide hits after winning the Eurovision Song Contest, two years ago in London. This is a striking contrast to – for instance – the Dutch group Teach In, that saw their singer Getty Kaspers leave the group only one year after their triumph in Stockholm.

At the time, emperor Napoleon may have been left with less pleasant memories of Waterloo, for top group ABBA, the victory started with ‘Waterloo’. It is generally known that ‘Waterloo’ brought them worldwide fame. And since then it has been clear sailing for the sympathetic quartet. Number one hits all over the world – yes, including America – time and time again.
Writing about this group or interviewing one of its members is definitely a nice job, because in fact everything is positive about ABBA: the women – blonde Anna and auburn Anni-Frid – are beautiful and both men Björn and Benny are always willing to talk about the group and their music. But considering the fact that ABBA hasn’t been able yet to come to Holland or Belgium, Popshop decided to look up the quartet in Hamburg. They were filming a TV special there, with their current worldwide hit ‘Fernando’ obviously as its highlight.
Since Popshop has already met ABBA several times before, there was no need to break the ice and – after ABBA’s obligations in front of the German cameras – we went straight to a cosy bar to catch up on the latest news.
Despite all their tiring efforts, Anna and Anni-Frid still looked so fresh, as if they had just come out of the shower. After we had all taken our seats, the waiter was called in. Anna ordered some refreshments, while Benny and Björn glanced through a couple of issues of Popshop.
After some small talk, we asked Benny about the secret of ABBA’s success. Benny looked surprised. “Secret,” he asked, “I didn’t know that we had a secret. Our success is the result of working very hard and being alert.”
We told ABBA that their Eurovision successor Teach In didn’t achieve half as much success and that they probably split up because of that.
“That’s a shame,” Björn said. “I thought Teach In was a nice group. But who knows what went on behind the scenes.”

To get into that subject, we immediately asked: What’s going on behind the scenes with you? Anni-Frid smiled and said: “Oh well, there’s always something going on everywhere, isn’t there. But we are trying to separate our job and our private lives as much as possible. It prevents big problems from happening. Both of the men determine the musical course, but whenever Anna and I are having reservations, then they are taken into consideration. And this professional approach is always the best way to do it. We are very popular at the moment so why would we start aguing?”
So you are consciously making very commercial music, we asked Björn and Benny.
“Commercialism is a controversial concept,” Björn replied. “No one knows exactly where it begins and where it ends. If it sells, then it’s commercial.”
When it comes to being successful abroad, there is a big similarity between you and the George Baker Selection: groups from a musically rather insignificant country, that still manage to score worldwide hits with simple tunes that catch the imagination of the audience. Do you feel the same way?
“There is some truth in that,” Benny said. “Sweden and Holland are indeed small suppliers of top groups. And that goes for Sweden most of all. Holland still has a couple of excellent groups. I think the George Baker Selection is a very good group. They have been scoring huge hits for about five years now. I think that they have sold more records than us.”
Your current hit ‘Fernando’ resembles the former Baker hit ‘Fly Away Little Paraguayo’ a little when it comes to atmosphere and lyrics. Is that a coincidence?
“Yes, it’s purely a coincidence,” Björn replied. “We did listen to this song at the time, but to be honest I had completely forgotten about it already.”
“And the subject, the South American revolutionary? Here is the story,” Benny continued. “You can go on singing about love forever and there is nothing wrong with that, but we want to put as much variation as possible into our songs. Our last single had an Italian title ‘Mamma Mia’. We were looking for something different as its follow-up. And a South American rhythm always goes down well. In the lyrics, we could have sung about black-haired women and tequila or red wine, but we thought that a more dramatic lyric would suit the melody better. That’s how the story about the revolutionary came into being. However, it’s not a song with a message. We won’t get into that area.”

It is known that you are doing very little live performances. Why is that?
“We try to reach as many people as possible at one blow,” blonde Anna replied. “In a concert hall, you reach about 2.000 people, with a television appearance it’s hundred times as many as that. You must understand that we have to travel all over the world and then this is simply the best way to reach everybody. Extensive tours are very exhausting, we won’t be able to keep that up. That’s when tensions, frustrations and mutual conflicts will arise.”
It is known that you don’t want to travel for too long because of your little daughter. Is that true?
“Of course,” she said fiery like a tigress. “A child should never be too long without its parents. A month is already too long.”
Would you give up your career for the sake of your child?
“Immediately,” Anna said.
Did you ever get to the point of cutting the knot?
“Yes, sometimes I think about it,” she admitted honestly. “But on the other hand, I am also working on her future. Money is important, you know.”
(We knew). Haven’t you made enough money yet to lead a pleasant life?
“Oh no, it takes a long time before you get the money from the records that are being sold. And appearing on television doesn’t make you a lot of money. And then we have to split everything in half. After the tax-collection office has taken the largest part of it. But I am not complaining. We make a nice living, but we don’t make as much money as often is being suggested. A millionaire? I wish it was true.”
It is claimed that ABBA would fall apart if you would leave the group. Do you believe that’s true?
“Oh well, so much is claimed,” she replied. “No one is irreplacable. Besides, I don’t write the hits. I would say that Björn and Benny are the most important ingredients. It’s easy to find two new singers. But for the time being, that’s out of the question.”
And with this last revelation from beautiful Anna, Popshop says goodbye to the Swedish miracle group. Until the next hit.


Monica said...

It kind of seems like this article might have been made up to create controversy within ABBA and the media?

Henk said...

Most pictures taken in the Netherlands, Lage Vuursche hotel!

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