Sunday, 27 February 2011

Bravo, 1975: Everything about the currently most popular group in the world: ABBA

Bravo spent two days with ABBA in Stockholm. The result: an intimate and surprising story, that turns the stars from Sweden into real people. Anna, Björn, Anni-Frid and Benny show openly and honestly how they live their private lives, how they work, how they think...

ABBA’s headquarter is situated in the upscale diplomatic neighbourhood in Stockholm. The streets are being guarded by two soldiers. They are there to protect the Chinese Embassy, which is next-door to ABBA’s head office, that’s hidden away behind a high wall. It turns out to be a smart mansion, wherein ABBA’s publishing company, management and recording studio are located. Only one year ago, all of this was shoved into a small three-room office...
The pretty, twenty-year-old Sussie Wageborg is sitting at the reception desk. As it turns out, for the fans she is the most important contact to ABBA: Sussie answers the fanmail. She gets 100 letters per day, almost half of them are from Germany. She requests to use the new fanmail address: ABBA Fanclub, c/o Harlekin AB FACK, 100 41 Stockholm 26. Sussie makes a promise: “Whoever writes to this address will get a reply within seven days.”
Two doors onwards, we bump into the weekly ABBA meeting: like business executives, Anna, Björn, Anni-Frid and Benny are sitting at a long table, between them their joint secretary Görel Johnson. Standing next to them, manager Stig Anderson is reporting about the current state of affairs: “We are number one in the charts in Germany, Belgium and Holland, we are number six in England and in America, we’ve stormed to number 17. We have received four offers for USA shows, that we could do at the end of November. Before that, we will go to Germany for two days to film a New Year’s Eve show for television...”
ABBA’s schedule is always packed to capacity. Benny says ironically: “We are on the road fourteen days every month, during the remaining days we are working. Apart from ABBA, Björn and I are producing four other Swedish artists, the girls are taking dancing lessons, they take care of our wardrobe and not least the children and the household.”

No wonder, that ABBA is living a fenced off life at home in Sweden. Up till now, no other magazine in the world except Bravo was allowed to visit ABBA privately. Why exactly this exception? “Because we already got to know each other and became friends before our Eurovision victory in Brighton,” Anni-Frid says. “All other reporters only came afterwards, when ‘Waterloo’ had made us famous...”
When one wants to describe ABBA and their world, plain words are in place. Any bigheadedness or pomposity is far removed from the hardworking quartet. From their modest townhouses in the Stockholm suburb Vallentuna, they haven’t moved into big palaces, but into good middle-class houses. Anna, Björn and their little daughter Linda are now living in their own house near the city centre. Anni-Frid and Benny have bought a place in the picturesque Old Town of Stockholm. They have to pay for the wonderful view over the harbour with the stairs that count 99(!) treads. Frida and Benny are only able to see the children, Hans and Lise-Lotte from Frida’s previous marriage and the joint children Helen and Peter, during the weekends. The rest of the time, they are living with relatives in the country.
Anna and Anni-Frid sometimes argue about the children. Because Anna says: “I would never give Linda away, even it would cause difficulties.” And honestly she admits: “At our home, things don’t look as organised as at Anni-Frid’s place. Toys and clothes are lying around on the floor, but I gladly accept that...”
While both men are playing the same part privately as they do on stage – Benny is the quiet tinkerer, Björn is the sunny boy –, with the girls it’s completely the opposite: Anna – on stage the sexy girl – is shy and dreamy privately, Anni-Frid on the other hand is secretly a bundle of energy.
Anni-Frid, who is into psychology, explains: “It’s revealing in which position one sleeps. I always sleep on my back, completely stretched out. This means that I’m not afraid of the world and I feel secure. Anna on the other hand sleeps on her belly, snuggled into her pillow. She is in need of affection, she needs a lot of love and always wants to be protected...”
You could discuss topics like this for hours with ABBA. They can talk until their heads see red (especially the girls) or laugh and relax with relish (the boys). A conversation like that, an extensive meal in a gourmet restaurant, reading a book, a film about the children, a little bit of time for themselves – these are the small joys that the four from ABBA are dreaming about – and that they rarely allow themselves.
There’s no doubt about it: at the moment they are the most hardworking pop group in the world, and with that, the most successful. ABBA’s dream wish for the future: “When the children are a little older, we want to buy a giant sail boat and sail around the world...”


Monica said...

I like the pictures in this magazine they are lovely and nice interviews.

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