Sunday 19 June 2011

Bravo, December 1974: Silver for ABBA

Only one year ago, no one over here had even heard about them. This all changed abruptly in April 1974 after the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton: with their song ‘Waterloo’, the Swedish group ABBA defeated all their rivals with ease.
In the meantime, the two sexy girls from Sweden and their partners have sold about seven million records of this super hit all over the world. Their follow-up ‘Honey, Honey’ became yet another bull’s eye for the quartet Anni-Frid, Benny, Anna and Björn. With their upbeat music, their outrageous and colourful costumes and their smashing show on stage and on television, their popularity with the Bravo readers went through the roof as well...
Bravo congratulates ABBA on their stratospheric career!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: Anni-Frid – a life with music

Modest, quiet and self-critical – these are some characteristics that friends and journalists use to describe Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
She herself claims: “In my case, there are a lot of highs and lows. I am a very serious person and I carry an inherent soul pain along with me, that is very hard for me to overcome. I thought it would get better with age. But it’s exactly the opposite. It’s only getting worse...”
Anni-Frid and Benny have been living together since 1970 and if there’s one thing they have in common, then it’s this: in both cases, their careers have led them to leave their families and children. But the latter is ancient history. These days, they are on the best of terms with their children. Anni-Frid’s Hans and Lise-Lotte and Benny’s Peter and Helen spend their summer holiday together on the ABBA island.
For Anni-Frid, Benny is the anchor of her life. She herself says: “He helps me when I’m feeling down. I easily get worked up about trivialities. Benny is completely different in that respect. He doesn’t take things too seriously.”
As the only ABBA member, Anni-Frid Lyngstad was not born in Sweden. She was born on November 15, 1945 in Narvik, Norway. Her father was a German occupying officer, who left Norway after World War II. For decades, Anni-Frid didn’t hear from him at all.
When Anni-Frid was only eighteen months old, her mother died. Not long after that, her grandmother moved to Sweden together with the little girl. In Torshälla, a small town in the middle of Sweden, both of them found their home base. The grandmother earned a living for herself and the little girl as a seamstress.
Music became part of Anni-Frid’s life at a very young age. Her first performance in public as a singer took place when she was only eleven years old, when she took part in a Red Cross event. When she was thirteen years old, she was already a singer in a band that was dedicated to swing music. Later on, she worked as a lead singer with Bengt Sandlung’s Big Band in Eskilstuna. During this time, she also met her future husband and father of her two children. His name was Ragnar Fredriksson, he worked as a carpet dealer and played music in his spare time.
“At the time, I was crazy about jazz music,” Anni-Frid remembers. “With the big band, I sang old jazz ballads and Glenn Miller compositions. It wasn’t until I met Benny that I started to get interested in other kinds of music as well.”
Anni-Frid had her first big succes as a singer in 1967. At a talent competition in Stockholm, she finished in first place. When the host asked the happy but exhausted winner: “What are you going to do this evening,” Anni-Frid answered: “Drive back to Eskilstuna and get some sleep.”
Perhaps Anni-Frid would have become a plain housewife and mother, if Sweden hadn’t decided to change from left-hand to right-hand driving. To make the new traffic rules as well-known as possible, the traffic planners used all available mass media. And when the day of the traffic conversion arrived on September 3, 1967, the Swedish population witnessed the birth of a new pop star in the traffic gala broadcast – Anni-Frid. She sang her colleagues into the ground. She had finally achieved her big breakthrough. The record companies were tripping over each other to sign a deal with Anni-Frid. Anni-Frid decided to sign with EMI, that released nine singles and one album over the following years. In the next few months, Anni-Frid worked harder and harder on her career. Performances in folk parks and nightclubs – there was hardly an hour of spare time for Anni-Frid. No wonder that her marriage came to an end during all this hustle and stress. Anni-Frid divorced her husband in mutual understanding. The children stayed with their father in Eskilstuna. Anni-Frid moved to Stockholm.
“The first few months were horrible,” she remembers. “I was longing for my children so badly. The only thing I did was ponder, I started to regret my decision. I hated my career, that had become too big for me.”
But all of this changed when she met Benny. They met for the first time in Malmö. “It was only a short meeting,” Anni-Frid remembers. “The next time, we met at a radio broadcast. We both took part in a forum discussion. From then on, we started to meet regularly.”
Benny wasn’t only a lucky strike in Anni-Frid’s personal life, but it was the beginning of ABBA as well.
Indeed, there was a happy end for Anni-Frid and her father too, whom she presumed to be dead for a long time. After decades, Anni-Frid was finally able to take the pastry cook Alfred Haase from Karlsruhe in her arms. Anni-Frid: “My father is a wonderful man. It’s simply indescribably beautiful.”
But nothing actually changed in Anni-Frid’s life. Anni-Frid: “But it’s good to know that people are able to find each other after such a long time and get along immediately.”

Friday 3 June 2011

Joepie, 1979: ABBA’s last world tour – If it’s up to Agnetha...

On the eve of ABBA’s world tour – that will take the Swedish top group across the United States and subsequently Europe and that will last for more than two months – singer Agnetha has revealed something quite shocking. If it’s up to her, it’s going to be their final goodbye to live performances, regardless of how the group will keep existing after the expiration of the ABBA contract in the middle of 1980...

But for now, these contractual changes – according to which ABBA would continue as a female duo before they stop existing altogether – are not the reason to never go on tour again in the future. Blonde Agnetha simply wants more time off to spend with her two children Christian and Linda, especially since she divorced their father, ABBA singer and composer Björn Ulvaeus.
“I don’t mind the performance in itself but the amount of weeks and months that we are away from home and have to perform is what’s primarily bothering me,” she says. “My children miss me too much and I have to admit that I have the same feeling. I can’t take this any longer as a mother, that’s why this is going to be the last time that I’ll be away from home for such a long period.”

Apart from these family problems, especially the enormous pressure of a tour that goes on for months and performances day in and day out, were the reason that the upcoming tour remained a question mark for such a long time. Indeed, the tensions during their last tour, now two and a half years ago, were the main reason for Agnetha and Björn’s marital split.
“It had been such a nerve-racking experience that it became doubtful if we would ever go on tour again,” according to Agnetha. “You have no idea how much pressure weighs upon you during such a tour. Every night performing 20 songs during a two hour long show. Do you know what that means? And by day, you don’t even have the time to recover because you have to get to the next city faster than the speed of light, where new promotional duties and interviews are waiting for you. We are not used to that rhythm, it can break you. I still don’t understand how we have been able to keep our voices in shape!”

Despite their worries and fears, the four from ABBA are convinced that their upcoming tour is going to be the most successful from their impressive career. Apart from that, it should give them the same gigantic success in the United States that they’ve become accustomed to in Europe.
“Indeed, ‘Voulez-Vous’ is doing rather well on the American charts,” Agnetha ascertains with pleasure. “Our tour will hopefully make it our first number one over there. If we have achieved that, we have gone all around the world with our super hits and wouldn’t that be a wonderful moment to put an end to these gigantic but exhausting live performances? I’d rather leave that to the unattached pop boys who don’t have children or a home base. As a mother of two children, I demand to have a family life.”

Meanwhile, the four remain much wanted guests on all kinds of festivities. More and more in their own country as well. When the construction of an enormous shopping and office centre commenced in Stockholm – wherein the Europa Film Studios will be housed as well – they were invited to immortalize the prints of their right hands. These clay imprints will be turned into bronze hand prints and they will be used as ornaments at the entrance of the building. Manager Stig Anderson, Anni-Frid, Björn, Agnetha and Benny didn’t mind doing it, especially since it was a welcome interruption in their busy rehearsal schedule in the big studio of Europa Film in the same area. Each member has his own way of relaxing during the many rehearsals for their ’79 tour. As you might have guessed, Agnetha relaxes with her children. Anni-Frid threw herself into rollerskating. Meanwhile Björn and Benny – slave labourers and perfectionists as they are – are coming up with new musical ideas at the last minute with which they want to pleasantly surprise their thousands of fans later on.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Hitkrant, August 1979: Spectacular run on ABBA tickets

Thursday, September 13 is the day. Then ABBA’s gigantic world tour will kick off in Edmonton, for which – considering the advance ticket sales – the interest is overwhelming. Never before has a tour been as well prepared as this one. Nothing has been left to chance and that’s why it seems as if the Swedish quartet wants to put an end to the rumours that this will be their farewell tour once and for all.

For weeks on end, the group has worked and rehearsed for the new show in Stockholm, that will last for at least two hours and – apart from several hits – will contain new songs as well.

Once again, ABBA will be strengthened by several Swedish musicians. They are: Ola Brunkert/drums, Anders Eljas/keyboards, Rutger Gunnarsson/bass, Mats Ronander/guitars, Ake Sundqvist/percussion and Lars Wellander/guitars.

In several countries, the tickets have gone on sale already and this has made for some spectacular statistics. In England, Scotland and Ireland, the tickets were sold out in one day! And that’s a total of 75.000 tickets!
In Copenhagen, the concert was sold out within two hours and in Edmonton, all tickets were gone within three hours. Furthermore, in America all concerts – for which the tickets have gone on sale already – are sold out.
It’s very likely that there will be an enormous run on the tickets in our country as well, when they go on sale on Saturday, September 22.
A television crew from Radio Sweden is going to film ABBA during the week in November when they perform in London. At ABBA’s request, a 52-minute TV special will be filmed, that will be broadcast in the beginning of next year, hopefully in our country too. This film will contain footage filmed in North America as well. On top of that, manager Stig Anderson is negotiating with the BBC to air a radio special called ‘ABBA In Concert’.

Only after the opening concert in Edmonton, the group will have a big press conference. Apart from that, there will be small, informative gatherings after the concerts, that only one or two members of the group will attend. This arrangement has been made because the tour will be extremely hard and exhausting and will demand a lot from the ABBA members.
Meanwhile, we were allowed to take a peek in ABBA’s rehearsal studio and Agnetha assured us that they have never been this well prepared on a tour as this one: “If this doesn’t become a resounding success, I will be flabbergasted. The show is very well crafted and thought out. It can’t be bettered!”
You will be there too, won’t you, on October 24 in Ahoy Rotterdam?

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Joepie, 1979: ABBA mysteries: the end in 1980 and a fifth ABBA member!

In spite of all the rumours, the most popular group at the moment – ABBA – will stop existing in the middle of 1980! At least on paper, because the mutual contracts that tie the four members and their manager Stig Anderson together will expire officially at that time. It is obvious that no one can say beforehand what Benny, Björn, Agnetha, Anni-Frid and Stig’s plans will be at that moment in time. And all five of them are completely silent in that respect. Joepie already puts all the facts and suppositions in perspective.

Allegedly, it should be a fact that Stig Anderson has already signed contracts with the four ABBA members individually. This means that their collaboration is going to last for some time to come, even if the foursome would decide to stop working together as ABBA. Stig wisely kept on the safe side and of course he is right with such top talents.
What’s equally sure, is that Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn and Agnetha will be venturing out in new artistic fields individually, no matter what happens with ABBA.
Anni-Frid already played – apart from ‘ABBA – The Movie’ – the leading part in a Swedish movie and she is not planning to leave it at that. Only recently, she was in Spain for some test shootings for a next movie. A movie career, that would demand so much of her time that there would hardly be any time left for pop music, shouldn’t be ruled out.
Agnetha, after her divorce from Björn completely on her own two feet, is going to occupy herself with the career of new artists and especially making solo records as well. Her first one is already in the making, to celebrate her ten year singing career.
Benny is planning to start his own production company.
Meanwhile Björn would prefer to step out of the limelight and work behind the scenes, primarily as a composer that comes up with new ideas.
At last, the four from ABBA would work on certain projects together. The first one concerns the young Swedish newcomer Ted Gärdestad, who represented his country this year at the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel. Althoug he was hardly successful, their confidence in his talent remained unshakable and we are bound to hear more from this young man. “He is the first one with whom we are trying something new and we keep believing in him completely,” according to the ABBAs. And they add in a convinced way: “He belongs to the family and you might even call him – not considering Stig because he doesn’t sing anyway – the fifth ABBA member!” But obviously you shouldn’t take that literally.

Another reason to put an end to ABBA might very well be the increasing difficulties that Benny and Björn experience to keep composing the same high quality ABBA material. Up till now, they have always refused to record songs by other composers and they want to keep it that way. And it is obvious that their possibilities – after the ongoing succession of hits and outstanding album material and despite their huge talent – will become exhausted or at least very limited. Indeed, they have already experienced this while putting together the songs for their latest album ‘Voulez-Vous’, that was released later than scheduled because of that.
“You have no idea how hard we had to work to achieve the quality that the audience expects from us,” Björn says in a modest way. “I still get dizzy when I think about the slave labour it has cost us. We can’t afford to record songs of lesser quality or even flops. If that would be the case, we would prefer to stop releasing records altogether.”

Indeed, ABBA is not the only group that deals with problems like these. Simon & Garfunkel split up at the height of their fame because they had written themselves empty. Gerry Rafferty put an end to Stealers Wheel because he had had enough of it. For a long time, he refused every million dollar offer to be able to retreat on his secluded farm. It seems to have worked out well for him because he has a wonderful solo career now.
Either way, 1980 will be the year of the truth for ABBA, if only because their mutual contract will expire then. Will there be a new contract for a couple of years? Will they go their separate ways? Will they start working on something new? A spokesperson of the ABBA empire doesn’t tell it all either. Diplomatically, he says: “From what I hear, ‘Voulez-Vous’ is their last album. Maybe two more singles will be released around the time that their contract expires. But for the time being I can’t say anything more about ABBA’s future.”
Either way, our correspondent in Sweden is keeping his eyes and ears open to keep you posted about the hottest ABBA news.