Wednesday 31 August 2011

Bravo, December 1977: A Sunday's child for Anna and Björn

Stockholm, in the night to Sunday, the second Advent: Björn is awakend from his sleep when Anna shakes his shoulder: "I believe the time has come. We have to go to the hospital. The baby is coming."
Björn jumps out of his bed, gets dressed and also helps Anna getting dressed - like so many times the last few weeks of her pregnancy - because she can barely bend over anymore.
A suitcase packed with the most important necessities has been readily waiting in their home for days already. Because the child should have been born fourteen days ago, according to the doctor's calculations.
The couple drives to the hospital Danderyds Sjukhus in the North of Stockholm. For days, a room has been reserved there for the blonde ABBA singer. Björn: "I only had one thing on my mind: hopefully we're not too late. Hopefully we will get to the hospital in time."
Björn and Anna made it. But then their patience was severely tested again. Not until 9.00pm on Sunday, the second Advent, the baby is born. There are no complications.
"I was more nervous than I am when I'm working on a new album," Björn insists, who preferred to wait in the hallway during the delivery." Either way, this time I didn't sweat as much as I did in 1973, when our first daughter was born."
About ninety - for him nerve-racking - minutes go by before Björn can see his son for the first time. The child is healthy, weighs 3750 gram at birth, has dark hair and blue eyes. But this can all change because all children have blue eyes at birth.
Seven days later, Anna and her son are allowed to leave the hospital. They haven't decided on a name for the son and heir yet.

Anni-Frid and Benny are also glad that everything has worked out so well. Because now ABBA - that had to take it slow because of Anna's pregnancy - can get back to work in full force again. Björn: "In 1978 we want to go on tour in America and we have to prepare ourselves for that now. We will most likely come to Germany too. We will have to see if we can fit it into our schedule."
The ABBA movie had its premiere in Sydney and Melbourne on December 16 (most scenes were filmed in Australia). But none of the ABBA members took part in that - instead the quartet was represented by manager Stig Anderson.
The German ABBA fans will probably get to see the movie too in 1978 - according to Björn the negotiations with a German rental company are almost concluded.
But that's far away in the future for Anna. In these days before Christmas, their love and affection is completely devoted to their baby. "It's the most beautiful gift that I can imagine," she beams...

Thursday 25 August 2011

Popcorn, 1978: ABBA brings you luck

"No other group in the world has had as much luck and success as we have had in the last three years," Anni-Frid admits. From 'Waterloo' up till 'Name Of The Game', ABBA has been able to score hit after hit. And the latest single 'Take A Chance On Me' is on its way up the charts as we speak. Not even the Beatles have had so many hits in a row in their heyday.
What's the secret of ABBA's success?
"Hard work, diligence and talent are the foundations of our career," Agnetha says, "but luck is an important factor as well. Something that we have never revealed until now: our lucky charms are two parrots..."
They are housed in a huge cage in the middle of the ABBA headquarter in Stockholm: red Dolly and yellow Oliver. Two years ago, friends of Björn and Agnetha brought them as a housewarming gift for the new ABBA office. And since then they have been part of the four Swedes' staff.
When Dolly screeches 'Abbbaaa' vociferously, it can even be heard in the office of manager Stig Anderson. Oliver is a little more quiet, but instead he likes to bite visitors in their nose. Benny has even been tweaked by Oliver a couple of times, while playing with him.
"Still we would never give them away," says Benny. "To us, they are some kind of mascots."
To show their gratitude, ABBA would like to give away a couple of funny lucky charms to their German fans: 100 brightly coloured, hilarious parrots - not living parrots but super specimens from the plush zoo - will be raffled among the Popcorn readers.
Agnetha: "That should give some comfort because we won't go on tour this year. These parrots are so sweet, that one can't do anything else but love them. And apart from that - as you can see with us - they bring you luck!"
Who wants to have a cuddly parrot from ABBA? Just write a postcard with the name 'ABBA' on it to: Popcorn, Werinherstr. 71, 8000 München 90. The deadline is March 10, 1978.

Sunday 21 August 2011

1979: A gold disc for 'Chiquitita'

The Swedish group ABBA paid a visit to Madrid to appear on the television programme Aplauso, where they were presented with a gold disc, handed over by Jose Luis Uribarri.

The group, that is - as you all know - made up of Benny, Björn, Anna and Frida started out in the year 1972 and already with their first single 'People Need Love' they reached number two in the charts of their home country.
But without a doubt they achieved their definitive breakthrough at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, where they were the winners with the song 'Waterloo'.
From then on, everything went smoothly. Big hits that everybody remembers - like 'Fernando', 'Dancing Queen', 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' and so on - got to number one in the charts in almost every country. The most important interpretive aspects are the perfect blending of the voices, both female and male as well as simultaneously; these musicians are completely comfortable with the range in which they are singing - effortless and without special effects.
'Chiquitita' - the group's ultimate success - was a clear number one from the first moment it was released on record and its royalties will go to Unicef on the occasion of the international Year of the Child. Sung in Spanish, the song is now the current number one in the charts of our country.
With sales of fifty million singles and thirty million albums, Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid are undoubtedly the most profitable group for a record company at the moment.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Popshop, 1977: ABBA's future plans

Although there isn't any ABBA record on our charts at the moment, it would be premature to conclude that things are going downhill for the Swedish quartet. In England, for instance, their album 'Arrival' has been number one on the charts for weeks, and - until recently - the same could be said about the single from that album 'Knowing Me, Knowing You'. In America, they have just enjoyed their first real chartbuster with 'Dancing Queen'. And then we don't even mention countries like Australia, Poland, Germany, Japan, you name it.

In short, there is nothing wrong with ABBA. On the contrary. At the moment they are working on a new album that will be released in the late summer. "Probably, we are going to release one of the songs from that album as a single first," Björn told us on the phone. "But we don't know yet what it's going to be. Benny and I are still very busy composing. If that album is going to be different from our previous album? Maybe, maybe not. We never start working on an album with the thought 'now we will have to record an album that's better than the previous one'. We just write songs that come straight from our hearts. If they are different, if there is some kind of evolvement, then that's something that happened as a coincidence - or rather without intention. Music can't be planned ahead, because then everything would go wrong. There are groups that decide all of a sudden 'now we are going to make better music'. Then they force themselves, they are not themselves any longer and they record music that doesn't have a soul anymore. Then the spontaneity is gone. That won't happen to us. We don't care if the reporters write that we are not evolving! As long as the audience is satisfied..."
Apart from the album and the single, this year we don't have to expect much else from ABBA. They have signed a new contract with Warner Brothers that will begin next year. So it's only natural that their new bosses insist that they save their best material for their debut album on the new label.

But there is another reason why ABBA wants to take it easy for the rest of this year. In November - as we reported earlier - blonde Anna is expecting a second baby. "That was more or less planned," Björn continues. "The album will be completed in August and then Anna will have more than three months to prepare herself for the arrival of the new baby. She is doing just that at the moment as well, because while Benny and I are composing new songs, she doesn't have to be around. Last week she went - as she told me in the morning - grocery shopping. Around noon she called me to ask if we could come to the city with a small van. She had bought half of a baby store. The store manager told her that he would deliver everything to her door the next week. But Anna was too impatient: she wanted to have it immediately. That same afternoon she started decorating the nursery. Anna is crazy about children, you wouldn't believe how happy she is at the moment. The big subject at home: a boy or a girl. I would love to have a son, Anna would rather have a second baby girl. Either way, one of us will be right..."

Björn and Benny have just returned from America where they bought the complete equipment for a studio. "We have bought an old cinema in the centre of Stockholm that we are going to rebuild into a studio," according to Björn. "But we are still recording our album in that other studio, because our own studio is not ready yet. In September, three American technicians will come over to Sweden to lend a hand. The upcoming holiday months? We are going to spend those on our island. Sailing, going for walks and in between composing new songs. There is even talk of American artists that are planning to record in our studio. I can't mention any names yet. All I can say is that they are on the same label as we are. And then I mean the new label. Oh yeah, I want to say something to the fans: it is very likely that we are going on tour again next year. In March or April. This time we want to prepare for our show even better than before. Because, although the response to our first tour has been amazing, we weren't completely satisfied ourselves. The sound wasn't perfect, and we want to do something about that..."

Monday 8 August 2011

Hitkrant, January 1978: How ABBA went to the cinema - Swedish premiere of The Movie

Stockholm, December 26: the red carpet is unrolled at the China cinema in the centre of the Swedish capital. Outside, it is swarmed with police officers, crush barriers and fans. Inside, an awful lot of Swedes and one Dutchman: your reporter, invited to attend the Swedish premiere of ABBA - The Movie, in the presence of ABBA themselves.

It seems like Hollywood: spotlights, news reporters, press photographers and thousands of fans. But still, this Swedish presentation of ABBA's first feature film isn't as exclusive as its world premiere in Holland: people were able to simply buy a ticket, as far as there were still any available.
There are cheers, police officers are doing their best to keep the pushy priers that hadn't been able to get a ticket at a distance. Agnetha, Björn, Anni-Frid and Benny have arrived, in a more than lifesize Mercedes. It is five to seven.

Before the police has been able to get there, the fans have already opened the doors of the car and the four pop stars are almost dragged out. Photographers rush to the scene, police officers are forming a chain and it's all a terrible frenzy.
Eventually, ABBA - smiling cheerfully, how is that possible - is still ushered into the cinema. In the middle of the commotion, I get the opportunity to yell at Benny what he thinks about all this.
"Fabulous! Fantastic!" he yells back, glowing with excitement and Anni-Frid - hanging on his arm - happily nods at me as well.
"What's the name of Agnetha's baby?" I ask and Anni-Frid says (because I'm now pressed tightly to the couple so that we don't have to yell any longer): "Ask Björn!" And we're already in.

ABBA is guided to the stage and someone named Claes af Geijerstam - so I've heard afterwards - a well known gentleman in the Swedish music business, starts a speech in - for me - incomprehensible Swedish. I realize that I'm probably the only foreigner here: no one even tries to speak English, until I find a kind gentleman who is willing to translate some things.
An award is being presented: a golden gong for an occasion I don't completely understand. Then Agnetha, Björn, Anni-Frid and Benny are escorted to their seats. Simply between the other guests and fans. We should have had that experience in Holland!

The movie starts, but I probably don't have to explain anything about that anymore to any Dutch ABBA fan. Afterwards, I had a little conversation with Agnetha but you will be able to read all about that in issue number 3. In that same issue, I will also tell you something about the reviews that ABBA - The Movie received in Sweden and about my visit to the ABBA empire, Polar Music. See you in two weeks!