Sunday 18 September 2011

Hitkrant, February 1977: Ovations for ABBA - First concert in Holland

The Jaap Eden hall in Amsterdam has room for an awful lot of people. And indeed, there were an awful lot of people: all of them enthusiastic concert attendants who came to see and hear how ABBA - for the first time in their existence - performed live in Holland. And they certainly weren't disappointed!

ABBA gave a dazzling and perfect show and in the meantime they proved that we can regard them as a mature pop group by now. The four Scandinavian superstars managed to deliver on stage what they have been promising on their records up till now. And these days that's quite an accomplishment when you see and hear how some pop stars can't live up to expectations when they have to do without the technical facilities of the studio.

But we have to admit that ABBA didn't do it all by themselves: behind the group there was a selection of terrific musicians that were always present but never dominant. It was all about Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny...

'Tiger' opened the concert and it made sure that the mood was set immediately. The reaction of the audience was enthusiastic and this clearly motivated the ABBA members. 'That's Me' was followed by 'Waterloo' and the first bars of this song stirred up the Jaap Eden hall considerably. There seemed to be no end to the cheers of the audience and the same could obviously be said for 'SOS': a feast of recognition!

Indeed, this could be said for almost the entire show: the hits kept on coming at full speed and almost without interruption. 'Money, Money, Money' made the audience burst out in loud applause and the same went for 'I Do, I Do, I Do', 'Mamma Mia' and of course 'Fernando', of which the chorus was even repeated twice to give the audience the opportunity to sing along. And they certainly made good use of that...

Two very unusual songs caught our attention: an instrumental piece that showcased Benny's best keyboard work and resulted in a surprising piece of swinging pop music. Furthermore, the penultimate performance in musical style in which - helped by a narrator dressed in tails and the ABBA ladies wearing identical dresses and wigs - the story was told of a young girl that gets caught in the show business. Despite the long duration of the piece, it remained an entertaining performance, not least thanks to Agnetha and Frida's dance and show work.

An endless stream of ABBA work was poured out over the audience, varying from the old Hep Stars success 'He Is Your Brother', via 'Dum Dum Diddle', the soon to be released new single 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', the humorous 'A-B-B-A' wherein the members of the group introduce themselves and of course 'Dancing Queen', that made the audience get up on their chairs. But that was also the finale of the ABBA party. A party that drew thousands of people to Amsterdam and that ended far too soon for many of them...

But the party wasn't over yet for Suzan and Marion, the two Hitkrant readers about whom we already wrote in issue number 5 that they had been so disappointed that they hadn't been able to get tickets for the concert.
Record company Polydor managed to get hold of two more tickets and this enabled us to take both ABBA fans along. They were listening and watching without taking a breath! And the icing on the cake came when - after a lot of fussing - we still managed to bring Suzan and Marion in contact with the members of ABBA. This happened at the Amstel Hotel, where the group stayed. And despite the fact that Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny were obviously very tired after their concert, it still wasn't too much for them to pay a little attention to their young fans.

Indeed, a wonderful evening, not least for the two girls from Hoorn who hadn't even hoped for being able to attend the concert and now they could even meet their idols in person. The pictures prove how well this was received.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Joker, 1978: ABBA

The first book, authorised by ABBA. A super gala with Rod Stewart, Elton John and the Bee Gees. The new album will be out in the shops in January.

A lot has been written already about the four Swedes, especially a lot of nonsense. For instance, the story about the plane crash that allegedly killed all ABBA members - at the time of the crash, Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid were in their offices in Stockholm as happy as a sandboy and drank coffee. Or the story about ABBA wanting to leave Sweden, because the tax collector's office cashed to many Swedish kronor. This story spread all over the world but it wasn't true.
'ABBA The Book' is the first solid publication that has ABBA's approval as well. It was written by Marianne Lindvall who has known the four Swedes for several years. It's very interesting to read what - for instance - Benny thinks about the critics and the fans: "We don't calculate anything. Critics who accuse us of that make us furious. We simply write the kind of music that we like and we hope that our audience enjoys it too. We could never release a bad song, simply because the fans would buy it anyway. First we look for a strong melody, then we decide whether it should be a rock 'n' roll number or a waltz. Once again, this depends completely on the feelings that we get from the new material."

Björn about the situation of the group today: "We are lucky, since we have our own record company. No one is looking over our shoulder, forcing us to produce more than we do. We decide how much we can produce, without exhausting ourselves and our audience. But we never compromise our musicality. When one of us only has the slightest doubt about a certain number, we forget about the whole thing."
Do you have any personal favourites? Benny: "Yes, 'Dancing Queen'. It's technically one of the most advanced productions. When the record was released, some critics thought that it was technically advanced to the extent that the song lacked any personality and warmth. It became a hit - despite everything. Our Irish fans even selected it as the best song of all times."

With every album, making hits gets harder and harder for ABBA. The new album was planned to be released this year, but it wasn't ready due to lack of time. The new release date: January 1979. And that's exactly the time when ABBA will once again be the centre of attention. And they won't be alone. On January 8, 9 and 10, the annual Unicef Gala will be staged in New York. Artists that have agreed to perform there include Elton John, Rod Stewart, Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson, Olivia Newton-John and Barry Manilow. The hosts are the Bee Gees who want to assign the royalties of their next single to the International Children's Emergency Fund.
Touring plans are discussed only very cautiously in the Stockholm offices, because recreating the intricate ABBA sound on stage requires such advanced technology that they don't make any profit from the usually sold out concerts. Added to that, the group doesn't like touring. The reason: they don't have much time for a family life...

And that's the pleasant side of their success: ABBA don't have to rush themselves, the money is rolling in. Björn: "The fact that our money is invested in all kinds of companies, is our best old-age insurance. When we are through with ABBA one day, we need sufficient financial security so that we can quit right away."
Has that time come already? Björn: "I know nothing about that."

Sunday 11 September 2011

Hitkrant, 1978: ABBA rebuilt a cinema into a studio

Just think about it: a pop group buys a sports centre with adjoining cinema worth twenty million Dutch guilders. After that, they rebuild the property into one of the biggest and most modern recording studios in the world. Then that group would have to make a great deal of money. But then again, this mixed double is something special. They are called ABBA.

Recently, Benny, Björn, Anni-Frid, Agnetha and not least their manager Stig Anderson gave a private party to mark the occasion of the opening of this recording studio.
The press - including the Hitkrant of course - couldn't believe their eyes. Never before had they seen so much electronic devices!

The studio - that is located in one of the main streets of Stockholm - has a mixing console with more than 3.500 buttons that are connected to the rest of the equipment with 200 kilometres of flex!
The studio itself is divided into five different rooms that all have their own resonance. Since every room has its own mixing console, the group is able to play together, while the vocal parts and the instruments can be recorded separately.
ABBA is planning to rent the studio to other artists as well. In the near future, a two-page spread advertisement will be published about this in the American trade journal Billboard Magazine. Because - as you all probably know already - ABBA means making money as well!

Sunday 4 September 2011

1977: Anni-Frid's insecurity

Actually, we have only read positive reviews about the ABBA movie up till now, at least where it concerns the singing actors or the acting singers. This has pleased Anni-Frid (left on the picture) a great deal because she was still dealing with a big inferiority complex when it came to acting. In the past, she wanted to become a movie star and to achieve that goal she appeared on an audition for girls that were asked for a part in the children's movie 'Elvis Elvis'. On that occasion, she wasn't chosen for the part. According to her at the time - and she still feels this way - because she had been too nervous.
She wasn't bothered by any nervousness this time, although the other three people around her had done this kind of work before - with success. Benny has acted in a movie before with the group Hep Stars. Björn spent his time as a musician in studios where movie and television cameras were rolling and 'mother' Agnetha played the part of Mary Magdalene in the Swedish version of 'Jesus Christ Superstar'.
Director Lasse Hallström was happy with the experience of these people because the idea for a complete feature film has been growing slowly and he didn't have much trouble letting his 'actors' grow in the parts they had to play. And that was best put into words in the song 'Hole In Your Soul', of which song the first few bars serve as an introduction in this movie.