Sunday 30 October 2011

Muziek Parade, September 1979: Welcome to Holland!

Although ABBA is one of the major record sellers in America, Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny and Björn were indeed a little worried when they travelled to the land of Carter, to perform 20 concerts over there. The group has always claimed that they wouldn't go on tour in America until their popularity would have reached the same heights as for instance in Australia.
Well, the American audience has accepted ABBA. Or rather, they embraced them. But... that gigantic popularity that was ABBA's condition for starting a tour was not reached. But still ABBA is now busy performing a series of 20 concerts? Björn - on the eve of their departure - says about this: "It's no use waiting any longer with a concert. It's clear that our fans want to see ABBA. It would be an insult if we didn't go." Benny is a little more realistic: "That big breakthrough that we imagined has failed to happen. So it's no use waiting any longer. It's a good strategic move to perform concerts, as a tool to reach the absolute top over there. It's a tremendous challenge for me."

Stig Anderson has decided that it's better for ABBA not to perform in stadiums. "I have more faith in a series of shows in smaller venues, that are all sold out." So is ABBA scared of this tour? Stig Anderson: "Scared isn't the right word. We are careful. Just imagine that we would have to perform in half empty stadiums. That would be detrimental to ABBA's image."
Björn adds: "It was our own preference to work in venues that can hold 4.000 to a maximum of 18.000 people. We know from experience that having contact with the audience is so important. This way we will keep it cosy and intimate. That is good for ABBA because we are able to perform at our best, and it's good for the audience that will get the best that ABBA has to offer musically."

Contrary to groups like Queen, Genesis or Wings, ABBA will not go on the road with trucks packed with equipment. They will bring along a modest technical facility, a pile of backing tracks, a group of six musicians (not from Holland, as was suggested) and three backing singers.
Last year, Stig Anderson mentioned that he would like to take along the people from Rainbow Train on their tour of America. Everything seemed to be settled. Hans Vermeulen has even played with the group in the ABBA studios. As it turned out, Stig has still chosen to bring along his own session musicians.
Technicians will come along to make sure that the best possible sound is achieved. Björn about that: "Another reason that I'm a little worried about these shows is the fact that we are going to work with a modest technical facility and only 6 musicians. We are known for our perfection. Our records are the summit of care into the smallest detail. I hope the fans won't be disappointed about the lesser quality, compared to our records."

How is the situation in the group now that Agnetha and Björn got divorced? An obvious question and ABBA has prepared themselves to give the right answer: "Things are much better now than they were a year ago. There are no little spats anymore. The atmosphere isn't tensed anymore. We have a very fresh relationship towards each other and it comes through in our music," according to Benny who was adamant to answer this question.
All personal problems seem to be solved. The understanding between Agnetha and Björn is better than ever. The former married couple has never been fond of touring, because of the children. They still have that same attitude. Although they are no longer a couple, Agnetha and Björn don't want to be away from home for long periods of time, because they miss their little son and daughter.
There have been rumours that this tour has to be considered as a farewell. Allegedly, ABBA would split up permanently after this series of concerts.

It is true that ABBA is going to perform (even) less after this long and exhausting world tour. The intention is that Anni-Frid is going to do more solo work. Benny is planning to produce other artists. Recently, he already made a record with Finn Kalvik, a new Norwegian discovery. Björn is completely over the moon about the state of the art recording studio (48 tracks!) that ABBA had built for 3 million Dutch guilders. Björn wants to encourage world famous acts to come to Stockholm to record their albums there. Led Zeppelin has worked there recently and several members of Genesis have said that the ABBA studio was one of the best studios they had ever used. Then there is Agnetha. She is and remains ABBA's big question mark. She doesn't have any definite plans yet. She wants to stay with the group, and she wants to start recording solo records too, but she hasn't really decided yet.
At the press conference that will be held before ABBA's concert in Rotterdam, everything should become clear. Certainty about (a) ABBA; will the group stay together? and (b) Agnetha; what will be her position in the ABBA organization?
Muziek Parade has supported ABBA tremendously through the years. It seems that ABBA has been the only important musical occurance in the seventies. ABBA has brought us exceptional recordings (that we can enjoy for years to come). ABBA just can't split up. ABBA has to stay together. And even if the four individual members of this unique group are going to do some other side projects, there's nothing wrong with that, as long as ABBA keeps releasing their musical masterpieces on a regular basis.
Indeed, ABBA is getting ever more critical about their own records. 'Arrival' was recorded in nine months. It took them 12 months to get 'The Album' released and 'Voulez-Vous' is a piece of work that they worked on for 18 months. And you can hear it in its quality. If we take this into consideration, the next completely new album can't be expected until the end of 1980. But the fans are prepared to wait, because the result will be worth waiting for.
Welcome ABBA to Holland. Next month, Muziek Parade brings you the complete life story of ABBA as a cartoon. More than 20 pages. A typical stunt of Muziek Parade! And it's all in honour of the ABBA concert in Holland.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Popcorn, 1978

Everytime when ABBA needs new photographs, the telephone rings at the home of Munich star photographer Bubi Heilemann (32). His pictures of ABBA are going all around the world. From the latest session, Popcorn brings you the most beautiful pictures and on top of that we reveal some great news...

What happens when ABBA takes a holiday.
For ten straight weeks ABBA has taken a holiday during the past summer, before they went back into the studio in the middle of September to record the new album. What the four Swedes have done together: they went horseback riding (Björn: "We got this idea while we were shooting our movie"), they played tennis (Anni-Frid is the best player at that) and they paid a visit to their island near Stockholm. Agnetha and Björn spent their entire vacation there and together with their two children they lived in the block house, where most ABBA hits were composed up till now. Anni-Frid and Benny spent four weeks on their new boat, a large sailing ship from the model called 'Chris Craft Daycruiser'. Before that, Benny had taken a sailing course, so that he could play the captain himself. Benny: "That was really demanding. I had to study astronomy and maths, just like in school!"

Why ABBA changes clothes so often.
Sometimes sexy, sometimes gimmicky - ABBA constantly comes up with new ideas for costumes. Agnetha reveals the reason for that: "Privately, we are completely normal; that's why we like to dress up in outrageous clothes on stage. Without some glitter, we would simply look too plain." The picture on the left with ABBA dressed up in twenties style has remained a secret up till now - it's related to the upcoming ABBA musical. Anni-Frid: "But I definitely feel much better in tight mini costumes..."

How much Björn is fond of his children.
On every visit to a foreign city, Agnetha and Björn disappear for a couple of hours. Whoever is looking for them, can be sure to find them at the largest toy shop in the area. Because from every trip, they bring back toys for their children Linda and Peter Christian. Agnetha: "Björn is even worse than me. He is so fond of his children, that he spoils them way too much."

How they like to travel.
A boat or a private jet - those are ABBA's favourite means of transportation. In Stockholm - that's interveined by canals - the car is often replaced with a boat. For their rare television performances, ABBA fly themselves in with a rented plane, so that they can get back home the same night. Agnetha: "I prefer to sleep in my own bed!"

What this picture reveals...
A secret meeting between Anni-Frid and her father Alfred Haase, who was long presumed to be dead. Since they met each other for the first time last year, they saw each other regularly - always on Anni-Frid's invitation. The ABBA singer claims: "Everytime when I see my father I'm excited like a little girl. It was all such a big surprise for me. I have less problems on the telephone - that's why I call my father as often as possible."

Why Anni-Frid often likes to play the comedian.
It happened during the photo shoot for our poster: Anni-Frid suddenly put her hand under her shirt and played the sex bomb. It also happens during live performances that Anni-Frid always manages to get all eyes on her with her wild gimmicks. The reason why ABBA's brunette likes to play the comedian? Very simple: she's a little envious of blonde Agnetha who is usually ABBA's 'hot girl' with fans and journalists. Added to that, privately Anni-Frid is by far the wildest of the two girls. Looking like she does, Anni-Frid really doesn't need to steal the show from her blonde colleague. At least, the competitive battle between both ABBA girls has improved; after there had been lots of arguments during the last tour, now they've called a truce...

Sunday 16 October 2011

Bravo, August 1983: Agnetha gets caught up with a marriage impostor

Her blonde hair cut in layers and slightly wind-blown, sparkling blue eyes and her glossy lips opened into a cheerful smile: Agnetha actually never looked as wonderful as she does on the photographs that were taken for her first solo album 'Wrap Your Arms Around Me'.
Apart from that, at the moment the Swedish ABBA fans will be able to see a second, totally different Agnetha. In that variety she is wearing her hair decently cut, with an ugly hat pulled over it. She is hiding her pregnant belly under a maternity dress, wildly patterned with flowers.
By all means, Agnetha only slipped into the part of the 'ugly duckling' for her first movie 'Raskenstam' that will have its premiere on August 19 in Stockholm.
'Raskenstam' is the true story about a marriage impostor that took the savings of 120 Swedish women between 1941 and 1943.
Agnetha plays the part of Lisa, the daughter of a fisherman. She is the only woman that Gustav Raskenstam falls madly in love with. He gets married to her and has two children with her.
Agnetha explains: "The most difficult part for me was remembering my lines, although I didn't have very long consecutive lines to speak. During mornings, when my children were at school, or late in the evenings, I was slaving away. Sometimes my girlfriends helped me out with my lines, then they would read out the lines of my adversary."
Another problem for Agnetha was her stage fright, something that she still hasn't got used to even after those many years with ABBA. During the last minutes before a performance, she constantly walks from mirror to mirror, she keeps powdering her face and puts on mascara for the umpteenth time.
Agnetha: "While shooting 'Raskenstam' this was no different. The first few days I was litterally sick due to stage fright. But the more often we had to keep reshooting our scenes, the more confident I felt. At concerts, I also started to feel a little more relaxed after about fifteen minutes."
Agnetha didn't mind that she had to walk around as Lisa in such a conservative and stuffy manner. "I don't think that clothes are all that important," she says. "Especially when one compares me with Frida, who is totally into fashion. When I'm at home I prefer to wear jeans and a pullover. For formal occasions I buy something from a Swedish designer, he calls himself X-it. At the moment I really like the colour green, clothes with broad shoulders, Italian shoes and boots."
It's not certain yet whether 'Raskenstam' will appear in German cinemas as well. But one thing is certain: on September 3 we will see Agnetha again in the television broadcast 'Wetten Daβ...?' from Berlin.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Club, October 1979: Hits and tractors

ABBA is in Holland. Their world tour is running smoothly and it's successful, as expected with everything related to ABBA. Their album 'Voulez-Vous' is breaking all sales records. ABBA is doing well. As long as it lasts...

With stars on their cheeks and platform boots on their feet, they were standing there: Anni-Frid, Agnetha, Björn and Benny: ABBA. At the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest they represented Sweden prominently with 'Waterloo'. Millions of people watched that Eurovision happening. And millions of people knew - just like the judges - after only minute, that this would be it. The Swedish group ABBA would make it with 'Waterloo'.
That phenomenon (knowing after one minute that this song is going to make it) has become familiar in the meantime. From April 1974 onwards, ABBA has taken the hit charts by storm. After 'Waterloo' came 'I Do, I Do, I Do', 'SOS', 'Dancing Queen', 'Name Of The Game' and many more.
Big and small record companies have been watching these proceedings with greedy eyes. Which record executive wouldn't want to have ABBA under contract? To have success, to establish a name and to make lots of money!
There's little chance for all these interested people. Now - in 1979 - ABBA is not planning to hand over their business to anyone. And they never planned that, for that matter. The 'battle' of 'Waterloo' was carefully prepared. In all peace and quiet they worked on their sound and - together with Stig Anderson - they founded Polar International Music. When the big hits came, everything was safely in their own hands. No obligations due to contracts with others, no outsiders that could tell them what to do. The records were written, recorded and released at Polar Music. The authors rights were guarded by people at Polar Music. The promotional videos were made there, as well as the big ABBA movie. And the tours and performances were scheduled there too.

Polar Music is doing very well. In 1978, they were able to make a profit of 35 million Dutch guilders! And these are just the royalties coming from ABBA music (records, lyrics and performances). Meanwhile, Polar has other things to take care of. The tax office in Sweden is demanding a lot of money. The ABBA team is paying enormous amounts of money to the public treasury, but wants to spend the Swedish kroner in different ways too.
That's why a couple of smart boys - who have A's in maths - were hired, that are busy investing the ABBA capital in all kinds of strange things. Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid own fishing boats, computers, tractors and other agricultural machines, office buildings, an art gallery and the most modern recording studio in the world...
The ABBA capital is safe. So there would be no problem if they get tired of quartet singing one of these days...

Is it possible that ABBA will quit in the near future? "It's starting to look like it," according to newspapers and pop magazines since Agnetha and Björn's divorce in December 1978. A couple of months ago, Anni-Frid travelled to Spain to shoot her first part in a movie called 'Try To Walk On The Water, If You Can'. "Anni-Frid goes solo, the end of ABBA," is what the papers are saying. "Nonsense," according to the people of the ABBA concern in Sweden. They want to extend the group's enormous success for some time to come. So for the time being, there are only rumours. 'Chiquitita' (one of the latest singles) sold 137.000 copies in Holland. It was the biggest selling ABBA single up till now. For the time being, the group is busy with their world tour and on October 24 they will perform live at the Ahoy hall in Rotterdam...