Sunday 16 December 2012

Bravo, June 1980: ABBA-fuss concerning Agnetha: new love, eight month break

In the ABBA studio in Stockholm, the lights are still on late in the night. In front of the door, there's a BMW 623 - proof that Benny is still in the studio, working on new songs. Since the early afternoon, he has been sitting behind the mixing console, together with Michael Tretow, the group's sound engineer. Over and over again, he is rewinding the audio tape, to listen to the melody again.
"We are actually long overdue with the new single," Benny explains. "We've already recorded five songs. But we simply can't decide which one of them should be released. But no worries, in the beginning of July our new record will be out in the shops."
That's why Benny has worked during the nights too the past few days. He is simply a perfectionist. Only when he is completely satisfied, the track will be shared for general approval. "We decide together which song will be released. Our manager Stig Anderson will give his opinion as well," Benny explains.

As soon as the new single is out in the shops, ABBA's holiday starts. Björn will definitely stay in the proximity of Stockholm. Together with his girlfriend Lena, he will go to the deserted small island in the Baltic Sea that ABBA has bought a couple of years ago. Anni-Frid and Benny will go on their holiday together. "But I don't know yet where we will go. I always leave that to Anni-Frid," Benny says. "She always finds the most beautiful travel destinations. Perhaps we will stay in Sweden too or we will fly to the Bahamas again, just like the past few years. Agnetha hasn't made any big travelling plans. In the autumn, her daughter Linda is going to start school. That's why she has insisted on spending time with her the last weeks leading up to the start of this new stage of life."

Because of Agnetha, ABBA will not go on tour the coming eight months. "Agnetha absolutely wants to take care of Linda during the first few months of her schooldays and not leave everything to the nanny," Benny says. However, this compulsory break isn't completely inconvenient to him either. In the middle of August, he wants to get together with Björn again to finally start working on a musical.
"That's an old dream of ours. But we need time and quietness for that. We can't complete a task like that in between two tours," he says. But one thing is for sure: it should have its premiere in the spring of 1981, probably in London. But ABBA themselves will not perform in the musical. "But either way, we will be present at the premiere. After all, a musical is something like your own child, much more substantial than an album."
Benny and Björn will start working on a new album in August. "This time we actually want to be finished around October, so we won't have to let the fans wait as long as with the last album. We already have a couple of songs ready. If we still like them after our summer holiday, they will be on the album. It's crucial too which new ideas we are going to have in the next two months."
Then Benny becomes very serious. He is thinking about the rumours surrounding ABBA, especially the gossip about the divorce. During the Japan tour in March they popped up again. This was due to Agnetha, who mostly isolated herself from the others, went her own way and often looked sad and lonely. Time and time again, there are speculations that Agnetha wants to leave the group and that ABBA will probably never tour again because of her. She still doesn't seem to have overcome her divorce from Björn.

"But that's not true," says Björn. "Agnetha never liked to go on tour and - more like the other three - she suffers from all the travelling. In the old days, there have already been nights that she doubted herself and believed that she wasn't good enough on stage anymore. Often she even burst into tears and at times she even wanted to throw in the towel. At moments like that it's extremely important that we all pull together. Then we should all help each other and it's evident how great it can be to be part of a group. I also know that Agnetha sometimes longs to wake up one morning and be a normal housewife. With everything that comes with it - making dinner, doing the laundry and playing with the kids. All of us will help her get through this small crisis. That's why we have cancelled all official commitments and we hardly show ourselves in public. This way, Agnetha will be able to recover from the stressful period and find herself again. Then she will be eager one day to be on stage with us again."

The cause of Agnetha's crisis is not just the divorce from Björn. The break-up of her relationship with Swedish  ice hockey star Lars Eriksson was a factor as well. "He simply didn't want to be in the limelight all the time because of Agnetha, and be hunted by reporters and photographers," Benny thinks. "This can be very nerving for a human being who isn't used to that. Now Agnetha has found a new boyfriend, and she is happy with him. But Agnetha keeps him away from publicity as much as possible. Agnetha simply wants to avoid that her new love gets cracked again."
Agnetha's new boyfriend is 34 years old and he is a fashion designer. His name: Dick Håkansson. "He has been advising us for a long time already on choosing our wardrobe for performances and photo sessions," says Benny. "That's how Agnetha and Dick got acquainted. But the sparks didn't fly between them until the spring this year. Agnetha wants to spend her next holiday with Dick as well."

Saturday 15 December 2012

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1977: ABBA is taking a baby break

Since four months, ABBA has retained a mysterious radio silence: after 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', there has been no new hit single by the four Swedes, they didn't do any television shows and no performances. Now, ABBA has made their secret public. "I'm going to have a baby," revealed blonde Agnetha (27) in an exclusive interview with the Freizeit-Magazin. "That's why we are taking a break, that is going to last until November. With my little daughter Linda, the pregnancy was already very difficult. That's why I have to take it easy the coming months."
The baby break is coming exactly at the peak of ABBA's career. Was it a planned child? "We really didn't plan it," Agnetha admits. "Though Björn and I have always wanted a second child, but not so soon. For health reasons, I'm not taking the pill, and that's why it can always happen. I was a little afraid to tell Björn about it. After all we didn't reckon with a baby in our extremely busy schedule. But Björn was overwhelmed with joy from the first moment on and he is really looking forward to our second child. The way that Anni-Frid and Benny are looking after me is touching as well. I believe all four of us are glad to have some peace and quiet for a while."
In the coming four months Agnetha - who has become a little fuller in her face already - still has to be in front of a camera. "In Stockholm, we are shooting the last few scenes for our movie that should be released in the cinemas in December, simultaneously with our new album and single," says Agnetha. "It's going to be a crazy, hilarious movie in which we will be seen during concerts as well as in our private lives."
When will Agnetha's baby be born? "I must have become pregnant somewhere in March and the doctors have calculated that the baby will be born between 10 and 20 November," Agnetha reveals. "Anyhow, Björn and I really hope it's going to be a boy. Then Linda will finally get her long-awaited little brother."

Sunday 25 November 2012

Joker, April 1977: ABBA intimate: "We are slaves to our career"

ABBA, the pop miracle of the seventies. A lot has been said already about this group - a lot of nonsense too. The rise of these four Swedes, that has outstripped the Beatles already today, has nurtured rumours often enough. In the glare of the spotlights, no one wanted to believe that doubt, fears, affection, sometimes even hatred has played a part in this fantastic career.
Harry Edington, a British reporter, and his friend and colleague Peter Himmelstrand from Sweden have observed the group when they were taking their first steps on the international scene. They are the ones who really know how everything started and what's going on behind the scenes. Here's the truth about ABBA.

Anni-Frid, the girl with the German father.
The young Norwegian girl had lost all of her friends. Others pointed at her with their fingers or spit on the street before her. Her misdoing? She had fallen in love with a German officer and was expecting his baby. This happened in 1945 in Narvik in northern Norway. The German occupants were hated and feared by the native population. But when Synni Lyngstad, an innocent 19-year-old, met this Alfred Haase, he seemed different from all the others. At the end of the war Alfred was commanded back to Germany. Before he left he promised Synni to come back and marry her. But he never came back.
Her child, a daughter, was born on 15 November 1945 and named Anni-Frid after her grandmother. It was the coldest winter in Europe since years. But even the ice was warmer than the feelings of the inhabitants of Narvik towards Synni and her daughter. For two years, the mother and daughter waited for their loved one and father. Anni-Frid's grandmother had to witness how her daughter withered away in her loneliness. Synni died when she was only 21. The grandmother realised that little Anni-Frid with the abusive name 'German child' was facing a difficult childhood in Narvik. She left Norway and moved to the Swedish town Torshälla, where Anni-Frid grew up. She called her grandmother 'mamma' and she still does today. Anni-Frid: "I've tried to find my father. It was impossible. It is believed that his ship went down in Denmark. Otherwise, he definitely would have returned. It was good that I still had my grandmother. She was always very sweet to me and she encouraged me in everything that I did. On long, cold winter evenings she taught me old folk songs from our home country. She also encouraged me to start singing."
When she was 10, Anni-Frid found herself on stage for the first time. Three years later, she lied to an organizer that she was already 16 and this way she got a job as a singer in a restaurant. Her first band was called 'The Anni-Frid Four'. She was especially fond of the bass player and band leader, Ragnar Frederiksson, who was also a furniture salesman on the side. Things happened as expected: the both of them fell in love, got engaged and started living together.
When she was 16, she gave birth to a son: Hans, they got married and then came the second child: Lise-Lotte. Anni-Frid had to choose between her family and her career. Her career took precedence. Anni-Frid: "Although I had the smiling image of a happy singer, behind the mask I was very unhappy. Unfortunately I have to say today that people who really should have known better were very rude to me. They said that I didn't care about the children. They couldn't have been more wrong. Ragnar was there for them and they could not have been raised better." It was the painful decision between a marriage falling apart and the start of a career that introduced Anni-Frid as a regular visitor of the Swedish bestseller charts, although critics thought that her music was only appealing to a small part of the audience. A performance on the popular Swedish TV show 'Hyland's Corner' guaranteed her increasing popularity and helped her to become one of Sweden's first female singers.

Benny, who is often craving for his children.
Whenever someone wants to ask the friendly, bearded and somewhat chubby Benny Andersson about his education, he has a smile and a reply ready: "I have a driver's licence." It's a polite description of his barely succcessful schooldays. The only subject that he liked more or less was English.
He was born in a suburb of Stockholm on 16 December 1946. Benny got through his schooldays with a drowsy indifference, something that is still apparent today when he has to occupy himself with something that he isn't interested in at all. He left school when he was 15 without any exams or certificate and he concentrated completely on his music.
Benny: "My grandfather and father were exactly like me. They tried every, and I mean every, instrument that they could find." Two years after he had left school Benny was still trying to find out which part of the business world could be of use to him. The time in between was filled with thinking about his future and occasional performances with a band.
One day, the group had to go out of town for a guest appearance, which was unusual. Usually, no one wanted them. Svenne Hedlund, singer of the group Hep Stars, helped out with his truck. Svenne: "Benny is a good musician. When our organ player quit, Benny joined us. He turned up wearing a neck tie, a couple of months later he had long hair and looked like us." The Hep Stars turned into a top group.
A big distress for Benny: "We couldn't show our faces in any restaurant anymore, we were harassed everywhere." Along with their increasing popularity, their income increased as well, but Benny never seemed to be interested in money. The Hep Stars started taking care of their own releases and business matters, to market their songs. But their company 'Hep House' went bankrupt. The biggest flop that ever happened to Benny.
Another problem was waiting for Benny: in the summer of 1966 he broke his four-year-long engagement to Christina Grönvall. A pretty, red-haired girl that he had met in school. They lived together and had two children: Peter and Helena. This romance was kept top secret from the group's fans. A couple of months after the long impending break up, Christina confronted Benny in an interview: "Tell everyone about me and the children. The family that doesn't have a place in his glittering world as a pop idol. The only contact of the children with their father is through the records of the Hep Stars. I once joined them on tour, but I always had to travel separately. And during the show I was hidden away."
Benny was amazed that this story caused so much turmoil. He was also disappointed that strange people wanted to get into his private life. By the way, today he still has the same opinion. He has learned from his experience with Christina. But he often thinks about his children yearningly.

Björn, who forgot to smile on stage.
Björn Ulvaeus was born in the last days of the war on 25 April 1945 on the west coast of Göteborg. When he was 11 his family moved to the east coast town Vastervik - a name that means something like west bay. He got acquainted with guitars, boating and the raw folk music, that was flooding the world around this time.
When he was 17, Björn got together with three of his friends and he said to them that he wanted to start a Dixieland group. The aim was to get public performances in order to increase their pocket money. Today he says: "It wasn't a serious venture, although I gave that impression to some people. I was just bragging when I talked to the boys about jazz and things like that. I didn't know much about it and so our music was more like American folk music in the style of the Kingston Trio." One day, Björn's mother brought home a form to enter the talent competition 'Opportunity Knocks'. The group's name had to be entered as well and since there wasn't any name yet, mother Ulvaeus came up with The West Bay Singers. Björn: "I was astounded when I found out that she had entered us into that competition. At first I wanted to withdraw, but then I thought, why would I?"
A preview of the programme indicated that The West Bay Singers would sing songs in Swedish and English. This was read by Bengt Bernhag, a well-known talent scout. He was a trouper in the music business with a real instinct for up-and-coming talents. He liked the group and especially the simple and honest presentation and he recommended them to the boss of his company, a single-minded and energetic music publisher called Stig Anderson. He asked Björn for a demo tape. Björn: "That was an exciting day for us all." The first thing that Stig Anderson did for the group was change their name. That's how they turned into The Hootenanny Singers. Their first record was perfect: 'I'm Waiting At The Charcoal Kiln', a sad song about the people who were working in the forests. It became a big success.
Stig: "I noticed that there were opportunities for this group. They looked good and the blonde, handsome Björn was the centre of attention on stage. None of us had expected to become so successful this fast."
Stig's trust and Bengt's fatherly advice persuaded Björn how to pursue his future. And the conditions couldn't have been better for him. Bengt was a skilled music technician and he taught him everything that he knew. Bengt always treated Björn as his son. Without this connection, Björn would probably never have turned into a superstar. One of Björn's friends: "Stig was always a business man, and Björn was exactly right for him. Björn is someone who can analyze accurately and meticulously. When you look at him while he is working you can almost hear his brains working as a precision machine. Because he attacks everything with his intellect, he has to force himself on stage to smile at his fans sometimes."

Agnetha, who often fears to get in front of a microphone.
Agnetha Fältskog, born on 5 April 1950 in Jönköping (Sweden), is the daughter of an enterprising father, who produced shows for domestic use at the local cultural centre. Agnetha: "I will never forget my first official performance. In the middle of a show for elderly people, my pants went down and the audience burst into laughter. I was six years old at the time." When she was 15, she got her own piano. Reason enough for the musical offspring to try out her own melodies. She also wrote her own lyrics to these melodies, starting with a first draw about two dwarfs. At 15, Agnetha was a singer in a dance band. Two years later, she joined another band - that's how her voice turned up on the desk of producer Little Gerhard of the record company CBS, whose cousin worked as the second singer in the same band. He asked Agnetha to send him an entire tape.
Her favourite song around this time was 'I Was So In Love', a song about a girl mourning about her lost love.  She was that girl. She wrote the song because she was so unhappy when her romance with Björn Lillia came to an end. "I was sitting at the piano and tried to forget. The melody was ready within half an hour. I didn't feel any better but I had a great song." The producer had the same opinion. Agnetha said goodbye to her family and went on a train to Stockholm to record the song.
"It was the most exciting moment of my life. My heart was beating in my throat. I had to force myself to get inside the studio. On stage I still have that same feeling sometimes. Then I heard that the musicians were practising my melody. Suddenly I was floating on a cloud." Within a week the record was at number one.
Little Gerhard: "Agnetha was very critical from the start - when it came to her job as well." Her straightforward way of dealing with problems made the transition from the country to the city very difficult. Behind her self-confidence, a considerable amount of shyness was hidden. She said things that she didn't mean to say like that and often came across as being impolite. A friend says: "I'm convinced that she sometimes didn't  realize what she was doing and that the words simply came out because she felt insecure. But when she talked to people privately, she was sweet, polite and honest. I understand that she is still driving reporters crazy these days. They don't get anything more out of her than a simple 'yes' or 'no'. I believe that she understands that it's better to say nothing at all than to make a blunder all the time."
But nothing could stop Agnetha's career. She started to perform in TV shows and went on tour in the inevitable folk parks. A German record company tried to get her under contract. She refused, but still her popularity in Germany was increasing - for a short period of time she was engaged to the German lyricist Dietrich Zimmermann. The critics followed all of her moves. Her song 'Gypsy Friend' was called racialistic and heavily criticized. Agnetha: "It's a pity that people see it like that. I just wrote a song, that's all."

Sunday 18 November 2012

Popshop, 1978: ABBA's latest addition

Anna and Björn, the blonde half of the Swedish quartet ABBA, couldn't be happier. But then, they couldn't have imagined the birth of their little baby any better.
"The birth of Linda didn't go very easy," according to Björn. "That's why we weren't one hundred percent at ease. But this time there weren't any problems. You can tell when you are around Anna. It's like she has just returned from a long vacation. Did you know that we didn't realise that we had a little son until a couple of minutes after the delivery? That the ultimate wish had come true? We were so relieved that everything had went so smoothly!"

It's very busy in room 615 of the Danderyd Hospital in Stockholm. A small army of press people and fans are queuing at the door to congratulate the proud parents. The small baby (he doesn't have a name yet) doesn't care about all the attention and keeps on sleeping peacefully.
"It's an extremely calm baby," according to mother Anna. "Compared to our Linda, that is. He sleeps all day and he barely cries when he is hungry. Why we haven't decided on a name yet? Because we were convinced that it would be a girl! Most of the time we aren't that lucky with things like this, but this time we were..."

Sunday 4 November 2012

Joepie, 1979: A headquarter in the ambassadors district

There are four nameplates at the gates of the ABBA headoffice in Laerkstaden, the ambassadors district of Stockholm: Polar Music International, Sweden Music, Reuter & Reuter Foerlag and Sannes Trading. These are only four of ABBA's many companies. The group has invested a lot of money. In the headquarter, Stikkan Anderson, seated behind his far too spacious desk, is making all the decisions.

The various properties of the ABBA millionaires in a row. 1. The most capital villa is reserved for the married couple Stikkan Anderson. 2. The headquarter in the ambassadors district of Stockholm. From this location, Stikkan is reigning over the ABBA empire. 3. The villa on the island Lidingö where Agnetha is residing since her divorce. 4. Björn's new home, situated on the island Lidingö as well, that belongs to the fancy district of the Swedish capital. 5. Benny and Anni-Frid are living on the same island too, in this salmon coloured manor-house. 6. For 210 million, ABBA bought this former sports hall at Sankt Eriksgatan in Stockholm, where their state-of-the-art recording studios are now established. 7. The 'Commerce' warehouse in Skövde: supermarkets, boutiques, restaurants, a dry cleaner and a hairdresser. 8. Also in Skövde, they own this office building. The 'Handelsbanken' are the most important tenants. 9. ABBA is also the owner of the ICA-Norrhallen in the same region. 10. In Lidköping, they own this ultra modern shopping mall, called 'Särnmarkshuset'. 11. In this building, their art trading company 'AH Grafik' is located, although it doesn't make them much money yet. But these aren't the only properties of the five ABBAs, as you will read further on in this edition.

Proportionally, the ABBA company is the most profitable company in Sweden and apart from that it's growing faster than any other company. Three years in a row, Polar Music International has made a pure profit of 50 million Swedish Krona (23 million Dutch Guilders) and Anderson is looking for opportunities to expand their turn-over, and especially their profit.
Sannes Trading was one of those possibilities. That company was set up especially for trading activities with the Eastern countries. Stikkan blames it on bureaucracy that the trading isn't running that prosperously yet. As long as he doesn't succeed yet in selling 25 million copies of every ABBA album in Russia, he is setting his sights on other activities: investing in stocks, shares and real estate. He prefers to invest the ABBA money in companies that aren't too labour-intensive, with large profit possibilities.
Real estate is an excellent opportunity. In Skoevde in the south of Sweden, ABBA now owns three large buildings: two big shopping malls and a huge office building. Not far from that area, in Lidköping, ABBA is the owner of an ultra modern, indoor shopping mall with adjoining office building. The ABBA members themselves are living in majestic palaces too. These mansions are being administered by the ABBA empire as well. Fiscally, that's more profitable.

"Relatively speaking, we don't spend a lot of money on ourselves," Stikkan claims. If the ABBA members should decide to spend more money, they would have to pay even more taxes than the 85 percent that the Swedish tax collector is receiving now already. The tax situation in Sweden is unfavourable to huge, multi-million companies like ABBA's. Eluding these taxes would be simple by moving to a tax paradise, like tennis player Björn Borg did.
But according to Stikkan, ABBA isn't even thinking about eluding their taxes. The fear that ABBA's popularity would suffer is playing an important part there. But it seems even more important that the Swedish legislation forbids people living abroad to own a couple of companies and real estate in this country. That would mean that the whole empire would have to be dismantled and that's almost impossible.

But Anderson isn't coping very well with the tax situation. "Nobody wants to work in this country any longer because of these high taxes. And working extra hours is out of the question, because then you have to pay extra taxes. Of course, it's the socialists who make up legislation like that in this country." That's why Stikkan has voted conservatively in the latest Parliamentary elections, just like the other ABBA members. "Do you know what I think about making up legislation like that?" Dumb maybe? "Dumb? Dumb? That's putting it very mildly. It's complete insanity."

Sunday 28 October 2012

1977: ABBA, Swedish supergroup

The amount of money that ABBA is making at the moment simply can't be estimated any longer. Indeed, this quartet and their manager Stig Anderson have total contral over their own businesses: the production of their records, the publishing of their music, their tours, films, rights to book publishing, you name it. This means that they are making as much money as possible themselves. Not too long ago, the group signed a major deal with the American giant in the record industry WEA and the amount of money they received as an advance payment is not even known by the CIA.
Besides, they just have to make an enormous amount of money to be able to afford themselves so much luxury in a country where the tax collector is claiming up until 93 percent of their yearly income. Among other things, ABBA has invested in houses, apartments, their own production company (and they are about to build a studio that might very well become the most advanced studio in the whole world!).
Among other things, the foursome has a fast sports car, an amazing sailing yacht and an island, where they find the much-needed peace and quiet. But they are obliged to make their most important investment in the Swedish government.

Hitkrant, 1977: ABBA: trading music for oil

ABBA has finally found a solution to the problem of turning the huge sums of money that are being made in Eastern European countries into hard cash. Up until now this wasn't possible, because it isn't allowed to import Eastern European money to Sweden.

To that purpose, ABBA has set up a company, together with a Swedish trading company called Beijerinvest. That company, Sannes Trading, is going to transfer the income from record sales in Eastern European countries into assets from these countries. Then these assets are going to be sold in Western European countries for a lot of money. And where these assets are concerned, they are mainly thinking about oil.

With this set-up, the limitations on import of records that these Eastern European countries are utilizing can be by-passed as well.
"In Poland, only 800.000 records from the West were allowed to be imported last year. That quantity was completely confiscated by ABBA. And to think that we could have sold millions of records over there," according to ABBA manager Stig Anderson.
Except for Poland, ABBA is also very popular in Czecho-Slovakia and East Germany. The shortage on ABBA records over there is such, that there's an enormous black market in ABBA albums.

Stig expects that this project is going to enable a larger distribution of ABBA records in Eastern European countries and on top of that an increase of trading activities for their business partner Beijerinvest. It is expected that this new project is going to make about 25 million Dutch guilders per year. Ka-ching!

Saturday 27 October 2012

Popshop, June 1977: Intimate portrait, Agnetha (from ABBA)

Agnetha Fältskog or Anna, the blonde girl from ABBA, was born on April 5 1950 in Jönköping Sweden. Her father was the enthusiastic organizer of singing contests for amateurs and it was only natural that little Agnetha started competing in one of these at a very young age. She still remembers how she competed as a six-year-old kid and how the audience was screaming with laughter when her pants fell down while singing. When she was ten she got her first piano and soon she was playing that instrument for hours on end, carefully choosing her own notes. Up until she was fifteen she kept entering amateur singing contests, but from then on she became a singer with a dance band, first with a local orchestra, later on as a 'guest' with other dance orchestras. At that time she also started composing her own songs and writing lyrics. One of these songs caught the attention of a talent scout at the CBS record company in Stockholm and soon the seventeen-year-old found herself on a train to Stockholm. The big boss of the record company got her a first class contract with a monthly salary for the coming five years and a deal for records and tours.

Two weeks after her first single 'I Was So In Love' was released it was already in the Swedish top ten. Agnetha quit her job as a telephone operator with a car firm and moved to a small apartment in Stockholm. Her next two singles were very successful too. They were all romantic, sentimental songs that fitted her image nicely.
The Swedish television started to get interested. She regularly performed on screen, in between her tours in the inevitable folk parks. Around that time, a German record company became interested in her as well and tried to buy off her contract. Although her popularity in Germany started to increase, she refused a contract. She also had a romance with the German lyricist Dietrich Zimmerman. They wrote a couple of songs together, but their romance faded out...
By coincidence, in a television studio, she met Björn. Three months later they secretly got engaged and moved in together in a small apartment in the Kungsholm area.
In October 1969 they announced their engagement officially and the Swedish newspapers headlined 'the pop romance of the year'. They moved to a three-bedroom apartment on the exclusive island Lilla Essenger, in the heart of Stockholm. They argued a lot, but they also had a lot of fun.
On July 6 1971, she married Björn, who had teamed up already with Benny and together they went on a couple of summer tours. But the time wasn't right yet for ABBA and Agnetha kept writing and recording her own songs. 'If Tears Were Gold' became a huge success.
Agnetha also starred as Mary Magdalene in the musical 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and the well-known song 'I Don't Know How To Love Him' was put on record, together with other songs from her folk park repertoire.
In 1973, everyone thought that this would be the year for Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid, who had become Benny's fiancée in the meantime. They entered the Swedish preselection for the Eurovison Song Contest with the song 'Ring Ring'. Agnetha was pregnant at the time and the baby was due in February 1973, around the time of the final. The quartet was prepared for everything and there was even a version of their song to perform as a trio, in case Agnetha would have to miss the final. But she made it through and managed to get to that final, but the song only finished in third place. Four days after the Swedish final, little Linda was born. From then on, Agnetha would devote her time completely to Linda and ABBA, in that order.

Tell us something more about your first love?
"I must have been around seventeen. His name was Björn Lilja, no, not ABBA's Björn, but a local boy from the neighborhood in Jönköping. It was a teenage romance. But after the romance had ended, I remember that I tried to forget about my sorrow behind the piano and that I composed a melody, very sentimental and sad, really something for young girls. The melody didn't put me in a better mood, but it was a very nice and moving piece. And it's exactly that song that gave me a record deal in Stockholm. Now I'm grateful to Björn Lilja because without that romance I probably would never have written that song. Actually we never really argued. We are still friends. And apparently he is very proud because he inspired me to write that song. When it became a hit in Sweden, he came over to congratulate me. He wanted to give me a hug but he couldn't. He had just broken both his arms in a traffic accident and they were healing in a plaster!"
What are your thoughts about your parents?
"Very positive. I owe everything to my dad. To his patience for instance. He spent hours and hours teaching me how to play the piano. He never stopped encouraging me..."
It is said that you can be very candid, but also that you are very shy. So what is it?
"In essence I am shy. I'm the country girl that made it big and the past few years I've had some difficulties with that. I tried to hide that inborn insecurity behind a mask of self-confidence. It was claimed that my behaviour was influenced by that. That I made a lot of mistakes because of that. But people exaggerate too. It was said at the time that I couldn't even handle a spoon in a restaurant and things like that. Just imagine! Of course I have made mistakes. Put yourself in my place. A seventeen, eighteen-year-old girl with all these snobs from the record industry, my language probably wasn't polished all the time. Anyone who got to know me a little better would admit that I always tried to be gentle, honest and soft. Even to journalists. But when they are not to my liking, I keep it short..."
What have been the most exciting moments in your life?
"There are a lot of them! When it comes to intensity I can't put them in any particular order. Chronologically maybe? When I walked into a recording studio in Stockholm for the first time as a seventeen-year-old girl and I heard all those musicians rehearse that first little melody that I had composed, preparing themselves for the actual recording... When I met Björn and we got engaged. I remember an engagement holiday on the sunny island Cyprus where we could do what we wanted without being recognized... The day that I got married, it was lovely!... When Linda was born... And when we won the Eurovision Song Contest with 'Waterloo'! And there are plenty more. I repeat: I've been lucky in life!"
How did you meet Björn? Was he the love of your life right away?
"You bet! I had seen him before with the Hootenanny Singers and at one time we found ourselves in the same TV studio. I walked up to him and said: 'Hello, Björn. I'm glad that I finally get to meet you. I think you are the best and I love your music!'. I really did like their music but I thought that Björn, their lead guitarist and singer was something else. I had never seen him in real life, but I remember that he looked even more handsome than on the little TV screen!"
What was so special about your wedding day?
"Everything! I know that's what every girl says but the entire day was one surprise after the other. As our venue, we had chosen an old, gothic church in a fairy-like little village. In Sweden you can get married wherever you like. In my white wedding gown I was taken to the church in an open carriage, the whole village was cheering me on. Swedish hymns were being sung and while entering the church, Benny was playing Mendelssohn's wedding march on the organ, followed by his own hit 'Wedding'. It was a short ceremony. After we were married there was some kind of uproar when we came out of the church. A police officer lost control over his horse and the animal stepped on my foot. A doctor was even called in but luckily it wasn't all that bad. He put a bandage around my ankle and it was okay. The entourage went to a tavern called White Horse for the wedding dinner. There were 39 guests and one dog - Ada, our French bulldog - and we danced to the music of Benny and his Hep Stars. Outside, hundreds of people were calling out our names, they wanted to see us once again before they headed home. So we decided to wave to them from the balcony, just like royalty. I will keep remembering every minute of that day. Even when I'm an old lady, I won't forget my happiness!"
Is it true that little Linda means everything to you?
"The birth of Linda was the proudest moment of my life. Since then, something has changed in my life. I keep making an effort to be and remain a one hundred percent member of ABBA, but my marriage and Linda now come first. I couldn't care less if the show business would turn its back on us or me. I would simply withdraw and devote myself completely to playing the part of a wife and mother. Especially when we're on tour, I miss Linda terribly. Every second away from her is real torture..."
Are you really as superstitious as is often claimed?
"We really are. Björn's secret weapon is his guitar, designed and shaped as a star. Anni-Frid has her sombrero and I have a stuffed donkey as my good-luck charm. It's very big and inconvenient, but I drag it along everywhere I go. People even make jokes about it, but I don't mind. Agnetha and her donkey, you know..."
Do you never argue: four people who have to work together every day, don't they get tired of each other?
"Benny and Björn get along really well, they are  men and they complement each other musically too. Anni-Frid and I get along fine as well. Until recently we lived quite close to each other, but now we only see each other during tours, rehearsals and performances. But the fact that we still spend our holidays together proves that we are really quite taken with each other. Whenever there are problems in the ABBA camp, we talk about them democratically before decisions are being made. Everything is discussed. Even the outfits that we are going to wear when we perform. My long hair is always a subject of discussion too. Personally, I would like to cut it short, but the other three prefer the long hair. And then I give in. That's democracy!"
People tend to call you the 'beauty' of the group, the sexy one, the girl with the most beautiful legs. How do you respond to that?
"Me, sexy? Come on. I'm actually somewhat prudish, at least according to Swedish values. But that long, blonde hair is making a big impression, especially in Italy and Spain. I don't dare to go out on the streets alone over there! Outsiders may think that's fun, but I don't. I would rather have short and dark hair..."

Sunday 30 September 2012

Story, September 1977: Dutch kindergarten teacher discovered ABBA's Björn

On his first day, the Swedish little boy at the Amsterdam kindergarten didn't dare to open his mouth. Later on, he sang a St. Nicholas song in perfect Dutch.

23 years ago, a blonde little boy with a timid face stepped into May Borghols' private kindergarten class in the Van Eeghenstreet in Amsterdam at the hand of his mother. He desperately longed to run back to the car with driver, that brought him here and that was now waiting for his mother outside. He himself would have to stay with all these foreign children, who all spoke such a weird language. A couple of days earlier, he had arrived in Holland from his home country Sweden for a stay of approximately one year. His father, who was working in the paper industry in Sweden, wanted to check out the working methods at the company Van Gelder in Velsen. His mother decided it would be the best thing for young Björn to go to school in this foreign country, more particularly to the kindergarten class of singing teacher May Borghols, where more children of different nationalities were accomodated.

All of a sudden, the entrance of little Björn springs to the mind of Mrs. Henny Otten-Hobby from Almere-Haven - at the time the assistant of May Borghols - when the group appears on the television screen when she is watching the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976 with her family. "I know that one!" she exclaims. Her husband starts laughing. "But you have never even been to Sweden," he remarks.
"No," she says. "I've never been to Sweden, but that one ABBA member has been to Holland in the past! He was in my kindergarten class and his name was..." She thinks for a while and then she remembers: "Björn!"
The man on the screen turns into that little boy again, who was having such a rough time those first days at school, because no one could understand him. She even remembers a photograph with Björn on it. Industriously, she starts looking, but the photograph doesn't surface until she moves to a new home.
"Björn was a quick learner," she tells Story later on. "Mrs. Borghols and I paid extra attention to him those first few days. We pointed to all kinds of objects and told him what they were called. Soon he started talking a little and after a few months he spoke Dutch nearly as well as his Dutch friends. But he was a very modest little boy: maybe even too modest."
After she had seen ABBA win successfully with 'Waterloo', even more memories surfaced with Mrs. Otten. She saw little Björn playing in the Vondel park again, that was adjacent to the garden of the kindergarten class. And she remembered again how the blonde little boy ate his sandwiches at school during lunch time, because this was convenient to his parents.

"But my fondest memory is the St. Nicholas party," says Mrs. Otten. Quite some time before the party, we started teaching the children St. Nicholas songs. Since Björn didn't know who that important man was who would come over on his birthday and bring presents, we showed him some pictures and drawings of St. Nicholas. He was great at learning these songs. We were astonished how well he could remember all these (to him) unknown melodies and how well he could sing in tune. When St. Nicholas finally arrived, Björn was allowed to sing a song for him on his own. He was beaming with pride and so were we, because he did a great job. Who could have guessed at that very moment that he would become one of ABBA's B's and would make such beautiful songs himself?

Monday 24 September 2012

1978: Why ABBA's Agnetha was pregnant for fourteen months...

Blonde Agnetha from the pop group ABBA couldn't be happier with her young baby. Little daughter Linda, from Agnetha's marriage to the other ABBA star Björn, is quite taken with her little brother as well. There's only one person who has his doubts about this addition to the ABBA family: manager Stig Anderson. But he was also the one who stretched Agnetha's pregnancy to fourteen months.

"Yes, I'm really sorry," ABBA manager Stig Anderson proclaims, "but it's just not possible to do this photo shoot today!" Photographer Barry Levine, the man that took practically all pictures of Sweden's export article number one the past few years, isn't happy about this arrangement at all. He flew in especially from Los Angeles. But he has to deal with the facts no matter what, even more so when Anderson tells him that Agnetha is pregnant. We are talking about October 1976.
In May 1977 Levine travels to Sweden again for a photo session for the inner sleeve of the ABBA album 'The Album'. Agnetha is still pregnant and perhaps because of that a little moody. Barry notices that the atmosphere during the photo shoot is very tense at times. A heavy rivalry between Agnetha and the dark-haired Anni-Frid seems to have evolved. In December 1977 Agnetha gives birth to her little son Christian. So that's a pregnancy of fourteen months, and medically a unique occurance. Or... was there something else going on?

Manager Stig Anderson pretends to the outer world that everything is fine. And that isn't so strange because now that ABBA is about to achieve their big breakthrough in America, a quarrel among the four members would be very inconvenient.
"This is exactly the time that we have to make sure that the money keeps coming in," Stig says. "That's why we have to go after the dollars. Indeed, the girls can't keep on waiting until they have to bounce around on stage as old grandmas..."
It's clearly the vision of a tough businessman and that Anderson surely is. The sexy singers of the group are an important ingredient in the success of ABBA and you can't take advantage of that forever. On top of that, things weren't all well in the ABBA circle between the two singers and now it seems almost certain that Anderson has used Agnetha's pregnancy to calm the group down a bit. That's why it had to take that long. You couldn't come up with a better excuse, and probably Agnetha herself has made good use of it as well. After all, it's a public secret that the dark-haired Anni-Frid has become ever more envious of blonde Agnetha, who mostly steals the show during performances. And it isn't a secret either that Anna has recorded a solo record in the meantime. However, manager Stig Anderson has explicitly banned its release.
"The group has to remain a unity," he exclaims, still in an excited manner, thinking about the dollars that are about to pass him by. In the end, Anni-Frid has given in as well. But for how long? At least for the time being little Christian has subconsciously prevented the group from breaking up. But Anni-Frid isn't pleased at all about the fact that her own fiancé Benny, who's responsible for ABBA's image for the most part, is giving Agnetha so many chances to steal the show on stage.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Story, 1977: Is ABBA going to split up?

What's really true about the rumour that the four members of ABBA don't get along that well anymore? Is it true that blonde Anna, now that's she is expecting a baby, doesn't feel like doing alle these performances any longer? What's true about the rumours that ABBA is going to split up?
Only recently, Björn (the one without the beard and Anna's husband) felt the need to answer all these questions. He said: "Of course we do have arguments from time to time. It so happens that we are four different personalities and we all have our mistakes and flaws. But we are very open, therefore we always talk things out right away. Indeed, Anna is pregnant but we planned that in such a way that no performances will be endangered. Anna is actually the group member who likes to perform most of all. And now the answer to the last question. Of course, ABBA is going to split up eventually. It's just not something for anyone to be concerned about just yet. Because we are only going to split up when people stop buying our records. All four of us know that that time will come eventually, but we hope that won't be any time soon."

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Pop Foto, 1978: Agnetha will not be singing for the time being: "Everything has to make way for my little son!"

Quietly, she's gazing into the distance, the tiny bundle pressed against her. On the white hospital night table beside her, there's an empty bottle of champagne with a couple of half full glasses... The visiting hour at Stockholm's Danderyd Sjukhus is over and Agnetha Ulvaeus is exhausted, just like her one day old little son. She is not as joyful as the other women in the hospital's large maternity ward, but then again, Agnetha has a lot to think about...

She has to make a decision now. Not only about her own future, but about the future of four other people as well. Whatever she decides, the life of her husband Björn, who has just been babbling blissfully to his little son, is going to change radically. And the life of Anni-Frid and Benny, her colleagues and best friends, won't stay the same either... The small human being on her chest, so perfect and yet so helpless, makes such a decision inevitable... But it's difficult to decide if you're going to be a housewife from now on who lives for her children first and only then for herself or... pursuing your own and three other people's career, no matter what! The pink miniature fingers of the baby move against her body for a while. The voices and the relaxed laughter of only moments ago still seem to hang around the room, just like Anni-Frid's perfume and the scent of the flowers she brought along... A nurse enters the room quietly and takes along Agnetha's baby. She should get some sleep herself, just like her little baby, that doesn't even have a name yet. But when Agnetha finally shuts her eyes, it's late in the evening of 6 December 1977...

In the night of 4 to 5 December the new little human being was born, that's going to change everything radically that has to do with the group ABBA. It weighed 3.750 gram, it measured 54 centimetres from head to toe and it had a couple of great lungs.
Still a normal child, like thousands are being born in the world. But this youngest member of the Ulvaeus family is still different from other babies, because his parents make up one half of the world famous group ABBA, and then there's also his sister Linda. As long as Agnetha toured around the world with ABBA she has occupied herself with one thing: the fact that little Linda became a stranger to her. An unpleasant experience with a nanny, whom Linda mistaked for her mother, was a wake-up call for Agnetha. But still Agnetha continued with a brave face, working extra hard, to be able to be with Linda at least a couple of months per year. And then her little son announced himself...
"Actually," Björn told us right after our visit at the hospital that sixth of December, "we haven't dared to think about our future yet. You know that we kept working very hard, despite Agnetha's pregnancy, to complete the ABBA movie and our new album before the delivery. Now the job is done, our baby has been born and... now we don't know what to do. Sorry, guys, but I can't tell you anything about ABBA's future because we just don't know anything yet! Anni-Frid, Benny and I have decided to leave everything up to Agnetha...!"

That was almost a month ago. All this time, the editors of Pop Foto have been waiting anxiously for that one relieving phone call from Sweden, wherein we would finally be told what Agnetha had decided. Just before this issue went to the printing office, the message came through: Agnetha has decided not to do anything at least until the end of February or the beginning of March. Maybe shoot a promotional film for the single that's going to be the follow-up to 'The Name Of The Game' and that's going to be titled 'Take A Chance On Me', but apart from that... There won't be any album recordings, nor any promotional trips to far off countries... Agnetha is going to take it easy for the time being and only in March she is going to decide what ABBA's future will look like. Together with tens of thousands of ABBA fans, Pop Foto is waiting, almost in unbearable tension...

Thursday 9 August 2012

Bravo, March 1980: Star-magazine - All about ABBA

On stage just as good as on record.
Australia, America, Europe - there are not many countries in the world where ABBA hasn't performed yet. But no matter where they took to the stage, the concerts were always sold out. In Australia they performed in front of 25.000 fans in the pouring rain, and no one left before the last note had been played. In London, ABBA could have played 625 concerts in the biggest hall - the Royal Albert Hall - that many fans had applied for tickets. In Stockholm, ABBA performed at the Stockholm Royal Opera House in front of the Swedish Queen Silvia and King Karl Gustav in June 1976.
In Germany, ABBA was celebrated like hardly any other group as well. They already performed three times - in 1974, 1977 and 1979 - in our country. The tickets were sold out within a couple of hours. Faster than had ever happened before in pop history.

ABBA's everyday life: sometimes in a private jet, sometimes at the office.
For pop fans all over the world, Baldersgatan 1 in Stockholm is the hottest address - it's ABBA's headquarter. This is the location, from where Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid are running their career in large and roomy offices. It's where the stereo equipment, record players, tape recorders are located to listen to their records and tapes. There's also a lunchroom, a gymnastics room for Agnetha and Anni-Frid's dance lessons and it's the headquarter of the fanclub and the place where the numerous gold records are retained.
But the actual studio is in the city centre.To that purpose, ABBA has bought an old, worn out cinema and had it completely rebuilt.
Profile: Agnetha.
Agnetha Fältskog was born on 5 April 1950 in Jönköping. She is 1,72 metres tall, has light blonde hair and blue eyes. When she was still a child, she already composed her first songs. After secondary school she started working as a telephone operator at a car firm. In the evenings she sang with an amateur band. When she was 17, she already had her first hit in Sweden. Altogether, she recorded five albums and fifteen singles as a solo singer. She met Björn in 1968.
Agnetha and Björn: divorced - but friends.
In January 1979, the report that Agnetha and Björn wanted to get a divorce dropped like a bombshell. Up till then, they were perceived as a dream couple. Seemingly happy, they lived in Lidingö in an eight room mansion, built in 1940. In 1973, daughter Linda was born and not until December 1977 their son Christian.
Meanwhile, they are divorced, the children are living with Agnetha. But Björn is allowed to see them whenever he wants. The outspoken and temperamental Agnetha and the always quiet-acting Björn got acquainted in 1969 during a television performance. One year later they got engaged and on 6 July 1971 they got married.
It was the pop wedding of the year in Sweden. When they were on tour they were looking out for a church they wanted to get married in. Eventually, they found the right church in the small village Verum in the south of Sweden. Back then, Benny was sitting at the organ and played Mendelssohn's wedding march for the couple. 3.000 fans had come to Verum. Now that's only a beautiful memory for the both of them, but despite the divorce they remained good friends.
Profile: Björn.
Björn Ulvaeus was born on 25 April 1945 in Göteborg. He is 1,76 metres tall, has blonde hair and blue eyes. He started his career in the early sixties with the folk group The Hootenanny Singers, and he also wrote their songs. He met Benny in 1972 and decided to start a new band together with him. ABBA was born...

Seven interesting questions for ABBA. Did you know that they have Bravo to thank for their logo?
Bravo: How did you come up with the name ABBA?
Björn: "When we first performed together at a restaurant in Göteborg we called ourselves Engaged Couples. But that was a flop. Our first album was billed with 'Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Frida', until our manager simply shortened our first names during meetings. That's how he came up with ABBA."
Bravo: In the beginning, there was quite some confusion - Agnetha was called Anna.
Benny: "We thought that was better because it sounded so old-fashioned."
Bravo: How did you come up with the logo with the reverted 'B'?
Agnetha: "That came up during a photo session for Bravo! We had to hold our initial letter in life-size. Benny turned around his B and we only noticed this when the pictures were ready. We liked it so much that we decided to copyright that logo."
Bravo: Why do you tour so rarely?
Anni-Frid: "On the outside it may seem that we are very lazy. But Benny and Björn often work in the studio for months and months until they have found the right songs. We don't release everything that we record. Apart from that, promotional films have to be made, photo sessions for the cover and every tour needs at least three months of preparation. We only want the best and everything has to be perfect."
Bravo: Do you often spend time together privately?
Björn: "Not so much these days. In the old days we spent our holidays and weekends together but nowadays we prefer to go our separate ways privately."
Bravo: It has often been written that Agnetha and Anni-Frid don't get along - especially on tours.
Agnetha: "That always happens when people are together. I am a fiery type of person who easily flies off the handle. But I easily get over it as well. Anni-Frid on the other hand has a thick skin, she can take a lot, until she boils over. But when we fall out, then we really do. We tell each other what we think and after that everything is fine again."
Bravo: How long will ABBA keep on going?
Benny: "As long as our fans think our music is any good. We just renewed our contract."

Profile: Benny.
Benny was born as Björn Bror Benny Andersson on 16 December 1946 in Stockholm. He is 1,80 metres tall, has blonde hair and blue eyes. With his parents as his example he started playing the accordion already at an early age. Later on he learned how to play the piano. In 1963 he started the rock group The Hep Stars and with them he received eight gold records. The group was on tour in Germany quite often as well. These days he is ABBA's sound craftsman.
Benny and Anni-Frid: a late marriage.
No matter how profoundly different they are, Anni-Frid and Benny immediately understand each other without using many words. Anni-Frid likes to go out, she loves to dance in discotheques, she likes to go to concerts and she can often be found in the cinema or at the theatre. Benny on the other hand prefers the silence of the studio, he often withdraws behind his piano for nights on end. He composes new songs or finds new sound gimmicks at the mixing console that should turn every new ABBA record into a surprise. Anni-Frid concerns herself more with the stage show.
When Anni-Frid and Benny got acquainted in 1969, they both just had a disappointing relationship behind them. They both had just got divorced, they each have two children with their previous partner. But their newfound love helped Benny and Anni-Frid to get over their disappointment. For eight years they lived together, before they got married on 6 October 1978. They had made the announcement long before that - but still it was a surprise.
Benny and Anni-Frid are living in a mansion in the upscale area of Lidingö on the outskirts of Stockholm. Their children come to visit them regularly there.
Profile: Anni-Frid.
Anni-Frid Lyngstad is the only member who doesn't originate from Sweden. She was born on 15 November 1945 in the Norwegian town Narvik as a daughter of the German officer Alfred Haase and the Norwegian girl Synni Lyngstad. Anni-Frid moved to Sweden when she was still a little girl. She is 1,72 metres tall, has brown hair and green-brown eyes. She started her career as a jazz singer in small clubs. And then she got a job as a dancer in a television ballet. She got married to the musician Fredriksson and had two children with him, Hans and Lise-Lotte. In 1968 she got divorced. In 1969 she met Benny.

From 'Waterloo' to the present.
6 April 1974 was the day that ABBA laid the foundation for their breathtaking career. On this day, they performed their song 'Waterloo' in front of more than 500 million television viewers at the Eurovision Song Contest. Beforehand, no one had expected that they would win - therefore it was all the more a suprise afterwards. But even then, many people believed it was just a one-off incident. Since 1956, no one from Sweden had won Eurovision. And never before had a group from Sweden been able to turn the pop world upside down. But ABBA did it - up till now they are just as successful as the Beatles and they are on their way to overtake the guys from Liverpool. Since 1974, they've had three hits in the charts every year - up till now there are 18 of them - and each of their albums turned into gold.
All around the world in two months - ABBA's latest triumph.
ABBA gave 41 concerts in 1979. 360.000 people saw Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid perform on stage. 50 people worked behind the scenes to make sure the show was running problem-free, a show that the four Swedes had worked on for three months. Anni-Frid and Agnetha took dance lessons, Agnetha even played piano on stage, and they also designed the costumes themselves.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Youpi, 1977: The filming of the movie tells the story of their love

In issue 14 of Youpi, we already told you in short about the new project of the group ABBA: filming a movie that's going to tell a splendid double love story, about the way that the couples in ABBA were formed. But there's talk about two other films as well. The first one will have 'ABBA in concert' as its theme. The second will be a kind of musical comedy wherein ABBA is going to star. We've promised you to tell you more about these projects. Youpi has kept its promise and presents you, exclusively, the first pictures of these three projects. But behind the cameras!

When will these films be released, where will they be released? Well, no one knows exactly. Obviously, they will be released first in Sweden, but they will probably be released all over the world. Anyhow, the entire ABBA team, headed by their manager Stig Anderson, is already working on the project. Like in all movies, they will be filmed in all kinds of circumstances and situations. But for the documentary, parts of the footage have already been filmed during their last European tour. The direction of the movie has been entrusted to a befriended Swedish director, the same director who is responsible for their promotional films.
"He is a real genius," Benny told us. "He could be famous internationally if he wanted to. But he works almost exclusively for us."

After this first film, there is going to be a musical comedy, in the broad sense of the word. "Yes," Benny continues, "you will be able to see a couple of sketches. There won't be a main theme, nor one single subject."
Benny and Björn have already started working on composing the music, while another person in their team is working on the screenplay. But nothing seems to be definitive yet.
"For now, the idea that we are exploring is the story about a girl that experiences an enormous success but eventually gets crushed by her fame, squeezed out by the people around her like a lemon that's tossed away after it has been used..."
A project like this will take them more than six months. "But at the moment we can afford ourselves to release a little less singles, so that we can prove that we are more than just a simple pop group."

The third film they are planning will be a beautiful love story. The story about all members of the group. Thanks to Youpie, you already know how Anna and Björn got acquainted. At first, they only knew each other from television, and as such they appreciated their individual artistic qualities. Then one day they appeared together in the same television programme. From that day onwards they stayed together...
Benny and Frida, they worked at competitive clubs that were situated right in sight of one another. One day, Benny came over to have a drink at the club where Frida performed and he asked if he could meet her behind the scenes. Once again, it was love at first sight.
Of course, in the cinema these stories will be a little romanticized and apart from that, the film will show how the four members of ABBA got together. But the true story will be respected and we will get to see a kind of charming autobiographical story.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Mix, July 1977: Dysfunctional sound equipment almost cost ABBA the Eurovision Song Contest

ABBA reached the top thanks to the Eurovision Song Contest. But before that happened, a lot of obstacles had to be overcome. First, stubborn 'experts' dismissed the group and after that, sound equipment threatened to be a spoil-sport...

"1973 was going to be our big year," Björn says. "We were going to make it at the Eurovision Song Contest and our success there would give us a push on our way to international fame."
Benny and Björn worked themselves to the bone to compose a winning melody, together with Stikkan Anderson, who would contribute the lyrics. "That was 'Ring Ring'", says Benny. "And we were all convinced that it was a good song. We felt that we had a real winner on our hands, but the experts dropped us like a hot brick. In Sweden, the song for the Eurovision Song Contest is being chosen by a couple of people who call themselves experts in the music industry. The general public is never asked for an opinion."
'Ring Ring' didn't appeal to the experts in any way. An enormous disappointment, especially for Björn and Benny who saw the results of their toiling go to waste completely. Stikkan immediately proved the experts wrong by releasing 'Ring Ring'. The record stormed to the top of the charts right away...
ABBA didn't grieve for long. They knew for themselves that they had sensed the taste of the general public. Four days after the Swedish pre-selection Agnetha gave birth to her daughter Linda and when she was up to working with the other three again for one hundred percent, ABBA started preparations for the year 1974. What hadn't happened in 1973, should come to fruition in 1974 in Brighton.
Stikkan's office changed into the headquarter of a General, who is going to stage the crucial battle. His 'secret service', spread all over the world, supplied worthwile information almost on a daily basis about the kind of music and lyrics that were popular at the moment and with that information as their starting point, they got to work.
Stikkan had already come up with the title of the song. It was going to be called 'Waterloo', a title that was familiar all over the world and that could be pronounced by everybody. Furthermore, it was decided in advance that the song should have a strong rhythm and Björn and Benny spent hundreds of hours searching for a catchy piece of music. ABBA couldn't leave anything to chance. The impression on the five hundred million people that would watch their performance on television had to be overwhelming. Once again, the last obstacle in the shape of the Swedish pre-selection had to be taken. But this time the choice for the winning song wasn't left to the experts but to three hundred randomly picked Swedish men and women. ABBA won!
Stikkan immediately made the most of this success and started to sell the 'Waterloo' record all over Europe. He was glowing with pride when the sales figures indicated that the record would be a surefit hit, regardless of the outcome of the contest in Brighton.
"On our flight to England we were strikingly quiet," Benny remembers. "There were no jokes being made like we usually did and everyone admitted that it was like we all had a heavy heart."
"We were reasonably satisfied with our first rehearsal," says Anni-Frid, "but then it turned out to our dismay that the music we had recorded on tapes in Sweden didn't sound right because the sound equipment was dysfunctional. Honestly, we were sweating with anxiety! If that sound problem couldn't be fixed, the entire effect of 'Waterloo' would be lost. A sound technician started to work on the speakers and he assured us that he would undoubtedly succeed in fixing the problem. We all hoped for the best."
Of the seventeen contestants - France had withdrawn due to president Pompidou passing away - ABBA was by far the least well-known act. No one had ever heard of the Swedish group and the quartet was placed worryingly low with the numerous bookmakers. The most likely candidate for the victory seemed to be the English singer Olivia Newton-John.

"Olivia was followed closely by a Dutch duo with the peculiar name Mouth and McNeal," says Stikkan Anderson. "But that didn't bother me one bit. I was so convinced that ABBA would win that I spontaneously bet twenty pounds on their victory."
On the day of the dress rehearsal the sound technician came over to tell everybody to their relief that the problems with the speakers had been solved. Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid and Agnetha put on their colourful, glittery costumes (Benny's pants were so tight that he didn't dare to sit down until after the end of the contest, six hours later) and ascertained to their satisfaction that the inimitable boom-boom sound was coming out of the speakers again in the familiar way.
Benny and Anni-Frid went out to have dinner together, Björn and Agnetha did the same and only shortly before the Eurovision Song Contest commenced they saw each other again in the room where the contestants were waiting for their turn.
"The tension in that room was beyond words," Anni-Frid says. "You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. The competitors looked at each other with faces tensed with nerves. It was terrifying. Everyone wanted to be the first to perform to get it over with. When you finished your performance, a burden was lifted from your shoulders and you could sit back and watch the others sweat. We were assigned by lot to perform in eighth place. Exactly in the middle. In deadly silence we watched the first seven contestants on the television in our waiting room. Our mouths were dried out."
"Like in a dream, we heard our call," Benny continues. "We walked through a hallway and all of a sudden we were on stage. Five hundred million people are watching us now, was the only thing going through my mind. Then we performed 'Waterloo' and we thought everything went as we had hoped. During the first bars of the song our nerves disappeared. The bond that tied us together was stronger than all the emotions and our performance went very smoothly. And then suddenly it was all over and we could go back to the waiting room."
"While waiting for the votes to come in, our nerves were boiling up again," says Agnetha. "The excitement was so intense that it almost hurt. My head was buzzing and my heart was pounding peculiarly."
"Then," she continues, "the votes of the international jury started to come in. You could hear a pin drop in the waiting room. At one moment one contestant was ahead, at another moment the other. In a fascinated manner we all gazed at the screens on which the results were projected. At one moment I got the impression that we didn't make it after all. I felt like a deflating balloon. Then Finland gave us five points which gave us the lead position again."
"And then it was all over. 'Waterloo' had acquired 24 points, six more than the Italian song 'Si'. Mouth and McNeal finished honourably in third place. A very sympathetic couple, these Dutchmen. Mouth and McNeal were the first who came over to congratulate us with our victory. They said that the best song and the best group had won. A heartwarming gesture of these young people who must have felt a little disappointed with their third place."
The next few days were a continuous frenzy of press conferences, performances on British television, honourings, champagne, official receptions, champagne, interviews, flash lights, gala dinners and even more champagne. Still intoxicated by the success of 'Waterloo', the quartet could finally find some peace and quiet, after a week of non-stop parties. Stikkan Anderson had kept his promise. ABBA, unknown Swedish ABBA, was on top.

Monday 30 July 2012

Story, January 1981: ABBA's music is keeping a mortally ill little boy alive

Making millions and millions every year with your music is very nice. But keeping a five-year-old boy alive with your music, now that's a different story. ABBA knows something about that.

One letter out of the tens of thousands that are being delivered at the offices of the ABBA management. A letter from grateful parents. At first, Agnetha doesn't even want to talk about it. It's an emotional matter between these parents and ABBA. Finally, she hands over the letter for us to read if we promise that we don't mention any names. It's a moving letter.
"Our litte son has become a victim of a traffic accident," the father writes. "He has been hit by a truck and brought over to the hospital more dead than alive. We were desperate. We didn't know what to do. He had always been so cheerful and full of life. And he loved your music. He sang along to all the songs."
The little boy remained in a coma for weeks. He didn't respond to all the sweet words that were whispered to him. Then his father got an idea. He brought along a cassette player to the small hospital bed and softly played tapes of ABBA. The little boy responded. At first almost imperceptible. Later on he moved his lips and eyelids.
"Afterwards he has been in critical condition a couple of times. When the situation was critical, no one was allowed near him," the father writes. "But I managed to persuade the doctors that they still had to play ABBA's music. After all, that had been his major joy in life."
It is unknown whether the upbeat sounds of the Swedish group played any part in it, but the boy is recovering. It will take a long time, but someday he will be healthy again. Agnetha feels a lump in her throat when she talks about it.
"It can't be described what you feel when you realize that you can mean something like this to people. It moves me deeply. And then we can't even be really credited for it. Anni-Frid and I are only singing it. It's Björn and Benny who write the music. I know it's an enormous gratification for them that they can make people this happy."
Benny confirms this. He nods and smiles modestly. "Money doesn't play any part anymore at such a moment," he says. "It would also be a big misunderstanding to think that our most important aim is making money. Then we would have quit a couple of years ago, because then we already had more than enough resources to lead the rest of our life in leisure. Music is communication. You achieve something with other people. That's important. This father's letter is proof of that. At moments like this I can only be thankful that I have the gift to be able to write such music."
Indeed, this isn't the only letter that shows what kind of impact ABBA's music has on people. Somewhat smilingly, Benny says that they have saved a couple of marriages already, that they kept desperate people from committing suicide and brought lovers together. "In their gratitude, these people write letters. We don't get to see everything that's written to us. Then we wouldn't have any time left to do other things. But we always see letters like this. It's inspiring."
It's remarkable that the four ABBA members are making millions of people a little happier with their music, but they don't get any happier themselves. Sometimes even on the contrary.
"There's an enormous amount of pressure on us," Benny Andersson says. "It has become necessary to shut ourselves off from the outer world, otherwise we wouldn't have a moment of peace anymore. That's not much fun, because in a way you are locked up. Personally, I don't mind it that much. Nor does Björn. Most of the time we are busy with our music and then we don't even notice what's happening around us. But the girls are having a difficult time with it. Especially Agnetha can't handle it sometimes."
"That's true," she says. She doesn't want to talk about her marriage to Björn anymore. That subject is closed. Everything that was true and untrue about that subject has been written already. Still she admits that the pressure of fame has had something to do with it. "The irritating thing is that this emotional turmoil had a physical effect on me as well. Time and time again I had to see a doctor. I had headaches, pain in my chest, in my arms, you name it. It was clear to that man that there was nothing wrong with me physically. He explained to me that when you are having emotional problems, it shows through your body. So I went to see a psychiatrist to explore this."
Agnetha rubs her temples for a while. Obviously, this hasn't been easy on her. All of a sudden she seems tired. "Going to a psychiatrist is a big step. Like many other people, I thought you had to be really crazy to reach that stage. But later on I came to realize that that's nonsense of course. A human being consists of a body and a mind. When there's something wrong with your body, you go to the doctor. When your mind isn't working properly, then you deserve a treatment too. But from a different kind of doctor."
It's the price she has to pay for the mind-boggling successes that ABBA has experienced, after winning the Eurovision Song Contest more than six years ago.

How is Agnetha doing now? She looks healthy and radiant, so she seems to be doing fine. "I feel good too. Psychotherapy has helped me a great deal. I try to look after my body to the best of my ability. If I can manage it, I eat as healthy as possible and I exercise a lot."
It's obvious that performing and working with her ex-husband Björn has been the cause of tensions too. It's not easy staying in each other's company when you have decided to separate.
"Oh well," Agnetha plays down that explanation. She rummages in the pile of mail and takes out the letter of the grateful father. "I could tell you long stories about my so-called inconveniences. But then I should actually be deeply ashamed. Mail like this is very instructive for me. When I lose myself in things like this, then I think that there can't be anything wrong with me. Nothing at all. Only when I would write letters like this myself, I would have a reason to complain."

Saturday 28 July 2012

Story, October 1979: Agnetha is always welcome to have a good cry with Anni-Frid

The envy that Anni-Frid once felt towards the blonde, pretty Agnetha has turned into compassion. All of a sudden, the ABBA singers have become good friends because of Agnetha's problems.

"It's always Agnetha, Agnetha, Agnetha! I've had it!" Anni-Frid once cried out, green with envy, when she read a review of their concert, the morning after ABBA had performed in England. In the newspaper it was written for the umpteenth time how attractive the blonde singer of ABBA, Agnetha, is. Meanwhile they devoted only one sentence to the dark-haired Anni-Frid: that she had an outstanding voice as well.
Until recently, falling-outs like these - fuelled by envy - occured regularly, and they obviously put their mark on the atmosphere in the group. But it was understandable too. It was extremely frustrating for Anni-Frid that the sexy looks of her blonde colleague always get a lot of praise. Because she is an illegitimate child and she was raised by her grandmother, Anni-Frid has had to deal with feelings of inferiority and these feelings only increased because of ABBA's success.
But last year, Anni-Frid's feelings of envy towards Agnetha suddenly turned into feelings of deep compassion. Frida (like she is called in short) got these feelings of deep compassion when her blonde colleague divorced from Björn. Due to the fact that the ABBA members are often in each other's company day and night, Frida and her husband Benny have witnessed up close how Agnetha and Björn drifted apart.
Frida: "It was awful seeing it happen without being able to do something about it. We saw how desperately Agnetha tried everything to save her marriage, but unfortunately she and Björn had grown apart too much already to patch things up. Björn is completely dedicated to music, while Agnetha prefers a cosy, homely kind of lifestyle. Things became increasingly painful between those two. It was terrible! When they finally decided to go their separate ways as friends, it was kind of a relief for all of us. A certain amount of tension disappeared."

In these very difficult times, Frida tried to look after and comfort Agnetha as much as possible. She knows very well from her own experience how miserable one can be when a marriage falls apart. Anni-Frid has gone through a divorce herself, before she found happiness with Benny. Because Anni-Frid knows the intense lonely feeling that comes over you in such a situation, her envy turned into compassion. "A divorce is something you wouldn't want your worst enemy to go through," she once stated. Due to this, a solid friendship evolved between Anni-Frid and Agnetha. When Agnetha told her friend Frida a couple of months after her divorce from Björn that she was head over heels in love with ice hockey star Lars Eriksson, Frida was truly happy. "I hope you will be as happy with Lars as I am now with Benny," she said cordially. And she meant it from the bottom of her heart.
But unfortunately it wasn't to be. Eriksson, about whom it has to be said that he likes to be the centre of attention, has left Agnetha's mansion in Sweden's Stockholm again. He couldn't deal with the fact that his famous girlfriend got a lot more attention than he did.

When Eriksson broke off his relationship with Agnetha, the blonde singer was sadder than ever. She loved the 29-year-old sportsman and she had high hopes that she would be happy with him. And even this time, it was Anni-Frid who was there for her right away to comfort her. "You can always call on us if you are having a bad time," she said. "Just call me when you want to have a good cry. Day or night."
Anni-Frid: "This is simply a very difficult time for Agnetha. But I'm positive that she will see it through. She just has to bite the bullet. I'm sure she will eventually find someone who will make her happy."
Isn't there any possibility that Agnetha and Björn will get back together again? "Oh no," Anni-Frid replied resolutely. "That will never happen. Thankfully they are still good friends, but there is not a bit of love between them any longer."