Saturday 31 March 2012

Bravo, 1977: A dreamlike movie with ABBA

That's the summer surprise from Sweden! In complete silence, Anna, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid have been filming a movie that should be out in the cinemas around Christmas. Working title: 'The Girl With The Golden Hair'. It contains scenes full of magic romance, but a lot of stage action as well and of course lots of ABBA hits. Bravo shows you the most beautiful photographs from this blockbuster and gives you an idea what it's all about...

"Of course you can't expect a crime story from us," Björn says about the ABBA movie. "Our feature film is a mixture of a documentary report and fantasy and it obviously contains a lot of ABBA music."
Just like with the Beatles movies, there is no strong plot. Instead there's a main character that leads you through the movie. It's an Australian radio DJ (played by Robert Hughes) that is assigned to get an interview with the Swedish group but encounters difficulties in his quest to get close to Anna, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny. He tries to ambush the four Swedes in their dressing rooms, in their hotel and after their concerts. But ABBA is trying their best to get rid of the annoying intruder.

"No wonder that Robert is trying to escape in a dream world," Björn chuckles. "He has dreams about beating us in a golf tournament and about Anna pampering him at a picnic. And he imagines that Anna and Anni-Frid - like two fairies - get affectionate towards him after an interview. All of these scenes have been caught on film with a lot of feeling for romance. Unfortunately our DJ is carried back from his dreams into harsh reality everytime."
ABBA has been working on the movie since the spring. Most of the scenes where filmed during their world tour that took them to Australia. Their concerts at the London Albert Hall, in Sydney and Melbourne have been filmed. Extracts from these concerts will be inserted in the movie.
Björn: "At the moment we are editing the scenes in the cutting room until we end up with a ninety minute movie. Apart from that we are working on a new album that will be the soundtrack to the movie. Our movie should be released in the cinemas - in Germany too - around Christmas."

Saturday 17 March 2012

Mix, October 1979: Will ABBA's new tour be a farewell visit?

They still perform together on stage as friends: blonde Agnetha and dark-haired Anni-Frid from ABBA. Still, the fairytale of the unknown Swedish group that achieved worldwide fame within a couple of years seems to come to an abrupt end. And the most important cause is not Björn and Agnetha's divorce, but the increasing rivalry between the two singers...

The fairytale seemed so wonderful: ABBA, four young and unknown people, who took the whole world by storm within five years. ABBA turned into an enterprise with perfect performances, well-planned tours and records that made the charts, every single one of them. But the fairytale seems to have ended now. Recent developments in the group make insiders expect that everything will start going downhill pretty soon. The big tour, that will take them to our country this week, might in fact be a farewell visit.
"Björn and I didn't see a future together any longer," blonde Agnetha stated almost a year ago in Paris, "and that's why we decided to go our separate ways. But this won't have any effect on the group. I still see a future with him as a musical partner. So it won't have any consequences at all for the group..."
Agnetha seemed to be right. ABBA kept going after Agnetha and Björn's divorce, as if nothing had happened. Still, new troubles started to arise in the group. But this time it's about the other half of ABBA, Benny and Anni-Frid. The red-haired singer and the blonde, bearded singer of ABBA got married last year in all secrecy. Because when Björn and Agnetha's relationship started to deteriorate, the attraction between the other couple increased. Manager Stig Anderson tried everything he could to control the increasing rivalry between the two female singers as much as possible. But it all seems to be in vain.
Red-haired Anni-Frid, who already had a big career as a solo singer before ABBA, allegedly prefers to continue alone with her husband. Contractual obligations have to stop her from doing that now. But nothing was standing in her way to work on her own future apart from ABBA. And she makes the most of it now.
"Luckily, I'm free to do whatever I want in that respect," says Anni-Frid. "For instance, I played the leading role in a new Swedish movie recently. I thought it was great fun to be able to act. Oh well, as long as the audience still likes ABBA's music I will probably continue working with the group. But that doesn't mean that I will occupy myself with ABBA exclusively. Because apart from a possible solo career I have my family to take care of as well. My son Hans and Benny's son Peter are living with us. And then there's my daughter Lise-Lotte and Benny's daughter Helene who respectively live with their father and mother, but often visit with us too. And then Benny: he is the best thing that ever happened to me and not ABBA!"
Agnetha has a hard time coping with all of this. Björn only occupies himself with composing songs. Anni-Frid is dreaming about a solo career with her Benny. So what remains for blonde Agnetha...?

Sunday 11 March 2012

Bravo, November 1982: The Swede with the ABBA girl

A mixture of Elton John, Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow... that's what the press sheet of the record company says. His performance is accordingly underwhelming. Indeed, Tomas Ledin is not anybody's copy, but a very headstrong, intelligent and funny type of person. Until a couple of weeks ago, no one in this part of the world knew him, but all of a sudden he is in the limelight.
And that's thanks to Agnetha. The blonde Agnetha from ABBA didn't have anything better to do than sit next to him at the piano and sing the song 'Never Again' as a duet (Musikladen, November 11). And this was cause for several speculations...
Beforehand: Tomas Ledin is not Agnetha's lover, nor Benny or Björn's brother or Frida's boyfriend. But he is closely - yes very closely - associated with all ABBA members.
As a backing singer he went along on the last big ABBA world tour in 1979/1980. He wrote the song 'Got Something' for Frida that was chosen by Phil Collins as one of the most important songs for Frida's solo LP 'Something's Going On'.
Agnetha thought he was so sympathetic and both their voices so harmonical that she recorded the song 'Never Again' (that's not to be taken literally) with him and made a musical side leap. Both ladies like him, but the gentlemen; Tomas isn't so sure about that. "I would love to record one of their songs or I would like to write a song for them. But this appetite for a collaboration is still only one-sided."
To describe Tomas' luck in the right way, we have to mention that another lady from the ABBA scene is very devoted to him: Marie Anderson, the daughter of ABBA manager Stig Anderson.
Tomas Ledin, who was born on November 25, 1952, has been a star in Sweden for ten years. When he was 18 he went to America and he wanted to become a painter. But then he discovered the guitar. And that was the first love in his life. On his return to Sweden he specialized in soft rock and soon he became one of the biggest stars in the country.
In 1979 he represented Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest - without any results to speak of. Yes, and then came ABBA.
Now he wants to give it a try in Germany. He made his debut in a very unconventional way. Four concerts in Bochum, Bonn, Frankfurt and Hamburg. All of them without an entrance fee. Whoever wanted to see and hear him could simply come.
"It's my debut," Tomas said about that. With his three piece backing band (without Agnetha) he was challenged to the extent that he ran out of English songs during the encore. He simply went on singing in Swedish. "That's typically Tomas," his girlfriend Marie said behind the scenes, "that's exactly why everybody likes him so much."

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Bravo, 1984: ABBA musical, Björn and Benny's wonderful chess move

Venue: Merano. The chess world championship between the American and the Russian. The American is accompanied by Florence Vassy, an exile from Hungary and the Russian is accompanied by the KGB delegate Molokov.
Florence and the Russian fall in love with each other during the match, that is eventually won by the Russian. With the world champion title in his pocket he doesn't return to Moskow but he asks for a political asylum in the West...
Second act: chess world championship in Bangkok. The 'traitor' the Russian has to defend his title against the new Russian champion Vilgand.
The American - present at the venue as a TV commentator - tries to win Florence back. Because her love for the Russian is put to the test when he finds out that his wife Svetlana is detained in the Soviet Union.
The end: Vilgand wins the world championship. The Russian and Florence make up their private balance...
That's the plot of the musical Chess that the two ABBA-boys Björn and Benny have written together with the Englishman Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar).
The live world premiere of Chess has already taken place at the end of October - albeit in the shape of a concert performance. In the autumn of 1985 - that's what Björn and Benny are hoping - the chess drama should be staged as a musical in London.
The song 'One Night In Bangkok' from the second act of Chess has already made it onto the charts.
It's being sung by Murray Head. The 39-year-old Englishman is known as a multi-talent. He's a singer, a movie star (Sunday, Bloody Sunday), a composer (among others for Cliff Richard, The Hollies and Roger Daltrey) and a musical star (Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar). The eighteen month long work on Chess has left ABBA as a group more or less checkmate. While the boys realised their dream of writing their own musical, the girls spent time with their families and preparing their own solo projects.
Anni-Frid - she only calls herself Frida nowadays and she lives in Paris - has already released her second solo album 'Shine'.
Agnetha is still working on her new album in Stockholm, that should be released in the spring. Nonetheless, Björn and Benny don't rule out the possibility that there will be a new album with all four ABBA members at some point in the future. But this won't be in the near future. At least that's what Björn said in our Bravo interview.
Björn: "The whole year 1985 Benny and I will be busy staging Chess. We are hoping the same people as on the record will participate: Murray Head as the American, Tommy Körberg as the Russian, Elaine Paige as Florence, Barbara Dickson as Svetlana and Dennis Quilley as Molokov."
Bravo: What gave you the idea for Chess?
Björn: "We met Tim Rice for the first time at the end of 1981. One year later, it was clear that we were going to write a musical together. We already decided on Tim's concept when we started writing in 1983. From October '83 until September '84 we worked on the recordings in the ABBA studio."
Bravo: Do you actually know how to play chess?
Björn: "I don't, but Benny does."
Bravo: Will there be a German version of Chess?
Björn: "If there is going to be a translation at all, I believe the German version will be the first one."
Bravo: Could you imagine playing a part in the musical on stage?
Björn: "No, for God's sake. The only thing I can imagine is being in the audience and watch the show."
Bravo: Actually we could have conducted this interview in German.
Björn: "Yes, when you speak slowly, I can understand you in German as well."