Saturday 21 April 2012

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: I brought ABBA gold

Our popularity poll '78: the gold Freizeit-Magazin for ABBA. Reader Bruno Pfister (18) from Switzerland brought the super trophy to the Swedish stars in Stockholm. Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid were impressed: "A big thank you to all Freizeit-Magazin readers. This award is awesome!"

For weeks, Bruno Pfister from Bern couldn't think about anything else but the presentation of the 'Gold Magazine' to ABBA. He had scored this super prize with our popularity poll '78 and - as the only one from thousands of contestants - was allowed to fly to his favourite stars in Stockholm.
This year, you have voted ABBA as your favourite pop group again - in first place! Last year, the pop couples had to settle for the 'Bronze Magazine' - in third place!
"That's right - 1978 has been our most successful year," Benny stated when Bruno presented the newlywed husband with the glittering trophy. Although meanwhile all kinds of awards belong to ABBA's daily routine, they were particularly happy with our 'Gold Magazine'. Frida: "This proves to us that we have a loyal fanbase in Germany. And for us it's good to know that the teens are sticking with us." Bruno has been a loyal fan of the group for years. At home he has collected every newspaper article in a large binder. And it's safe to assume that he knows everything about ABBA by now. Still the shy young chap - who works as an office clerk in Bern - had some burning questions to ask.
Why did Benny and Anni-Frid finally get married?
Benny: "Actually, we have wanted to tie the knot for years. But we simply didn't have the time due to our busy schedule. And apart from that we were happy without a marriage certificate as well. But now we have decided that our private life should be more important than working on the new album. And oh well, now we just got married."
Would you ever consider quitting the music business?
Björn: "Of course it's possible that there won't be an ABBA for the next twenty years. But then we would probably continue as duos or maybe on our own as well. Either way, we will never quit making music. For that matter, there are no plans for us to split up!"
When saying goodbye, Bruno was happy and sad at the same time. Our winner: "It's a pity that everything is over already. But wait until I tell my friends about this..."

Monday 9 April 2012

Bravo, November 1979: ABBA in Germany

In Germany, ABBA performed five concerts in Dortmund, Munich, Stuttgart, Bremen and Frankfurt. In between, Benny watched a soccer game, Björn ran ten kilometres every day, Anni-Frid bought new shoes and Agnetha thought about London. What else went on, you'll find out here...

It's October 26, 13.45 o'clock. Slowly the private Hawk jet aircraft taxis to a standstill and stops in front of the hall for private airplanes at the Munich Riem airport. On the side of the plane a small door opens. On five steps, Björn gets off the rented plane first. The plane that took ABBA all over the world from September 13 onwards. Then Agnetha, Benny and Anni-Frid follow.
Right away, Benny is headed for one of two BMW coupés 733 csi and gets in front of the steering wheel. He is in a hurry - on their schedule is a facility visit to the BMW factory in the Munich district Milbertshofen.
"At home I drive a 633 BMW," says Björn. "And now I would like to see my dream car, the M1." Ten minutes later they drive off. Agnetha is sitting next to him in the car, she is wearing jeans and a leather jacket, just like Björn. Benny and Anni-Frid follow in the second car. She is wearing a casual black outfit.
When they arrive at the BMW factory, Björn can hardly wait to see 'his' car. He is waiting for his chance like a child is waiting for Christmas. Finally a dark blue M1 pulls up. Only 300 of those have been made and sold already. It should cost about 120.000 Deutschmarks. Preferably, Björn would like to take one along right away. "But it's too difficult to take the car to Sweden. The Swedish customs duty will prevent that from happening."

But at least he is allowed to sit behind the wheel and take the car for a test drive. Although Björn is prepared for the things to happen, he frightenedly takes his foot from the accelerator pedal when he hears the 277-PS-strong motor howling for the first time. "Awesome," he smiles and he takes off.
Shortly before 16.00 o'clock, the fun is over. ABBA is driving to their hotel. That will be their head quarter and their home for the next two days. The first fans are already there waiting for them, asking for autographs. Patiently, they fulfill every wish, then they disappear to their rooms on the 14th floor. They have separated twin rooms - Anni-Frid and Benny as well.
Until the evening, Benny, Agnetha and Björn are nowhere to be seen. Anni-Frid drives into town to do some shopping. She returns with a pair of new shoes. "The others are tired," she explains. "Yesterday in Dortmund - our first stop - it became very late. We were invited by a brewery to a midnight party. And we partied until 4.00 o'clock."
And ABBA had enough reason to party. Up till now they hadn't been celebrated as much in any other city than in Dortmund. "We did know that we have our most loyal fans in Germany," says Björn. "But you never know exactly how the audience will respond. After all, we haven't been here since three years. But the success of the concert was overwhelming, even in our dreams we didn't expect something like this."
It's clear that this wonderful prelude put the ABBAs in a good mood. "In America we were a little stiff on stage, especially at the start of the tour. We were suffering from severe stage fright. But that is over. Despite our rehearsals that went on for weeks, only now I have the feeling that we are operating well together. Rehearsals and the actual concerts are indeed two different things."
ABBA spent Friday evening together at the Franziskaner restaurant, enjoying a typical Bavarian evening with beer, liver dumpling, Weisswurst and pork sausage with sour cabbage. After that they made a short side-trip to the Royal Court Brewery. Shortly after midnight they returned to their hotel and retreated to their rooms.
Saturday morning starts at 12.00 o'clock for Benny and Björn. For one hour they are sitting at the viewphone, patiently answering questions from fans who have called the hotel. At 14.30 o'clock Benny drives to the Olympics Hall to make sure everything is going according to plan and then he watches the Bundesliga match Bayern München against 1. FC Köln at the Olympic Stadium. During the break he eats a piece of plum pie and he signs a couple of autographs.
He is impressed: "Actually it's a shame that Bayern has lost the game 1:2. They played very fast, and almost constantly offensive. But in the end they weren't clever enough. But they did have enough chances to score goals and win," Benny thinks after the game, while he walks the short distance to the Olympics Hall.
In the meantime it's 17.30 o'clock. Slowly, Agnetha, Anni-Frid and Björn arrive at the Olympics Hall as well. Björn made use of his afternoon in his own way and he ran ten kilometres through the English garden, not far from his hotel.
"I do that every day, at least since several years. Not only since jogging has become so popular. Also in Brighton, before our Eurovision win, I ran my route already," he says. And Björn has another surprise: his new girlfriend Lena has arrived in Munich as well.

"We haven't seen each other for about a week. Last night I called her and asked her to get on the next plane and come over here. Now she will probably travel along for the remaining dates of the tour until November 15," he says.
Then Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny get on stage, while Lena stays in the dressing rooms and reads a book. "Björn and I have known each other for ten months now. We are still as much in love as on the first day. But we aren't considering to get married yet," she says.
For about one hour, ABBA is rehearsing their songs during the soundcheck, until Björn is finally satisfied. He is a perfectionist. Only when he is completely sure that nothing can go wrong anymore and the sound is correct until the smallest detail, the soundcheck comes to an end.
It's 19.00 o'clock. The first fans are storming into the hall. ABBA retreats into their dressing rooms. For Ingmari Nilsson - who is responsible for ABBA's stage outfits - the biggest task of the day is now starting: all costumes for the show have to be ironed.
Shortly before 20.00 o'clock things are getting serious. Hans - Anni-Frid's 17-year-old son from her first marriage - is accompanying the tour as a roadie. He brings a glass of champagne to the stage. Anni-Frid warms up her voice with that.
A few minutes later, the fans welcome ABBA exultantly in the sold out Olympics Hall. For two hours, the four Swedes perform their concert. The evening turns into a total triumph for them.
After the concert, I ask Björn if there is any truth in the rumours about the break-up of the group. "Complete nonsense," he says. "Why would we quit now? I am sure that we will be back in Germany next year to do some TV performances and surely we will be back for concerts at some point too. None of us is thinking about calling it a day. As long as Benny and I are able to come up with new songs, ABBA will go on."
This evening, ABBA celebrates at an Italian restaurant. Only Björn doesn't come along, he prefers to spend the evening alone with Lena.
On Sunday morning, ABBA takes off with their private jet at 11.00 o'clock already. Zürich is the next stop on their tour. But Anni-Frid is already thinking about the concert in Stuttgart, three days later. "I've invited my father Alfred Haase to that concert. Hopefully he will come. At least I would be happy to see him again."
Agnetha is especially looking forward to the concerts in London: "We will be there for six days. And our children will come over too. Because we can't take them along on the whole tour. That would be too stressful for them."

Saturday 7 April 2012

1977: Pop group ABBA wants to leave Sweden

The famous pop group ABBA is planning to turn their back on Sweden. Their manager Stig Anderson stated last Thursday that ABBA has reached this decision because the group thinks that they have to pay too much taxes.

Anderson, who made about 285.000 Dutch guilders last year: "We are thinking about moving to Switzerland, Monaco or Liechtenstein. In those countries, we could work just as well as in Sweden, maybe even better. Sweden is situated somewhat isolated up in the high North. We've already discussed this within the group extensively and we've come to an agreement."

The world famous group, that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with their song 'Waterloo', has made millions in the meantime. The ABBA concern consists of 20 people who all have steady jobs there and the company has made a profit of nearly 35 million Dutch guilders last year. In 1976, Agnetha Fältskog made 107.000, Björn Ulvaeus 104.000, Anni-Frid Lyngstad 229.000 and Benny Andersson 100.000 Dutch guilders.
Manager Anderson: "Take Frida for example, who made 229.000. Everyone obviously thinks that she is driving a Rolls Royce and bathing in champagne, but in reality things are different. From her income, she payed at least 85 percent to taxes. Everyone can understand that this even gets too much for us."

ABBA's records are selling better than ever, but especially the pop critics in Sweden are more negative than ever in their reviews. Perhaps that's partly to blame on the fact that manager Stig Anderson is sometimes a little inconsiderate in his statements.

About the extraordinary development of ABBA's success, he said: "Indeed, the Swedes are not just dumb, they are even dumber." He says there's no other solution than to leave Sweden, under the circumstances. With that, ABBA is following in the footsteps of director Ingmar Bergman, the well-known folk singer Sven-Bertil Taube and tennis player Björn Borg, who respectively moved to West-Germany, England and Monaco. For the Swedish tax-collection office it's a neverending battle of Waterloo.