Sunday 17 June 2012

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1977: ABBA at work

Observing ABBA at work in the studio is almost as difficult as breaking into Fort Knox. But we did it. Our magazine was there when Anni-Frid, Agnetha, Björn and Benny were busy recording their new album, that should be released in the beginning of next year.
The atmosphere in the studio is a little irritable. It's late in the evening and the foursome has been on their feet for ten hours. "A day like this wears you out completely," red-haired Anni-Frid sighs. "The small studio, no fresh air, nothing decent to eat, just a sandwich every now and then: it's really not very pleasurable."
On top of that, Björn and Benny are perfectionists. They won't let any wrong sound or musical inaccuracy pass through.
"We are a product from which the audience can expect the very best," blonde Björn states clearly. "We won't and we can't afford ourselves a flop." But the quartet had no need to lift their fingers. They made a profit of 28 million dollars in the past few months. With this achievement, they have overtaken Sweden's most important export article Volvo.
The four of them are still not in agreement what song should be released as their next single. Either the somewhat rocky 'Thank You For The Music' or the gentle love song 'Joanne'. Anni-Frid and Agnetha are in favour of the latter. For hours, they deliberate and listen to the tapes again and again. Until they decide to go with 'Thank You For The Music'.
Blonde Agnetha is relieved and says: "That was a difficult delivery. I'm happy that we will soon be finished completing our new single, the album and our feature film. Sometimes I'm downright knocked out."
That's not surprising, after all she is already in the eighth month of her pregnancy. But despite her huge belly she is looking positively pretty and healthy. "It will certainly be a broth of a boy," she says gleefully. "And for sure enormously musical. But I won't be able to bring him along yet, when we come to Germany in January..."

Wednesday 13 June 2012

1977: Those were the days!

Did you know that Benny was already collecting gold records in the sixties, and that Anni-Frid was already on stage at the age of eleven?

"Actually, we have too little time to rummage around in memories!" Anni-Frid says with regret. "But when we start taking out old pictures, then it is guaranteed that we burst into a big laughter."
"Can you imagine Björn with a short haircut?" Agnetha grins while she shows a picture from Björn's childhood. In those days he performed with three other college boys as the Hootenanny Singers.
"I was already on stage when I was only eleven years old," Anni-Frid remembers. "I was performing a jazz number at a charity event. It's a shame that there aren't any pictures of that occasion." But the ABBA girl is proud of another picture. "I always wanted to have a happy family because I grew up as an orphan."
She shows a picture of herself with her first husband Ragnar. Today, she has completely come to terms with the fact that this marriage came to an end. Anni-Frid: "Now I have Benny and that's the best thing that could happen to me."
And Benny's favourite photograph from his past? "In the old days, I played with the Hep Stars. In the sixties, we were the most popular group in Sweden." And he shows his picture: "This is when we just got our fourth gold record. At the time I was extremely proud of our success."

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Joepie, 1979: We never want to miss the Swedish midnight sun!

Stikkan Anderson is notorious in Sweden because of his sharp statements. All Swedes were angry with him when he declared that his compatriots weren't just dumb, but even dumber than they thought. But he isn't thinking about leaving the country. Sentimental reasons are playing a part in that. "We simply love Sweden: the midnight sun, the northern lights, the woods, the Swedish summers," Stig muses.

A long time ago in the sixties, Stig had a hit. His song was translated and recorded in Dutch by country singer Ria Valk. Stig still remembers the Dutch title of the song. 'Howa jenekhhth noejahkth mah mhnei, Rockin' Billy'. Of course he means: 'Hou Je Echt Nog Van Mij, Rockin' Billy'. It even gave him a gold record. It was the start of his first company called Sweden Music, because Stikkan had discovered that the big money was up for grabs. In the sixties, Sweden Music grew into one of the biggest music companies in Sweden. During those years, Stikkan also decided to quit being a teacher. "I learned the whole profession of being a music publisher from someone from Belgium. I owe him a lot. I wouldn't be where I am today without that man."

In 1964 he decided to give other artists a chance. That's how he discovered Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (not related). In 1971 they were appointed as producers at Sweden Music. The twosome sang as well and they were accompanied on backing vocals by two girls: Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. In 1974 ABBA achieved its international breakthrough. The group only just had the name ABBA by then. And that took some doing. In Uddevalla, there was a canned fish company with the same name and at first the company's manager refused permission to lend their well-known name - all over Sweden - to a couple of musicians. He thought he had the exclusive right to that name. Eventually, the canned fish company gave in. Even today, the company is still the biggest of its kind in Sweden. But ABBA doesn't have any shares in that company. But they do have shares in the bicycle factory Monark. More than one third of the shares is in their hands. One thousand people are working at that company.

Invest-Finans is another investment of the group. That new company is closing lease contracts for expensive machinery compounds for different companies. Only recently, this company landed an order worth 100 million Swedish krona (14 million Dutch guilders). All these activities are administered by Polar Music International: Stikkan owns 25 percent of it and the rest is owned by the ABBA members.
ABBA's studio is famous as well, established in a former, huge sports hall just outside Stockholm center. Once there was a swimming pool in the building. But ABBA rebuilt it into a parking-lot. The studio is of an excellent quality. There's a long waiting list of artists who want to record there. Only recently Led Zeppelin has recorded an album there.

Stikkan Anderson would love to fix the parking problems in front of the head quarters too, but the authorities in Stockholm can't be persuaded. They won't give in, that's why Stikkan parks his car illegally every day, and every day this is costing him 75 Swedish krona (30 Dutch guilders). Today as well, he takes his parking ticket out from under his windshield wiper and gets into his Rolls Royce. In the distance, we can hear the siren of a Swedish police car. It sounds American. Stig is humming along unconsciously. Perhaps a new hit is born...