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.