Monday 25 November 2013

Pop Foto, 1978: Little Agnetha softened up Agnetha

But our ABBA wanderings not only took us to West-Germany. Pop Foto was also present in ABBA's very own Sweden. Among other things, to witness how a world famous Agnetha gave away prizes to a tiny, yet very speedy little Agnetha!

Although there wasn't any snow on the rooftops, the ski slope was still covered with the white goods, and when you put your nose in the wind, you could be sure that an icicle would be formed within a couple of minutes. Hundreds of little Swedes were gathered around us, looking nervously at the top of the hill, automatically stumping on the frozen ground to keep their feet warm, their blonde little heads tucked away in gigantic turtleneck sweaters and ski helmets. To all those little boy and girl athletes this was the event of the year. Because indeed, it doesn't happen very often that your ski association is being sponsored by the most famous group in the world: ABBA! And now all those little Nils', Per's, Anni's and Kirsten's were waiting nervously for the highlight of the day. Because in just a minute, when the starting shot would sound from up the hill, their Agnetha would show ABBA's Agnetha and Björn Ulvaeus just what is happening with all those Swedish kronor that ABBA had donated to their ski association Djurgärden! In just a minute the pride of the ski slope would come sliding down like a cannonball, and obviously their favourite club member would beat all the other competition!

The children of 'Djurgärden' weren't disappointed, that Saturday. Right before the eyes of her world famous singing namesake and supported by her fiery "Heya! Heya Agnetha!", the 7-year-old Agnetha Hjort was racing to and absolute victory in the slalom competition and later on she obviously received her well-deserved reward, a beautiful silver trophy, a kiss from Agnetha, and a wonderful ABBA poster to put above her bed! The 9-year-old Anders Wiggeryd received kisses and a wonderful souvenir for his victory in the slalom for boys. And when all the seremonial grantings and speeches had been completed, the little Swedish athletes stormed into the only little tent in the ski resort Tabi, where they were selling delicious, sweet anise milk! We waited until even the smallest athlete was sitting behind his steamy mug of sweetness, and then said goodbye, glad that we could return to our own, just a little warmer, home country.

Pop Foto, 1978: Anni-Frid: "My dad should get a little trendier!"

Although ABBA's Anni-Frid may have found her long-lost father recently and although she may be ecstatic that she finally knows who he is, she can't be completely satisfied with him yet. That's what Pop Foto noticed when we followed Anni-Frid in West-Germany, where her father lives. "My dad should get a little trendier!" the pretty Swede declared jokingly, and dad Alfred would know what she meant too!

"It's hard to imagine, but if you have never known that your father was still alive, let alone who he was, then a first meeting with your own father is a complete shock. A tremendously enjoyable event too of course, but still... You don't know each other, you have both lived a completely different life," Anni-Frid told us while we were having a stimulating cup of coffee with her, Benny and her father Alfred Haase. Earlier on, in the luxurious limousine that took us to the expensive hotel in the city centre, Anni-Frid and her father had already been squabbling. And now, with Benny and a couple of 'trendy' pop journalists, as Anni-Frid called them, as extra referees, it all had to be figured out.
"Tell us what's on your mind, dad," Anni-Frid said jokingly to her 'old man' and after clearing his throat and a couple of coughs he commenced in a shy way: "Well... for example, the way you wear your hair with all these crazy little curls, I don't like that half as much as the straight hair that you were wearing a couple of months ago when I met you for the first time (see Pop Foto December '77)!" He looked a little insecure at his daughter, who sniffed in an offended way. "And then," he continued, "you are wearing these wild clothes, I mean, you are not eighteen anymore! You are a grown woman, not a young girl!"
"Now wait a minute, mister Haase," we objected. "But Anni-Frid is an artist as well and artists always look a little extraordinary. That's the way it should be!" Anni-Frid looked at us in pleased way and nudged Benny who had been following the conversation with a smile on his face, apparently glad that he didn't have to share his opinion. "Well, tell us what you think about it," Anni-Frid hissed. "Well yes, I completely agree with that," Benny replied. "And you, dad," Anni-Frid continued, "for you I will buy a couple of cool baseball shirts and some trendy jeans, something modern! And when you come back to Sweden, we are going to buy you some other hip clothes!" Dad Haase paled visibly and we, poor auditors, burst into laughter because of his anxious face, an example that was swiftly followed by Benny and Anni-Frid herself. During the course of the conversation it became clear that Anni-Frid and her father don't agree about a lot of things yet and sometimes this even turned into a heated debate! But still, at the end of the afternoon, when Anni-Frid and her 59-year-old dad had been able to speak their minds, all differences were put aside. Although Anni-Frid obviously had to have the last say in the matter. "But still I think you should get a little trendier, dad! Just wait until I have you with me again in Sweden!"

Sunday 17 November 2013

1977: ABBA - The Album album review

As might have been expected: yet another great accomplishment by ABBA. Full of exciting melodies refined with lots of musical influences. Superbly sung (especially by the girls) and brilliantly played and produced (of course by the boys). Indeed, it's virtually impossible to dislike this well-diversified album (that - apart from a three-movement mini musical - includes the already bygone single hit 'The Name Of The Game' as well!

Hitkrant, 1977: Ring Ring

And now let's cut to the chase: the ABBA album 'Ring Ring' has not, we repeat: not, been released in the Netherlands. The many readers that have written to us about this subject in the past few months can stop writing now: one of our readers has sorted it all out in detail, at the expense of several phone calls to England and Sweden. 'Ring Ring' (and now we are talking about the song) is included on 'ABBA's Greatest Hits'. The album 'Ring Ring' has only been released in Sweden by Polar Music. Satisfied?

Sunday 27 October 2013

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: Benny: this is my life

When Benny was plunking his accordion or his piano in his childhood, it was mostly his own sequence of notes. Already as a little boy he was having fun composing songs and he was successful too. As a seventeen-year-old he tried his luck with the Hep Stars, Sweden's answer to the Beatles, and with these boys he collected eight gold records, four of which were his own songs. Then ABBA came along, and once again it was Benny's task to come up with the melodies for the group, while Björn was responsible for the lyrics. In his private life, Benny is living together with his ABBA colleague Anni-Frid. However, both of his children, Helena and Peter, have been born out of his relationship with Christina, a girlfriend from his Hep Stars days. Since then, Benny's life has changed completely.

Benny is a Sagittarius. He was born on 16 December 1946 in Stockholm. When he was only six years old he tried his hands on the accordion and with a family trio he performed his first small concerts. "I've learned to play the instruments myself," he remembers today, "and I saved up my money to buy a car."

When he was only 13 years old, Benny was a regular guest at a club where young groups performed. Four years later, he persuaded a couple of friends to start playing together as a group. Soon the Hep Stars were the number one group in Sweden.

The engineer's son taught himself how to play the organ too. His sister Eva-Lise remembers: "Benny always sat down at the organ or the piano and simply started playing."

With Brigitta, the hostess of the Gamleby folk park, the Hep Stars always found a listening ear. That's where Benny was able to compose his songs for the group as well. He collected eight gold records together with the boys. But the wrong management led to bankruptcy and the end of the group.

After the Hep Stars broke up, Benny recorded a couple of songs with Björn. They brought in their girlfriends Anni-Frid and Agnetha to do some backing vocals. ABBA was born. But it would take a while before the quartet would see their potential as a group. But then they made their strike: 'Waterloo', the sensational Eurovision victory in 1974 in Brighton.

A comet on the pop scene, that would disappear just like all the others, that's what the international press thought about the Swedish pop group, after their success with 'Waterloo'.

Until today, the collaboration of the quartet has stood the test of time. Benny is the man at the keyboards, who writes the melodies and almost every one of them became a super hit for the quartet.

And once again there are gold records for Benny. Together with the three other ABBA members, he has made it a second time to the top of the ladder of success. After a sold out concert in Hamburg in 1977, the group was presented with four gold discs! For the hit record 'Fernando' and three other albums.

The Hep Stars years were pretty wild for Benny, privately as well. His girldfriend Christina had two of his children. But Maria (picture) was one of his love interests as well. Until he met Anni-Frid.

With the Hep Stars, Benny learned to deal with all the highs and lows of being successful. Then he met Björn Ulvaeus at a party. That's how a long friendship started.

For more than eight years, Benny has been living together with Anni-Frid. "Benny is the best thing that ever happened to me," Frida once confessed. And Benny said sincerely: "We are happy, even without a marriage certificate."

In the past year, the four Swedes tried their luck as show stars and movie actors for the first time. 'The ABBA Story', that's how the show of several hours was called, that the Swedish broadcasting company made together with the world famours stars.

The ABBA film 'ABBA - The Movie' came into being in the summer of 1977 in Australia and it tells the story of a DJ that is dreaming about an encounter with the group. The film came to our cinemas in February.

Monday 7 October 2013

De Telegraaf, February 2000: Why does ABBA refuse 2 billion for a comeback? The illusion is bringing in more money

More than 25 years after they conquered the world, ABBA has refused an offer of more than two billion Dutch guilders for a comeback! Why are they saying no to this fabulous amount of money that surely can be called a world record: ABBA member Benny Andersson said yesterday: "It's an awful lot of money to say no to, but it's not for us. We never wanted to make a comeback. So many others did; I believe that this already says a lot."

The enormous offer is coming from a British/American entertainment company that wanted to reunite ABBA for one hundred concerts. The Netherlands, where ABBA is extremely popular, was also meant to be included in the world tour schedule!
It has been announced that the former Swedish group will never reunite on stage again. The two women in the group, Anni-Frid and Agnetha, have withdrawn completely from show business. Agnetha lives almost as a recluse in a Swedish village and Anni-Frid - better known as Frida - now lives in Switzerland.
Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson are still active in show business. Their most important task is taking care of the interests of their former ABBA hits. And these hits are making them even richer than they already are because of the copyrights that keep pouring in, especially since ABBA seems to be more popular now than ever before.
The Swedish group scored 23 hits between 1974 and 1983, out of which eight reached the number one spot in the charts. Although they don't perform together any longer, lately they have conquered a whole new generation of fans with these songs. Contemporary groups and bands like Westlife, Bewitched, Steps and A-Teens are releasing their own versions of ABBA's hits.
Also the musical 'Mamma Mia!' that is packing the theatres in London at the moment and that is based on the ABBA hits, is bringing in millions for ABBA due to copyrights and box-office money. The show is co-produced by Björn and Benny. Obviously, the success of the show is a major promotional tool for the ABBA greatest hits CD's that have become best sellers in the Netherlands as well.
In all, ABBA sold about 350 million records after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with the song 'Waterloo'.
ABBA consisted of two young married couples, that however got divorced at the height of their fame. Agnetha was married to Björn and Benny was married to Frida.
After the ABBA success, the two women tried their luck with a solo career to no avail, but Björn and Benny's career went very well. They wrote the musical 'Chess' together.
So what is the secret of ABBA's current success? Benny said: "I think the reason is that we never got back together after we called it a day seventeen years ago."
The group became immensely rich! In all, they made about two hundred million with their songwriting and another eight hundred million with record sales, films and concerts. Now they were able to make almost twice as much with one hundred concerts as they did during their entire active ABBA period.
But Benny and Björn prefer to keep the legend intact by keeping the illusion of ABBA alive, and history has proved them right.
The ABBA of today is considerably older as well. Björn is now 54, Benny 53, Frida 54 and Agnetha 49. And although the audience may admire older male rockers, it would be difficult for the women to rekindle the old ABBA style. Apart from that, Agnetha is mentally not up to it, according to friends. After her marriage she withdrew from public life. All of a sudden, she developed a fear of flying after a flight that she barely survived. Furthermore, she experienced a train accident that was quite traumatizing too. She felt herself drifting away from the group more and more.
At one point, Benny and Björn demanded a higher percentage of the re-releases of their old hits. In this new century, ABBA's success has turned into a remarkable trend in show business. After the big success of girl groups like the Spice Girls and boy bands like Take That, now it's the time for mixed groups, that are clearly inspired by ABBA.
The former manager and instigator of the Spice Girls, Simon Fuller, said: "ABBA is the standard for all these groups. With ABBA, everything was perfect: the idea, the styling and the songs."
However, the most successful idea to cash in on the current ABBA mania came from the Swedish record company Stockholm Records. They launced the teen band A-Teens. The A-Teens are singing the hits that were loved by their parents and grandparents in a contemporary style. The most important condition was that not too many things were to be changed. But it all  had to sound a little younger and more modern.
And that's how Amit (16), Sara (15), Dhani (15) and Marie (16) are now singing the ABBA hits. To inexperienced ears, the songs are sounding the same as the originals; there is no rap interlude or something else that might disturb the ABBA illusion. But there is one difference: it's all a bit faster, the grooves are a bit more energetic. And that's how the A-Teens actually united two groups in one group.

Saturday 5 October 2013

February 1978: ABBA, number one sellers in Britain in 1976-77

ABBA has conquered the second global pop market: England. Last year, the quartet that won the Eurovision Song Contest with 'Waterloo' struggled to carry all their profits from the United Kingdom to their own country, Sweden, because the English Treasury prohibited the export of so many millions of pounds, even though they were earned honestly, out of the country. It's a fact that the British people really like the music and the style of ABBA.
In 1976, 'Greatest Hits' was the biggest selling album in England and when 1977 drew to a close recently, ABBA repeated this triumph when 'Arrival' was elected as the biggest album of the year, and still 'Greatest Hits' has remained in the top 5. On top of that, all singles that were released by ABBA in Britain last year have reached number one in the charts.
And so it seems, all of this is still nothing compared with what's going to happen in 1978. The quartet's fifth album 'The Album' has already been released in half the world, but the most important thing is the premiere of their first feature film, 'The Movie' that has been filmed by the prestigious Warner Brothers during their Australian tour in 1977. In January, the film has been released in Sweden with an overwhelming success. This past February, it was heading for London and Warner Spain has scheduled its release in Spain for March or April, provided there won't be a change of plans.
It hasn't happened very often that a festival like the Eurovision Song Contest launched a vocal ensemble whose style is taken from the best beat of the sixties, to the style of the Seekers or the New Seekers.

Sunday 8 September 2013

Bravo, 1979: Agnetha: in love with an ice hockey player... and that's Björn's new love interest

Finally they are beaming again! Agnetha and Björn, who caused rumours about the group splitting up because of their private crisis, seem to be completely changed by love. Bravo describes how it all came to be...

It happened at the discotheque 'Atlantik' in Stockholm: at the beginning of this year a party had been organised that was attended by Swedish stars, athletes and other celebrities.
Agnetha, who had separated from Björn only recently, was rather depressed at the time and actually only attended the event to distract her mind. The break-up with Björn after almost eight years of marriage had been harder on her than she wanted to admit.
She hoped to spend a couple of uncomplicated, cheerful hours at the Atlantik party. Her mind wasn't set on flirting at all. But all of a sudden there was this good looking, tall guy in front of her who asked her to dance. They danced together once, twice, three times and suddenly it happened to Agnetha: she had fallen in love head over heels with the 29-year-old Lars Erik Erikson (he is the same age as she is)...
After having kept her romance a secret for several weeks, Agnetha now openly acknowledges her relationship with the ice hockey player: "I'm serious about Lars Erik. We meet on a regular basis and get along wonderfully." Lars Erik mostly drives to his training sessions in Agnetha's car, a BMW. He still has his own place in Enskede near Stockholm but it's only a matter of time before the couple will move in together.
So who is this Swede, that managed to break the ice with Agnetha so rapidly? Lars Erik plays with the first rate ice hockey team Tre Kronor 1977. However, he hasn't managed to get into the national team yet. No wonder: from his previous team Brynäs he has the reputation of being more interested in discotheques and girls than in serious training sessions. And he doesn't see his future in ice hockey: he wants to a be gymnastics teacher and at the side he is studying English and Biology. He has already completed half of his studies but he is still four semesters away from his civil-economic exams. He shares one hobby with Agnetha: music. Lars Erik likes to play the guitar.
Björn has found a new girlfriend as well. Her name is Lena Källersjö and she already moved in with him in his mansion in Lidingö. Both of them don't make a secret of the fact that they love each other. Their love affair started at a social function as well: they got to know each other at a party that was hosted by Anni-Frid and Benny. Lena and Anni-Frid are good friends.
The fact that Agnetha and Lena like each other too contributed to the enhancement of the atmosphere within the group after a long period of troubles brewing. Just like Agnetha and Björn, Lena is taking care of both children Linda and Christian from the ABBA marriage as well.
Since the sun is shining again with ABBA, the four of them are able to deny in a credible manner the latest rumours about the group (rumours that claim that from next year onwards only Anni-Frid and Agnetha will be seen on stage while Björn and Benny will only concentrate on producing the songs behind the scenes). Björn: "Our new goal is our autumn tour that will take us to Germany as well in November. And indeed the way the fans want to see us: as a foursome."

Saturday 31 August 2013

Joker, October 1978: Anni-Frid and Benny's secret wedding

Even their best friends were clueless when Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad got married on Friday 6 October in the church of Stockholm's luxurious suburb Lidingö.

They had been engaged and living together since 1970. One year earlier they met each other for the first time in Malmö. Frida was still singing with the piano player Charly Norman at that time, Benny played the electric organ with the Hep Stars.
At first no one wanted to confirm the wedding of one half of the ABBA quartet. But in the end their manager Stig Anderson confirmed: "Yes, it's true. But I don't know any more than that. It is a private matter for both of them."
That's when Benny and Anni-Frid's friends also understood why they had been invited to a small party in their mansion on Saturday night. The first well-wishers were Agnetha and Björn. Among the approximately 20 guests was of course Stig Anderson as well. No family members were invited to the party. Even Anni-Frid's father Alfred Haase had to admit a couple of days later: "I'm sorry. I don't know anything about it."
The party guests brought along five colorful signal flags on a leash on October 7. The blue-white-red-yellow rectangles spelled out 'Lycka' (Happiness) and that's really the only thing that both newly wedded (for Anni-Frid it's her second marriage) motorboat owners have left to wish for. Apart from that, they and the younger, since 1971 married, other ABBA half Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog have everything they could long for: a lot of success, money and an unabated joy in their job. However, their private lives are only their concern.
Benny (31) and his dance addicted Frida (33) belong to the 'beautiful people' of Stockholm's fancy discotheques. Agnetha (28) and Björn (33) on the other hand have become even more homely since their second child was born. They weren't even present when ABBA's own art gallery 'Nova' had its opening recently with a lot of show business.
Both couples live in the same luxurious suburb Lidingö in Stockholm but they live far enough from each other so that they don't get annoyed with each other. That's really the requirement in order for the four so different but so complemental characters to cooperate in this manner, despite all those rumours about quarrels and jealousy. And they keep working together with a relaxed sense of purpose: "We will keep working together as long as it's fun and as long as people buy our records."

These records are made at their own 5-million-studio in Stockholm's former sports palace. A lot of people contribute to the specific ABBA sound. In first place, sound engineer Michael Tretow, a bearded roundhead who manages the 3.500 switches of one of the most advanced mixing equipment in the world with ease.
Benny is full of admiration: "I can't explain which switches a technician has to manage to create something that I am looking for. But Micke understands immediately."
To Micke, those switches represent a manageable and fantastic world of sound. "A phaser sounds like a bomber squadron before its landing. An expander sounds like an animated beaver that grinds its teeth and a compressor like a moose that trots through a swamp."
Björn: "Many people think that our success is the result of the use of superior engineering. Of course we would be idiots if we didn't make use of that. But in the end we are the ones who make the music, even when it's coming out of a synthesizer afterwards."
At the end of September Benny and Björn started working on their new album that should be titled 'Dream World' and be released before Christmas. 'Dream World' is a slow rock melody. Björn wrote the lyrics. The melodies were created by Benny and Björn during long, isolated days at the piano and guitar, accordion and drums, music paper always close at hand. At first they record the backing track in the studio with three session musicians and Micke's congenial engineering. When Agnetha and Anni-Frid joined them on the third day of recording, they hadn't even seen the lyrics nor heard the melody. And still the songs were tailor-made for them, as always.

But meanwhile the women haven't been lazy. Every day, Anni-Frid is taking singing lessons with vocal coach Inga Sundström. Agnetha twice a week. Once a week, Anni-Frid is dancing jazz ballet under the guidance of an American instructor. Agnetha is keeping up her stage stamina with cross-country runs. Daughter Linda even thinks she is faster than her daddy because she is back for her shower sooner than he is. But 2.000 metres is enough for Agnetha, who likes black cigarettes. Her husband Björn is running 15.000 metres effortlessly. Recently he even ran 30 kilometres in the Lidingö run of long-distance runners.

In November ABBA will go on tour in Japan. On their way back they will stop over in Los Angeles where they are going to perform on the Dick Clark show. They are also expected for a TV show in France and in January with Mike Leckebusch in Bremen. In February, one or two further TV specials will be filmed in Germany as well.

Monday 8 July 2013

Fan Magazin, 1979: ABBA, fun in the snow

Dear readers!
I'm happy that I can have my say here. Because since my divorce from Björn, ABBA has been exposed to the wildest speculations. Although ABBA is involved in our private lives only at the sidelines, it's important when you can take a stand somewhere and finally say what's really true about all those rumours. In many publications there have been lots of wild speculations whether this would mean the end of ABBA or rumours have been spread that I had an affair with a psychiatrist in Stockholm. And many people especially wondered why there has been a divorce in the cleanest group in the world. I want to say on this occasion that we were not the ones who established the image of the 'almost sinless' group ABBA out there in the world. Many people portrayed us the way they wanted to see us. But we merely contributed the music to ABBA. Perhaps there are a couple of rock groups who - with the help of smart advertising people - are working to create a 'divine image'. But all of us are convinced that you can't maintain an artificial personality in the long run. Björn, Benny, Frida and I are not perfect people, like many would like to see us. We too have problems and very personal flaws. That's why you have to look at our divorce as a purely human issue. It was simply more honest to separate than to keep pretending in order to maintain a good reputation. Things weren't working out between Björn and me for quite some time. But we tried everything to get back on track. Yes, we even went into counseling with a psychiatrist who should get to the bottom of our problems. On this occasion the rumours about an affair started to emerge.
We wanted to stop those rumours right at the beginning. Björn and I didn't want people to openly rack their brains about our marital problems, just because we were seen with a psychiatrist. That's why we counseled this man at odd hours. I'm sure someone saw me with him at an unusual hour and therefore believed I had an affair. But there can really be no question about an intimate relationship. Björn and I are merely on friendly terms with this psychiatrist and we still counsel him, by the way.
The only man in my life at the moment is my son Christian!
Agnetha Fältskog

Hello friends!
What Agnetha has just told you is exactly right. The psychiatrist is really a good friend to us both. There is absolutely no romance between him and my ex-wife. And just like there is only one man in Agnetha's life at the moment, for me there is only one woman in this world: my daughter Linda!
Although I seem to have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire by now. In the meantime I have been accused of having an affair myself. Surely you must have heard about my tremendous flirt with the pretty Boney M singer Liz Mitchell. Well, this 'romance' wasn't as hot as it was explained by some newspapers. The saying that things are never as bad as they seem is especially applicable to us cool Swedes. However, Liz Mitchell is really a wonderful woman. A real sport, intelligent, pretty and always in good spirits. I spent a couple of wonderful evenings with her in Leysin, but there absolutely isn't anything more serious between us. Liz has her fiancée that she is very fond of and soon will be married to. And I don't want to be tied up this quickly either. It's not as simple as that!
I met Liz on our second day in Leysin. We danced together a couple of times at the hotel disco and later on we joined the other Boney M members at the table. I got along great with Liz right away. She is a very religious person and that's why we talked about religious matters. I must admit I was really amazed by Liz' amazing mindset.
Later on I took her to her room. But I didn't stay there! After one last 'night cap' I went back to my room. You should have heard Benny, Agnetha and Frida the next day. During our drive to the shooting location they wanted to know all about it and squeezed everything out of me! They mocked and laughed and poked fun at the 'new' Casanova in the group...
Björn Ulvaeus

Dear ABBA-fans!
To tell something about a new ABBA album is almost more difficult than actually composing the songs. It's not that everything that we have pieced together during months of hard work has to remain a secret, like it is often assumed. Usually we ourselves only know shortly before the album's release what is actually going to be on it.
For starters, the most important thing: the new album will be released at Easter. To us, that's a very important date that we can't overdraw. Around that time, the programme 'Snow Special' will be broadcast, that we filmed in Leysin. And according to the people from the broadcasting company, this programme will be watched by more than 500 million viewers in 16 countries. You can surely imagine that that will be a priceless promotion for our new record, that we don't want to miss out on!
A couple of months before an album is released, we are often asked about the title of the album and about the individual songs. As usual, I will have to keep these questions unanswered this time as well, because I don't know myself. Experience has shown that we agree on the title for the album shortly before the cover is being made. Sometimes even after the photographs have been taken. At least that's how it was with 'Arrival'. With our previous album it was something different. The title 'ABBA - The Album' was linked directly to our feature film. Not only because it was its soundtrack. We racked our brains for nights on end about the title for the movie. Over and over again we were looking for a suitable title for 'the movie'. Until we decided to keep it that way in the end. Naturally we applied this brilliant idea to our new record and our book as well. So you shouldn't be surprised if we decided - out of lack of originality - to call the new ABBA record 'The New ABBA Album'!
It's far more important for you to know if we more or less stay true to our sound on the new album. Or if it suddenly sounds like Led Zeppelin. Indeed, this British rock group was in our studio recently and recorded their new album there. On this occasion I must put an end to a rumour that a clever Englishman put in the papers. He actually thought that we had rented our studio for free, with the intention that this would be mentioned in the newspapers. We all make mistakes, but Led Zeppelin paid 650 Swedish kronor per hour, which is about 300 German Mark.
But now back to our album. I can assure you, it still sounds like ABBA, but not the way you have been used to. On our new album we try to put as much variation as possible into our arrangements. The voices of both our girls however remain the same as usual. But additionally, Björn should be featured more as a singer too. Until now, eight songs have been completed. In March we are going to record four additional songs that Björn and I have written already. It won't be until we have recorded all the songs that we decide which songs will be included on the album. There will probably be eight songs on the album - perhaps we will put together another song out of some song idea that we already have. Who knows, either way there's still a lot of work to do... Let's get to it! Cheers, your Benny.
Benny Andersson

Hi there, you all!
Before I will reveal something about our big world tour, I will explain something about our new album. Many people would like to know why Agnetha or myself never compose any songs. Many people think we are not able to do that. But that's not true! Agnetha used to compose a lot of beautiful songs in the old days and I have thought about song material myself before ABBA started. With ABBA, we deliberately don't get a chance. Which means that neither of us has ever had the need to compose our own songs since we got together with Benny and Björn. Until now, we've been completely surprised and won over by the brilliant ideas of our two writers, that there has never been any need for our efforts.
So much on my own account! Now, as promised, some concrete plans about our near future. Like Benny told you already, we will definitely be in the studio until shortly before Easter, so that the album will be ready without a delay. Subsequently, Benny and I will go on a fourteen day holiday to West India and immediately after that we will return to Switzerland once again where we will hopefully find a spot with snow so that we can indulge in our big skiing hobby. Not later than the beginning of June the first rehearsals for our world tour will begin, that's going to kick off in the early autumn. Since we are not an experienced live band, the preparations last much longer in our case. Until the concept for the tour is decided on. Until all the technical aspects work fluently, the crew has been put together, all of this last much longer with us than with other groups. Apart from that, we want to offer a perfect show, our songs should sound the same live as on the records!
We are often asked by what criteria the performance locations are chosen. That's really not easy. Likewise, television performances and press conferences have to be selected carefully, so that no one in any country is being short-changed. That's also the reason why we participated in the Unicef Gala in New York, or why we decided to travel to Leysin in Switzerland. We choose the occasions where we can reach as many people as possible with one appearance. On the tour, we will restrict ourselves to the largest cities as well. That's the only way to get back home within a more or less tolerable amount of time. Anyone who knows that we will travel to Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, England and America on this tour will understand why! If we would only do one concert in every country, we will be on the road for ten days already without counting the days that we travel. That's exactly the problem. We don't want to be separated from our children for too long. Well, something has been decided on already. In October, we will visit Germany, Austria and Switzerland! Until then, bye for now, your Anni-Frid.
Anni-Frid Lyngstad

A for Agnetha: "On the occasion of shooting our television special, I was in Switzerland for the first time. And it certainly won't be the last time, because we are all very impressed with this country. And apart from that, it's ninety percent certain that we will visit this country during our world tour in the autumn."

B for Björn: "The wonderful region, the friendly people, altogether the entire atmosphere in Leysin was exactly the right thing for the first public appearance after the divorce from Agnetha. Only the weather gods weren't very accommodtive and only gave us one day of sunshine!"

B for Benny: "For the first time in our five-year ABBA career, we were able to combine business with pleasure while shooting this special. Any style of winter sports belongs to my major preferences, but what I like most is skiing!"

A for Anni-Frid: "Benny and I only knew Switzerland from Zermatt, where we already went skiing some time ago. After the recording sessions for our album have been completed, we will fly to West India for fourteen days and subsequently one week to the skiing paradise St. Moritz."

S for Snow Special: "The British broadcasting company didn't only shoot a huge entertainment show in this skiing resort, but also two other programmes with us. A 'Christmas Snowtime', a Christmas programme as well as a programme about our Swiss adventure."

S for snow: "The snow couldn't have been better for beginners. That's why Björn soon found his way on the white splendour as well and turned out to be almost as good as Benny. Though the ski slopes were firm, they were not frozen and therefore not very slippery."

S for Stenmark: "Since Benny showed so much talent on the ski slopes, everyone compared him with the Swedish top skier Ingemar Stenmark. This was meant ironically, of course. But, if Benny hadn't become a star on the world's stage, he would definitely have become one of those people on the planks dashing down into the valley."

P for press conference: "We had barely arrived in Leysin when we found ourselves facing the assembled world press for the first time since Agnetha and Björn's divorce. On this occasion, our British record company presented us with the first gold record for 'Chiquitita'."

P for party: "There is always something going on where the stars are. Almost every evening there was a party at the discotheque 'Casanova'. The greatest celebration however was organised by Boney M at the indoor swimming pool, where Marcia Barrett, Patrick Juvet, Liz Mitchell, Björn Ulvaeus, Leif Garret and Bobby Farrell posed for this picture."

A for arrival: "During our flight from Stockholm to Geneva, an engine of our clipper iced up in such a way that we had to return to Stockholm. With a new plane and with more than six hours of delay we finally arrived safe and sound in Switzerland."

A for autographs: "Autograph hunters were definitely not short-changed in Leysin. It's very rare that so many stars get together on one occasion. Agnetha isn't even spared from them on the ski slope and signs postcards, skiing suits, arms, hands..."

A for souvenir (Andenken): "As a souvenir from our wonderful time in the alpine country, we received a fondue set from the people from our record company, so that we can eat our new favourite food at home in Stockholm as well."

S for divorce (Scheidung): "For the reporters and all gossipers, Agnetha and Björn's divorce was the main topic of conversation. However, they both get along great despite their official separation, like this picture proves."

S for skating: "For the shooting of one of the scenes we are sent onto the ice. Agnetha has major difficulties with ice skating. Several times, she falls on her sexy behind... That's why Denise Bielmann, the Swiss champion in figure skating, gave us a couple of free skating tips."

S for sleeping: "Mostly, there wasn't much time to sleep. Because in the evenings we often had great fun, and the next day we still had to get up early, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to finish the filming. Instead, we managed to sleep in late a bit longer when we were back in Sweden."

S for make-up (schminken): "During all the scenes, the make-up artists, that's how the ones who take care of the stars' make-up are being called, are present. Sometimes it's not an easy job, because often they had to wait for hours in the freezing snow, until they had to apply some additional make-up again."

S for show: "In the gigantic show 'Snowtime Special' we are singing the song 'Chiquitita'. This television programme will be broadcast at Easter and will probably be watched by 500 million viewers."

I for instruments: "Since it is very difficult to play live when one is filmed in the snow, all our songs had to be performed to playback, which means they come from a pre recorded tape. Only in the big tent, Benny and Björn are playing their instruments."

I for snacks (Imbiss): "Since our film 'ABBA - The Movie' we know that one gets to eat very irregularly during filming. Likewise, in Leysin we almost exclusively eat sandwiches and little snacks. But in the evenings we are able to find the time for extensive meals."

I for idol: "The youngest participant in our show, Leif Garrett, turned into our idol. In many conversations he emerged as a spirited young man, who is not only able to sing but also to stand on his skis like a king."

M for machine: "When the last scenes are being filmed on Sunday afternoon, our new friend from Boney M - Bobby Farrell - has his photograph taken on a big ski slopes machine. This looked so smashing that we decided to pose in front of this impressive machine as well."

M for make-up case: "The make-up artists have the most difficult assignment during filming outdoors. Even on the highest mountain they tag along a gigantic make-up case, packed with little boxes, applicators and bottles. Over and over again, our red cheekies had to be touched up again."

S for ski elevator: "The most wonderful invention in skiing is the ski elevator. Without this practical help, the ski pass would only be half as much fun. Here, Benny is letting himself being pulled up the mountain by the conveyor belt."

S for stars: "For the British TV show, everybody who is anybody showed up. Apart from us, there were: Boney M, Bonnie Tyler, Roxy Music, Ted Gärdestadt, the Jacksons, Amii Stewart, Eruption, Kate Bush, Patrick Juvet, Leo Sayer, Curtis Mayfield and Leif Garret."

S for scariness: "During a schussboom, Benny loses control over his planks and makes a dreadful fall. When we see him lying in the snow like this, we get a little uneasy. But Benny only smiles. Apart from some scariness, nothing happened. Thank God! He wouldn't have made an especially good impression on stage with his leg in plaster!"

C for chalet: "A breathing pause in a mountain restaurant. While we are getting a sun tan, Benny shows his thirst for adventure by inspecting the romantic chalet, that's how a wooden house in the mountains is being called in this region. Here, he is posing for the photographers, smiling from one of the windows."

C for Christian: "If Agnetha had a new boyfriend already, is what a curious reporter asked her. She retorted that there was only one man in her life: her son Christian."

H for helicopter: "From Geneva to Leysin is about a two hour drive by car. Since we also filmed a scene in a helicopter, we were flown to Leysin. We will never forget the wonderful flight over the snowy region around Lake Geneva."

H for gloves (Handschuhe): "Always and everywhere, Benny is up for a little joke. For the photographers he even puts his gloves into his mouth. That was just what he was waiting for, in the true sense of the word."

H for hotel: "A group picture with the ladies in front of the Hotel Central Residence."

N for fog (Nebel): "Normally, we would have enjoyed one hundred percent beautiful weather at this time of year. That's what the inhabitants of the skiing resort assured us, after we had had some sun for one day out of the five days we spent there. On the other days, the fog was sometimes so dense that we could hardly shoot our scenes!"

N for notes: "Role study on the skiing piste. Once again we mull over our lines, before we dare to get in front of the camera."

N for night: "No one got very much sleep. But Björn got the least amount of sleep. He chatted with the pretty Boney M singer Liz Mitchell, mostly until the early morning hours."

E for warming up (Erwärmen): "Agnetha warms herself up with some glühwein. After that she too has to get back on the planks again, because the filming in the snow has not been completed yet!"

E for idea (Einfall): "Björn had the most daring idea. He wanted to fly to the top of a mountain with the helicopter, to get to a several kilometres long downhill run. Thankfully the fog prevented the take-off attempt."

E for parents (Eltern): "Björn and Agnetha brought their little daughter along to Switzerland. She was also accompanied by their nanny who's name coincidentally is Agnetha as well."

E for all's well that ends well (Ende gut): "All's well that ends well! On Sunday evening, the British broadcasting company arranged a huge party for all participants. First, a luxurious dinner was being served. Subsequently the party continued in the disco until five o'clock in the morning. But we didn't spend the long night in the dance club, we had an early night instead. Except Björn. Guess who he was flirting with again?"

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Mix, 1977: ABBA left the president of the United States out in the cold

ABBA could play in sold-out venues or make lucrative television shows every day. But they are not able to do this because of time constraints. But the fact that they never appear on television in their home country Sweden has a totally different, peculiar reason... This week the last part of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid's breathtaking success adventure.

"In Sweden, we can hardly become more famous than we already are," manager Stig Anderson said after ABBA's phenomenal success in England: winning the Eurovision Song Contest. "That's why we have to explore the international market right now. But," he continues, "we are going to play it safe. We've received tempting offers from America, but for the time being we will restrict ourselves to Europe and Australia. It turns out that there's an extraordinary interest in our music in these territories. Where America is concerned: first our record sales will have to take off over there."
After a speedy visit to Hamburg, where ABBA performed in a television show, the famous quartet returned to Sweden to enjoy a couple of days of well-earned rest on their small island on the Stockholm coast, their beloved place of refuge where they can find new inspiration.
But their return to their home country was attended with several problems. All of Sweden wanted to see and hear the triumphant quartet and way before 'Brighton' a tour of the Swedish folk parks had been scheduled in the summer of 1974. But the offers that ABBA received from all parts of the world were so interesting that  Stig Anderson felt obliged from a business point of view to let the Swedish fans down. The national interests had to make way for the international opportunities and that's how ABBA made a victory march that summer past radio and television studios in England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Luxemburg. Only the following year it was Sweden's turn.
The flood to the Swedish folk parks was enormous and to their astonishment the concerts were not only attended by teenagers. Fathers and mothers were enjoying what ABBA had to offer as well. The song 'Waterloo' was doing extremely well by then. In England, 'Waterloo' even reached number two in the charts. All experts agreed that the pop scene had never experienced such an enormous success since the Beatles. 'Waterloo' sold more than five million singles and three million albums.
"When you look at the international sales figures it really makes your head spin," Stig Anderson admits. "At this moment ABBA has sold more than forty million records. In Holland we have already surpassed the Beatles. In America 'Waterloo' is number seven in the charts and as soon as we have some time we will go over there to do a couple of television shows."
ABBA's tours only underligned their enormous popularity again. In Australia their television special was watched by 58 percent of all people who owned a television set. At the launch of their new album 'Arrival' in London, BBC DJ Simon Bates presented the group with no less than 32 platinum, gold and silver discs.
If they wanted to, they could perform somewhere in Europe in a sold-out venue every day of the year. But they were down-to-earth enough to not go down that road. They simply couldn't clear their schedule because at home, in the studio, they had to work hard on making new records and preparing new songs.
When the German president Walter Scheel invited them to do a concert on the occasion of the American president Gerald Ford's visit, they had to reply regretfully: "Sorry, but we really don't have the time."
ABBA was the first Western pop group that performed in Poland. The Polish teenagers, that had listened to their records via German broadcasts, put such pressure on the authorities that the performance could be arranged eventually. Foreign currencies were even made available to import ABBA records, and this had never happened before. Meanwhile, 800.000 ABBA records have been sold in Poland and even in Russia - again something unheard of - 25.000 records have been sold.
All in all, ABBA's records have made a bigger profit than the records by Elton John, Rod Stewart and the Bay City Rollers. And nobody is in doubt that ABBA will eventually equal the worldwide success of the Beatles.
And no one should think that this astounding success has come easily. ABBA is a very hard-working group, that operates in a strictly professional way.

Sweden, ABBA's home country is a peculiar chapter in the story. The fans have a high opinion of the group, that's beyond doubt, but anything that's even remotely 'official' doesn't want anything to do with ABBA. After their triumph in Brighton ABBA has been invited only once to appear on Swedish television. To have a little studio chat in a programme for the elderly!
"When we are asked why we never appear on Swedish television, I always reply that we are never asked," Björn said recently. "In 1975, we only performed once. And do you know why? Because the other group, that had been invited first, was unable to attend due to health problems!"
Indeed, in Sweden things are a little difficult. In this country, radio and television are controlled by the State. And the State thinks that all broadcasts should contain political messages and that in the world of pop music a song has to carry out the political ideals of the Swedish State as well. It hasn't been said in so many words officially, but it is clear that ABBA is blamed for its capitalistic sense.
They think that the group's professional conduct and their commercial way of making money don't correspond with the social values of the Swedish government. ABBA - that's where it boils down to - should actually propagandize the Swedish socialistic welfare state.
"That's baffling," Benny sighs. "The only thing we want to do is cheer up the people with the kind of music they like to listen to. Is a pop group really the appointed medium to convey a political message or propagandize social ideas? Come on. Anyway, I think we are doing enough already for the Swedish State. Do you know our tax system? 85 percent of our income goes straight to taxes."
Silver Bramstedt, a music critic at Dagens Nyheter wrote vigorously: "ABBA is looking at the people who buy their records from behind the glass of their helicopter. As if they want to emphasize how inaccesible they are."
Mia Gerdis from the same paper said: "I've seen them move but I don't believe they are really alive. Björn's music is nothing else but plastic." Her colleague Anders Klintevall didn't have anything good to say about ABBA either. "Their music is only good to dance to. It's just boom-boom-boom... always the same quadruple time. It sounds mechanical and it's outright annoying. They say that the audience simply wants to hear this. Well, I wonder how long that will last."

When the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Stockholm in 1975, ABBA wasn't able to get any tickets. And when the fans requested if ABBA at least could hand over the prizes, that turned out to be impossible as well.
Buyers from television companies who come to Stockholm begging for ABBA footage are able to get films from the Swedish landscape or islands. There is nothing in stock about ABBA.
Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid and Agnetha remain unconcerned by all this teasing. Sometimes, when it all gets too much for them, they get on their boat that takes them to their small island, where they can swim, go fishing or simply lie in the sun.

There, far from all the noise and bitter criticism, new ideas are being born in the heavenly surroundings of their holiday cottage. Björn has his piano there and Benny his guitar. And furthermore, they have each other. And that's all they need to surprise the world time and time again with an unrelenting chartbuster.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Popshop, 1976: Guest in ABBA's headquarter

In one of the most quiet and remote streets of Stockholm, ABBA's headquarter is situated. Even our cab driver didn't even know that spot because he had to take a look at his city map first. The only cars that are parked there belong to ABBA's employees. Apart from that there's hardly any traffic. No wonder, because the narrow little street stops at some kind of city canal. These quiet surroundings make for a striking contrast with what's happening inside the town house, rebuilt into an office building: the invisible man behind the telex machine is typing away eagerly, the sound of ringing telephones is overwhelming the soft background music and the small army of secretaries is apparently having a competition at typing with ten fingers.
In short, ABBA's hit factory is working at full speed. A Swedish beauty is serving a cup of coffee and asks if we are able to wait for five more minutes because the management is in a meeting. Just like every Friday afternoon. And the management, that's Björn, Benny and ABBA manager Stig Anderson. The threesome that founded the company Polar Music.
"Every Thursday we discuss the proposals that we've received that week," Benny explains when we sit behind Stig's enormous desk a couple of minutes later. "We operate very democratically. If we disagree about certain issues, we are having a vote. And yes, with three people involved, the results of such a vote come in very quickly. To be honest, I'd rather be in the studio than in meetings like this. But the business side has to be taken care of as well. The things we discuss at such meetings? All sorts of things: which television programmes we are going to appear on and which not, the choice of songs for new records, the bookkeeping, internal affairs, actually all the problems that every business has to deal with..."
Until recently, the four ABBA members lived about thirty kilometres from Stockholm but because they come into the office every day, they've recently moved to the old part of the city.
"About two to three kilometres from here," says Björn. "You should come and drop by in a couple of months. Now it's still a mess. We haven't had time yet to put everything in the right place."
The spacious basements of the building were rebuilt into a music room. There's a piano and stereo equipment. "Björn and I mostly compose there," according to Benny. "Me at the piano and Björn with his guitar in his hands. We are planning to build a studio here as well, but we have to make some adjustments before that happens. And we use that stereo equipment very often too. Every day, one of our secretaries goes out to buy the newly released albums, and Björn and I listen through them, one by one. You are never that perfect that you can't learn anything new from other artists."
At least once every week all the studio musicians come together at that place too. "We are often called a golden duo," says Björn while he is pointing at Benny. "But to be honest, we have to admit that there are other people too who are responsible for ABBA's success. Like Michael B. Tretow, for instance, or co-producer. He has often come up with very original ideas. And we can't dismiss our team of studio musicians either. All of them are superb musicians, who work for us permanently. We are going to take them along too when we go on tour later on..."

Saturday 22 June 2013

Rocky, 1977: Partner switch with ABBA

The guy is called Ashley, he is an Australian DJ and lately a moviestar as well. His part gives him the opportunity to get very close to two Swedes who usually have a clean reputation: Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. Both ladies are the leading contributors to the Swedish major enterprise called ABBA. About this 'company', a movie is being made that will be screened next year in German cinemas and that will surely attract millions of viewers. Its title is plain and gripping: 'ABBA - The Movie'.
Its title is as plain as its story, that revolves around the Scandinavian success group. Robert Hughes, a professional reporter, is dreaming about an exclusive interview with ABBA. Hughes, played by Ashley, goes through all kinds of amusing experiences during his hunt for the group. Encounters between the screen hero and the ABBA members are taking place primarily in Hughes' bed: indeed, he is dreaming them up. That's how the movie runs along for ninety minutes, highlighted with plenty of music, a bit of drollery and of course a happy end.
The entertainment film will once more prove the incredible popularity of the Swedish hit group. The soft rockers are looking back on more than a dozen million sellers and their aim is to keep their ABBA enterprise this prosperous. Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson were forced to take a break this year to take care of a couple of personal obligations: Agnetha gave birth to her baby and Anni-Frid found her long-lost father.
This breathing space was a good opportunity for the quartet to think about the progress of their tumultuous career and come up with new hit supplies. The Swedish ABBA factory has an extreme shortage of staff.
That's how the business-minded Swedes are taking all the raisins out of the show cake and produce hit singles and albums that turn into gold even before they are released, and they are shooting a movie.
It's clear to ABBA that a successful world career can also be pure hell. "After all, we can't tear ourselves up and be in America, Germany, England, Japan, Scandinavia and everywhere where our songs become hits, at the same time," Björn Ulvaeus said in an interview. "ABBA is running like a freight train but we are running out of breath."
Apart from that, the phenomenon of the registered ABBA trademark is linked to vast amounts of money, so that the Swedish state would have to put up with a sensitive drawback in its balance of payments if ABBA's stream of foreign exchange would dry up one day. If the four world famous stars want to end up with any money at all from their success and not work exclusively for the tax office, they have to invest in new ventures. That's also the reason that there will be more products with the ABBA trademark in the future.
Because the four clean Swedes have long turned into an institution and little time is left for a 'human touch', the question is discussed ever more often if other musicians will be able to come into the name and success of ABBA...

Sunday 26 May 2013

De Telegraaf, 1979: ABBA's Björn shows his new love

ABBA star Björn Ulvaeus, who recently divorced his wife Agnetha, introduced the new love of his life yesterday.

He spoke enthusiastically about his feelings for the blonde Lena Källersjö who is now inseparable from him. Björn said in his London hotel room, while his ex-wife Agnetha was alone in her room a couple of doors further: "I had only been single for a week after I divorced Agnetha, when I met Lena. We started living together right away. I discovered that love comes easier when you have already lived with somebody. When Agnetha and I separated, I knew immediately that I would fall in love again. I realised that I wasn't cut out for a bachelor's life."
Björn thinks that the divorce from Agnetha has been easier on him than he had expected: "There were a lot of tensions," he said. "When it got much worse we tried to distance ourselves from the tensions but the situation became intolerable. Now we have a good understanding in our work and we've remained friends."

While Björn has found happiness again with a new girlfriend, friends are saying that Agnetha has far more difficulties. She only has loose and temporary relationships. Björn says: "I believe Agnetha likes being single. She has had a lot of relationships but I thought she was having a hard time with them."

Björn says: "Despite all our problems we have done the right thing by getting divorced. We were both very selfish and this caused numerous arguments. Agnetha isn't jealous of my new girlfriend either. We often go out to dinner together. Lena and Agnetha get along great with each other."

Monday 20 May 2013

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: Björn: this is my life

Just like his other three ABBA colleagues, Björn grew up with music. And he had already tasted success in show business as well, before he started his triumph with the Swedish group. "When I was only eleven years old, I started a skiffle group at school," Björn is remembering from the start of his musical career. When he was seventeen - Björn was born on 25 April 1945 in Göteborg - he launched The Hootenanny Singers, a Swedish folk group. Today he has achieved with ABBA what he had always dreamed about as a child. But his private happiness with his family means even more to him than these enormous successes. With his pretty wife Agnetha, little daughter Linda and son Christian.

Because the school wouldn't spend any money on a band for a party, Björn - only 17 years old - took the initiative and founded a folk group, together with three friends. The school party turned out so well that The Hootenanny Singers - that's how the four named themselves - decided to keep playing together in the future. When he was only eleven years old, Björn had already started a very strong skiffle group at school.

Do you recognise the boys from Göteborg on the bottom left? At the beginning of the sixties, Björn achieved the big breakthrough with his group. Here you can see the Singers in a 1964 TV show.

Björn had just started walking when his parents moved from his home town Göteborg an the Swedish southeast coast to Västervik. Björn: "Here I was going to school and I am standing on our old market."

Björn could rarely rest on his laurels in his adolescence. After he had finished highschool he dived headfirst in  a study of law and economics, although he was already very busy as the leading man of The Hootenanny Singers.

Even before his ABBA days, Björn was a popular target for Swedish autograph hunters. "Here I am signing our first record as a Hootenanny Singer for a girl. It was a big hit."

When Björn took this picture of The Hep Stars in 1966, he couldn't imagine that this meeting would actually determine his future. Indeed, that's when he met Benny, his ABBA colleague.

ABBA started with Björn and Benny's friendship. Björn: "We had noticed that we were on the same wavelength musically and tried our luck as a duo in 1970." Later on the two girls joined them.

With 'Waterloo' and ABBA's win at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, their string of successes took off. Numerous awards followed, like the Golden Gong that the quartet received at the premiere of the ABBA movie.

And yet another award: the royal couple of Monaco presents the four stars with a music award. In the meantime, ABBA is considered the most successful group of all time.

While both ABBA girls keep themselves fit with daily gymnastics, Björn prefers to swim a few rounds in the water. He was already a great swimmer as a child.

In the 'Waterloo' year 1974, ABBA's headquarter in Stockholm was still a bit modest. Björn and Agnetha's little daughter Linda - only one year old - looks at the camera in wonderment. The little girl doesn't understand anything about success yet.

Björn met blonde Agnetha at a 1969 TV show. The couple got married two years later. This picture was taken in 1977 while shooting the feature film 'ABBA - The Movie'.

Björn and Benny in the studio: when it comes to the music, the both of them won't let anyone butt in. Benny makes sure that the sound is right. Björn is taking care of the lyrics and ABBA's day-to-day business.

Although the four Swedes are not considering to rest on their laurels, live performances like this will become less frequent in the future. Björn: "We need time for our private lives too."

Sunday 12 May 2013

1983: Frida - singer is breaking free from ABBA

ABBA splitting up, ABBA not splitting up: when both singers of the Swedish group started concentrating on their own solo projects, the fans were holding their breath. The rumours were immediately denied from Stockholm, but especially because of the solo sidestep of the red-haired Frida Lyngstad, it seemed that ABBA's days had been counted. Together with Genesis drummer Phil Collins, Frida recorded a solo album - titled 'Something's Going On' - that was received exceptionally well, and she announced that she had no intentions to stop at that one album.
The next shock for the fans came when Frida moved, and not just somewhere inside Sweden: she left her home country to move abroad to London. When on top of that it became known that she had sold all of her shares in the ABBA company, it seemed pretty clear that the singer would only work with ABBA on specific projects from now on, but that she would mainly focus her attention on her individual career as a singer. Frida herself claims that she is still a member of ABBA, but for the group it would be very unwise - especially on a business level - to admit that they in fact don't exist anymore. It is obvious: a new future has started for Frida.

Hitkrant, 1984: Abbacadabra, a fairy-tale in videoland

In this festive new year's time, the first real ABBA musical 'Abbacadabra' had its premiere at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith in London. This fairy-like spectacle is part one of Björn and Benny's double project that won't be completed until the spring of 1985. We were in first row.

Björn and Benny are calling 'Abbacadabra' a musical adventure. It's a story about a couple of children playing a video game, in which they have to take a number of characters to the castle of the good fairy, while all of a sudden meeting these fairy-tale figures in reality. To stage this big spectacle, Björn and Benny made an appeal to a number of well-known employees. A familiar face was recruited for the female lead: Elaine Paige, the British girl that was about to give up her singing and acting career for a job as a nurse. When she suddenly succeeded in getting the leading role of Evita in Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice's musical, she realised that her future actually was in show business.
Apart from Elaine, B.A. Robertson is playing an important part in 'Abbacadabra' too. Things had been very quiet around this Scottish singer since his 1979 hit record 'Bang Bang'. And except for his striking nose, he actually seemed to be completely forgotten. So he was over the moon when he found out that Björn and Benny were looking for the leading male part in 'Abbacadabra' and they actually had him in mind for the job. I'm sure we won't have to introduce the third eye-catcher in 'Abbacadabra'. Indeed, Finola Hughes is the fantastic dancer John Travolta falls in love with in 'Staying Alive'.
The music for 'Abbacadabra' was composed completely by the magic ABBA composers duo. The repertoire not only consists of well-known ABBA songs but a number of songs have been composed especially for the occasion. Mike Batt was hired for the orchestration of the project. You might recognise his name from Art Garfunkel's beautiful ballad 'Bright Eyes'. The interest for the first few performances of the show in London was overwhelming. That's undoubtedly an encouraging sign for Björn and Benny who now are very busy with their next musical 'Chess' of which a double album is planned to be released in the autumn of 1984. For the live performance of 'Chess' we will have to be patient until early '85. But there's no doubt about it, 'Abbacadabra' and 'Chess' will probably turn out to be extremely successful, just like ABBA's previous projects.

Elaine Paige/'Like An Image Passing By'/Polydor 817 2887
This song was released under the title 'My Love, My Life' on the ABBA album 'Arrival'. Now it is featured in 'Abbacadabra' with adapted lyrics and performed by Elaine Paige. I think it completely falls flat. It's almost a violation of the original version. I wonder what Agnetha - who sings the original version - thinks of this bad cover version.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Joepie, 1979: "The day that we become big-headed, ABBA will be through!"

ABBA's visit to our country was a festive occasion for Joepie as well. We - the people from the editorial staff - met some of our best friends in the business. And the winners of our ABBA competition could finally see a unique dream wish come true. Our reader Willy van Bogaert from Brussels was given the honour to greet the ABBA quartet on behalf of our magazine. He had brought a surprise as well. He gave Agnetha and Anni-Frid a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a statue of... Manneken Pis (Little Man Pee), symbol of Europe's capital. The ice was broken immediately. Martine Cant from Kruibeke was able to watch the ABBA concert before and behind the scenes. She must have been struck by the nervous atmosphere surrounding such a superstar performance. And by the rather vigorous way wherein the 'Gods of Pop' are being protected from the outer world. She followed the concert from first row. And young Sam Jaspers could have his picture taken with his idol Björn. Obviously, the pictures have taken a first-rate spot in their living- and/or bedrooms already.

After their overwhelming concert, there was a happy reunion with Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny. The girls were still soaking wet and visibly tired and understandably wanted to go to bed straight away. On the other hand, it has become customary on tours that Björn and Benny stick around for a while to talk to the press about the concert and the group, while enjoying a drink and a bite to eat. They looked strikingly fresh after their marathon concert of more than two hours, during which they spend all their energy. As if they had just enjoyed a relaxed night out, simple as that.
"Simple? Well yes, because we love the music and our audience that much," Björn explained. "If you do something with love, it's actually never a difficult assignment. It's a question of mentality. Which doesn't mean that we are not doing a hard job during a concert, but you couldn't tell by looking at us."
Benny, with a neverending smile on his face, adds: "When we started, the music was our hobby and despite the success and numerous obligations, it still is. And as long as this remains this way, I can't see any problems."
So quitting tours and splitting up the group are not things to expect in the near future? They both laugh. "Why would we?" Björn asks again. "It's going really well and we love our job and our fans. Apart from that, you mustn't forget that we are never obligated to do anything. We don't have to record, we don't have to tour, we don't have to do promotion. But of course it also happens that we tell ourselves 'isn't it time to go on tour now or to invite a couple of friends from the press' and that's what we do then. And all decisions are being made unanimously by the five of us, our manager, the girls and ourselves. Of course, we are in the fortunate position that we are able to work under these unique circumstances."

So, there will be more ABBA tours, even giant world tours like this one? "I wouldn't rule it out, although I have to add that we won't question any decisions that we have made together," according to Björn. "We have decided that we don't want to perform during the summer months anymore because we want to spend time at home and be with our families. That's why we refused to perform during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games '80 in Moskow. Perhaps we won't go on long and exhausting tours anymore either. Not only for family reasons but also because tours are in fact very unproductive artistically and we would much rather work on new compositions and other projects, like guiding and producing other artists. But concerts are certainly not ruled out. For instance, next year in March we will be on tour in Japan for three weeks."
When we asked them about the reasons for ABBA's gigantic success, they admitted honestly that they actually don't really know themselves. "There's not an exact formula to be successful in the music business," says Björn. "You create compositions that you believe in and then you hope that the audience will like them as well. A couple of reasons for our success? Obviously our sound. Our two good-looking singers as well. And for the rest I wouldn't know. Either way, we hope that this enormous success won't go to our heads, because the day that we become big-headed, ABBA will be through."

After all, we asked Björn if it wasn't a blunder to introduce Agnetha to the audience as 'my ex-wife but she is still as good as new'. Since every divorce is a painful occasion and a remark like that can come across as rather scornful? Björn appeared to be completely surprised. "On the contrary, because with that remark we only want to show the audience that it was an amicable split," he concluded. "It's normal that our fans wonder how things are between Agnetha and myself. We'd rather tell them ourselves than that they have to read false stories in the magazines. Well, I can assure you that our divorce has been handled on the best of terms, a divorce that was inevitable because neither one of us saw any future in our marriage. We've remained the best of friends and anyone can notice that. Indeed, if we had separated as enemies, we certainly wouldn't have shared the same stage ever again."
Because the financial interests have become too big? "Oh, not at all. Everyone is always talking about all the money we are making. Of course we know what happens to our bank accounts, but it stops there. Our music is our first and only important concern. We want to make the music that we love and we'd like to do that the rest of our lives!"

Saturday 6 April 2013

Privé, April 2013: Comeback for ABBA's Agnetha!

Agnetha Fältskog is back on the scene again, with none other than Take That singer Gary Barlow. The 62-year-old singer has surprised many people with her comeback. But the blonde ABBA star, who hadn't sung a single note in more than ten years, had one condition: "If my voice sounds old, I won't go through with it!"

To the joy of her fans Agnetha Fältskog has given up her solitary life for a comeback in the music business. In 2004, the blonde ABBA singer already took up her old profession once again with the album 'My Colouring Book', but now she is trying to score another hit, together with the twenty year younger Take That star Gary Barlow, with the duet 'I Should Have Followed You Home'. It's clear that the Swedish blonde takes her comeback very seriously this time, because she has asked Britney Spears' composer to write a couple of songs for her album (that will be released later this year), in the hopes of dusting off her image.
"I am always described as a mysterious woman, while I'm not mysterious at all." Agnetha's new musical adventure started two years ago when Swedish record producer Jörgen Elofsson was standing on her doorstep to present three songs to her. For the hit producer, who once wrote Britney Spears' 'Crazy', it was a lifelong dream to bring Agnetha back into the spotlights. The singer was honoured. "I thought all his songs were great, so I simply couldn't say no."
But before they actually started recording, Agnetha had one condition. "It was almost ten years ago since I had last sung and I didn't know if my voice was still there. So I told him right away that I wouldn't go through with the project if my voice sounded old."
The singer knows very well that her image took a severe blow after her relationship with the sixteen year younger Dutchman who had fallen in love with her as an eight year old. The man moved to Sweden for her where he bought a house close to Agnetha's home on the island Ekerö near Stockholm. They started a relationship that Agnetha broke off two years later. But the man kept seeking contact, he even attempted to break into her house, after which the singer contacted the police and her ex was eventually evicted from the country.
Her relationship with this disturbed man only confirmed the impression that many people had of Agnetha, the impression of a lonely and unhappy woman, although she firmly denied this herself.

After the ABBA members had gone their separate ways in 1982, Agnetha was the only one to practically disappear from the face of the earth. She tried to build a solo career for a while and even scored a modest hit with 'The Heat Is On', but after that she disappeared from view. But she cherishes the memories and recently she donated her clothes and other stuff to the ABBA museum that will open its doors in Sweden next month. "It is weird, but also an enormous honour when a museum is created in honour of your work. But it doesn't mean a reunion of the band."
Anni-Frid Lyngstad lives in Switzerland these days, where she is leading her life as Countess of Plauen, after her marriage to Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss of Plauen. The 67-year-old only does charity work these days, often together with her close friend Queen Sylvia of Sweden. Björn Ulvaeus (67) and Benny Andersson (66), ABBA's musical masterminds, are still working together. They compose, write and produce. Apart from that, Benny has his own band called Benny Andersson Orkester and he is the owner of the exclusive Rival Hotel in Stockholm. Björn has become a media tycoon with numerous successful enterprises. Together with Benny he has made many millions by their cooperation with Hollywood producers for the screening of their musical Mamma Mia! ABBA has sold more than 380 million records worldwide and their music is still among the most popular on download sites such as iTunes and Spotify.
"It's all so long ago," says Agnetha. "We all have our own lives now." She is concentrating completely on her comeback and her new album now. Her last album, she assumes. "You have to be realistic, another album in the future is hard to imagine, but I am open to everything."

Saturday 23 March 2013

POP, January 1978: Glorious premiere of ABBA film 'The Movie': this is the music film of the year!

In about two weeks it will finally be our turn as well: ABBA's latest hit, their 90-minute feature film 'The Movie', will be out in the cinemas in Germany and Switzerland. Last year in December, the movie had its world premiere in Stockholm. Apart from the four ABBA members, Pop was there as well...

Sweden's capital Stockholm presents itself to its visitors in sparkling radiance. A sugary white layer of snow that covers houses and streets, and a wonderful Christmas illumination make for a perfect scenery. Candlelight and cosy sofas make sure that there's a celebratory setting inside the cinema. Everyone who is important in the Swedish entertainment industry came to this venue, among them ABBA film director Lasse Hallström and ABBA's manager Stig Anderson. But the centre of attention are obviously Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and above all Agnetha Fältskog who has just become a mother again. Together world famous as ABBA and with more than 50 million record sales in the past few years the most successful group in the world. Visibly excited for the big moment, the four Swedes are talking to the invited guests while sipping their champagne. In the cinema hall the tension is rising to boiling point. All of a sudden there's a stroke of the gong and the lights of the fluttery chandeliers are dimmed. There's a deadly silence, people can hear their own heart beating. A white, vivid flash of lightning, that reveals one of the sides of the stage. In the centre of the light beam there's Stig Anderson in front of a microphone. The ABBA mastermind greets the invited guests in a festive manner and explains the background of the movie. And then 'ABBA - The Movie' takes off!
Breathtaking scenes of the Australian landscape and kangaroos hopping around are the starting point of the movie on the big screen. What follows are 90 minutes of complete ABBA. Hunted by an interview-hungry reporter, Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny and Björn are playing and singing their way around the world, meanwhile performing all their big hits blow upon blow.
The lights have barely been turned on when a thunderous applause arises that makes the walls of the vintage theatre tremble. Moved and visibly relieved, the four headliners are taking in the standing ovations. Beaming Agnetha happily reveals to POP afterwards: "I am so happy that I was here tonight. At first, I didn't even want to come, because I was so nervous that I would rather have stayed at home. Now I would actually love to travel to Cannes to the International music fair Midem where 'The Movie' will be presented to the international music world. But the wellbeing of our little son takes precedence. That's why I'm staying at home and that's why there won't be any ABBA concert activities for the time being. By the way, our film will be released in your country in February. I'm curious if our fans in Germany and Switzerland will be just as impressed by 'The Movie' as the guests this evening."
Well, that should be beyond question.