Sunday, 10 February 2013

Das Freizeit-Magazin, 1978: Stig Anderson - the grey eminence

"He is one of the best people that I know. He is incredibly intelligent. I get angry when people are unfair to him," says ABBA's Anni-Frid about Stig Anderson, the dynamic manager of Polar Records and the man behind ABBA's worldwide success.
Anni-Frid has enough reasons to be angry. There probably isn't anyone in the Swedish music business who is exposed more to offenses than Stig Anderson. Roger Wallis from the left-wing record company MVV phrased it like this: "To him, music is a consumer product, like bread or butter. Sometimes like old bread."
Stig's biggest flaw is: he says what he thinks. While others carefully contemplate their words, Stig is so honest that it hurts sometimes. It's not surprising that he has made some enemies with that kind of attitude. But even his biggest opponents must admit: Stig knows the record business like no one else. He has a gut feeling for hits. He is the typical example of a self-made man. From scratch, Stig has worked his way up to one of the most powerful men in the Swedish and international music business.
Stig Erik Leopold Anderson was born on 25 January 1931. He grew up in the Swedish town Hova. His mother worked as a hairdresser, laundrywoman and a kiosk vendor. He never knew his father.
Stig was 13 years old when he left school. But there wasn't any time to enjoy his childhood. The Anderson household was on short commons. That's why Stig worked as a help in a grocery store and apart from that he took a second job with the Hova soccer team. "I patched up the players' shoes and kept the playing field in order. My mother washed their shirts. And I ran the kiosk at the stadium. When the main team played an important match, I made 30 to 35 Swedish kronor. I had to work seven weeks at the grocery store for that kind of money."
From his savings, young Anderson bought himself a guitar and took some lessons. In the following years Stig hired himself out to different bands as an amateur musician. "I was sixteen when I wrote my first song. It was called 'Tiveds Hambo' and it became a classic in dance music." During the next years, Stig started to concentrate more and more on composing and writing lyrics. In 1951, Stig went to education school in Karlstad, he completed his military service and went back to Karlstad. His studies didn't prevent him from composing more songs and writing lyrics.

How hard Stig worked as a lyricist is proven by these statistics: in the sixties he was Sweden's most productive lyricist. He wrote almost 2.000 songs within eleven years.
Stig's big breakthrough came in 1963 when he founded the record company Polar, together with his old friend Bengt Bernhag. Right in the beginning, Stig and Bengt had their big break. A song by The Hootenanny Singers became a big hit and the same thing happened with 'Letkiss'. Stig was in business.
But it would still take a couple of years before ABBA - with the help of Stig Anderson - arrived like a comet on the international pop scene. There will probably never be a prospect of how big Stig's share was and is in this success story. Either way, he is a man who has more than one string to his bow. He is a president, manager, publisher, composer and lyricist, all in one person. He says: "I am the fortunate combination of a bon vivant and an organiser. I listen to the music with the ears of an artist. I am a lyricist, a composer and an amateur musician. Viewed in this light, I have the complete creative background."
That Stig Anderson became a force to be reckoned with not only in Sweden but internationally as well, was proven in 1974. Billboard - America's biggest trade magazine - pronounced him as 'trendsetter of the year'. He received this extraordinary honour for his creativity as a music publisher and producer, that led ABBA to a long string of hits.
On the other hand, to some people Stig became a detested symbol of the commercial music industry. Why exactly Stig was the one to take the blame was understandable. He is successful and he makes a lot of money. And above all, he doesn't mind to lead a flamboyant lifestyle with this money. With his wife Gudrun and his children Marie, Lasse and Anders he has moved to a fantastic nine-room mansion that's within a stone's throw of his office.
Stig: "It often happens that I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. Then I want to get to the office. Now it's just a short walk to get there." Stig also owns a summer house on the ABBA island. He doesn't have a bad conscience because of that. Why would he. He knows that he had to work hard for every penny.
Stig, who often comes across as being aggressive and irrational in televised discussions, has another completely different side. Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid, who all know him better than most other people, know that very well. They have been working together with Stig for years and up till now their close and harmonious partnership hasn't been tarnished by dark clouds.


Monica said...

Interesting story. Thanks for the translation.

Josie said...

I once had this magazine, and still remember reading about Stig. Thank you so much, Michel.

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