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."