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.