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.