Thursday, 17 July 2014

POP, 1979: ABBA promise: "In the fall we will come to Germany!"

ABBA's clean image has suffered a great deal since Agnetha and Björn's divorce. "Is this the beginning of the end?" their worried fans are wondering. During the filming of the Eurovision broadcast 'Snow Special '79', that should be aired in 16 countries at Easter and was filmed in the Swiss ski resort Leysin, ABBA peacefully showcased unity and harmony. POP accompanied the most famous group in the world during their stay and got to know all the background stories about the divorce and the group's future. And that's a scoop!

ABBA's trip to the Swiss mountains doesn't start very promising. Shortly after take off in Sweden, the plane that should transport the four famous Swedes to Switzerland, has to go back. A frozen jet engine makes a riskless flight impossible. With a different plane and a delay of more than six hours ABBA ultimately arrives in Geneva. POP photographer Hannes Schmid, who was hired by ABBA for their Swiss outing as their official photographer, is awaiting the group. After barely having landed in Geneva, the job begins for Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid. In front of a DC-9 by Swissair, that was decorated with the ABBA logo by the show's producers, the camera people once again re-enact the arrival with the famous quartet. When the filming of this scene has barely been completed, ABBA board a helicopter, that will take them to the ski resort Leysin within 20 minutes.

In the Valais ski resort, over 50 reporters and photographers from all around the world are already waiting for the first ABBA press conference since Björn and Agnetha's divorce. But before ABBA has to face the first questions, it's the photographers' turn first. Only after a fifteen minute long storm of flashing lights the reporters finally get the opportunity to ask the patiently enduring and always smiling quartet some questions.
The first question is aimed at Agnetha and obviously concerns the divorce and the group's future. Of course ABBA expected this and therefore it's not surprising that Björn answers instead of Agnetha: "There's absolutely no reason to worry about ABBA as a group. Our divorce only has private reasons. Agnetha and I simply couldn't live together any longer, although we've tried everything. The divorce was inevitable. As anyone can see, Agnetha and I will remain good friends." Meanwhile Björn glances at Agnetha in a sweet way.
Another reporter claims to know that another man is the reason for the divorce, since many newspapers have written about a relationship between Agnetha and her psychiatrist. The blonde Swede denies this fiercely: "Björn and I saw this psychiatrist together because we wanted to try everything to make it work again. The rumour about an alleged relationship emerged, because at times I saw our psychiatrist on my own. Because Björn and I wanted to avoid any speculations about our relationships from the start, I had to meet my psychiatrist secretly and at odd times. Unfortunately someone saw us together, that's how these ridiculous rumours started." Agnetha adds smilingly: "The only man in my life at the moment is my son Christian."

Shortly after the official press conference, POP reporter Heier Lämmler meets Benny for a private interview. The bearded Swede reveals that all eight songs for the new ABBA album have already been recorded. The recordings still have to be mixed and when everything goes according to plan the album should be available around Easter.
Benny: "At Easter, the 'Snow Special '79' should be aired in 16 countries as well. It is estimated that 500 million people will get to see it. Of course that would be an invaluable promotional tool for our album." Furthermore Benny reveals that ABBA wants to come to Germany this year. "As soon as the album is ready, we will start preparing for a major world tour. In our mind, the show is already in place and we are already planning the exact tour dates. No later than the beginning of October we will visit Germany. Our equipment will be more than 40-ton heavy and be transported in four trailers. But I can't reveal any further details."
That same evening ABBA has to appear in front of the television cameras again. In the ice rink of Leysin the four Swedes will be filmed as ice skating stars. Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid are having great fun at ice skating. But Agnetha is fighting the pitfalls of the slippery surface to no avail. Only after the blonde Swede has been given a lecture in figure skating by Denise Biellman, the sweet Swiss figure skating champion and third in the European Championships '79, is she able to skate round after round.
In the next few days ABBA is rushed around the beautiful ambiance of Leysin. The camera people want to film them everywhere. From all this material, a television special called 'ABBA in Switzerland' will be put together still this year. Apart from this ABBA special, the television producers are working on another major show, wherein ABBA will be one of many famous names. For the 'Snow Special '79' super show, they were able to engage, apart from the Swedish super quartet, Boney M, Leif Garrett, Roxy Music, Kate Bush, Bonnie Tyler, Eruption and many other major stars. In order for this gala to have the right ambiance, a circus tent was put up in the middle of the white arena of Leysin, wherein the television blockbuster should be filmed.

On the second to last day, ABBA shines in yet another form of sport. In the mountains of Les Diablerets they are putting on their skis. And then there's exactly the same scene as in the ice rink: while Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid are cheerfully skiing away, Agnetha is fighting with herself and her fear. Alone and trembling, she is standing at the slope. POP photographer Hannes Schmid, a brilliant skier and trick skier, takes care of the helpless ABBA girl. Slowly he is going down the ski slope. Agnetha follows him with a wide track and balancing fiercely. But she makes it. When she arrives in the arena, she wants to try again. In a flash, she is back at the top of the ski slope and only after the third descent, Agnetha has had enough as well. Anni-Frid can hardly believe that her colleague has suddenly become an ardent skier. Jokingly she says: "It's probably because of the ski instructor. Now we will soon read the headlines: 'Agnetha has fallen in love with her ski instructor!'..."


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