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The ABBA-girls: We tolerate each others faults (translation from Swedish article from June 5, 1975)
The ABBA-girls: We tolerate each others faults
This interview was published in Hant i Veckan on June 5, 1975.
Half of ABBA are sitting opposite me with their hands in their laps. Agnetha Fältskog has a blue denim outfit with flowers dancing over the bellbottoms. Her blond, long hair falls down on her shoulders. With her healthy skin and her clear, blue eyes she is the typical Swedish girl. Anni-Frid Lyngstad, in white pants and a white blouse, has a more dangerous look. Her eyes sparkles, sometimes they look happy, sometimes melancholy. Her red-brown hair curles around her forehead. We are sitting and discussing the other half of ABBA Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. Bjorn is married to Agnetha and Benny lives with Frida. How can they live and work together?
Frida: Sometimes you¹re not in the mood or even angry, but it¹s OK to be that. Just like in a family. And we¹re always in a good mood when we are performing. You have so many other things to concentrate
on then. You don¹t have the time to be angry.
Agnetha: Bjorn and I fought much more before, but that was probably because we didn¹t know each other too well. I think it¹s the same with the group. We learn to accept and tolerate each others differences. Both Frida and I have a lot of temperament, with very big mood-swings. But we are seldom angry for long. We may get depressed sometimes and it¹s a funny thing it usually happens at the same time for me and Frida.
Frida: It¹s strange, but I¹m more often depressed now than I was before the Eurovision Song Contest [when they won with Waterloo]. Now the pressure is bigger. We have to work much harder both in Sweden and abroad.
Agnetha: Yes, we have to work even when we¹re ill. During the long European tour last summer, we only cancelled once. It was when Frida got a very bad throat infection and couldn¹t sing at all.
Frida: Wait, we¹re not miserable all the time. We have a lot of good times in between. And we don¹t feel that the success has come too soon or too easy. We have, all four of us, worked very hard in the music business for many years. But of course, you get tired of yourself sometimes. I mean in this job you look at yourself in the mirror all the time. You have to look your best. And on top of that you see your face in almost all the papers almost all the time. Sometimes I really want to change my looks create a new Frida.
Agnetha: Yes, it¹s not very vigorating to be on tour. You get nervous, your skin, your hair everything looks terrible. Mostly
because of the lack of sleep I think. It¹s really hard being on the road. Sometimes I think it cost a lot more than it¹s worth.
Frida: In these situations it¹s important that we stay together and keep our spirits up. The sense of security in the group is essential it has to become your home. But this summer will be different. The folkpark tour is carefully planned. We start on Midsummers Day (june 21th) in Skelleftea [in the northern part of Sweden] and then we work our way down to the southern parts. During 17 days we do 14 concerts. That means we will have three days off. I¹m really looking forward to meet the folkpark audiences again. We haven¹t met them since we became ABBA.
Agnetha: Now with all the success and attention we¹re getting the demands on you get¹s a lot bigger. Bjorn and I have been married since 1971 and we usually spend our summers with our daughter Linda (she¹s two and half years old now) on the island in the archipelago of Stockholm. Frida and Benny has a house too on the same island, not far from us. I always feel very guilty when I¹m away from Linda. I have an au-pair who stays with her when we are away. And I always promise myself that when I come home I will spend all my time with her. But that never happens, I have so many other engagements even when we are home. But sometimes I just sit with Linda at the piano and we sing and play together.
Frida: When it comes to the children, I¹ve had it a little easier than Agnetha, I think. When I divorced my husband I had nowhere to go so he got the custody of the children. Hans is 12 now and Lise-Lott is 8. The hardest time of my life was when I had to leave my children. But they have always been very happy with their dad. And now they visit me as often as possible.
Benny has two children from an earlier marriage, Peter 11 and Helene 9. His children visits us regularly too so we are quite a big family occasionally.
Agnetha: Benny¹s and Frida¹s kids come over to our house on the island and they take really good care of Linda.
Frida: They sing a lot together. Hans has a marvellous voice. Lotta is more of a listener I think. At the moment she is writing a little
Agnetha: Frida and I are quite different on stage. I¹m more shy, something I¹ve work very hard with. But I think it¹s easier in a group like ABBA, where we know each other so well. And we are always very well received whereever we performe, and that helps a lot when you are shy.
Frida: I love the stage. It¹s the happiest moment of my life when I go on. On the stage I¹m completely open and willing to give all. It¹s so wonderful to meet the audience. But in my private life it¹s quite different. I don¹t liketo be recognized in the street.
Agnetha: I think it¹s something you have to learn to live with. I hate it when I¹m standing in line buying groceries and I see how
everyone around me watches exactly what I¹m buying.
Frida: I have realized that since we have become a success even some of the people you thought were your friends start treating you strangely. I really hate it when people are smiling with their mouths but their ice are very, very cold.
Translation of this article posted on the alt.music.abba newsgroup on 26 April 1996 by Mikael A. from Sweden
Ex Teacher Calls The ABBA Tune (from Adelaide newspaper, November 1976)
The following is an article that appeared in an Adelaide newspaper in November 1976. Both Stig and Görel were in Sydney for the launch of "Arrival".
EX-TEACHER CALLS THE ABBA TUNE by Heather Chapman
He used to teach chemistry and maths and now, at 45, he's the "fifth Abba"- the man who made pop music a million-dollar industry in his homeland, Sweden. Stig Anderson, manager of one of the world's most successful pop groups, is going a little grey. But he has little reason to worry. He holds in his hand the golden Swedes, with 30 million singles sales to their credit world-wide and 15 million albums. And that's without the latest LP - "Arrival" - which goes on sale in Australia this week.
Mr Anderson is in Sydney with his pretty Norwegian assistant, Gorel Johnsen, to help launch the album which really didn't need his help. It's already assured of success. RCA, one of the few record companies still laughing all the way to the bank, introduced Mr Anderson to reporters at a slap-up luncheon. Appropriately, the group's latest hit "Money, Money, Money" - was playing
in the background as guests arrived. I talked to Mr Anderson and he turned out to be charming, with interesting creases in a face lit by deep blue Nordic eyes.
He says that, no, he's not a millionaire. How could he be when the Swedish Government takes 85 per cent of everything he earns? But he concedes that life is more pleasant these days than when he was a schoolteacher. He made the break from teaching in 1960 when his wife, Gurrun (sic) pointed out to him that he really preferred music. "It was like jumping out of a plane without the parachute," he says - but he landed on his feet.
Abba is only the tip of the iceberg .. He manages other Swedish pop groups, owns a publishing company and a recording company, produces records and is a songwriter and composer. And he recently moved to a big luxurious apartment in Stockholm, not far from Abba group members Benny and Frida and Bjorn and Agnetha who, this week, are moving into big, new houses. Mr Anderson admits that he did rather put Sweden on the pop-music map - but just how much money, money, money they all have is still not clear, even to him. "In five years we might know just how much we have earned from "Waterloo" - which came out two years ago," he says.
As co-writer with Benny and Bjorn, of many of Abba's biggest successes, he says they are not so much interested in the money as the music. They have fun writing and performing the songs, he says. He likes to read, as a relaxation, anything from cookery books to histories. But there's not much time to relax. They won't have time, he says, to go to all States during their Australian tour in March - much as they'd like to. Queensland and Tasmania are going to miss out. And they are booked until 1978 for tours and appearances and recording.
Article from Swedish Expressen about the 10th album, Opus 10, published June 8, 1981
This article was published in the Swedish paper EXPRESSEN on the 8th of June 1981. This is the first time the album ‘Opus 10’ was mentioned.
ABBA IS SINGING THEIR 10th LP
ABBA is unique. In nearly 11 years have Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Annifrid been working together. During that time they have married, divorced and had some children- not all of them together, but as couples - done a world success and become the owner of bicycle factories, art collections, Stockholm’s badhus and a couple of other real estate companies. Everything has happen, everything has changed only one thing remains - their songs. It’s the number of years that makes this group unique.
Other pop groups split up after a while, with the exception of Rolling Stones, but not ABBA. Now they are in the Studio again, this young people on their way to the middle age(that’s 34 years now) and work on the new album. It will be the 10th since the start 1973. The Studio is placed in the old cinema Riverside at Klara Sjö in the old Sport Palace. It’s ingeniously planned. The entrance is full of gold records from all over the world. Even some art are on the walls. On the second floor, on the balcony, there seems to be a recording session going on. But in this studio with blue and yellow walls the members of ABBA is sitting in a chaos of microphones, flexes, grand pianos, organs and acoustic guitars and making a new album. Benny has red trousers, Angetha’s a flowered dress. Five songs are finished and recorded but we are not allowed to hear any, since everything should explode at the same time. Profile on the record. To early to say.
We are allowed to take the pictures, but everything is in a hurry. The boys are to continue with the mixing, the girls are on their way to a möhippa (girl’s party given for a bride-to-be shortly before her wedding). Outside a pop magazine from Switzerland is waiting with golden hammers and golden Christmas men and other strange pop mag stuff. The members of ABBA do what they should but you could easily see that they don’t like it, especially Benny and Frida. Publicity can be hard. Nine albums so far, the tenth on its way. This is the cart of themselves:
1) Super Trouper
2) Greatest Hits I
4) Greatest Hits II
The last record has been the most successful so far. Could it be five millions. Görel at Polar can’t confirm since no one knows, the record is still selling. Will ‘Opus 10’ beat them all? Björn Ulveaus says: - Hard to tell. Of course we want to make a record as good as the last one. If not better.
LYRICS WITH MEANING
Ulveaus is happy for the ‘Super Trouper’ and that some critics has discovered the lyrics. - We wanted to prove that we could make good lyrics (even if it’s difficult to understand why a pop song should be profound) Very difficult to understand for this reporter. How would ‘Anna du kan väl stanna’ (Anna can’t you stay with me) have sounded with a meaningful lyric. We asked Ulveaus to describe the songs they are recording this day. After some hesitation he says: - An angel is passing through my room. Type? - Ballad. Where did you write it. Home, in the studio. on the famous island in the Stockholm archipelago? - I believe it’s made here in the studio. We started to write songs in March and have made half of an album so far. We have had some breaks and now it’s summertime so the rest has to wait for the August - September. We have many songs unwritten. It’s nice not to be in a hurry. We don’t have to release the album any special season or holiday. - But we are working hard. Inspiration? Yes, if we work hard first.
Inspiration comes out of hard work, not the other way around. When is it best, when half of the work is done? - When we have made the hook line, the hook that will make the public sing along. The melody and the words that will make everything fly.
NO SPLIT RIGHT NOW
‘ABBA splits’ was the say on the newspaper placard on our way to the Studio. ABBA will split up some day, anything else would be against nature and all art crafts laws, but at the moment there will be no split up, not this summer or autumn, ABBA is now working in the Studio with a record in the old Sport Palace in Stockholm. Their private lives may be as they are, but here in the Studio the magic comes alive when Benny starts to play a song from the album before the last one and everyone starts to sing along. When we are leaving we can see Björn and Benny in the mixing room. Benny is hanging over the panel and Bjorn is lying in a chair. Both are looking as if they weren’t there, both are listening. An angel is passing through the room.
Translated by Håkan Borg - Sweden
The never told story of ABBA (Privé - Holland, July 1981)
ABBA - The never told story
What went wrong with ABBA, world's most succesful popgroup? While the group reached the impossible in popmusic, the private lives of Annifrid, Benny, Björn and Agnetha have become tragic. Instead of being two love couples, they are now two seperate ones. All four are going their own way and talk about the day the group will fall apart. For the first time the Swedish stars speak openly about their grief and expectations now that they seem to have drifted apart from each other.
I cried when Björn re-married
She is a sweet, but lonely blue-eyed angel. The divorce hit her most of all four, Björn's ex-wife Agnetha Fältskog. Not long ago, the international press declared her 'woman with the most sexiest bottom of Europe'. That could give you a misleading impression of her image. The vulnerable side of her character reveals when she speaks about the emotional breakdown her divorce has caused.
Agnetha says: "You remember the pain and the fight and you say to yourself: Do I ever want to go through this again? Is is so frightning. If I'd find the perfect man, than I'd get married again. But it is hard, so very hard".
While she talks, she smokes one cigaret after the other and drinks litres of coffee in a living room above the ABBA studio.
I have fears.
Agnetha has pearlwhite teeth and her hair is curly. Whispering like a girl she says: "I'm a kind of person who is afraid of a lot of things. I have a fear of being among the people on the street. I can't go shopping. I can't go out and visit restaurants and bars. If I go out, people stare at me and I can't handle that. The fear of being on the street is my biggest fobic. I'm a very nervous person. I can handle some of the fears, like the fear of flying. I have a drink before my plane leaves. Take another one, when we are up in the sky and a last one before we land. I'm half drunk when we reach the place of destination, but I'm not worried about the flying anymore", says the 31 year-old singer.
Since her divorce from Björn, she can't control her fear of being out on the street. A good friend of Agnetha said that she completely focussed on her two little children since she got divorced. "It is as if she is punishing herself for something. She never goes out. Her whole life is based on working and the children".
Agnetha: "Swedish papers always write untrue stories about me, so I know that no-one will ever believe me. Truly, I don't have a boyfriend. I often sit at home alone with my children. I read a lot and like to compose songs, I'd love to sing one day". "Of course, I meet men", she says. "And if a man says that I'm pretty or sexy, because he really finds that, than I don't have nothing against that. The thing is that I cannot agree with him. I don't find myself beautiful or sexy. I don't rely on that, but I have confidence in my character. I think I'm intelligent. Men seem to be impressed by the fact that I'm quite bright. They are also discouraged because they know that I managed to build up a career all by myself. I don't know why. They should be proud of my career, but they are not".
Agnetha obviously still has a lot of grief about her divorce. "I went through a horrible, painful depression. Knowing that I had to go further alone made me crazy. Björn always cared for everything, because we were very young when we met, and then, all of a sudden, I had to learn to stand on my own two feet". It touched me when he met Lena, and cried when he re-married. I suffered. It was so strange that he had found someone else so soon".
Like the other ABBA-members, she knows that the day that the group falls apart will come soon. She has thought a lot about how her life would go on. "I'd like to be a filmstar", she confesses. "I hope that a director is interested in me" Other important part of Agnetha's life is being a mother of her two children Christian (3) and Linda (8). "To become a good mother, a woman has to have confidence in herself. And to feel confident I need a career. We stopped travelling with the group. We have done that for so many years. Look at the damage it has caused: we were two couples when ABBA took off, but now we are four individuals"
"I was a bachelor for only week"
Songwriter, singer and guitarist Björn Ulvaeus is reserved as always when it comes to discuss the intimate things of his private life. But only this time he is prepared to tell everyting to Privé, to set things right for ever.
Relaxed in ABBA's recording studio in Stockholm he speaks about the break-up with Agnetha. "If you talk with someone the way I talked with Agnetha, honestly trying to work things out and it doesn't work, then you know when it's time to stop. So we did. But we didn't give up that easy. It lasted about two years before we came to the conclusion that it was best to get a divorce."
Björn was jealous
"We first saw a psychiatrist and he convinced us that it was best we'd discuss our problems in an honest way. After two years of constantly speaking about our relationship, we were absolutely sure that we took the right decision, believe me. There weren't irritations, but of course tears came. We had been together for 13 years"! A mutual friend of the couple claims that Björn was an impossible person to live with. Agnetha couldn't do one thing right and he became more and more jealous. He didn't have a reason to be jealous. The moment when they divorced, their children were too young to know what was going on. They live with Agnetha, but they can see their father whenever they want. And that is almost daily.
Two years ago, Björn left the house, after having discussed the divorce with Agnetha, and moved to an appartment nearby. He was alone for only a very short time.
Lena was pregnant
He says: "I was a bachelor for only one week and then I met Lena". Lena is Björn's new wife and he proudly says that she is pregnant. I don't mind if it becomes a boy or a girl, as long as the baby is healthy. You know, I already have a son and a daughter. There's no rivalry between Agnetha and Lena. They have met and all three are good friends.
It was a stormy romance. He met Lena (32), who is a tv-personality in Stockholm, at a party that (ironically) was organised by Benny and Frida. Within 5 months, they were living together.
Björn and Agnetha may be divorced, but the group stays intact. However, for the first time Björn reveals that he thinks of stopping. "We don't have a financial reason anymore to go on. Each of us has enough money".
Fear of kidnapping
Björn (36) tells that there isn't much for him that he would do differently, if he would be able to live the past ten years anew. Still, there were problems, like last year, after a serious threat to kidnap Björn's children. ABBA's concert for German television had to be cancelled. "It was horrible", says Björn. "John Lennon had just been shot as we became aware of the dangers of being superstars. We tried to protect ourselves. The death of John Lennon hurt me deeply. Although I never met him, he inspired Benny and me to start writing songs. It felt as if I had lost a personal friend.
Björn stills loves writing songs. But with ABBA's end coming nearer, he has to think about the future. About what he would like to do. "I have a crazy idea", he says with twinkling eyes. "I'd love to write a play and to hear actors and actresses bringing my words to life".
"Mona is my new partner in life".
ABBA's other composer, Benny Andersson smokes and is nervous. His hands are shaking when he speaks about this divorce. He says: "I don't know how other people deal with it. Frida and I are still partners in ABBA, but we aren't love partners anymore". His marriage with Annifrid Lyngstad ended dramatically. One day, when Benny came home, he confessed that he had found an other woman. "Frida was devastated", said someone, who knows the members personally.
The new woman in Benny's life is Mona Noerklitt, a 37 year-old Swedish tv-personality. "Mona is my new partner in life", you can call it that way", says Benny. "Frida and I are still friends. I respect her and she respects me for what we can achieve musically".
The joy is gone
But that is not quite true. There is a clear tension between the two, but the joy from the early years is gone. Benny is very nervous. It is clear that he is very hit by the divorce. "We have asked ourselves if we would be able mentally to on on with ABBA after our divorce. But we thought that ABBA survived Björn and Agnetha's divorce, so the group would probably continue after our split up too". One feels, while talking with Benny, that he finds it more and more difficult to keep the motivation to go on with the group.
Living in a normal way
"We don't have any worries financially. All our dreams have come true. We love our musical creations and as long as we are able, we will keep making music. We will stop as soon as it isn't fun anymore. What we produce now isn't creative work. I know that we sell lots of records and make incredible money, but that means nothing at all. I love to create music - to make a melody out of nothing.
We never thought that we would be as big as we are now. After all, we are normal human beings, who try to live a normal life. We go to work every morning, have dinner in a restaurant a few times a week and at weekends you can find us on our boat. I think this all happened while we didn't have any influence on it". Like the other members, Benny sees that the end is coming near. He gives ABBA two years - or two albums.
"We are not angels"
The ABBA sound is created by the girls. "Björn and I may compose the songs, but the girls are the ones who bring in the sound. If you leave their voices out, it's not ABBA anymore". Regarding the latest album 'Super Trouper', of which millions were sold worldwide, it's interesting to know that Benny finds that the technique has been responsible for the progession of ABBA's sound. After a two-hours talk, three cups of coffee and a half pack of cigarettes he sums up his feelings about ABBA. "I don't think we have enough power as individual artists. I'm not even sure if ABBA has a certain power. No one would buy a VOLVO because ABBA tells them to. We are family people with strong family ties. Ten years ago, we got together to perform and we have maintained that for a decade now. We are not the angels people made us. We are normal people, with the same problems normal people have. The difference is that we are a group named ABBA".
"Divorcing was the only solution"
There's a new man in Annifrids life. But the recently divorced dark haired singer keeps him out of publicity. She introduced him to her ex-husband Benny, and, according Frida, all three are good friends. The flaiming red haired beauty denies that her new lover is her chauffeur Lars Blomberg. He is a rich Swedish businessman. "I've learned from the mistakes I have made in the past", she says. I don't want to saddle my new friend up with all the questions and publicity, so therefore I keep his name secret. However, everyone has to know that I'm in love and that Frida has a new boyfriend. He is not from the music business and I like that. He is a part of my life, but I realise that it is important to have interests outside the showbusiness also".
She has two children from her first marriage, Hans (18) and Liselotte (14). Her second marriage with ABBA's Benny Andersson stranded. Now she says: "Marriage is no longer important for me, love is". We have to wait to see what will happen. Does she want any more children? "Hans and Liselotte are almost grown-ups. I'm not sure whether I want to start it all over". Last February, Benny and Frida announced that they were getting a divorce and within 6 weeks, the new man entered Frida's life. Now that Benny and I are separated, we can work together much better. Our personal relationship is much more calm and relaxed now. We are good friends and like each other very much. In the end, it is not all sad what has happened. We just grew apart because of our different interests. We have always been honest with each other. We talked and talked and talked and came to the conclusion that divorcing was the only option.
An other love
The main reason for the divorce was the fact that Benny, after he had lived with Frida for 9 years and had been married to her for 4 years, had found a new love. When he told Frida about her, they started about splitting up. A good friend says: "To Frida it came completely unexpected and she was devastated. There was a lot of crying and talking, but a divorce seemed inevitable". Frida is more publicity shy than the other ABBA members. And more than the others, she feels being a victim of untrue, misinterpreted and made-up stories. "The way people think about us have more to do with their imagination than with us as people", she says. 'They only see the glamour side of us, our outfits, what we do, the things all these made-up stories tell'.
As a 13 year-old girl
"When I started, I wanted people to know me as a person. The image people had of me was so incorrect. But it doesn't bother me anymore. I feel safe and sure as I am. I don't feel the need to tell that to everyone". As a 13 year-old girl, Frida dreamt of being a big star. She got a little bit of hope that it might come true when ABBA recorded their first album. Now she is a superstar, an inspiration to Swedish girls to have the same wild and flaiming hairdo. She started painting it years ago and it is almost red now.
Worries about money
"The first time the group got on stage was in 1971 in a local restaurant", says Frida."We were extremely bad. The audience hated us and we thought we were crazy". Now the group is world famous, has sold for millions during those 6 years and every member is a multi-millionaire. Ironically, Frida still worries about money. "Every month, we have a meeting to discuss our investments", she says. "We take decisions unanimous. I can lay awake at night, thinking if I made the right decisions".
Years ago, when she was married to Ragnar Fredriksson - the father of her two children - the marriage was destined to be a traditional one. A life being a wife and mother. At night, she sang in local cabaret groups, but her life was mainly her family. Now she says: "I would never have survived". Privé talked with Frida openly for two days. "I take the risk", she says. "But maybe this time, people will get to know the real me". Frida seems willing to show her audience more of her innerself. The truth about her as a person.
© Privé - 1981
Veronica tv-guide (Holland): "It's getting harder to come with new ideas", Late December 1981
ABBA: "it's getting harder to come with new ideas"
Half a year ago ABBA were in hot water. The couples' private problems were published in the tabloids and rumours came from Sweden suggesting that ABBA would quit. The supergroup would never perform again, and the long awaited album still wasn't released. Björn and Benny's lack of inspiration was named as the main reason. After the release of their latest album 'The Visitors', Veronica had a phonecall with Björn in Stockholm.
Veronica: The release of the new lp lasted longer than you had in mind.
Björn: Yes, that is correct. We started writing in February and from that time on we did nothing but recording new songs. That went on 'till 15 November. The delay had nothing to do with the lack of inspiration, because that is only 5 percent of the whole production. 95 percent is just hard work day-in-day-out. As songwriters we are very critical. A lot of songs end up in the wastebasket, because we refuse to copy old ABBA hits. In my opinion, this album is the best product we have ever made. The time we needed to finish it appeared to be longer than we thought. It is getting more and more difficult to come with new ideas if you have made so much music like we have".
There's the rumour that ABBA would only record in the studio and that there won't be any tours anymore...
Björn: "The group has been misinterpreted a lot by the press. When we say that we don't have any firm plans for a tour at the moment, that doesn't mean that we will not perform live anymore. Journalists tend to mix rumours and draw their own conclusions. I have to disappoint Dutch ABBA fans, but as soon we feel the urge to go on tour again, we will surely do that".
Are Agnetha and Frida going to record solo-albums?
Björn: Yes, there are plans. We are discussing it and at the beginning of next year we will know more. Than we hope to come with more detailed ideas".
Do you and Benny have any plans to write and produce for other artists?
Björn: "Yes, although it's too early to say something about it. In January this too will have more shape. I won't name any artists, but we have an idea in which direction we are looking".
When we talked with you in Rotterdam, right after the concert, you said that one of your greatest desires were to conquer China, Russia and South-America. Has anything happened meanwhile?
Björn: "Chiquitita was a smash hit in South-America. Incredible! We were popular in no time. About Russia I can tell you that we sell lots of records there. I recently spoke with a journalist from 'The New China', a Chinese paper, and he said that ABBA records are available in China too. However, fans can hardly get their hands on a copy, so what happens? The records land on the black market where they are sold for a lot of money. The limited distribution of the records give us an incorrect image about ABBA's popularity behind the iron curtain".
Have you reckoned with the American market during the making of The Visitors?
Björn: " No, that would be a stupid thing to do. We make music like we want to and what we think is good music. We can only hope that Americans have a place in their hearts for ABBA".
Do you regret that ABBA never really conquered America, while you made several efforts by touring the country?
Björn: "ABBA have sold a lot of records there".
But you never reached that status of 'superstars' like you did in Europe.
Björn: "That indeed is true, but what do you think is the advantage of having a superstar status, really? I can easily walk though New York without being recognized on the street".
English translation of a Dutch article published in Veronica tv-guide, December 1981
ABBA Robbed - An article about the stolen 'Just Like That' tapes (Holland, 1985)
NEW RECORDING SESSIONS DELAYED BY SECRET AUDIO TAPES
"One and a half year ago, when a few audio tapes were stolen from my car, we hardly worried about that", says Björn. "The tapes only contained few songs from recording sessions from that time. However, time has shown us that those numbers have been very usful later". Since the tapes were stolen, a serious trade in secret tapes started among the fans.
"I admit that it has been my fault", says Björn. "In 1983, we had the plan to put a new album together with some songs we had recorded during 'The Visitors' sessions. I left my car only a few minutes unguarded, but when I returned back, someone had managed to take the tapes away. At first, we thought that it wasn't such a big deal as the elpee would be released only a few months later. We just ran the risk that songs would be played on the radio before their release date. That was not convenient, but surely not a disaster. It changed as we decided not to release that album. The sales of 'The Day Before You Came' and 'Under Attack' singles were very bad and besides that, the girls were working on their solo projects and Benny and I worked on the Chess-musical. That meant that the stolen tapes with unreleased material would be floating around without our approval".
What Björn and Benny feared happened. "In the course of last year, tapes with songs like 'Opus 10', 'I Am The City' and 'Just Like That' appeared on the market", says Benny. "In England, fans even payed incredible prices for them. The tapes were exported from Germany, so it could be plausible that the thief was a German fan".
Björn and Benny are obviously not very comfortable with all this, especially as it concerns unfinished songs. Some of the songs were used for the Chess-musical. The classical 'Opus 10' became 'Anthem', now performed by Tommy Korberg, and 'Every Man Needs A Helping Hand', that was originally sung by Agnetha, ended up being 'Heaven Help My Heart'.
Despite all this Björn and Benny stay optimistic. "It is indeed a very unpleasant situation", they say. "We had planned to return back to the studio with Agnetha and Frida, to record songs we had left from Chess. We would like to record them with ABBA. As soon as the rush about the stolen tapes has blown over we will strike back like never before". ABBA aren't finished yet!
Translation from a Dutch article (1985)
It's Hip To Love ABBA (written by Lee Skirboll 1996)
IT'S HIP TO LOVE ABBA
Right now it is hip to love ABBA. From neo-camp films like Priscella, Queen of the Desert, and Murial's Wedding, to baby-boom nostalgia peddlers, VH-1, ABBA's music is suffering a mini resurgence which will certainly pass. Their current re-surfacing is understandable given the abhorrent mining of the 70's rampant in popular culture's desperate search for material. But I would like to examine them in a different, perhaps more serious light. For after the short attention spans are turned away from ABBA as
they must, many lingering questions and interesting phenomena are still left untouched.
Oddly, ABBA has neither asked for, nor needs any resurgence. During their heyday, they commanded popularity and wealth topping lists from Billboard to Fortune 500 . Knowing this, it is hard for us to understand why they stopped. Many will point to the interpersonal rifts within the band as reason for their demise. They were after all, symmetrically comprised of two couples, each
married, one blonde, the other auburn, and it is easy for us to understand the tensions generated by such a line up. We had already been primed for this break up by our acquaintance with the Beatles' problems of Yoko. During the Beatles break up, not a soul on earth could understand why the supergroup would just throw it all away. And while we couldn't understand why, we could grasp how. Yoko. Nobody but John liked Yoko. John wanted Yoko to be there and be involved and yadda yadda yadda. The Yoko problem. We understand. What most people fail to see is we were simply being fed a scapegoat. As we have seen countless times, scapegoats are vital when situations are too complicated, revealing and interconnected to explain in hand.
Like the Beatles, with whom they share much in common, ABBA ultimately had to rely on our gullibility and easily-swayed-with-lurid-headline nature in accepting their break up. But it cannot be that simple, and after some research it becomes obvious that this is exactly what they wanted us to think, yet the truth was much different.
To examine closely the body of recorded works that comprises ABBA, you are at once startled by the colossal scope of their oeuvre. I am not referring to sheer number of recordings produced, although they certainly were prolific, but moreso the implausibility of what it was they accomplished. Album after album of insanely catchy, hypnotically hummable, yet deceptively simple sounding pop gems. Most pop groups would kill for just one such song. Most would be happy and very lucky to even hit upon one of the
melodies that ABBA churned out with clock like regularity. And while plenty of groups have had their hit, ABBA couldn't miss. They became billionaires, Kings and Queens because of it. But one has to ask, was this their only purpose? To merely entertain us and become rich in the process? Yes, we say, this is indeed the goal of any recording artist, its just most of them don't have the talent to achieve what ABBA achieved.
To spend time with ABBA, listening, analyzing, putting the pieces together, it becomes clear that they were drawing upon something else to fuel their success. Something extra that makes it impossible for the human ear... the human mind to ignore. For if you think about it, what is it about a song that makes it "catchy?" What are the elements that give it a hook? If there were quantifiable ingredients to this, everybody would be doing it, every song would be a miniature masterpiece capable of capturing a secure place in our brainspace. Every pop artist would be a household word. Every songwriter a millionaire. Yet
this rarely happens.
And not only did ABBA have the ability to create intense melodic hooks, they often packed several of these hooks into one song alone. Any other respected pop artist would certainly try to spread a sudden burst of song writing insight over an entire album's length. But ABBA couldn't find the time to get them all in. An album wasn't really long enough for ABBA! No, they packed their never-ending stream of hooks anywhere they could: in every verse, chorus, song, single and album. And that still wasn't enough space to include every gem.
It is instructive to think about the obstacles in ABBA's path. First and foremost they were from Sweden. (Or so we were led to believe.) And after nearly a decade of writing and singing hit songs in ENGLISH, the members of ABBA could barely speak our foreign tongue. Yet are we to assume that they just ucked into burning their English lyrics into our subconscious minds? Could any of us write three or four dozen number one hit songs in Swedish? Even one? Do we even know what Swedish is, as a language?
Do we even know where Sweden is on a map?
But four unassuming Swedes come out of nowhere and instantly rise to the top of a long standing, 100% English speaking, American and British dominated system? Only Vladimir Nabakov was able to achieve similar cross-language success and look at the status we give him. But ABBA? English wasn't an obstacle to them. They even recorded their package of hits, ABBA Gold in Spanish, flawlessly translating their infectious message to whatever language seemed necessary at the time. And it is no accident that English was indeed the necessary language.
Think also about the craft of song writing. In the pop idiom there exist only seven primary chords and their respective variations with which to base your work. Including majors and minors and some other nifty tricks, the possible total of unique and unheard constructions isn't all that large a number. Taking into account the entire history of pop music leading up to ABBA, it seems
nearly impossible that the chord progressions ABBA hit upon over and over again, had been completely unheard and un-thought of until they decided to start writing music well into the 1970's. ABBA songs are not complex. Most rely on two, maybe three chords max to comprise a song. Where were these chord progressions the whole time before ABBA came to our attention? Are we to believe that nobody thought of them before? If I said that right now I could put out five albums, each with twelve or more songs, all of which are incredibly simple, unique, hook laden, catchy and irresistible, and none of which have ever been heard before, you'd rightly think me insane. No! It isn't mathematically possible nor likely. Even so, people to this day still write songs in vain attempts to 'hit one.' More power to them - it is a spectacle indeed when once in a rare while somebody does it. But nobody has been able to do it on the scale of ABBA, with the possible exceptions of the Beatles, and the British post punk band, XTC. Nobody is likely to do it again either, unless...unless...
These crafty songwriters are special people who know our minds this well and are able to speak directly to some primal need we have for three chords that we can hum. This talent should also ignite our suspicion. If it is so easy for a handful ofprolific pop-meisters to manipulate us in this fashion, it is not conceivable that other messages are also getting through? In other words, what if ABBA wasn't as benign as we always thought? What if their sugar-coated, innocent Swedish exterior was a purposeful
construction? An image meant to deflect their real purpose?
In fact, everything we know about them should lead us to question them more closely. They claimed to be from Sweden yet was this ever proven? No. They claimed to be husbands and wives, yet why did they look more like siblings? Why was hair color really the only identifiable difference between them? Could we ever tell who was singing what? Who was playing what instrument? Was it even the four images we now identify as ABBA making the music? Where did they learn their command of the English pop idiom?
What did they do before they hit our scene? Why suddenly an album in Spanish? Isn't it a bit too convenient that the acronym for their first names happened to spell ABBA? ABBA. Certainly this circular palindrome, this seeming nonsense word that has entered our vocabulary bears another look. It seems so elemental, "Abba," an infant's first words, the first two characters of our alphabet in endless repetition ike some sort of binary code. ABBA - 1221. Abbabbabbabba - 1221221221221. Babble? Perhaps not to the trained eye, the sensitive receptor. Yes ABBA left us at the height of their popularity, and isn't that cause for concern? What could really account for their premature break up?
Perhaps their work among us was done. The permutations of 12/21 were exhausted as well as their clever chord constructions, and they simply stopped. Perhaps they were just transmitters, beaming a message from afar. When they stopped receiving, so unfortunately did we.
But keep an ear open, I say. Listen to and remember your ABBA songs. One day you will certainly need them, one day they will be important, one day they will lock into place.
Or perhaps a new group will suddenly hit the scene, cranking out hit after hit after hit, and this time you will take careful note. Maybe they will be from Sweden, but I sincerely doubt it. You can be sure of three things though: they will sing in English, they will quit before their time, and we will all make them rich by listening.
Copyright © 1996 Lee Skirboll
An ABBA reunion as Görel Hanser celebrates her 50th birthday in the summer of 1999.
After nearly 20 years, they were back on stage together - and they sang!
AGNETHA IN TEARS OF JOY WHEN ABBA REUNITE
All old quarrels were forgotten for one night. The ABBA members hugged emotionally. And sang. Together.
For the first time in nearly 20 years. Our old classic hit: "Med en enkel tulipan" (With a simple tulip). For their friend Görel Hanser, who turned 50 years old.
The many guests hushed, an extremely attentive atmosphere spread across the restaurant.
First came Benny Andersson, self confident, smiling, standing on the small stage. Closely followed by Björn Ulvaeus. Several seconds passed - and suddenly there stood Anni-Frid Lyngstad and - to be sure - finally Agnetha Fältskog.
ABBA together. On stage. 25 years after "Waterloo" in London and for the first time in nearly 20 years after the final split.
- I felt myself get goosepimples on my arms, says one of the guests. It was history, short and good and a moment that you wanted to remember. The tears ran down my cheeks...
ABBA smiled harmoniously, the young, tense faces one remembered from before, when their stage career put them on top, had been changed to ones of inner calm.
They held each other's hands and they sang. Not one of their great hits, just the Swedish Harry Brandelius song "With a simple tulip on your birthday, we are honoured, we are honoured to congratulate you".
The guest of honour Görel Hanser turned 50. She has been everything to ABBA over the years - the happy, hard working, stressed years. She had invited her friends to a birthday party at the Modern Museum's restaurant on Skeppsholmen in Stockholm. From there, the guests were transported by
boat from Gustav III's statue to the royal castle on Skeppsbron.
As always when turning 50 is being celebrated, things become a little sad. People who have made careers start to look back on their life.
That the ABBA people became such a focus is no surprise. Görel Hanser stood and stands near them a lot. She started to work as a secretary to the late Stig Anderson, and later on was there when ABBA came into being, grew, exploded - and voluntarily melted away.
The world's ABBA sat there now in the Swedish summer night. They got on well together. All the fighting and nagging between them which has been described in books and evening papers, has become forgotten over the years.
Agnetha smiled, cracked jokes, appeared a long way removed from the Garbo-look she has sometimes taken on. Drank wine, clinked glasses and hugged each and everyone she met. She
danced, even asked people to dance with her, and had a sing along.
Anni-Frid, confident, attractive, chic, loved the attention and to meet all the industry people.
Björn, clever, charming, amusing.
Benny, perpetual grumbler, not silent for many minutes, talked amusingly with the birthday girl.
There sat the gang of four. The world's theatre and record producers have begged them to make a comeback but they have refused.
As Björn Ulvaeus said:
- We would just be pathetic. ABBA is over. Period.
But here was the generation which created ABBA. Even though the "good" music critics thought that their music was too "light and schlager-like".
- I became so emotional when I saw all four together, as friends, says one of the guests at the party. It reminds me sentimentally about the life which was such fun at the time. It was like sliding back in time.
The time after ABBA meant different things to each of them.
Björn and Benny continued writing music and had big success in another genre, writing the musicals "Chess" and "Kristina från Duvemåla".
Anni-Frid and Agnetha released a couple of their own records but without great success.
The boys became hot news while the girls created their own lives. Anni-Frid remarried and became a princess, Agnetha sought peace and quiet in her magnificent mansion outside Stockholm.
As a reminder that the new generation is taking over, Görel Hanser's two children, Calle, 15, and Carolina, 10, sang so beautifully and brought a tear to the eye.
And who should accompany them but Ludvig Andersson with an orchestra. Ludvig, the talented youngest son of Benny.
When the party was in it's last hours, Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Björn and Benny said farewell to each other. They hugged heartily before stepping out into the summer light.
Article written by Sten Hedman and appeared in Se och Hör.
A few articles written in the Dutch language
Dutch Annifrid's grote geheim - Uit Popfoto
ANNIFRID'S GROTE GEHEIM
Waar kan je nou ongelukkig om zijn als alles je voor de wind gaat? Als de Californische palmen achter je zachtjes ruisen en alle deuren voor je opengaan? Wat kan je missen als je voor hordes fotografen staat te "smilen", de televisiecamera's je op de voet volgen en de hotel directeur voor je buigt als een knipmes? Waar kan je dàn nog naar verlangen? Naar je kinderen misschien, in het koude Zweden?
ABBA's Annifrid viel in het warme zuiden van de Verenigde Staten hopeloos door de mand. Wat Popfoto's speurneuzen in Nederland en in Zweden al meer dan een jaar voor raadsels zette, loste onze Amerikaanse fotograaf in één dagje op. Met hulp van niemand minder dan Annifrid zélf! Waar wij heb nu over hebben? Over het mysterie dat onze nijvere redactie alhier al zolang bezig houdt: Annifrid's kinderen! Sinds de wereld van ABBA hoorde, ontkende Annifrid in alle toonaarden dat ze spruiten had, deed Benny knoerthard mee en wisten platenmaatschappijen in Nederland en Zweden niet hoe hard ze ,,'NEE" moesten brullen als Annifrid's (en Benny's) kinderen ook maar ter sprake kwamen. Maar eenmaal in Amerika aangekomen, vergat Annifrid al haar terughoudendheid. In haar heimwee verraadde ze zichzelf. De eerste paar dagen in het land waar ABBA door wil breken, gingen nog wel. Er was zoveel te doen; rennen van de ene tv-studio naar de andere, kostuumrepetities, fotosessies en al die dingen die tijdens een promotietouree van je verwacht worden, dat Annifrid 's avonds al sliep zodra haar kleine teen boven 't bed hing...
Naar mate de dagen verstreken, en Annifrid gewend raakte aan het razende Amerikaanse tempo, begon de heimwee naar haar twee koters, die Annifrid uit een vorig huwelijk heeft, te knagen. Normaal bezocht ze de twee, die in Zweden bij een pleeggezin zijn ondergebracht, zo veel ze kon. Het was een vaste gewoonte van Annifrid en Benny geworden om in de wintervakanties kun kinderen (ook Benny heeft twee kinderen uit een vorig huwelijk) mee te nemen naar een typisch Zweeds blokhutje, om daar een heerlijke ski-vakantie door te brengen. Maar dat kon nu niet doorgaan en naarmate de maand december dichter naar Kerstmis toekroop, en Annifrid in Amerika moest blijven, voelde ze zich ongelukkiger. Ze werd snauwiger tegen de pers- en televisiemensen, en later ook tegen haar mede ABBA-ers. Björn kreeg een veeg uit de pan toen hij haar op probeerde te vrolijken en Agnetha bleef zoveel mogelijk uit Annifrid's buurt. En toen kwam Popfoto's fotograaf op de proppen...
Bovengenoemde speurneus namelijk, merkte net als alle andere lieden rond Annifirid, dat er iets mis was. Maar in plaats van zich hierdoor af te laten schrikken, bleef hij in haar buurt en wachtte zijn kans af. Die kans kwam, toen ze tussen twee televisie-opnamen door in haar eentje een wandeling ging maken door een park bij de studio's. Als een volleerd spoorzoeker volgde de man met de camera Annifrid zonder dat ze het merkte en verschool hij zich achter een enorme palm, toen de Zweedse zangeres zich zuchtend op een bankje liet zakken.
Ademloos wachtte de nijvere popfotoman op de volgende gebeurtenissen, maar er gebeurde niets. Annifrid bleef weemoedig naar de eendjes in de vijver kijken. Na een kwartier raapte onze fotograaf al zijn moed bij elkaar, en ging naast Annifrid op het bankje zitten. ,,En", begon hij heldhaftig, wat is er toch loos met jou! Ik sla je nou al en paar dagen dage, en eh...ik vind dat je je gedraagt als een nijdige spin. Zijn alle Zweedse meisjes zo?'' Ondanks haar heimwee moest Annifrid lachen. ,,Welnee'', zei ze. ,,Ik heb gewoon heimwee naar mijn kinderen!'' Bijna was onze brave flitser van het bankje gevallen. Dit was een regelrechte bekentenis!. ,,Je kinderen?'' vroeg hij kwasi verbaasd. ,,Ja, knikte Annifrid. ,,Ik heb altijd voor de pers verzwegen dat ik kinderen heb. Ik wil niet dat ze ooit geplaagd worden door journalisten die alles over ze willen weten. Ze wonen bij pleegouders, maar ik zie ze erg vaak. Met Kerstmis zijn we altijd samen geweest, tot nu toe, gezellig met z'n allen rond de boom en zo. In Zweden is Kerstmis het grootste feest van het jaar. En nu zijn ze alleen...'' muisstil bleef de fotograaf zitten, tot Annifrid ineens opstond, haar schouders rechtte en haar neus in de wind stak. ,,Weet je wat ik doe,'' lachte ze toen. ,,Ik neem ze mee op vakantie zodra we weer rustig in Zweden zijn. En tot dan moet ik mijn heimwee maar verbergen.''
En met die woorden wandelde ze, toch wel stuk opgelucht, terug naar de studio's, naar Benny en Agnetha en Björn... en al haar ABBA-verplichtingen.