Sunday, 29 June 2008

Bravo, October 1979: In the morning in bikini, in the evening on stage

This article is almost identical to the previous one (even the text is nearly the same). Only, this one is from German magazine Bravo and it features different pics.
In the pic of Agnetha trying on sunglasses, tour promotor Thomas Johansson is mistaken for Benny.
On September 10th it kicked off: with an entourage of 60 people ABBA started their extensive tour of North-America and Europe. The first two weeks, the Swedish group celebrated triumphs in Canada and the north-west of the USA. Then they came to California.
And there, under the everlasting Los Angeles sun, they inserted their first recovery-break. They installed themselves for a week at the well-known Hotel Sunset Marquee, that is favoured by many rock-stars. And from this venue, they flew to their concerts in the vicinity every afternoon: Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco. All with their private jet, a Hawker Jet, that once was owned by the famous billionaire Howard Hughes. Mostly around two o’clock at night they would return to their hotel...
And there, at Sunset Marquee, Bravo had the opportunity to experience ABBA totally private for once. Every morning, all four ABBA-members with their five children could be found at the swimming pool. They swam, sunbathed, oiled each other up with suntan oil – in other words – under the Californian sun they recovered from all the strains of their super-tour.
They especially enjoyed being able to go out shopping on the nearby Sunset Strip, without being recognized. Indeed, the ABBA-songs are known in the USA, but the members themselves are relatively unknown. Up ‘til now they’ve only been seen twice on US TV-screens. But there’s no doubt about it that this will change drastically after the ABBA-tour. Like everywhere else in the world, ABBA will then be hunted for autographs over there as well...

Pop Foto, December 1979: Who talks about quarrels within ABBA?

This article is showing lots of private snapshots from behind the scenes of the 1979 tour, meanwhile also reassuring fans that all is well in ABBA-camp.Who talks about quarrels within ABBA? About tensions, irreconcilable differences or even a possible break-up? That’s certainly inconceivable. Even more so when you have seen the four and their loved ones on one of the few days off during their major world-tour...

Agnetha, all giddy, is goofing around with her six year old daughter Linda in the swimming pool. Linda has just learned how to swim, but is still holding on tightly to her mother as much as possible. When she’s had enough of swimming, mummy Agnetha takes a seat on a comfortable couch next to Lena, Björn’s new girlfriend. Björn himself is watching it all, sitting relaxed at the poolside. A little further away, we see Benny getting everybody laughing, by putting a big spider on the bare back of one of the members of the ABBA-band. Meanwhile, Annifrid is walking through the whole scene with a broad smile, chatting away here and there. That afternoon in the sunny backyard of the Sunset Marquee Hotel in Los Angeles, it becomes clear that it’s virtually impossible that there are enormous quarrels and unbearable tensions in the ABBA-camp. The children flew in for a few days from Stockholm. The ultra-fast private jet, rented especially for the ABBA-concerts at the American Westcoast, will stay put for 24 hours. Just for a moment, there will be no working, only having fun.
“The atmosphere within the group is now better than ever,” is what Björn would later state after the ABBA-concert in Holland. And he might just be right about that.
“Us, breaking up? That’s absolute nonsense! We couldn’t, even if we wanted to. This business is addictive,” says Benny.
A couple of hours later, the pool area is deserted. ABBA has gone out shopping at the big warehouses in Los Angeles. “At least here we can still walk the streets virtually unnoticed. Here in the States they’ve only seen us twice on television. It feels good not to be hounded by fans, for once,” Björn says. “But still, we’d rather see that the other way around as soon as possible!”

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Hitkrant, January 1982: ABBA show their colours

An article that appeared in Dutch magazine Hitkrant, shortly after the release of the The Visitors album, informing us that two songs from that album had been recorded in Spanish.
Of course, there has been much ado about ABBA’s Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s new, fire red hairdo. But not only in that respect has ABBA shown their colours; that mainly happened with the new album ‘The Visitors’ of which the general opinion is that ABBA is showing a completely new and personal side. In the meantime, subsequent work for ‘The Visitors’ has begun, because obviously it’s not just about recording an album and then sit and wait how many copies are being sold.
The past few years ABBA has focussed more and more on the South American market, and subsequently has released several singles and albums in Spanish. That’s also the case with ‘The Visitors’: two songs from the album have been recorded in Spanish as well. As ever, Buddy Mary McCluskey translated the lyrics and that’s how ‘When All Is Said And Done’ turned into ‘No Hay A Quien Culpar’ and ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ turned into ‘Se Me Esta Escapando’. Of course, the version of the album with these two Spanish songs is aimed at the Spanish-speaking countries, and has been released already in Mexico, Latin-America and South-America.
As a consequence, three promotional films are available at the moment. One for ‘When All Is Said And Done’, one for ‘One Of Us’ (which has been broadcast on TV already) and one for ‘No Hay A Quien Culpar’. Yes, you could buy them, but you would have to order them in Stockholm and pay about 500 Dutch guilders for them, excluding postage! Obviously, the promotional films are primarily made to be used for television.
That’s how the ABBA-machine is working at full force. The combination of the endless musicality of the Swedish foursome and the brilliant business-skills of Stig Anderson is still a guarantee for one success after the other.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Muziek Parade, 1983: I feel better than ever!

An article published in Dutch magazine Muziek Parade, following Agnetha's promotional visit to Holland for the Wrap Your Arms Around Me album.At the big ANWB TV-show, Muziek Parade met ABBA’s Agnetha. Behind the scenes she talked about the difficult time she has behind her. It became clear that Agnetha went through hell, and that the break from ABBA did her good. Full of courage, she’s looking at the future again. And there’s no doubt about it that the future looks promising!

The past two years we haven’t heard much of Agnetha. And probably it was all for the better, because she herself wasn’t motivated to do anything. ABBA was drawing to its close, the hits weren’t as convincing as they once were and the harmony in the group, or rather the lack of it, was perceptible. The energy had been lost and who dared to re-energize the group?
Frida was the first to make some drastic changes. After her divorce she cleared the air. Together with Phil Collins she started a new life. Her solo-album ‘Something’s Going On’ brought a new and daring sound and gave her her first solo-successes, albeit short-lived.
Meanwhile Agnetha kept things quiet. Her divorce was harder on her than many could have imagined. She was upset and nothing seemed to inspire her. The friends she met in those days couldn’t make a permanent change in her state of mind. The time that’s behind her caused her a lot of pain and it seems as if those years are written on her face.
“You know,” she says after a while during the interview we had with her backstage, “in hindsight you wonder why it all took so long. Everything that has happened, was a long time coming. Our divorce had been in the air for a long time. The birth of Christian could not turn things around. Even before that, things hadn’t been good between Björn and me. What do you expect, we saw each other 24 hours a day, ultimately that has to cause problems. In a normal family the husband works and the wife is keeping house. She only sees her husband in the evenings and the weekends, so when disagreements arise it’s possible to let a day go by and let things quiet down, before talking it out. The biggest tension is then relieved, but with us that was different.
During tours we saw each other every day and that wasn’t fun. On top of that we were fed up with being away from home so much and not being able to even go out on the town, shopping or something. All those things can get annoying. And the times we were at home, Benny and Björn had to go out again to write songs in total isolation. That would go on for weeks on end and then it would be time again to get to work in the studio. That’s not a life, is it?”

In the past ten years, ABBA was the leading group in Western-Europe. After their Eurovision victory in Brighton in 1974, they stormed the charts. Not as one-hit-wonders, the following nine years every single would be a top 10 hit. Not bad for a group from Sweden and a group that could equal the popularity of the Beatles and even surpass it, in time-span.
“Yes, getting divorced is a heavy blow,” she says. “Even more so when you are famous. These are aspects you reckon with from the start, and it makes you try to keep a divorce at a distance. But eventually, we had to make the decision. Christian, who will turn six years old this year, was our last hope, but it wasn’t to be. No, it’s not that there were big fights between us, but the love wasn’t there anymore, we didn’t have anything to say to each other anymore. And I’m only human. I cried a lot in those times, it was really bad.”

Agnetha is doing well again. Really well, actually. Together with the English hit-maker Michael Chapman she has recorded a well-balanced album. Not only the single ‘The Heat Is On’, but also the album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’ is of the kind of perfection we could expect from Agnetha. Her eyes start to sparkle when we talk about it and she says: “That album-title says it all, really, don’t you think. Take me in your arms, a feeling I have missed for years and only since recently I know what it means again. It means there’s someone there who loves you, someone to turn to when something bad happens, or when you feel depressed, someone who helps you to get back on your feet again. Sometimes words are not able to express what you want to say. A gesture like an arm around your shoulder can be enough, it speaks volumes. It gets you going again. That’s why I wasn’t able to do this record sooner. I needed someone to talk to, someone who could take my insecurity away. I have someone like that now. I felt relieved of an enormous pressure, I was able to see things in perspective again. The children, Linda and her brother Christian, have had time to recover as well, they are coming back to life again. Finally, I’ve found the right balance between my work and my family. Especially Linda has helped me a lot lately, as little as she is. I really don’t know, where she gets it from. Maybe childlike simplicity is the answer to difficult issues. I know now that the hard work of the past years has left its mark on me. It has worn me out, but it’s very strange, I’ve started again with new courage and when I see the results, I can honestly say: I feel better than ever!”

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Story, January 1982: The truth about the sadness of the ABBA-girls

Gossip-magazine Story published this article, after Agnetha and Frida had appeared on Dutch TV-show MIES for a short interview. The video for One Of Us was also premiered on that show.
Obviously, this 'interview' is made up: starting to record the album without any songs ready; Agnetha and Frida recording their vocals and shooting the One Of Us video, without Benny and Björn being present... lol! I suppose they also thought Benny and Björn were edited into this picture.

Did you see them on television the other day? ABBA’s Agnetha and Annifrid were looking rather lifeless. But what exactly was hidden behind those tired faces? And what do the two famous singers really want, deep in their hearts?

It all seemed so ideal. At the time, the story of ABBA really started out as a fairy tale. Four happy, young people won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with their song ‘Waterloo’. Since then ABBA turned into the most successful group in the world. Everything the group did after that, became an enormous success. Although in their private lives things were starting to go downhill for the two married couples: Björn decided to divorce Agnetha. Later on, the same thing happened to Benny and Annifrid. Still this wasn’t a reason for the foursome to go their separate ways professionally as well. The four Swedes took up the courage to continue on the successful path, they have been following for ten years now. As it turns out, that’s not so easy. Especially the past few months have been difficult, according to Agnetha and Frida, who talked about the problems within ABBA, just before their holiday...

“I’m so glad that our new album ‘The Visitors’ is finally finished and in the shops all over the world,” sighs Agnetha, before she sits down next to her friend and colleague Annifrid. “Believe me, this time the recording of the album really was an uphill struggle. Normally, we would enter the studio with the pre-written material. This time, nothing had been written yet when we came to the studio. On top of that, Benny and Björn were never satisfied with the results. And if they weren’t, it would be our manager Stig Anderson. We kept on re-recording, until it drove us crazy... exhausting, really!”
Annifrid agrees completely with her: “It was really awful this time. Things became even more complicated because of Benny and Björn, who involve us to a lesser extent in the proceedings and therefore are starting to do more and more things separately from us. This time, they recorded all the music in advance. Later on, when they weren’t there, we had to come in to record the vocals. When they came back to the studio later and heard that things weren’t satisfactory, we were at home again. That’s how we kept running back and forth to the studio! In the past we always did everything together. That went much faster. It also took a lot of planning before the promotional film for our single ‘One Of Us’ was ready. That was a complete disaster as well! Like I said before, the boys Benny and Björn want as little to do with us as possible. Also, they have lots of other things on their mind at the moment. That’s why we taped the film first and the boys were edited in later on. I don’t think I want to continue like this, and I reckon Agnetha thinks the same.”
Annifrid looks questionally at the blonde singer beside her, who is nodding decisively. “I don’t feel like it any longer this way,” she says. “We are growing further apart. There’s not much left of the good atmosphere, that was always so wonderful. Annifrid and I are not happy with the situation at all. You can also sense it, listening to our new album, that isn’t exactly a happy record. It consists only of sad songs, that reflect exactly how we feel at the moment. Probably, Benny and Björn feel the same way, because in the end they have written the songs. Maybe things will get better in the future, when we all have had a long holiday. That’s what I hope wholeheartedly, otherwise ABBA can end tomorrow, as far as I’m concerned. I really mean that. That way, Annifrid and I will get the chance to do other things as well. And to spend more time with our children. Taking everything in consideration, our children are obviously more important than ABBA. No matter how much we enjoyed it in the past. Now I’m actually waiting for the moment that ABBA is definitely over. Because like I said, I don’t feel like continuing like this any longer...”

Monday, 23 June 2008

Hitkrant, November 1977: ABBA-special

Another ABBA-special from 1977, dedicated to ABBA-The Movie and ABBA-The Album. This one is from Hitkrant, featuring a lot of great pics.
Already in 1977 there was talk of a musical to be written at some point in the future. It would take another 7 years before that musical would become reality, and then obviously not as an ABBA-project.

The failed interview

The working-title of the ABBA-movie that will open in Holland in December is ‘The Girl With The Golden Hair’. But everyone will probably call it ‘the ABBA-movie’. And that’s what it is: ABBA from start to finish, in all kinds of situations, during live-performances, taking a horse-ride and at a picnic.

It hasn’t been easy for director Lars Hallström to make a movie about the Swedish foursome. But cleverly he chose the right approach: the dream.
It’s the dream of every ABBA-fan: to be in the presence of their idols just once, to talk to them and touch them.

The Australian journalist Robert Hughes has that dream as well, but more for professional reasons: he wants to do an interview with ABBA no matter what, during their Australian tour. But he doesn’t seem to succeed. The cheerful Swedes manage to avoid him and despite several schemes, Robert does not manage to get in contact with ABBA.
For poor Robert there’s not much else to do than escape in his dreams. In those dreams, everything is possible: he meets ABBA, has diner with Agnetha, Björn, Anni-Frid and Benny, takes a horse-ride with the girls and finally gets his much-desired interview.
But like it is with every dream, there’s the inevitable waking up. Gone is ABBA, there’s just Robert Hughes...
Anyway, we will be able to see it all for ourselves; on December 21 we will be at the Hitkrant world-premiere of the ABBA-movie, together with 500 Hitkrant-readers. See you in six weeks!

A new ABBA is born

Four letters: A-B-B-A. The initials of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid. A household name for millions, from eight years old to eighty, from Melbourne to Moscow. You can write books about ABBA (and that has happened as well), but in this Hitkrant-special we will have to limit ourselves just a little. There are two things we can’t ignore: ABBA now and of course the ABBA-movie.

The ‘ABBA now’ part is very important: the new single ‘The Name Of The Game’ is a five-minute long introduction to a new ABBA. The time of the ‘sweet pop-songs’ seems to be over: this is grown-up pop-music.
“Actually, it wasn’t a conscious decision that we had to come up with something new,” says Björn. “But you are right to say that new things are happening. One thing is for sure: from now on we will definitely pay more attention to the lyrics.”
A lot of hard work has been put into the new album. Also in that respect changes can be heard in the ABBA-pattern: all songs on the record have a connection, like in a musical. That’s also ABBA’s dream: being able at some point to write a musical.
Björn: “Sooner or later that dream will certainly become reality. When it will happen, I don’t know. But our new album is a first step in that direction, it’s a test.”

The release-date of the album will probably be postponed until February, mainly because of Agnetha: she is obviously pregnant and although she’s doing well, the doctor prescribed complete rest for her. There was a danger that the baby – expected to be born on November the 24th – would come too early. That’s why Agnetha has to rest in the new mansion of the Ulvaeus-family in the Stockholm suburb Lidingö.
“I would love the baby to be a boy,” says Agnetha. “Then we would have one of each!” She feels good, but she’s strictly following doctor’s orders: exercise everyday and no smoking!

In 1978, there will probably be no tours for ABBA. Björn: “To be honest, we don’t like it at all. On top of that, we don’t make a profit on it. The only reason to do it is for the fans, and the added factor there is that there will always be a lot of fans who will have to be disappointed, not being able to get tickets!”

ABBA is doing very well. Manager Stig Anderson is expecting a turnover of 30.500.000 Dutch guilders, of which an estimated 23.000.000 is pure profit. Actually, that is the main worry for Stig and ABBA: finding ways to invest all that money!



Saturday, 21 June 2008

Weekend, November 1982: I enjoy my freedom...

An interview from Dutch magazine Weekend, published after Frida's visit to Holland in 1982, promoting the Something's Going On album. Part of the visit was an appearance on the highly-rated Dutch TV-show MIES, on which she was interviewed and performed the then current single To Turn The Stone.
Cliff Richard was one of the other guests on the show. I've added a poster from German magazine Pop Rocky, featuring a picture of Frida and Cliff taken at this occasion.
Dutch people are not known for showing their emotions. Only a handful of artists has managed to unleash those inner feelings of ecstasy within us (that every human being has). But those are the real stars. One of them is Annifrid Lyngstad, member of Swedish pop-group ABBA. She paid a visit to our country for promotion of her solo-album. Naturally, Weekend was there for you.

The fans have been waiting for hours. There is a cosy atmosphere among the hundreds of people who gathered together to see their idol ‘in the flesh’ and hand over a flower or a present. Inside, at the Singer-theatre in Laren, the well-known AVRO people, Mies Bouwman, Fred Oster, Leen Timp and their co-workers are busy preparing the first ‘MIES-show’ of this season. The rehearsals conclude without problems. The special guest of this evening hasn’t arrived yet. Inside, the company is now patiently awaiting her arrival as well.
“Here she comes,” someone yells. Outside, the young, agitated people storm towards a car, that’s immediately surrounded by the enthusiastic crowd. Inside the car is Frida Lyngstad. She is used to this, for her it’s all very common. For almost ten years it has never been different for her, but she was together with her ABBA-colleagues then. Now she’s alone. The people are coming to see her.
Frida gets out of the car calmly and without any reserve she goes to her fans. She tries to give everyone the feeling they haven’t been waiting in vain, accepts flowers and presents, takes time to chat here and there, until her secretary slowly takes her inside. Frida is very nicely dressed in a colourful, suède dress, all in the latest mini-fashion, just above the knee. Her narrow waistline is accentuated by a beautiful, broad belt. A brown pantyhose and boots lined with fur complete the tasteful outfit. The rehearsals can continue. Frida performs a song from her first solo-album. It sounds good. Then she disappears to her dressing-room to recover from the trip. An hour later I’m having coffee with her. The fans have discovered her presence again and constantly tap the window behind us. It’s difficult to have a conversation. After a few minutes, Frida gets up. “Would you mind to go and sit somewhere else, Honnie? We could try to find a quieter corner.” We find a cosy table, where we can talk without interruptions.

I ask Frida if this constant attention annoys her.
“No, absolutely not. I even enjoy it. I think it’s wonderful that the fans go through so much trouble to come near me. But sometimes it just isn’t possible. That people love my music is of course fantastic. That’s what every artist longs for. I need my fans, without them I don’t exist. The organisers always get very nervous when they see those crowds of people. In the end, it’s not so bad.”

Annifrid Lyngstad (her name is Frida at the moment, because of her solo-career) has become known because of the enormous success of the Swedish pop-group ABBA. “For my family and friends I have always been Frida, so that name isn’t new, actually,” she explains.
What is new is her musical direction. Has it been difficult for her to do something totally different from ABBA?
“There has been a full year of preparations until I finally entered the studios in London for the first recordings. So I felt ready for it. Still, I was very nervous. You are in different surroundings with other people. So I was very tense in the beginning. But it soon faded. When we started rehearsing, we all got used to each other pretty quickly. In no-time we all got very close and in those six weeks, that we worked together on the record, we have become one big family.”

What gave you the idea to work with Genesis’ Phil Collins?
“My daughter had bought his single ‘In the air tonight'. I thought that was a marvellous record. Soon after that I bought his album ‘Face Value’. When I had listened to that, I was determined to contact him for a possible collaboration. When I called him eventually with the proposition to produce my solo-album and play the drums as well, he was enthusiastic immediately. The result has become totally different from the ABBA-sound, but that was my intention. For me, it was essential to create an own sound and, despite the fact that I worked with different musicians and in totally different circumstances, I think I succeeded.”

Isn’t it possible that Frida’s own popularity and business interests will cause conflicts with ABBA’s interests?
“There is a misunderstanding about our professional lives. Working with ABBA doesn’t take up all of my time. Björn and Benny write all our music together, and that takes very much time. That means that Agnetha and I are free to do whatever we want. Agnetha has just made a movie. We all have our own lives. That’s much healthier four our cooperation, which is still excellent. Soon, a special album will be released to commemorate our tenth anniversary. I still prefer ABBA. I don’t neglect ABBA, now I’m performing as a solo-artist as well. It’s easy to combine and I’m still faithful to ABBA, as always.”

You’ve said that music is your greatest passion, and that you couldn’t live without it. Do you think you sacrificed your personal happiness for your career?
“I don’t have any regrets about my life. ABBA has been a dream come true for me. I’ve always wanted to become a singer from when I was a child. I dreamed of becoming rich and famous. It all came true. I’ve met lots of interesting people, travelled the whole world and experienced so much. I feel privileged. How many people get the opportunity to achieve that? Yes, I’m very thankful and don’t regret anything. I have a good and happy private life with my children and friends. I spend most of my spare time in their company. I have a very positive attitude. The future is the only thing that’s really important to me. It’s no use to look back and ponder about things that can’t be changed anyway. If you do that, you become bitter and unsatisfied, and I never want that to happen.”

Frida comes across as a very calm and steady woman. Her wealth has changed a lot in her life, of course, but she will never be blasé about it.
“I’m eternally grateful for the success and at the same time it makes me feel humble. It’s still hard to conceive that it all turned out the way it did. Wealth means a special kind of freedom. I think that’s the most important thing for me. Other than that I don’t think about it very much. I don’t live in overflowing luxury, but I do enjoy my freedom to do whatever I like to do.”

And that means for Frida: being at home with her children and friends and working on her music. No diva-behaviour whatsoever.
“My children are very steady and critical, so they make sure things don’t get out of hand,” she says smiling. And that’s Frida Lyngstad – a normal and authentic woman.

Frida is still Cliff’s fan
During the taping of the show, Frida met an old acquaintance: the English pop-singer Cliff Richard. With their performances, both stars would cause a certain amount of emotions with the many admirers in the audience.
Frida revealed she had been a big fan of the now 42-year old singer as a teenager. “I collected photographs of Cliff and bought all his records. I never would have imagined I’d ever be on the same TV-show,” says Frida. Cliff, polite and charming, was very complimentary about his Swedish colleague: “She’s a born artist, a woman I’d like to work with. I’ve followed ABBA’s career closely and am impressed by their qualities. I hope the group will stay together for a long time to come.”
About a possible duet with Frida, Cliff could only say he would definitely consider such a proposition. When Weekend came to the subject of marriage, both stars got considerably less talkative. Cliff would only say that marriage is a big responsibility, especially for people in show-business. Rumours about a possible marriage between him and tennis-star Sue Barker, were discarded with the words: “We’re just good friends.”
Frida wasn’t very revealing about this subject either. Frida: “I will never say ‘never’, but for now I’m concentrating on my career. I will see what the future has in store for me. For now I’m happy being free.”
Together they posed for Weekend, and subsequently disappeared to their dressing-rooms: rich, famous and sometimes happy...

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Pop Foto, 1976: We've neglected our child!

An article published in 1976 (it says Linda is three years old), but I think the pics are from 1975.

Being a mother and father, what do you do when your own daughter thinks she doesn’t have a mummy or daddy anymore... just a nanny? Well, what do you do? You take a long holiday, the three of you! At least, that’s what Agnetha and Björn Ulvaeus did when they started to notice they were becoming strangers to their little Linda.

“I remember it as if it was yesterday,” says blonde ABBA-singer Agnetha. “After a tour, we had travelled all day to be with our little Linda again as soon as possible. It was already getting late when we finally arrived home. Our nanny had already put Linda to bed, but Björn and I just couldn’t wait to see her, so the three of us went to her nursery. Linda stood in her little bed. But when I took her in my arms and cuddled her, she started to cry! Björn tried to calm her, but she was terrified of us. We were strangers to her! It seemed as if she didn’t remember who we were, and hid her face against the shoulder of the nanny. I’d never been so startled in my life! Our own child didn’t recognize us anymore...”

Agnetha gives her little girl, that is running through the waves of the Mediterranean during our conversation, a hug and continues with her story. “When we recovered from the shock, we immediately called our manager and cancelled all our performances. We just had to get out, just the three of us. That’s how we came to Crete. Here we can get used to each other again, and here Linda started to call us mummy and daddy again!”

Agnetha and Björn are determined to never leave their daughter alone for such a long time again. “We’ve come to realize that we’ve neglected the little sweetheart. But that’s going to change! Even if it means we can perform a lot less, or even never again, from now on we will be real parents for Linda,” says Björn, while Agnetha and her cheerful daughter build a beautiful sandcastle on the hot sand. “With most artists, only the man or the woman is away from home a lot, so their child at least has one parent. But with us it’s different, of course. Linda is now three years old, she’s starting to talk, to think for herself, to ask questions and so on. You just have to be there as a parent! I want to be a good father, and Agnetha a good mother, so, one way or the other, Linda always comes first!”

Monday, 16 June 2008

Hitkrant, September 1982: ABBA's Agnetha in front of the camera

In 1982, filming started for the Swedish movie Raskenstam, starring Agnetha in a leading role. Pics of the movie were published in Dutch magazine Hitkrant. Sadly, a Swedish gossip-magazine used some of these pics, showing Agnetha as a pregnant woman, to invent their own story. This sad story was the incentive for Agnetha to publish an open letter in an important Swedish newspaper, starting a discussion about the gossip-press (see report below).
What is this: is ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog pregnant? No, she has a pillow under her dress, is named Lisa for a while and is starring in a movie. Exclusively for Hitkrant, here are the first pics of the rough material from this movie, that will open in Swedish cinemas in February or March 1983. The title of the movie is not known yet, but the story is.

Raskenstam was a very notorious marriage-fraud in Sweden. He made it his habit to deceive lots of women with marriage-vows, subsequently steal their money and then disappear without a trace. The producer of the movie, Gunnar Hellstrom, is playing the part of Raskenstam and Agnetha is one of the deceived ladies.

Not that deceived, though: Raskenstam not only makes her marriage-vows, but actually marries her as well. Later on, they will have two children together. It’s not really a serious movie, because there’s a lot of laughing going on. One of the funniest scenes is Raskenstam and Lisa’s engagement-party; a very quick engagement, because Lisa’s pregnancy came sooner than had been planned. Featured here are pics of Agnetha in a very different role. If the movie will come to Dutch cinemas as well, is not known yet, but of course we will keep you informed.
In Sweden, there are gossip-magazines as well, and ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog has become a victim of them. In the movie, in which the blonde singer is playing a part and about which we published an article a few weeks ago, she is heavily pregnant. That was reason enough for Swedish gossip-magazine Hant I Veckan to report that Agnetha’s boyfriend Torbjörn Brander had left her and that the poor girl was pregnant.
The first part was true, the second obviously not. Agnetha got really angry and wrote an open letter to Sweden’s most important newspaper, Tagens Nyheter. This resulted in an intense discussion in the Swedish union of journalists. Voices were even raised to throw the writers of the false article out of the union. If more well-known Swedes will join the campaign, chances are that a general boycott against the gossip-magazines will be established.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Hitkrant, August 1982: Frida's solo-album doesn't interfere with ABBA

In August 1982, Dutch magazine Hitkrant published a report by Annet van Trigt, at the time a radio-presenter at Veronica. Frida's first solo-single had just premiered on Dutch radio, accompanied by a radio-interview with Frida. I remember listening to that broadcast and the excitement of hearing Frida's single for the first time. From the interview, I thought it was striking that Frida didn't know who was the producer of Agnetha's album. It was only after Annet named Mike Chapman, that she remembered it.
Veronica-reporter Annet van Trigt has become practically an ABBA-expert by now. So, wasn’t it obvious to ask her if she would write down, exclusively for Hitkrant, her thoughts about the interview with Annifrid she had recently on the occasion of the solo-project by the red-haired ABBA-singer? Annet said yes and here are her impressions.

On Friday-afternoon, August the 6th, Annifrid Lyngstad’s solo-single premiered in Veronica’s ‘Popjournaal’. After an entire morning of calls and a lot of negotiating with the record-company and Sweden, it was possible to call Frida for a radio-interview. Or rather, she would call us from Sweden at two o’clock in the afternoon. At two o’clock sharp, the phone rang in the studio, and yet again it became clear to me that the greater the artist, the easier the agreements are followed.

Frida: “To be honest, I wasn’t very keen at all on recording a solo-album. But after finishing our last ABBA-album 'The Visitors', it turned out that I had some spare time left, and I decided to make use of that to do this project. At the time I listened a lot to the music of Genesis; to me it was so powerful, that I decided to contact Phil Collins. If I were to do a solo-album, I wanted to do it with Phil as a producer.”
“He was interested immediately and then the long road of preparations began. When our plans started to become known, around 300 cassettes with song-propositions were send to us in no-time. All with the best intentions of course, but we thought it was just a bit too much to work through. After discussing it with Phil, I thought it would be best to approach songwriters myself.”
“The album 'Something’s Going On' offers a wide range of names. Among others, Russ Ballard, Bryan Ferry, Rod Argent, Pete Belotte, Giorgio Moroder and Stephen Bishop, worked on the album.”

“It was an enormous thrill for me as well to work with Phil. He is also playing the drums, percussion and he's doing backing-vocals on the album. That man is so energetic, it immediately affected the others as well, and on top of that his working-habit is very efficient. The preparations went on for almost a year, the recording itself was completed within a month.”
Imagine, your album becomes an enormous success. Aren’t you worried it will interfere with ABBA?
Frida: “Oh no, absolutely not. All ABBA-members are able to keep things like this totally separate. Apart from our ABBA-activities – and that goes for all members of the group – we have enough time to do our own things. The only thing that could cause problems is: what will happen if I will have to tour? I haven’t decided yet if I will go out on stage. The promotional film will have to do for now.”

Undoubtedly, Frida will remember the period before ABBA. In those days, she was to be seen on Swedish television regularly as a singer. Unbelievable, how time flies, because most people will remember the victory of the foursome at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with 'Waterloo'. Despite the fact that this is now 8 years ago, the super-group is celebrating their tenth anniversary at the end of this year. Two years before, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus were both members of a popular Swedish group, the Hootenanny Singers. In 1972, they decided to start the group with Frida and Agnetha. The hitmachine has been working at full force the past few years. In a timeframe of two and a half years, ABBA even sold more records than any other group (excluding the Beatles); a reason to celebrate at the end of the year!
Frida: “We’re not going to have a big party. What we will do, is release a double-album, with our biggest hits. Björn and Benny have been busy in the studio for a while and now we will come in to record the songs. There will be two brand-new tracks on the album.”
When will Agnetha release her solo-album, I understood there were plans in that direction?
Frida: “In January or February, she will start recording.”
Who will be the producer?
Frida: “I really don’t know.”
Isn’t it Mike Chapman?
Frida: “Yes, that’s right: Mike Chapman.”
When we finally ask if we have to interpret the title of her single in any special way, Frida answers: “No, not at all, it just sounded good.”

Pop Foto, August 1981: Finally, a new ABBA-show

An article about the forthcoming Dick Cavett Show, filming for which had recently taken place.
For much too long it has been quiet around ABBA. Still, there’s no reason to worry. Because something great is about to happen...

We’ve had to wait for a very long time, but now it’s finally coming: the new ABBA-show! Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Annifrid have kept things quiet for a while after “Super Trouper”. But recently they have invited the famous American talkshow-host Dick Cavett to put together an amazing show together with them. Needless to say, Dick jumped at this opportunity. Because after hundreds of interviews with world-famous people such as John Lennon, Olivia Newton-John and the American president Reagan, it was high time to subject the popular Swedish foursome to his questions.
Dick Cavett and the four Swedes got along great from the word go. “Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida are extremely nice people,” says Dick. “They don’t have attitudes at all and we laugh a lot. But I did worry a bit about the relationships between the ABBA-members. After all, they had been married to each other and now they are divorced, usually this comes with some problems. Luckily, this wasn’t the case at all. They are still good friends, who are still there for each other, if needed. That’s something I’m convinced of now.”

In return, Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Annifrid were very happy with Dick Cavett as well. “He really makes you feel at ease and he doesn’t ask uncomfortable questions about things you don’t want to talk about,” says Benny. “Dick is a real professional. Did you know he has been in this business for over twelve years and that he is doing around two hundred interviews a year? In the US, they adore him! The show that we have made together with him, will be broadcast in Sweden in the autumn. In other countries, such as Holland, it will be aired in the winter.” Something to look forward to, isn’t it ABBA-fans?

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Pop Foto, April 1981: Will ABBA ever find real happiness again?

Just try it. Close your eyes and imagine you’re a famous pop-star. Giant stadiums, filled with thousands of people screaming, yelling, begging to hear you play or sing. And you make a lot of money as well, so you can buy whatever you like. Be honest: doesn’t that seem just wonderful?

Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Annifrid once had this dream as well, in which being famous only seemed to have advantages. At night, they woke up in sweat, only to find out they weren’t celebrated on a big stage, but had fell beside the bed. In the evening, they had to perform again in a small café on a tiny stage, while Benny had to make use of an out of tune piano. Still, ABBA’s dreams turned out to be very accurate predictions. It all started with two couples in love: Björn with his Agnetha and Benny with his Annifrid. Love was much more important than music. The music really only came second. And nobody knew that would change eventually...

You all know how Björn and Agnetha’s marriage went wrong. It was a shock for a lot of fans, and especially the pretty Agnetha has had difficult times. In those times it was Annifrid, who tried to support and encourage her friend and colleague. But only a few weeks ago it was Annifrid who needed Agnetha in return, because in the meantime her marriage to Benny had ended as well. Still, Agnetha can’t help Annifrid. She wouldn’t know how. It’s difficult enough for herself. What is the deal? All four ABBA-members are kind of depressed at the moment, and the cause of that is primarily that the group is so incredibly busy.

When reporters ask questions about the private lives of the ABBA-stars, they get answers like: “You don’t have the right to ask questions about that.” Fortunately, most reporters don’t get angry in these cases. They know very well how the fame has affected the once so happy lives of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Annifrid. Benny Andersson, ABBA’s 34-year old pianist, says that freedom is very important to him and that he is happy he doesn’t have to work for a boss. Benny should realize that there’s no boss in the world, who would demand so much time and effort from him, as his own ABBA is doing right now.

Benny spends day and night in the studio. He and the other members of the group have to undertake exhausting tours to perform all over the world. And during those performances, they still feel genuinely happy, because the response of the ABBA-audience is always fantastic. But apart from all this, there are also the ABBA-possessions to worry about. Because the four stars are also the presidents of a big international company, that admittedly is doing really well, but is also the cause of several tensions. Those tensions are the reason that the word ‘happy’ is written in tiny letters in the ABBA-dictionary these days. Just like the little, but oh so important word ‘love’. Agnetha, Benny and Annifrid are having difficulties with that. Björn as well, although he has re-married recently with the woman, who he hopes can give him peace and satisfaction.
Pop Foto hopes, together with the many fans, that there will come a time that ABBA can really smile again. Because there’s no doubt about it that these four sympathetic and talented people deserve a bit of fun. Better sooner than later. Especially Annifrid closes her eyes once in a while and thinks: “I wish everything could be like it was in the old days. We weren’t very famous then, but at least we loved each other and were very happy...”

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Hitkrant, October 1982: Frida tapes promotional film in Holland

Dutch magazine Hitkrant published an article about the filming of Frida's video To Turn The Stone, taped in Holland during her promotional visit for Something's Going On. The article contains a few rare pics from behind the scenes.
An obvious question for Frida when she visited our country last week: “Why did you tape the promotional film for your new single ‘To Turn The Stone’ here in Holland?” The answer: “I wish I could say it’s because I think Holland is such a beautiful country. But the truth is that I happened to be in Holland anyway and couldn’t find the time to tape the film elsewhere.” Now, at least that’s honest.

The filming took place in the Cine Video Studios in Almere and although it was kept top-secret, there still were a few fans who found out about it; how they manage to do that, remains a mystery! TopPop-director Bert van der Veer was given the honour to direct Frida’s film and in the meantime you have been able to see the end-result. Especially for you, exclusively for Hitkrant: here’s a look behind the scenes.

1.
Arrival in Almere; Frida greets one of her devoted fans.
2.
Three fans were allowed to be present at the filming: Anja Böing, Liesbeth Elbertsen and Pat Ashton. On the right: Frida’s manager and vice-president of Polar Music, Görel Hanser.
3.
Of course, make-up had to be re-applied during filming. Here’s Frida handling her lipstick.
4.
Director Bert van der Veer tells Frida how he wants things to be: at an occasion like this he is obviously the one who calls the shots. To each his own.
5.
At the Cine Video Studios there’s a white wall; all artists who have been there autographed it. Obviously, Frida’s autograph had to be there as well.
6.
Lunch-break. Frida and Bert take a rest, a sandwich and a cup of coffee and discuss the results so far.
7.
There’s still some time to sign Frida’s album: a niece of someone at the record-company was lucky enough to get through to the singer for a moment.
8.
So, this is it: after the filming Frida and Bert pose together with the members of the film-crew who worked on the film. On their way to a new success.
9.
This is how you have been able to see Frida in the film for ‘To Turn The Stone’, in the full setting, as it’s called in video-circles.
10.
It’s hard work, filming a promotional film of just a few minutes; everything must go according to plan and Frida must come off at her best.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Hitkrant, August 1981: Two more years for ABBA / ABBA stops touring

The first signs that the ABBA-era was drawing to its close: an article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant, August 1981, headlining there will be two more years for ABBA. In hindsight it turned out to be even one year less. In August 1982, ABBA recorded their very last song.Still a few more years to go and ABBA will celebrate their tenth anniversary as a hit-group. Who doesn’t remember the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974? That’s where the Swedish group achieved their first victory with 'Waterloo'. So that would be 1984: a year of celebration. But if we have to believe Björn Ulvaeus, there will be no party.

Recently, the blonde singer/guitarist stated in an English magazine, that ABBA will quit within two years. And he really meant to say that all four members will go their separate ways from then on. Of course, this announcement was to be expected eventually, but nobody thought it would come so soon.

Insiders claim the group is preparing for a short farewell-tour at the moment. Although Björn stated in that same interview he couldn’t imagine the group would undertake a big tour, travelling from city to city, ever again, ABBA still wants to thank their audience.That mini-tour, that would possibly come to Holland as well, will be accompanied by an album. A luxuriously packaged album, with partly old and partly new songs. A token of consolation. For more ABBA, see page 6.At the ABBA headquarters they are very polite, but also not very talkative. Rumours circulating about the Swedish super-group are neither denied, nor confirmed, all in a very civilized manner, and that doesn’t make it easy to keep the fans informed about what’s happening in Stockholm. There was talk about ABBA to stop touring, so that’s when you pick up the phone, dial the number of ABBA’s record-company and ask if it’s true.

“Well,” is what they’re saying in Sweden. “Touring is very tiring and ABBA has come to a point where touring isn’t that necessary any longer. So it is possible they won’t do that anymore.” Is that definite? “It is likely,” is the – still very friendly – answer, and that will have to do.

There still seems to be something going on: the constant postponing of the new single and album, the persistant rumours that the group is on the verge of breaking up, the impossibility to get to talk to one of the ABBA-members. And now the news that Björn, Benny, Frida and Agnetha will stop touring. No artist has ever denied that touring is extremely tiring, neither has Agnetha. Last year, she revealed in an interview with a Swedish newspaper, that she has considered several times to turn her back on ABBA: “Sometimes the pressure gets too high and that’s why I have asked myself repeatedly if I want to keep on doing this the rest of my life.”

The care for her children is the main reason for Agnetha she at least wants to stop touring with ABBA. It’s difficult for her to leave Linda and Christian behind and a world-tour of six, seven months is getting harder and harder for her. “Also I want to concentrate more on composing and working in the recording-studio, that’s what I’m good at and what I like to do. A new solo-album is possible too and I really think this is the road I have to pursue.”

So, in the meantime Björn has stated in an English magazine that the end is drawing near for ABBA and that he can’t imagine the group will ever tour extensively again: “My guess is that ABBA will call it a day within two years.” A shock for the fans, but ABBA has been working for almost ten years now: years in which the group achieved unprecedented success. Is it really a surprise the foursome has had just about enough by now?

Monday, 9 June 2008

Joepie, 1981: From careless teenage-singer to tried superstar

The fourth and final part of the 1981 Joepie-series: Agnetha.
It hasn’t been easy for blonde Anna, since her divorce from Björn, at the end of 1978. For months she led a lonely life with her children. Curious journalists would never leave her alone. Her short-lived romances with ice-hockey player Lars Eriksson and Dick Hakansson made headlines all over the world. But this time it seems she has finally found true love, in the shape of police-detective Torbjörn Brander.
Agneta Fältskog was born April the 5th 1950 in Jonköping. Her father Ingvar wrote sketches for the local theatre-company, that had a spectacular performance in the village every year at Christmas. Mother Birgit liked to sing, and often too. But she never performed in front of an audience. It’s clear little Anna was raised in a creative family. She was barely six years old, when she performed for the first time in her father’s Christmas-show. She had a part in the well-known play 'Billy Boys'. A performance, that’s still remembered today in Jonköping. Not particularly because of Anna’s outstanding voice, but more because of the little incident during the second chorus: the suspenders of her pantsuit broke, and...
This painful incident didn’t prevent Anna from pursuing her artistic ambitions. Already a few months later she learned how to play the piano. First on the piano of her neighbour, until she got one of her own on her seventh birthday.
Her singing career took off when she was fifteen years old: she joined Bernt Enghardts’ dance-band. In the daytime she worked as a telephonist at a car-firm, in the evening she performed with the band. In the end, it turned out to be impossible to combine both activities, and she didn’t hesitate to decide she would become a professional singer. A year later the band sent a tape to Little Gerhard, a popular singer as well as a successful producer at the time in Sweden. According to Gerhard that tape wasn’t too overwhelming. But Anna’s voice was. So was the melody, written by Anna herself. Anna was invited to Stockholm, to try out some recordings, and she subsequently recorded two singles. 'I’m so in love' was the title of the first record. On January the 28th 1968, a date obviously fondly remembered by Anna, the song entered the Swedish charts at number three. Three more hits, written by the blonde singer herself, followed. After only one year, she had become one of Sweden’s most popular singers. That’s when the Swedish media started to take an interest in her. At the end of 1968 the headlines read that she had gotten engaged with German producer Dieter Zimmerman.
Anna moved to Germany with Dieter, where she would live for the next six months. She released a few singles in German, but the expected success didn’t come. Shortly after, the engagement was called off, and Anna returned to Sweden. In no-time, she was a star again in her own country. In the summer of 1969 she performed on a big TV-show, for which the Hootenanny Singers were the headliners. With Björn, one of the Singers, it was love at first sight. In April 1970, they got engaged, on a holiday to Zypern. A year later, in July 1971, they got married.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Joepie, 1981: From first guitar to millionaires-mansion

Part three of the Joepie-series: Björn.
Björn Christian Ulvaeus (36) hasn’t remained single for very long, after his divorce from Anna, whom he had been living with for thirteen years. Only a week later he met his new life-partner Lena Källersjo at a party. In the meantime they’ve gotten married, and Lena is expecting their first child around Christmas. There’s no doubt about it: Björn has overcome the divorce better than Anna.
The blonde ABBA-guitarist was born April the 25th 1945, in Göteborg. When he was six years old, he moved to Västervik with his parents. His father had found a job there, in a paper-factory. On his 12th birthday, little Björn got his first guitar. He learned his first chords from his older cousin, Jon Ulfsäter. At that rather young age, it was the starting-point of his musical career. Shortly after, he started a skiffle-group with his cousin Jon. Later on, the twosome quit that group and joined another group from the area, the Westbay Singers. Their trademark was Swedish folksongs, that they translated into English with success. The Westbay Singers got their break in 1963, when they got to perform in a TV-show. A certain Stig Anderson, who had just founded his own record-company in Stockholm, happened to see the group on the screen and took them under his wings.
Immediately, he renamed them the Hootenanny Singers, because he thought that sounded more Swedish. The success came quickly: already a year later the Hootenanny Singers were the most popular group in Sweden. In 1967 Björn moved to Stockholm, to study economy and law at university. To be able to afford his studies, he worked as a freelancer for Stig Anderson, whose company grew bigger and bigger.
A year before, Björn had met the second ABBA, Benny Andersson. They became good friends, and started to write songs together. He met the third in the line-up, Anna, in a TV-studio. Two years later they got married. The line-up was completed with Frida, Benny’s new girlfriend. The most popular group of the seventies was born.
In the group, Björn is known as the most orderly of the four. His discipline and punctuality are almost legendary. In short: everything he starts, he finishes. Once he wanted to become a teacher. A wish he has repeated several times, albeit smiling sometimes, for example when he came walking out of the studio, after fourteen long hours of hard work.
Björn and Agnetha’s marriage ended in 1978. There were tears. No wonder, according to Björn, when you’ve been living together for thirteen years. Björn immediately left his and Agnetha’s residence, and moved to a mansion nearby. He didn’t want to live too far away from his children Linda and Christian. Björn wasn’t alone for long. A week later he met Lena Källersjo at a party at Benny and Frida’s home. It seems to have been love at first sight. Two years later they got married. And now Lena is expecting their first child. “It’s not important if it’s a boy or a girl,” says Björn. “The most important thing is that the child is healthy.”

Joepie, 1981: Abandoned war-child finds comfort in music

Here's part two of the 1981 Belgian Joepie-series: Frida.

In 1977 Frida found her father thanks to an article in a German teenage-magazine. In an interview she had told he was a German officer who was stationed in Norway during the war, but had left back home with his troops afterwards. Frida nor her mother had heard from him since, that’s why she assumed him to be dead. A few days after the article had been published, she was proven wrong. A certain Alfred Haase had read Frida’s moving confessions, was startled finding out he was Frida’s father and contacted the magazine’s publisher. His story was verified and also confirmed by the authorities. A few weeks after that Frida met her father for the first time in her life.
Frida was born November the 15th 1945 in the Norwegian village Narvik. Her mother Synne Lyngstad had met the German officer Alfred Haase during the last year of the war and had experienced a romantic summer with him. This all ended when Alfred was called back to Germany. Although he promised to return, she never heard from him again. Extensive research by Frida’s mother led to the wrong conclusion that Haase had died. That loss was too much for her. Two years later Frida’s mother died, lonely and abandoned. She was only 21 years old. Little Frida found shelter with her grandmother.
Pretty soon the old lady found out her granddaughter was given a hard time, because her father was an unknown German soldier. They decided to move to the Swedish village Torshälla, where grandmother was making a living as a nanny.
Aged 13, Frida started singing with a dance-band. She had to lie about her age, otherwise she wasn’t able to get a working-licence. “If that bandleader had known I was only 13, he never would have hired me,” says Frida.
A few years later she was hired as a singer with Bengt Sandlunds’ jazz-orchestra. With the bass-player of that orchestra, Ragnar Eriksson, it was love at first sight. Shortly after that, Frida and Ragnar started their own band, Anni-Frid Four. They got married and had two children, Hans (1963) and Liselott (1967). In the same year that her second child was born, Frida had her first big hit. She had won a TV-show with the song 'Free Day' and a week later it was at number eight in the Swedish charts. The success continued, and a year later Frida was one of Sweden’s most popular singers. However, in the meantime her marriage had ended. In 1969 she met Benny Andersson at a concert in Malmö. He was performing there with the Hep Stars. A few weeks later they started living together, but it wasn’t until 1978 that they got married.
The happiness wouldn’t last for long. In the winter of 1980 Benny met another woman, for whom he left Frida. Six weeks after her divorce, Frida revealed there was a new man in her life: Bertil Hjert (37), vice-president of a textile-company in Uppsala. Frida: “He has become a part of my life. Marriage isn’t important to me any longer. But I can’t live without love.”

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Joepie, November 1981: Young accordion-virtuoso became hitmaker

In November 1981, Belgian magazine Joepie started a series of 4 articles, filled with pics from ABBA's private photo-album. This is part one: Benny.

From this issue on Joepie brings you, in four episodes, the story of ABBA. Or rather the life-story of the four members. Some details you might know already. But never before has a series about the Swedish foursome been so extensively illustrated with pics from yesteryear. For the first time ABBA allows a look into their private photo-album. First it’s Benny’s turn.
You can never start too early, that must have been the catch-phrase of ABBA’s Benny Andersson. Indeed, he started out very early, in music and in love. Benny Göran Andersson was born on December the 16th 1946 in Stockholm. When he was six years old, he got his first musical instrument, an accordion. His father and grandfather, enthusiastic musicians themselves, teached him how to play. This way Benny was introduced to music at a very young age. Obviously he owes his skills to this early start, so he says himself. Even today he is unable to look at any new instrument, without trying it out. He is a born musician. At his 10th birthday Benny got a piano. Already a year later the young virtuoso could be admired at the Stockholm pub “Jugendgarten”. At this pub Benny met his first true love. Her name was Christina Grönwall, she was an amateur-singer, and accompanied Benny at the piano. Soon after that they were inseparable and at the age of 15 they gave a huge engagement-party. They never got married, but still had two children: Peter (now 18) and Helen (now 16).
After leaving his first group, Elverkets Spelmanslag, Benny became the organ-player with the Hep Stars in 1964. With a song called 'Drop In', composed by Benny, they debuted on television. With the follow-up, 'Cadillac', the Hep Stars were at number one in the Swedish charts. But the success eventually didn’t last. When on top of that financial problems occurred, the group could not be saved. The Hep Stars split up in 1967. Shortly after that he met Björn. In the office of Benny’s father they wrote their first song, and in 1969 they started performing together.
A year before, Benny had met Frida, at a radio broadcast. They immediately clicked. It wasn’t until 1978 that they finally got married, in full silence. For thirteen years they had been living together. The announcement of their divorce was a complete surprise for everybody. The divorce took place in full silence as well. One day Benny came home, and told Frida he had met another woman. He meant the 38-year old Mona Nörklit, who had been working for Swedish television. “Frida and I have remained good friends,” Benny says. “Our relationship is excellent, we respect each other. We still talk a lot about music. We see each other regularly outside ABBA. Also privately.”

TOP-10, 1988: Agnetha told me her deepest secrets

An article from Dutch magazine TOP-10 that gets some of the facts mixed up, like Björn's former group and the order of the divorces...

History tells us that American and English pop-groups stand a far better chance of making it big internationally, than Swedish. There’s only one exception: ABBA. You can hardly imagine how popular this group was 10 years ago. Agnetha was part of ABBA. TOP-10 reveals her success-story. It all begins in 1968...

Back in time. In a stuffy clubhouse in Stockholm thirteen finalists of a talent-contest are biting their nails. Agnetha Fältskog is one of them. She knows she has a good chance, because the audience’s response after her performance was deafening. But, you never know.
“I remember that day very well,” she says. “I had never been so nervous in my life. When the prize-ceremony started, I couldn’t contain myself any longer. Until the numbers three and two had been announced. Then I knew I had won, and I was so relieved.”
Her victory in that talent-contest is the start of a glorious career for Swedish Agnetha. She gets a record-deal and her first single is an immediate hit, and many others would follow even before her ABBA-time. “Actually I was very popular in Sweden,” she says, “but it got harder and harder to combine the singing with my study at drama-school.” That study came to an end permanently in 1970. “In those days I met Björn Ulvaeus and it was love at first sight,” she smiles. “On July the seventh 1971 we got married, in a small town named Verum. It was all very romantic. The media were all over us, because we were both rather well-known in Sweden. Björn had been a member of the Hep Stars, and they received eight golden records, I believe. Well, and I wasn’t exactly unknown myself...”

In the meantime ABBA had begun to take shape. A friend of Björn, Benny Andersson, and his girlfriend Annifrid formed Festfolk Quartet together with Björn and Agnetha, but their name was rapidly changed into Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Frida. “Rather complicated, especially for non-Swedes,” Agnetha admits. “But surprisingly our first record under that name didn’t become a hit in Sweden, but it did abroad. It was called 'She’s My Kind Of Girl' and was very popular in Japan. And I thought they had never heard of us over there...”

In 1973 the foursome enter the pre-selections for the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time. “And that was it,” says Agnetha, “we were eliminated immediately.” Still the record became a substantial hit. In Holland it peaked at number five. The song was called 'Ring Ring' and had been written by Neil Sedaka. All of that is now fifteen years ago.
In 1974 Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Frida gave it another shot. “We had a song that we thought could do well, only the title was a problem. That’s why we changed 'Honey Pie' to 'Waterloo' and yes: we won. After that it all exploded. 'SOS' became a worldwide hit, and we changed our name yet again, this time to ABBA, and the life of superstardom started. In a time-span of two and a half years we sold nearly as many records as the Beatles, and that’s saying something...” Agnetha is silent for a while when she thinks about that golden era. There seemed to be no limits to ABBA’s success. “We travelled the whole world to do concerts,” Agnetha says, “and actually that was the least attractive part for me. I didn’t like performing. I preferred making promotional films and recording. The business-side was handled by our manager, Stig Anderson, who was called the fifth ABBA-member. We ended up having a record-company with its own recording studio, and even department stores.”

In 1981 rumours start circulating that ABBA might come to an end. Frida and Benny get divorced around that time and Frida records a solo-album with Phil Collins, while Agnetha follows her example. “There was a world-famous producer, Mike Chapman, who had been very successful producing other artists, and I wanted to work with him as well. Not because of the fame, because I already had that, but I wanted to see what I could do on my own. 'Wrap Your Arms Around Me' became a substantial success, and that’s when I realized there would be life after ABBA for me.” When shortly after that also Agnetha and Björn’s marriage comes to an end, the split seems inevitable. “We simply couldn’t face being a married couple in a group any longer,” says Agnetha, “and suddenly it was all over.”
In 1983, Frida sells her ABBA-shares and moves to London. The business disbanded, but the group still goes on. It turns out to be the last activity and with the appropriate 'Thank You For The Music' ABBA says goodbye.
It’s the start of a new era for Agnetha. She records the album 'Eyes Of A Woman'. “That was the last the audience got to hear from the ‘old’ Agnetha,” she says confidently. “After that I changed a lot. Not only in my looks, but also in the choice of my music. I’m much more independent now. I don’t let everybody rule my life...” The result of that change: the album 'I Stand Alone' and that’s a small masterpiece. “I’m very happy with it myself,” she says, “and I don’t think 'The Last Time' will remain the only hit from that album.”
'The Last Time' is Agnetha’s twenty-ninth hit. And you can be assured, that the thirtieth is just around the corner.

In this article, a reporter of the magazine (who is in the picture with Agnetha holding a photograph) shares his personal recollections about his meetings with Agnetha.

Michael remembers it as if it was yesterday. How she smiled, and how down-to-earth she was. He was there when Agnetha was enjoying herself in the snow. And he was in Sweden, to talk to ABBA for hours. “I don’t know if Agnetha was really attracted to me,” says Michael. “In all honesty, that’s what I hoped for. But I never dared to ask her. She did look me up every time and I had warm feelings for her. I also called her a few times. But after that it all faded. This was at the time when she and Björn had difficulties. Later on they divorced. What struck me most, was her openness. She told me things, very intimate, that I never expected she would dare to tell. After all, we don’t know each other that well. She asked me for advice and we talked for hours. I will never betray that trust. There are things I will never tell, to anyone..."

Popcorn, March 1982: ABBA-special

This article from German magazine Popcorn contains an interview with Björn, discussing the plans for a musical, the album The Visitors and ABBA's future.

Stockholm, Hamngatan 11. Here, on the third floor of the ABBA-headquarters a significant meeting took place a few weeks ago: Björn (36) and Benny (37) met the world-famous American musical-lyricist Tim Rice (Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar). The successful producer flew in especially from New York to have the first discussions about the planned ABBA-musical. At the same time Annifrid – now with a perky ‘punk’ haircut – flew to London to discuss the concept of her solo-album with Genesis-singer Phil Collins. The album will be recorded in March at the ABBA-studios in Stockholm and is planned to be released in May already. The new activities as well as the latest pictures, on which all four ABBA-members look considerably happier than last year, signal new energy. “Up ‘til now we always took a three or four month break after each album, this time we’ve continued working,” Björn stated in an interview with Popcorn, in which he revealed the latest on ABBA.

First, congratulations on your newborn baby...
Björn: “Thanks. It has been a wonderful timing, that Benny’s son came only a few days after my daughter. By the way, she has beautiful eyes and shall be named Emma.”
Is it true that the new ABBA-project will be a musical?
Björn: “Benny and I have been playing with the idea of writing a musical for seven years now. On our first tour we already staged a mini-musical titled 'The Girl With The Golden Hair'. In the meantime we’ve had numerous ideas and discarded them again. Now we’re at the stage that we can really start with concrete plans. It will be a long time before opening-night though. There will definitely be another ABBA-album before that.”
Did you maintain the idea of 'The Girl With The Golden Hair': a common girl gets caught in the show-business and becomes a superstar?
Björn: “I don’t want to talk about things that are only in the first planning stages. What we have basically is the music. Now it’s about deciding on the right script and the lyrics. We are working on that with people who have extensive experience in this area and have proved to be successful in the past.”
Like for instance Tim Rice, lyricist of 'Evita'?
Björn: “We also have contacts with other writers. We want to be able to pick the best out of several propositions.”
On the album 'The Visitors' it’s clear that the lyrics are very personal. Is that a new trend?
Björn: “For us, the lyrics were usually something we needed to sing the songs to. The content wasn’t that important. It just had to sound good. Today we think it’s more important. Almost every lyric on the album has a very personal meaning.”
What kind of meaning does the new single 'Head Over Heels' have?
Björn: “This lyric deals with girls, who get over their heads into things, without thinking first, who simply let their feelings lead them. I already met many girls like that, especially the show-business is full of them.”
Agnetha commented in an interview last year that you are planning a live-album and that you will be doing concerts for that. Is this still in the works?
Björn: “Yes, a live-album is long overdue. We already recorded our London-concerts at Wembley Stadium in 1980. Of course, our current songs would have to be added to this material. We haven’t decided on when and where this should happen.”
You spend most of your time locked away in Sweden. Do you keep in touch with what’s happening in international show-business?
Björn: “Of course, but we don’t necessarily have to leave Stockholm for that. We have associates who automatically send us the first 40 hits from the UK and the US every week, as well as videos of interesting TV-shows.”
What do you think the future holds for ABBA?

Björn: “After the divorces and the private tensions that surely went with that, we are now back with new energy. The musical will be the next important step in our career. But we will probably never go on tour again.”

Friday, 6 June 2008

Hitkrant, December 1981: ABBA's child is born!

An article from Dutch magazine Hitkrant about the then newly released album The Visitors.
Now, we mustn’t overreact by exclaiming that the whole world is jumping for joy this week, but at least it goes for the ABBA-fans and lots more people, like pop-journalists. Because the time has finally come: the new ABBA-album is out. The long-awaited child is born, its name is 'The Visitors' and mother and child are doing very well, thank you.

This time it took a very long time; almost a year ago the first ideas and songs for the new album began to come and from that moment on a lot has been recorded, discarded, re-recorded and changed. A problematic delivery, one could say.

Naturally, this was the cause of lots of rumours circulating. Björn Ulvaeus’ statement in an English women’s magazine that ABBA no longer had a financial reason to stay together, shocked fans and Stockholm was in a hurry to deny it all. “No problem,” they said. “ABBA will not split up, but is very busy in the studio with the new single, that is due the end of this month.” We are talking June.
At the end of July we reported that technical problems had occurred, and that Björn and Benny’s standard of quality-control was so high, that the single had been discarded, even worse: before September there would be no single at all and also the album had been postponed until November. Was 'The Visitors' worth all these problems? Yes, people.

To my own astonishment ABBA has been able again to create a new sound and that’s an accomplishment, after so many albums. I don’t want to anticipate on the album review in this magazine, but we can note that ABBA’s newborn is their toughest in years. The rhythm is strong and dominating, the synthesizers all over the place. As ever, Björn and Benny wrote and produced everything themselves and for the first time made use of the latest recording-technique: the digital recording. This means that the sound-quality is perfect and crystal-clear, sometimes almost sharp. You wouldn’t tell by looking at the brilliant cover: the foursome in a spacious room, softly lit, old-fashioned paintings on the wall, everything in brown and golden shades (and for Björn-fans: he’s actually wearing a beard!).

Choosing the single caused some problems: at first it would be 'The Visitors', later on Stockholm reported it would be 'When All Is Said And Done' (for which a promotional film had been made already), in the end the single turned out to be 'One Of Us', with 'Should I Laugh Or Cry' as its B-side, a track not available on the album. Listen for yourself: you will be amazed. The time when ABBA was a nice teenage-group with nice teenage-music is definitely over. And, in my opinion, a group that is able to deliver a surprising album every time, is by all means not ready to retire from music.

Here's the review of the album The Visitors from the same magazine, referred to in the article above.
Always exciting, the new ABBA-album, especially when you had to wait so long. The result exceeds my expectations. Again, Björn and Benny have succeeded in finding a different sound, a new approach. The new ABBA is tight, tough, sometimes almost metallic; bass and drums are dominating, synthesizers are all over the place, the influences from musicals and classical music are clear. This music takes much more distance from the listener than a song like 'Dancing Queen'. Also Frida and Agnetha’s vocals are far more distant in some cases (and here and there barely recognisable due to electronic distortion), although a solo-track by Frida like 'Like An Angel Passing Through My Room', accompanied only by a music-box and the ticking of a clock, emits a touching warmth. The single 'One Of Us' and 'Soldiers' are still in ABBA–tradition, 'Head Over Heels' isn’t; a magnificent song is 'I Let The Music Speak' and in 'Two For The Price Of One' we hear rare lead-vocals by the men B & B. Listen for yourself: an impressive piece of pop-music.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Hitkrant, October 1982: My best fans are Dutch

An interview from Dutch magazine Hitkrant. The interview was done during Frida's promotional visit to Holland for Something's Going On.
Obviously, Frida talks about her new album, but also about the gossip-press and the contact with her fans.
Not only because she’s a member of ABBA, more because she recorded a solo-album: Frida Lyngstad was in Holland to promote her album 'Something’s Going On' and that’s what we talked about. Is this promotion really necessary if you’re a superstar? The audience will buy the records anyway. But no, that’s not how things are. An extensive talk about success, the gossip-press, the fans and the positive things in life.

The famous punk-hairdo isn’t that extreme: Frida’s hair is back to almost normal, just a little pink here and there. She looks good, but the small wrinkles around her eyes reveal she is 36. She will get back to that later.

THE STAR
I ask her how many hands she shook today and she replies smiling: “I didn’t count them, but it wasn’t too bad.” She gets the star-treatment: limousine, bodyguard, drinks and snacks on the table. But of course Frida ís a star.
Hitkrant: Isn’t it much easier for someone like you to make a successful solo-album than it is for another artist? I mean, it’s easier to get connections and of course everyone wants to work on an album with an ABBA-member.
Frida: “Yes, there’s some truth in that. I’m in a position that things come easier. But you can’t stay at home, if you want your album to be a success. You’ll have to work on it. That goes for anybody who wants to achieve something, and even if I have the advantage of being well-known, it’s still a lot of hard work. Success doesn’t come easy.”
Hitkrant: The success is there already. Do you think the success of your album and single has to do with the fact that you’re an ABBA-member?
Frida: “Surely, it has something to do with it, but how much? And the sound is so different from ABBA’s work, that I hope I have reached a new audience, a different audience than just ABBA’s.”
Hitkrant: It’s your second solo-album. Is there much difference to the previous one, 'Frida Ensam'?
Frida: “Look, it has been seven years, so I’m seven years older. That’s the most important difference. And of course the producer: Benny produced 'Frida Ensam', Phil Collins did 'Something’s Going On'. Other than that I used a lot of writers and musicians from abroad and of course I chose the material all by myself this time. That’s why I’m one hundred percent behind every song on the album. Because I picked them.”

THE ALBUM
Hitkrant: Did you know what you wanted when you started this project?
Frida: “I really had no idea! I turned to lots of record-companies and listened to about 500 songs, but I couldn’t find what I wanted. That’s why I approached a few writers myself and asked them if they had or wanted to write a song for me. Out of those I picked a few, Phil as well, and together we picked the rest.”
Hitkrant: Björn and Benny didn’t work on the album at all?
Frida: “Not at all. That wasn’t the intention either. Well, I asked them if they wanted to write a song and they tried, but didn’t succeed. I thought, maybe it’s all for the better. In hindsight, I’m actually happy about that.”
Hitkrant: Do you think a follow-up to “Something’s Going On” will emerge?
Frida: “I don’t know yet. First, let’s see if this one is successful. When the time is right, I would certainly consider a second solo-album.”
Hitkrant: Doesn’t that cause problems with ABBA’s work?
Frida: “Absolutely not. I have my priorities, you know, and ABBA still comes first.”
Hitkrant: The day will come that ABBA ceases to exist. What will be the reason for that?
Frida: “That’s a tough one! It will certainly not be because of a fight or something like that. ABBA will probably quit when we no longer feel working in the group satisfies us, when we grow apart. That would definitely be the end of ABBA.”

THE PUBLICITY
Hitkrant: How about the rumours of a new world-tour?
Frida: “That’s all they are at the moment, rumours. Maybe sometime in the future. In the end, that’s what every group has to do; you can’t go on for years without touring, no matter how famous you are. From time to time you need to show yourself to the audience, even if it’s only a promotional tour. But it’s very tiring, and let’s be honest: we don’t get any younger, so if a tour happens, it has to be in the near future.”
Hitkrant: Coming December is ABBA’s tenth anniversary. Don't you get bored with all the publicity, the hundreds of interviews, by now?
Frida: “Oh, it depends on the journalist. Some of them have very interesting questions, so you really have to think about your answer. Other questions you’ve been hearing for years, and you know exactly what you’re going to answer.”
Hitkrant: So when I ask if ABBA is going to split up, what’s your answer?
Frida: “No.”
Hitkrant: Good!
Frida laughs heartily and continues: “You know, all those things like promotion and your fans are so important to allow you to grow. You have to invest in it as much as in making a record. Showing yourself to the audience is very necessary, as an artist and as a human being.”
Hitkrant: Yes, the fans. How far can you go with a fan?
Frida: “Very far, but it’s important how the fan reacts on the artist. I have to say that Dutch fans are among my best. They come to Stockholm and to my door: I like that. When they react in a positive way to me, I react likewise to them. But you have to draw the line somewhere and the fans respect that. Most of them at least. You know, a fan can have the feeling that he owns the artist; they like you so much that they want to be part of your private life as well, and that can be difficult sometimes. So that’s where the line is, although I do understand. When I receive letters from people begging me to meet them, I write back and try to explain the situation. Mostly they understand. But it is essential: I need that communication with my fans, just as much as they need me. I need to have confidence in myself and I get that from people who love what I do.”

THE GOSSIP-PRESS
Hitkrant: Last week there was a riot in Sweden because of a gossip-article about Agnetha. Do they bother you as well?
Frida: “No, it’s not that bad. But in this case the magazine had been extremely offensive. They wrote Agnetha was pregnant and had been left by her boyfriend. Although the last part may have been true, she was only playing she was pregnant for a movie-part. Agnetha has written an open letter in one of Sweden’s most important papers and that was very good. What they wrote was a real disgrace and Agnetha had to do something, I sensed it as well. And she achieved results: the magazine had to answer for themselves and they will probably leave us alone for a while now, because no-one will believe them. Other than that, it’s not too bad: they stay on the surface with their stories. Only when Benny and I divorced, all those awful stories hurt me deeply. It was very painful, but after a few weeks it was over.”
Hikrant: As a famous person, you give up a part of your private life.
Frida: “That’s true. But I’ve learned to manage it myself. When I don’t want to be in the limelight, there are plenty of places for me to go. I’m convinced you can lead your own life, even if you’re a star. I can keep my integrity and I can live with it very well. And I choose the things I want to share about myself. Like I’m doing right now. Those are the positive things in my life.”