This article appeared in Dutch magazine Hitkrant in October 1984, shortly before the Chess album was released. Later that month the musical would be introduced through five live concerts in big European cities, starting in London on October 27.
“The future of ABBA is indeed very unsure,” Benny Andersson confesses. “One thing is indisputable though: nothing and no one can separate me from Björn. Especially since we’ve found the ideal lyricist for a genuine rock-musical.” The male half of ABBA reveals its big plans.
Just like Frida, Björn and Benny are hesitant to speak their minds about ABBA’s future as well. “Nothing is certain,” the bearded pianist smiles. “I think all four of us would love to work together again, but it’s practically an impossible task to get the four of us together in the studio at the same time in the near future. We are all extremely busy with our own projects. For the time being, there are no ABBA-recordings or concerts planned until the end of 1985, but the fact that Agnetha has started her own production company doesn’t mean that the group is now permanently a thing of the past.”
It’s clear why we haven’t heard anything from the Swedish foursome for more than two years already.
“When we had just completed the recordings for the “Visitors” album, we met Tim Rice rather by coincidence,” Björn explains. “His Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita have always been our favourite musicals, together with West Side Story. That’s why we felt extremely flattered when he suggested that we’d compose the music for his brand new project. On top of that, we were a little tired of the ABBA-formula. You might say that Tim has saved us from unemployment.”
Tim, Björn and Benny worked on Chess for two years without interruption. “The musical is the story about a couple of chess players,” Tim Rice explains. “Except for being an entrenched cricket fanatic, I’m a passionate chess player as well. I’m a very mediocre player myself, but when the American Fischer and the Russian Spasski clashed with each other for the world championship in 1972, I came under the spell of that game in such a way that I decided then and there that at some point in the future I would write a musical with a sportsmanlike East-West confrontation as its subject.”
Chess has become an extremely expensive project. “The recording alone has cost about 400.000 dollars,” Benny says, “and we don’t even dare to think about what it will cost to let the stage play travel around the world in one year’s time. That’s why we’re very happy that the Swedish automobile giant Saab has come to our aid to finance the try-outs that will take place in five big European cities at the end of this month. Chess was tied to the promotional campaign regarding the latest Saab automobile. I can assure you that there wouldn’t have been any talk of a collaboration if a new combat plane had been on the stocks.”
The musical is yet another example of Björn and Benny’s craftsmanship. “We complement each other perfectly,” Björn says. “Benny is the dreamer, the creative spirit who is occupied with his music continuously. I’m far more down to earth. Still, I want to get rid of that ‘clever businessman’ reputation. With the lyrics of most ABBA-songs I think I have proved that I’m a true artist as well. Benny and I still get along extremely well and with Chess we hope we can prove that we have more to offer than nice three-minute pop songs. I think we will succeed at that with performers such as Elaine Paige, Murray Head and the well-known English top actor Dennis Quilley. Obviously it’s unsure whether Chess will be just as successful as the ABBA-records, but Benny and I won’t lose a night’s sleep over that.”