Well, the American audience has accepted ABBA. Or rather, they embraced them. But... that gigantic popularity that was ABBA's condition for starting a tour was not reached. But still ABBA is now busy performing a series of 20 concerts? Björn - on the eve of their departure - says about this: "It's no use waiting any longer with a concert. It's clear that our fans want to see ABBA. It would be an insult if we didn't go." Benny is a little more realistic: "That big breakthrough that we imagined has failed to happen. So it's no use waiting any longer. It's a good strategic move to perform concerts, as a tool to reach the absolute top over there. It's a tremendous challenge for me."
Stig Anderson has decided that it's better for ABBA not to perform in stadiums. "I have more faith in a series of shows in smaller venues, that are all sold out." So is ABBA scared of this tour? Stig Anderson: "Scared isn't the right word. We are careful. Just imagine that we would have to perform in half empty stadiums. That would be detrimental to ABBA's image."
Björn adds: "It was our own preference to work in venues that can hold 4.000 to a maximum of 18.000 people. We know from experience that having contact with the audience is so important. This way we will keep it cosy and intimate. That is good for ABBA because we are able to perform at our best, and it's good for the audience that will get the best that ABBA has to offer musically."
Contrary to groups like Queen, Genesis or Wings, ABBA will not go on the road with trucks packed with equipment. They will bring along a modest technical facility, a pile of backing tracks, a group of six musicians (not from Holland, as was suggested) and three backing singers.
Last year, Stig Anderson mentioned that he would like to take along the people from Rainbow Train on their tour of America. Everything seemed to be settled. Hans Vermeulen has even played with the group in the ABBA studios. As it turned out, Stig has still chosen to bring along his own session musicians.
Technicians will come along to make sure that the best possible sound is achieved. Björn about that: "Another reason that I'm a little worried about these shows is the fact that we are going to work with a modest technical facility and only 6 musicians. We are known for our perfection. Our records are the summit of care into the smallest detail. I hope the fans won't be disappointed about the lesser quality, compared to our records."
How is the situation in the group now that Agnetha and Björn got divorced? An obvious question and ABBA has prepared themselves to give the right answer: "Things are much better now than they were a year ago. There are no little spats anymore. The atmosphere isn't tensed anymore. We have a very fresh relationship towards each other and it comes through in our music," according to Benny who was adamant to answer this question.
All personal problems seem to be solved. The understanding between Agnetha and Björn is better than ever. The former married couple has never been fond of touring, because of the children. They still have that same attitude. Although they are no longer a couple, Agnetha and Björn don't want to be away from home for long periods of time, because they miss their little son and daughter.
There have been rumours that this tour has to be considered as a farewell. Allegedly, ABBA would split up permanently after this series of concerts.
It is true that ABBA is going to perform (even) less after this long and exhausting world tour. The intention is that Anni-Frid is going to do more solo work. Benny is planning to produce other artists. Recently, he already made a record with Finn Kalvik, a new Norwegian discovery. Björn is completely over the moon about the state of the art recording studio (48 tracks!) that ABBA had built for 3 million Dutch guilders. Björn wants to encourage world famous acts to come to Stockholm to record their albums there. Led Zeppelin has worked there recently and several members of Genesis have said that the ABBA studio was one of the best studios they had ever used. Then there is Agnetha. She is and remains ABBA's big question mark. She doesn't have any definite plans yet. She wants to stay with the group, and she wants to start recording solo records too, but she hasn't really decided yet.
At the press conference that will be held before ABBA's concert in Rotterdam, everything should become clear. Certainty about (a) ABBA; will the group stay together? and (b) Agnetha; what will be her position in the ABBA organization?
Muziek Parade has supported ABBA tremendously through the years. It seems that ABBA has been the only important musical occurance in the seventies. ABBA has brought us exceptional recordings (that we can enjoy for years to come). ABBA just can't split up. ABBA has to stay together. And even if the four individual members of this unique group are going to do some other side projects, there's nothing wrong with that, as long as ABBA keeps releasing their musical masterpieces on a regular basis.
Indeed, ABBA is getting ever more critical about their own records. 'Arrival' was recorded in nine months. It took them 12 months to get 'The Album' released and 'Voulez-Vous' is a piece of work that they worked on for 18 months. And you can hear it in its quality. If we take this into consideration, the next completely new album can't be expected until the end of 1980. But the fans are prepared to wait, because the result will be worth waiting for.
Welcome ABBA to Holland. Next month, Muziek Parade brings you the complete life story of ABBA as a cartoon. More than 20 pages. A typical stunt of Muziek Parade! And it's all in honour of the ABBA concert in Holland.