The Complete ABBA
|Le nouveau livre de Simon Sheridan n'a pas grand intérêt pour les
fans comme nous. Il retrace l'histoire d'ABBA dans ses grandes lignes
sans rien apporté de neuf de ce que l'ont connait déjà. Le livre
comporte 230 pages. Les chapitres représente les Singles et les albums.
De plus il y a des chapitres pour les concerts et les grandes émissions
de télévisions. Enfin 16 pages d'images avec essentiellement des
pochettes de singles et d'albums. Pour finir, un indexe complet.
En définitif un bon livre pour les fans débutants.
|El nuevo libro de Simon Sheridan tiene
poco interés para los aficionados como nosotros. Cuenta la historia de
ABBA, en términos generales sin traer nada nuevo a lo que ya sabemos. El
libro contiene 230 páginas. Los capítulos representan las canciones y
álbumes. Además, hay capítulos para los grandes conciertos y programas
de televisión. Por último, 16 páginas de imágenes con en mayoría
caratulas de singles y álbumes. Para acabar, un índice completo.
En definitiva un buen libro para los nuevos aficionados.
|The new book by Simon Sheridan has little
interest for fans like us. It tells the story of ABBA in broad terms
without brought anything new to what has already knows. The book
contains 230 pages. The chapters represent the singles and albums. In
addition there are chapters for major concerts and television programs.
Finally 16 pages of images with pockets of mostly singles and albums. At
the end, a complete index.
Ultimately a good book for novice fans.
19 People Need Love (7'')
20 He Is Your Brother (7'')
21 Ring Ring (7'') 38 (1974 Remix)
23 Ring Ring (Album)
27 1973 Folkpark Tour
29 Waterloo (7'')
33 Waterloo (Album)
37 Honey, Honey (7'')
39 1974-1975 European Tour
43 So Long (7'')
44 ABBA (Album)
48 1975 Folkpark Tour
50 I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do (7'')
51 S.O.S. (7'')
53 Mamma Mia (7'')
55 Greatest Hits (Album)
57 Fernando (7'')
58 The Best Of ABBA (Album)
60 The Best Of ABBA (1976 TV Special)
62 Dancing Queen (7'')
64 ABBA in Sweden (1976 TV Special)
66 Arrival (LP)
70 ABBAdabadoo (1976 TV Special)
73 ABBA in Studio 2 (1976 TV Special)
74 Money, Money, Money (7'')
76 1977 European And Australian Tour
82 Knowing Me, Knowing You (7'')
84 Name Of The Game (7'') The
86 ABBA The Album
91 ABBA The Movie
95 Take A Chance On Me (7'')
97 Eagle (7'')
99 Summer Night City (7'')
101 ABBA Special in Japan) (1978 TV Special)
103 Chiquitita (7'')
106 ABBA in Switzerland (1979 TV Special)
108 Does Your Mother Know (7'')
109 Voulez-Vous (Album)
112 Voulez-Vous (7'')
113 1979 North American and European Tour
118 Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (7'')
120 Greatest Hits Volume II
121 I Have A Dream (7'')
123 1980 Japanese Tour
125 Gracias Por La Música (Album)
127 The Winners Takes It All
129 ABBA in Concert (1980 TV Special)
131 Super Trouper (7'')
133 On And On And On (7'' USA)
134 Super Trouper (Album)
138 Words And Music (1981 TV Special)
140 Lay All Your Love On Me (12'' U.K.)
141 Dick Cavett Meets ABBA (1981 TV Special)
143 One Of Us (7'')
145 The Visitors (Album)
148 Head Over Heels (7'')
149 The Day Before You Came (7'')
151 The Singles The First Ten Years (Album)
153 The Story of ABBA (1982 TV Special)
155 Under Attack (7'')
|157 Thank You For The Music
159 ABBAcadabra (1983 Stage Sow)
162 After ABBA
166 ABBA Live (Album)
168 Dancing Queen (1992 7'' Re-Issue)
169 ABBA Gold (Album)
172 More ABBA Gold (Album)
174 ABBA Oro (Album)
176 Dream World (Promo Single)
177 Thank You For The Music (1994 Box Set)
180 Put On Your Sombrero (1996 Promo Single)
181 Love Stories (Album)
182 Mamma Mia! (1999 Stage Show)
188 The Singles Collection 1972-1982 (Album)
188 ABBA The History (1999 Promo Special)
190 The Winner Takes It All The ABBA Story (1999 TV Special)
192 ABBAmania (1999 TV Special)
195 The Definitive Collection (Album)
197 The Last Video (204 TV Special)
200 18 Hits (Album)
201 Super Troupers 30 Years of ABBA (Album)
205 The Complete Studio Recordings (Box Set)
208 Number Ones (Album)
210 Mamma Mia! The Movie
214 ABBA The Albums (Box Set)
215 Thank You For The Music A Celebration of the Music of ABBA
219 Appendix (Additional Single Releases)
222 Further Reading
Introduction by the autor (scanned from the book without corrections)
In June 2009 concert promoters AEG Live were left with a big problem - how to
fill 50 empty dates at London's 02 Arena after the premature death of pop
superstar Michael Jackson. The 02, officially the world's busiest arena, has a
seating capacity of 23,000 and only a select few acts can be assured of filling
it. Scrambling around for replacements, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and The
Rolling Stones were all mentioned, but then another name came into the frame:
ABBA. British tabloid The Sun alleged that the Swedish supergroup had been
approached by the venue's promoters to reunite for a 'mega-bucks deal'. Within
hours chat-rooms and bloggers around the world were buzzing with the
announcement. Even television and radio news reported the story, but,
unsurprisingly, it wasn't true. 'No-one's asked us and if they did we wouldn't
say yes,' Benny Andersson told the BBC. 'It's really a treat for the ABBA
audience that we're not doing that, you know, because they would regret it
immensely, as would we.' Then he tantalisingly added, 'but never say never.'
The fact that, for the umpteenth time, another rumour about the reformation of the world's most popular pop band still managed to generate such worldwide interest is testament to ABBA's incredible mystique. This is the band that famously 'never came back' after breaking-up in 1982, yet still remains a bona fide musical phenomenon. With sales of 370 million albums so far - and their hits playing nightly on stage in virtually every capital city worldwide - they have emerged a bigger global pop brand than even The Beatles. No longer is 'Dancing Queen'just frozen in time in a glamorous 1976 Stockholm discothèque, wall-to-wall with beautiful clubbers, dripping in pearls of sweat. There is something far bigger going on. ABBA's music has transcended nostalgia and is still resolutely contemporary, even decades after the group first originated pop clichés with glossy harmonies, luscious orchestration and smooth melancholic vocals. Their fearlessly catchy lyrics, mocked by lesser songwriters as merely flippant back in the seventies, are now universally celebrated. Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson are arguably pop's greatest partnership since Lennon and McCartney and their beautiful, dreamlike compositions continue to captivate and enthral. The uninhibited girl on the dancefloor in 'Dancing Queen' still exists, so does the abandoned lover in 'The Winner Takes It All', and even more frivolous work like 'SOS' still has the power to dazzle. Since 1992, and the release of the astoundingly successful 'ABBA Gold' compilation, the group has been re-assessed and embraced by a younger generation of musicians. That same year Björn and Benny were invited on-stage by U2 to perform 'Dancing Queen' during one of the rock band's gigs in Stockholm. 'As a teenager I wanted to behead them, but later I came to love them,' confessed Bono.
The release of 'ABBA Gold', the proliferation of tribute acts and the global dominance of the musical Mamma Mia! on both stage and screen has created an almost-insatiable hunger for all things ABBA. And the public - if the newspapers are to be believed - want the band back. But Björn told The Sunday Telegraph that ABBA would never reform, not even for a night. 'We would like people to remember us as we were, young, exuberant and full of ambition. There is simply no motivation to regroup,' he said. 'I remember Robert Plant saying that Led Zeppelin were a covers band now because they cover all their own stuff. 1 think that hit the nail on the head!'
But even if the group aren't going on tour again any time soon, ABBA are still, alongside Volvo cars and IKEA flat-pack furniture, Sweden's biggest brand-name. But, in fact, only three of the members actually hail from Sweden. Björn Ulvaeus (born 25 April 1945 in Gothenburg), Anni-Frid Lyngstad (born in Ballangen, Norway on 15 November 1946), Benny Andersson (born 16 December 1946 in Stockholm) and Agnetha Fältskog (born 5 April 1950 in Jönköping) all had very different upbringings, but all came together through their love of song. Illegitimate Anni-Frid, better known as Frida, moved across the border to the outskirts of Eskilstuna in Sweden when she was just 18-months-old and was raised by her maternal grandmother. Her father was a German soldier and the Lyngstad family feared reprisals from Norwegians angry with those who had fraternized with Nazis during the occupation. All four future ABBA members had music in their formative lives. Agnetha wrote her first song when she was aged just five, Frida made her stage debut in a concert at 11 and Benny and Björn were heavily influenced by their fathers - respectively accordion and mandolin players. As teenagers they all found varying degrees of solo success, but as a quartet in their twenties and thirties they were virtually unstoppable.
Björn Ulvaeus was the first to find pop fame with his band The Hootenanny Singers ('What a silly name that is! Sounds so stupid!' he once admitted), a four-piece folk- cum-skiffle-cum-country outfit. An unlikely-looking bunch of proto-pop idols, their homely, reassuring music nevertheless touched a nerve with the Swedish record-buying public. The group enjoyed their first big hit single in 1964 and built up a loyal following from TV appearances and performing at Sweden's numerous folkparks - open air theatres which could be found in the centre of most major towns or cities. There is no doubting that the Hootenannys worked extremely hard; in 1966 the band played an incredible 120 gigs and it was whilst on their summer tour that Björn first ran into Benny Andersson, in Linköping, a picturesque city in the south of the country. The two men - despite coming from very different musical backgrounds - had an instant affinity with each other from the outset. However, Benny was a rock star in a band with considerably more street-cred than Björn's folk quartet. He was the keyboardist/vocalist with The Hep Stars, the nearest thing Sweden ever got to a home-grown alternative to The Beatles. Initially, they were ostensibly a covers band - they performed high- spirited versions of famous rock 'n' roll songs, and although they never became serious contenders to British rock groups in Europe, they did actually manage to outsell The Beach Boys in Sweden. The Hep Stars branched out with their own compositions
- including the bizarrely-entitled 'Bald Headed Woman', a Number 1 smash in the summer of 1965. However, it wasn't until a song Benny wrote called 'Sunny Girl', which hit the top of the charts in the spring of the following year that he gained a new self-confidence in his songwriting abilities.
That chance meeting in Linköping was, unquestionably, the best thing that ever happened to Björn and Benny's careers. Their completely opposite musical styles meant they were little threat to each other, but their adoration of English and American music was a shared passion; they sang from the same pop hymn book. Björn was well acquainted with songs like 'Sunny Girl' and Benny had purchased the Hootenannys' latest album 'International', which contained the hit 'No Time', the first single to be written by Björn, and one recorded in London to give it an authentic 'British' sound. While their band-mates partied the night away Björn and Benny sat under the stars and strummed their guitars to Beatles' songs. By 7am the following morning, the seeds of something far bigger had already been sewn. Barely two weeks had passed and the pair met again, at another raucous party, this time in Björn's home-town in Västervik. The duo discussed their future ambitions and - on the spur of the moment - decided to write a song together. Björn invited his new friend back to the Ulvaeus family home and set up their noisy equipment in the basement. Their unholy racket woke Björn's exasperated father and, in desperation, he gave the boys the keys to his offices at the paper mill, at which he was employed. With their amplifier raising the rafters Björn and Benny began work on what would eventually be their first joint composition - a song named 'Isn't It Easy to Say'. The track was eventually recorded by The Hep Stars for their third studio album and this charmingly incestuous relationship between the Hootenanny Singers and The Hep Stars continued. The former covered 'Sunny Girl' and the latter recorded a rockier version of 'No Time'. The two disparate groups continued selling records in Scandinavia, but both were on borrowed time. Björn and Benny had bigger herring to fry.
Not long after Björn and Benny started collaborating, in another part of Sweden a pretty Norwegian girl named Anni-Frid Lyngstad won a Swedish talent competition called New Faces. She was just 21-years-old and already a married mother of two. Frida had been singing with a professional dance band since she was just 13 and became dubbed the 'Songbird of Eskilstuna'. Her husband, a shop manager named Ragnar Fredriksson was also a musician - he played trombone and the drums - and they started a musical trio with a friend of theirs. They proved extremely popular playing clubs, restaurants and local dances and Frida later established her own charmingly self-titled band, The Anni-Frid Four. Although the singer loved the 'big band' sound of Count Basie, she actually preferred performing covers of the latest English and American songs - Petula Clark's 'Downtown' was one of her favourites as was The Supremes' 'Baby Love'. She dreamt of a bigger career in show business, but even though she entered numerous talent competitions nothing much came of it. Then, in the summer
of 1967, Frida applied to be a contestant on New Faces. Not only was she surprised when she won - securing a recording contract with EMI Sweden, she also had to appear live on Sweden's top rated TV chat show Hvland's Corner. Frida was terrified in front of the cameras, but viewers took to this quietly-spoken young woman immediately, adoring the fact that she was a housewife, a mum and an aspiring pop star. Less than a week later she was in the studio recording for the first time, but success came painfully slow. Frida's early singles barely dented the Swedish charts - she had yet to find a style she, or EMI, was comfortable with - and she felt a terrible conflict of loyalties between her life as a mother and that of a professional performer. Suffering from depression, and regrets from marrying so young, a divorce was sadly a forgone conclusion. With mixed feelings Frida made the decision to move to Stockholm to further her career, leaving six-year-old Hans and toddler Ann Lise-Lotte with their father in Eskilstuna. 'How could I, who cannot even take care of myself during my depressions, make any claim to be able to take care of them?' she said.
In the city Frida performed regular cabarets with boogie-woogie pianist Charlie Norman and in March 1969 entered Melodifestivalen, the televised Swedish selection show for the Eurovision Song Contest. Her song, 'Our Earth is Wonderful' gave her much-needed exposure but she only managed to be placed fourth. It was that same night that Frida first laid eyes on Benny - he had also submitted a song called 'Hey, Clown' - and whilst it was only the briefest of meetings, Frida was instantly besotted with him. Several days later they met again by chance in a restaurant after a Hep Stars gig - coincidentally Björn was now temporarily playing guitar for Benny's rock band. The get-together moved back to the boys' hotel room and Frida recalled falling in love with Benny from the outset. The attraction was mutual; within months he and Frida were living together. Frida also became close friends with Björn and was enthralled to see their songwriting at full-tilt. The boys had scored their first hit together with a song entitled 'The Good Old Sixties' recorded by veteran stage actress Brita Borg, which stayed in the Swedish charts for an incredible 20 weeks. By the spring of 1969 three quarters of ABBA were already known to each other, but the fourth piece of the musical jigsaw was waiting just around the corner.
Agnetha had crossed paths with Frida on a Swedish TV programme in January 1968, where both artists had performed their latest singles. At the family home in Västervick Björn had watched the show, and although impressed with both singers, he was mesmerised by the pretty blonde teenager, who showed amazing potential. As a young girl Agnetha had loved Neil Sedaka and Dusty Springfield, but she had part- modelled herself on her heroine Connie Francis. Growing up in Jönköping Agnetha had been infatuated with music from a very early age; she was messing about on the piano as a toddler and composed her first song, 'Two Little Trolls', aged just five-years-old. By 13 Agnetha was singing in her local folkpark with two school friends and whilst she dreamt of becoming a professional .singer she left school in 1965 to work on the switchboard of a local car dealership. Her love of music never left her though, and within 12 months she had begun singing with the Bernt Enghardt Orchestra, travelling Sweden with six male musicians, much to her parents' initial horror. The orchestra developed a healthy following and Agnetha was busy writing songs - including the ballad Jag var sä kär ('I Was So In Love'), and felt confident enough to send off a demo tape to Cupol Records in the hope of finding a recording deal. However, Cupol were only won over by the lead singer and in October 1967 booked Agnetha into the Philips Studio to start work on solo material including a recording of Jag var sä kär with producer 'Little' Gerhard Lundkvist. 'I was incredibly nervous when I was going to record it,' she recalled in 1976. 'I was only 17 and I'd never been to Stockholm, so I brought my father along to hold my hand.' When Agnetha heard the finished track mixed and ready, she was astounded, recalling it as the happiest moment of her life. With Agnetha's father handling his daughter's business affairs Cupol signed a contract. Agnetha's first single - Följ med mig ('Follow Me') - was released in November 1967, but it was the B-side, her own gentle composition, which really appealed to record- buyers. By January the following year her single had reached Number 3 on the Swedish charts; Agnetha cried when she heard the news. Agnetha continued touring with her orchestra and such was her new-found fame both in Sweden and West Germany, where her career was also taking off, she was now top-billed. In May 1968 whilst mid-way through a folkpark tour Agnetha first met Björn, who was also appearing with The Hootenanny Singers. For Björn, it was almost love at first sight, although, at the time, Agnetha was already engaged to a German boyfriend.
Just like Frida, Agnetha broke away from the safety of her band and moved permanently to Stockholm. A stream of hit singles followed, plus an eponymous debut album in 1968 - on which she wrote, or co-wrote, nine out of the 12 tracks. Now single, Agnetha met Björn again whilst appearing on the same Swedish TV special - Count the Happy Moments in May 1969. They became inseparable. Meanwhile The Hep Stars' career was on the wane. Although 'Sunny Girl' had also been a hit in the Netherlands, it never charted in Great Britain, much to Benny's frustration. Benny began supporting Frida on her cabaret shows with Charlie Norman and they became engaged in August 1969. That same month Benny's group played their last ever gig and he and his fiancée decided to work together from then on, with Benny producing. The first single to emerge from this partnership was 'Peter Pan', co-written by Björn; it was a momentous occasion since three future-ABBA members had all collaborated on one song. It was not a commercial success, but Björn 's manager Stig Anderson made a startling prediction: "One day the pair of you will write a song that will become a worldwide hit'.
Stig pushed the partnership as far as possible and encouraged them to submit music for a forthcoming erotic film The Seduction of Inga, directed by American filmmaker Joseph Sarno and starring former ballet dancer Marie Liljedahl. Recorded in 1969, Björn and Benny's stand-out number for the movie was 'She's My Kind of Girl', The duo would come up with three or four melodies and try them out with dummy lyrics. Björn soon became an expert in dreaming up nonsensical rhymes to go with the music. Even when they went into the studio with engineer Michael B Tretow the odd lyrics would spew forth. 'They could be about mashed potatoes or something,' recalled Tretow many years later. 'A love song about mashed potatoes? Björn was very fluent. He could write a lyric for his song in five minutes and it would be good, but silly!' Björn believed that even if the embryonic lyrics were nonsense they still created a certain atmosphere for the song; having said that the original title for the beautiful- sounding 'I Have a Dream' was actually 'Take Me in Your Armpit'. As time went on their methodology for songwriting altered slightly, although they always had the ability to stop involuntarily if they both recognised a good melody. 'Very often the song and the recording together suggest a certain kind of lyric that you don't know before,' confessed Björn in 1981 documentary Words and Music. 'So the old way used to be write the melody and the lyric before you went into the studio, but it's the other way around now.' What never changed was the intuition between the two musicians. 'It's the two of us together all the time,' added Benny. 'So if I miss something Björn will hear it and say "what was that?!" and it's the opposite way round.'
There was widespread suspicion that Björn and Benny's incredible hit-making success rate meant that they had to be working to a secret 'formula', allowing them to churn out million-selling records over and over again. This imaginary pop conveyor belt, operated solely to serve their perceived greed, was a criticism levelled at them in countless interviews throughout the 1970s. Journalists insinuated they must be 'cheating' somehow; how could two musicians - with the Swedish language as their mother tongue - actually write songs as clever as 'Money, Money, Money'? In an article which appeared in The Daily Mirror in the mid-seventies the duo were even described as 'cool, calm, collected and very, very calculating', but this opinion was not untypical; bitter tales of tax avoidance continually dogged the group at every press conference they gave.
In 1976, during an embarrassingly ill-researched television interview on the BBC, the female host took a cynical view of their songwriting, blatantly doubting Björn and Benny's creative abilities. The usually calm Björn was incredulous at her attitude. 'It is very, very irrational and it's just from inside and it's never speculated,' he said. 'It takes a long time and is very hard.' In another interview for Swedish TV the same year Björn elaborated further: 'We are always met with distrust. They think, "you just throw together a song and reap loads of money.'" Some sections of the media took an even dimmer view of Agnetha and Frida's contributions to the ABBA sound: they were 'pretty' to look at, one had a particularly 'gorgeous bum' and they sang 'sweetly', were the usual remarks. But Björn and Benny knew only their partners could sing their compositions; they were notoriously difficult songs to perform.
Agnetha's voice is soprano (higher), whereas Frida is a mezzo-soprano (lower) and their vocal blend was unique. A number like 'Dancing Queen' has an amazing two- octave range and is nigh-on impossible for a solo vocalist to sing adequately. But not all ABBA songs were blessed with a dual lead vocal; Björn and Benny tried to take it in turns to give each of their significant others a shot at the lead. 'It was very fair,' said Björn many years later, but it did create healthy rivalries between the two singers and also some jealousy. 'Sometimes I envied the choice of Agnetha, I must admit,' confessed Frida in 1999. From the outset Björn and Benny always knew which one of the ladies would best suit a particular style of song. There were also marked differences in Agnetha and Frida's approaches to performing live. Frida thrived in front of a roaring audience but Agnetha came to hate touring. 'My musical home is the studio, not the stage,' she said years later recalling what it was like recording the ABBA hits. 'There, in a private gathering of Björn, Benny and Frida I'm in control of everything and my voice shows itself off to its advantage.'
Björn believed it took a whole year to create a perfect album, nine months to throw things away and three months to record what was left. ABBA approached every song as having the potential of being a big hit single. 'We got rid of all the rubbish during the writing period so we never went into the studio with something half-finished,' remembered Björn. He and Benny were complete perfectionists and virtually everything ABBA ever recorded has been released in one form or another, even the odds and ends which Björn now describes as 'curiosities'. 'When an album was put together it was all the best songs,' recalled Michael B Tretow. Björn was the first person to experience Tretow's brilliance in the studio and from then on ABBA worked exclusively with him. Most of ABBA's magic was created either at Metronome Studios, and later the custom- built Polar Studios in the Vasastaden district of Stockholm.
ABBA used an experienced, and very loyal, group of session musicians to play on their records - most famously, guitarists Janne Schaffer and Lasse Wellander, drummer Ola Brunkert and bassist Rutger Gunnarsson. The band's distinctive multi- layered sound was inspired by the work of Phil Spector and The Beach Boys, giving each song an incredible depth and texture. 'Benny added synth after synth, until no corner of the record was empty,' remembered Michael B Tretow, who considered his time working on the mixing desk with ABBA as the most magical experience of his life. 'And I only experienced that with Björn and Benny. It never happened otherwise. All the other recordings that I did after that and before that... it didn't happen; just on Björn and Benny's!' More overdubs were added until the rich, deep sound was finally achieved. Then it was mixed. Björn and Benny considered each of their songs to have an inherent life all of their own and the 'feel' of a composition would guide them to its final conclusion. ABBA were never convinced which single should be the first off an album and usually sent out six or seven of their favourite numbers to a group of 'trusted friends', mainly record executives and publishers. They would have to rank the songs in order of popularity and let Björn and Benny know. Normally whatever came out as the
consensus favourite would get first shot at the world charts.
ABBA chose, primarily, to record their songs in English, since they always considered it to be 'the language of pop' and this was certainly the right decision for their performance of'Waterloo' at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. 'Swedes weren't brought up with pop music,' Björn once said. 'All our pop knowledge was gleaned from the British and American charts.' Although Sweden, West Germany and Australia were first to fall for ABBA's charms, it was Great Britain where the band most sought critical and commercial approval. After 'Waterloo' had hit the top of the UK charts Björn told the now-defunct Disc magazine: 'It's just like an incredible dream. It's always been our ambition to get a record to Number 1 in Britain. It means more than a Number 1 in the States to us. You see, for years Britain has been at the top, the headquarters of pop music.'
By 1975, after a couple of false starts ABBA soon were sitting on leather chairs in the boardroom of Brit pop HQ - scoring 18 consecutive UK top ten hits, eight of those Number Is. But perhaps even more remarkable than ABBA's chart statistics was the fact that the foursome continued to record together - and enjoy chart success - even after the personal relationships within the band had begun to fall apart. It gave the media something else to be endlessly fascinated by, and lyrics to songs like 'The Winner Takes It All' were scrutinised for any hidden titbits. T think our problems did add to our appeal,' Björn admitted to the London Evening Standard in March 1999. 'I try and see it from the outside and, of course, this is very strange: two married couples from Scandinavia, very exotic! Was it a gimmick that they got married? And then they split up with a short space of time! Of course that is fascinating; it would be in any group.'
ABBA ceased recording together in 1982, but the band's demise was frustratingly inconclusive. There was no big announcement, no official farewell single, not even a big public spat - instead, the quartet simply drifted apart; Agnetha and Frida to make solo albums and Björn and Benny to work on their stage musical Chess. But the eighties' music scene was a very different animal from the innocent days of the mid- 1970s. Absolutely, ABBA had already weathered the threat from punk, but had they stayed together post-1982, quite how their music would have competed with the likes of Culture Club, Duran Duran and Frankie Goes to Hollywood remained to be seen.
But to make a comeback you must first fade away for a period and ABBA did just that. But their renaissance was not generated by a desire to reform; it was through a multi-million selling compilation. By nature all musical tastes are cyclical and when 1992's 'ABBA Gold' became a smash it had very little to do with the band members themselves; their involvement was wholly incidental. There were no new songs, no forgotten gems plucked and polished from the ABBA archive to drive this rebirth through. It was simply the ABBA 'classics' which were re-energized, and the timing was, by sheer luck, just right for 'Dancing Queen' to strut back out onto the centre of the dancefloor and rightfully reclaim its pop crown. The band, and more importantly their record company, owed Erasure a sincere debt of gratitude for getting the party
started, but almost overnight you no longer had to be gay to admit to liking ABBA. Even Bruce Springsteen voiced his approval -ABBA's music was officially cool again.
ABBA's rehabilitation surprised everyone, none more so than Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida, but with their new 'greatest hits' topping the charts around the world, the fans and the media were requesting, nay demanding, a proper reunion. But there never was one, and this gave the perfect opportunity for tribute groups like Björn Again to take to the road, providing a 'live' outlet for a deceased band. And what of 'new' material, or air-brushed versions of old songs produced to feed a ravenous ABBA appetite? Björn and Benny have resisted any tampering with the original ABBA tunes - allowing, to date, only two artistes, The Fugees and Madonna, to sample their riffs.
Instead pumped-up cover versions of ABBA greats partly satisfied - first by Almighty Record's Abbacadabra group (churning out disco-fied mixes since 1991) and then by a bunch of Swedish upstarts. Formed in Stockholm in 1998, the ABBA Teens, later abbreviated to A*Teens after the swift intervention of Benny, were two unprepossessing boys and two winsome girls who sang speeded-up ABBA songs, painfully proving just how impossible it really was to match Agnetha and Frida's peerless harmonies. Some people even thought they were the 'love children' of the original band. They were most certainly not, but they still managed to sell four million copies of their debut album 'The ABBA Generation', although a Number 1 position on the Swedish charts was perhaps one tribute too far. In the digital, file-sharing age unofficial remixes of original ABBA numbers are prolific - 'Trancing Queen' anybody, or how about a heavy metal mash-up of 'Chiquitita'? You only have to check out YouTube for the plethora of millennium remixes of 'lost' ABBA track 'Just Like That'.
The biggest source of frustration - especially in the press - is ABBA's categorical refusal to reform. Band reunions are big business. Cliff and The Shadows have been doing it for years, The Rolling Stones have never gone away, and even the Sex Pistols came back for the filthy lucre. Incredibly, even the dead still tour; Elvis's original backing band now travels the world with his singing hologram. But still ABBA says no, the only supergroup left in the world where the original members are still alive and young enough to do it. ABBA's loyal friend and one-time tour promoter, Thomas Johansson, thought if ever the time had been ripe for a reunion it would have been in 1999, at the height of publicity surrounding the West End opening of Mamma Mia! But the time passed and nothing happened, despite the best attempts of the media and the fans. That year a consortium of businessmen allegedly offered the four original ABBA members over $1 billion to reform for a series of 100 concerts (although this amount has since been disputed). Benny & Björn, Agnetha & Frida rejected the offer, surely contradicting their image as rapacious money-grabbers. 'Our legacy is best served by not reforming,' said Björn in an interview with The Guardian in March 1999. 'We have resisted more money than you'd ever believe. I like being the band that never came back.'
However, Björn and Benny have not entirely turned their back on their desire to have a hit single. In May 2009 the duo unveiled their first new 'pop' song in over a decade - 'Second Best to None' sung, bizarrely, by the employees of Benny's own hotel in Stockholm. A month later saw the release of the uncannily ABBA-sounding 'Story of a Heart' performed by Benny's own orchestra and sung by Helen Sjoholm. It was enough to induce goose bumps just about everywhere, but despite journalists' desperate efforts to translate the song's high profile release as the start of an 'ABBA reunion' it still wasn't on the cards. 'I was in ABBA and I'm in this band, so obviously if you try to do a pop song there will be similarities, right,' said an exasperated Benny.
So here we are, nearly three decades on from the band that just faded away. Each new ABBA compilation continues to sell by the bucket-load, Mamma Mia! the stage musical has now been seen by over 30 million people worldwide, the spin-off film smashed box-office records as did the DVD, you can play 'Sing Star ABBA' for Playstation PS2 and coming your way is the ABBA touring museum, where you can get up close and personal to some vintage Agnetha spandex. And still we want more. People don't just like ABBA's music; they are liberated by it, unquestionably more now than even during the band's seventies' heyday. In November 1976 ABBA were asked on BBC series Nationwide whether they could imagine themselves still playing music when they were claiming an old-age pension.
'If we enjoy it like we do now, I think we'll continue,' replied Benny, 'as long as we like it.'
'I don't think you'll see ABBA 60 years old,' countered a chuckling Bjorn.
'No, probably not,' added Benny. 'But we could hope that one song that we make during the years will last, even if ABBA doesn't.'
One song? Just one song? Little could ABBA ever foresee how their legacy would endure through the decades. How about 50 songs or more... 'Dancing Queen', 'The Winner Takes It All', 'Mamma Mia', 'Fernando', 'Knowing Me, Knowing You', 'SuperTrouper', 'SOS'...
Thank you, ABBA.