I wish all of you, ABBA-fans or not, a very happy Easter! The pic here is of Agnetha from around 1969, she is the girl on the left. Here in Sweden we have a tradition of "påskkärringar" (Easter witches). Kids dress up as påskkärringar and they go around the neighbourhood asking for candy, quite similar to Halloween's Trick or Treat. The other girl is another Swedish singer named Mona (I can't remember her last name right now). It was Mona who performed the "Spara & Slösa" song with Frida on the Charlie Norman show a couple of years later. Sweden is a small country...
The article below comes from the Danish issue of Se & Hor, a Scandinavian gossip magazine. My Danish isn't the best but here's my attempt to translate it:
The Dancing Queen has gotten old UGLY CHANGE The former ABBA-singer has in just one year transformed from a beautiful woman into a shy recluse. Fair as a Swedish summernight, with a pure singing voice and a couple of fascinating blue cat eyes. Agnetha was the girl every girl wanted to look like. Then things begun going backwards, not financially. All three members of the former ABBA has more money than they can spend. Agnetha is not alone in becoming a recluse, she has also started to look very worn out. She is, despite the fact that she is only 54 years old, so these pictures of a tired, old Agnetha has both shocked and surprised. Last year she made a come back from her secluded life with a new album. The pictures of her showed a beautiful Agnetha,who hadn't been touched by old age at all. But when you place Agnetha far from the photo studios, make-up artists and the ever-so-forgivning Photoshop program, reality is a completely different story.
Just as always, with newsreports, it's not always the best pictures that are used in the magazines and papers. So now more pictures of both Anni-Frid andAgnetha has surfaced. I have put them together here below. Just click on the pic and it will increase in size. You will probably be as surprised as I was when there seems nothing but smiles going on.
"Kristina från Duvemåla" is on its way to Broadway. Auditions will be held in April to find the American cast. We have waited ten years for this. Now it's finally on its way, say director Lars Rudolfsson.
Kristina från Duvemåla" opened in Malmö in 1995. After years of sold out performances in Sweden there was early talk about an international release for the musical. Björn Ulvaeus started the work with the translations of his and Benny Andersson's musical. Since then nothing much have happened. Until now. Lars Rudolfsson, who is the director of the show, then and now, reveals that the musical is on its way to Broadway. - We are leaving for New York in April to arrange American auditions. After that we shall try and get the people we want for this fall. Then we will produce the whole show in rehearsal auditoriums on Broadway to see that it's working, says Lars Rudolfsson. During the following winter they are planning to open the American version "Kristina från Duvemåla" in a smaller theatre in New York. And also have a try-out in Minnessota, where a lot of people who have family connections with Sweden lives. When exactly the musical will open on Broadway Lars Rudolfsson, doesn't know. Probably some time next . Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson's "Chess" played on Broadway in 1988. And in later years their musical "Mamma Mia!" has had enormous success on that prestigeous New York street.
Read more about "Kristina from Duvemåla" in English here!
In October 1974 ABBA was preparing for their first international live concert tour. They needed a place to rehearse so they rented the auditorium of Rudbecksskolan in Sollentuna, just outside of Stockholm for two weeks. Lucky for me! My father was the principal of that school... Every day after school I took the bus to my father's school. He would let me in to the projector room in the back of the auditorium. There, in the dark (so I wouldn't get noticed), I sat for hours watching my idols rehearsing. There was a lot of arguments, Frida storming out after disagreeing with Benny, Agnetha singing out of key and getting bad looks from Björn and so forth. But mostly there was beautiful music being made. I got to hear new songs like "So Long", "Hey Hey Helen" and "I've Been Waiting For You" to name a few. One day I saw Agnetha go into the restrooms outside of the auditorium so I waited for her. When she came out I asked her for an autograph. She was very sweet and signed for me immediately. Then she asked me if I would like to meet the others and get their autographs as well. WouldI? So she let me in to the auditorium and I got to meet Frida, Benny and Björn. Frida was really sweet to me, asked me how old I was and so on. Benny and Björn seemed a little annoyed since they were actually working and I guess they didn't want to be interrupted but they signed for me anyway. After the two weeks of rehearsal ABBA gave a free concert for the students of the school. My father sneaked me in through the stagedoor so I ended up on the first row. I was so thrilled. I couldn't believe they were just centimetres away from me performing. The concert was a huge success and ABBA seemed happy that they got such a good reaction to their new show. Frida and Björn left straight away after the show. Benny and Agnetha were still around and my father knocked on the stage door and asked if it was OK if I came in for a minute. Agnetha came over to me and talked to me for a while, asking me which song I liked best etc. Benny gave me the sheet music for the "Waterloo" album, which they had used during the concert. He was totally exhausted and dripping with sweat, he had taken his shirt off. I was so much in "shock" that I forgot to ask him to sign the sheet music, but it didn't matter.
I found this aricle in Wermlands Folkblad recently. This guy who now is a journalist was a student at the school: "It was at the end of 1974 when suddenly Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny and Björn were standing there in the cafeteria line at Rudbecksskolan in Sollentuna. Sure, they were famous even then, but no way near the super star status they would achieve later on. So what were they doing among the pimple faced teenagers in a Stockholm suburb? They had rented the school auditorium to rehearse for their upcoming tour. I've always wondered how that would have worked today, 30 years later. Probably not at all. The school
would have been sieged with reporters and all doors would have been locked. But this was in the 70's and the Swedish media couldn't care less what ABBA were doing. They even treated the school's students to a free concert and they didn't need any security or fences, no chance of a riot." The pictures in this post are from the school and the rehearsals. I have been looking for years to find some, my mother wouldn't let me take my father's camera to the school so I never got to take an pictures...
That's probably what Dame Edna would say if she was getting the same gift I got from my dear Greg and Pat in Australia. So what is this fantastic gift you may wonder? It's "The Dame Edna Experience - The Complete Collection". A fantastic 5 DVD box set. I remember watching these series religiously back in the 80's together with my roommate Ingrid Lee. We taped the shows and watched them millions of times. We instantly became Edna admirerers and we also had a very soft spot for poor little Madge, Edna's bridesmaid. Now I'm able to enjoy all those fabulous shows again - this time in perfect DVD picture quality! The guest list is almost unbelieveable: Mel Gibson, Jane Fonda, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Cliff Richard, Ronald Reagan Jr, Grace Jones, Liza Minnelli, Dolph Lundgren, Vivienne Westwood, Chubby Checker, Dusty Springfield, Demis Roussos, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Larry Hagman, Tony Curtis, Joan Rivers, Lauren Bacall, Jason Donovan (Kylie Minogue's boyfriend in "Neighbours") Charlton Heston, Gina Lollobrigidia and Rudolf Nureyev. That's what a I call a guest list! And I think now that this final compete series has been released on DVD we can once and for all kill the rumour that was going around in the eighties that Björn UlvaeusfromABBA once guested the show together with Marie Fredrikssonfrom Roxette fame. It just never happened. The DVD is so well put together, animated screens, hidden "tracks", a "forbidden" Madge-badge, but if you're naughty and press it anyway you get to hear Madge SING (I don't think you get to see her even talking the whole series through). The extra material is enormous. Several hours of old shows, TV-interviews together with Whoopi Goldberg and Dame Edna performing her disco hit "Disco Matilda" on Top Of The Pops! Edna gets away with saying things to these celebreties noone else ever could. She is smart and very witty and varm and loving at the same time. We are also treated to the musical numbers of the shows. I remember Ingrid and me used to love the song and dance number Dame Edna does with Madge Allsop (her bridesmaid) called "My Bridesmaid And I". Ingrid and I used to run around and sing it like Edna. Especially these lines from that song: "My Bridesmaid and I together we try "My Bridesmaid and I "Kenny claims that she's BI!" (Kenny is Dame Edna's favourite child, a gay designer).
It is a very expensive box, but it has started to pop up on auction sites like eBay so I guess you will be able to get it for a good price. I whole heartedly recommend it to anyone who are in love with the very special comedy Dame Edna stands for. You can order the box at www.amazon.com!
According to Expressen Björn Ulvaeus has agreed to join his old mates in Hootenanny Singers for a concert at Visfestivalen in Västervik (the town where Björn grew up) which celebrates 40 years this summer. Hootenanny Singers was one of the most popular groups in the 60's. The festival starts on Wednesday July 13th and ends on the Saturday the July 16th. Interesting to notice that Björn who has claimed that he and the other members of ABBA are "too old to be on stage" have a different opinion when it comes to Hootenanny Singers.
Other artists performing at the Visfestival are Helen Sjöholm (from "Kristina Från Duvemåla, "Chess"), Lill
Lindfors, Peter Harryson, Lars Demian, Lasse Tennander, Cajsa-Stina
Åkerström, Mikael Wiehe, Jack Vreeswijk och Niklas Strömstedt (he translated "Mamma Mia!" into Swedish). More information on Visfestivalen i Västervik's homepage. You can order your ticket online here.
Last night my friends had a party for me. To celebrate my 40th birthday. I want to thank all of them for organising a wonderful evening. Thanks to Gunnar and Marika for letting us use their home. Extra thanks to Magnus,Kristina and Betzy - they made the best tasting smörgåstårta ever. It was nice to catch up with some friends that I don't get to see as often as I would like. I'm so glad Ullis and her family could came, especially since little Filippa is only three weeks old (you can see her in the pictures below). And thanks to Staffan for being the designated driver of the evening - it was great to come home safe and quickly. And thanks for the lovely gifts, speeches and the laughs. I love you all!
During the 70's ABBA was very critisized in Sweden. The press talked a lot about the money they were making. It wasn't politically correct to like ABBA. They were to commercial. This article from weekly magazine "Se" from 1977 shows what a hard time the journalist seem to have, trying not to write positive things about ABBA. It's also a very interesting document from the 1977 world tour.
- THE MOST BEAUTIFUL people in the world don't sweat, says ABBA's tour leader Bosse Norling. You're not allowed to take pictures of them like that. ABBA do sweat! Of course they do, after two tough hours on stage. But their image - fresh, clean and good - mustn't be disturbed. So when we finally, as the only newspaper, get to meet them back stage they have showered and changed and are very relaxed. We meet them at Arena Hall in Antwerp, just before midnight. Is it true what they say, that they have become cocky now? No, not exactly cocky. But bigger. Bigger than you can imagine. The Swedish group ABBA is world artists, the only ones we have in pop music. And they behave like it, on stage - and off. ABBA 1977 is much more than a pop group. ABBA is a music industry a made for export. Internationally they have are so sought after and the demand for their product makes the CEOs of Volvo and LKAB green with envy. But more about the money later.
First a couple of glimpses from the group's European tour which finished this week: 46 people and 30 tons of equipment through seven countries in 18 days. 20 sold out concerts in cities with a total of 90,000 fans. Success!
BRONDBYHALLEN, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK. Approximately 5,000 people has paid between 50 and 100 crowns per ticket. Most of them are young between 8-12 years old. But there are of course also many parents and very small children. There's an excitement in the air. Expectations are rising. The bongo drum starts. Quietly at first then louder, louder and louder. The sound of a jet motor emerges. The curtain starts moving. You can see the silhouettes of the four members. The audience whisper and moans. Then the curtain falls. And there they are dressed in angelic white, gold and glitter. They are waving. ABBA! ABBA! ABBA! The audience is captivated. The lights from giant spotligths are constantly changing over the stage; red blue, yellow, green and violett. The sound effect is complete, it's stronger than anything, even your own thoughts. And what is happening then? Music! Captivating, monotonous music. ABBA has found a sound that reaches audiences. There's something about the girls' voices. The sound technicians let the pitches cut through the music's rhythm. I do, I do, I do... Even the middle aged guards are dancing to the music. - Danish people are fantastic, you know that don't you? We love to perform here for you, says Frida. New applauses. Everything ABBA do or say are applauded. - We will make this as easy as possible for you says Björn as he encourages the crowd to sing along. This is a keyword to ABBA's music and lyrics - easy. They are made as easily accessible to audience as possible. No questions asked, no involvement. You don't even haven to stomp your feet, the music does it for you. You get caught up in it. For the singalong one word is enough - we sing "Fernando" and ABBA do the rest.
- For a long time we have wanted to use our music in a theatrical way, says Benny. And ABBA perform a 25 minute mini musical about the girl from the country who enjoys singing and dancing. She becomes a star but ends up as a marionette. Corny, in other words. But it's not without talent. This is probably the start of something really good in the future. The role as "the girl" is played by both Agnetha and Anni-Frid. In blond wigs and swimsuits the two A's look like French prostitutes from 1931. Or at least that's how I imagine how French prostitutes looked in 1931. This would have been very daring back then. And it's sexy today too. But more like soft porn. Sex without the sex, for children. ABBA aren't real on stage. They are dolls. Cute, glittering dolls that sing and play and dance. But there's a lot of joy, a captivating joy in their music.
HOTEL PLAZA, COPENHAGEN. The hotel is Victorian. Consistent with their high high position. Brass, oak panelling and plush sofas. ABBA are drinking cognac with their coffee after dinner, at this long table in the library bar where they sit together with friends and fellow musicians. Frida's hair is henna red, Agnetha has one braid in her long blond hair. The time is approaching midnight. We say hello. - What an amazing audience tonight, says Björn. The people of Copenhagen are just fantastic. - How did you like the mini musical?, Benny asks. Well, it hasn't the best lyrics right now, but we were in a hurry. Next time we'll do something like this it will definitiely be more worked through. We will probably hire a lyricist to get the lyrics bouncy as they should be.
ONE OF THE professional lyricists ABBA are working together with i Stig "Stikkan" Andersson - "Branschen" (that's his nickname it roughley translates into "Mr. Showbiz". I met him a couple of week before Eurovsion Song Contest in Brighton in 1974 and he then said about his way of working: - I listen to the music, the melody. Then I translate it into the morse alfabet. I used to be a telegraphist in the military. The Morse alfabet is a melody and there's a melody in every morse sign. - Take for example Beethovens Ödessymfoni. It starts like this: da, da, da, da - the morse signal for "V" as in "Victory". So there was no coincidence that the allied played it during the world war II.
THIS IS HOW Stikkan made the lyrics for "Waterloo": - I was looking for a word that shouldn't be need to be translated. Something along the line of "Ring Ring". I needed a three syllable word to make it fit the melody. Gam-mel-dans. du-och-jag, di di da. "U" in Morse. That became ABBA's "Wa-ter-loo" and the start of ABBA's international career.
THERE ARE SOME people who just can't stand going in a limousine. They can't handle eating fancy stuff, living in luxury. It make them sick; they get obnoxious, cocky and think they're better than everyone else. Let me therefore say this straight away. This does notapply to ABBA, they can deal with their successes. No, I think it more relates to parts of the entourage, guys employed to keep the fans and the press at a safe distance all the time. And by doing so, increasing the interest in four group members. Because it is, as we all know, not a bad thing to create some mystery around the product, person or pop personalities. It makes them all the more attractive. The Garboism has ABBA in its grip, there's a lot of 'sneaking around', whispering, 'keeping things a secret. Not that there's really anything to hide, no. Just because it's part of the game, part of th marketing of one of the world's greatest pop groups.
IN COPENHAGEN ONE of the bodyguards are called Björn Andersson. When he is not guarding ABBA he works on his motorbikes. He has a moustache, dark Ray Ban glasses and a tiny stiletto in his belt. Björn considers his big strength in this job as a 'gorilla' is the ability to read other people. And the fact that he can move around extremely fast. He has a motto, after his mom: "Honesty is the best policy".
ABBA and their entourage have sneaked off to restaurant Anatole for a private party. Björn only has two fans to worry about here - Marianne Eslöv och Susanne Hjalager, both 16 years old. The girls have managed to get by the door man and are now sitting in the restaurant area and are spending their last crown on a bottle of mineral water. They have brought flowers wrapped up in cellophane and home made cards with well wishes. - We love ABBA, says the girls. They are so nice and sweet. Björn has them under constant observation. ABBA manages to go through the lobby unnoticed. Marianne and Susanne brings the flowers back home. When I wake up the next morning I am humming "Dancing Queen, Dan-cing Que-en. Da-di-da...
ANOTHER MORNING, WE are now in Amsterdam I can hear someone else singing the same song outside the window of my hotel room. It's ABBA. I must be going mad. Why would ABBA stand on the pavement below my window and sing... I get up. The fans! Of course. There's a bunch of young fans standing between the channels. They have cassette player with them. Dancing Queen.
JAAP EDEN HALL, AMSTERDAM. Björn introduces Agnetha as "my blond, beautiful wife". At another occassion Björn has said that Agnetha has "the sexiest bottom in the business". Now it's not innocent sex anymore. Mrs. Fältskog is standing in profile, with a bulging tummy and a pointy behind. It's the most musical thing I've seen in a long time. Björn himself has a long career behind him, for example he was once a member of the 60's group Hootenanny Singers. Benny, the groups musical motor, has been compared to Chopin by the American magazine Cashbox. Frida, finally, got her big break on Hylands Hörna in 1967. In 1975 her solo album "Frida Ensam" was an unexpectedly big seller. There was talk that she wanted to do more solo albums. But ABBA's image as the Group mustn't be disturbed. So Frida loyally accepted the decision. Loyalty is a keyword for ABBA. Together is another. I think part of ABBA's cutness comes from this - they belong together. It gives a sense of security. It's the answer to the dream of the enormous happiness. They are shining and are noticed. Together. In their lyrics they try to describe a longing (after fame, success, happiness). On stage they symbolize all this. In white and gold.
ABBA are today considered to be as big as Beatles were in the 60's. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are as good as the Beatles were.
Money. Just a few words. "Waterloo" has sold 3,000,000 copies world wide. The latest album has sold over 3,000,000 copies in just a few months. Three and half million people wrote to Albert Hall asking to order tickets to ABBA's concerts there. Here alone ABBA could have played for over two years - 625 show! This year it's calculated that ABBA will make 50 million crowns. And that is not including American sales, it could be a lot more if they make it big in America. Of all records sold in the world half are sold in America. How long will ABBA stay in Sweden and pay the enormous taxes?
ARENA HALL, ANTWERPEN. The speakers right and left of the stage are big as houses. Dancing Queen. Finale. The audience is invited to get up and dance. The hall, built as a bull fighting arena with arches, is boiling with excitement. Two little girls are crying hysterically. I feel like I'm at some sort of religious mass meeting. I try to resist it. Earlier during the day I have discussed the responsibilities that comes with being and idol. One of ABBA's crew who has gotten a little cocky says this to the journalists from Expressen and Aftonbladet: "- Now you have to stopp pressuring them god dammit. You have to leave us alone or there will nothing else for you here! We don't need the Swedish media any more. It's you who need us to sell newspapers!" Well I'll be damned. Benny, who is a very calm and down to earth person, will not have anything to do with that statement. - Of course we need the Swedish media, and the Swedish audience. We are no divas. But this is a hard tour and we need time to relax between shows.
ABBA ARE RELAXING in their dressingroom after the show. According to the contract the four members shall have one dressingroom and the bandmembers and the backup-singers one room. Both rooms must have direct access to the stage. In ABBA's room there are also the whisky stipulated in the contract (Johnny Walker, Black Label), the champage (Pommery), mineral water, Coca Cola, coffee, tea, milk and fresh fruit. And mirrors of course. But they bring their own ironing board. Are they tired? - Yes, it's hard to give all night after night. But as long as you're on stage you're not tired. The audiences have been fantastic during the whole tour. How long have you prepared for this tour? - Almost two years. We in the group started rehearsing in December last year. We rented the Grünewaldsalen in Konserthuset [in Stockholm] to be able to work in peace. After new years we got all of the musicians together and the sound and light crew and rehearsed in Europafilm's studio. How long did you manage to keep it a secret that you were there? - A secret? Are you joking, it seemed like half of the city was there. What happens after Australia? - USA, in some way.
IT'S TIME TO go. A local karate club are hired as body guards. They are very annoyed that they haven't had the chance to show their guarding skills yet. So they perform the old ambulance trick. The ambulance is driven in back stage. Two of the karate boys gets in the car and hides under a couple of blankets. Now they're ABBA. "Action, action" screams the rest of the guards. The doors are opened. And off they go with the sirens on. The four members of ABBA seem a little uncomfortable as they are led to another exit. But the door can't be opened. ABBA get tired of the situation and walk back to the first exit. On the way back Frida pats a little seven year old boy on the head. The boys mother gets hysterical with joy. The boy only seems to be embarrassed. It's midnight and ABBA's Mercedes hasn't shown up. Where is it? In the parking lot! The chauffeur hasn't understood the karata boys' trick. Now it doesn't matter. The four fans who are still around will not cause a riot. They can only wave, first at ABBA, then at the four lorries that rolls out with all the equipment you need to conquer the world.