Frida Interview »Vivement Dimanche« French TV March 24, 2008
after ABBA stopped the songs are more popular than ever. What is in your
opinion the reason for this?
– The fact that the success has continued is of course incredible and fantastic. First of all I think it is because of the music. I have understood throughout the years that our music is very efficient music. Second I think it is also because of a lot of great artists who have performed our songs after us they have brought our songs back to the charts after many years. And of course the »Mamma Mia!« musical.
Talking about »Mamma Mia!«, what do you think about this musical that had had tremendous success for about 10 years now all over the world?
– You know I am not personally involved in the creative process as far as »Mamma Mia!« is concerned; I have merely invested in it.
But what did you think the first time you saw it?
– I was completely blown away, I was a bit anxious though at first because I didn't know what to expect. To hear our songs in such a different setting. But I needn't have worried, it was so well done.
A couple of years ago you were in London with Björn and Benny. It seems to have been a very moving event?
– Yes, it was. It was a big shame that Agnetha was not able to attend. She still is very afraid of flying, so she chose not to attend. But it was a very wonderful evening nevertheless. We could really feel how much our music is still appreciated. The atmosphere was incredible. And we were presented with a lot of gold discs. All three of us were very proud and very happy.
ABBA was formed, I heard that Björn & Benny were both already a part of a
famous group in Sweden?
– Yes we met on the road. All four of us were popular artists in Sweden. I remember meeting Benny &Björn in Malmö. I think Björn and Agnetha met around the same time. They both participated in the same television show. A show about old folklore music. They became a couple. the same thing happened to Benny and me. And because Benny and Björn were friends, we all began to work together. That's how it all started.
Boublil, you were the distributor for ABBA in France, and even before they
became stars. How did you become connected?
– It was around 1973. I was very close to their manager Stig Anderson. One day he happened to like a few of my songs and he asked me if he could write Swedish lyrics and release them in Sweden. I agreed and those songs, as I remember, became popular in Sweden. One day he told me about this group he was working with and who were recording songs in English. their first song would be called »Ring Ring«. This song was presented in a festival in Sweden, but was not chosen for the Eurovision Song Contest. Stig made me listen to that song in Paris and asked me what I thought of it. I said I liked it very much. I released the song in France on the VOGUE label. The song became a small success in France, even a bit more successful than we had anticipated. So when they released »Waterloo« and were selected to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest, I was the first person Stig called. It was a friendly deal. there was only a handshake, not even a contract. It was normal that I would represent them for this second song too.
Is it true that you listened to ABBA's songs over the telephone?
– We became friends very quickly. Not just with Stig, but also with Björn & Benn, and with Frida too, of course. So it happened for instance that Stig would call me, play me »Money, Money, Money« and asked me "do you think this would be a good choice for the next single?".
when I hear what Alain has to say, it appears that France was an important
country in the start of ABBA's career?
– Absolutely. It is really wonderful that this friendship with Alain happened. And now, even if we have not had so much contact as back then, it is wonderful that this friendship is still so intact.
The whole of Europe got to know ABBA through the Eurovision SongContest and »Waterloo«. What memories do you have of the weeks preceding this big event? What happened afterwards backstage?
– It was of course totally exciting. We arrived there, four people from Sweden, and we had no idea what was gonna happen. I also remember that particular year being one with a very strong field of contestants. The competition was of course very hard. I remember us really giving everything we had in us. And of course we had very extravagant stage-outfits. In only a few hours our lives had completely changed. After that the future was wide open. I think one could easily say that »Waterloo« had conquered the whole world.
One of the biggest hits was »Fernando«. I have read somewhere that you said from the first moment you heard it, you fell in love with it? And you recorded the song in Swedish first?
– Björn & Benny had written this song for my Swedish solo album, that was a big success in Sweden and elsewhere. At the same time we were also busy preparing a new album for ABBA. We simply decided to translate the song into English and record it with ABBA.
Is »Fernando« one of your favourites?
– Yes, among my favourites. We have recorded so many beautiful songs. But it's true that »Fernando« is of course a special song for me
Agnetha has very often stated that she loved the studio work, that she almost preferred it to the live performances. Is it the same for you?
– No, I love both. The creative process in the studio was fantastic. We would sometimes spend hours in the studio creating something. We spent much time on the harmonies, the backing vocals, and so on. Almost everything was born in the studio. We were very productive in the studio. But I also loved being on stage, the contact with the audience. I have really really loved that.
Can you tell me how it was back then on the island where each couple had a house and where the first ABBA-hits were created?
– Well, you know outside of Stockholm there is this fantastic archipelago with many islands. Stig Anderson had bought a small cottage for his family on one of those islands. Björn, Agnetha, Benny and I we did the same, and bought small summer houses. It is a very common thing to do in Sweden, to buy a little house and spend the summer over there. Benny and Björn spent a lot of time there writing the songs for our albums. Björn had this small chalet where there was nothing but a piano, and Benny and him would be sitting there for hours playing the guitar and the piano and coming up with new songs.
Is there a song that was a clear hit single to you from the beginning? Maybe »Dancing Queen«?
– The first time I heard it, when Benny brought the demo home, I started to cry because it was so gorgeous. I knew it would become a very big hit single.
The success came very fast. You had hit singles all over the globe. And then there was this first big live tour. You played among otber places in Australia. That is a very special memory, isn't it?
– Yes, and even to this day, I still don't know how we got so massive in Australia. It was pure hysteria. before that tour we had done some promo and some TV shows over there. Before we went on tour, we had decided together with Lasse Hallström that maybe it would be a good idea to do a documentary. And gradually we decided to turn it into a full feature film. Australia is a fond memory for many many reasons. It was very hard for us, because we had really become massive superstars there and we were not able to walk on the streets. So we had to move around with cars all the time. Only once were we able to escape for a little while and we went to some park. And we also went on a little cruise. But it was all amazing and those are wonderful memories. I remember that prior to our concert it had rained for weeks and that when we came on stage and everyone in the audience had umbrellas. During our concert the rain stopped as by miracle. But the stage had become very slippery and at one point I even fell. Those are really memories that I will never forget, because it was all just unique.
Let's talk about the outfits, the very eccentric outfits. Who had the idea for those?
– Many people were busy with the outfits. But I must say that the outfits were an integral part of our success in the beginning. It all started when we participated with »Ring Ring« in the preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973. Agnetha was highly pregnant, and I was very good at making clothes. We decided that I would do the clothes and I designed the outfits for Agnetha and me. Not the ones for Björn & Benny. They had their own designer. I was very fond of creating costumes. I had some extravagant ideas about how we needed to dress. In the end we found a designer who created our clothes, but I kept very much a part of the creative process.
What happened to all those outfits? I have heard that maybe there will be an ABBA museum in Stockholm
– Yes, we kept all the outfits. They are now going to be exposed in a big ABBA Museum in Stockholm, which will open in June 2009. But it's not just the outfits, it will also be a lot of memorabilia and I think it will be very interesting for the people, for the fans...
Frida, tell me about the personalities, the temperaments of Björn & Benny!
– They will kill me (Frida laughs).
You probably know more about Benny because you were married to him?
– I don't know, because I have known Björn for a very long time too. Especially after ABBA split, I have had more contact with Björn than with the other two. They are both very kind people, I can't say anything else about them really. They are both creators, but in a different way. Björn started to write the lyrics for the ABBA songs of course, but he has developed this talent and has become a wonderful lyricist, also for the musicals. He is a very intelligent person. And I must say that I admire Benny a great deal too. He really is a genius. The way he composes is amazing. I have lost contact with him after our separation, because I left Sweden. We only meet very rarely nowadays. It's the same thing with Agnetha, I don't meet her very often. So it really is Björn that I know best.
You were two married couples, living and working together. Was there never any stress because of that?
– No, not really. Of course we would have differences of opinion like any other couples, but most of the time we all got along really well.
Did you sometimes have moments of tension with Agnetha?
– That probably happened. There was a sort of competition between us. We were both women and we both wanted to present ourselves the best way possible. But there was always diplomacy and respect between us and we got along well. Also because we all always wanted the best for the group. So, we all found a way to work together well. I think that most of the time we really liked each other. Many times it was written that we hated each other. That was absolutely not true. We may not have had so much contact outside of ABBA, even when we were on the island, but the collaboration between us has always been very much in harmony.
At a certain point, when the group was splitting up, Agnetha said that she did not want to tour anymore, that she wanted to be with her children. How did all that happen? Was it a sudden decision or was it all carefully considered?
– No, there was a very long period of reflection. Benny and Björn had probably given all they had as far as ABBA was concerned. They had not as much energy to give to ABBA anymore. And then so many things had changed for us privately, Björn and Agnetha had separated. Benny and I, after 13 years we got married and only 3 years later we divorced, because Benny had met another woman. Of course all that had had a tremendous effect on us and at a certain point we noticed it was time to move on, to make a change, to find new directions in our lives. Benny and Björn had already been very keen with the idea of writing a musical. It was a natural thing to do at that point to put an end to ABBA.
Was it not painful for you to leave the scene, to leave all that success behind? Also considering ABBA did not have such a long career, merely 10 years.
– Yes, Michel, it was a very hard time. I can not speak for the other three, only for myself. I had started out in the music business when I was 13 and I had given a lot to reach that amount of success. And then, all of a sudden, everything stopped. It was hard. because we had worked so hard, tours, recording, living the life of a star, a celebrity... and then suddenly complete silence. I am not saying that I was depressed, but it took me 3 to 4 years to give my life a positive direction again, to create my world without ABBA in it. So yes, it was all ready hard.
Boublil, you have been tremendously successful with »LES MISERABLES«, »MISS
SAIGON«.... Tell me about the musical »ABBACADABRA«.
– I just heard the word ABBA in my head and I suddenly heard the word »ABBACADABRA«, and I could not believe that I hadn't come up with this earlier. So I decided to attempt and write a fairytale about a princess who was asleep in a castle. Of course the beautiful princes could only be one person, Frida. (Frida laughs) Frida accepted, in fact Stig and ABBA allowed me to rewrite the lyrics for some ABBA songs, so that they would tell a story for children.
so you played »La belle« (the
beautiful one) and sang a duet with Daniel Balavoine. How do you remember him?
– I remember it very well because it was such a different and funny thing; I was dressed up as a princess, a sleeping beauty. Daniel was dressed as a prince. But what I remember most about Daniel was that he was such an adorable and lovely person. We had a lot of fun together doing this project.
When you had separated, Benny and Björn, and also Agnetha and you, you all did your own projects. You made solo albums?
– Yes, I did a couple of solo albums. For the first one I had Phil Collins as a producer. And then I did another one with Steve Lillywhite. I even recorded that album in Paris. I don't remember the name of the studio. The wonderful Daniel Balavoine had written a song for it too, that was then translated into English. I listened to that song again yesterday. On the first album there was a big hit single called »I Know There's Something Going On«. I remember that it also became a big success in France. And then eventually I gave up my career.
Tell me, what happened in the following years?
– I can not really talk about that period in a very happy way. I lost my daughter in an accident, and then I also lost my husband and it all took a very long time to find a new direction. Earlier we talked about my life after the split of ABBA, and here once again I had to start from scratch after the death of two people I had loved so much. I remained very quiet for a while, apart from the celebration of 30 years of ABBA, and the 5 year MAMMA MIA! celebrations in London maybe. But apart from that I have lived a very, very quiet life, trying to find a good way of living again. And that takes time. It has to take time actually, because it is not easy finding a way out.
You have a grandson?
– Yes and I am very happy and proud about that. In fact my first grandchild is now 19 years old, he is the son of my daughter. And then I have little Elsa, who is the daughter of my son. And she is only 16 months old.
When we look back on your life it seems you have not only known happiness. You have found your father again when you were 30. There was a reunion under the weirdest of circumstances?
– Yes, when you have lived your entire life believing that you had no father and that there were secrets that your family just did not talk about. I had only known that he had been a German soldier and that he had met my mother during the war in Narvik. And that he had returned to Germany and had died during the trip back to Germany. And then suddenly we got a phone call from someone who said that he knew my father. And then a meeting was arranged in Stockholm. I met him together with Benny and the children. It was very difficult, because he only spoke German and we needed translators. It was very strange to suddenly meet a father.
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Just to let you all know and to give a big THANK YOU to Philippe I'd like to inform you all that PhD has published the new French interview on his great site:
http://www.abbainter.net/ Goto Television today and then
Click on the Interview pic of Frida - and there it is the almost hour long interview with her from last Sunday.