Recently got this interview from the Swedish magazine "Min Värld", issue number 10, 1973.
Anni-Frid Lyngstad about her struggle with hopelessness and depressions: BENNY GIVES ME COURAGE IN MY DARKEST MOMENTS - Last summer it wa something began to happen with me, saysAnni-Frid Lyngstad. I had a new inner security, something I've been missing before. A new harmony in my existance. - I had taken the whole summer off and my two children were here with me. I was able to relax and felt very good. And the whole time my relationship with Benny was also very nice and harmonic. - Then, when I started to work in the fall - on a tour with Roffe Berg - then I suddenly felt the change. Suddenly it was such a joy to work. I dared to let go like never before. I felt more free and more secure. Frida has had some success lately, both as a solo artist and in a group together with her fiancé Benny Andersson and their best friends Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus. Just recently they had a number one hit on Europatoppen. Anni-Frid has had the chance to travel around in the world. This winter she sang inJapan. Recently she participated in a song festival in Venezuela for a week. She has done television in Austria. - In some way it feels much more fun to sing this year, says Frida. And what I'm most pleased about is that it's going so well for the four of us. I like it best when I sing together with the others. Then I get a feeling of security from them. We have a security among us. I don't have to feel alone, little, scared and nervous. And it's wonderful to work together with Benny.
- Benny means so much to me, both in private and in my work. He is always there for me. He gives me strength. - I used to think it was difficult to work and live together. That it would make you tired of each other when you're together all the time. But now, when we are more settled in our relationship and we feel safe with each other, it's just comfortable. - Benny and I are quite different, and naturally there has been conflicts and missunderstandings sometimes. Benny is more outgoing, happy and positive. I'm more of a serious kind of person. - I'm sensitive and can get depressed, fall into dark periods when everything feels difficult and insurmountable. Last spring, for example, I was having a time like that. One thinks everything is pointless and boring. You want to reinvent yourself. Maybe change what you are doing. Sometimes I have even thought about giving up the singing. I've been thinking "what am I doing"? - During times like that Benny is always there for me and he gives me new courage. He won't accept that I let myself fall down into darkness and despair, instead he makes me do something. And I have become much move even tempered now, calmer. - Benny has a lot of patience with me, and with everything. He is warm and tender. I can talk with him about anything, I don't have to keep feeling bottled up inside. When you feel that someone like Benny cares so much for you - then it becomes an enormous strength. It makes you strong. And safe. - I could never live on my own. I have a very big need to live together with someone. Before I met Benny - after I left my old life in Eskilstuna - I was alone for quite a while. It was horrible! I could never stand to go through that again. - The most important thing for me is together with someone and make it work. The career comes second.
Anni-Frid has been married before and has two children, Hans, 10 years old and Lotta, 6 years old. They mostly live with their father in Eskilstuna, but regularly comes to visit Anni-Frid and Benny. - Being together with my children is also very important to me, says Anni-Frid. If I didn't have the children, my life would seem empty! Benny and the children are the best I have. - I have a very good relationship with my children. It's very good when you can have that arrangement after a divorce. It has never been a problem for us. Never any conflicts or a tug-of-war over the children. We have arranged it the way we both feel is the best for the children. And now they are old enough to understand how it works. - Sometimes they can be with me for weeks. It's good for their father to get some rest every now and then, since he has them most of the time. Naturally, I have missed them terribly sometimes, but we do have each other. We talk to each other over the phone several times a week. It's such a nice feeling when I pick up the phone and hear "- Hi it's Hans, how are you?". They tell me about everything, their likes and dislikes. About when they recently had the chicken pox. How Hans is doing in school. He is in the fourth grade now. I like it when they turn to me, I enjoy giving them advice and help.
The children often comes and visit Anni-Frid and Benny at their house in Vallentuna,where they moved about a year ago. There the children have their own room. Sometimes during the holidays both Anni-Frid's two children and Benny' s two come at the same time. That makes for a lively time in the house. - It's wonderful to live outside of the city, says Anni-Frid. We have the woods just around the corner. It's everything we dreamed it would be. We often take long walks and go skiing when there's snow. It's such a difference to the small city apartment and the air is so much cleaner. - Last summer the children spent a lot of time here with me. Hans went to camp for a while, but Lotta was here all summer. We spent almost all of our time at the local swimmingpool, swimming and sunbathing. - Benny and I don't plan on having any more children, we already have four together. But I guess you never know.
We are still working on the house. There is still a lot to be done. It takes time to get a house in order. We have done alot of the work ourselves. We did the new upholstery on the couches together and I have been sewing curtains and covers for the furniture. - I enjoy doing things around the house. It's mostly me who does the cooking. I like experimenting. Benny is not so fond of cooking, but he doesn't mind cleaning. We live like most families in our spare time. We watch TV, talk, read, take walks with our dog. I draw and paint and I enjoy sewing. I have always liked that. Last year I went through Tillskärarakademien to learn how sew professionally. - We have discussed getting married. But we haven't - as strange as it may sound - had the time to do it yet! Mainly because we have decided that once we do get married we will have a three day long wedding party! We will invite all our friends and have a great time. The ceremony itself is really not that important to us, but we want that as well. We do want a church wedding and I want to wear a long, white dress. - We talk a lot about music at our home of course. It's both a hobby and our profession. Lately the four of us, Benny and I and Björn and Agnetha, have spent almost all our time together. Especially since we are neighbours here in Vallentuna now. And it's working out great. The first time when we worked together it became quite heated, it was on a restaurant tour a couple of years ago. Back then we didn't know each other that well. But now we have learned to discuss without any hard words among us. - We really ought to get a group name. Right now we just use our names, but Björn, Agnetha and Frida are difficult to pronounce abroad. Right now we are working on an album in English together. And this spring there will be a TV-show and a radio show where we will be hosting. During summer we will go on tour in the folk parks for three months. But it will only be Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Benny and Björn are working as producers during the normal weekdays. I plan to have some time off and I think the children will come and visit me again.
- Naturally my sense of security disappeared when my parents got divorced when I was about five years old, says Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Ragnar Fredriksson's son Hans.
- My younger sister Liselott and I stayed with our father when Frida moved to the city to sing. Eventually we got to know Frida's new man, and our friendship with him grew. I miss Benny now, too, when he and Frida divorced, but we are still in contact and we meet every now and then.
- In our teens I and my sister moved in with Frida and Benny. During that time we lived with music all the time. Since my father also is a musician I have alot of music in me and I'm now a musician myself and hoping to be able to release a new album soon.
- It was so exciting when I got the chance to work as an assistant tour leader during ABBA's tours in Australia and America. I was in charge of the luggage and the dressing rooms for the group.
- I have never suffered from being a child from a broken home, but it was difficult in school to be the child of a celebrity. I also had to 'raise' myself a lot and that led to me achieving a strong need for freedom and I became very independent.
- My mother has mostly lived abroad lately, but she and I know where we stand so I don't just walk around at home longing after her. It's even more fun when we do get together.
This article has been published in Intermezzo. I did the translation and scanned the pictures so I'm sure the excellent staff at Intermezzo won't mind me publishing it here as well.
The ABBA star on his mother's suppot, his sorrow, and the ruin of greed.
Take any ABBA song. Take away the trimmings, the choirs, all the production finesse. And something different appears. "It's not as happy as it seems to be", says Benny Andersson, who now wants to go further and do "something that I can barely handle". In a conversation with Vi he talks about his beloved mother, how it was to become a father when he was a teenager, and the decision to stop drinking.
We have been talking for hours when he suddenly goes quiet, squirming on the red velvet couch. "How I dislike this!" Totally friendly and sincere. Benny Andersson really doesn't want to do this. Or rather: He wishes he could speak straight from his heart. But he is protective about his secret. Navigaste very carefully. Not mostly for his own sake but for others, the ones who don't have a voice of their own. The next moment: "i know what headlines you're going to put on this. I don't want any headlines!"
We are sitting at Benny's Hotel Rival in Stockholm. The velvet couch closest to the window is where he always sits when he is here. We are drinking fancy water and we can see the sun through the green leaves of Mariatorget's linden trees, it's a warm, golden autumn night. In the bear there's a carpet weaved after a photograph of Janis Joplin at Woodstock, The waiter is standing on her breast.
Benny is a Stockholm guy. He still feels like a young boy. His status grew at the youth of recreation centre in Vällingby when he was 15 years old and started datingChristina Grönwall. The one that was the prettiest and had a great singing voice. And she was 17! A year later he became a father.
What did they say at home? "Well, it was what it was." "But nothing like... "but Benny! You are only 16!" Of course. Sure they did. But that was the end of that. It was what it was." Now Bror Benny Göran Andersson was going to be a dad. He was 16 years old and entered adult life the year his son Peter was born. Benny stayed at home sporadically, but mostly he stayed with Christina's grandmother and grandfather, her and the boy. They were six people in the 1-bedroom apartment att Vittangigatan. "It went well!" he says. As if to give a contrast to the life that followed: world fame, recording revenue, the building on Skeppsholmen, the villa just beside the canal of Djurgården, the farm in Sörmland, the boats, the race horses.
One of the most successfull Swedes ever. Life has taken some strange, he thinks. Doesn't every life do that? Hasn't every life it's shadow and highlights?. Moments that seem mundande and pointless but forever change your life?
Benny often uses the word "luck". That he has been "lucky". That he really hasn't done anything to achieve it, all the things he has been so lucky to take part in.
"I left school when I was 15 and I had an internship at Svenska Bostäder, where my father worked. I carried the wage lists. I used to meet a guy I exchanged a few words with. One day he stopped me and asked: "Do you play the organ?" I said yes. Even though he didn't. The positive answer led him from the cover band Elverkets Spelmanslag to the girl magnets "The Hep Stars".
Hep Stars aren’t on everybody’s mind any more, but in 1965 they were soooo big, the lead singer Svenne Hedlund was soooo sweet. Maybe it was his mother who made him dare to say “Yes.” Yes instead of “no I have never played the organ”. His mother gave him what he considers to be the fundament of a good life. Self esteem. A feeling that he would succed.
And she gave him a piano. And she let him play.
There is a sadness. A calm and a pensive streak. A darker streak in the joyfull way he has presenting himself. - A round face and a beard, that makes people think you are happy and kind. But that is of course not true.
It isn’t? No, of course it isn’t. I mean, the life I have lead is insane. It’s not my doing. It’s pure luck. There’s that word again. Luck. Coincidences.
Benny grew up in Vällingby. He has talked quite often about his father and his grand father. About how they played the accordion together. The musical roots he got from them.
But your mother? He goes silent. Breathes in. - She is the person who made me feel that I was good enough. She was the one who gave me this most fantastic feeling.
My mother was a housewife in the 50’s. A creative person. Headstrong. But she had no where to channel it. Like so many other women back then. Trapped in a kind of a prison.
Benny Andersson played 365 days a year. - She was at home when I came home from school. I played the piano for at least 4 hours a day. Every day. I was a llowed to play just as much as I wanted. She never said that it disturbed her. She didn’t judge me. She made me feel that what I did was good.
He has his upbringing with him, a relief in his life. You have your background with you to fall back on.
First it was Christina and the children. He was touring with Hep Stars, she went along on the tour and the daughter Helene was born at Tranås Hospital. Hep Stars was a success. Now he was 18 and the father of two. But at he same time he was a teenager on tour.
If there’s anything he regrets is that he left his children. - I did do that when Christina and I broke up. Naturally we have talked about this through the years, the children and I, and we have reached the conclusion that most of it turned out allright in the end.
There was a time after Hep Stars and before ABBA, when Benny didn’t know what to do. It was also an important time. It taught him that you shouldn’t take anything for granted.
But then Waterloo in Brighton happened in 1974 and everything kept rolling again in high speed. Two years later ABBA was number one on the US-chart.
Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn and Agnetha. And Stikkan Anderson. They all lived on an island in the Stockholm archipelago. They spent their summers together, worked and had time off together. Tried not to tour too much so they could be together with the children instead. And to be able to write more, new music. - The life I got isn’t a life you just get. I mean it’s not something you can plan. To be born with a talent isn’t something you can rely on. But I think it’s your duty to manage the gift you have been given.
How do you do that? - Through working. Spend as much time as you can composing to make it as good as you possibly can. - And by voting right. And not move you money to Jersey. It’s important to decide on which side of the fence you want to be. - Sweden is one of the most successfull countries in the world. We can afford to lead the way! But we have become a society where the word ‘solidarity’ has been erased. Greed has taken over.
Benny gets a little upset in his own way. It’s obvious that he feels strongly about this. - Greed is the worst of deadly sins!
About a year ago there was a bit of a commotion when it was revealed that Benny was the “secret donor” to the political party Feministiskt Initiativ. Gudrun Schyman (the leader of the feminist party) said on radio that FI couldn’t get any ballot papers out for the EU election. Benny called her up and asked her what kind of help she needed. - I’m happy to do my bit for the democracy.
During the years with ABBA and Stikkan Anderson it lead to some friction when Stikkan spoke publicly and said that “all members of ABBA are against wage earner’s investment funds and the high taxes in Sweden.” - He had this annoying way to say “we”. We sat down for a series of serious talks: “Stikkan, DON’T SAY WE when it’s you who are about to purchase Saxon & Lindström (a Swedish publishing house). Don’t say WE when you are against wage earner’s investment funds.”. Yeah, yeah, said Stikkan. I promise. But it didn’t help. Are there any problems having so much money as you do? - No, not at all! But if you have money you are supposed to share your wealth. For example you can start with paying taxes!
ABBA’s breaktrhough in 1974 happened in the middle of the left wing movement. A typical quote and comments about ABBA came from the Swedish music critics: “What do the people in the music business think about ABBA?” was a headline where among others Dagens Nyheter’s Mia Gerdin spoke out and said “Talented crap.” “Cleverly crafted international rubbish music” said Tommy Rander, Aftonbladet’s critic: “Their music is way to calculated and doesn’t feel spontaneous. The music becomes a cold calculated product which is marketed commercially.” “Their lyrics are cynical in their unrealness. But sure, they are professional.” Christer Eklund replied, head of Sveriges Radio’s youth editorial office (and he was also the saxophone player on Waterloo!) - He was probably upset that he wasn’t allowed to play the way he wanted. Looking back on this these comments almost sound like charicatures of the left movement’s criticism of ABBA. But at that time it was deadly serious. How did that feel? - We didn’ really care that much about reviews, since we had our audience. On the other hand, noone likes to get bad criticism all the time. In public. But my memory from that time is that quite a few of our albums were very well received. Even though it was the 70’s not everything was affected by politics!
Musically most of the prog music was worthless. With the exception of Hoola Bandoola Band and Nationalteatern. But that is something I can miss today, not being part of the involvment. I would have liked to be part of the political life even back then. Joined the Vietnam movement for example.
But we were somewhere compeltely diffent at that time. Once the balls started to roll, after Waterloo; it was just to join the ride and get down with the work. Chance appears like a snail and disappears like a flash! We were a little bit of “hot stuff” all of a sudden, and we went into some sort of tunnel vision.
They were the biggest in the world actually.
Grandfather Efraim Andersson was the cashier within Byggettan (the worker’s union). Both him and my father were social democrats - Once I was sitting in the same studio as Olof Palme, he said he wanted to say hello to me from my grandfather. He had just visited Nässlingen in the Stockholm archipelago, the island my grandfather helped the union to purchase to give the average worker a chance to have a little summer house.
-My grandfather had been dead for 20 years but Olof Palme knew exactly who he was. Palme was super! Incredibly capable, with an incredible charisma.
-I work everyday. I do that to manage what I have been given in life. To stay “real”. I don’t feel at all like an “ABBA” or a “Hep Stars”. It’s just not me.
- I want to take my music further. I haven’t done any big musical project since “Kristina Från Duvemåla” 15 years ago. I have my orchestra and it’s wonderful It’s such a joy with the whole orchestra and the feeling we have. When we tour we go away with our respecive wives and husbands and children. We live well, eat well, hang out and spend time together. – and play music.
- But I’m dying to sink my teeth into something very difficult. Something that is doubful I can pull off.
What was it with ABBA, what is it that makes that music keeps playing, all over the world? What makes it stay in people’s minds?
There are of course many answers to that. Many interpretation has been made about the mixes, the sound, the voices. But Benny replies:
- Disguised melancholy. If you play the music ‘clean’ without all the additions. Just a simple piano something appears that is completely different. It’s not as happy as i may seem. But to be honest I really don’t have any idea.
At a party he was seated next to a woman called Mona. -It took me fifteen minutes to realize that I was sitting next to the woman who would change my whole life. Fifteen minutes?
- Yes, I don’t know how it happened. It just hit me. It was just one of those hings in life that you can’t avoid. We talked non stop for eight hours, but I have no idea about what! I was married to Frida at the time and I didn’t want to betray her so it took three, four months before it became Mona and me. The divorce filled the newspapers. Now both ABBA-couples had split up. This was probably the end of the group.
- I myself belive that it was ABBA that kept the two marriages alive not the other way around, as many people probably think.
Mona and Benny have been together for 30 years now.
- I like Mona, he says with a crocked smile. She has meant so incredibly much to me. To have had the fortune to meet a person who opens up the world for you. Who is wiser than you are. Mona has changed my whole perspecive on the reality. She has made me really SEE. I was so enclosed in my world, my ABBA-world.
Benny is on his way to pick up his youngest grand daughter, Viola, who is three years old, at her day care. - She is amazing, objectively speaking of course and presses his arms against his body like she was already sitting there. - So wise, so fun, so nice. Look!
On the photo on his iPhone Viola wears the dress Madicken’s little sister Lisabet has in the movie (this is was a movie based on Swedish children’s author number 1 Astrid Lindgren), which she was given by the costume maker Inger Elvira Pehrson. Yes, he really knows “everybody”.
- Yes, I know a lot of people. But my closest, really close friends, they are not that many – five or six.
We finish our drink of water and start to leave. A guy with a pony tail comes running with an autograph pad: “I really enjoy your hotel!” Benny signs the autograph and thanks the guy.
Since nine year Benny doesn’t drink alcohol. - It’s the best think I’ve done for myself. If you feel like you’re not yourself without alcohol in your system, then it’s time to stop.
Some can drink, some can’t. - If I hadn’t stopped I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today. Alcohol is kind of a filter that comes between you and the reality. Now it’s gone and it feels good. But “life is not as simple as the sober people think, as Sandemose said.
Benny little white car is parked just outside the lobby. It’s just big enough for a German Shepard and two people. An older gentleman knocks on the window. - Do you remember me? I drove you home 40 years ago an early morning. You said you were going to buy me a cup of coffee. - Next time we meet I promise I will buy you coffe, I have to go to the day care centre right now says Benny to Lundberg which is the name of the old gentleman.
Lundberg doesn’t really hear what Benny says. But he nods.