Archive for October, 2007

ABBA after ABBA

27 October, 2007

Though ABBA as a group came to an end in December 1982, the individual members have revisited the music of their famous past on many occasions.

Frida was first as early as August 1983, when she sang a quickie rendition of ‘Ring Ring’ on the Swedish TV talk show Gäst Hos Hagge (Guest at Hagge’s Place). In May the following year she sang ‘I Have A Dream’ at a televised United Nations gala concert in Switzerland, accompanied by a children’s choir. In 2003 Frida gave a different rendition of ‘I Have A Dream’, singing with her friend, Swiss entertainer and restaurateur Dan Daniell  (aka Urs Biner) for a charity single.

Most famously Frida performed ‘Dancing Queen’ with a capella singers The Real Group for Swedish Queen Silvia’s 50th birthday concert in December 1993. The following year the song was released on the group’s album Varför får man inte bara vara som man är?, and is also included on their compilation The Real Group Bästa and on the 1999 CD ABBA – A Tribute.

Björn and Benny joined Irish superstars U2 at a Stockholm concert in June 1992 playing guitar and piano for a performance of ‘Dancing Queen’ – the last time Björn played guitar in public. In May 2002 the pair sang an impromptu rendition of ‘Fernando’ when  they were presented with the Special International Award at the Ivor Novello Awards in London. Somehow the lyric sheet they read off managed to cram parts of all three verses into one!

Benny Anderssons Orkester (Benny Andersson’s Orchestra, or BAO) has performed several ABBA songs on their summer tours of Sweden. In 2003 Helen Sjöholm sang ‘Money, Money, Money’; in 2004 Helen and Tommy Körberg sang ‘Ring Ring (bara du slog en signal)’ and ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’; in 2005 ‘Why Did It Have To Be Me’ joined these three songs on the set list; in 2006 ‘Honey, Honey’ was added to the growing repertoire when the band performed in Minneapolis, USA; and in 2007 concerts ‘Hasta Mañana’ was also performed.

Benny has leant his keyboard skills to a couple of ABBA covers. In 2000 he played piano and synclavier on Swedish soprano Anne Sofie von Otter’s recording of ‘Like An Angel Passing Though My Room’ on her Elvis Costello produced album For The Stars. Benny also played piano on a haunting rendition of ‘When All Is Said And Done’, sung by Viktoria Tolstoy (great great granddaughter of War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy) on jazzman Nils Landgren’s 2004 CD Funky ABBA – incidentally one of the last recordings at Polar Studios.

He also took to the stage at some of the B&B tribute concerts in 1998, joining in on the last few numbers. He did the same thing at one of the Official ABBA Orchestra concerts in 2007.

Benny recorded an instrumental treatment of ‘Thank You For The Music’ for the menu of the 2005 DVD release of ABBA – The Movie.

Since ABBA ended, both women have sung on new music from their ex-husbands and ex-bandmates.

In January 1983, Agnetha sang vocals on the demo song ‘Every Good Man Needs A Helping Hand’ for their Chess musical project with Tim Rice – the song became ‘Heaven Help My Heart’, sung by Elaine Page (in the role of Florence) on the 1984 concept album. Agnetha’s recording has never been officially released, though it has been in circulation among fans for the past 20-odd years.

Also in 1984 Frida recorded the Andersson/Ulvaeus song ‘Slowly’ on her album Shine. Benny and Björn reworked this song the following year for the self-titled debut album for brother/sister duo Gemini. Frida’s recording probably sounds closer to Benny and Björn’s demo than the later Gemini version.

BAO 3

24 October, 2007

BAO 3Benny Anderssons Orkester (Benny Andersson’s Orchestra) releases its fourth CD and third studio album, BAO 3, today.

Since 2001 Benny and his band of musicians and singers have performed concerts across Sweden, and also in Glasgow (Scotland) and Minneapolis (Minnesota, USA). BAO concerts feature a mix of Benny’s compositions from the band’s CDs, traditional Swedish folk music, classic evergreens and even ABBA songs!

BAO 3 includes five songs with lyrics by Björn and one by Kristina Lugn (‘Nu mår jag mycket bättre’). Singers Tommy Körberg (of Chess fame) and Helen Sjöholm (Kristina från Duvemåla) also feature. Two songs, ‘Bonde söker fru’ and ‘Fait accompli’, were previewed at the Allsång på Skansen concert in August (see BAO in concert below). Also included is a song that Benny and Björn wrote in 1979 but never finished, ‘Crush On You’, widely reported a few months ago as a “lost” ABBA song.

Track list:

1. Marsch pannkaka (Pancake march)
2. För dig (For you) – vocals Helen and Tommy
3. Du frälste mig i sista stund (You saved me at the last moment)- Helen
4. Fait accomplit (Accomplished fact) – Tommy
5. Crush On You – Tommy and Helen
6. Calle J:s vals (Calle J’s waltz)
7. Helens brudvals (Helen’s bridal waltz)
8. Upp till dig (Up to you) – Helen
9. Bonde söker fru (Farmer seeks wife) – Tommy
10. Nu mår jag mycket bättre (Now I feel much better) – Helen and Tommy
11. Wienerbrot (Vienna bread)
12. Godnattvisa (Good night song)

BAO is performing two “dance” concerts in the next couple of weeks, at Globen in Stockholm on 26 October, and at Scandinavium in Gothenburg on 2 November. See Mono Music for more information (in Swedish) and links to tickets.

ARRIVAL vinyl reissue

17 October, 2007

ARRIVAL 200 gram vinyl LPThose sneaky Japanese have surprised us yet again with this limited edition 200 gram vinyl reissue of ARRIVAL.

This brand new version was released on 3 September 2007. It features the ten tracks on the original album, with no bonus tracks (a 1998 LP added ‘Fernando’). Apparently there’s no inner sleeve,  but there is a lyric sheet.

ARRIVAL is available now from Elusive Vinyl , Amazon.co.uk, Music Direct or eil.

As I Am – 10 years on

13 October, 2007

AgnethaIt’s been ten years since Agnetha’s authorised biography As I Am – ABBA Before & Beyond was released internationally.

The book continues to generate diverse opinions. There are those who love it for coming from Agnetha herself, while others think that it reveals nothing about Agnetha beyond her public image.

As I Am had originally been published in Swedish in 1996 as Som jag är, which was more text-based than the English-language coffee-table picture book format. There are plans for an expanded Dutch translation to be published next year.

Here’s a review of As I Am from The Sunday Times (London) published 14 September 1997.

Thank you for the music: What the blonde one from ABBA did next, and what she looks like 10 years after hanging up her pantaloons.

Super trouper: Agnetha Faltskog – you know, the blonde one – swapped sequins for serenity and cat-suits for kids after ABBA split up. She has now co-written a strange book about herself. By Penny Wark

She was the blonde one in ABBA, the one everybody really fancied. The one with the sprayed-on satin knickerbockers, crocheted hat and spangly bits glued to her cheekbones. She was also the one with the sexiest bottom in the world – or so they said in the 1970s, as the Swedish fab four supertrouped to mega stardom. Then, as pop groups sometimes do, when they have banked their millions and spent 10 years on the road together, they split, their reputation frozen in the time zone of flared trousers. Aching for a more conventional family life with her two children, Christian and Linda, Agnetha Faltskog retreated to her Swedish island.

But while the singer may have all but disappeared from view, the popularity of the band with which she made her name shows no sign of abating. Kitsch ABBA tribute bands such as Bjorn Again tour the world playing to huge audiences, other groups such as Erasure cover their songs, and ABBA hits featured in the cult movies Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert. Perhaps this is why, after 15 years, Faltskog has her first public step and co-operated with a biographer.

The book, As I Am, is designed to correct the false impressions about her that have reverberated since 1974, when – to Faltskog’s amazement – ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo.

The first thing she wants to set straight, it seems, are the rumours that she was the difficult one in the band. This wasn’t so, claims Brita Ahman, the journalist who won the singer’s confidence, became her friend and co-wrote the picture book.

“She is very down to earth, not at all the tragic figure always left by a man, always in tears, who has been presented to the press,” Ahman says. “She is a perfectionist and she was always professional. But she wanted to limit the long hours they worked around the world so that she could have time with her children. There was always that conflict. That annoyed some people and they started to make up things about her being the difficult one. There was a lot of envy and some people are small-minded.

The book also reveals that Agnetha’s divorce from Bjorn Ulvaeus, her co-band member – who scarily resembled the friendly one from Planet Of The Apes – to whom she was married for seven years, was much messier than anyone admitted at the time.

The strains of superstardom were apparently acute for Faltskog, who detested flying, loathed crowds, hated partying and found even the flattery empty. And if she did not hate Frida Lyngstad, ABBA’s feisty brunette, neither was there much love lost between the two.

“Agnetha and Frida were very competitive and very different personalities,” Ahman reveals. “Agnetha is home-loving, Frida loves parties and did not have young children at that time. Off-stage they had little in common, Frida loved socialising, Agnetha just wanted to get back to the hotel and phone her family.”

Faltskog has also had an uneasy relationship with the press, largely, she says, because she wanted them to write only about her music. But then, here was a woman who considered it a grave insult when her bottom was singled out for attention and given an award.

Ahman, an arts journalist, first met the reclusive singer in 1982 when she was debating press ethics in Sweden. One day she opened her door and found herself face to face with Faltskog, who had written an open letter about the press and wanted it published. She told Ahman that she did not recognise herself in what they wrote about her and could she help her set it straight?

Writing a book about life after ABBA cannot have been an easy task. Not only is the blonde singer incredibly reluctant to reveal much of interest, but she has also chosen to lead a normal, very downbeat life, a stark contrast to the glamour and sequins scenario that ABBA so cheerily represented for many years. Faltskog has since concentrated on being a mother, living privately and comfortably – she has an estimated £6m stacked away – on her island off the Swedish coast. After all the hurtling around on world tours, she apparently craved silence. Ahman says, and for the first 10 years neither played, sang nor listened to music – including her own.

“When she came out of ABBA she could at last be what she wanted to be,” gushes Ahman. “She loves to cook, she takes long walks and savours the time she has after having lead such a hectic public life.”

Looking for a replacement for the songs, the singer has explored yoga, astrology and – through a book by the Hollywood guru Deepak Chopra – Ayur-Vedic medicine. She’s also been through a second divorce – from the surgeon Tomas Sonnenfeld.

“She’s not a nun and she’s not afraid of men,” says Ahman, who seems overly protective towards the star. “But like any woman with two broken marriages behind her, she’s careful. She is mature and she knows what she is looking for in a man, but maybe it is not so easy to find because she is 47, she has money, she has been successful, and she has seen a lot of life.” But, she quickly adds, “she has not been out of circulation”.

Reading between Ahman’s words of worship, Fältskog’s reputation for being difficult might not be wholly unfounded. She is not a woman who comprises, the writer says, choosing her words carefully, although she does admit that she has “the claws of a tiger”. She justifies this by adding: “If someone abuses her trust she cuts them off completely and there is no way back. She is strong, and when she flares up it is like a storm. But that is necessary because otherwise she would be eaten up, as she has been sometimes.”

Ahman then confides, now almost whispering, that she can tell us something exclusively about the singer that nobody else knows: Faltskog’s self-imposed silence is, it seems, over. Not only is she listening to music again, she has also started composing. Hurrah! “That is a glimpse of a new beginning,” says Ahman, relishing the treat of having shared what she considers to be such a secret. So will the former ABBA girl be climbing back to the top of the charts again, rather than watching others do it by recording her old songs? For now, the Fältskog camp won’t say. It seems we’ll just have to wait and see. After all, that’s the name of the game.

Knowing me, knowing you: Agnetha…

On Frida: I admit there was a strong sense of competition within both of us. I don’t want to hide the fact that Frida and I had opposite backgrounds, temperaments and personalities. We could get furious and tired with each other, so we had our moments.

On Bjorn: we fell deeply in love during a television recording in May 1969. Björn was warm and tender. He had a charming voice and was an artist, like me.

On the divorce: when Bjorn and I separated we told the media it was a “happy” divorce, which, of course, was a front – we all know there is no such thing as a happy divorce.

On the break-up of the band: we had an unspoken agreement – when it no longer seems fun, we’ll call it a day. Talk of me ending ABBA’s career is wrong.

On the songs: it’s hard to tell when a hit is being made. Dancing Queen was an exception: we knew immediately it was going to be huge. The same thing with Fernando and Chiquitita, which sent shivers up the spine straight away. But the best of all ABBA songs is The Winner Takes It All – a small masterpiece.

On the band’s image: the press were a little surprised that we didn’t have bigger rave-ups, but instead could often be found jogging and exercising. But we did have wild times.

On winning the Eurovision Song Contest: it was just unbelievable when Waterloo won. To calm my nerves I started getting dressed early. I’d bought some small stars, which glittered beautifully, and glued them to my cheeks as a way of preparing myself, of getting into character.

On the future: sometimes I get the urge to do something again. A few years ago it was totally inconceivable. But I am conscious of having a special voice, so there are days when it feels tempting.

Thanks to Samuel Inglles for the article.

Frida recording new album?

9 October, 2007

The latest rumour doing the rounds is that Frida is to record a new album, with 12 to 14 songs performed with an orchestra, to be produced by former Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord.

The source of the story is the the Swiss gossip magazine GlücksPost. Apparently the author of the story met with Frida at an (unnamed, undated) event in London.

A very similar rumour went around just after Jon Lord’s album Beyond The Notes, featuring the Frida-sung ‘The Sun Will Shine Again’, was released in September 2004. Given Frida’s many comments in recent years that she has “closed the doors” on her musical career, and the repetition of the rumour, it doesn’t seem too likely. But we’ve been surprised before, so we’ll wait and see what happens.

The first ABBA record

1 October, 2007

Ring Ring single UK (pic thanks to ABBA for the record)

It’s long been assumed that the Waterloo album and singles (Swedish and English versions), released March 4 1974, were the first records featuring the name ABBA

But it turns out that’s not the case.

The first record to bear the name ABBA was in fact the original UK single of ‘Ring Ring’ b/w ‘Rock’n Roll Band’ (Epic S EPC 1793), released October 12 1973. Pictured here is the promotional single, showing the release date in the centre of the label. Infamously, this single apparently sold just 500 copies.

Ten days later, on October 22, the single was released in Italy (Durium DE 2807), the first record in a picture sleeve with the name ABBA. Like the UK, the single failed to make the Italian charts, though it had already been a top ten hit in northern Europe and Scandinavia.

The group’s first album, Ring Ring, and four singles had been released under the long-winded moniker Björn & Benny, Agnetha (or Anna) & Anni-Frid (or Frida or Frieda). 

The name ABBA had come into use during 1973, as ABBA manager Stig Anderson started using the acronym of the members’ names in interviews. The first recording session documentation to feature the name ABBA was dated October 16 1973, on sessions for the songs ‘Suzy-Hang-Around’ and ‘My Mama Said’ for the Waterloo album.


%d bloggers like this: