Archive for January, 2009

ABBA wins Lifetime Achievement Award: Agnetha and Frida accept award together

23 January, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Last night ABBA was awarded the Rockbjörnen Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony at Cirkus in Stockholm. The Rockbjörnen awards are voted by readers of Aftonbladet.

In a huge surprise moment, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad-Reuss took to the stage together to accept the award.

See video of Agnetha and Frida’s award acceptance here. Read reports of the ceremony here  (in Swedish). A photo gallery, including many photos of Agnetha and Frida, can be seen here, along with a live blog (also in Swedish).

The pair were interviewed afterwards. Read the interview here (in Swedish) here (in English), and another English translation of the interview at icethesite.

A Gift of Song: The Music for UNICEF Concert

9 January, 2009

Today marks the 30th anniversary of A Gift of Song: The Music for UNICEF Concert, where ABBA debuted the song they had donated, and the song that was to be the group’s next international single, ‘Chiquitita’.

Music for UNICEF was the brainchild of David Frost, Robert Stigwood and the Bee Gees to commemorate the United Nations’ International Year of the Child in 1979. Artists would be invited to donate songs whose royalties would be ceded in perpetuity to benefit UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Music for UNICEF was launched with a gala concert on 9 January 1979, held in the General Assembly hall in the United Nations building in New York, the first time a popular music concert had been held in the venue.

The concert line-up included ABBA, The Bee Gees, Rita Coolidge, John Denver, Earth, Wind and Fire, Andy Gibb, Kris Kristofferson, Olivia Newton-John, Rod Stewart and Donna Summer. Elton John was to perform, but pulled out days before the concert.

The concert opened with a medley of songs by the featured artists, starting with the Bee Gees singing ‘Children of the World’ and ending with an all-star sing-along to ABBA’s early single ‘He Is Your Brother’.

The concert progressed with each act performing the songs to be donated to UNICEF, with each preceding performer presenting the charter to be signed by the next.

Some artists performed fully live, others sang over pre-recording backing, while some, including ABBA, mimed their performance. This was due in part to the nature of the venue not being properly set up for live music performance.

The concert ended with all the performers singing the 1968 Jackie De Shannon hit ‘Put A Little Love In Your Heart’. Verse vocals were sung by soloists including Barry Gibb, Olivia Newton John and John Denver (among others); ABBA joined in on the chorus but did not get any featured solos.

Other artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens and Kansas did not perform in the concert but promised songs to Music for UNICEF.

The concert was filmed and shown on NBC in the USA the following night, and shown in dozens of other countries in the following months. An album of selections from the concert was released later in the year.

To date the concert has not been released on DVD or CD. A shame, as it would add much needed dollars to UNICEF’s takings.

It has been said that ‘Chiquitita’ has earned UNICEF over $2 million.

To read articles leading up to the concert and reviews of the concert and television broadcast, go to ABBA World‘s Years section.

2008 in review

1 January, 2009

Benny, Agnetha, Frida, Björn, Stockholm 4 July 2008 (fantasy photo, thanks to turned into one of the most phenomenal years in ABBA’s 36 year history, another peak in the ongoing ABBA revival.

Of course, this was mainly due to the film version of the musical based on the songs of ABBA, MAMMA MIA!

Following its premiere in London on 30 June, the movie became the number one film in many countries, even up against such blockbuster fare as the Batman sequel The Dark Knight. MAMMA MIA! has gone on to break box office records, becoming the highest-grossing film ever in the UK.

The movie divided critics and fans, but there’s no denying that it propelled ABBA back into the limelight. To date it has grossed more than US$570 million.

The Stockholm premiere of MAMMA MIA! on 4 July saw that rarest of events, the four former ABBA members at the same place at the same time. Agnetha and Frida danced together with actress Meryl Streep on the red carpet, and for the first time in over 22 years the four were photographed together, albeit alongside the film’s cast and crew. This disappointed many, but within hours Photoshopped pictures of “the ABBA reunion” (like the one above) were spread around the world.

The movie’s soundtrack CD was also a huge hit, topping the Billboard Album chart – the first ABBA-related album to top the US charts. The recently released DVD has already broken sales records in less than two months.

ABBA’s original recordings also made an impact this year, with the flagship compilation ABBA Gold topping the chart again in the UK, becoming the oldest number one album ever, and  it also topped the Billboard Pop Catalogue chart for the first time.

Other compilations including The Definitive Collection, Number Ones, 18 Hits and even the new box set ABBA – The Albums made chart appearances.

Updated versions of ABBA Gold, More ABBA Gold and the box set Thank You For The Music attracted new buyers, as did The Albums box set. A vinyl reissue of ABBA – The Album commemorated the 60th anniversary of the 12 inch 33⅓ rpm long-playing record.

Agnetha released a new double CD compilation of her Swedish and English solo songs, My Very Best.

Many unique ABBA books were released during the year, including ABBA & Me (a Dutch fan’s story), Historia de ABBA en ArgentinaMade in Suécia: o paraíso pop do ABBA (from Brazil), ABBA Let The Music Speak (a musician’s guide to ABBA), ABBA: The Scrapbook (a pictorial history), ABBA – The Story (the first full-length ABBA biography in Swedish, also in Norwegian and Danish versions), plus an updated version of the definitive English biography Bright Lights Dark Shadows.

Stig Anderson’s daughter Marie Ledin wrote a memoir of her father, Min pappa hette Stikkan. Benny denounced the anticipated tell-all, but in reality it was a loving tribute without the expected salacious gossip about the split between Stig and ABBA.

ABBA also joined the lucrative games market, with Singstar ABBA for PlayStation.

For a group that came to an end 26 years ago, that’s a lot more action than could be expected over many years, let alone all in one.

In sad news, drummer Ola Brunkert died in March at the age of 61 following an accident, and photographer Bengt H. Malqvist died in November at the age of 80.

And what of the future? There are those, including Benny himself, who see ABBA as over after this year.

2009 sees the 10th anniversary of the stage musical MAMMA MIA! along with the 35th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win; no doubt there will be commemorations for the twin anniversaries. ABBA’s Voulez-Vous album was released 30 years ago in April, and if past history is anything to go by, we may get a Deluxe Version of the album.

ABBA the Museum was to open in Stockholm in June, but due to problems with the site the opening has been postponed indefinitely. In the meantime the museum’s collection will be touring the world.

Benny Anderssons Orkester (Benny Andersson’s Orchestra, or BAO) will tour Sweden again in the northern Summer, and will also perform its first-ever concert in London in July. There is also talk of an English-language album – some songs have already been recorded.

Björn, Frida and Agnetha will probably remain as they have for the past few years, mostly maintaining their private lives with the occasional public appearance.

And while the music lives on, so will ABBA.

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