Posts Tagged ‘Björn Ulvaeus’

50 år B&B

8 June, 2016

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Sunday 5 June 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. A chance meeting that became a firm friendship and songwriting partnership that endures to this day.

In a room filled with 300 or so invited family, friends and associates at Berns Salonger in central Stockholm, Björn and Benny celebrated the anniversary with a night filled with music, memories, and fun, arranged in secret by Benny’s son Ludvig Andersson, Görel Hanser, stage director and BAO member Lars Rudolfsson, and Master of Ceremonies Claes af Geijerstam.

The night featured an audio-visual presentation of Björn and Benny’s career. Interrupting the presentation were musical performances by guest singers, backed primarily by Benny Anderssons Orkester (without Benny), revisiting Björn and Benny’s vast catalogue.

Hep Stars lead singer Sven Hedlund sang Björn and Benny’s first song ‘Isn’t It Easy To Say’, apparently the first time he has ever performed the song live; Peter Jöback and Lill-Babs duetted on the Björn & Benny single ‘Det kan ingen doktor hjälpa’; Ludvig sang ‘Rock Me’ while his half-brother Peter Grönvall joined the band on keyboards; Pernilla Wahlgren and Lena Philipsson sang ‘Hole In Your Soul’; Helen Sjöholm sang ‘Where I Want To Be’ from Chess while Tommy Körberg sang BAO’s ‘Du är min man’, a reversal of their usual songs. Apparently there were other performances, but details haven’t been made public.

Paul McCartney sent a video greeting congratulating the pair on their long relationship and continued success. Björn and Benny have often professed that they were inspired to write songs, separately and together, by the example of Lennon and McCartney and The Beatles in the mid-1960s.

The night climaxed when Björn and Benny took to the stage to perform ‘Does Your Mother Know’, Björn handling lead vocals while Benny joined in on keyboards. After they returned to their seats, much to everyone’s surprise Frida and Agnetha were introduced to sing ‘The Way Old Friends Do’, dedicated to their old partners. Just as they did in 1979, Frida sang the first lines, Agnetha sang the next lines, then the two joined together in harmony. After the song, Björn and Benny returned to the stage for a brief emotional reunion.

With the formal events of the evening over, BAO took over with dance music until late in the evening.

Immediately the news of a so-called ABBA reunion flashed around the world. Unfortunately, as the story spread, it became more and more wrong about the events of the evening.

Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding of the song title, thanks to the way it had been introduced, it was reported in Expressen, quoting guitarist Janne Schaffer, that Frida and Agnetha had sung a song called ‘You And I’. Those are the first three words of ‘The Way Old Friends Do’, but are also the title of a song from Chess. So the story spread that they actually sang the song from Chess, perhaps not the best choice of song for a tribute. Then when other media outlets picked up the story and didn’t recognise that song title, but found that ABBA had a song called ‘Me And I’, they started reporting that the two women sang that song, an even less appropriate tribute than ‘You And I’ 

It was also widely reported that Björn and Benny joined the women on stage to sing, for an “ABBA reunion”, but that didn’t happen. The two men only returned to the stage after the song had finished. All the photos of the four together on stage on social media and elsewhere were taken in the minute or so after ‘The Way Old Friends Do’.

Pretty much every story stated that this was ABBA’s first public performance in 30 years. It was neither. The last (known) time the four sang together was 17 years ago, in June 1999 at Görel Hanser’s 50th birthday party. Prior to that they had also sung at Claes af Geijerstam’s 40th birthday party in 1986. Neither of these were public events, but like Sunday’s gathering, private parties for invited guests only.

The so-called last public performance by ABBA referred to in the media was not in public either, but to a small gathering of probably four or five with film crew and Görel and Anders Hanser, when they taped the performance of ‘Tivedshambo’ for Här är ditt liv (This Is Your Life) for Stig Anderson in January 1986. Hardly a public performance, but it was the last time “ABBA” were seen by the public, albeit on television 

After three decades of avoiding appearing as a group, this marked the second occasion that the four had been seen together this year. In January the four appeared on stage briefly at the opening of opening of Mamma Mia! The Party. Does this mean that a formal ABBA reunion is in the works? Of course not. On every occasion they’ve been together since 1982, it has been some private celebration, without media and fans present.

(Photo: Instagram @poptonten)

Mamma Mia! It’s ABBA 2016

21 January, 2016

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Much to everyone’s surprise, not only did Bjorn, Frida, Benny and Agnetha attend the opening of Mamma Mia! The Party at Gröna Lund in Stockholm on the evening of Wednesday 20 January 2016, but the four appeared together on stage, posing and waving (briefly, for about 20 seconds or so).

(Photo: @grönalund instagram)

Before ABBA

28 June, 2013

Before ABBAFor people unfamiliar with the careers of the Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid before they came together as ABBA – and let’s face it, aside from hardcore ABBA fans and older generations of Swedes, that’s pretty much everyone – a new compilation CD has been released.

Before ABBA brings together three songs each from Bjorn’s group Hootenanny Singers, Benny’s group Hep Stars, Anni-Frid and Agnetha’s solo records, and the duo Bjorn & Benny.

Highlights include Agnetha and Anni-Frid’s first solo singles, the first three songs written by Benny, and the first recording to feature the voices of all four. It might not necessarily include the best songs from each, or include more of those songs that show the coming together of ABBA (e.g. Benny & Bjorn’s first joint composition, other songs featuring the participation of an increasing number of future ABBA members), but it’s a nice representation of the four careers, before becoming ABBA.

There is something delightfully retro about the artwork that I find really appealing. No fancy booklet, just the song details listed on the back, but it does have a cardboard gatefold sleeve with a short blurb (in Swedish and English) about he individual careers.

The catch is that the CD is only available in the store at ABBA The Museum in Stockholm. I don’t know if it will be available from the museum’s webstore, when that eventually opens.

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New music from Benny and Björn

19 October, 2012

On top of the news that Agnetha is recording, the two men of ABBA also have new music coming.

First up Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO) is releasing a new Christmas album, Tomten har åkt hem (Santa Claus has gone home), featuring new songs by Benny (with lyrics by Björn) and traditional Swedish Christmas music.

BAO is also releasing a career spanning box set, BAO IN BOX. The set contains 6 CDs, featuring all the contents of the six BAO albums (studio and live, including the new Christmas album). The CDs have been reformatted into themes – orchestra music, folk music, songs (2 discs), on tour, Christmas music.

The box also includes two DVDs featuring the 2001 documentary Benny Anderssons Orkester 10 år …(ten years) and Benny Anderssons Orkester på nya äventyr (…on a new adventure), filmed in 2001.

Tomten har åkt hem and BAO IN BOX are both scheduled for release in 14 November. See here for more information (in Swedish) and here for images of the box set contents and tracklistings.

Meanwhile, Björn has written lyrics for a new song, ‘I Can See Myself In You’, music by Tobias Gustavsson and sung by Tommy Körberg and Danny Saucedo. The duo will perform the ballad at the opening of the new Friends Arena in Stockholm on 27 October. The single is released digitally worldwide on 15 October (except the USA, it is expected later).

Björn thanks gay fans

15 February, 2011

At the QX GayGalan 2011 in Stockholm on Monday night Björn was a surprise guest, presenting the award for Homo of the Year.

What is surprising to many is that he appeared on stage wearing a costume from the Mamma Mia! stage musical (perhaps it was left behind at Cirkus following the musicals run there a few years ago). Some see it as a wonderful homage to the ABBA years, others see it as hypocritical in light of his statements against an ABBA reunion, which include comments about 60-somethings squeezing back into those old costumes.

But what is getting less attention is what he actually said. He told the audience that “in the 80’s ABBA was “distinctly uncool” … But in some strange way we still remained popular in the gay scene … When we got a revival in the late 80’s, early 90’s. I’m sure it’s because we were still popular in the gay scene. That was the most important factor” He expressed gratitude on behalf of himself, Benny, Frida and Agnetha, and ended with “Thank you kind people”.

I wonder what his hetero lifemate Benny thinks of all this? You might remember in The Winner Takes It All documentary in 1999, when asked about ABBA’s gay following he expressed bewilderment and responded “did we look like transvestites?”

With this speech, and a sign at the ABBAWORLD exhibition in Sydney that mentions the first ABBA nights at the Unicorn Hotel in Sydney’s gay scene in 1987, finally some of the true roots of the ABBA revival are being revealed.

See Björn’s speech here (with English subtitles). See more photos from the GayGalen here. Aftonbladet has footage here. Many thanks to Claes Davidsson (for posting the first pic on Facebook) and icethesite (for links and additional information).

Vote for the UK's favourite ABBA song

14 September, 2010

UK television network ITV is asking ABBA fans to vote for “The Nation’s Favourite ABBA Song” for a new 90-minute TV special to be broadcast later this year.

Fans have a choice from ABBA’s 25 UK chart hit singles, from Eurovision winner ‘Waterloo’ in 1974 to ‘Thank You For The Music’, released in 1983, six years after its appearance on ABBA – The Album, to promote a compilation album of the same name. Missing are the orignal 1973 release of ‘Ring Ring’ and the 1974 single ‘So Long’, both of which did not enter the UK singles chart, and the 1979 number 3 hit ‘Angeleyes’, the UK’s preferred side of the double A side with ‘Voulez-Vous’ – probably because ‘Angeleyes’ does not have a video, while the other side of the single does.

ITV promises that “band members Bjorn [sic] and Frida tell all about how these 25 songs came about”, but stories now circulating like this one probably exaggerate their participation – interviews with Björn and Frida, plus other ABBA-connected people and various celebrities have already been recorded.

Vote now at ITV.com. Voting closes on Monday 11th October 2010. It is unclear from the website whether votes from non-UK visitors will be counted.

The ABBA reunion story

27 March, 2010

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past 24 hours or so you’ve probably run across the headline “ABBA to reunite?” or “ABBA hints at reunion” or something similar. It’s been reported on probably every news site in the world and also made newspapers and TV and radio news. A Google search reveals over 250 hits on this this story.

The hubbub came about from an interview with Benny and Björn in The Times (London) on 26 March headlined Abba to reform? ‘Yeah, why not?’. The article, which was supposed to be about the upcoming Kristina concert at Royal Albert Hall, starts with Benny joking about the inevitable reunion question. Later interviewer Pete Paphides suggests “the idea of an intimate, one-off performance for invited guests and families, perhaps with a small orchestra, focusing on some of the more “mature” material from the later albums”. Björn jokes that they could perform ‘The Way Old Folks Do’. Benny replies “Yeah, why not?”, then goes on to say that he doesn’t “know if the girls sing anything any more” and “It’s not a bad idea, actually”. That’s the full extent of the reunion “hint”.

A second article in The Times The Way Old Friends Do? Abba offer hope to new generation of fans with reunion hint emphasises Björn and Benny’s responses, but not the tone of the original article that made it apparent it was pretty much in jest. The story is credited to Pete Paphides and Patrick Foster, though I suspect Paphides’ name is attached only as the author of the original piece. He has written many positive articles on ABBA topics in the past, and I don’t think he’d be responsible for such speculation. It seems that then every wire service and news agency in the world picked up this story, not the original interview, and ran with it.

Within hours The Telegraph (London) posted an article headlined ABBA: ‘Reunion is never going to happen’, quoting ABBA business associate and spokeswoman Görel Hanser “It’s simply not true. It was a passing comment Benny made, almost as a joke – nothing more than that. … There is no prospect of ABBA getting back together – it’s never going to happen. I think the fans know that deep down but we’re sorry if we got anyone’s hopes up.”

Just two weeks earlier when ABBA was inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York Frida said in her speech “We haven’t been a group, we haven’t performed or sung together for 28 years. We broke up in ’82 and I never think we will reunite again – it’s a bit too late for that.” And on 4 March in a BBC Radio 4 interview the following exchange between Benny and Björn took place:

Question: Will you ever share a stage with the girls again, will ABBA reform?
Björn: No.
Benny: Why do we have to say no to a question all the time?
Björn: If we say yes but don’t mean it then there will be headlines tomorrow.

A wonderful blog post titled Mamma Mia!: Abba Reunion Rumors Resurface makes sense of the recurring reunion stories.

Thanks icethesite and ABBA on TV for links and information.

Benny and Björn interviews on Celebrity Radio

4 March, 2010

Alex Belfield with Benny AnderssonThis week  Benny and Björn gave exclusive interviews to Alex Belfield of Celebrity Radio from the UK.

Benny also plays ABBA’s ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ and ‘Thank You For The Music’ on piano.

Go here to listen.

(thanks to Julie Smart/Celebrity Radio)

The Little White Piano

21 February, 2010

Björn Ulvaeus has expanded his talents to include children’s book author with the publication of The Little White Piano, available exclusively from the gift shop at the ABBAWORLD touring exhibition (but not the online store).

The Little White Piano tells a semi-autobiographical story of Benny and Björn’s days of writing songs in their famous songwriting hut on the island of Viggsö in the Stockholm archipeligo, from the point of view of the piano.

The piano tells her story to the other pieces of furniture, from factory to music store to the hut, where “two young men” come regularly to play and “wait for the most beautiful of all songs”, until finally one day she is abandoned as the two young men stop coming to the hut for their songwriting sessions.

What’s interesting is that by the story’s account the piano was actually bought by Björn and Agnetha as a couple. Agnetha, described as a “young woman … so beautiful with her long, flowing golden hair” tests out the piano by playing her solo composition “Utan dig”.

The story has a happy ending with the Little White Piano no longer abandoned, in a new home where she is “elevated to all her glory” at the ABBAWORLD exhibition.

It would be churlish to mention that on photographic evidence the actual piano in the hut appeared to have a wooden finish, not white.

Kristina at Carnegie Hall

4 October, 2009

Last week I travelled to New York for Kristina – A Concert Event at Carnegie Hall, the English language premiere of Benny and Björn’s 1995 masterpiece Kristina från Duvemåla.

Kristina in English has been a long time coming. When Mamma Mia! opened on Broadway in October 2001 there was talk that a draft translation was ready for presentation then. In 2006 a workshop was held with a hope for a full production within a couple of years, however it was not to be as prospective financial backers at the time declared “sad doesn’t sell”.

So finally Kristina has been presented to New York in concert form. The concert starred Swede Helen Sjöholm, who originated the role of Kristina, British tenor Russell Watson as her husband Karl Oskar, Louise Pitre, who originated Donna in Mamma Mia!in North America, as Ulrika the reformed whore, and Broadway star Kevin Odekirk (Les Miserables) as Karl Oskar’s brother Robert.

Kristina tells the story of Karl Oskar and Kristina who, after hardship and famine in Sweden, emigrate to America with family and friends, some of whom are escaping religious persecution. It is based on the Vilhelm Moberg series of novels The Emigrants (Utvandrarna).

English versions of several songs have been heard over the years, but this is the final version that may one day see a full stage production. Lyricist Herbert Kretzmer, who worked on the translation of the French musical Les Miserables, contributed his expertise to the English lyrics.

As a non-Swedish speaker I have long enjoyed the music and had an understanding of the story, but not of the actual lyrics. Unofficial translations have been around on the internet for many years. Finally I, and other English speakers, could enjoy the whole show. The English lyrics are a success, in some cases greatly different from the Swedish versions but changed for the better with the new language. Though cut down from the source novels and cut down further from the Swedish stage version, the major story elements remain intact.

The concert was well received, with Helen Sjöholm receiving a standing ovation for her act two showstopper ‘You Have To Be There’ (Du måste finnas), and another standing ovation for the curtain calls. Over the following days the show received mostly positive reviews in newspapers and theatre websites.

In the photo above I’m in the third row, in front of Kevin Odekirk.

Kristina was recorded for future CD release. Hopefully we won’t have to wait a year, as we did with the 2008 Chess in Concert.

See more first hand reviews @ icethesite.

New York Post blog posts by Elisabeth Vincentelli:
The road to ‘Kristina’ 
Chatting with “Kristina” director Lars Rudolfsson
Benny and Björn on ‘Kristina’
Benny and Björn talk influences
Louise Pitre on her Carnegie Hall debut
Kristina on “Kristina”

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