Posts Tagged ‘Eurovision Song Contest’

The 40th anniversary week

3 May, 2014

abba40The 40th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win was celebrated in great style in early April.

Of course there are many new releases to mark the anniversary, with ABBA – The Official Photo Book, Waterloo Deluxe Edition CD and DVD, ‘Waterloo’ single picture disc, The Singles 40 disc box set, and much more, with even more still to come.

The highlights of the anniversary commemorations were events in Stockholm and London on Sunday April 6th (the actual anniversary) and Monday April 7th.

On the Sunday afternoon ABBA The Museum in Stockholm held a concert on the museum’s forecourt, featuring an especially-created choir singing several ABBA songs. Benny Andersson joined the choir, playing piano as they sang ‘Thank You For The Music’, and then joining the choir on stage for a bow.

On the Monday night the Tate Modern gallery in London hosted ABBA The Official International Anniversary party, to launch The Official Photo Book and to commemorate the anniversary. One thousand ticket-buying fans joined 500 VIP guests for a night of ABBA music, with a small exhibition of photos from the book, and a brief appearance by Björn and Frida, which was followed by another performance by ABBA The Museum/The Choir.

The following Sunday (April 13th) Benny and Björn joined the London cast of Mamma Mia! at the Olivier Awards in London, performing one chorus of ‘Thank You For The Music’ for the awards show finale. Yes, you read that right: Benny and Björn actually performed on stage, on accordion and guitar respectively.

After a couple of interviews in London with Frida and Björn, there was much media and fan speculation that an ABBA reunion could be on the cards, after Frida said “that it would be fun, maybe, to record something”. Björn rather strangely added ” if there was out of, you know, pure magic, a fantastic song that would suit ABBA very well, you know, who knows”. Of course he wasn’t going to contradict Frida on camera, was he? Benny followed it up on the red carpet at the Olivier Awards, saying “I don’t think so”, then adding sarcastically “Well what do I know?”, clearly miffed that everyone was predicting an ABBA reunion except the one man who would be writing the music.

Agnetha was nowhere to be seen at any of these events. Apparently she was enjoying a holiday in Majorca. In May last year she missed the opening of ABBA The Museum, as she was in London doing interviews to promote her solo album A. In 2004 she missed the 5th anniversary of Mamma Mia! in London, which Björn, Frida and Benny attended (Benny quite reluctantly), as she was working on the documentary for her current album My Colouring Book.

Promoting her solo album A last year Agnetha was happy to use ABBA, from the cover sticker “New solo album by Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA”, to the title of her official television documentary Agnetha: ABBA and After, three-quarters of which was devoted to ABBA. As recently as November last year she hinted in an interview that she would be willing to do something with the other three, and that there were plans for the 40th anniversary (which set off another worldwide media frenzy of “ABBA reunion” headlines). But when there’s an actual ABBA event, she actively avoids the situation.

What Agnetha really said

12 November, 2013

Following the sensational worldwide headlines started by their story over the weekend, today Die Welt has published online their full Agnetha story. The question of a potential ABBA reunion and Agnetha’s response becomes clearer. But still she does not say that there are plans for an ABBA reunion in April next year.

Here is the translation, courtesy of Google Translate. It’s not perfect, but you get the gist.

Die Welt: Of all the members of Abba, you were the one who always expressed most vehemently against a reunion Fältskog: Yes.
Die Welt: You also said that you would have a unique appearance with your colleagues, perhaps for a good cause, not mutually exclusive. If one was offering you, at an event like, say, “Live Aid” act, because you would seriously consider?
Fältskog: Yes. If we could unite all four on the purpose for which we want to do that, if it were only a one-time event – then, yes, we would certainly consider it. At the same time trickles yes. We’re all getting older. I can not imagine that we would go with my crutches on stage. Who knows what happened yet.
Die Welt: There are examples of successful Reunions: Led Zeppelin had a concert in London teamed up again in 2007.
Fältskog: I know, yes.
Die Welt: 20 million people were looking to buy tickets, 20,000 were in the O2 Arena. Would tempt such a thing?
Fältskog: I do not trust myself, nor anything to say (laughs).
Die Welt: Too bad. It almost sounds like there is something to say on the subject.
Fältskog: Sure, we think about it. See: In April 2014 it will be 40 years ago that we won with “Waterloo” the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton. There are probably plans to make the occasion of this anniversary something. But I still do not know what comes of it. I also do not currently know it exactly.
Die Welt: Why not?
Fältskog: I’m a person who often makes too many thoughts. If such an event should take place, and I knew well in advance notice, I would break my head over it all the time. It eats too much life energy. It is similar to my fear of flying.
Die Welt: You suffer, since you had to make an emergency landing during their 1979 U.S. tour with your private jet, after you were caught in a storm.
Fältskog: Yes. If I have to fly today, I want not to know well in advance. That worries me too much. For me, it is better if such a request may reached me a week before, I care even on the same day.
Die Welt: It sounds like you would an Abba Reunion approach as a long-delayed but always made the leap ten meters tower: climb up fast, do not look down above, do not think, jump down.
Fältskog: That hits pretty well. Not only think – just do it.

Meanwhile, when asked for comment by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter Benny has responded “It’s probably best if you ask her. I think that I probably ought to know if it were up to date” (Google Translate again). In other words, he doesn’t know a thing about any reunion plans, but if there were such plans he would know.

“ABBA mulls possible reunion”

11 November, 2013

Thus screamed headlines around the world over the past couple of days.

Last week Agnetha was interviewed for German weekend newspaper Welt am Sonntag. Once published, the sensational claims of the story were soon translated to English by Sky News UK. That report was then picked up almost immediately by media outlets around the world, though they all reported the same story, almost word for word.

In the article Agnetha is quoted as saying “Of course it’s something we’re thinking about.” The question she is apparently answering is not published, but the article hints she is talking about an ABBA reunion for the 40th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win in April next year. “There seem to be plans to do something to mark this anniversary in some way. But I can’t say at this point what will come of them.”

Agnetha only refers to “plans to do something to mark this anniversary”. This could mean almost anything. As we know there is The Official Photo Book published in April. There may be another Pop Talk at ABBA The Museum, like the recent event commemorating the Ring Ring Deluxe Edition. There could be a deluxe edition of the Waterloo album or some other musical re-releases. Aside from the book I don’t know of any other specific plans, but these are all are likely “plans to do something to mark this anniversary”. It does not necessarily mean that those plans will actively involve former ABBA members.

It’s also worth noting that the quotes have been translated from English to German, then back to English.

The Eurovision anniversary also marks the 15th anniversary of the premiere of the Mamma Mia! musical in London. No doubt there will be some form of celebration there.

With that, and now ABBA The Museum in Stockholm being an obvious base for celebrations, there is the potential to split ABBA members’ attendance.

The four former members of ABBA have avoided all possible reunion opportunities, from alleged multi-million dollar offers to record and perform, to Mamma Mia! openings and anniversaries, to the Eurovision 50th anniversary gala (which seemed designed solely to engineer an ABBA reunion appearance), to the opening of their very own museum. For the last decade we’ve rarely seen more than two together at any time.

For many years Björn has said at every opportunity that ABBA will not get together, stating “We are the only group of that status that has never been reunited. I think that is cool”. Benny has moved on, playing with BAO (though they do perform the occasional ABBA song), and composing music for films and events. His demeanour when he does attend ABBA events hints that he’d rather be somewhere else. Though Frida has said in the past that she would like to do something with the other three, she has consistently said that her musical life is behind her. At the museum opening she expressed surprise when told by a reporter that she had allegedly said that she would like to reunite ABBA. Agnetha herself said just a few months ago that it’s time to “let ABBA rest”.

In May Agnetha deliberately avoided the opening of ABBA The Museum, instead travelling to London to promote her new album, but conveniently latching on to the media interest about the museum. Though there were claims that her itinerary was planned before the museum opening was confirmed (unlikely, as the opening date would have been set many months ahead), there was nothing she did that couldn’t have been postponed a week or two, including the release of the CD itself.

And unfortunately for Agnetha, her message in this new interview that a deluxe edition of her album A is out in Germany on November 22nd, has been lost in the hysteria, though it was mentioned towards the end of the original German article.

ABBA at the Eurovision Song Contest 2013

22 May, 2013

WaterlooThis year the Eurovision Song Contest was held in Malmö, Sweden. Being held in Sweden of course led to many ABBA references.

During the first semi-final host Petra Mede informed the audience that one of the slogans considered for the contest was “Thank you for the music”.

But it was in the Grand Final that the ABBA references flowed thick and fast.

First, after the opening anthem ‘We Write The Story’, Petra tells us that the new Eurovision anthem was written by Avicii, Björn and Benny, saying “We couldn’t get ABBA, but at least we got A, B, B”, adding that it was “a great gift for you, all you dancing queens in the audience.”

During the final video postcard from “Spokesperson for the You-rope-ian Broadcasting Union” Lynda Woodruff (hilariously portrayed by singer Sarah Dawn Finer), she visits the Royal Castle in Stockholm “where the Royal family lives: Agnetha, Frida, Björn and Benny. But apparently they never come out together anymore. It’s a shame.”

Lynda then visits the Royal Armoury, where she tells us that “tourists can get a unique glimpse of the costumes they used to wear”. Pointing at some antique dresses and coats she says these “I think these were from the ‘Voulez-Vous’ video”, and sings “Vooolay-vooo, aha, aha, aha…”

Still in the Armoury, Lynda points to some suits of armour and claims these were “the costumes they wore when they won with Waterloo back in 1974. I’m surprised more gays… Eurovision fans haven’t found this place yet!”

Before signing off Lynda thanks everyone and asks us to remember “the winner takes it all”, then accidentally knocks a priceless vase off a pedestal. She whispers to someone off-camera “Will Benny Björn have to pay for that?”

During the interval song ‘Swedish Smörgåsbord’, a very funny song sending up Swedish stereotypes sung by host Petra Mede, Mamma Mia!, ‘Waterloo’, ‘Super Trouper’ and ABBA are all name-checked.

In the final film package of the history of the Eurovision Song Contest, Petra is inserted into footage of ABBA’s performance of ‘Waterloo’ in 1974, dressed as Frida.

Finally, at the end of the interval Sarah Dawn Finer sang a stripped-down version of ‘The Winner Takes It All’, which was released as a single on the day of the Grand Final.

We Write The Story

21 May, 2013

For the opening of the Eurovision Song 2013 Contest in Malmö, Sweden on May 18th Benny Andersson composer a new Eurovision anthem, with lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus, in collaboration with Swedish DJ an producer Avicii. ‘We Write The Story’ was written to tie in with this year’s Eurovision slogan We Are One, and even included the slogan at the end.

The song has all the hallmarks of a Benny composition. Listeners may even hear hints o the more anthemic moments of some later ABBA songs. But that’s to be expected, thy wer composed by the same man, after all.

‘We Write The Story’ was released exclusively in iTunes on the morning of the Grand Final, credited to Avicii & B & B And Choir.


ABBA conductor, arranger dead

9 June, 2011

Sven-Olof Walldoff, the Swedish orchestra leader famous for appearing at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest dressed as Napoleon as he conducted the orchestra for ABBA’s winning performance of ‘Waterloo’, has died at the age of 82.

In addition to that famous appearance, Walldoff conducted the orchestra when ABBA performed at Melodifestivalen, the Swedish qualifying heat for the ESC. He also arranged the strings on ABBA’s recordings ‘I Am Just A Girl’,  ‘Honey, Honey’, ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Dancing Queen’.

But his association with ABBA pre-dates the group’s formation:  his orchestra played on many of Agnetha’s solo records right back to her first self-titled album in 1968, and also played for Hootenanny Singers ‘En Gång Är Ingen Gång’ in 1967, Frids’s final EMI single ‘Vi är alla bara barn i början’/’Kom en sjung en sång’ in 1972, and wrote string arrangements for Björn and Benny’s 1970 LP Lycka. Sven-Olof Walldoff’ Orkester (orchestra) backed a veritable who’s who of the Swedish music scene in the 1960s and 70s, including many Polar records.

Contrary to popular belief it is not Walldoff dressed as Napoleon on ABBA’s Waterloo LP sleeve – that was bassist Mike Watson.


Vote for the Best ABBA Song Ever

12 May, 2009

waterloo35To commemorate the 35th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win with ‘Waterloo’, albeit a month after the anniversary but coinciding with this year’s competition, ABBA The Official Site is poling for the “Best ABBA Song Ever”.

Voting is open now until May 18. All voters are eligible to win ABBA merchandise prizes including a new limited edition ABBA necklace.

Finally facing their 'Waterloo'

6 April, 2009

eurovisionToday marks the 35th anniversary of ABBA’s historic win of the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’.

To many people this is the defining moment in ABBA’s history. But is it really?

To countries such as the USA and Australia the ESC meant nothing at the time. ABBA’s emergance was probably the first time that many people outside of Europe had even heard of the contest.

It was the 1975 hits ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ that created the ABBA phenomenon.

So is ‘Waterloo’ and the ESC win really that important to ABBA history?

‘Waterloo’ is completely atypical of what ABBA was capable of. It is nothing like anything else in the ABBA catalogue, except for perhaps ‘Ring Ring’, which was created for the same purpose.

It is true to say that ‘Waterloo’ and the ESC performance was the first time that ABBA really got noticed outside of Europe, especially in the English-speaking world, and without it it’s possible that the later classics may never have gained attention.

But it could also be said that the quality of ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ and then later singles would have become international hits anyway and led to ABBA’s enduring success.

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