ABBA – Amazing revelation! “Music not produced by computer” claims big daddy

By Mark Alchin - RAM 17 December 1976

Even if you think ABBA’s music sucks, you would have to agree that it’s superbly produced and that the approach they take to their career is one of total professionalism.

The latter is illustrated perfectly by one Stig Anderson, ABBA mentor and father figure. Anderson recently made a flying visit to Oz to promote the new ABBA album Arrival and to handle various ABBA connected business. He is the publisher of ABBA’s music and runs the company that handles Benny & Björn & Frida & Agnetha.

It will come as a surprise to most punters that ABBA have basically the same attitude to writing songs as yer average street punk kid. They don’t put poems and formal runs of notes into computer to get their songs. They wait for inspiration just like any old Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen 

“The ABBA sound is not intentional. We never think ‘We’ll do this and this’. It’s just whatever comes out. But there’re many songs you’ll never hear.” Then he went on to explain that if Benny and Björn write a song and don’t really like it, it will be thrown out and possibly returned to later, when they may think of a different way of doing it.

I brought up the subject of the heavy negative reaction towards ABBA’s music from various Oz critics and a large number of Oz punters but the Swede volleyed back with cool skill.

Understandably, the criticism doesn’t worry ABBA. They have become the first group to sell a million copies of a single album in Oz. Their The Best Of ABBA LP hit the magic million during Stig’s visit and is still near the top of the charts. (Think about it for a moment punters – that’s one copy for every four households in Australia.)

“If you become this big you must be prepared for criticism. We write the songs because we love doing it. We never write and think ‘Will they like it?” To be able to entertain people is something to be proud of.”

I asked if he seriously thought ABBA were a musical force a la Beatles or Rolling Stones.

“There is an ABBA sound, which wasn’t there before. That’s new. In the Fifties it was Elvis Presley, in the Sixties it was The Beatles, now in the Seventies it’s ABBA. Apart from that, ABBA have broken political barriers. People in Czechoslavakia, Poland and even Russia like the music, and so do Americans. That’s a great thing to be able to do. The Beatles versus ABBA thing isn’t really fair as they were popular then and ABBA is now.”

He also mentioned that he had heard Norman Gunston’s Salute To ABBA and is flattered by it, but as he hadn’t seen our own Normie perform he couldn’t comment fully on it and “No” they weren’t offended.

Not surprisingly Mr Super Cool is decidedly reticent when the talk turns to moolah. He laughs and says “Everybody asks questions about money. Well of course, that’s important but we love performing and writing. We don’t really make that much money from touring. We have 40 musicians, tons and tons of the best equipment in the world, trucks, buses etc. The expenses are too great for us to make a big profit. We’re touring mostly as a gesture of appreciation to the fans.” (Whaaaa?!? – ed)

ABBA will tour Australia in March of next year playing at already sold out concerts in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Anderson pointed out that the group is sorry that they will not be performing in Tasmania or Queensland but “At the moment,” he says, “it’s just not possible. 

Not to be foiled, Queensland ABBA fans have bought tickets to Sydney concert and will be travelling down in March to see their fave raves. The bus loads of bannana benders will no doubt see a shiny and well rehearsed show as I did at this interview. That’s the way the machine runs.

Photo: Stig Anderson displays the nice, clean image that’s helped ABBA sell 2 million records in Oz.

© 1976 RAM. Thanks to Samuel Inglles