“It’s tough being ABBA”: There are a lot of demands on a group says Björn. “The last thing we want is to develop ulcers”

From Raymond J. Fullagar in London - Pix/People 30 December 1976

Music means a lot more to smash Swedish group ABBA than just making money. ABBA have dominated record sales, both albums and singles, all around the world. And their concerts sell out faster than performances from such mighty groups as The Rolling Stones and The Beatles ever did.

The group’s members all, list music as their favourite pastime outside the hurly-burly of the pop scene. And they say their aim with their music is to give people pleasure.

ABBA really do take making music very seriously. Second-best is just not good enough. For example, following their tour of Australia during March, they will take a short holiday before devoting the next seven months writing and producing a new album.

Not another factory group

It was Björn who explained to me why ABBA are very rarely on tour. He also had a lot of nice things to say about their Australian fans who are not only buying ABBA singles and albums in large quantities, but are keeping the postal authorities busy. Hardly a day passes without another batch of fan letters from Australia arriving at ABBA’s headquarters in a charming old house on the outskirts of Stockholm.

“There are a lot of groups who tour the whole year round. This kind of pressure would probably kill us. Even the thought of it sends a shiver down my spine,” said Björn.

“I speak for the others when I say it would be too much of an ordeal for us. We would hate having to live in one hotel room after another. This certainly would not be the right atmosphere for us.

“We all agree our present lifestyle suits us perfectly. We can do what we want to do, and occasionally we will go out and tour and show people that we are real – that we’re not another factory group.

“This month (October) we are doing television promotional work in Poland, and briefly visiting five other European countries.

November will see us in America, again mainly doing television promotion. Like in Australia, things are going well for us in America.

“During December and most of January, we will be in Stockholm rehearsing for our European and Australian tour. We open in Oslo at the end of January, and will call at Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium and Britain, before reaching Australia.

“There is so much to do, arrangements to make, before embarking on even a short tour. We leave all the packing of our clothes to the girls – Benny and I have the responsibility of making sure our instruments and music stay with us as we move from venue to venue, country to country.”

Björn’s hair is dark blonde, eyes are blue, and he weighs 65Kg.

Björn said his favourite colour has always been blue, and if someone wanted to please him with a meal, a good number of French dishes would do the trick.

“I am mad about French food. Anna is a terrific cook. That’s why I married her.” And he added, smiling, “There were other reasons as well, of course.”

Björn’s favourite movie actor is Jack Nicholson, and two of his favourite groups are The Beatles and The Eagles. Björn’s favourite drink is rum and coke and his favourite animal is a dog: “Dogs are intelligent, and very loyal. This is why I have surrounded myself with dogs. They give me so much pleasure.”

I asked Björn if he had a favourite ABBA single. He replied: “I have to say almost all of them.”

Björn was born in Hisingen, an island near Gothenburg in the west of Sweden on the 25th of April, 1945. When he was 11 years old he moved to Västervik, a small town on the east coast. At the Västervik grammar school he started a folk group. He met Benny in 1966 and together they began writing songs, both for themselves and other artists. Law is another subject Björn knows quite a bit about.

Agnetha Fältskog was born on the 5th of April, 1950, in Jönköping, a town in the middle of Sweden. Her father ran local amateur revues so she learned to get up on a stage early in life. At the same time she began to write songs which she sang in revues. She wrote the first song she sang in public, at the tender age of eight.

Agnetha has beautiful blonde hair, blue eyes and is married to Björn, whom she first met in 1968. It was several years later that Björn proposed.

In 1971 she was given the chance to play Mary Magdalene in the Swedish version of Jesus Christ Superstar, and the critics thought she showed acting ability as well as musical talent. Agnetha was educated at a grammar school, and she has one sister, named Mona.

Agnetha’s favourite food is Chinese. Music and swimming are her two favourite pastimes. Agnetha said Björn, is also very fond of music, and while he is a good swimmer, boating would be his second choice.

Favourite drink? Agnetha thought about this for several seconds, then replied whisky. Then she quickly added: “I drink very little alcohol. At a party, I try to make one small glass of whisky last all evening.”

Agnetha said blue and red are her two favourite colours. When I asked her to give me the name of her favourite movie actor she said: At the moment Jack Nicholson. I have seen several of his films and liked all of them.” Her favourite ABBA song is Tiger.

Benny chose Dancing Queen as his favourite ABBA single, and Richard Burton as his favourite actor. His favourite colours are blue, red and yellow. His favourite pastimes are music, yachting, reading and sleeping.

Don’t talk about politics

Benny likes Polynesian food and if anyone offers to buy him a drink, he will be happy to accept a glass of beer, provided it’s cold. He prefers to drink water to tea or coffee.

Unlike Björn, journalists find Benny rather reserved, and reluctant to answer questions. But he has a most disarming smile, and everyone I have spoken to says he has a great sense of humour, is absolutely dedicated to his music, and is a most sincere and generous person.

Benny was born on the 16th of December, 1946 in the district of Vasatan in central Stockholm, Sweden, has dark blonde hair and blue eyes. Without going into detail, Benny says the greatest influence on his life was his grandfather. He didn’t want to talk about his childhood, school days or when he was a teenager, as he thought this kind of information is boring.

Frida revealed she was born on the 15th of November, 1945, in Bjorkåsen, near Narvik, a small town in the north of Norway. When she was two years old her family moved to Sweden, where she made her first appearances as a singer on stage at the age of around 10-11, first at school choirs and then at a Red Cross bazzar charity. She later also had an orchestra of her own for several years.

Today, Frida has either dyed red hair or natural brown hair, and green, blue, yellow and brown eyes. Her favourite colours are green and yellow. Like Benny, Frida said music, yachting and reading are three of her favourite pastimes. Jack Nicholson is also her favourite movie actor. Whisky is her favourite drink.

Could Frida have two favourite ABBA hits? Why not! Her picks are Fernando and Dancing Queen.

Even before her ABBA days, Frida was a much-traveled lady, being much in demand to appear in song contests in countries as far a-field as Japan and Venezuela.

What about Frida’s favourite food? “I’m mad about fish dishes,” she said. “In my book there is no better food than fish. There are so many ways of preparing and cooking fish dishes.”

ABBA did not wish to talk about the world situation, politics, religion, money…and a great number of other subjects. They claimed their sole aim in life is to give pleasure to others.

All four went out of their way to tell me about Stig Anderson. Who is he? Polar Music is the company Björn and Benny own together with Stig Anderson, who is, in his own right, a very accomplished lyric writer.

Said Björn: “Stig is our manager and a very close friend. We rely on him a great deal. He works hard to keep Benny and me free from business problems and worries – he’s a real tower of strength.

“There are so many demands on a group like ABBA, problems are numerous. The last thing we want is ulcers, or a nervous breakdown.”

So with the help of Stig Anderson ABBA have become their own decision makers, working under their own pressure. In the past two years, ABBA have sold about 20 million records around the world. Someone recently said ABBA belong to the world.

What is the reason for the extraordinary appeal of the group? One reason is that every song they write is melodic. They have hit at a time when melody is wanted by everyone from teenagers to mums and dads. It’s also likely that the wholesome - as well as handsome – appearance of the four helps. Men find the two girls delightful, and the girls like Benny and Björn.

To adults it is a pleasure to be able to enjoy watching a group their youngsters like, a group without unpleasant gimmicks.

© 1976 Pix/People. Thanks to Samuel Inglles