The golden Swedes go to the cleaners! Domestic Bliss ABBA style

By Diane Blackwell - Women's Day 11 October1976

Benny Andersson, the bearded blonde heart throb, thousands of girls swoon over, cleaning the carpet? The cuddly creator of ABBA’s million dollar sound making his girlfriend/fiancée, Frida, a wake-up coffee?

The same Benny creator of bouncy tunes like Ring, Ring, Mamma Mia and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, played piano with the Swedish symphony orchestra. And he doesn’t even read or write music 

When Alex Hamill – one of the team from George Patterson Pty Ltd, an advertising agency – went to Stockholm to make a series of television commercials with ABBA (a $1 million campaign for National, the electronics people), he saw a side of the golden Swedes never before made public.

The Australian team was whisked off to ABBA’s island retreat 60 kilometres from Stockholm in a speedboat driven by Benny.

There they meet the Swedish pop group and joked with them over lunch of cold meat, cheese and French wine, while making plans for ABBA’s first venture into commercials.

“It was a very relaxed, friendly first meeting, and at no stage during our association did they get serious or uptight.”

Close friends in and out of the public eye, Agnetha (Anna) and Björn (married) and Frida and Benny (engaged) make the most of the short Swedish Summer sailing, water skiing and soaking up the sun on their island paradise.

The five 60-second commercials were shot in the grounds of the king of Sweden’s Summer palace, the ballroom of the Grand Hotel, Stockholm, and in Frida and Benny’s apartment.

Frida and Benny live in “The Old Town”, a quaint 14th century part of Stockholm.

The camera crew arrived to film at 7:30 a.m. and Benny was up (he and Björn are at the recording studio by 9:00 a.m.), but Frida was still asleep.

“Benny offered us coffee, went out especially to buy some, then took a cup in to Frida in bed,” said Alex. “They’re like an 18-year-old couple in love, always holding hands and sharing asides.

“Frida continually pokes fun at Benny and seems very possessive of him. They go everywhere together.”

Their apartment is cluttered with happy snapshots, books, records (Benny enjoys everything from The Beatles to Bach), Picassos, and the many gold records Frida earned as one of Sweden’s top female singers in pre-ABBA days.

It was the first time cameras had been allowed inside the apartment and one of the commercials shows Benny vacuuming the carpet while Frida reclines on the sofa with a magazine.

Björn and Anna have a three-year-old daughter, Linda, whom they carefully shield from publicity.

They loathe the thought of long tours because it would mean leaving her behind. The only domestic help Anna has is a girl to look after Linda,” said Alex 

Just down the road from ABBA’s recording studio is their favourite restaurant, a delightful little eating place where you can buy pots and pans as well as food.

“They go there a lot and also used to frequent a disco called ‘Alexandra’s 

“They don’t go out at night much anymore although on our last night in Sweden we had a great time with them, wining, dining and dancing ‘till 4 a.m.,” Alex said.

“Swedish folk singer Stig Anderson, ABBA’s manager (and no relation of Benny’s), has a powerful influence on ABBA’s movements. They take ideas, and songs to him for approval and he makes all final decisions.

“He guides them completely,” said Alex. “Titles the songs, rewrites them if he doesn’t think they’re commercially viable, scraps others Benny and Björn have spent months putting together, and also has a chalet on the island.”

In his spare time Björn writes Swedish folk songs and Benny plays occasionally in the Swedish Symphony Orchestra.

“You Know ABBA still can’t believe their success or how it happened. They’ve certainly achieved more than they’d ever hoped for. The American market is their next big goal. They’d really like to crack it,” Alex said.

On the eve of his wedding some months ago the Swedish King, Carl Gustav, also paid tribute to ABBA’s talent.

He asked them to perform at a Civic Reception at Stockholm Town Hall, so amid classical singers and musicians the Golden Swedes stood up sang Dancing Queen for the occasion.

Photos: (1) The ABBA group, Frida and Benny (background) and Agnetha and husband Björn relaxing in the beautiful old apartment Frida and Benny share in Stockholm. (2) Benny at home. He doesn’t read or write music but is the genius behind ABBA’s winning sounds. (3) Frida seems to have the “women’s lib” business sewn up as Benny tackles…scene from one of the National commercials made by ABBA in Sweden.  (4) (Above) Alex Hamill took this picture of the Australian film crew getting to know ABBA on their island retreat before filming of the commercials started.

© 1976 Woman's Day. Thanks to Samuel Inglles