Benny and Björn on Elaine Paige’s show

Björn, Elaine and Benny at Mono Music studios

Björn, Elaine & Benny

Elaine flew to Stockholm to interview Benny and Björn at Mono Music studios. Want to know, why Mono Music is called Mono Music? Benny reveals to Elaine that it is because when Björn went to live in England in the mid-eighties after working as a duo (stereo, if you like) for so long, it seemed natural to call it Mono now that he was in Stockholm alone.

If you can’t access the broadcast and want to read a song-by-song summary as well as snippets of the main topics of conversation, please see below:

Sorry about any typos and nonsensical sentences – it was tough trying to listen, absorb and type!

Please read from the bottom up for a chronological summary – this is not the interview word for word, but a summary:

EP: A one-off I promise! Benny and I just decided to do that at the end of the interview. Me attempting to sing Thank You For The Music. Oh well it seemed a good way to conclude the interview!!!

Ice: Elaine Paige performs Thank You For The Music – frankly it has sounded better! 😉

EP: It’s been wonderful to join you here at Mono Music and I’d like to leave you with a song…

BA: I don’t watch MM! and think "This is mine" – so many people are involved, that it’s a case of "This is theirs"

Benny and Björn: It’s nice to look ahead and not always back to ABBA. BA: I don’t mind but it’s nice to look forward to new things.

EP: Playing Elaine by ABBA.

BA: Yes, it’s a good recording that one. It was a B-side. BU: We must have known we would meet you one day! EP: It must be about me cos……it has the lyrics "Like a goldfish in a bowl" and I’m a Pisces!

EP: Sorry to return to ABBA but in 1980, I think, you wrote a song called Elaine! (laughs)

BU: Is it? We have not seriously considered a sequel. They are just rumours!

EP: Will there be a sequel to Mamma Mia!? The internet is rife with rumours.

BA: We don’t have a story yet but I love being involved with a huge team, all those people coming together on a single project.

EP: Are you thinking about writing a new musical?

Ice:  The English version of Vår sista dans by Benny Andersson’s Orchestra is blaring out across the BBC! How cool is that?!

Ice:  If This Is Our Last Dance by BAO featuring Helen Sjöholm is now playing. Benny confirms large dance floor and lights for Hamstead Heath on July 4.

Ice:  Benny stresses at the end of the recording that the lyrics (if I’m not mistaken, some are slightly different from Alice Ripley’s version) are not the final ones.

Ice: Benny introduces You Have To Be There (Du måste finnas) – "a kind of prayer" says Benny, by Helen Sjöholm (yes, in English!)

EP: One of my favourite pieces from Kristina is You Have To Be There – can you set this piece up for listeners?

BA: I don’t know. It would just be fun to do. People will know us because of Mamma Mia! now and ABBA and it’ll be great to say "we can also do this!"

EP: Will a concert version of Kristina lead to a full stage show?

EP: You must tell me if Kristina goes ahead at Carnegie Hall. I want to be there!

BA: Kristina is more of an opera than a musical. It’s a serious piece.

BU: Broadway is full of light, short pieces at the moment.

BA: If everything falls into place, we will put up Kristina for two nights in mid-September at Carnegie Hall.

EP: Tim Rice presented a concert version of CHESS last year at the Royal Albert Hall. Any plans to do that with Kristina från Duvemåla?

BU: Someone Else’s Story

EP: Despite a short run, there was still a cast recording. What would you like to hear from that?

BU: Yes, I was badly bruised. One review in the New York Times did it.

EP: Were you bruised by the Broadway CHESS experience because everything you do is usually so well received?

BA: A bad review. I didn’t like the American version. I did like the scenery though. Robin Wagner’s work was good.

EP: Remember the European tour of CHESS? What great fun! Why did CHESS not do well on Broadway?

Ice: Here comes the ending….."have – hap – py – end – iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings"! Woh. Still awesome!

Ice: I haven’t heard Tommy and Elaine’s version of You And I for ages, so it’s great to hear it again. Yes, it’s still playing 😉

Ice: EP playing You And I by Tommy Körberg and Elaine.

EP: Benny, your choice of music from CHESS? BA: How long can this piece be? Beacuse I’d like to hear You And I.

Ice: Benny talks about the complexity of the book being an issue but that the songs are still so popular and how the show hasn’t hindered the music or its popularity. "Everywhere I go in the world people know the songs," he says.

EP: Someone told me that you were never happy with the London stage show. BA: No, that’s not true. But I didn’t know much about theatre.

BA: We’re still working on the book and Tim understands this. Maybe it will get done. Lots of people have had a go at it – USA, Australia, Sweden. The Swedish one tried to explain the characters more but even that good version, is not perfect.

BU: I had great fun going through the CHESS synopsis. BA: Not the script – there still is no script for CHESS! Tim’s knows my thoughts about this, so it’s ok!

Ice: Elaine Paige interviewing Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA continues shortly…

EP: Break now – more from Benny and Björn after the 14.00 news!

EP: Not yet! You’ll have to wait! Here is Pity The Child by Murray Head.

EP: Björn – what song would you like to hear from CHESS? BU: Pity The Child – strong performance by Murray Head. BA: Can I have a choice?…

BA: We made semi-demos and sent them to Tim Rice. I would write the music, Björn the lyrics and then Tim would send back his lyrics. Merano was the first song we wrote.

BU: But it was so intriguing, being in Sweden with the Soviet Union so close.

BA: There were two ideas originally King Saul and CHESS. BU: Cuba? BA: No, King Saul and CHESS and we thought ‘a musical about CHESS – how boring does that sound?’

BA: Word went out that Benny and Björn were looking to write a musical. Someone told Tim Rice.

BA and BU: Recording studio and what we could do there was our area of expertise not theatre.

EP: How important was the studio recording of CHESS?

Ice: On to CHESS

EP: Playing I Wonder (Departure)

EP: I’d like to play I Wonder (Departure). BA: Good song.

BU: …the story of our life! You know what I mean! Cue laughter.

BU: About a girl who wants to be a singer but finds out when she gets there that it’s not all she hoped it would be. You know…

BA: A desire to write longer form piece. An experiment. The best song of which was Thank You For The Music.

EP: Tell me about The Girl With The Golden Hair

EP playing Vart Skall Min Kärlek Föra (I Don’t Know How To Love Him) by Agnetha.

EP: Agnetha was in Swedish Jesus Christ Superstar which Björn produced a single from.

BA: Jesus Christ Superstar – one of the theatrical experiences that made me appreciate stage musicals. I like Sound of Music film too.

BU: I lived in London for 2 months whilst the production was being put together. I was very involved with the music (Benny as well) and script.

BU: Arrival was originally going to be part of the encore . BA: But the encore now – "a mini pop concert" is better.

BU: Yes, the piece started with Summer Night City, also the working title of the show – a big production number. Cut during previews.

EP: Were Summer Night City and Arrival part of the show originally?

BU: Yes! Originally we had a man in mind to direct but he declined. Thank goodness.

EP: Do you think that the women at the heart of the MM! team makes a difference.

EP playing Mamma Mia from the stage show soundtrack.

Ice: Björn talking of Judy and Catherine’s idea for MM! suddenly making sense to him. How it could be an uplifting theatrical experience.

Ice: Björn saw the script where animals ‘sing’ ABBA songs but Benny didn’t.

BA: Judy Craymer’s idea originally. Initially both chaps worried about MM! and affecting the ABBA legacy of which both he and BU proud of.

EP playing overture from MM! stage show.

BU: Absolutely surprised at success of MM!. Thought it would run in a smaller theatre than the Prince Edward originally and maybe for 1 yr.

Ice:  BA talking about recording the MM! movie soundtrack. "Quite wonderful", he says.

Ice:  EP and BA and BU talking about why Mono is called Mono – Benny says it’s because after Björn moved to England, two became one, stereo became mono. Who knew?

Ice: Here comes the Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus interview…

Ice: EP now mentioning the competition to be in London’s Mamma Mia! (The wedding scene).

Ice: Ok – we’re off – Elaine Paige has mentioned the 10 year MM!, 25 years CHESS anniversary and a world exclusive of a Kristina song in English

If you have access to the BBC’s iPlayer, you can hear the full show here

6 Replies to “Benny and Björn on Elaine Paige’s show”

  1. Well, that’s a great summary for non-UK residents, at least until the interview gets carved up into 10 minute segments and posted on YouTube 😉

    Thanks Ice for your great service to ABBA fans.

  2. Great stuff. Thanks Ice!

    Indeed the lyric to You Have To Be There is slightly different to the Alice Ripley version – a few words here and there and much of the second stanza ("you have killed my child…").

    The comment about the lyrics not being final seems to be an excuse and attempt to stop the critics, as happened when the Ripley version was first heard.

  3. Love the song ‘If this is our last dance’ from the Benny Andersson Orchestra but does anyone know what CD it is on please?

  4. Gordon – the English version of Vår sista dans will appear on the new Benny Anderssons Orkester album due out later this year.

    The new album will be a mixture of instrumentals and songs in English.

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