Two ABBA alumni, Benny Andersson and ex-wife Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, are scheduled to attend the 25th annual induction ceremony at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, and just one is likely to perform. “I may play something on the piano, with someone else singing,” Andersson says. He doesn’t disclose the crooner, except to say that it won’t be Lyngstad. “I don’t think she wants to. It’s been so long.”
Andersson’s co-songwriter, Bjorn Ulvaeus, can’t make it because of “a big family thing,” and Agnetha Faltskog, Ulvaeus’ ex-spouse and Lyngstad’s former vocal partner, “doesn’t like to fly.”
The band has turned down numerous offers to reunite through the years, though not because of interpersonal tension. Andersson, 63, and Ulveaus, 64, have continued to work together on several musical theater projects since ABBA dissolved — including, of course, the international smash Mamma Mia! “We were never tempted” to revisit the group, Andersson explains, “because we’ve been so busy doing other things.”
ABBA has been eligible for induction since 1999, 25 years after its first U.S.-released album, Waterloo. The writing team that crafted such hits as Dancing Queen, SOS and The Winner Takes It All isn’t surprised ABBA was overlooked for a decade, even as less commercially successful acts were welcomed. “Critics suspected we weren’t quite as serious as some other bands from the ’70s,” Ulvaeus says.
The band’s recordings, with pristine melodies and ear-candy production, don’t fit everyone’s definition of rock ‘n’ roll. “Their musical vocabulary drew from many types of pop music,” says J.D. Considine, a music contributor to Canada’s The Globe and Mail. “But there weren’t traditional rock mannerisms, like a strong blues base or Chuck Berry guitar.”
As time has passed, though, ABBA’s influence has been cited by many younger rock acts, “so there’s a revisionist appreciation,” Considine says. Hall president Joel Peresman agrees that “the respect ABBA has from rock ‘n’ roll musicians” was a factor, and points to the recent inductions of Madonna and Run-D.M.C. as signs of growing inclusiveness.
Andersson remains a working musician; his Benny Andersson Band just released Story of a Heart in the USA. But neither he nor Ulvaeus, who no longer performs (“He’s a pensioner, a senior citizen,” Andersson quips), longs to revive ABBA.
“Let people remember us as an ambitious, energetic young group,” Ulvaeus says. “A wonderful memory.”
Read Elysa Gardner’s original article in USA Today