Rock ‘n’ roll may not be the term most commonly associated with ABBA’s music, but the group’s Benny Andersson thinks it’s appropriate for the Swedish group, which broke up in 1983, to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next week.
“I take it as a true honor,” Andersson tells Billboard.com. “We are and were sort of a solid pop band, and there is a difference between pop music and rock ‘n’ roll music. Being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wasn’t on the map, really, for us. On the other hand, there are a lot of pop acts already inducted, so I don’t mind. I’m not the one who inducted myself, you know?”
Andersson will be attending the March 15 induction ceremony at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel with Frida (Anni-Frid Lyngstad), while ex-wife Agnetha Faltskog, who doesn’t fly, and songwriting partner Bjorn Ulvaeus will skip the event. Faith Hill is slated to sing ABBA songs in tribute to the group, but Andersson says he’d be up to perform at the ceremony as well. “If someone asks me to, yeah, I will,” he notes. “I’ll see if I can play something from the old catalog.”
Andersson is also spreading some new catalog these days. “Story of a Heart,” which he released earlier this month, is the first U.S. release from the Benny Andersson Band, a 16-piece group that’s been active in Sweden — where it’s known as Benny Anderssons Orkester — for the past 20 years. “Story of the Heart” compiles songs from the troupe’s previous releases, though the title track is a fresh composition by Andersson and Ulvaeus that’s very much in the ABBA mode.
“In the old days with ABBA we were sitting together, banging along on guitar and piano, but it hasn’t been like that since (the 1984 musical) ‘Chess,’ ” says Andersson, who remains in Sweden while Ulvaeus has lived in England since the early ’80s. “I write the music nowadays and send it to him, and if he feel’s there’s a lyric to it, he’ll write that. He’s done all those lyrics on (‘Story of a Heart’); he did it in Swedish in the original versions, then he translated the songs into English.”
Andersson plans on recording a new group album later this year. Meanwhile he and Ulvaeus are bringing out the first English language recording of “Kristina,” a musical based on “The Emigrants” novels by Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg. After a successful run in Sweden between 1995-99, the duo translated it into English for a performance last September at Carnegie Hall in New York, which was recorded for an album that’s being released on April 12 in Europe — just before it’s performed again on April 14 at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The album will also come out in the U.S., though no release date has been set, but Andersson is not sure if the English version of “Kristina” will go into full stage production.
“I have no idea of the sort of commercial value of it,” Andersson acknowledges. “It’s a serious piece; it’s very far away from ‘Mamma Mia,’ for example. It just felt good to present this to an American audience and now to an English audience, and then we’ll see. It might end up in a theater, the full production, but it’s a bit premature to say anything about that.”