New Benny Andersson Billboard interview

Benny Andersson on stage
Benny Andersson on stage

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.”

ABBA’s Andersson ready for Hall of Fame

13 Replies to “New Benny Andersson Billboard interview”

  1. So disappointed that NEITHER Agnetha or Bjorn will be attending the RNR Hall of Fame. It’s kind of a slap in the face to U.S. fans and the RNR Hall of Fame. There are a lot of loyal, dedicated American ABBA fans who were still keeping a glimmer of hope that all 4 would step foot on our soil for this momentus occassion. I wonder why Bjorn won’t come? He’s goes everywhere all over the world. Anyway, how cool will it be to see Benny and Frida! I hope they do a song or 2….I have a good feeling about that. I can’t wait to see them LIVE!!!

  2. I would think Bjorn isn’t attending because it would look bad on Agnetha if she is the only one missing. Apart from the MM 5th anniversary in London there are usually 2 Abba members that appear together. Its obvious that Agnethas fear of flying really does prevent her from attending events other than those in Sweden. Such a shame really,to see all 4 on stage together would be the most amazing thing.

  3. According to a post on the abba4ever forum, Gorel Hanser (ABBA’s manager) has said that ABBA won’t appear with three members any more as the expectation is then always for a full reunion. I also agree that it places less pressure on Agnetha if she is always the member that doesn’t attend the event in question.

    Benny also states in the interview below from USA Today that Bjorn cannot attend due to a "big family thing".

    http://bit.ly/cgzYxY

    Unfortunately, Benny also states in the interview that while he might play a song on the piano with someone else singing, that someone else will not be Frida. In the words of Benny: "I don’t think she wants to. It’s been so long."

  4. But, RNR Hall of Fame is far more than MM 5th!, I think. Anyway, I can imagine that they all avoid appearing together in public, and, we just have to accept this quirk. Also, I think that Benny and Frida don’t even share the idea of singing one song in simple arrangement, just Frida’s voice and Benny’s fingers on the piano. But why? This wouldn’t be ABBA either, but just a message for the waiting fans to listen to some bits of the old days… Will this ever happen???

  5. @bluewillow: That’s what I mean: "It’s been so long", according to Benny. We all know that there’s no reunion, but Benny knows all the tunes by heart – he constantly plays them somehow somwewhere – and Frida knows at least some of them, however, it’s just a matter of two professionals practising for a few minutes and then going out to the fans. Just a little tune, and the crowd, and we all, would be so grateful. I still can’t see the point here…

  6. According to Billboards website/article the ABBA songs at the awards ceremony will be sung by Faith Hill.

  7. New BAO album later in the year! Great 🙂

    I hope they do one or two more pop-oriented tracks like "Story of a Heart" as it really suited them.

  8. Agnetha’s has issues with flying and traveling for upwards of 30 years…I really don’t understand why anyone would expect her to come.

    I’m actually going to be in NYC Monday night, but across town at a staged reading of "Valley of the Dolls" that benefits the Actors Fund. Despite the prescence of Benny, who I saw last year at "Kristina" and met briefly at the stage door 22 years ago of "Chess," and Frida, I have the feeling that "Valley" is going to be a hell of a lot more fun.

    I just have to remember to DVR the Hall of Fame show on Fuse.

  9. To those who think it’s an offence that only two ABBA members will attend the induction: when The Beatles were inducted in 1986 only two surviving members were there, Paul chose not to due to onging legal actions between the band members. And George and Ringo didn’t perform that night, others performed Beatles songs. So if it’s good enough for The Beatles…

  10. @Alexander: But while Benny has been regularly performing and making music since ABBA ended, Frida has performed live for an audience on only a handful of occasions since those days. Realistically, she has retired from music at this point in her life. So it’s not just a matter of a little rehearsal and Benny and Frida can perform something together.

    Had Frida still been active in music over these past years it might have been different, but Benny was probably correct in that it has been "too long" for her to just quickly put together a performance with him. They would also be in front of an audience of their current and former peers which may add some extra pressure.

  11. Well, although this is upsetting, I am so happy to be able to see Frida and Benny Monday night. Maybe Frida will surprise us with a little number – you never know what will happen at these live events.

  12. People seem to forget that Abba split up nearly 30 years ago, why should they appear together? It’s great that individually they continue to be involved in Abba but we shouldn’t expect it.

    I remember Bjorn saying in an interview, something along the lines of ‘I can think of nothing worse than being Abba’s Bjorn when I am 50’.

    Have fun at the RNR Hall of Fame with Benny and Frida.

    Jason

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