The never-before-told sadness of ABBA

After Benny and Frida had announced their divorce in February 1981, the tabloids had plenty to speculate about, and that’s what they did. If I’m not mistaken, this story appeared first in English newspaper The Daily Mirror and then it was copied in lots of magazines all over the world.
What went wrong with ABBA, the most successful pop group in the world? While the group achieved everything there is to achieve in pop music, the private lives of Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn and Agnetha have turned into a disaster. Instead of two loving couples, they are now two divorced couples. They all go their separate ways and they talk about the day that the group will fall apart... forever. For the first time, the Swedish stars talk openly about their heartaches and their prospects, now that they have completely grown apart.

Agnetha: “When Björn remarried, I cried.”

She is a quiet, lonely, blue-eyed angel. The divorce has clearly been the hardest on Björn’s ex-wife Agnetha Fältskog. Not too long ago, the media proclaimed her as the woman with the sexiest bottom in Europe. But this could cause a distorted view of her image. The vulnerable side of her personality is clearly revealed when she talks about the emotional turmoil that her divorce has caused.

Agnetha tells: “You remember all the pain and the struggles and you ask yourself: do I really want to go through all this again? It’s frightening. If I would find the perfect man, then I would get married again. But it’s difficult. It’s very, very difficult.”

While talking, she smokes one cigarette after the other and drinks litres of coffee in a living room, situated above the recording studio of the group.

Agnetha has pearl-white teeth and her hair is a crisscross of blonde curls.

In a girly whisper, she says: “I am someone who is afraid of a lot of things. I have phobias, sickening anxieties. I’m afraid to mingle with people. I can’t go shopping. I can’t go out and go to restaurants or bars. If I do go out, people stare at me and I can’t cope with that. That fear to go out the door is my biggest phobia. I’m a very anxious kind of person. I am able to handle some fears that I have, like my fear of flying. Before my plane takes off, I have a drink. When we are up in the air, I have another one and just before we land another one. That way,” the attractive, 31-year-old singer says, “I’m half-drunk when I reach my destination. Then I don’t worry about flying anymore.”

Since her divorce from Björn, she is even less able to control her fear of going out. A good friend of hers said: “Agnetha has devoted herself completely to her two children, since she got divorced. It’s like she is punishing herself for something wrong that’s in her imagination. She never goes out. Her whole life revolves around working and her children.”

Agnetha: “Swedish newspapers always write untruths about me, so I know that no one is going to believe me, but I really don’t have a steady boyfriend. I mostly spend my time at home, with my children. I read a lot and I compose songs that I would like to sing myself at some point. Of course, I meet men,” she says, “and when a man tells me that I’m beautiful or sexy, because he really thinks so, I don’t mind at all that he tells me that; I just don’t agree with him at all. I don’t think I’m beautiful or sexy. I don’t have any confidence in that. But I do have confidence in what’s inside my head. I do think that I’m intelligent. Men really seem to be impressed by me and by the fact that I’m rather smart. They also seem to be scared off by the knowledge that I have built a big career. I don’t know why, they should be proud of my career, but they are not.”

Agnetha is clearly still saddened by her divorce. “I’ve gone through an extremely painful depression. The thought that I had to continue on my own, drove me crazy. Björn always took care of everything because we were very young when we got together and all of a sudden I had to stand on my own two feet. And it did affect me, when he met Lena. But when he remarried, I cried. It hurt. It hurt a lot and it was so weird that he had found someone else so soon.”

Just like the other ABBA-members, Agnetha thinks the day that ABBA will stop existing is drawing near. She has thought a lot about how her life will continue after that. “I want to be a movie star,” she confesses. “I hope that a producer will be interested in me.” The other important part of Agnetha’s life is being a mother to her two children, Christian (3) and Linda (8). “To be a good mother, a woman needs to have confidence. And to feel confident, I need a career. We have stopped travelling with the group. We’ve done that for so many years. Look at all the damage it has done: we were two couples when we started out, now we are four individuals.”

Björn: “I was single for only one week.”

Lyric writer, singer and guitarist Björn Ulvaeus is usually very reluctant when it comes to talking about intimate details about his private life. But this time, he agreed to tell everything to Privé. “To clear things up, once and for all.” Sitting relaxed in ABBA’s recording studio in Stockholm, he talks about the end of his marriage to Agnetha: “When you talk to someone, like I talked to Agnetha, and you honestly try to discuss things, solve your problems and you don’t succeed, then you know it’s time to call it a day. So that’s what we did. But we didn’t give up on our marriage easily or quickly. It took two years before we eventually agreed to get a divorce. First, we went to a psychiatrist and he helped us to discuss our problems in an honest way. At the end of those two years of continuous talks, we were completely sure that we were making the right decision, believe me. There was no tension, but of course there were tears. What do you expect, we had been together for thirteen years!”
A good friend of the couple claims: “Björn was truly impossible. He found mistakes in everything that Agnetha did or didn’t do. And he was getting ever more jealous, without any reason.” When the divorce became final, two years ago, the children were still too young to realise what was going on. They are now living with Agnetha, but their father can see them as often as he wants. And that’s almost every day. Two years ago, Björn left the house, after having discussed the divorce with Agnetha, and moved to a nearby apartment. He was single for a short period of time, something that’s now a source of amusement to Björn.

He says: “I was single for one week and then I met Lena.” Lena is Björn’s new wife and he proudly announces: “My wife is pregnant. I don’t care whether it’s a boy or a girl, as long as she and the baby are healthy. After all, I already have a son and a daughter. But there’s no jealousy between Lena and Agnetha. They have met each other and all three of us are good friends.”
It was a dazzling romance. He met Lena (32), who is a television personality from Stockholm, at a party that was, ironically, organised by Benny and Frida. Within five months, they were living together. Björn and his Agnetha are divorced but the group remains intact, at least for the time being. However, for the first time Björn reveals that he is thinking about the definitive end of ABBA. “We no longer have any financial reason to stay together,” he says. “Each one of us has more than enough money.”

Björn (36) says that he wouldn’t change much if he could go through the past ten years again. Still, there have been problems. Like last year, when the ABBA-concert for German television had to be cancelled, due to a kidnap threat of Björn’s children. “It was awful,” Björn says. “John Lennon had just been shot which made us even more aware about the danger that was threatening us; we try to protect ourselves while we are living our lives. John Lennon’s death has affected me deeply. Although we never met him, he inspired Benny and me to start composing songs. That’s why it seemed as if we had lost a close friend.” Björn still loves to compose songs and he says that he really likes his job. But with the end of ABBA in sight, for the first time Björn had to think about what he wants to do in the future. “I have a crazy idea,” he says with joy in his eyes. “I would like to be a writer for the stage. I would love to write a play and listen to actors and actresses making my words come to life.”

Benny: “Mona is my new life partner.”

The other composer of the supergroup ABBA, Benny Andersson, is a bundle of nerves. His hands are shaking when he talks about his failed marriage and he is nervously busy with his cigarettes without interruption. He says: “I don’t know how other people deal with things like this. Frida and I are still partners in ABBA. We are still friends. We are just not partners in marriage any longer.” His marriage to Anni-Frid Lyngstad ended in a dramatic way, according to friends. “Benny came home one day and said that he had found another woman. Frida was devastated,” someone said who knows the group up close. The new woman in Benny’s life is Mona Nörklit, a 37-year-old Swedish television personality. Benny confirms: “Mona is my new life partner. You can call her that. Frida and I are still friends. I respect her and she respects me for what we both can do on a musical level.”

But that’s not completely true. There’s a clear tension between the two. There’s nothing left of the fun and joyous atmosphere of the old days. Benny is very nervous. It’s clear that he has suffered the most. “We have discussed whether the group would be able to stay together after our divorce,” he says. “But we thought that ABBA had already survived Björn and Agnetha’s divorce. Therefore, the group would be able to survive ours as well.” During the conversation with Benny, one gets the impression that it’s getting ever more difficult for him to find the motivation that’s needed to continue with the group.
He says: “Financially speaking, we no longer have any worries. And our dreams of becoming superstars have exceeded our wildest imagination. We love our musical creations and as long as we do that, we will keep on going. We will quit when we think it isn’t fun anymore. What we are doing now, is not a skilful job. I know that we sell a lot of records, and that we make an enormous amount of money, but in fact it doesn’t mean anything. I like to create music, create a melody from nothing. We never thought that we would get as big as we are now. After all, we are just ordinary people, leading a normal life. In the morning, we go to our job, we go to restaurants a couple of times a week, and at the weekend we go out boating. I think all of this has happened without us having any influence on the matter.”
Just like the other members of the group, Benny sees the end of ABBA drawing near as well. He thinks the group will last for two more years, or two more albums.

“The ABBA-sound is created by the girls. Björn and I may compose the songs, but the girls are the ones who create the sound. There’s no ABBA without them.”
Regarding ABBA’s most recent album ‘Super Trouper’, of which millions of copies were sold all over the world, it’s interesting to know that Benny thinks that the biggest change in their music has been the technical development. After the two-hour conversation, during which Benny drank three cups of coffee and smoked half a pack of cigarettes, he sums up his feelings about ABBA. “I don’t think we have any power as individual artists,” he says. “I don’t even know if we have any power as a group. No one would buy a Volvo just because ABBA says so. We are mainly family people with a strong family background. Ten years ago, we got together to perform and we’ve lasted for a decade. We are not the angels that some people think we are. We are normal people with all the problems that normal people experience as well. But apart from that, we happen to be a group that’s called ABBA.”

Frida: “A divorce was the only solution.”

There’s a new man in ABBA’s Anni-Frid’s life. But the dark-haired singer, that got divorced not too long ago, carefully hides him away from publicity. But she did introduce him to her ex-husband Benny, and all three of them are good friends, according to Frida.
The beauty with the flame red hair denies that her lover is her chauffeur Lars Blomberg, like many newspapers reported. He is a rich Swedish businessman. “I’ve learned from my mistakes from the past,” she says. “I don’t want to expose my boyfriend to all the publicity and all the questions and that’s why his name remains a secret. But you can tell everybody that I’m in love and that Frida has a new boyfriend. He is not in the music business and I think that’s great. He is a part of my life, but I’ve come to realise how important it is to develop interests outside the show business as well.”
She has two children from her first failed marriage, Hans (18) and Lise-Lotte (14). Her second marriage, to ABBA’s Benny Andersson, ended as well. Now she says: “Marriage isn’t important to me any longer. But love is. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.” Does she want any more children? “Hans and Lise-Lotte are already grown,” she says. “I’m not sure if I would want to start all over again.” Last February, Benny and Frida announced their divorce and within six weeks, her new man came into Frida’s life. “Benny and I are better able to work together, now that we’ve separated,” she says. “Our personal relationship is more relaxed now. Benny and I are good friends and we like each other a lot. Actually, what has happened isn’t sad at all. We just grew apart due to different interests in life. We’ve always been honest to each other. We talked and talked and talked and eventually we both came to the conclusion that a divorce was the only way out.”

However, the direct cause for the divorce was the fact that Benny, after having lived together with Frida for nine years and four years of marriage, had found another love. When he had told Frida, they started talking about a divorce. A good friend says: “It was like a bolt from the blue to her and she was devastated. There was a lot of crying and talking, but once he had told her, there was no turning back and a divorce was inevitable.”
Out of all the ABBA-members, Frida is the most publicity-shy. More than the others, she feels like a victim of inaccurate, twisted and made-up stories. “The way that people look at us has a lot to do with their imagination and very little with us as human beings,” she says. “They only see the surface, they don’t have a deeper view of us as people. They only see the fun side, our costumes, the things we do, the things that all those made-up stories are saying. When I started out, I wanted to have an audience that would know me as a human being. The perception that they were having of me was completely wrong. But I don’t care about that very much anymore. I feel safe and secure about the way that I am. I don’t have to explain that to everybody anymore. I would have reached this stage either way, but being in love has definitely helped me.”
As a thirteen-year-old girl, Frida dreamt of being a big star. She got her first spark of hope that this would come true one day, when ABBA recorded their first album. Now, she is a superstar and a fashion icon that inspires girls all over Sweden to go to the hairdresser and ask for a wild, flame red hairdo like Frida’s. She started dying her hair years ago and it became ever more red. But at the start of ABBA’s career, not everything was looking rosy.

“The first time that the group performed, was in 1971 at a local restaurant,” Frida says. “We were horrible. The audience hated us and we thought that we might be out of our minds.” Obviously, ABBA is now world famous and during the past six years the group has sold records at the amount of nearly one and a half billion Dutch guilders, which turned all four members into multi-millionaires.
Ironically, Frida is still worried about money. “Once every month, we have a meeting to discuss our investments,” she says. “All our decisions have to be unanimous. And I really worry whether I’ve made the right decisions.”
Years ago, when Frida was still married to Ragnar Fredriksson – the marriage from which both her children were born – she seemed to be predestined for a traditional life as a wife and a mother. In the evenings, she sang with local cabaret groups, but her life mainly revolved around her family. Now she says: “I couldn’t have coped with that.”
For two days, she talked openly to Privé. “I’m taking the chance,” she says. “But maybe people will really get to know me this time.” It seems that Frida wants to share even more of her soul with her audience. The truth about her as a human being. The true, deep story.