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To the delight of millions of fans across the globe, ABBA have recorded new music together for the first time in 35 years.
The band has described the shock move as an “unexpected” but “extremely joyful experience”.
The former couples say it seems like “time had stood still” and their last studio sessions feels like it happened just “a short holiday” ago.
The Swedish pop superstars, who split in 1983, will debut new single I Still Have Faith In You in a two-hour BBC TV special in December.
But before die-hard fans unearth the sequins and spandex, note that the notoriously brittle quartet has ruled out any reunion gigs.
However, holograms of the band, dubbed “ABBA-tars”, will go on tour next year. The concept has already proved popular, with a Roy Orbison hologram playing concerts earlier this year.
In a statement yesterday, ABBA confirmed: “The decision to go ahead with the exciting ABBA avatar tour project had an unexpected consequence.
“We all four felt that, after some 35 years, it could be fun to join forces again and go into the recording studio.
“So we did. And it was like time had stood still and that we only had been away on a short holiday. An extremely joyful experience,” the group added.
“We may have come of age, but the song is new. And it feels good.”
In 2000, ABBA reportedly rejected offer of over £725million to tour again.
Instead, the band have now opted to be scanned and photographed from all angles to produce human-like holograms that will perform on their behalf.
ABBA’s spokeswoman Gorel Hanser has described the new music as “familiar but also modern”. She said: “It was like old times. Easy as nothing – it didn’t feel weird that they hadn’t been in the studio together for 35 years.”
ABBA formed in 1971, when songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, began dating singers Anni–Frid [Frida] Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog.
The group’s name is an acronym of the initials of all four members’ first names.
Just three years later, they were two married couples – Benny with Frida, and Bjorn wed to Agnetha – with four children between them.
When they stepped on to the Eurovision Song Contest stage at the Brighton Dome in 1974 – wearing silk shirts and knickerbockers – they were widely dismissed as a one-hit wonder.
Their winning entry, Waterloo, became a No.1 single. And a string of pop smash hits followed, including Mamma Mia, Fernando and Dancing Queen. Nine No.1 singles cemented the group’s place as one of pop’s biggest success stories.
During their nine-year tenure, they sold more than 400 million singles and albums, and still shift millions each year. ABBA Gold is the second-biggest selling album in the UK to date, with 30 million sales – just behind Queen’s Greatest Hits.
Yet Bjorn, now 72, believes the group were “despised” by critics and branded “unfashionable”. However Frida believes their Swedish outlook helped them cope with their lack of credibility.
She said: “We have a very down-to-earth way of looking at ourselves and what we do. We’ve never had any hubris.”
Bjorn and Agnetha’s marriage ended in 1979 but the group continued touring.
And it is that year that the band have selected for their Abbatars to return to in the upcoming tour. Bjorn explains: “We thought we looked good that year.”
Incredibly, Agnetha, 68, insists she had no issue with Bjorn bringing his new girlfriend, Swedish journalist Lena Kallersjo, on their US tour the year they divorced. But Agnetha, who suffered from stage fright and anxiety, was said to have hated being apart from her children, Linda and Christian, and vowed never to tour again after 1980.
Bjorn married Lena in 1981 and the couple are still together today.
Within two years, Benny and Frida had also split. One of the band’s most famous hits, Knowing Me, Knowing You – reportedly known within the group as their “divorce song” – is about the couples’ splits.
And Bjorn has said he found writing another divorce-inspired hit, The Winner Takes It All, as “a kind of therapy”.
Agnetha, who fell in love with Bjorn when she was just 19, reportedly did have therapy following their split.
Saying she felt “mangled” by the experience, she later dated psychiatrist Hakan Lonnback – who reportedly tried to save their marriage – as well as a detective hired after she was subjected to kidnap threats.
In 1990, reclusive Agnetha married surgeon Tomas Sonnenfeld in secrecy.
The marriage ended around the time the singer’s mother died after throwing herself from their sixth-floor flat. Her father died the following year.
Then, in 1997, Agnetha started a relationship with her stalker – Dutch forklift driver Gert van der Graaf.
She had complained to police about him but has admitted: “It was a very intense attention from him and after a while I felt I could not resist any more. I wanted to know him.”
They split in 2000 and she later took out a restraining order against him.
Other ABBA tracks, including When All is Said and Done, reference Frida and Benny’s split. Frida has said: “There was a lot of emotion behind it and it was not always easy to continue recording.”
Benny, 71, remarried and divorced again and has been teetotal since 2011 after years of boozing.
Frida, 72, became a princess after marrying German Prince Heinrich Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen, who died of lymphoma in 1999. She is now dating Henry Smith, the 5th Viscount Hambleden.
The band’s final album was 1981’s The Visitors. A year later, they made their final recordings together, for the compilation album The Singles.
Bjorn said in 2015: “We took a break in ’82. It’s still a break and will remain so. You’ll never see us on stage again.”
Despite all four attending the 2008 Mamma Mia! film premiere, they declined to pose together. Agnetha failed to join her former bandmates for the opening of Stockholm’s ABBA museum in 2013.
In 2016, they appeared on stage together for the first time in 34 years, at a restaurant launch in Sweden.
Last week, Bjorn said: “On the whole, we toured very little. We had, like, 10 years together and maybe we toured, like, seven months. So to go on tour as a geriatric… I don’t know.”
Yesterday’s announcement sparked huge excitement at a possible reunion, but Ms Hanser cautioned: “No, you cannot expect them to join forces on stage again. They will not do that.”
Since disbanding, the group still rakes in a fortune.
The film adaptation of Mamma Mia! has made £476million to date. A sequel – Here We Go Again! – will be released in July. Royalties and rights for the stage show and film net Bjorn and Benny £2million each a year.
Last year, Bjorn reiterated the group’s reluctance to perform, saying they don’t need the money.
“It would be such hassle, it would be enormous,” he explained. “It would be like robbing yourself of perhaps two or three years out of your life, when I could be paddling on my surf ski.”
And, with their “ABBA-tars” alone expected to generate “hundreds of millions of pounds” for the one-time supergroup, it looks like Bjorn won’t be in deep water any time soon.
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