Part 7 (of 12): Interviewing Björn and Benny

Published March 30, 2010

Just a few days after my breakthrough interviews with Michael B. Tretow, I phoned Björn, Benny and Frida's representative, Görel Hanser, to ask if there was any possibility that Björn and Benny might grant me an interview. I reminded her of my letter to Benny from a year earlier, which she remembered. She asked me if I had talked to Michael Tretow, and told me to put together a fax wherein I was to explain a bit more about my project. Then, she said, she would talk it over with Björn and Benny.

Eventually, Görel phoned me back and said that they would be happy to talk to me. As I suspected at the time, and got confirmed later, they had talked to Michael Tretow to find out whether I was really genuine. In their foreword to the book, Benny and Björn recalled Michael's verdict: "'This is a serious guy', he assured us and we took his word for it and agreed to a meeting."

Benny and Björn at work in ABBA's Polar Music Studios, September 1978.I had expected perhaps one longer interview with Björn and Benny together, but Görel told me that I would have to meet them separately, since Benny was busy on the day of the interview. Fine with me, as this would probably mean more time to ask questions! On May 18, 1993, I went to the Mono Music offices in Stockholm to meet Björn for the first time. As I recall, I wasn't especially nervous or anything; the only thing that worried me was that I wouldn't have enough time to ask all my questions.

However, it turned out to be a quite casual, informal talk, and a very successful interview. I think Björn found it interesting to talk to someone who was really knowledgeable about the ABBA recordings. On my way out, I ran into Benny who was in a meeting with the Ainbusk Singers. He asked me if I had got what I wanted and I said "Yes". Then he smiled and said, "Oh, so now you won't need to talk to me, right?" My jaw dropped for half a second, but then he laughed and said that he was just kidding.

Just over a week later I had my first interview with Benny. That meeting also went very well; again, I was rewarded for all the reading-up I had done when Benny said, "It's really fun to talk to someone who knows this much!" I had thought that this would be all, and that I would only be allowed one meeting each with Björn and Benny. But they somehow felt that this was an important project and therefore it was vital that they granted me access to them so that I could really make sure that I got to ask them everything I wanted to know. So I was invited to come back as many times as I liked, and ended up meeting them alternately off and on until September. Needless to say, it was very exciting for me to be able to sit down and discuss, at length, anything and everything about ABBA's recorded work with the very people who were responsible for creating it.

Although initially they had thought they wouldn't remember very much, it quickly transpired that with a little prompting from me they would in fact remember quite a lot. I naturally went into the interviews with the attitude that they would remember whatever they remembered. I was already aware that most artists just do their thing, so to speak, and then go on to the next project; they usually don't stop to dwell on their past work, or spend time on documenting exactly who did what and when. This said, however, even I was startled at some of the things Björn and Benny would not remember, such as which song was on which album - and there were even one or two quite well-known album tracks they thought (hoped?) had just been single B-sides.