English translation of liner notes
Published August 26, 2010
If, by chance, you asked somebody in Sweden what happened on Sunday, September 3, 1967, they might remember that this was the day when Sweden went from driving on the left side of the road to the right. This revolutionary event happened to coincide with the emergence of a then unknown singer, whose career also changed course that same day.
During 1967, EMI in Sweden, together with the children's charity organisation Barnens Dag, staged the talent competition "Nya ansikten" ("New faces"). The national finals were scheduled for the same day as Sweden's major traffic change and would take place at the famous outdoor venue Skansen in Stockholm. Under a veil of secrecy, the arrangers of the competition had come to an agreement with Lennart Hyland so that the winner would get a very special surprise. He or she would debut live on Swedish television the same night on a TV show hosted by Hyland to celebrate Sweden's traffic change. The winner was 21 year old Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who had chosen to perform 'En ledig dag'; a song which earlier that year had been a hit on Swedish Radio's 'Svensktoppen' chart with Swedish singer Östen Warnerbring.
Not only did Anni-Frid win the competition but all of a sudden she stepped into the living-rooms of a million Swedish homes with her TV performance. "It's just like a dream", a dazed Anni-Frid said to Sweden's leading evening paper Expressen.
Anni-Frid had been on stage singing with various dancehall bands since she was 13. However, it was not until this breakthrough that she made her recording debut. "We really liked her as an artist and I thought she had all that it took to go places", EMI producer Olle Bergman later remembered. All the excitement and media attention around Anni-Frid's TV debut stirred up the attention of many record industry people in Sweden, and talent competition organiser EMI almost lost their new discovery. However, the following morning Bergman got in his car and drove to Eskilstuna, where Anni-Frid lived, to make sure that she signed with his company.
Anni-Frid's first professional recording took place at the Europa Film Studio on September 11, 1967, when she recorded a number of songs including the two sides of her debut single - 'En ledig dag'/'Peter, kom tillbaka'. Already professional and self-assured on this first studio day, she recorded the vocals for 'En ledig dag' in a single take.
Neither the debut single or the following singles during the first three years with EMI were commercially successful. A few of them spent a week or two on the radio chart Svensktoppen, at best, but she was nowhere to be seen on the sales chart Kvällstoppen. Perhaps her voice was too sophisticated, or perhaps her image wasn't homespun enough. Maybe the choice of songs was all wrong. But the recording artist Anni-Frid Lyngstad did not exactly become a household name. "I must have some sort of record in failing to get into the charts", Anni-Frid sighed in an interview at the time.
The lack of chart success did not mean that Anni-Frid's early material was substandard. She had a very natural and relaxed quality to her voice as well as a rare and underrated ability to hit every tone just right. At the same time Anni-Frid was able to sound as though she believed in what she was singing.
She turned the banality of 'Din' to sincerity, the lightweight quality of 'Simsalabim' became charming, and the naivety of 'Härlig är vår jord' turned to credibility, just to give a few examples. Härlig är vår jord from the spring of 1969 was also Anni-Frid's first encounter with the Eurovision Song Contest, which five years later would make such an impact on her career. In 1969, she shared the 4th position in the Swedish finals to select that year's Swedish representative.
The record buyers may have failed her but there were others who appreciated Anni-Frid's qualities. The established Swedish singer Lasse Lönndahl wanted her to join him on his 1968 summer tour of the Swedish folkparks. In 1969 and 1970 she worked extensively with Swedish singer/pianist Charlie Norman in cabaret shows and in the folkparks.
It was in the spring of 1969, when she was working with Norman in Malmö in the south of Sweden, that Anni-Frid met Benny Andersson for the first time. They soon became a couple and they also established their part of the musical collaboration that would eventually develop into ABBA. From the recording of her seventh single, 'Peter Pan'/'Du betonar kärlek lite fel' in September 1969, Benny Andersson produced the remainder of her recordings for EMI.
In the story of ABBA's less than direct route to world fame, 'Peter Pan' is particularly interesting since the song was written by Benny together with Björn Ulvaeus. This makes it the first record to bring together the talents of three future ABBA members. Benny also plays the piano on this recording. Another important name in the ABBA story, Stig Anderson, himself one of the most prolific lyric writers in Sweden in the 60's, had of course already entered Anni-Frid's career with his lyrics for 'Mycket kär' and 'Så synd du måste gå'. At the same time as Benny became a natural part of her musical life, Stig's name also turned up more often on Anni-Frid's recordings.
In between cabaret work with Charlie Norman and the recording of her single 'Där du går lämnar kärleken spår'/'Du var främling här igår' in the spring of 1970, Anni-Frid also participated in the Swedish Television series "När stenkakan slog" ("Back In The Days Of The Old 78s"), which was broadcast in the autumn of that year. The idea of the series was to let the popular singers of the day, such as Björn Skifs, Sten Nilsson, Mona Wessman and Svenne & Lotta, sing schlagers from 1915 to 1955.
We are proud to include no less than four of Anni-Frid's contributions to the series, all of which are previously unreleased. The most famous of these is of course 'Min soldat', which has always been associated with Ulla Billquist and is better known to modern audiences as the theme song for the TV series "Någonstans i Sverige" ("Somewhere in Sweden"). 'Ole Lukköje' was popular in the early 50s in a recording by Ingrid Almqvist. 'Vad gör det att vi skiljs för i afton' was a hit for Gustaf Torrestad in 1947, while the beautiful 'Att älska i vårens tid' was written in 1948.
In the autumn of 1970, after three years and eight singles on EMI, the Lyngstad and Andersson team started work on Anni-Frid's debut album, Frida. Perhaps all her cabaret work with Charlie Norman, where some numbers required a certain amount of acting skill, had further developed Anni-Frid's ability to deliver the words of a song in a believable way, for the album Frida is without a doubt the high point of Anni-Frid's years with EMI. Recordings such as 'Tre kvart från nu', 'Jag blir galen när jag tänker på dig', 'Sen dess har jag inte sett'en' and 'Telegram för fullmånen' are all obvious proof that the Swedish speaking part of the music business missed out on a major "chanteuse" when she later got caught up in the whirlwind of international pop. And her version of the Andersson/Ulvaeus composition 'Lycka' (with lyrics by Stig Anderson) left the composers' own recording far behind - raising it from seemingly everyday banality to introspective reflection.
Parallel with the recordings for the album, Björn, Benny, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid were working on their first project together, the cabaret show called Festfolk. The premiere of the show was preceded by their very first performance together on the Swedish Radio show "Våra favoriter" on October 3, 1970. In true democratic fashion, the foursome performed Agnetha's 'Som ett eko', Björn & Benny's 'Hej gamle man!' and Anni-Frid's 'Barnen sover' from her upcoming album. On this compilation, we are pleased to include this historic, previously unreleased live performance of 'Barnen sover' with Björn on guitar and Benny at the piano.
However, the cabaret show Festfolk, which also toured Sweden in early 1971, was not a happy experience for the two couples and almost became the end of the collaboration between the four of them as a group. Most of the material written for the show felt out of place ('Hej gamle man!' and 'Tre kvart från nu' from Anni-Frid's album being two major exceptions) and the long drives on slippery winter roads took their toll. "It was hard work, quite simply - the hardships outweighed the fun", Anni-Frid recalled.
The plans for a permanent group were shelved and while Agnetha, Björn and Benny toured the folkparks together in the summer of 1971, Anni-Frid went on the road with Swedish singer/songwriter Lasse Berghagen. The up-and-coming Berghagen had become so popular in Sweden that he wanted to offer a bit more than just himself and a guitarist, which had been his show up until then. He brought in more musicians, and Anni-Frid was also a welcome addition to his show. Before the tour, Lasse and Anni-Frid also recorded a duet single, 'En kväll om sommarn'/'Vi vet allt', men nästan inget. When 'En kväll om sommarn' entered the Svensktoppen chart, they celebrated with ice cream in the town of Kramfors! This single has become quite a rarity over the years and the two tracks make their CD debut on this compilation.
The two couples may have temporarily abandoned their plans to continue as a permanent foursome but they still appeared on each other's records. The first time that all four were heard together on a recording was in 1970 when Agnetha and Anni-Frid supplied backing vocals for Björn & Benny's 'Hej gamle man!'. It was through these types of favours that the collaborations were kept alive over the next year. Perhaps some of the future ABBA magic rubbed off when 'Min egen stad' became Anni-Frid's first chart topper on Svensktoppen in the autumn of 1971: Björn, Benny and Agnetha provided backing vocals and Benny played the keyboards. 'Min egen stad' was a Swedish language version of Benny Andersson's Hep Stars song 'It's Nice To Be Back', with Swedish lyrics by Peter Himmelstrand. Encouraged by the success of the song, EMI included 'Min egen stad' as a bonus track on subsequent copies of the Frida album.
In the autumn of 1971 and the spring of 1972, Anni-Frid continued her collaboration with Lasse Berghagen when they both appeared in the revue "Mina favoriter" at the Folkan theatre in Stockholm. During this period, the collaboration between Björn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid became more active. In January of 1972, Anni-Frid recorded her last single for EMI, 'Vi är alla bara barn i början'/'Kom och sjung en sång'. In many ways it was a symbolic closure for this part of her career; the A-side was written by Björn and Benny, the lyrics to the B-side were written by Stig Anderson, Benny produced and provided backing vocals together with Björn and Agnetha. Before long, Anni-Frid would be known as Frida as a recording artist, and under the guidance of her "lyricist", she and her "back-up vocalists" would become the first team to spread Swedish pop music all over the world. But that's another story.
Translated by Sven Åke Peterson & Grant Whittingham