Part 2 (of 6): The vision

Published December 30, 2012

 

PRIME-TIME ENTERTAINMENT WITH AN IN-DEPTH TWIST

The production team envisioned an ABBA special with a difference: a programme that was a little more in-depth, portraying the group and its individual members, and which, given the times, reflected some of the controversy surrounding them. Since the programme was produced in tandem with the recording of the Arrival album, there was also the added attraction of being able to expose a number of brand new songs to the television viewers.

LE: We wanted to show the best Sweden had to offer in popular music as a prime-time Friday night entertainment, but we also wanted to show that the members were in fact ordinary people; "they have no ulterior motives, but are hard-working professionals". We wanted to give a broadened picture of the human beings behind the fame and "the stardom".


CREDIBILITY PROBLEMS

PF: We had seen some of the international pop stars, who actually weren't anywhere near ABBA on neither a human nor an artistic level, how they would trash hotel rooms and demand this and that to their dressing rooms, silly stuff that was absolutely ridiculous. And there was none of that rididculous stuff within these people [the ABBA members]. It was almost hard to show it, because it presented a credibility problem.

Per Falkman remembers when the team were filming on Viggsö, just prior to the traditional Swedish Midsummer holiday. They were invited to a party arranged on the island by Stig Anderson, attended by the ABBA members, their friends and families. The day after, Falkman visited Frida and Benny’s house.

PF: Frida was standing with flushed cheeks in front of a smoking stove, frying herring, and I immediately ran to Leonard, shouting: "You’ve got to come here! The world famous star frying herring for all her friends in a smoking kitchen in the Stockholm archipelago – what a great picture! Get the cameraman!" But Leonard said, "There is no way we can film that, because people won’t believe in it. They will think it’s been staged; that we’ve filled the kitchen with smoke and that she’s turning plastic fish around in the frying pan. It’s too good to be true." And yet that’s really how it was.


REALLY EXCELLENT PEOPLE

LE: Since the common picture of ABBA in the Swedish media was that it was "easy money and they're lining their pockets" and so on, we wanted to show that "this is ordinary, nice people - really excellent people - who have been gifted with an artistry, which we will be given a look at. But we will see them when they're artists, at the top of their game, but also what they have to do to reach that level." It was some kind of Swedish approach: "This is really great, but they are ordinary people." And I think that's what we slowly worked ourselves towards.

PF: If you work for many years in a mine, you may get silicosis, and the corresponding "disease" for incredibly famous people is that they lose touch with reality - that's their "silicosis". And the extraordinary thing about ABBA was that they hadn't lost touch with reality. They hadn't become conceited maniacs, they were really nice, decent, scrupulous people, considerate professionals.

LE: I never felt there were any obstructions, nothing we weren't allowed to ask them, nowhere we weren't allowed to film, no idea that we were forbidden to try out. It was all about professionalism: we were all working towards the same goal and wanted it to be as good as possible. Everybody supported each other.

 

The group with Per Falkman on Viggsö.
Per Falkman interviewing ABBA at the Polar Music Offices.