Part 4 (of 6): The interviews

Published December 30, 2012



The interviews with the group and the individual members were an important part of ABBA-dabba-dooo!! One highlight was when Björn and Benny were interviewed in their famous songwriting cottage on the Viggsö island, the only such film in existence. But this interview didn't come off very easily.

PF: We did it twice. The first time something went wrong with the film, so we had to do it all over again. That's a nightmare for any reporter, because you lose the freshness. I do remember from that first interview that I quoted Mozart, who had said about his operas: "The lyrics must be the obedient daughter of the music." Because if you compare Mozart and ABBA, you could say that Mozart was even more "commercial" than ABBA. Mozart had to write a catchy tune to get a sponsor for his next tune. And he also had to write music that people took an immediate liking to and which they didn't get tired of. In that respect, ABBA and Mozart are alike. Quality - it doesn't really matter what the genre is if it's real, coming from inside. And their music came from inside. But it still annoys me that the first interview was lost. I really can't get over that!


At the press conference for the programme, certain ABBA members feared that they had been too openhearted in the interviews. "I hope we don't reveal too many of our innermost secrets," said Benny. "In the course of a five-month production like this everybody has the time to become really good friends, and then perhaps you say more than you'd wanted to." Added Agnetha, "He [Falkman] has an ability to draw more things out of you than you’d want to tell. So we hope that some of it is edited out."

PF: You have to differ between the private and the personal. The private stuff should be left out, but you do want to be personal. It's a difficult balance. As a reporter, I was looking for new stuff, things that no-one else had been able to get from them. And since we were working so closely and really connected, of course I did feel that things became a little like Agnetha said. But I felt like I got some assurance that I hadn't gone too far. None of them said, "Oh, you have to edit that out, it's too personal". We did that ourselves. I remember when Frida said that there was some stuff that she wanted to keep to herself [this comment was included in the programme]. Then I felt that we're using the same moral tools: I have the right to ask her a question and she has the right to say, "No, I don't want to answer that." She handled that very elegantly.

Because of the long production period, an excellent rapport did indeed develop between Per Falkman and the group. This was especially helpful during the individual interviews, video-taped at the Polar Music offices, probably in September.

PF: Because it was on video tape, we could talk for however long we wanted. And I felt our talks were so interesting and they were so generous with themselves, that we could have made a one-hour interview programme without one note of music in it.

Alas, it seems no such programme could ever be put together today. In those days expensive video tape was not spent on archiving unused interviews with what was then considered flash-in-the-pan pop groups, so apparently the footage no longer exists.


Since the programme wanted to reflect the critique aimed at ABBA in Sweden at the time, the members themselves were asked about their feelings towards the negative writings about them. And the production team also interviewed a random selection of people in the street, to get their positive and negative views of the group.

PF: There was that mood at the time, so we had to bring it to the surface and ask people, "What do you think about this?"

LE: The comments from people in the street also made for a good transition to Per's questions to ABBA. But of course, since it was supposed to be an entertainment programme, I may have included more positive than negative appraisals. However, I think what you see is a fairly accurate picture of the balance between positive and negative.

PF: The highbrow critique against ABBA was not supported by the public, not at all. So if you wanted to find someone who was negative towards ABBA, you had to search for a long time. Finding people who thought they were great, that was as easy as anything.


According to the production documentation for the programme, one interview with a music producer at Sveriges Radio was completely left out of the programme. "There are so many other types of music that are much more interesting," the producer opined, according to a transcript. "I feel it's enough to listen to ABBA's songs once, and then you've heard them." Likewise, the discussion with the group about the criticisim levelled against them, filmed on the bridge at Viggsö, originally went on a little longer. In all likelihood, these bits were left out so as not to give the programme a tone that was overly negative, and, lest we forget, also because quite a few of the 57 minutes allotted to the programme were needed for presenting ABBA's music.

Originally, ABBA manager Stig Anderson was also meant to be interviewed for the programme. Apparently, the interview never happened and instead he received a brief presentation, illustrated with footage from the 1975 documentary Mr Trendsetter (which is also the source of the Dancing Queen recording session footage included on the Arrival Deluxe Edition DVD).


Per Falkman interviewing Björn and Benny in their song writing cottage - for the second time.
Benny and Björn listening to a question.
Openhearted Agnetha.
Benny - saying more than he wanted?
Björn considers a question.
Frida sharing her thoughts on her life and career.
Stig Anderson - flown in from the Mr Trendsetter documentary.