When ABBA sang for Gudrun

Published January 12, 2017

One reason it's taken such a long time to piece together the revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions, is that the facts are often more than elusive. Take, for instance, the birthday greeting ABBA recorded for Gudrun Anderson, the wife of manager Stig Anderson.

As is rather well-known, ABBA recorded birthday greetings for Polar Music Vice President Görel Hanser and for their manager Stig Anderson. These were pressed on limited edition 12-inch records. Gudrun Anderson celebrated her 50th birthday in England on 2 April 1981, and in conjunction with this, ABBA recorded a message for her as well, although it seems this was not pressed on record.

The message began with the four members introducing themselves, after which Björn said, “As much as we love your show, we have to interrupt it now as we have a very important message for our manager’s wife, Gudrun Anderson, who is visiting England today”. This was followed by a fanfare played by Benny on the GX-1 synthesizer, and then the four members sang ‘Ja må hon leva’ (“Yes, May She Live”), a traditional Swedish birthday song. This segued into ‘Happy Birthday To You’, followed by Agnetha leading the ABBA members into four cheers for Gudrun. Björn then finished the greeting by saying, “That’s all, folks. Thank you very much for letting us in”. The entire recording, including the spoken bits, runs to 01:21.

Now, judging by what is said in the message, this was actually broadcast on UK radio - or was it? Did the BBC, or a commercial station such as Capital Radio, really interrupt their regular programming for something like this? One is tempted to think that yes, they could very well have done that, since ABBA was a big deal at the time, and DJs and radio producers enjoyed fun stunts along these lines. On the other hand, wouldn't listeners be confused by it all? Perhaps a fake radio broadcast had been edited together beforehand and Stig simply played a cassette tape for Gudrun, pretending that it was a live broadcast, playing a joke on her?

To confuse matters more, there is a poor quality copy of the birthday greeting out there, starting off with someone saying "Gudrun Anderson" in what sounds like a Dutch accent. Where does this come from? Listen here: bit.ly/2igaL3l

I've asked several people close to the action whether the greeting really was broadcast in the UK, but so far no-one can remember much about it. Maybe there is someone out there who remembers this from when it happened, or who has some information? If so I'd love to hear from you. Please note: I'm not looking for theories, I'm looking for facts or leads.

The revised and expanded edition of ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions will be published at the end of March 2017. Pre-order your personally signed copy at abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com