Björn Ulvaeus' new book - a review

Published October 13, 2018

ABBA and autobiographies are a strange, or at least a bit unusual, story. Agnetha's 1996 book As I Am seems to have come about at the suggestion of co-writer, Brita Åhman, rather than a pressing need on Agnetha's part to share her story. Frida is currently working on a sort of fairy-tale version of her life, where she, and presumably everybody else, will be depicted as animals. And if I recall correctly, Benny said not too long ago that he's never going to write his memoirs.

Which leaves us with Björn, who has said that he has tried writing his autobiography, but found the excercise too lonely, plus he feels he has a hard time remembering things. But rather than ditch the idea completely, he has now published something of a memoir. In collaboration with London based artist Patrick Vale, who has provided illustrations, Björn has published the book You Are Who You Meet. It takes the form of chronologically presented meetings with people throughout his life: family, love interests, professional collaborators, etc.

I think this approach works really well. Instead of forcing himself to go through every itty bitty detail of his 70+ years on the planet, he provides the reader with glimpses of events that have been important to him. Björn is a good writer and he conveys these memories in a way that engages the reader. Those of us who are into those itty bitty details will notice that he's got several of the dates wrong, but I guess that's neither here nor there when the stories themselves are so interesting. There are a number of anecdotes in the book that I certainly can't recall having read anywhere before. In other words, You Are Who You Meet, modest though it may be in its scope, is essential reading for the dedicated ABBA fan.

Now, this being an ABBA member book project, there is, of course, a catch: you can't buy it in regular book shops. It is only sold at Björn's Slottsholmen complex in his hometown of Västervik on Sweden's east coast.

Fear not, though, for the ABBA Fan Club Shop has reached an agreement to sell the book, making it available to those who aren't able to travel to Västervik to buy a copy. Helga van de Kar, who runs the shop, tells me that the first copies she ordered were sold in a flash, but she's expecting more books soon, so click here to pre-order and she will help you.

 

Dine (While The Music Still Goes On)

Published October 02, 2018

In 1993, when I interviewed ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus for the original edition of my book ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions (abbathecompleterecordingsessions.com), he told me the story of writing the lyrics for the Waterloo album's Dance (While The Music Still Goes On).

"I wrote the lyrics in a small Stockholm flat that Polar or someone working at Polar owned," he told me. "Agnetha and I had [our daughter] Linda by then, so I probably needed somewhere to be where I could concentrate properly. I remember that I had some canned food with me, called Mat för en (“Food For One”): there were two cans and then you were supposed to just heat the contents." I was eight years old in 1973, when those lyrics were written, and I had no memory of Mat för en, but ever since Björn told me the story I've tried to picture it.

A while ago I found this ad, and according to the copy there weren't two cans but just one glass jar, the contents of which you heated up by putting it in boiling water. At least this was how it worked back in 1969, when this ad was published: the Dance (While The Music Still Goes On) lyrics were written four years later. A typical product for its times: home cooking was out, time-saving ready-made dishes were in.

Such delicacies were Björn's fuel when he wrote the words for one of the best songs on the Waterloo album.