The end of ABBA
In December 1978 cracks started to appear in this magic when Björn and Agnetha announced their divorce, only two months after Benny and Frida got married. They stated that this would not influence their professional collaboration. ABBA continued recording and even went on world tour. But then, when Benny and Frida also got divorced after just 2 years of marriage in February 1981, ABBA gradually started to disband. The four of them had always stated that they would continue with ABBA as long as it would give them pleasure. Of course their divorces had made the collaboration less joyful, but also professionally they all wanted to do something different. Björn and Benny, after 10 years of ABBA, were keen on trying something new in the field of theatrical music. During the autumn of 1981 they had a meeting with Tim Rice the lyricist of successful musicals like 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Evita'. On August 20th 1982 the last ever ABBA song 'The day before you came' was recorded.
They never split up officially. Over the ensuing years Björn and Benny would be occupied with their new project, the musical 'Chess'. Frida and Agnetha started working on their solo projects. Just as they had come together they grew apart again, each going their own way.
In the mid eighties the general public lost interest in the music of ABBA. Critics kept on portraying them as only commercial and superficial. But since the late nineties both public and critics have rediscovered ABBA's qualities. A whole new generation is appreciating ABBA's music and lyrics again.
The best proof of the renewed interest in ABBA is the musical 'Mamma Mia!' based on 22 ABBA songs that had its opening night in London on April 6th 1999 and which has drawn full houses since then. The storyline of the musical, written by Cathryn Johnson, is about a mother and her daughter Sophie, on the eve of Sophie's wedding to Guy. Before the big day the daughter wants to discover the identity of her father. The idea for the musical came from Judy Craymer, who also co-produced the Ulvaeus/Andersson stage show 'Chess' in 1986, and asked Björn and Benny for permission. Björn has been involved in the staging. To enable the music to be performed as closely as possible to the original songs, the music and harmonies had to be written out. For this Björn went back into the studio with a Swedish arranger to listen to the actual master tapes of the ABBA songs. The opening night was attended by Björn and Benny and got a standing ovation after the show. At the end of that year an album with the original cast recording was released.
© Marleen Janssens - 2000
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