There’s no questioning ABBA’s success — not with tens of millions of record sales worldwide and 14 Top 40 hits in the U.S., including “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me” and “Mama Mia.”
Clearly songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus knew what they were doing — but not quite in the way you might think according to longtime saxophonist Ulf Andersson.
“They couldn’t write music,” says Andersson, 67 (no relation to Benny), who’s one of two ABBA band members on the road with the tribute show ABBA — The Music. “We improvised very hard in the studio. There were no specific arrangements ready. When I went on a session with ABBA, they told me, ‘Bring music papers so you can write down what you’re gonna play.’
“It was very mysterious. Benny was sitting at the piano all the time, playing and playing and recording so he could remember what he wanted to do.”
Nevertheless, Andersson gives plenty of credit to ABBA’s principals — whose songs, which will be featured in this summer’s movie adaptation of the musical “Mama Mia,” were sung by their (now ex-) wives Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad.
“They were very, very ambitious about whatever they did, those guys,” Andersson says. “They really tried very hard. And they were nice to work with. Very good people, easygoing. I’m happy to still be playing their music.”
ABBA — The Music performs at 8 p.m. Sunday (June 22) at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills. Tickets are $37.50 pavilion, $10 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to