The Story of ABBA

Filmed: 10-23 October 1982

Location: Stockholm, Sweden

Broadcast: Sunday 12 December 1982, 19:30-20:10, Veronica, Netherlands

Release status: See below

Duration: approx. 52 minutes

Shown in: Netherlands

Additional information

ABBA and Stig were interviewed by Annette van Trigt both together and individually and their comments were interspersed with PROMO clips and other performances of all the major hits.  ABBA were interviewed together, in pairs (male and female) and possibly individually (but it's hard to tell).

The original version broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 had some extra scenes not included on the DVD or video releases. Two differences are:

  1. The interviewer asked, "Why don't you, Agnetha and Frida, ever write a song for ABBA?" Agnetha answered (laughing) "Together?" and Frida quipped in (in a dismissive way), "We could try, we could try!". Then Benny rolled his eyes and said, "Yes and Bjorn and I can sing it!".
  2. In the Benny interview just before Sunny Girl is played. He holds his smile until he thinks they have cut (filming) and then his face changes and his arms drop down as if he's really fed up.

There was a trailer for the programme lasting 25 seconds and broadcast on 14 November 1982 on Dutch channel VOO. Frida says, "Watch out!" and then Agnetha says the broadcast date, "12 December".

At the time of filming the interviews, the Under Attack PROMO hadn't yet been filmed.

It seems that some of this may have been recorded either at different times of the same day or even over a couple of days because the lighting changes in many of the shots - and also, Agnetha looks slightly softer in some shots.

On 15 March 2005, a Dutch programme called Theater van het Sentiment broadcast an interview with Annette van Trigt about her interview with ABBA from December 1982 (broadcast date). She said that the questions she asked were given to her by other people and that she felt embarrassed, as another woman, having to ask Agnetha about her "sexy bottom". Benny and Björn apparently showed her around the Polar Studios and how they composed songs by sitting behind a piano and playing the guitar in the studio. She said that very little of the material they filmed was actually broadcast on TV so there must be some more material somewhere. She was not aware that ABBA was nearly over and certainly that this was one of the last interviews they ever did as a group together. Had she known that she says she would have asked them better questions.

Unfortunately, you won't find The Story of ABBA on YouTube because it gets immeditaly blocked by UMG (Universal Music Group) due to the music content.  I hope that some interview snippets won't be blocked.

Click here for a TV listing from Nieuwsblad van het Noorden - 11 December 1982, p.23 (listing the following day's TV guide)
Click here for a newspaper article from Leeuwarder Courant - 11 December 1982, p.2

Broadcast information:
Sunday 12 December 1982, 19:30-20:10, Veronica, Netherlands
1983, RTE, Ireland (date?)
19 January 1985, Channel 4, UK
27 June 1985 in Netherlands
25 December 1987, Channel 4, UK
14 November 1992, Veronica, Netherlands

Release information:
1986 - on video, UK
May 2007 - on DVD renamed as ABBA - The Golden Years, UK
2011- released on DVD again under its original title, The Story of ABBA, UK
2012 - released on DVD in Spain.
2014 - UK retailer WH Smith released the programme in a DVD and magazine combo pack.

Agnetha! You don't see here until about 15 minutes into the programme (although you do hear her in the first seconds when each of them says a little about their beginnings).


The ABBA/Stig quotes

 My mother and father used to sing songs to me when I was very little. But I think the first music that really meant something to me personally was when I first heard skiffle music which was when I was 11 or 12.  And in fact I started to playing in a skiffle group at that time too.

(Baby, Those Are The Rules from Hemma hos Hootenanny Singers: Larz-Thure Ljungdahl på besök)

Frida:  I was brought up by my grandmother and she, she was a good lady, you know. She was er .. took good care of me and ... though she had to work hard to get the money to survive. But I started to sing in dance band when I was 13 years old and after two years, or, one year I changed to a big band and together with them I sang for two years and after the split up with the big band I started my own band and the name of that band was Anni-Frid Four.  I met my husband in the big band - he was playing the trombone and we fell in love you know, I was quite young but I knew that I wanted to be together with him. So I got my son when I was 17 years old and we got married when I was 18 and after four years I got my daughter.

(Att älska i vårens tid from När stenkakan slog)

Benny: I started working professionally in '62, '63 I think with a band called The Hep Stars. Then I wrote a song called Sunny Girl for The Hep Stars.  I think we had a hit with that in Holland ...
Annette van Trigt: Yep!
Benny:  because we spent some time there - made some jingles for Veronica!

(The Hep Stars - Sunny Girl)

Agnetha:  I wrote my own songs.  I did er six Swedish solo LPs ... LPs

(Nu ska vi opp, opp, opp from Räkna de lyckliga stunderna ... Jules Sylvain berättar om sin musik)

Stig:  We don't feel like we are being five in the group and er, you know I have also been a lyric writer for them and I was an actor, guitar player and I wrote my songs back in the 50s. I was performing these in the what we call Swedish folk parks - open-air theatres - and that's really how I started.  I had a hit in Holland called Rocking Billy  .. I don't know if you recall that but it was a big hit in Holland with Ria Valk at that time. Unfortuntely I cannot sing it in Dutch but I know it's called Rockin' Billy (then attempts to say it in Dutch!).

(Ria Valk - Rocking Billy)

Björn: We met on tour it was a band tour (?) and we were touring the folkparks - places that you tour in Sweden, play during the summer and we just ran into each other ...
Benny: ... and I knew that he wrote songs and he knew that I wrote so we just ... you know ... we happened to meet and we sat down and played a little .... I think we both thought that the other guy was quite ... quite nice you know .... maybe we could some day in the futre be able to work together.

Stig: I thought they were very talented as being writers but I never thought of them from the very beginning as being artistes as well - so I promised them already back in '68, that I thought that one day they could have an international break with their songs because they are very talented writers.

(People Need Love)

Frida: Benny and Bjõrn were recording an album on their own with all ... all the songs written by them and  for one song they needed a female choir so it was very natural to ask Agnetha and myself if we wanted to do that part and so we did and we thought it sounded very good. And then we decided then to try something in English so Benny and Björn wrote a song with English lyrics and the title of that one is People Need Love and that's how it started actually.

(People Need Love)

Stig: Ring Ring - that was back in '73 and that was our first er, try to do something in English really ... together, er, it, er  ... we were trying ... this was '73,  er, to be, er,  in the Swedish song contest for that year's Eurovison song but didn't ... we didn't win and consequently we did not represent, er, Sweden that year. But in spite of that Ring Ring became very popular. It was very popular here, it was popular in Holland and Holland really was the first ... the first country outside Scandinavia where we became popular.

(Ring Ring PROMO - slow version)

Stig: (incomprehensible!) .... I thought it was a new approach to the Eurovision Song Contest - it was a pop song and I thought that the Eurovision Song Contest needed something new.

(results of the voting for Eurovision Song Contest, 1974 and winning performance of Waterloo)

Stig: It was all thought of you know, it was a kind of, er, marketing. And as you know, it was a good idea I think.

AvT: How did it affect your life?
Frida: In many ways of couse because we suddenly gained a lot of succes ... that we in a way wanted of course but you know, when you ... when you are in a situation like that you have to change a lot in your life to be able to take care of what's happening to you ... in the right way.
Agnetha: It gave us a lot of work and a lot of travelling and, er, er, a changing of ... of my life to be an "officielle" if you say that - person - a famous person.
AvT: You didn't like travelling, no?
Agnetha: I don't like it too much, no
Benny: She hates it!
Agnetha: to be honest!

(Honey Honey  from Spotlight, 1974)

Stig: That they were Swedes and the pop language is English and of course that was a big decision to take - to just sing in English and launch them in English - that was the biggest problem we had.

(Mamma Mia PROMO)

Benny:  We start off with the music, we sit down with piano and guitar and, er, just, you know, play along for hours and hours for days and weeks and months and sooner or later, eventually, there .. there's a song there and a melody ...
Björn:'s at that stage the music - the sound of the whole thing - tells you something - suggests a story so that's when the lyrics come in and then the vocals, and then a few more overdbubs if needed, and then it's mixed down and it's a record.

from Gomorron Sverige, 1977)
(Dancing Queen
from Det låg ett skimmer över Gustafs dagar)
(Money, Money, Money
from ABBA-dabba-dooo!!)

Björn: We have decided long ago to stay in this country. As you know, Sweden is the most high taxed country in the world and so we had to invest the money instead of just giving it away as tax. That's the way it started - the whole organisation but mainly other people are taking care of that for us so it's not really the group ABBA making business.
Stig: It could be real estate, it could be bicycles, it could be oil, er, you mention it, anything - financing, leasing, we have lots of interest in all these fields.

(Knowing Me, Knowing You PROMO)

Benny:  From the beginning that was just meant to be a documentary, I mean, we ... as we were on the road in Australia we thought maybe we should film it, you know, for television, for ourselves actually - to have some documents from when we were in Australia but it just grew bigger and bigger and all of a sudden there was a Panavision movie for 2 hours ... 
Bjorn: ... with a little, little storyline to it.
Benny:  We had a little part in this Australian tour - and European Tour in '77 I think - where we wrote a little mini-musical within the show, er, The Girl With the Golden Hair - it's two girls playing two different sides of the same woman.

(I'm a Marionette
from ABBA - The Movie)
(The Name of the Game
(Take a Chance On Me

Benny: That's the situation is in America, when it starts moving there, you know, everybody move from Holland or from England, all the bands/artistes, they move over to America and they work from out from there so they are available all the time for everybody who wants them - in person.  And, er, we talked about that a couple of years ago and I don't think that any of us was really prepared to do that again after having done exactly the same thing in Europe and other parts of the world also to achieve the popularity that we have.

(Eagle PROMO)
from Music for UNICEF - A Gift of Song Concert)

AvT: Why do you, Agnetha and Frida, never write a song for ABBA?
Agnetha: Together? (to Frida) Why don't we?!
Frida: We could try! 
Björn: You do that!  You do that!
Benny: ... Bjorn and I could sing it!

(Does Your Mother Know PROMO)

AvT: In the book ABBA - For The Record it is said that you possess the sexiest bottom in popular music ... 
Oh, how interesting!
AvT:  (laughs)
Frida: Yes!  Isn't it?!
Agnetha:  Mmmmm ...  yes?
Where did it come from? Was it a journalist who said it ....
Well it .. it came from a journalist ...
Frida: (inaudible)
Agnetha: Yes, from a newspaper after .. during ... we did our concert ... tour
Frida: He was a very fascinated of Agnetha's bottom, you know! 
Agnetha: (laughs)
Frida: Probably it was the only thing that (inaudible)
Agnetha:  Not (inaudible) person!
Frida: It was a funny rumour  ... but still ....
Agnetha: it's funny how it can .. can grow so big I think .. that makes it a bit scared.

(Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) PROMO)

AvT: How do you choose who is going to do the lead vocals?
Benny: Just trying to be fair you know.  If ..if we've recorded four tracks and Agnetha is singing on three of them then we ... we'll let Frida sing on the next two tracks, just to keep it balanced.
It's very easy!

(I Have A Dream PROMO)

My favourite is The Winner Takes it All.  Well I think it's a very good song, very good melody and very good lyrics. And, er I think it's a whole song if you can understand what I mean. It .. it goes in a roll, it never stops in a way. It goes together.

(The Winner Takes It All PROMO)

Björn: Nobody knows how everything that affects you personally maybe comes out in your music but it's impossible to pinpoint anything
AvT:  How about The Winner Takes It All or One of Us?
Björn: The lyrics are usually pretty personal nowadays and, er, they are the combined experiences of the four of us with certain changes
Frida: And we have been working together for ten years, you can't avoid things happening in your life and as they do, you change your personality as well and it's very natural isn't it?  That happens to everybody and, er, just because we are a group, um, that doesn't mean that we can be outside a normal life.
Agnetha: But of course there are a lot of, um, things around it now that can ... er, .... er, feel a bit heavy sometimes.
Benny: (inaudible)
Agnetha: (laughs)

(Super Trouper PROMO)

AvT: What's the main ingredient of the ABBA music?
I don't know ... probably ... a strong melody line I should say ... all the time
AvT:  And Björn?
Björn: That .. and together with the girls' voices I think.   
AvT:   Yep.  What has been more ....
Björn: The sound of ABBAis that - together also with the backing track, it's everything together.
AvT:  And what has been more instrumental in the success of ABBA - your music or the girls' appearances?
Both. It's a combination you know. And there's no way that you afterwards can say that this was more important than the other. But I'd like to think that the music comes first.

(One of Us PROMO)

Benny: So I don't know if .. if there is anything more to achieve - I mean how would that be?  Not by selling records. Not by going on the road I think. Not by writing even better songs for ABBA, I don't know.  I think it sort of never started, never ended ...   
Bjorn: I would say that .. what I would like to achieve with ABBA would be to make an even better album which, by our standards, and by the audiences' standards, would be the best one.

(The Day Before You Came PROMO)

Frida:  In my spare time when I don't work I like to travel a lot, I like to read books, I like to in summertime go out sailing, um, water ski-ing ....
AvT: And you Bjorn?
Björn: In my spare time?
AvT: Yeah
Björn: play around with the kids, read, prowl the streets,
Frida: What do you say?
Björn:er, boating in summer, er, lots of things   .. normal things that everybody does you know ... watching video or TV
AvT: Agnetha?
Agnetha: Mmm, the same for me, I play a lot with the kids and er, take long walks in the wood with my big dog
AvT: What kind of dog?
Agnetha:  I have a Leonburger, it's a very big one
Benny: I take care of my little baby ... and read a little, listen a lot to music, talk too much ....

(Under Attack PROMO)

Agnetha: Yes, I think I have to! (laughs)  I don't know anything else so much. I feel very comfortable in this business and I think I stay in it and work with what I'm doing or maybe I will be a producer or maybe I get into the movie world.
Frida: As you know I recorded a solo album and Agnetha has taken part in a Swedish movie picture so we have been working with that.
Benny: I feel personally that ... well I'm very keen on ... to start with something else, some .. something new, something more ...
Björn: er, we have in fact had some discussions with Tim Rice in London about a possible collaboration. We don't know yet but I hope we will be able to write a musical soon together with him.

(Thank You For The Music
from ABBA - The Movie)

Stig: We can't last forever, we know that and also Benny and Bjorn are very interested in writing a musical.  Frida, as you know, also we are launching as a solo artist and the same goes for Agnetha ... so ... I don't know!

Archive data from Beeld en Geluid database:
Document ID 8995
Uniforme titel THE STORY OF ABBA
Publicaties televisie; 12-12-1982; VOO; 0'00''
Type uitzending
Uitzenddatum 12-12-1982
Tijdsduur 0'00''
Tijdsduur annotatie Avail: Rol I 29'30" Rol II 35'15"
Distributiekanaal televisie
Zendgemachtigde VOO
Schone inlas Niet aanwezig
Type Soort Formaat Begin- en eindtijd Nummer Volg-
nr. Bewaar-
plaats Archief-
FILM Programma 16 mm G73528A1
FILM Programma 16 mm G73528B2
FILM Programma 16 mm G73528D4
bliknr. Programma G73528
PERFO Programma 16 mm G73528C3
PERFO Programma 16 mm G73528E4
Samenvatting Muziekprogramma met de popgroep Abba.
Kleur kleur
Trefwoorden kunst; popmuziek
Namen Abba
Beoogd medium televisie
Beschrijving Tijdcode: 29'30"
1. Div. korte interviews over de opkomst van de groep met de
vier groepsleden en hun manager.
Veel muziekfragmenten.
Tijdcode: 5'47"
2. Div. interviews met de leden van de groep over hun
dagelijks leven. Hoe combineren ze gezinsleven en optreden met
de groep (restmateriaal).
Rechten Herkomst Rechten
Overige opmerkingen

Thanks to Alex Jones, Gert-Jan Kroon, Jozsef, Ian Cole, Carl Magnus Palm, Jeroen Schol, Trudy Wilkie, Jane Donoghue, David Calverley, Henk en Remko, Enrique Soriano, Jos Heselmans and Petri Kaasalainen for information.
YouTube link c/o Stephen Layton

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