New Year’s Songs: ABBA, “Happy New Year” 1980

This song was not released as a single from the album Super Trooper until 1999; ABBA had broken up in 1983.  At the time of this song, both marriages of Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog  and Anni-Frid Lyngstad with Benny Andersson had sundered or were on the verge of ending.  The mostly happy, infectious dance music that the group had produced during the Seventies were being replaced by more deeper and introspective slower-paced songs.  Interestingly, at the time Super Trooper was released, ABBA fans were disgusted that they had produced a holiday song.

Written in Barbados in January 1980, ‘Happy New Year’ was originally intended for a musical about a New Year’s Eve, one of Björn and Benny’s many attempts to get started with a more ambitious piece of musical drama. They even pitched their idea to comedian John Cleese, of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame, hoping that he would want to write the book for their proposed musical. Cleese turned them down, however, and the songwriting team scrapped the project. It would be another three years before Björn and Benny finally started writing what was to become their first full-length musical, Chess (a collaboration with Tim Rice).

Back in 1980, however, they were still quite fond of the New Year’s Eve concept, and in February they began recording ‘Happy New Year’ for the upcoming album. It seems there were even plans for making the track a single at one point, for shortly before the November release of the Super Trouper album, a promo clip was made for ‘Happy New Year’. Festive scenes were filmed in conjunction with the making of the album sleeve, after which the ABBA members’ actual performance of the song was filmed in director Lasse Hallström’s apartment. These latter sequences underscored the song’s wistful reflections on what the future may hold, thereby providing a marked contrast to the party scenes.

This video was made in the same year.  Its relative clarity and production values can be attributed to the fact that Agnetha Faltskog was fearful of and hated air travel to perform with ABBA on world concert dates.  Thus, ABBA relied on video promotional clips to promote their music on other cable and experimental TV entities around the world came into being in the early Seventies and early Eighties before the rise of MTV.

Ulvaeus and Andersson have been successful in recreating themselves as composers and lyricists for the stage and for other performing venues, including films.  They work as both collaborators and singly.  Currently Benny Andersson tours with an Orkester, a band of 16 musicians as well as two singers, who perform his original songs and compositions.  The Benny Andersson Orkester is said to be wildly popular in Sweden after releasing three albums.  Ulvaeus and his wife Lena Kallersjö, a noted Swedish rock journalist, lived for several years in the U.K. setting up and running an IT company; they have now resettled in Sweden.

Agnetha Faltskog is an international solo artist.  She had had success in Sweden as a soloist before and during her stint with ABBA.  Her last English-speaking album was My Colouring Book in 2004; her last compilation album, My Very Best,  was released three years ago, in 2008.  In 1988, Faltskog completely withdrew from public and professional life after her album I Stand Alone was released to great acclaim in Norway and Sweden and even hit the Billboard Top 100.   She did not re-emerge for a number of years.  Her creative silence was punctuated by a failed marriage, and by a toxic relationship in which a former lover reportedly continues to stalk her.

Anni-Frid Lyngstad was the only non-Swedish member of ABBA; she was actually born Norwegian.  Anni-Frid or Frida Lyngstad is now a royal, Her Serene Highness, the Princess Anni-Frid Synni Reuss, Countess of Plauen, due to her third marriage to a German prince of the formerly sovereign House of Reuss in 1992.  But just because one becomes a princess, it doesn’t mean that life becomes any easier.   Her marriage to Prince Heinrich ended when he died of lymphoma in 1999.  That same year, her daughter Ann died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident in Livonia, Michigan.

The product of a relationship between a Norwegian woman and a married German soldier during the last days of World War II, in 1945, Anni-Frid was raised primarily by her grandmother.   The grandmother and mother brought Anni-Frid as an infant to Sweden because  they feared reprisals from other Norwegians for fraternizing with the enemy during the occupation.  Her mother died not two years later of kidney failure at 21.  Princess Anni-Frid is currently friendly with Queen Silvia of Sweden, who is also German and the daughter of a former Nazi.

Earlier this year, Lyngstad participated in a radio play produced by BBC Radio 4 called Like An Angel Passing Through My Room: it’s a dialogue between a singer and a fan who adores her.  The title is taken from ABBA’s final song on their last studio album, The Visitors.   As Wikipedia relates, the play is:

[…] ‘a story about love. The unconditional love of a devoted fan…about a real and an imagined intimacy.’ It was a project several years in the making; what started as an upbeat reflection on fame and the notion of being a fan, developed into a meditation on the communication between two people and coping with the blows life deals. In an interview with Frida, she and Green talked about her long recovery from the death of her husband in 1999. The play is deeply personal and reflective but with a firmly comic sensibility.

Princess Anni-Frid also does charity work.   She has reunited briefly with her ABBA bandmates in Stockholm in 2008  in connection with Mamma Mia!  but she’s not really interested any long-term, sustained singing career.

There has been talk of reunion, but nothing yet.  And probably not.  From the ABBA entry on Wikipedia:

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, following the premiere, Ulvaeus and Andersson confirmed that there was nothing that could entice them back on stage again. Ulvaeus said: “We will never appear on stage again. […] There is simply no motivation to re-group. Money is not a factor and we would like people to remember us as we were. Young, exuberant, full of energy and ambition. I remember Robert Plant saying Led Zeppelin were a cover band now because they cover all their own stuff. I think that hit the nail on the head.”  However, on 3 January 2011, Fältskog, who has been long considered to be the most reclusive member of the group and possibly also the major obstacle to any reunion, raised the possibility of reuniting for a one-off engagement. She admitted that she has not yet brought the idea up to the other three members.

Enjoy, and of course, Happy New Year.

~ by blksista on December 29, 2011.

One Response to “New Year’s Songs: ABBA, “Happy New Year” 1980”

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