Benny Andersson musicography


Benny the Genius       
Goran brör Benny ANDERSSON is a Swedish musician born 16 December 1946 in vasastan Stockholm , who gained fame with the HEP STARS in the sixties at a Swedish level and with super group ABBA (Anni-frid Lyngstad , Agnetha Fältskog, Björn ulvaeus ) during the seventies and early eighties world wide.

His talent as a virtuoso blossomed very early in his life and his first instrument at six was an accordion, he used to play with father Gösta and grand father Efraim (Benny’s trio) and really enjoyed it.

The young boy was very easy going (and that continued through the years) and simple in his attitude towards life, he even seems to be shy, absent minded, not wanting to argue or quarrel and that helped him to be nice and well esteemed by every person who approached him .
At 10, he got his first piano, took lessons for very short while but carried on practicing alone at home.
His first records were  schlager , rock’n’roll as well (Elvis ‘jailhouse rock’ and caterina valente ‘du bist Musik’)
Although very talented with almost every instrument he manage to lay his hands on, he didn’t put the musical career as a must! (The project of being a construction engineer was in line)
He joined, at 14, a local band called “elverkets spelmanslag” with his girlfriend:  Christine Grönvall, who gave him two children one of them peter Grönvall (he was only 17 and Christine 19 years old) was destined to pursue the path of his father and compose during the eighties ,  pop hits with great invention.
He made his first instrumental compositions with this electrical rock band .soon forgotten due to the lack of success. But with one member Hans Englund, he performed as a duo and had some commitments in a tourist grand hotel and kind of success, and that’s the first time that he thought of doing music a future project.
Things  began to change  dramatically in the mid  sixties , when he joined the HEP STARS (lenart “lelle” hegland bass player , christer “chrille” petersson  drummer , janne frisk  guitarist and sven “svenne” hedlund : singer ) 

and replaced the keyboard player for good ,he then composed his first songs “no response” and “sunny girl”  without any pretention , enjoying most playing big rock classics (“Cadillac “ ,”mashed potatoes” ,”farmer john”) supplied by the wonderful voice of co-member  svenne hedlund  and Swedish folk tunes than anything else in the world .and that’s why his talent as a composer didn’t blossom quickly (like Agnetha Fältskog ‘s , she managed to compose at a very early age and at the same age that Benny composed his first hits , she gave very finished compositions since the beginning , though the lyrics were a bit childish , the songs since the first album were accomplished ) he only managed to compose accomplished songs in the pre-ABBA period .
However he tried to compose experimental rock numbers from the beginning, songs like “consolation” and “sound of eve” with the HEP STARS , showed it.

The meeting with Björn Ulvaeus the other male member of ABBA, will change everything, Björn who was himself a musician with big talent and a composer with few output (“baby those are the rules” and “no time” are of his) manage to get the best out of him, honestly as a Benny Andersson fan I think that without Björn he would have never achieved that brilliant masterpieces he composed later with ABBA.
According to many witness of the recording sessions, Benny used to play keyboards and really enjoyed it but would have never stopped until someone will tell him that the goal was achieved (the perfect arrangement)
He hadn’t control on time, a perfect example of genius and its consequences!
During the late sixties, beside the HEP STARS he tried to submit songs to Swedish stars but even with the help of Stig ANDERSON, few artist recorded his composition, and really if it wasn’t Stig ANDERSON, both Benny and Björn would have given up, because, even if the HEP STARS were huge, nobody wanted to hear about them after they went separate ways.
Beside Björn, Stig the manager played a major role in Benny Andersson's career.
When Björn met Benny, they were both members of bands with solid reputation.
Bjorn was part of the “vastervick” boys who enjoyed local success (in vastervick) and thanks to Björn mother, participated to a national talent contest (anni-frid was part of it) and manage to be seen at a national level.

The meeting with Stig ANDERSON was the path to the stars !
Stig made the band change their name to “HOOTENANNY SINGERS”, after signing them, and made Björn a home composer–producer at polar music productions.
After his meeting with Benny , he wanted to sign him with polar but Stig didn’t want to have two new artist the same time , so Björn shared his incomes with Benny and so a deal was made and since then Björn and Benny shared every kron they made !
Truly, this is one of the biggest friendship story ever known and it last until now!
In 1969, he began to release songs more elaborated and big classics
First with the HEP STARS: “speleman” a composition which is so beautiful even  with the presence of the voice of lotta, the American wife of svenne hedlund,
It’s a Hungarian gipsy piece with lots of accordion and virtuoso violin.
Second:” Hej Clown” for Swedish singer Jan Malmsjö, a song which had all chances to win if it was selected by the grudging jury of the melodifestival show heat for the Eurovision. (The same happened to Agnetha’s composition “forsonade” performed by the Swedish  singer Gunnar Wiklund)
 Third: a very big hit for Brita Borg “Ljuva Sextital” melodically typically ABBAish with even some musical tricks.
This time Benny was ready for the decade with ABBA.
Then came the album “lycka” .
As nobody wanted to record their  songs , Stig ANDERSON cleverly decided them to record an album that will serve as a demo and that’s why many songs from the album seems unfinished though rhythmically perfect . See the critic page  here.
And this album celebrated  ,for the first time, the collaboration with genius Michael B. Tretow (without whom the ABBA sound would have never existed).
M B . Tretow was aware of every technology used by biggest rock groups especially seduced by  the Phil Spector sound , he even studied the tactics made by groups like Pink Floyd to get echoes and huge sounds , all this contributed to the perfection of the ABBA sound.
But  contrary to what have been said in some dumb documentary The ABBA team reached perfection with the waterloo album and  were enough masters of their recordings , no matter they didn’t read music sheet  , they were virtuosi surrounded by the best Swedish musicians (listen to the skills of Lasse Wellander in ‘hole in your soul’ and ‘I’m a marionette’) they weren’t a rock or punk band playing three chord , waiting for a orchestra arranger to make sound their records better !
(see “the winner takes it all” documentary)
Beside LYCKA , he composed two songs for Billy G-Son “There’s a little man” with a schlager  melody and credence Clearwater-like  arrangement , a middle section clavichord ornament , sparkling the song , it’s a pity that it had never been remastered ! The other side of the single “I saw it in the mirror “is a pastiche of gospel that the singer’s voice (Joe cocker-like voice) manage to highlight (the ABBA version of RING RING album is far inferior!)
 For the new singer with polar Lena Andersson, he composed some classic  songs: first she recorded “language of love “cool jazz” piece (cover from "lycka" album) and then “Säj Det Med En Sång” for ESC but rejected (as always) up-tempo schlager very ABBAish with big orchestra .Cecilia is a melancholic piece a la “Chiquitita” with Italian mandolin arrangements.”Barn” is a classical piece with chamber orchestra , and Lena is at her height.
For Lill-babs “Välkommen Till Världen”, a big classic with an oblique tribute to the mamas and the papas at the end of the song (the vocals sound like “dedicated to the one I love”)
Finally for FRIDA his new girlfriend, ”Vi Är Alla Barn I Borjan” with cellos and strong vocal harmonies.he managed to give her a first big hit .

(If you listen carefully to the FRIDA 67-72 album you can pick easily Benny’s productions as they sound more updated than the other recordings !)
From that date, he entirely reserved his composition to his new group A.B.B.A and his muses FRIDA (his fiancée) and AGNETHA (Björn’s wife).
Some rare exceptions being among others , the elegant  “En Sondag I Maj” for Birgitta Wollgård and Salut in 1974.
The crazy rocker “Rikyy Rock’n’roller” for Jerry Williams and the country ballad  “Please Change Your Mind” for Nashville train. In 1977 (featured in “ABBA the movie”)
“Funky feet” was a big mistake because it could have been ABBA’s second n°1 in the USA  !!!
The first album RING RING, a mishmash of songs sees here
Some songs are ultimate classics like “Nina pretty ballerina” and “he is your brother”, with “Nina pretty ballerina” , he experimented some sounds and elaborated arrangements.
With “waterloo”, composed one of his finest songs  :  “gonna sing you my lovesong”
With “ABBA”, every song on the album is an accomplished composition and hit contender  , the first masterpiece “S.O.S” is given to the world , everything seems to be fine .
 Though it’s hard work (composing , recording and touring ) , doing it with the people you love (friends and lovers)  is less tiring .
Bjorn keep controlling his output , trying to scrap  tracks and find the good hook ,he was the one , and of course write the appropriate lyrics with Sting Anderson until the album of 1977, since then, alone .
Benny and Björn kept on concentrating on the  work trying to give the world what they considered the best and as I said before , the main characteristic of their work with ABBA was to record songs whatever light-pop they were ,with the same professionalism as if they were recording a Mahler symphony .
They  used to compose a finished demo with pigeon English for the girls , then went to the studio to record vocals ,Agnetha was largely responsible for inventing harmony vocal patterns (“move on” for example) ,they had difficult times trying to make the girls sing at an impossible pitch ! (Higher and higher!!)

In concert AGNETHA and FRIDA use to sing with more freedom, at a lower pitch making the song sound different from the record.
After recording vocals with the girls, the original orchestration, no matter what was invested in, is thrown away and a new soundscape more sophisticated is achieved, that’s why ABBA records sounded  different from all other stuff from the same era. (A good example is to compare  “monsieur monsieur” with “my love my life”, “roselita” with “Chiquitita”)
Beside this , a lot of stuff is scraped from the sessions (even if the song is complete ) it’s a shame that a song like hamlet (“autumn leaves”)  remained in the vault until it was released as a demo .

With “Arrival” and “the Album” experimentation continue with a mini musical “the girl with the golden hair”, heavy-metal sounding songs  like “hole in your soul” (first attempt was made in “ABBA” with the single “so long”) note that a song like “thank you for the music “is strangely close to an Agnetha self penned song (I’m sure that fans noticed it) called ‘Sången föder dig tillbaka.
“Voulez vous”, “Super trouper” and “The visitors” gave the last glimpse of pop perfection, with “the day before you came” the swan song, and what a song !   
in that song Benny gave clever arrangements with sobriety and Agnetha strangely sounding like Jon Anderson !
Before concentrating to a project that was his life long aim: musicals,
Benny brought magnificent taste of musical with ‘I let the music speak’ and ‘like an angel passing through” sung in an operatic dreamy sound by FRIDA his now divorced wife.
One  fact is that Benny didn’t have any good self-critical sense, songs like “lovelight” “summer night city” and “should I laugh or cry” seem to him unaccomplished !???

After ABBA, the first project was CHESS, this concept album sounds like the best ABBA album ever. It seems that Benny is at his height and nothing could stop him giving the best pop classics.
FRIDA participated to a project called ABBACADABRA , a children fantasy based on ABBA songs, French project of alain boulbil,
For the English version made with Elaine Paige,while  a new song was given to B A Robertson called ‘I am the seeker” with wonderful lyrics based on the beauty and the beast fantasy 
and music “very old fashion Hollywood films of the thirties” with eighties arrangements (rhythmically)
He also gave FRIDA “slowly” for her second solo album “Shine”, a biographical piece  about the demise of their romance   .       
After CHESS, he recorded  two albums with brothers glenmark (Anders played electric guitar on “Money money money” ) under the title GEMINI and GEMINISM , with some songs Like “ just like that” (ABBA demo ) “Another you , another me” , “Too much love is wasted “ and “I am the universe” it’s also the best what ABBA could have  been in the eighties . 

He also recorded at the same time an OST of a children movie “Mio min mio”, with inventive flute melody lines and philharmonic orchestra arrangements helped by the arranger Anders Eljas
Since 1986, Benny withdrawer progressively from pop releasing classical-folk albums; in 1982 his first folk tune released was “ Den Blomstertid Nu Kommer” (a trad.)
 With ”klinga mina klockor” and ”November 1989” , his best folk albums  he brought elaborated  musical pieces melodically with such perfection , a song like “Efter Regnet” is one of the most beautiful melodies I have heard in my life ,performed majestically by Tommy korberg and Karin glenmark (from GEMINI) the two albums are diamonds , everything a true  ABBA fan loves .
He returned to pop with ‘Up Till Kamp’ a military march for a ‘horse riding championship’ (similar to  the end of ABBA tune “Two for the price of one”)
“Beatrice” for kalle moreus (melodically close to ABBA’s “one of us”)
"lassie" and "alska mej" a big hit in Sweden for nilsson sisters (ainsbuk singers);
"alska mej" is one of his best songs ever , supported majestically by the nilsson sisters with such passion  ( you could imagine Agnetha singing it)

"Drommarnas golv" is a track on their live album, a cabaret song that melodically inaugurate futures pieces (songs from the second floor).
Then for charlotte Nilsson the album “shapes “his last pop project, some tracks are close to ABBA , the dance tracks especially “now you see him” and “midnight dancer” very close to “Gimme Gimme Gimme” (ABBA) and “one night in Bangkok” (chess).
“Where the Whales Have Ceased To Sing” is full of sadness and dignity about an older sister who is looking after her brothers like a mother and the father a sailor …
The other tracks on the album excellent but very far from ABBA.

He then returned to “musical-opera” thing with “Kristina” his first ambitious project, a three hour “fresque” lead by pop singers not performers,  it gave credibility to the subject (you could hardly imagine a great opera singer singing about a sort of boat people or emigrant suffering from hunger, misery and so on) so the singers are very convincing and the show works very well.  Apart from some tracks especially the one that is an “ABBA demo”: “Ljusa Kvällar Om Våren” because it’s featured in "klinga mina klockor" just like "lottis scottis" (hamlet demo). It’s dangling between ‘Ennio morricone’ , 'John barry' and ‘borodine’ or ‘Mussorgsky’ and sometimes Offenbach !
It’s not “chess”!!  But it’s a master-piece
there is no Benny ndersson touch  , but of course : Min Lust Till Dej, Vi Öppnar Alla Grindar , Hemma (the closest to ABBA) ,Tänk Att Män Som Han Kan Finnas (an Offenbach pastiche) , Överheten , Vildgräs , Guldet Blev Till Sand  ,  Du Måste Finnas , Red Iron / Hjölp Mej Trösta are excellent tracks but the lyrics are more important in this case . So it’s more of Björn ulvaeus talent that is celebrated here as a song writer (there will be a special article about him)
The musical deals with people who emigrate to better places because of suffering ,hunger , ostracism  and face hard days losing their closest friends relatives , Benny had this in his heart since the lycka period and even a song like "traskofolket" is a fore-taste . (even ABBA songs frequently described solitude , loneliness , misery beside joyfull tunes , but even Super trouper features lines like ‘facing twenty thousands of your friends ,how can anyone be so lonely’ )

with CHESS you could feel Benny Andersson’s  touch , I remember when  I heard ‘heaven help my heart’ on radio  , I was sure that only Benny could compose such a master piece and nobody else could (not knowing it was from chess) ,of course there was that roger-Hammerstein pastiche (murano) and ‘chess’ instrumental which sounded a little like a Vangelis theme but the musical is a festival , it’s “rocky balboa”s energy  combined  with a symphony orchestra , inventive melodies and rock power , of course Elaine paige , murray head and Tommy korberg are exceptional and are the major asset in the triumph of the concept album , and the brilliant lyrics of the master Tim rice make it the best musical ever in history.
And contrary to what some people  think ,  the London first version didn’t need any progress , the biggest mistake was to modify it in broadway , in the broadway sound track  you could feel the lack of passion , energy and musicality .
After ”Kristina” , he returned  to less ambitious  projects  with “Fru Vennermans Sång”  a comical song but very melodical , mixing Nordic harmonies  with Greek bouzouki  !
Then a millennium psalm, one of his finest works ever, called “innan gryningen “.
"puder" is a mix of scandinavian and russian melancholy.
in 2000 , he released a folk album with his now own orchestra (the moreus brothers )   called “Benny Andersson orkester” featuring another ABBA demo “briggens blåögda blonde kapten” a beautiful waltz (originally performed by ABBA members for Görel Hanser) the melancholic “sång från andra våningen” , also one of his finest works , given to Roy Anderson for his eponymous film .
in 2004 , he returned with  “Benny andersson orkester  med helen sjöholm » album ,  best tracks are  ”En Dans På Rosor”,  ” Midnattsdans” , ”Saknadens Rum -  Kärlekens Tid” , saknadens rum ,which also seems an old demo and featured in Roy ANDERSON’s film , is a master piece , interpreted by Helen Sjöholm , with passion (though she’s not a favorite of mine , I don’t like her interpretations in the Swedish CHESS) I must admit : perfectly .
the last original album , BAO 3 seems to be like RING RING ,a mish mash of songs , with lots of covers , see page 3 (upp till Kamp , I am the seeker , Christmas ringtone )
Perhaps, Benny is having a sort of Kandinsky syndrome.
Or perhaps he needs muses like AGNETHA and FRIDA , KARIN or josefin nilsson ?
(Oldfield also seem to rerecord tubular bells constantly .)


carl magnus palm :
Benny's road to abba
Abba bright lights dark shadows
Abba the complete recording sessions

elmar abba site