But Benny bet on ABBA winning in 1974 (Picture: Getty)

Abba legend Benny Anderson, 75, on being an avatar, why he tries not to see Eurovision and why he needs a beard trimmer.

Hi Benny, we are talking two days before the premiere of Abba’s London live residency featuring avatars of the band. How are you feeling?

I feel good. I do. I haven’t worried much about my part of the work, which is to see that it is good musically. The million-dollar question is whether the audience will connect to what’s going on up there.

It takes them about two minutes before there is a bond between ‘us’ on stage and the band and the audience. Then they go, ‘OK, this is the real thing.’

You’ve had big opening nights for shows such as Chess and Mamma Mia! Does this feel like the highest stakes yet?

It is higher stakes. This is a huge thing. We have been working for five-and-a-half years. The people at Industrial Light & Magic, who have created the digital versions of us, have really done a fantastic job. I’m looking at myself and
I tell you it’s me. It is dead on.

We spent five weeks in Stockholm just before the pandemic, the four of us, and did all the songs. They recorded it with 200 cameras and brought it to London. Then our body doubles watched what we did on our stage and tried to emulate that, and Industrial Light & Magic merged that together.

Benny was seriously impressed by the digital avatars created of the band (Picture: PA)

Was it high security when you were all working together in Stockholm? Did you have to be smuggled into the studio?

No, I just got in my car and went up there. Nobody came close to my studio when we recorded it. It was amazing and fun because we haven’t worked together in 40 years.

Were there particular songs the four of you debated including in the show?

Yeah, we spent a lot of time with that. We didn’t want to just play a hit parade – we wanted to play songs we thought would fit well in a concert.

There are a couple of songs in there that people are not that familiar with but obviously we can’t not play Dancing Queen or Mamma Mia. They’re in there but not all of the No.1s are because of the dynamics we wanted.

Are there any other bands from the past you would love to see perform again as avatars?

I don’t know. It’s not that easy. You have to first realise what you are doing and why. In our case, what triggered it really was that it was possible and that it hasn’t been done before.

To start with you still have to be alive – someone else can’t do it if you are dead. We are all four of us endorsing this. We are a part of what is going on here.

So what’s the secret to coming up with a hit song?

For the past 50 years, I have always been very disciplined. Sit down at the piano and wait for something to happen. I can’t walk in the street and suddenly go, ‘Oh, this is a good melody line.’

I need to sit and play rubbish and all of a sudden I’m not for maybe ten seconds. Something sticks with me and I’ll feel, ‘Oh, a good four bars here’. So I keep those. When that happens, inspiration comes. The other part is just sweat.

What are your memories of first coming to London?

We came in limousines from Brighton [where Eurovision was held in 1974]. Epic Records held a huge party at Grosvenor House in the big hall there. Then nothing else was happening after that, really.

We suggested they release a song called Honey, Honey but they said, ‘No, we want something that sounds like Waterloo’ [their Eurovision winner]. So they released So Long. Honey, Honey became a hit for another band.

More: Metro newspaper

We became a one-hit wonder here in England but in Australia, they started to play songs like Mamma Mia and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do. That woke up Epic in the UK and all of a sudden instead of sending us a Volkswagen bus, the limousines started picking us up.

Did you expect to win Eurovision?

Benny and the gang had a great time with Eurovision in Brighton, but success didn’t immediately follow on (Picture: PA)

I don’t know. Maybe. At the time you didn’t know who else was in the contest.

Nowadays everybody knows everything about everything before it starts. I had heard Mouth and MacNeal’s song [for the Netherlands] I See A Star. Good track. Olivia Newton-John was in with a good song for the UK [she came fourth with Long Live Love]. I bet on us.

How much did you win?

I think I made £100. I can’t remember the odds but they were good odds.

Benny thinks the UK’s Sam Ryder could have won Eurovision this year (Picture: Daniele Venturelli/WireImage)

Do you ever watch Eurovision now?

I try not to. It’s too much. It’s too many countries. Everyone sings in English. It’s no fun anymore.

I watched the Swedish five-week competition to choose the song. I like that.
I did see this year’s Eurovision. Good for the UK. If Ukraine hadn’t been at war, you’d have won.

What are you doing today?

I’m going to see my son Ludvig’s wife’s studio. She is a painter. Then I’m going to down into town to get myself a beard trimmer for Voyage’s opening night.

ABBA Voyage opens tomorrow at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.


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