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The studio concert 1981

Dick Cavett Meets ABBA

TV special co-produced by the TV stations SVT (Sweden) and ZDF (Germany), filmed by SVT (studio 2):

  • April 27 – interview part
  • April 28 – concert
  • April 29 – additional recordings

Rehearsals were done at Europa Film Studios. First broadcast was on Swedish TV on September 12, 1981. Originally intended to be a “10 years of ABBA” retrospective the show features an interview with ABBA by US host Dick Cavett, including an a capella performance of Don’t Fence Me In, followed by a live concert. In a break Benny played Lotties Schottis on akkordeon, but this wasn’t filmed.

According to Carl Magnus Palm ”no mixes exist in the Polar Music archives, so they must have been submitted to the producers and never returned.” (The Complete Recording Sessions 2017, p. 384) However, ABBA had access in 1986 and 1994 when Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, Super Trouper, Two For The Price Of One, On And On And On, Slipping Through My Fingers and Me And I were included as remixed versions in ABBA Live respectively in the Thank You For The Music box set.

quoteIn February 1981 Swedish TV began preparations for the programme Dick Cavett meets ABBA. ABBA had long been talking about doing a programme with both talk and music and we thought it would be great to work together with them. After all the contracts were signed, there was an endless series of meetings with lighting and sound engineers, stage designers, cameraman and ABBA. I didn’t want it to feel like two programmes, one with talk and one with music. We solved the change-over by letting the group be interviewed in the same place where they would later sing, hanging a curtain in front of the instruments.
One weekend at the end of April, we hauled all the instruments and equipment into a a large studio and began to build the sets. By Monday when everyone involved arrived, we were ready to record.
Most people think that this is a simple kind of programme to do – five people sit and talk and then four of them stand up and sing. but there are thousands of details to keep track of and hundreds of problems to solve.
When the recording was finished, we began editing and mixing the sound. We had twenty hours of material for a one hour programme. It takes time to find a line and the tone you want the programme to have. With the aid of the best crew and both Micke Tretow and Claes af Geijerstam, ABBA’s recording engineers, the job was done. We really had a lot of fun making this programme, most of all because the four members of ABBA were so
co-operative. They gave one hundred percent of themselves and inspired everyone involved to give that little bit extra.
Gunnar Nilars (Producer) in International ABBA Magazine #8, July 1982
quoteWhat the public sees and hears is just a tiny fraction of all the time and effort we put into it. We rehearse each song endlessly and take the harder parts home for more practice. When we began rehearsing for this show, we had just been in the studio finishing a couple of songs for the new album. Rehearsals were held in the same place we had used on the eve of our 1979 world tour [at Europafilm] with the same musicians. Suddenly, it felt as if there hadn’t been any pause at all, that it was yesterday we last stood together on stage. It felt wonderful.
Three days later we moved to the studio, tested the lights and sound and did all the songs over and over again. Naturally you’re tired after singing all day and perhaps you’ve sung the same song twenty times, but we set very high standards for ourselves. There’s always something than can be a little better. The results make it all worthwhile.
Frida in International ABBA Magazine #8, July 1982
quoteWe wanted to do something really special, a TV show with both an interview and a live performance. We’ve been together for more than ten years and yet a proper interview with all four of us at the same time where people had a chance to get to know us in depth had never been done. A very superficial picture of ABBA is most often spread.
Someone suggested Dick Cavett, one of the world’s most famous and skilfull interviewers. He accepted and came to Sweden one day at the end of April. We didn’t talk much beforehand, but went almost directly into the studio and recorded the interview. I think we were much more nervous than he was, but his composure made us relax and open up. He had a way of tossing a question and then talking around it. It was more a pleasant conversation than an interview. We never regretted that we chose Dick Cavett.
Björn in International ABBA Magazine #8, July 1982
quoteAnders Hanser was present in the studio, documentating the work on the TV special from start to finish. There were tentative plans to publish a book based on his pictures, but this ultimately never happened.
From ABBA to Mamma Mia!, p. 125

An official release of the full show is long overdue, the concert part definately is. The only partial release of some songs on the box set The Complete Studio Recordings (2005!) rather appears as a bad joke. More than a full decade later it still seems nobody wants to invest any money in the restoration of this show and the creation of a proper concert with all songs and without any voiceovers although it’s an important part of ABBA’s catalogue. A shame.

The interview has some entertaining parts but certainly isn’t the best. Hiring a US host obviously was a mistake. Though he was famous overseas he was a strange choice for a mainly European audience and not very familiar with ABBA anyway. A Swedish host or someone like Noel Edmonds (BBC) probably would have been a better choice ensuring a more relaxed, more natural atmosphere.

Despite all this the concert part in my opinion is excellent and features great performances. So let’s hope that there will be a proper release in the very near future, best together with a book(let) finally featuring Anders Hanser’s many great photos of this show.

 

  • Set list

    Set list

    1. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
    2. Super Trouper
    3. Two For The Price Of One
    4. Slipping Through My Fingers
    5. Me And I
    6. On And On And On
    7. Knowing Me, Knowing You
    8. Summer Night City
    9. Thank You For The Music

    Notes

    • Different selections of songs were used in various countries, no broadcast included all 9 songs.
    • Because of a photo which apparently shows a handwritten song list for this show there are speculations about a 10th song – Andante, Andante. However, so far that’s all what is known about it though and so the existance of this live version seems rather unlikely.
  • Recordings
  • Staff
  • Links & sources

 

Press reviews

pressTV hero in ABBA packages

We from the press soar in Dick Cavett.
– You ask well about divorces, huh?...
Then Dick Cavett struck down the world’s highest paid revolver eyes, logged in as well as spoke and said:
– Divorces? ... Well, I forgot to ask them by the way: would people be interested to hear ABBA tell me about their divorces ??
The highest paid cannon was televised. A nice curry smoke that tasted vanilla and decipped cocacola was over the press conference.
– How are you like human beings? said someone in a liberating straight way.

Charged
Dick Cavett readily relieved.
He is here a few hours to interview ABBA.
It was the case that the Abborna suddenly felt that an international show that can be sold all over the world so that even small TV1 Sweden can afford to join a corner ... that would be the fuss.
– Dick Cavett! said we tell Björn Ulvaeus.
It is, in fact, nothing wrong with Lasse HoImqvist, but Dick Cavett speaks English as well.
– Said we have Dick here and today, we've recorded the snail that's more a “conversation” than any harder crime, said Benny Andersson.

Nice in the hair
It teaches flames and glam and fnitters and bullets and everyone is sitting there and stormed in the television studio. Dick Cavett is nice in her hair. Annifrid has a shelter that matches the box boxes. Björn looks like a frontier soldier from the First World War or a traveler in ABU spinners. Agnetha looks like Agnetha and Benny remind of Benny.
All the host's television audience must not be alarmed.
They will recognize ABBA.
And it's just as good for the TV audience to do it because the world's television company · hopefully buys this
Dick Cavett demanded double gage plus gold allowance to come here on a quick ride and not ask for divorces.
"It's obviously a more expensive entertainment project than usual, but with both Cavett and ABBA in the lead, it's still a profitable program for Swedish TV, once a time for all the TV 1 bosses (“fiction”) Ingemar Leijonborg in a news communication day to honor and spinning like a satisfied bun cat.

Empty spargis
In the same paper, Germany’s TV 2 also accompanies and empties its piggy bank so that we can all afford this.
"Is it true in Sweden's radio that I get double gage, it's true," said Dick Cavett, but emphasizes that money is obviously not everything in life.

He agrees with everything: it's not that much valuable time.

– But still my programmes have a small tendency to get too polished, too well-behaved? he receives his mind when we say that Dick Cavett is famous, he is amazingly popular.
– There is growing inconvenience to the TV media. The world is cruel, but the TV’s talk shows are soft. As soon as a president is pushed for open cameras, people lean forward on the TV corners and find it refreshing with live broadcast television programs.

Thus, Dick Cavett drew on with the famous ironic mare that kept him dry by all tears in the canals.
– But on the other hand, TV is a trivializing medium. I see no reason why TV would not be it ...
Thus, Dick Cavett drew up with the nuisance for which all world TV companies gladly pay double gays.
He came yesterday and went home today.
TV-hjälte i ABBA-paket

Vi från pressen späda ögonen i Dick Cavett.
- Du fråga väl nage om skilsmässorna, va?...
Då slog Dick Cavett ner TV-världens högst betalda revolverögon, log på ett förekommande sätt samt talade och sade.
- Skilsmässor?... nä, jag glömde att fråga dom Förresten: skulle folk vara interessade att höra ABBA berätta om sina skilmässor??
TV-värIdens högst betalde kanon hade fyrats av. En artig krutrök som smakade vanilj och avslagen cocacola lade sig över presskonferensen.
- Hur är du som människa? sa någon på ett befriande rakt sätt.

Laddade om
Dick Cavett laddade makligt om.
Han är här några timmar för att intervjua ABBA.
Det var nämligen så att Abborna satt och plötsligt kände att en internationelI show som man kan sälja över hela världen så att även lilla TV1 Sverige får råd att vara med på ett hörn... det vore smaskens.
- Dick Cavett! sa vi berättar Björn Ulvaeus.
Det är ju i och för sig inget fel på Lasse HoImqvist, men Dick Cavett talar lika bra engelska.
- Sa nu har vi Dick här och i dag, har vi spelat in snacket som är mera en "konversation" än någon hårdare ulfrågning, sa Benny Andersson.

Fin i håret
Det lär vara flams och glam och fnitter och kulans och alla sitter där och stormtrivs i TV-studion. Dick Cavett är fin i håret. Annifrid har ett härsvall som matchar Iäderboxerna. Björn ser ut som en frontsoldat från första världskriget eller en resande i ABU-spinnare. Agnetha ser ut som Agnetha och Benny påminer om Benny.
All värdens TV-publik får inte oroas.
De kommer att känna igen ABBA.
Och det är ju lika bra att TV-publiken gör det eftersom aII världens TV-bolag· förhoppningsvis köper in det här
Dick Cavett krävde dubbelt gage plus gullningstillägg för att komma hit på en snabbis och inte fråga om skilsmässor.
- Det är givetvis ett dyrare underhållningsprojekt än normalt, men med både Cavett och ABBA i huvudrollerna  blir det ändå ett lönsamt program för svensk TV, fastslår en gång för alla TV 1-chefen ("fiction") lngemar Leijonborg i en nyhetskommuniké dagen till ära och spinner som en nöjd bonnkatt.

Tömd spargis
I samma papper står det att också Tysklands TV 2 är med och tömmer sin spargris så att vi alla får råd med det
här.
- Står det i Sveriges Radios paer att jag får dubbelt gage är det givetvis sant, säger Dick Cavett, men framhåller att pengar givetvis inte är allt här i livet.

Han håller med oss om allting: då går det inte åt så mycket värdefull tid.

- Men nog har väl mina prolgram en liten tendens att bli alltför polerade, för välartade? bjäbbar han emot  när vi säger att Dick Cavett är ju berömd, han år ju fantastikt populär.
- Det växer fram en ökande förströddhet mot TV-mediet. Världen år grym, men TV's pratshower är mjuka. När så plötsligt en president skjuts inför öppna kameror lutar sig folk framåt i TV-hörnorna och tycker det är uppfriskande med direktsända spontana TV-program.

Därmed drog Dick Cavett till med den berömda ironiska knorren som håller honom torrskodd genom allt traskande i kanalerna.
- Men å andra sidan är TV ett trivialiserande medium. Jag ser ingen anledning varför TV inte skulle få vara det...
Därmed drog Dick Cavett till med den knorr för vilken all världensTV-bolag gärna betalar dubbla gager.
Han kom i går och far hem i dag.
Oscar Hedlund, Dagens Nyheter (?) – April 28, 1981

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