Official Polar Music biography 1976:
Bjorn Ulvaeus was born in Gothenburg in the west of Sweden on April 25, 1945. When he was eleven years old he moved to Vastervik, a small town on the east coast.
At the same time he began to play and sing in a skiffle group. A few years later he became a member of a Dixieland band and dance orchestra where he played the banjo and guitar. At the beginning of the sixties the group reached the height of its fame in the style of the Kingston Trio. Bjorn became greatly influenced by their way of treating folk music and with some friends in the top class of Vasterviks grammar school he started a new group with folk songs on the repertoire.
Then in the autumn of 1963 it happened! Via an amateur competition organised by Swedens Radio-TV the Hootenanny Singers became popular virtually overnight. Hootenanny was, as most people know now, a big thing in the United States and it was natural the group should be called Hootenanny Singers. Since then Bjorn and his two friends have been something of an institution in Sweden.
In 1966 Bjorn met Benny Andersson and together they began writing songs both for themselves and other artists.
A few years later Bjorn met Anna Faltskog who became his wife and at the same time Benny met Frida Lyngstad.
Gradually it seemed natural to begin working together and the four of them made their first joint record under the name of ABBA.
Full name: Bjorn Christian Ulvaeus
European & Australian Tour 1977 Souvenir Programme biography:
Hes the Perfectionist of the group. And the one with both the Patience, Pride and Passion to get things just right.
Hes also the one with the insight into the intricate ways of todays music business. Not too many years ago, he could still be seen handling copyright cards and publishing licensee form at the head office of Polar Records, jointly owned and run by ABBA and ABBA manager Stig Anderson.
To Björn Kristian Ulvæus, ABBA is the first Scandinavian group to really grasp the importance of reaching out, locating an audience.
After a few unsuccessful try-outs at the beginning of the 70s, ABBA came to Brighton with their "Waterloo" smash hit.
Not only did the group win; you all know that.
But they were ready. And they were eager to communicate, their happy-go-lucky music being a joyful force. To Björn, other non-anglosaxon groups havent really been prepared to relate to prospective fans on an international level.
So Björn Kristian is the Young Veteran.
You might even call him the media-man of ABBA. The Thinker – but also endowed with the gift of churning out irresistibly hummable melodic gems.
His talents for music were detected at and early age.
Like his old ABBA buddy Benny, Björn met pop success already in his mid teens.
Born in a small town on the Baltic coast, he formed a group called West Bay Singers with a few school chums. Future ABBA manager Stig Anderson, always on the alert for new talent, heard them -and brought them to Stockholm.
The group was heavily into the music of Kingston Trio and Brothers Four; Anderson renamed the group The Hootenanny Singers, and suddenly Sweden had a folk pop wave of generous proportions.
Prodded by Anderson, Björn et consortes slowly but surely changed their format, and soon the Hootenanny gang were singing in their native language, handling songs both from the traditional Swedish treasury of folklore and their own material.
Success came almost instantaneously. And while future ABBA buddy Benny was more into his Swedish version of rock-in-the-Sixties, Björn soon was competing saleswise on local charts with his Hootenannying.
– We used to run into each other on the road, Björn remembers. Both of us were of course touring quite a lot.
– But it took several years before we actually got together, writing songs and discussing plans for the future...
By the time that venerable Tom Jones hit "The green, green grass of home" came around, Björn and his Hootenanny confreres were, figuratively speaking, chewing the grass provided by Swedish military authorities. But brass in the higher ranks let the boys off quite liberally. The Hootenanny Singers covered Jones song on a local Scandinavian level, to huge response from record buyers.
Still formally a "student; Björn wasnt sure he would make music his main occupation. On the side, he took a few classes of "corporative law"; hence his knowledge of the inner workings of the record industry.
Enter ABBA. Or, more correctly: enter Benny. The girls were still a long way coming.
The restaurant management insisted that Björn and Benny, both fairly well known Swedish performers by this time, bring some female company to brighten up the stage.
Since Björn had already, Summer of -69, met Agnetha while rehearsing for the same Television Special, he brought the Lady of his Heart. While Benny called upon Frida, who by that time had begun to make a name for herself as a promising singer.
From then on, it was really only a matter of time before forming a regular group. Especially since there was (if you pardon the expression) "Ring, Ring" in the air.
In Swedish newspapers, Björn and Agnetha were the Pop Romance of the Year. On July 7,1971 church bells were ringing. And these days, with daughter Linda craving lots of attention, you dont find ABBA touring as profusely as before their world fame.
– But this time, were really going all out, Björn explains. We have put months and months in preparation of this tour, very carefully picking our whole entourage to ensure the best possible presentation.
– We owe that kind of care to our tender, loving fans. For years now, theyve helped our records along, boosting our popularity to heights we could never have dreamt of on that April evening in Brighton in 1974.
– So please, folks: have a good time tonight. We certainly intend to!
Together, Björn and Benny worked on a sort of on-and-off basis. Getting together to compose when they felt like it. Always laughing a lot, and eventually even working a few cabaret restaurants together.
It was during one of those gigs that the embryo to what was to become ABBA confronted an audience for the first time.
North American & European Tour 1979 Souvenir Programme biography:
BJORNIf you tell Bjorn Christian Ulvaeus he’s the Perfectionist of the ABBA four, chances are he’ll come right out replying that on the contrary, he’s the kind of guy that invariably forgets to put the cap back on his toothpaste. Or neglects to close the refrigerator door after his nightly visits for that usual Dagobert sandwich.
Then, don’t believe him.Sure, eh takes care of his teeth. In fact, he takes care of his whole body. During the past five-six years he become a full-fledged jogging freak, running some five or six miles a day in the suburban Stockholm neighbourhood of Lidingo. As a consequence, he does not munch five-or-six-layers-sandwiches at the wrong hours.
But so much has been written about the ABBA personalities over the past couple of years that Bjorn seems to get stuck with the “P”-prefixes: he’s the one with the Patience, Pride and Passion to get things right.Maybe so. But then, he’s also a Pursuer of Projects outside Performing.
Since early on, he’s the one with the insight into the intricate ways of today’s music business.Not too many years ago, he could still be found handling copyright cards and publishing forms at Polar – the record company that has since gone “International”, in no small measure due to the ABBA track records of world wide multi-million sellers.
To Bjorn, it’s not all sheer good luck or coincidence.Bjorn believes in hard work, but also in the importance of really reaching out, trying to locate a broader audience. Scandinavian music groups, in or out of rock, have invariably been too shy to even try, according to Bjorn.
– But naturally, it’s all a matter of timing, he adds. ABBA happens to consist of four definitely different personalities that naturally complement each other. Scoring a victory with “Waterloo” that Spring in -74 was of course our real lucky break. Where else but in the Eurovision Song Contest do you get the same kind of exposure, singing in front of 5–60million viewers at once…?Bjorn might be called the media man of ABBA.
But it’s not all thinking and speculating. Together with Benny, he’s proven his gifts many times over since that night in Brighton, England. The group has been at is since -72 actually. You’d have to call that staying power in a music industry studded with fly-by-night “stars”.Somewhat like his ABBA buddy Benny, Bjorn met pop music success fairly early.
Born in a small town on the Baltic coast of Sweden, Bjorn formed a group called West Bay Singers with a few school chums. Future ABBA manager Stig Anderson, always on the alert for new talent, heard the boys. Brought them to Stockholm as The Hootenanny Singers – and suddenly there was this phenomenon called a folk pop wave, and of no inconsequential proportions at that.Sweden was humming new songs, the Hootenanny gang giving their audience a fresh balance of oldies from the national treasury of old folklore in combination with new, Bjorn-penned material. To be on the safe side, he even covered Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” and Jeanie C Rileys “Harper Valley P.T.A.”, both sizeable hits for him and the fledgling company.
Formally still a “student”, Bjorn wasn’t sure he would make music his main occupation.He took classes in “corporate law”, hence his knowledge of the inner workings of the record industry, as handy an asset you can wish for when today ABBA, as a group, has turned into a multi-million dollar industry, with economic interest ranging from Swedish shopping malls, leisure products to Polish oil.
Still, the by-products of fame and fortune are all secondary. To both Bjorn and Benny, it’s the joy of music-making that keeps them going into the studio for ling even tedious sessions of mixing. Or on that road, for that matter.When ABBA started to reach out world wide, Bjorn says it felt unreal, almost surrealistic.
– Suddenly, we were in the charts in countries from Poland to Peru. Early on, we were the biggest thing that ever hit Australia, not even barring The Beatles.– But I’ll never forget the feeling of euphoria I experienced when, a couple of years ago, our first single climbed high in the US Top 4lists. Sure, we haven’t really “broken” in the Albums market in the States. But IF we do, it’ll mean the fulfilment of my biggest professional ambition.
– After all, most everything I’ve ever dug in music has had American roots or origins – just thinking about being able to contribute to the US music scene in a really big way is, well, almost unthinkable…On the subject of the hard work that goes into that specific ABBA sound image, Bjorn is even more emphatic than Benny.
– It’s a teamwork that works kind of intuitively, that’s right. But we also argue a lot along the way. And this time, I really think we’re ready to meet our fans in America and Canada. In Europe, we’ve felt that support that sort of lifts you by the throat for several years now.– To “conquer” a US audience, you really have to come out with something powerful. Judging from the reactions to our movie, “ABBA – The Movie”, the album culled from that one plus our latest album release “Voulez-Vous”, I’d stick my neck out and say that we’re definitely ready now.
Maybe earlier definitions are all wrong. Maybe Bjorn is less a Perfectionist than they all say. Maybe he’s, above all, The Determined One.
Björn Ulvaeus's biography
Björn Kristian Ulvaeus was born in Gothenburg on April 25, 1945. When he was six years old the family moved to the small town of Västervik, and this is where Björn grew up.
In the mid-Fifties Björn fell in love with rock’n’roll and skiffle. By the early Sixties he was a member of a folk group called the West Bay Singers. In 1963 they entered a talent contest arranged by Swedish radio. This led to discovery by songwriter and publisher Stig Anderson and his partner, Bengt Bernhag. Stig and Bengt had recently started a record company called Polar Music. The band acquired a new name, the Hootenanny Singers, and quickly became one of Sweden’s most popular groups of the Sixties.
In 1966, Björn had a chance meeting with Benny Andersson, himself a member of Sweden’s number one pop group, The Hep Stars. They hit it off and wrote their first song together, ’Isn’t It Easy To Say’.
Björn recorded a couple of solo singles in the late Sixties, at which point he also started concentrating more on his collaboration with Benny Andersson. In 1970 the pair started releasing records as a duo and also staged a cabaret show together with their fiancées, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. On July 6, 1971, Björn and Agnetha got married.
From 1972 and a decade onwards Björn was occupied by his work with ABBA. In 1983 Björn and Benny started writing the musical Chess with lyricist Tim Rice. A concept album was released in the autumn of 1984, and in May 1986 the musical opened in London’s West End. In 1988 Chess received its Broadway première. A reworked version of the musical opened in Stockholm, Sweden in 2002.
By 1990, Björn and Benny had decided to write a new musical. This time they wanted to write exclusively in Swedish, and they chose the Emigrants novel series by author Vilhelm Moberg as basis for their work. The musical Kristina från Duvemåla (Kristina From Duvemåla) opened in October 1995. The show ran for three and a half years at various theatres in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm.
Recently, Björn has involved himself heavily in the staging of Mamma Mia!, a musical based on ABBA songs. The show opened in London, England in April 1999 and has since then been staged in Toronto in Canada, and Melbourne, Australia. A tour of the United States culminated in a Broadway opening in October 2001. At the end of 2002 Mamma Mia! will open in Hamburg, Germany and Tokyo, Japan.
Written by Carl Magnus Palm for ABBA - The Site 2002.
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