4 Swedish singers no longer a hit at Kremlin: Swedish pop group ABBA’s music is denounced in Soviet press; its ventures into business have been cited as proof of venality and its film has been withdrawn from theatres; reason for Government animosity toward group seem to be that in January, when President Reagan and advisers decided to mount TV special on Poland, ABBA was invited to tape segment, which was not included in program. By John F. Burns – Special to The New York Times

Moscow, 6th March, 1982 – The Swedish pop music quartet ABBA had long been the most popular Western Musical ensemble in the Soviet Union, but suddenly it fell into official disfavor.

Until January, its long-playing recordings were produced under license in vast numbers. For several years, the group’s songs were at or near the top of the hits listed by Moskovsky Komsomolets, the Moscow newspaper that compiles its listings from selections mailed in by readers.

Shortly before the official denunciation, another pinnacle was reached by ABBA, whose name is an acronym for the four Swedes who make up the group – Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, also known as Frida.

A feature-length ABBA movie was shown in Soviet cinemas, and the 22 movie houses in Moscow that screened it were packed. Not since The Beatles at the height of their popularity had any Western group had such a following among young Russians eager for some of the attractions of the West.

But now ABBA’s music has been denounced in the Soviet press, its ventures into business have been cited as proof of venality and its film has been withdrawn from the theatres, ABBA’s records continue to trade in the central Moscow park where black-market buyers and sellers conduct their surreptitious trade on weekday mornings. But nobody believes that the authorities will permit any further pressings of the group’s records, which have already been through three runs.

The reason seems clear. In January, when President Reagan and his advisers decided to mount a television special, “Let Poland Be Poland,” to attract worldwide attention to the military crackdown there, ABBA was invited to tape a contribution. The Swedes did, and although the segment was not used, their action appeared to earn them deletion from the list of Western entertainers who are looked on benignly by the Soviet authorities.

The authorities have never given explicit grounds for the group’s fall from favor, but the pattern of events tells its own story.

TV show is denounced

On the day that the American production was shown in the United States, the Soviet trade-union newspaper Trud published an article saying that “these talented singers noted for their original music” had agreed to participate. The article implied that their business interests – said to make them one of Sweden’s 10 richest concerns – had persuaded them not to turn down a bid from the leader of the capitalist world.

The show came in for a ferocious critique in the Soviet press, which called it a “television burlesque” and denounced many of its participants, including Frank Sinatra. The Communist Party newspaper Pravda called it “a hurriedly cooked-up spectacle” and quoted gleefully from Western press reviews that called it pointless and vulgar.

Meanwhile, Trud had noticed that ABBA had not been included in the program after all. After three days, its Stockholm correspondent contributed an article declaring that the American producers had cut the ABBA segment because the singers, in addition to condemning events in Poland, had included an expression of sympathy for the victims of American-supported “repression” in Chile and El Salvador.

The reporter, far from redeeming the singers, cited the episode as an instance of what he called the hypocrisy of American pretensions to free speech.

Then last month, after the ABBA film disappeared from the cinemas, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda had a long review of the film, describing ABBA as utterly without talent and a corrupting influence on Soviet youth.

The reviewer described the group’s songs as “sweat cheap candy,” and said they were “garnished” on stage by the “anatomical writhings” of the singers.

All of this, she said, was the result of Western commercialism, and ABBA’s “friendly smiles” and gestures to their fans were only a mask for their frantic urge for “money, money and more money.” Transcribed for ABBA World

The New York Times · Sunday, 7 March 1982 (Page 7)


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