Björn Again, the world’s favourite ABBA tribute band, will headline the first ever EACH FEST in Cambridgeshire
The concert, featuring other tribute acts, will take place on August 25 at Huntingdon Racecourse
Adrian Peel spoke to one of the band’s founders, Rod Stephen, and one of its current members, Carla Winters, who ‘plays’ Agnetha.
Since they formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1988, Björn Again have gone through various lineup changes, but, having been praised by Björn and Benny no less, still remain the next best thing to seeing ABBA back together on stage.
Put together by John Tyrrell and Rod Stephen, the outfit performed its first show on May 6, 1989 and has now done over 7000 shows in more than 100 countries. Björn Again are widely regarded as the most successful tribute act of all time.
Rod tells the Cambridge Independent: “I call myself the creator and director, but it sounds a bit high and mighty so ‘founding member’ perhaps is more appropriate.”
For anyone who has seen the overwhelming reception the band received when they arrived in Australia in the 1977 documentary film, ABBA: The Movie, the fact that Björn Again were created Down Under will come as no surprise.
“In a nutshell, it was six months of preparation and rehearsing,” recalls Rod, remembering how the whole thing started, “because of the complexity of ABBA’s music – which initially we thought was throwaway pop.
“But we quickly came to the realisation that there were tons of harmonies to deal with and a musicality which was beyond what we thought we needed the time to rehearse for.
“We did the [first] show and the whole place went nuts, and that was the first time I thought we could be on to something.”
Rod continues: “Benny and Björn were over in Stockholm, scratching their heads thinking, ‘What do we do next?’ and they realised that Björn Again were touring through Europe and Scandinavia, so they said, ‘Come in and have a chat’.
“We thought we were going to get lynched, basically – but they were fascinated to see what we were doing. They were absolutely certain that their music was dead and buried.
“So pretty much on the back of the success of Björn Again, they thought they would release their music on CD for the first time, which was [1992 million-selling compilation] ABBA Gold. That’s when things really went into top gear.”
Rod isn’t too keen on the term ‘ABBA tribute band’. “It’s a bit like a band in its own right,” he notes.
Carla interjects: “The content of the show is choreographed. ABBA didn’t necessarily dance together, but our routines are very interactive for the audience.
“I think that’s one of the main formulas we have; we get the audience involved and it always works a treat.”
Rod adds: “There’s a lot of elements to the show that ABBA would never have dreamed of doing, I would say, so it is quite different.”
One of these elements even sees ‘Benny’ doing a rap. “I can’t imagine the original ever doing that,” says Rod.
Carla says: “My first gig [with Björn Again] was at G-A-Y in London and the real Agnetha was there!
“I’ve loved and admired ABBA for my whole musical career, I suppose. I’ve been involved in other bands where we sing ABBA and it was apparent that everyone gets up when they hear Dancing Queen and Mamma Mia... so being involved with an ABBA show is brilliant.”
Björn Again will be on the bill for the inaugural EACH FEST on August 25 at Huntingdon Racecourse, raising funds for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH). Joining them will be tribute acts to Queen (Supreme Queen), The Rolling Stones (The Rolling Stones Now) and classic rock songs from the 1950s onwards (The 2FBS Band).
For more information, or to book tickets, visit eachfest.co.uk/tickets/.