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ABBA: The Show

December 2009

It is his saxophone you can hear on ABBA hits I Do I Do I Do, Voulez Vous and Ring Ring.
And while Ulf Andersson spent only a couple of years recording and touring with the Swedish pop giants, more than 30 years later the association is serving him well.
Ulf is part of ABBA - The Show, a multi-million pound production that also features original drummer Roger Palm.
They are part of Waterloo, a tribute band featuring Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Frida Doppelgangers who perform the hits accompanied by The National Symphony Orchestra of London.
“There are 30 people on the stage and about 60 working behind-the-scenes with five trucks taking all the stage and lighting,” he says.
“It’s quite special.”
The show tells the story of the group’s beginnings in the late sixties, through the Eurovision win in 1974 with Waterloo, to their split in 1982. Since 2001 it has been seen by a million people in 35 countries.
For the first time this weekend it will drop in to the Trent FM Arena.
For Ulf, paying tribute has been a payday that has been a long time coming.
ABBA still sell around two million records every year but Ulf sees no royalties for his sax parts.
“I had a salary but now I’m getting to travel around the world and get some money out of that. That’s my royalties,” he laughs.
“There wasn’t so much money back then – we were just pleased to be in the band.”
He adds: “With ABBA I played about 50 concerts and with this tribute show I’ve played around 1000.”
Ulf is in a tour bus in Dublin when we speak. A noisy tour bus at that, which he shares with the rest of the performers - unlike the ABBA days.
“Mostly we met on the stage. We travelled separately because they had so much attention from the media. Often they travelled by themselves to be able to take care of press conferences and all that.”
But they did also rehearse together for a month before tours and were invited to contribute in the studio.
“We were able to add some things,” says Ulf.
“Björn and Benny were open to listening to our opinions.”
He was on the world tour with ABBA in 1977 that came to Britain and Australia.
“The opening night in Sydney was very special with more than 50,000 people. That was very special to me. None of us in the group imagined it was going to be that big.”
Ulf was a session player in Sweden during the time ABBA got together and was a natural choice when they needed a saxophonist in the studio.
“I’d played with a lot of other artists, in the studio, on tour and on TV shows.”
Not that we’d know them over here.
He’d already gone back to his session work years before ABBA split.
“They’d found other ways of recording, “ he says.
Famously, the rift between Agnetha and Frida prompted ABBA to break up. But that was a long time ago and one would have imagined a lucrative reunion tour would have happened at some point in the 27 years since.
“I’m not too surprised,” he says.
“They did what was possible to do with the music over those years. There was of course some personal things which made it more difficult to continue working together. That could be one of the reasons they didn’t come back on stage again.”
They never will, he believes.
“It’s not going to happen.”
With the success of Mamma Mia -- the movie and the West End show -- they don’t need to in order to keep the music alive.
“It has been popular all the time but it’s even more special now.”

ABBA - The Show, Trent FM Arena, Saturday December 12, 7.30pm, £35, 08444 124 624

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