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Swedes Surrender: An ABBA couple

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Euro-pop phenomenon ABBA were already rich as kings. Thanks to hits like ”Waterloo” and ”Dancing Queen” (and those snazzy jumpsuits), the double-couple Swedish quartet (husband and wife Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog, and Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid ”Frida” Lyngstad) was the best-selling musical act in the world. To cap off their success, on Oct. 6, 1978, Benny and Frida — after eight years of living together in what the American press then coyly reported as a ”Stockholm Marriage” — were wed in the Swedish hamlet of Lidingö, with only the priest, a church employee, and the couple’s housekeeper in attendance.

Two months earlier, Benny had told PEOPLE, ”I don’t see any reason for getting a certificate of love.” But afterward he sang a different tune to the press. ”We felt it was the right moment to marry, but … we didn’t want it to be like Björn and Agnetha’s wedding [in 1971], where there were so many people.”

As it turns out, the guilty pleasures gleaned from ABBA songs have lasted far longer than either marriage. Björn and Agnetha split in 1978. Benny and Frida parted in ’81 when Benny took up with Swedish TV personality Mona Nörklit, whom he married several months later. Late the following year, ABBA took a break — and never reunited.

But then something unexpected happened on the way to the cutout bin: an ABBA revival. It started heating up with the 1992 compilation disc ABBA Gold (18 million sold, and counting) and two ABBA-filled films, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel’s Wedding (both 1994), and kept on groovin’ with tribute bands like today’s A*Teens. ”The funny thing is that it didn’t stop after that,” notes Björn. Mamma Mia!, a musical weaving together 22 ABBA chestnuts and already a hit in London, will open on Broadway in October 2001. Frida, 54, who splits her time between Switzerland and Majorca (her husband, German prince Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen, died last year after a long illness; her daughter, Lise-Lotte, 31, was killed in a 1998 car crash), ”drops by our office whenever she’s in Sweden and is an investor in Mamma Mia!” says Björn, 55, who, along with collaborator Benny, still calls Stockholm home.

If that doesn’t prove the group’s enduring appeal, in February they turned down a staggering billion-dollar offer from an American-British consortium to reunite for a 100-concert tour. ”It’s only pocket money, isn’t it?” laughs Björn. ”When we understood the scope of the whole thing and what it would mean to our lives, it was easy to say no.” After two divorces, they’ve clearly learned that superstardom does have its price.


Time Capsule: October 6, 1978
At the movies, in a role that would earn him an Oscar nod, Laurence Olivier is a Nazi hunter on the trail of Gregory Peck’s evil doctor in The Boys From Brazil. In music, Boston’s Don’t Look Back and the soundtrack to Grease duke it out atop the Billboard chart. In bookstores, James A. Michener’s latest epic, Chesapeake, is No. 1 on the Publishers Weekly fiction best-seller list. And in the news, prolific Yiddish novelist and Polish émigré Isaac Bashevis Singer is awarded the year’s Nobel Prize for Literature.

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