Benny Andersson’s acceptance speech at Abba’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


Transcribed from YouTube 5jFQLItqFhg, 2017-06-05

You should know that Sweden is a great country to live in... But when we grew up in the fifties we had no radio. So therefore we couldn’t hear rhythm and blues or rock and roll... We just had one public service radio channel... They would play one or two hours of music per day. They were "Whistle While You Work" kind of programmes. They would start with a classical number, then they'd go through all sorts of music and if we were lucky they’d play one popular song at the end of the show. So, we were fed with Swedish folk music, Italian arias, French chansons, German schmaltz and Jean-Philippe Sousa. [audience laughter] Not so bad actually because put that all together and it becomes what you can hear on some of the Abba records.

So we didn't have any blues, like you would call blues in Sweden. We had another kind of blues, because if you take everything above the 59th parallel from eastern Russia, through Finland into Scandinavia, there's this melancholy belt, sometimes mistaken for the vodka belt. [audience laughter] And if you live in a country like Sweden with 5-6 months of snow and the sun disappears totally for like two months, that would be reflected in the work of artists, I believe. It's definitely in Swedish folk music, you can hear it in Russian folk songs, you can hear it in the music of Jan Sibelius or Edvard Grieg, you can see it in the eyes of Greta Garbo, and you can hear it in the voice of Jussi Björling. And actually you can hear it in the voices of Frida and Agnetha in some of our songs, too. And for those who are observant enough, they might spot it in the odd Ingmar Bergman movie.

So, there was no radio, but there were record shops. I bought my first record in 1957 —Jailhouse Rock with Elvis Presley [applause], with a great B-side: Treat Me Nice. From there on I didn't really turn back because if it wasn't for those songs by Leiber/Stoller, Goffin/King, The Beach Boys Records, Lennon/McCartney, Ray Davis, the Motown catalogue, Joni Mitchell, Chuck Berry and all those others, we would not be here tonight. I think Abba is a mix of all this European stuff we had as young kids and of what came after that...

I was thinking the other day: if all the members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame never existed, what would the world be like then? You can think about that for a while. I think it would be pretty dull. So, the inspiration we've had from all those wonderful songwriters and performers, combined with this European thing, is what made it possible for us in Abba to reach out with music to the rest of the world in a time when all pop or rock acts were either American or English. And now, finally, all these songs have brought us into the great Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where all our heroes already are. And for that —and I speak for all four of us— I say that we are deeply, deeply honoured.