The North American & European tour 1979
Preparations – The Concerts
Original ideas for a world tour 1979 included Western Europe, North America, the Far East and also Eastern Europe. Because they needed more time for the Voulez-Vous album these plans were condensed and Eastern Europe and most of the Far East were dropped. From the Far East only the Japan tour 1980 remained. The planned venues still looked different to the actual tour in the spring of 1979:
Middle of May Stig Anderson will go over to Los Angeles and New York to discuss the up-coming tour, the opening of the movie in the US and the release of the LP in the US and Canada. All efforts will be put together to really make this ABBA’s year in the US!! [...]
It is now decided that ABBA will open their American, Canadian and European tour in Vancouver, Canada on September 15th. They will play the following cities in the US and Canada: Vancouver - Seattle - Portland - San Francisco - Fresno - Los Angeles - Salt Lake City - Denver - Kansas City - Minneapolis - Milwaukee - Chicago - Cleveland - Washington DC - New York - Boston - Toronto - Montreal. The dates and places will be definitely confirmed during Stig’s visit to the US. ABBA will continue their tour in Europe at the following places:
October: 19 Gothenburg, 20 Stockholm, 27 Copenhagen, 23 Paris, 24 Rotterdam, 25 Dortmund, 27 Munich,
28 Zurich, 29 Vienna, 30 Stuttgart – November: 1 Bremen, 2 Frankfurt, 3 Brussels, 5 London, 6 London, 7 London,
11 Stafford, 12 Stafford, 13 Glasgow, 14 Dublin
Polar press release of May 9, 1979)
For their route through the USA their record sales were analysed and they finally sticked with their “heartlands”.
The stage design by Rune Söderqvist was built in London. Three big trucks transported the 40-50 tons of the stage design and the equipment. ABBA usually travelled by private jet, Agnetha travelled by limousine or with the band in the bus whenever the distance between two cities was close enough.
The 45 concerts of the 1979 tour had a total audience of around 300,000. However, some concerts in the USA weren’t sold out and though the audience reportedly was enthusiastic throughout they also received some bad reviews by US journalists. In the end they lost $ 200,000 with the North American concerts and couldn’t push their record sales as much as they hoped for. (ABBA in America / Bright Lights, Dark Shadows)
According to Stig Anderson the top price for US tickets was $US 9.50 because “We draw a lot of families with kids”
(Billboard, September 29, 1979, p. 3).
I hadn’t reached this level of maturity when we began the USA tour of 1979 [...]. It was momentous and successful, but for me it was awful. Björn and I had separated and I had torn myself away from the children. I just wanted to be home, home, home.
But I had no choice. Björn and I were agreed about doing this tour together, despite the divorce, so we had to form a new relationship with each other and work together in a new way. It was an unfamiliar situation for all four of us – an ordeal by fire. I had no one to talk to. So I mourned alone. The whole time I ached inside for the children and from home sickness.
Agnetha in As I Am, p. 85
Rehearsals with musicians and backup singers started on May 13, 1979 at the Grünewaldsalen at Stockholm’s Konserthuset and two preparation concerts were done in May already. From July 30 on rehearsals continued at Europafilm in Bromma.
In preparation for the 1979 tour, a number of rough mixes of songs, from the original multitrack tapes, were prepared, with instrumental backing turned down and backing vocal performances more upfront. This was to highlight the vocal harmony arrangements, so that it would be easier for the backing vocalists to study and learn their parts. [...] Interestingly, ’Honey, Honey, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, ‘My Love, My Life’, ‘One Man, One Woman’, ‘The King Has Lost His Crown and ‘Lovers (Live A Little Longer)’ were considered for inclusion in the set list at this stage. [July 1979] As far as can be ascertained only three of these titles made it into the rehearsals.
Plans also were to include a completely new song
At one point, the song [Rubber Ball Man] also featured in the rehearsals for the upcoming tour under the new title ‘Under My Sun’, with what seems like another set of demo lyrics – about someone who’s a “true star under my sun” – and an informal recording was made of it during rehearsals at Europa Film Studios, although it’s unclear exactly when (‘Under My Sun’ has been bootlegged from this tape, but the recording does not exist in the Polar Music archives). On the rehearsal tape Björn suggests that the song should be booted off the set list, even before they start performing it: the show is already very long and he doesn’t feel that good about the song. Benny agrees but says that they might as well record it.
In May ABBA did two surprise concerts.
We tour so infrequently that we need to have a little warm up. Especially since we’re going to the United States where we’ve never been before and where we’re all a bit unsure of how the audience regards us: whether they are familiar with us or not. We really don’t know, so we need a little extra self-confidence as a stage act.
We were going out into the world and touring and wanted to test our material before a real audience. We had been working for some time in the studio and rehearsed well. But we had not played the songs live, or have met our audience. We wanted to know how the music would be received. It was both exciting and uncertain. But it must have gone well. We came in the off on our tours to the USA and Australia.
Benny according to Norrköpings Tidningar, April 25, 2016 (translated via Google)
On August 10 ABBA, the backing vocalists and the musicians made a recording of several rehearsed tracks including My Love, My Life, One Man, One Woman and The King Has Lost His Crown (The Complete Recording Sessions (2017), p. 338)
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