ABBA at Brighton Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, Myself and Fernando

My story: The Grand Hotel including the after show party.

Every time I listen to ABBA music or watch ABBA documentaries it aways transports me back In time to one of the most remarkable nights I was so blessed to witness, an unknown band called ABBA winning the Eurovision song contest, let me share my evening with you.

In the early 70’s , being a fully dedicated musician in my band  ‘the USA band’ (I was the base guitarist and singer, aged 20 – see pictures below).

Serg and myself in the recording studios 1972

Back stage before supporting Super Tramp at Worthing Assemble Halls

When I was preforming numerous gigs in and around Brighton often at the gigs, there was a dark haired guy who use to take photos of the band, I didn’t really know him and we got talking about music and what he did for a living and he told me he was a freelance photographer who originally came from Gibraltar now living in Brighton. I asked him his name and it was Fernando Valverde. I asked if I could have any of the shots he had taken and he sent me some , I phoned to thank him and we went for a beer and chatted about the music scene in general - after that we kept in touch and actually became quite good friends.

One day in 1974 he asked if I would like to come along to something happening at the Grand Hotel as he had a press pass plus an assistant (he said I could carry his camera bag!), it was the Eurovision Song Contest. I said ok I’ll come along for the ride – I wasn’t bothered either way. We met up in the afternoon at my flat in Kemptown, I asked what should I wear and he said put on your gold jacket  (which I might add was a fabulous shimmering gold colour)

Before heading out to the grand hotel (taken by Fernando with his professional camera)

Around 5.30 we headed to the Grand Hotel with his camera equipment. On the steps of the Grand, security being very tight, Fernando had to show his press pass and in we entered (for reference Fernando went onto to photograph many of the leading stars of the day including the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Jam etc – I have many original/ one off photos of his in my home)

Once inside the hotel we pitched ourselves up on the right-hand side table near the reception, which gave us a very clear view down the hall to the lifts. It was now about 6.30 and we ordered some drinks and Fernando was busy working. The hotel was nice and relaxed but there was an air of excitement.

We were soon joined by another press photographer who chatted with us. He had brought along his daughter and I did not really notice any other photographers present. This photographer was Peter O’Byrne and his daughter Jacqui  O’Byrne. He then offered to take a photo of all of us which shows Ferando on the left, me in the middle and Jacqui sitting on my lap.

At the Grand Hotel, Eurovision evening

I believe the majority of performers were staying in the Grand, and around about 7pm various artists made there way to large blue coach outside the hotel (the coach drove artists to the Dome) . They made their way though the hotel lobby to the exit. During this period the lift doors opened and out came 4 incredibly dressed performers, They walked in a row slowly towards us, I had to look twice because their stage cloths were so outrageous and the nearer they came I noticed one of the girls with dark hair looked at me smiling, I smiled back at her and got a  cheeky wink in return (this being Frida!). As they were directly in front of us I said good luck and they smiled back and said thanks. Fernando took some shots (I’ll never know what happened to them). They made their way onto the coach and we followed behind them – also behind us was Katie Boyle (she was compere for the evening) as she was about to get on the coach Fernando took a cheeky shot of her – the wind was blowing and she said “don’t take a photo of me looking like this – its windy” , we all laughed and once she was on the coach, it left for the Dome.

Fernando and I also headed to the Dome then we all headed off to the after show party which was at the side of the Grand Hotel where we chatted with various acts including the winners ABBA until the early hours of the morning (I must admit by now we had consumed quite a lot of champagne and my memory of the party is a little bit hazy!).

This has to be one of the most remarkable nights I was so blessed to witness, an unknown band to the world (considering how famous they became and still are) I was there! To this day every time I hear an ABBA song on the radio or watch documentaries about them it takes me straight back to this evening in 1974.

This encouraged me to write a Eurovision song of my own with my new outfit “Hayleys Comet” furthermore we were interviewed live on air while being filmed discussing this song it was called ‘make me an offer’, I still have the video to this day which I will add to this story at some point. 

Videos and Photos of the Brighton and Hove ABBA Exhibition - 28th march to 4th August 2024