Saturday, 7 June 2008

TOP-10, 1988: Agnetha told me her deepest secrets

An article from Dutch magazine TOP-10 that gets some of the facts mixed up, like Björn's former group and the order of the divorces...

History tells us that American and English pop-groups stand a far better chance of making it big internationally, than Swedish. There’s only one exception: ABBA. You can hardly imagine how popular this group was 10 years ago. Agnetha was part of ABBA. TOP-10 reveals her success-story. It all begins in 1968...

Back in time. In a stuffy clubhouse in Stockholm thirteen finalists of a talent-contest are biting their nails. Agnetha Fältskog is one of them. She knows she has a good chance, because the audience’s response after her performance was deafening. But, you never know.
“I remember that day very well,” she says. “I had never been so nervous in my life. When the prize-ceremony started, I couldn’t contain myself any longer. Until the numbers three and two had been announced. Then I knew I had won, and I was so relieved.”
Her victory in that talent-contest is the start of a glorious career for Swedish Agnetha. She gets a record-deal and her first single is an immediate hit, and many others would follow even before her ABBA-time. “Actually I was very popular in Sweden,” she says, “but it got harder and harder to combine the singing with my study at drama-school.” That study came to an end permanently in 1970. “In those days I met Björn Ulvaeus and it was love at first sight,” she smiles. “On July the seventh 1971 we got married, in a small town named Verum. It was all very romantic. The media were all over us, because we were both rather well-known in Sweden. Björn had been a member of the Hep Stars, and they received eight golden records, I believe. Well, and I wasn’t exactly unknown myself...”

In the meantime ABBA had begun to take shape. A friend of Björn, Benny Andersson, and his girlfriend Annifrid formed Festfolk Quartet together with Björn and Agnetha, but their name was rapidly changed into Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Frida. “Rather complicated, especially for non-Swedes,” Agnetha admits. “But surprisingly our first record under that name didn’t become a hit in Sweden, but it did abroad. It was called 'She’s My Kind Of Girl' and was very popular in Japan. And I thought they had never heard of us over there...”

In 1973 the foursome enter the pre-selections for the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time. “And that was it,” says Agnetha, “we were eliminated immediately.” Still the record became a substantial hit. In Holland it peaked at number five. The song was called 'Ring Ring' and had been written by Neil Sedaka. All of that is now fifteen years ago.
In 1974 Björn, Benny, Agnetha & Frida gave it another shot. “We had a song that we thought could do well, only the title was a problem. That’s why we changed 'Honey Pie' to 'Waterloo' and yes: we won. After that it all exploded. 'SOS' became a worldwide hit, and we changed our name yet again, this time to ABBA, and the life of superstardom started. In a time-span of two and a half years we sold nearly as many records as the Beatles, and that’s saying something...” Agnetha is silent for a while when she thinks about that golden era. There seemed to be no limits to ABBA’s success. “We travelled the whole world to do concerts,” Agnetha says, “and actually that was the least attractive part for me. I didn’t like performing. I preferred making promotional films and recording. The business-side was handled by our manager, Stig Anderson, who was called the fifth ABBA-member. We ended up having a record-company with its own recording studio, and even department stores.”

In 1981 rumours start circulating that ABBA might come to an end. Frida and Benny get divorced around that time and Frida records a solo-album with Phil Collins, while Agnetha follows her example. “There was a world-famous producer, Mike Chapman, who had been very successful producing other artists, and I wanted to work with him as well. Not because of the fame, because I already had that, but I wanted to see what I could do on my own. 'Wrap Your Arms Around Me' became a substantial success, and that’s when I realized there would be life after ABBA for me.” When shortly after that also Agnetha and Björn’s marriage comes to an end, the split seems inevitable. “We simply couldn’t face being a married couple in a group any longer,” says Agnetha, “and suddenly it was all over.”
In 1983, Frida sells her ABBA-shares and moves to London. The business disbanded, but the group still goes on. It turns out to be the last activity and with the appropriate 'Thank You For The Music' ABBA says goodbye.
It’s the start of a new era for Agnetha. She records the album 'Eyes Of A Woman'. “That was the last the audience got to hear from the ‘old’ Agnetha,” she says confidently. “After that I changed a lot. Not only in my looks, but also in the choice of my music. I’m much more independent now. I don’t let everybody rule my life...” The result of that change: the album 'I Stand Alone' and that’s a small masterpiece. “I’m very happy with it myself,” she says, “and I don’t think 'The Last Time' will remain the only hit from that album.”
'The Last Time' is Agnetha’s twenty-ninth hit. And you can be assured, that the thirtieth is just around the corner.

In this article, a reporter of the magazine (who is in the picture with Agnetha holding a photograph) shares his personal recollections about his meetings with Agnetha.

Michael remembers it as if it was yesterday. How she smiled, and how down-to-earth she was. He was there when Agnetha was enjoying herself in the snow. And he was in Sweden, to talk to ABBA for hours. “I don’t know if Agnetha was really attracted to me,” says Michael. “In all honesty, that’s what I hoped for. But I never dared to ask her. She did look me up every time and I had warm feelings for her. I also called her a few times. But after that it all faded. This was at the time when she and Björn had difficulties. Later on they divorced. What struck me most, was her openness. She told me things, very intimate, that I never expected she would dare to tell. After all, we don’t know each other that well. She asked me for advice and we talked for hours. I will never betray that trust. There are things I will never tell, to anyone..."


Ronaldo said...

What a great article! Many rare pics there as well. Wasn't that guy with PopFoto in the Seventies?

Michel said...

Thanks, Ron! Yes, that Michael-guy, thinking he had a chance with Agnetha, is indeed the same guy who was with Pop Foto.