This article, based on quotes from Agnetha’s book As I Am, was published in a Dutch TV guide in the same week that a television special was broadcast on Dutch TV. The special celebrated 25 years of ABBA’s success in Holland and featured snippets of several rare ABBA-performances and interviews for Dutch TV. Just like in many other countries, ABBA enjoyed another full-scale revival in Holland in 1999. A compilation album, designed exclusively for Holland, reached the number one spot and was one of the best selling albums of the year.
Which CD crossed shop counters the most in the past ten years? Was it Madonna’s? Was it Oasis’? Or was it the Spice Girls’? Not exactly. With the year 2000 on the threshold, the general audience is going back to the golden days of ABBA on a massive scale. In the meantime, no less than 25 million copies of the CD ‘ABBA Gold’ have crossed shop counters. An unprecedented success, that make the pop idols of today turn pale. Agnetha Fältskog about the life after the legend.
Who doesn’t know her? Agnetha Fältskog, the pretty, blonde singer that made many boys’ heart beat faster. She is now 49 years old, still attractive but much more sophisticated. Actually, she hardly got older. Just like the legendary creation ABBA. In their heyday scoffed at by the critical press, now they’re even immortalized at the renowned Nordiska Museum in Stockholm. Twenty-five years after ‘Waterloo’, ABBA is not only widely respected for their intricate musical structures, their avant-garde contribution to the time spirit of the seventies and the eighties is being acknowledged all over the world as well. Agnetha hardly seems to realize this. The way she talks about ABBA, reveals a certain naivety.
Agnetha: “When we called it a day with ABBA in the beginning of the eighties, I thought we would be forgotten after a few years. I never realized how big the impact of our group was. But now, in the nineties, ABBA is back with a vengeance. In my life as well. Meanwhile, the revival has become so strong, that we can’t ignore it any longer. You know, when our music has lasted for such a long time, and is still appealing to so many people all over the world, then there has to be something special about us as a group?”
For years, Agnetha has wanted nothing more than to be at home and lead a private life. She has no desire for the spotlights. It is often suggested that she’s living like a recluse, shut off from society. But in reality, she’s in the centre of life. She regularly shows up at parties and premieres. But she doesn’t perform any longer.
Agnetha: “I want to show my talent, my aim is not so much to be worshipped by loads of people. After the immense success of the group, I wanted to prove I was more than ABBA’s Agnetha. That’s why I realized a lifelong dream when I got the opportunity. I accepted a part in a movie, in order to prove myself as an actress as well. After my movie, I recorded my first international solo album ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’, together with Mike Chapman. The fact that this album sold 2,5 million copies, gave me the feeling that I could be successful on my own as well. But by then, my children were my priority already. The projects that I’m really proud of are the albums that I’ve recorded together with them. These days, I’m keeping myself occupied with managing my horse-riding centre and the supervision of my capital. Who knows, I might even sing again, a movie soundtrack or something like that. Just for fun.”
Out of the four ABBA-members, it was especially Agnetha who started her solo career full of ambition. Indeed, she was already successful as a solo singer in Sweden, even before ABBA existed. With ABBA’s major breakthrough and the numerous hits that followed, Agnetha’s ambition strangely diminished. What came instead was the care for her children and uncontrollable fears. This resulted in the dramatic divorce from Björn and several conflicts in the group.
Agnetha: “I enjoyed the success, but I had the feeling that I was torn in two. On the one hand, I was a star, and on the other I was a mother. On top of that, I developed an enormous fear of flying, after a near plane crash. I was afraid that my children would be left behind without parents. I missed them when I was standing there singing my umpteenth hit, far away from home. That’s why I rather wanted to stay at home at a certain point. Björn and I had many arguments about that. He thought that I couldn’t let certain opportunities go by. But the children were my priority. I didn’t have any problems with television performances, because they were always brief. But I wasn’t up for the tours that lasted for months on end. After our divorce, I agreed to one more world tour. This tour was very difficult for me. On stage, I was radiating, but behind the scenes, I felt like a wreck.”
Still, the divorce didn’t mean the end of ABBA immediately. Many regard the records after the divorce as the group’s finest moment. The melodies are more complicated, the lyrics are less superficial and sometimes even painfully personal.
Agnetha: “At a certain moment, Björn and I just had to face the facts. Things just weren’t working out between us. When we eventually had decided to separate, an enormous pressure disappeared. We were free again, and could go out with other people again. This had a positive effect on the atmosphere in the group. It’s definitely true that our work got more profound because of it. We wrote better songs, with more real emotion and pure feelings. I still regard ‘The Winner Takes It All’, ‘One Of Us’ and ‘The Day Before You Came’ as our best songs.”
When Benny and Frida’s marriage comes to an end as well, due to Benny having an affair, ABBA is doomed. But none of the ABBA-members has the nerve to break away from the ABBA-heritage officially.
Agnetha: “That was the strange thing about the whole situation. None of us really felt like it any longer, but none of us had the nerve to say: ‘I quit’. We had achieved everything there was to achieve, we had written good songs and achieved an enormous success, and then there comes a time when you want to move ahead. At a certain point, I said during an interview that I preferred a solo career to ABBA, and that I couldn’t imagine that we’d ever be on stage together again. I gave that interview only a year after our last recordings, but during that short time I had become so far removed from ABBA, that I hardly noticed that I had put an end to an era by saying that. Since then, I’ve decided to lead my life at my own pace. This has made me much happier.”