(Blogger note: Except for 2013-14 updates below, much of this website was written between 2009-11. Reader update: All 'abba4ever' forum hyperlinks (within the blog's text) are defunct. (Forum has closed.))

Monday, April 5, 2010

A stopping place for now: 'Agnetha/ABBA, Belatedly'

© 2009-2011 (original portions only)

This, from an older-but-wiser geezer whose spot was once the old Cleveland Agora (USA); a venue that a '70s pop band (not named The Raspberries) possibly would not have survived:

After many years of ignoring them it's been an enjoyable (and ironic) experience to "discover" 'supergroup' ABBA, and reluctant star Agnetha Fältskog [aŋˈneːta]. (Pictured/link. Also credit to Mr. Palm (see below), for that descriptor of Ms. Fältskog.) Surprise (U.S. rock fans...(of a 'certain age')):They were excellent at their craft.  I hope those who stumble upon this informal site will (also) find interest in some of the learning that's occurred....  (I know that many of you have also 're-discovered' Agnetha/ABBA...) Please make use of the index of topics/labels located below on the right sidebar.  This blog is - for the most part - music-focused.               (Photo (also a link to an indelible performance) : Agnetha Fältskog, ABBA, Ekeberghallen, Oslo, Norway, January 28th 1977. Author: Helge Øverås. No website endorsement implied.)

Blog navigation note/hint: No time right now?? Please start here with this "salient points", condensed blog summary (link).

A listeners' review of Agnetha's post-ABBA recordings (link)  - though incomplete - is worth a look to see if you agree with its selections and perceptions. Note: Includes an updated Agnetha 'top ten' listing. Agnetha's special voice? Independent, music-detail insights about it are here. And, please try these three posts for a little broader perspective (i.e., they are not only about Ms. Fältskog.  Research about ABBA's 1979 stormy Boston concert flight is included.) Links: Here, here and here.

If there's an overarching point via the (belated) discoveries detailed here, it's simply this: Ms. Fältskog can sing. (Despite some retro-star-power-induced detours nearing "the deep end" in this blog ("actuated by" Agnetha's published efforts - years later - evidence of a true star....);that is really what this written effort is about. (Her singing.))An extraordinary pop voice: Crystal-clear, sweet and expressive. Per much that's asserted in this blog; her voice inside your head(phones): A pleasure. (Link is to an individual YouTube song tribute from aficionado '2Shaymcn'. (Videos from that YT site are linked here with permission.)
 ...Combine with the 'element' of heavenly female beauty ..and to some (at least); a captivating delight (link). Though her in-English work is in the past now, she is well worth a (re-)visit --in any form: "Smiling sensation" Agnetha (at her utmost) is more discoverable than ever via "time machine", You Tube.

(Insert...) 2014: And yes BTW, (rightly or not) I do feel slightly 'flattered' when Agnetha/ABBA official websites (etc.) occasionally re-use descriptive words such as 'aficionado' and 'siren'......Employed by this tiny blog (years ago).(Screen-cap image/example follows:)

(Continuing previously written text:)Necessary to know, up-front: Both ABBA singers together were essential for that band's success. No Frida and Agnetha = No ABBA. For many, the presentation (singing, etc.) of ABBA's songs was equally as important as the exceptional writing, producing. (A YT link to one fantastic (performing) example...)  (Update:) Easy prediction: In the popular music sphere I believe that these two ladies will be revered (more revered or acclaimed) for years to come. They were that special, together ...One sample link here to a beautiful ABBA ballad, featuring Frida's stellar lead...). Related: Singing with/skillfully harmonizing with other singers was clearly a major strength forMs. Fältskog(the main focus here; solo work). A sample link to one appealing post-ABBA example. (And another: A not-well-known one (during her ABBA days), from Sweden (link).Another lesser-known favorite....ooops, Not hers??) More: A much-too-cursory Frida appreciation is included here. (A beautiful recent, published picture of Frida is linked here.)   
And please see the end of this post for a 'bonus quotation' that nicely describes the two voices of ABBA. 
(Nope: In case it's not obvious, I'm
not associated in any way with
 ABBA, Ms. Fältskog or their record companies.If you find that you're not convinced of certain findings here, pls. try some available videos on You Tube for a mesmerizing sample (Ms. Fältskog, solo). And consider what present-day viewers there are saying. Or: Why not read on in this blog and enjoy the many included links....Most of us will never meet the Swedish singer, but this effort may be a good way to learn much via her music. Plus the mere fact that a number of unofficial 'appreciations' or tributes have been independently created on-line (in several locations): A tremendous compliment to this performer. (And those similarly created for other ABBA members, the band itself, etc.)

(Continuing:) From not even knowing the names of ABBA's members and only a few of their hit songs (like many people in the U.S.), it's been good to gain a richer appreciation of the "mega" pop group and those associated. With millions of others I'll be enjoying recordings, etc. of the band, and especially from Ms. Fältskog. (Aside: None of it is Mozart, nor opera singing....But ABBA understood that.) Plus, of course the numerous, well-done tributes etc. on You Tube.... which seem to expand by the week. (And huge ABBA fan Sen. John McCain may unleash an impromptu karaoke retrospective at any moment, as we all know. Don't get me going re Vladimir Putin....Update: Or, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg...?) ABBA exemplifies something not all too readily done, done very, very well. It is difficult not to respect and admire that....(Celebrated actress/voice artist Joanna Lumley says it succinctly with this recent quotation, displayed here (link). And as some YouTube commenters currently like to "get a little stupid" (and write underneath ABBA videos (for example)): "I'm an unborn fetus ....and I LOVE ABBA." ...)

Stop: BTW, is this blog (you're reading) one guy's way-late "head trip" (mainly) about a singularly talented, 1970's/80's Swedish singer?? (A performer with enough 'star-power' to motivate (inspire) this unprecedented effort (for me.) Answer: Possibly YES, at moments. (Don't think I was quite at this point, though (link).) However please read on, as you may well find that it's worth the trip back....Agnetha's appealing pop voice is reason enough.
(An appropriate ABBA song (title) for this 'trip'?? (Link, new window.) The two ABBA singers together: A dream, always...)

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As noted here and elsewhere, Carl Magnus Palm has written the definitive ABBA biography to date: Bright Lights, Dark Shadows. If you haven't yet done so please consider reading it especially if you're an ABBA or Agnetha fan. It is well-researched and very detailed. Also, if you want to know what was being written -- factually and otherwise -- about all ABBA members during their peak years, an excellent web site has quite a collection for you: http://abbaarticles.blogspot.com/
Some stories are largely made-up or just tabloid trash, but ABBA members did talk frequently and could be candid. In fact, though some publications unfavorably label Ms.Fältskog to be reclusive, uncooperative, etc., the truth is that she has spoken candidly with selected sources over many years. (See a few of the articles linked above.) This lengthy and detailed blog being read right now is completely based upon the singer's available public interviews, biography, published music, etc. The artist is generally publicity-shy (or was; pls. see 'late 2010 update' near the end of this post), but there is hardly a lack of information from/about the public Agnetha. (Just one example: A charming and candid short interview from 1981, via this 'ABBA4EVER' link (new window).

 ABBA has moved on and it's time for me to do so as well. I'll add more to the blog perhaps if an event of significance occurs (with the group or members) . But please check back for ongoing updates, enhancements and additions to the current entries. If you read something here, please leave a civil comment (if you'd like) as I'll continue to be able to view them. FWIW, all original entries here are copyrighted. Thank you.

A closing word (or two) about talented Agnetha Fältskog, who -- along with many other fans -- I've quickly come to admire. (For reasons detailed above and elsewhere. There may be millions of us (Agnetha fans)...clearly we all have good acumen, perception, etc....) 1) I hope proper recognition for the key contributions made to ABBA by both fronting ladies will be forthcoming. (I.e., Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha.) Both were essential to the group's great success, and their voices together were something like pop music magic, in my view. (Ref. this interesting forum discussion about the "third voice" that sometimes emerged. As also noted previously; rich-voiced, rock-solid Frida "carried it" on numerous ABBA songs; Agnetha more the dramatic accent. "Money Money Money"; one example.) Note: Volume is high on the following. Actually both vocalists are pretty impressive in this ABBA song/video version (mimed here; more about its singing linked here), which somehow magnifies Agnetha's high-note contributions...Plus: An even better song featuring the singers at their best together follows via this post.

(YT video link)
In other words they were attractive ladies who could sing, and sing well together. Not all that common of a combination, judging by how very few true "successors" (none?) have appeared in popular music since. They were hardly just "a couple of decorative Swedish babes", as a few (especially around these parts) may have once thought. To me, it is not going too far overboard to claim the two women together at their peak as one of the miracles of latter-20th-century pop music. (Yes, there were a few...(another) (+ another). A different one (link).)  E.g., Please enjoy this available YT performance (link) and tell me that it was not. (Ms. Fältskog especially, that time.) And if interested (ladies/vocalists): Try to (truly) match DQ's singing on your own/via karaoke. You'll likely find yourself impressed with A and A's effort...

A petition for overdue ABBA induction to the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" is here. Remember: The Bee Gees, Madonna, Dave Clark Five and other pop-oriented acts are already there. (And per the comment received below, it is appropriate to question that entity's validity, purpose, etc. ABBA is a 2002 Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductee.) 9/09 UPDATE: Click  for news of 2010 "Rock Hall" nominees. And know it right here, first: ABBA is IN in 2010. So many lesser acts have been inducted,  I don't see how the enduring pop 'supergroup' can be kept out of the Hall any longer....Vote in and follow a current poll for 2010 nominees, here. 12/09/09 update: Rumors are circulating today that ABBA will indeed be inducted in March, 2010. 12/15/09: Congratulations to ABBA and all associated. Long overdue....
A link to a 12/09 post about the announced induction (from this blog's perspective) is here.

2) Ms. Fältskog's clear, sweet voice, packed with emotion at times; is a gift. (Which also seems perpetually youthful-sounding at times, but there's more to it than that.) If not already underway, I predict a revival (or kindling) of interest and appreciation for this underrated singer's work. (Beyond that of the various Agnetha imitators in "ABBA" redux shows. They're fine in some cases, but no one has the original singer's distinct voice.) In the big-market United States, my continuing impression is that (the real) Agnetha remains sketchily known. (I don't think for a second that this matters any more to the successful artist. And she, of course, remains very popular in home Sweden and elsewhere. Also, a mention that in some (homophobe?) corners of the U.S., ABBA music, etc. is still disdained, per (supposed) popular appeal in the gay community (pages 501-2). I don't condone that but, at any rate.... At my age I chart my own path (heteros were attracted to the ABBA ladies ,too), and am mature enough to enjoy ABBA's qualities now, "bias-free".(Though definitely a "slow learner" ..... Brain-free too??: Follow this link for a tiny farce.)

As the private lady approaches her 60th birthday, it's a question as to whether we'll hear Ms. Fältskog again in English. Sixty isn't so old (to some of us) but Agnetha's pretty much gone her own way after ABBA, so only she knows for sure/controls her destiny. But if her special voice remains intact it would be a loss not to hear it recorded in some way, at least one more time.(E.g., A link to a story about a great pop singer still "remarkably fresh"-voiced at age 67: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/arts/music/27tomm.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&em)

Per the following quotation in Mr. Palm's book (2008 edition), Agnetha responded in 2004 -- at least in part -- to fans imploring her to record again. Putting together an album is not easy, but if you happen to agree with me about her pure, feminine voice, perhaps consider writing a polite request to her record company. This website has an excellent article that might assist with that: http://www.agnetha-forever.de/ChangeLog/Write/write.html
Maybe a single-song duet or something like that is still in the realm of possibility....

Agnetha Fältskog from 2004 (re "My Colouring Book"), as quoted on page 539, "Bright Lights, Dark Shadows", C.M. Palm, author. (Short passages used with permission.) :

"I get a lot of fan mail from all around the world, and it's fantastic to hear that they like my music so much and want to know what I have been doing, and that they really love and miss my voice. It affected me so much, that's when the idea came up in my head maybe I should do another record."

There may have also been other reasons, but still, that was a nice one....

(More "nice lady": A link from the excellent http://www.agnetha-forever.de site to liner notes from Agnetha's 2008 compilation album, "My Very Best": http://www.agnetha-forever.de/ChangeLog/myverybest/myverybest.html  )

Whatever happens let's hope that this underprized singing star enjoys peace and satisfaction, and whatever else she wishes. My impression is that Agnetha remains a private person, quite settled with family, etc. now. As written (perhaps with a touch of envy and/or wistfulness; but not necessarily untruthfully) here: "...she’s mostly kept the silence of someone who’s conquered the world already." (Or, at least as much of it as desired(!).)  Late 2010 update: Or....perhaps NOT. Ms. Fältskog surprises with a number of recent public appearances plus a photo 'spread'/story in Sweden's (glossy) 'M-magazine'. Link to a translation (English) (incl. photos) from Mikory's ABBA blog. Agnetha's even reportedly doing some flying again, and sings a little "by the piano" (and plays). If one reads "between the lines" a bit in this interview, though, it mostly sounds like the lady may be retired now, professionally. (As written just above, here.) The prolific recording artist has earned that, or whatever she wants. But, Ms. Fältskog didn't completely "close the door"....
More: FWIW; possibly as a revealing  "glimpse inside", the Swedish star once wrote at the end of her 1996 As I Am biography that she had not "closed any doors". But also that: "...It would be horrible to be compelled to live up to world-wide expectations, to the money, or to what other people expect of you." (Page 149)

(Continuing previous text:) Agnetha has (also reportedly) said that she did not aim to be "worshiped by loads of people". 

"Thy voice is music..." — Shakespeare, Henry V, V-ii   (Ed. note: No...other parts of this quotation do not apply.)

(Agnetha Fältskog. Author: Daniel Åhs Karlsson, 4/7-2008. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. In short: you are free to distribute and modify the file as long as you attribute its author(s) or licensor(s). Its use is in no way an endorsement of this website...)

One telling, final note, from the 2008 afterward of C.M. Palm's "Bright Lights, Dark Shadows" (page 540):

Re Agnetha in 2004 (and beyond), after releasing "My Colouring Book":

"After one final lengthy Swedish television interview towards the end of the year, Agnetha once again stepped back from the media spotlight. It seems unlikely there will ever be a follow-up album, although she didn't rule out the possibility, hinting that it might be a Swedish-language-release that would "end my career as I started it"."

 A 'bonus' quotation: I'm taking the liberty of including one special paragraph from Christopher Patrick's excellent book, ABBA: Let The Music Speak. A stellar description (page 142):
"Between them, Agnetha and Frida had a dazzling array of vocal colours that would rival any artist's palette, and these were blended with astonishing results. Every now and then in their extraordinary unison world, one singer would change tint ever so slightly, adding yet another gorgeous hue to the spectrum."

(Blog note: The last edit to this post was on March, 2012.)

Link to my full blog: http://star4abba.blogspot.com/

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ms. Fältskog's 1996 biography

As noted elsewhere, this blog focuses mainly upon the English solo music of ex-ABBA singer Agnetha Fältskog. However, it also occasionally "strays" into other public (not private) aspects of her long successful career, especially post-ABBA. There is some commentary here and there, based primarily upon reading of prominent books and interviews (about and with the singing star).  (Including portions of this entry.)

Readers who freely stop by and sample information presented here are certainly welcome. However this detailed, music-oriented blog (about Ms. Fältskog solo music, mainly from a number of years ago) is unlikely to draw large numbers. A limit is that very few can contact or have a dialog with the star (subject) herself. 

This blog effort is clear in its admiration for Agnetha and her "impressive pop instrument". (I.e., her distinct voice.) But it's important for a more balanced presentation to - in a necessarily indirect way - make sure the star "has a say" here, too. To briefly provide interested readers with some clue about her.... Maybe give us a glimpse. (One such (fairly recent) indication (of the 'real person'): This 2004 interview available on YouTube (link). Also, pls. see the end of this post for a 2010 update...))
We cannot ask her, but she has done such a thing - for all of us - via her 1996 biography, As I Am. Written with Brita Ahman, the book alternates between Brita's writings/impressions and (what appear to be) small sections directly 'penned' by Agnetha herself. 

I have read a copy of this biography and a general reaction or "take" is included elsewhere here, for those who may care. Some of the portions written by Ms. Fältskog (in the book) are especially worthwhile for fans interested in the person.(Side note: And here is a link to one review of this effort, from 1997.)

Understanding that the book was created some fifteen years ago - quite awhile ago now - I'd still like to attempt to include one particular excerpt. It is from page 84, (As I Am, ABBA Before & Beyond, Agnetha Fältskog with Brita Ahman, Virgin Publishing, 1996). (Aside: If it is material, I note that this blog (being read) is generally a commentary, criticism and a research effort. It is non-commercial; no money is earned (from it). Therefore, excerpting a few (of the following) paragraphs for illustrative purposes (here) may constitute 'fair use'.)

From my reading of As I Am, I believe that the following speaks volumes about adult Agnetha and how she handled aspects of her life, as ABBA (and her marriage to Björn Ulvaeus) came to an end. (In the late 1970s/early 1980s.) It is an interesting "snapshot". Please see if you agree. (And pls. take time to visit some of the (supporting) links located throughout this post.)  Note: The following is, of course, written from Ms. Fältskog's perspective. It may or may not represent the complete "story" 

Agnetha writes (from the time):

"...When I chose to put the children first it wasn't to escape to a cosy, safe little world. I tried to follow my heart and take responsibility for their lives, to see that they would get to grow up in conditions as normal as possible, with a secure place in the world where they were often caught in the spotlight because of their parents' fame...."

"On the whole, I have taken the main responsibility for (the children). Once (their father) had moved to London and the divorce had gone through I strongly felt that I was the children's only security...."
Ms. Fältskog goes on (page 84) to describe her concerns about being a single parent and a single woman. But she then writes this revealing paragraph, perhaps a glimpse of the adult woman that she "became" (at least in part):
"However you really aren't complete as a woman just because you have a man at your side. Solitude can also be extremely stimulating. You feel a sense of liberty and are especially sensitive to outside ideas...You develop as a person and learn to tackle so much more than you thought you could. Even practical things like battling with the boiler, the pool units and suchlike. So you become what you become: an independent woman."
(Old image, Google/LIFE archives, freely available.)

This post wraps up with the following commentary

 Such words seem to reflect an eventful journey  from the young, Swedish teenage singing star, who once wrote songs such as "I Was So In Love". (Jag Var Sa Kar, her first single song, recorded in 1967 (age seventeen).) Note: In later interviews Ms. Fältskog seems to enjoy hearing such early songs, but distances herself as well, saying that (the) lyrics were "naive".

Agnetha uses the word "practical" in a slightly different sense here, but it might be applied as a descriptor for the person, too. (I.e., for the life situation described (via the excerpts).)  (However, those interested in Ms. Fältskog might also take note of unsettling developments that occurred (with the person) in the 1990s....)

Was this a glimpse at "the real", adult Agnetha? That is left for interested readers to consider.
Thank you for taking the time to read.

Link to my full blog: http://star4abba.blogspot.com/