Interview with Agnetha's parents :
"We haven't changed just because Agnetha is world-famous"
By Eva Bågenholm
Her mom Birgit works at Konsum. Her dad Ingvar is still an administrator at the power company.
Her younger sister Mona, 21, has taken over Agnetha’s work as a switchboard operator.
And they all say: That it’s great that Agnetha is making a lot of money – great for her.
But don’t get us involved with ABBA’s success. We do what we’ve always been doing – we get on the bus
back to Jönköping after we have visited Agnetha in Stockholm!
Here the Fältskog family talks for the first time about how it feels to suddenly have a daughter who is a world-famous celebrity.
The SJ-bus drives south towards Småland. A few passengers curiously looks at the young woman
and her parents who just waved goodbye to Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus – half of ABBA – in Stockholm.
Yes, it is Agnetha’s sister Mona, 21 years old, and her parents Birgit and Ingvar who are on their way back home to Jönköping
after having spent the weekend with Agnetha and Björn and their little daughter Linda, four years old.
By now Agnetha is a multimillionaire, just like the three others in ABBA – her husband Björn Ulvaeus,
Annifrid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson. Still her parents and her sister take the bus – because it’s cheapest that way. Why?
Birgit and Ingvar get sad when they’re asked.
-We don’t want financial assistance from ABBA, don’t you understand? We want to live our own lives without
having to depend on Agnetha’s finances, Birgit says seriously.
-Maybe it had been different if Agnetha had been a solo artist without her own family, Ingvar adds.
-When ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton a few years back, many of my coworkers at Konsum
said to me “now you probably won’t have to work again”, Birgit remembers.
-I get sad when people think I want to be financially supported by my children! Furthermore,
I enjoy working at Konsum and I would get bored staying at home all day long now that the girls have moved out.
Ingvar and Birgit agree that they can support themselves financially and they strongly keep their integrity as parents.
At the beginning of Agnetha’s singing career, Ingvar went with her on tours sometimes, he also took care of her finances.
When ABBA had their breakthrough, Agnetha was already married to Björn and there were never any discussions about
Ingvar quitting his job as an administrator at the power company to take care of the quartet’s finances.
Had enough of music…
Agnetha has asked her parents to move to Stockholm so they can see each other more often.
-But we feel lost in the big city, you can notice we’re from the countryside, Ingvar says with a shy smile.
-We have lived in Jönköping our whole lives so it’ll remain that way. We have our jobs there and
Mona needs us more than Agnetha does, Birgit says.
Mona has nothing against moving to Stockholm, but her husband Ronny Ericsson refuses to move.
He doesn’t want to leave his job as a taxi driver and he doesn’t want to miss “Hugget som stucket”,
a local dance band that he plays in on the weekends. Birgit and Ingvar gladly baby-sit their Mattias, who just turned two.
When Mona was younger, her big sister Agnetha taught her to play the piano, but she doesn’t really spend time playing music anymore.
-I probably had enough of music since Agnetha played and sang all day long. She was also so very good at it, so I soon realized my limitations.
But Agnetha is not the only Fältskog who has dreamed of fame and success on the stage!
You can probably say that she realized her dad Ingvar’s dreams he had as a youth.
He began to write and stage variety shows at the end of the 1930s and continued up until New Year’s Eve 1950,
a few months before he became a father to Agnetha.
-I probably suffered from lack of musicality and confidence, and because of that the variety shows never turned into something big.
We performed mostly here in Jönköping and made enough to cover the costs, but no more. Birgit helped a little, but she was never on stage.
The biggest problem was to gather the ensemble. It rarely happened that all the “ballet girls” were there,
because their boyfriends got upset that the girls never had any time off.
The biggest success was the variety show “Smått och Gott”, which premiered at Folkets Park in Jönköping in the summer of 1945.
The ensemble consisted of, except for Ingvar, fourteen local talents, who performed sketches, danced ballet and sang as good as they could.
Sometimes Ingvar composed something and he has actually written a waltz that Agnetha recorded in 1968: “En sommar med dej”.
-But now she wouldn’t sing anything written by me, Ingvar says and almost looks pleased.
The worst nightmare
Even though Ingvar doesn’t believe in his own abilities, he and Birgit have always supported his oldest daughter’s choice of work.
-We never imagined she would become a famous celebrity, but she was enormously interested in music and really enjoyed it so much
that we had to support her, he says.
You noticed early that Agnetha was talented. She got her piano when she was seven years old and soon learned how to play it.
Two years earlier she had made her stage debut, it was at the power company’s Christmas party.
But things almost went really wrong that time! It wasn’t that she forgot the English words to “Billy Boy”,
or had a difficult time with the melody – no, what happened was all performers’ worst nightmare – the waistband of her knickers broke
in the middle of the song, so she had a hard time keeping them on!
A great artist doesn’t let any external circumstances interrupt the performance – the show must go on,
and Agnetha sang the whole song, in spite of the embarrassing incident!
The music teacher at school encouraged Agnetha to continue with music and at the age of fifteen she played
the harpsichord solo in Kristinakyrkan (church). in Jönköping. A year later she changed style and began touring
with Enghardts orchestra, which played jazz and dance music.
At that time she was going to school for the last year and sang on the weekends.
-I was terribly nervous when she left on the tour bus on those Saturday nights, Ingvar says.
-Sixteen years old is a dangerous age with boys and I was worried since she had to stay at a hotel with all those guys.
-You didn’t have to be worried about Agnetha, she didn’t care for any of them, Birgit objects.
-Oh no, there was nothing serious going on! says mom, who probably knew her daughter a little bit better.
When Agnetha had graduated, she continued singing with Enghardts orchestra in the evenings
while she worked as a switchboard operator during the day.
-She exhausted herself so much that she fell asleep at the switchboard and we didn’t like that.
And just as it was time for Agnetha to choose between the music and her day job, the reply from Cupol arrived.
The members of Enghardts orchestra had mailed a cassette recording and the producer got interested in the singer’s voice.
Then the carousel started spinning. Agnetha made records and ended up on Svensktoppen
with her own composition “Jag var så kär”. It was January 28, 1968.
-We were very proud, Ingvar says.
-When Ulf Elfving called and said that her song had entered at number three we cried tears of joy, says Birgit.
And even though things went so well for Agnetha, Birgit didn’t dare to believe that her daughter would be able
to make a living on the music for a long time. A couple of more songs, and then she’ll probably be back
in Jönköping again, Birgit used to say to friends.
But one time when Ingvar came back from visiting Agnetha in Stockholm, he told Birgit:
-I really think that Agnetha is bigger than we may believe! I saw a car drive around Stockholm with her name on a big sign!
It was the record company’s car sign that had made the biggest impression on Ingvar, even though his daughter
had already appeared on several TV-programs and been a success on charts both in Sweden and Germany!
“Now we’re used to it”
But the really big success came first when Agnetha had met Björn. They put their music together
with Benny and Annifrid’s and then Sweden’s most successful group in history – ABBA – was born.
After the Waterloo-victory in Brighton on the sixth of April 1974, the quartet soon became world-famous
for their personally composed music and professional stage performances.
-The Eurovision Song Contest was more exciting than a soccer game on TV, Ingvar remembers.
How do “regular” parents react when their daughter suddenly becomes world-famous?
-In the beginning we were very proud of course, but now we’re used to it. It’s become a routine now, says Ingvar.
-Yes, these days we never talk about ABBA and their appearances when we meet or talk on the phone.
We have so many other things to talk about, that are more important, says Birgit.
Agnetha calls her parents every other day when she’s in Sweden and they see each other quite often.
Mostly it’s Ingvar and Birgit who travel up to Stockholm. What is more important to Birgit and Ingvar
than the success around the world, is to know that Agnetha is feeling good, that the cold is better
and that she no longer has a sore throat. It means more to a mom and dad that their daughter is healthy
and happy than knowing that their latest record sold three million copies in Australia.
-Sometimes we talk about interior decorating, which we all have always been interested in. Agnetha talks about
furniture and curtains that she has bought for the new house on Lidingö that they just have moved into, says Birgit.
Their son-in-law is perfect!
And it’s just as important that Björn and “Lindusen” are healthy too. They don’t have to worry about Linda
when Agnetha and Björn are on tour, because she’s taken care of by a wonderful nanny, whose name is Bitte.
Their son-in-law Björn is perfect, Birgit and Ingvar think.
-He’s fantastic! There’s nothing he can’t do at home. He is actually better at cooking food than Agnetha is, says Birgit.
-When we visit he always waits on us. He can spend several hours in the kitchen and come up with incredible food dishes.
We are very impressed, especially since he takes care of Linda in a fantastic way. There can’t be a better man!
Ingvar and Birgit are of course very happy that their oldest daughter gets to work with what she likes the most, the music.
But to them she’s not a celebrity, but instead the same Agnetha she always has been.
A kind and natural woman who has a positive view on life.
It was mostly in the beginning that their friends reacted towards Agnetha’s success. Now they seem to have gotten used to it.
Sometimes Ingvar and Birgit’s coworkers ask them to tell where Agnetha is on tour and for the latest news on the records.
Often they want to discuss newspaper articles about ABBA and they’re generally interested.
But they haven’t managed to avoid the negative sides of the fame. Too often fans call and ask for Agnetha’s phone number,
which they don’t give out. Instead they refer them to the record company Polar Music in Stockholm.
Ingvar and Birgit are considering getting an unlisted phone number. They also think it’s sad that Agnetha is never left alone
when she comes home for a visit. Even though she puts up her hair and wears dark sunglasses, some young admirer often recognizes her
and soon she’s surrounded by a hundred school children that want autographs.
Often the elevators are blocked and young children stand below the balcony screaming for ABBA when she’s at home.
-It’s a part of it, we’ll have to put up with it for as long as ABBA are famous.
The worst thing is that we’ve suffered from the Swedish jealousy. It’s just as if people don’t want to understand
that we’re not financially supported by ABBA, says Ingvar.
-Sometimes I’ve heard people behind my back say they wonder what we’re doing with all the money, says Birgit.
Once they’re back in Jönköping, Mona goes home to Ronny and Mattias while Ingvar and Birgit go home to their four-room apartment
in the Ekhagen area. Maybe they’ll play the I do, I do, I do record by ABBA.
It reminds them of the romantic days when Ingvar used to whistle outside Birgit’s window…