Why did you decide to write a book on Agnetha ?
Simply, I wrote it because I wanted to read it!
Creative writing has been a hobby of mine since childhood and I’d been looking for a new project for a while.
As an ABBA fan, I had been listening to some of Agnetha’s solo material, particularly from her early pre-ABBA days, and wanted
to know more about this beautiful, talented woman with an air of shyness and vulnerability; her upbringing, her inspirations,
her family life, her struggles and successes.
I assumed there must be a biography of Agnetha that contained the kind of information I wanted to know, only to find there wasn’t.
So I began to research her life myself and eventually compiled quite a lot of information. I was also struck by the amount of apparent
rumours and untruths there seemed to be out there and wanted to get to the bottom of them.
So I had my new project! Once I had decided to write a biography of Agnetha, I had to decide what kind of biography it would be;
the structure, the tone, the style of writing, the level of detail. It could have been approached from a number of different angles.
I didn’t want to hit the reader with too much unecessary information (the book could easily have been much longer without actually
telling you anything more!) and I was keen to avoid anything that could be construed as overly intrusive or insensitive.
I’m also aware that many of Agnetha’s fans around the world will not have English as their first language, so I also aimed to write
a book that was accessible and in an easy-to-read style. ‘Agnetha Fältskog – The Girl With The Golden Hair’ is the book about Agnetha
always wanted to read.
Did you manage to find any pictures of Agnetha for the book which haven't been seen in the past ?
The photos were chosen to illustrate the many different stages of Agnetha’s life and career – her early solo days,
the genesis of ABBA, Eurovision, the ’77 and ’79-80 tours, her later solo career etc.. – so high-quality professional
images were preferred, rather than trying to source more obscure and perhaps poorer quality photos.
I did consider using a few grainy black-and-white photos of her childhood and some amateur images from ABBA’s
peak years that I thought her fans may not have seen before but, on reflection, felt that quality should be our primary aim.
Obtaining the necessary licences to publish the photographs was also a major consideration in their selection.
Overall, I’m delighted with the photos that have been chosen as I feel they show Agnetha at her best.
How did you go about researching the book ?
A lot of sifting through newspapers and magazine articles, Swedish music archives, Swedish social history from the 1960’s
to the modern day, interviews and, above all, listening to a lot of Agnetha’s music.
I have tried throughout to not speculate, to ensure that facts are correctly sourced and verified, and to avoid drifting into gossip
and conjecture. It was also enjoyable to look through photo libraries to select the images for the book
Whilst writing the book did you find out anything new about Agnetha which you weren't previously aware of ?
While I considered myself a fan of Agnetha and ABBA prior to working on the book, it was more as a casual fan who enjoyed
their music rather than someone with an in-depth knowledge of their lives. Researching and writing the book was therefore a
real journey of discovery for me. I learned so much about Agnetha that I didn’t know before and I hope the readers will also be
able to learn something new. I developed a whole new level of respect for all that she has achieved.
There have been a few Abba and Agnetha books in the past - how do you think yours differs from those ?
I’ve never really thought of ‘Agnetha Fältskog – The Girl With The Golden Hair’ as being in competition with any other books
about ABBA and its members. Rather, I hope it will be complementary to what has gone before.
As I mentioned earlier, I wrote the book as I felt this kind of biography of Agnetha didn’t really exist and I felt it should.
Apart from some cross-referencing, I deliberately avoided reading too much about ABBA and Agnetha from other authors
during the writing process, prefering to draw my own conclusions from the research.
I just hope the book is an entertaining and worthy read and earns its place on the bookshelf of any ABBA and Agnetha fan
alongside any other books they may have.
What do you think is the most interesting period in Agnetha’s career ?
There’s very little about her career that isn’t fascinating for me, but if I had to go for one particular period it would probably
be the late 1960’s. Agnetha was one of the first successful female singer-songwriters and that achievement is somewhat
forgotten due to her enormous fame with ABBA. There were very few female singers writing their own songs back then,
though of course it’s much more commonplace now.
Agnetha was really a pioneer; a hit album at 18 years of age, largely full of self-penned tracks, was an enormous accomplishment.
The UK had Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Cilla, Sandie Shaw, the USA had Connie Francis and Brenda Lee, but none of them
were writing their own material. She really was ahead of her time.
Why do you think Agnetha’s early English solo recordings were less successful in the UK than they were across Europe ?
An interesting question, and one that is difficult to put a finger on. Re-listening to it, much of the material stands up quite
well in comparison to other female singers around at that time. I think the rest of Europe are quicker to accept artists from
other countries than here in the UK. How many French, German, Spanish singers make it here? Without the ABBA ‘brand’,
Agnetha struggled to find a place in an overcrowded market.
Touring and more promotional appearances may have helped her, but ultimately I don’t think the desire or ambition to be a
stand-out solo star was there. She had moved on, and being a mother was far more important to her that being a success
outside of ABBA. There was nothing for her to prove.
Why do you think Agnetha was so reluctant to get involved in an Abba reunion in the late 80s / early 90s ?
The enormous ABBA revival in the 1990’s came along at the wrong time for Agnetha. The decade was a particularly tough one for her.
She got divorced (from her second husband), her mother and father died within a couple of years of each other, and there
were various other incidents in her private life (which have been very well documented!) involving court cases and a huge
amount of media interest.
She just needed solitude at that time in her life to cope with everything that was going on, and the renewed interest in her
and ABBA was the last thing she needed. Agnetha was simply not in the right place emotionally in the 1990’s to step back
into that world. It’s great that she seems happy now and I sincerely hope she is.
Seeing her on stage with Frida, Benny, and Björn in Stockholm last month was a joy and, to me, she looked the happiest
out of any of them to be up there.
From other books I have read Agnetha seems to have had a a fairly rough time from the Swedish press - is that something
you came across when writing the book ?
It becomes pretty evident when you research the newspaper and magazine articles devoted to ABBA and Agnetha from the
1970’s onwards that she and the band had a love-hate relationship with the Swedish press.
We often think of the tabloid press as a modern invention, that the level of intrusion and gossip wasn’t as bad thirty or forty
years ago. Hardly so. Agnetha had to cope with a lot of press intrusion into her life, particularly after her relationship with
Björn had finished and ABBA came to an end.
Forming a new relationship was difficult as the press hounded her new partners, turned up at their places of work, offered
money to anyone with any stories about her. And if there were no stories worth writing, they would just make them up!
Agnetha had to cope with hugely upsetting and clearly false stories appearing in newspapers and magazines which,
for a lady who is naturally shy and introverted, was very difficult.
She was eventually stung her into action after one particular article in the Swedish press, causing her to write a heartfelt
response denouncing such false stories, but it sadly had little effect. Agnetha’s withdrawal from public life in the 1980’s
and 90’s was partly a consequence of this relentless intrusion.
Was there anything you had to exclude from the book during the final edit which you wish could have been included ?
Fonthill have enabled me to write the book I wanted to write. Often unauthorised biographies can drift into sensationalism
or gossip and I have strived throughout to be respectful and true to its subject. Several other publishers expressed an
interest in the book, but wanted it to be more ‘gossipy’ and concentrate more on elements of her private life.
I resisted this most strongly. I’m more than pleased with the final text of the book as it strikes the balance I was looking for;
detailed without being overwhelming, accurate without being intrusive, and a respectful tribute to a wonderful career.
Are you planning to try and get a copy of the book to Agnetha ?
I’ve recently informed Agnetha’s manager of the book’s forthcoming publication and will send a copy to her when it is released.
I don’t expect any public comment on it, but I hope Agnetha will feel the book was written in good faith and with honourable intentions.
It’s a book written by a fan for the fans, not by a journalist or anyone looking for a salacious scoop or to make a name for themselves.
As an Agnetha fan, I would not have wanted to write a book that would cause her upset or annoyance.
If she does get to see a copy of the book, I’m confident she will find it a fair and accurate account of her life and career
without being too instrusive or sensationalist, and that the difficult times in her life have been handled sensitively.
Are you considering writing other Abba related books ?
It would be great if I could, it’s just a question of finding an original angle. A book simply re-telling the story of ABBA would be
a definite no-no as, not only has it been done before, it’s been done definitively. Carl Magnus Palm’s ‘Bright Lights,
Dark Shadows’ can’t be beaten in that respect. There’s a few ideas bouncing around in my head, but we will need to wait and see.
Lastly, if you had to pick your favourite Abba and Agnetha solo tracks what would they be ?
For ABBA, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ is a favourite of mine. I just think it’s a perfect song, everything is in there; the melody,
the lyrics, the production values. I know Björn has stated that the song wasn’t written with his and Agnetha’s recent divorce
in mind, but knowing what she recently had been through, it makes her performance even more poignant.
Other stand-out ABBA tracks for me include ‘SOS’, ‘Fernando’, and ‘The Day Before You Came’.
In terms of her solo songs, there’s a wide number I enjoy. Early tracks like ‘Jag var så kär’ ‘Tack För En Underbar Vanlig Dag’,
and ‘Om tårar vore guld’ are particular favourites, and her rendition of ‘Vart Ska Min Kärlek Föra’ (I Don’t Know How To Love Him )
from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is fabulous.
From Agnetha’s later material, ‘If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind’ (from 2004’s ‘My Colouring Book’) is a sheer delight
for me, and ‘When You Really Loved Someone’ (from ‘A’ in 2013) is great.
There’s an area on a tennis raquet called the sweet spot. And when the ball hits it, it flies truer than from anywhere
else on the raquet. Agnetha’s voice hits the sweet spot in my ear. It’s difficult to explain why it has that effect,
and maybe it’s pointless to even try.
Her music, and that of ABBA, has given me a lot of joy and ‘Agnetha Fältskog – The Girl With The Golden Hair’ is just
my small tribute to an amazing life and career. I hope her fans enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.