Here is the second part of my interview with Daniel Ward the author of the new Agnetha book which is published next month...
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.