Never rename a boat. I recently saw one for sale and it was named the John Thomas. Now, I don’t know where you live, but in Britain John Thomas is an alternative name for a gentleman’s wedding tackle. No one in their right mind would own a boat and keep the name John Thomas.
In the third Toten Herzen novel, There Will Be Blood, there’s a conversation between Rob Wallet and his new friend Barny Flowers. Admiring Wallet’s boat, Flowers chastises him for renaming it and asks ‘who the hell is Agnetha anyway?’ Wallet replies, ‘If you don’t know, you’ll never understand.’
Between 1973 and 1983, a ten year period in human history, millions of boys and men around the world were entranced by a woman the likes of which had never previously existed and hasn’t existed since. Scandinavian, Nordic, Swedish, tall, slender and impossibly good looking, she had a name, but the world knew her as ‘The Blonde One Out Of Abba.’
Agnetha Åse Fältskog was born in Jõnkõping in 1950. She slowly established herself as a leading solo artist in Sweden until she found herself on the same summer tours as a lot of other Swedish musicians, doing the rounds of the Folkparks circuit. These annual outdoor concerts had already brought Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson together, and soon Abba existed as an entity in its own right. Agnetha’s solo career was finished.
But in some respects she was always a solo artist because half the world watching Abba had a sort of migraine vision that blocked out the rest of the band. Yes, there were and still are people who insist Frida Lyngstad was their favourite. This small band of people established a colony on a Scottish island, and all twelve of them still live there. Agnetha’s fans, on the other hand, were in the billions.
There’s a possibility she was a robot, engineered by the CIA to subdue Europe and prevent greater Soviet expansionism across the continent in the 1970s. Trouble was, the hysteria spread to Australia and Japan. In Australia they were obsessed with Agnetha’s behind leading her to ask ‘don’t you have bottoms in Australia?’
As the decade turned, the hair was cropped, and as the 80s emerged grew long again and was aggressively permed in a way only possible with the invention of industrial strength hairspray. But then came the catastrophe…
Agnetha always had a morbid fear of flying and in 1983, touring Britain, she was almost killed in a coach crash. Just as her post-Abba career was rekindling she continued, but eventually withdrew to her island home in Stockholm, locked the doors and disappeared.
Rumours went wild. She was reported to have had a relationship with a mad fan. Refused to speak to the press to confirm or deny the reports. Refused to acknowledge the revival in interest in Abba, refused to do anything involving music. She lost her parents in quick succession. The Myth of Agnetha was becoming a Greek-like tragedy.
And then she was there again. An album of cover versions, and eventually an album of original material. But strange as this may seem, the Agnetha Fältskog who reappeared was the real Agnetha Fältskog, not the impossibly perfect robot who had entranced a generation who couldn’t see beyond the performer.
But just as you can never rename a boat, unless you want to attract bad luck, you can’t replace a memory. And even if the 1970s Agnetha is a different human being to the 21st century Agnetha, she was still there, we didn’t imagine her, and she got us through the dull days of a dreadful decade. In retrospect, perhaps she’s the reason why the Soviets were so determined to take over the rest of Europe!