This is how Agnetha in ABBA started out
- the dance band girl who became a superstar
When she as a five year old made her debut at Elverket’s (power company) Christmas party, she sang with such a feeling that she dropped her underpants. This is just one of many funny details from the Jönköping-girl Agnetha Fältskog’s life – before she went to Stockholm and eventually became a superstar in ABBA. Here is the full story…
Agnetha Fältskog, 31, is one of the world’s most famous persons. Constantly praised for her singing voice – and her behind – she has together with the others in ABBA ended up high up towards the top of the world of entertainment’s superstar pyramid.
England, Germany, Japan, Australia – and parts of the US – stand and applaud by her feet as she’s singing, whether she’s dancing around together with Frida in “Take A Chance On Me” or sits by herself at the piano singing “I’m Still Alive”.
She is very beautiful, very sexy, v-e-r-y rich and very popular. She has made it. She’s come a long way from Jönköping.
Because that’s where it started. In 1955, five years old, Agnetha made her debut as an artist.
She performed at Elverket’s Christmas party and sang “Billy Boy” with such a feeling that she didn’t realize she dropped her underpants already after a couple of verses.
Around the age of five she began to write her own songs. One of her early compositions was “Trollet som hade en boll och träffade ett annat troll” (“The troll who had a ball and met another troll”). A very romantic composition with a happy ending.
“Det var en gång ett litet troll
som ägde en liten boll.
Han lekte med bollen hela dan
och rullade den in till stan.
Då kom ett annat troll
och ville leka med hans boll.
En liten trolleflicka det var
så söt och rar
som hade hela rumpan bar.
Trollpojken blev så kär
Nu han trolleflickan i famnen bär
Med 20 små trollbejbisar lika som bär.”
(“Once upon a time there was a little troll
who owned a little ball.
He played with the ball the whole day
and rolled it into town.
Then along came another troll
that wanted to play with his ball.
It was a little troll girl
so sweet and lovely
with a bare behind.
The troll boy fell in love
Now he carries the troll girl in his arms
With 20 little troll babies that all looked alike.”)
As a teenager she left the trolls behind, but there was still romance in the songs she wrote. Love and heartbreak and sunsets over Vättern.
Agnetha was convinced that there was a future for her as a singer and she sang with a dance band in the evenings. The name of the band was Bernt Enghardt's.
Bern Enghardt, 38, is now working as a music teacher. He still lives in Huskvarna, next to Agnetha’s hometown Jönköping.
Agnetha trying out
-Our vocalist Agneta Desilva left the orchestra in the summer of 1966, he says. We were very popular in the mid-60s, so lots of girls contacted us when we searched for a new vocalist.
Agnetha Fältskog, 16, was one of them who came to audition.
-We had heard her sing on another occasion, because she was a part of a trio of girls that had started out at some school in Jönköping. And we thought that her clear and frail voice fit very well with the kind of dance music we played.
Agnetha Fältskog was accepted to try out as a vocalist.
It was the guys in Bernt Enghardt’s orchestra who were popular. That’s why it wasn’t a big deal that Agnetha Fältskog or some other vocalist was a part of the orchestra.
It said “Bernt Enghardt's with the vocalist Agneta” on posters and in ads. Bernt Enghardt didn’t even have to print new posters. The former vocalist’s name was also Agneta.
-But we didn’t just choose Agnetha Fältskog so we wouldn’t have to have new posters printed, Bernt says. We didn’t even think of the stroke of luck with the name until afterwards. But it was a bit more difficult with the posters that had a picture of all the members of the orchestra. But we simply pasted a picture of Agnetha on top of the former vocalist’s face.
The band had many gigs. Agnetha sat and hummed at the switchboard at Atteviks Bil (car dealer. Claes’ note) during the day and sang at night. She got to travel as well. Sometimes as far as Borås.
When she had been singing with Bernt Enghardt’s orchestra for a year, Agnetha and her boyfriend broke up. Then she wrote the dreadfully sentimental “Jag var så kär”. The orchestra added the song to their schedule for a while.
-The response wasn’t that great at first. But it seemed as if the audience liked the song after we had played it a few times.
Bernt Enghardt sent a tape with ”Jag var så kär” to Little Gerhard, who had a program for young people on the radio. The song was played on the program.
-The comment from the radio’s program editorial staff was that Agnetha’s voice wasn’t good enough, Bernt says. However, they wanted more songs from the orchestra, which they liked.
But Agnetha Fältskog is not a smålänning (person from the county of Småland, often considered stubborn. Claes’ note) for nothing. Stubbornly she sent the tape to various record companies. And finally she got a response from Cupol.
But Bernt Enghardt’s wasn’t invited to the recording. By herself Agnetha went to Stockholm to record the single backed up by studio musicians. Well, she wasn’t completely by herself – her father Ingvar went along with her for support.
Agnetha’s big idol was the singer Connie Francis, so she sounded a bit like Francis on both of the songs that were recorded that day, ”Jag var så kär” and ”Utan dig”.
Fainted at work
It was 1967 and getting on the Svensktoppen chart was what was important. And she made it onto Svensktoppen. “Jag var så kär” entered at number three. Success! Agnetha became a star overnight.
She continued to work at the switchboard during the day and sang with Bernt Enghardt’s in the evenings. But late nights, not eating properly, many cigarettes and not being in good shape made her faint at work one day.
Her mother Birgit got worried and forced her to make a choice: either you quit singing and focus on your job, or you give singing a try.
Agnetha quit her job at the car dealer in February 1968. Later that fall she quit in Bernt Enghardt’s and decided to try going solo. And the offers poured in.
-Agnetha was overjoyed when the offers started coming, Ingvar Fältskog has said. She was eager and wanted to accept the offer right away. “But dad, we can’t get more than 800 kronor on a Saturday night”, she begged.
But Agnetha was under age and couldn’t sign the contract herself. Her father Ingvar, who kept a cool head, managed to negotiate pretty large fees for his daughter.
In 1969 Agnetha was marketed in Germany with moderate success. But at least she met a five year older man who she got engaged to, Dieter Zimmerman.
But it didn’t last very long.
Then she met Hootenanny Singers' cute-as-a-doll singer Björn Ulvaeus and we know the rest by heart: they were engaged, they got married, they had a child, there was ABBA, there was Eurovision Song Contest, there was even more ABBA, there was another child, there was ABBAABBAABBAABBA and a divorce.
Agnetha’s life has definitely been spinning around ever since she left Jönköping and Bernt Enghardt’s dance band. No one needs to hold her hand anymore when she’s recording albums or interfere if she wants to sell her talent for not enough money. The little “vocalist Agnetha” has become big.
By Ann-Britt Blohm