final segment of the interview deals solely with Bosse Carlgren’s
work with Agnetha Fältskog. It is based not only on Bosse’s
remarkable recollection of five years worth of events from
over twenty-five years ago, but also on his extensive archives
that includes notes from diaries and calendars, documentation
from newspapers and magazines, sketches, drawings and photographs
as well as manuscripts, lyric sheets, commercial record releases
and demo tapes. I thank my friend Bosse for his invaluable
cooperation and overwhelming generosity. I also thank my dear
friends who provided tremendous contributions – Carl
Magnus Palm, Solveig Wilder and Mattias Olsson – and
my very special friend, Peter Palmquist, who painstakingly
overhauled and reworked the original transcription of the
So, you discovered “ABBA”
[laughing] with your lyric of “It’s My Turn”,
which first brought them together on stage! When did you meet
Agnetha for the first time?
BC. I believe I met her at Sweden Music with Björn
& Benny sometime during 1970. We first started working
together in the fall for their cabaret and I wrote my first
material for them in October, I think. I got to know Agnetha
working together for that cabaret.
Jd. That eventually led to
a songwriting collaboration.
BC. Yes. I’ve found a copy of a letter I sent
to Agnetha that shows I wanted to work with her. It’s
from the 9th of December 1970 and I sent her a bunch of lyrics
that I had written for Bruno Glenmark and the Glenmarks, but
he never had time to write music to them. She never wrote
music to them either, but we had contact and tried out different
ideas for projects. As time went on I became more of an established
lyricist than in October 1970, so Agnetha might have felt
she would try to work with me writing original material. I
wrote three lyrics for her LP “När en vacker tanke
blir en sång”. I was very fond of these three
songs. I still am. I think that “Då finns du hos
mig” is still one of the best songs she ever recorded.
It was not a regular type of pop song, but sort of a neverending
kind of music. I don’t think they ever wrote an ending
to it, so it kind of fades out. The title of the LP is from
my lyrics to that song. It means “when a beautiful thought
becomes a song” and I’m sure it’s a good
title for an album. It’s sort of Agnetha through and
through. She could use a simple thought and make it into a
song that really has a lot of meaning. I didn’t know
how much she really could do as a composer until we started
that album. Then I found that she could write so many good
Jd. Which of the three songs
did you first work on together?
BC. I haven’t found any notes to help me there.
I have the order in which they were finished, but they are
not always finished in the same order that we started. The
first one completed was “Nya ord” on the 1st of
August '71. Then it took until the 15th of October for “Då
finns du hos mig”. One day later was “Tågen
kan gå igen”.
Did the writing usually begin with
Agnetha coming up with melodies and presenting them to you
to write lyrics?
BC. Yes. She recorded demos and gave them to me. She
recorded them for the first album in her home or in a studio
somewhere. We talked a little about doing more because her
music really got to me – into my heart – as it
had always done. I liked her first recordings, too, before
I knew her. When she sang as a young teenager it was so heartfelt,
even if it was sometimes very banal. You
could say it was not the highest quality lyrics maybe, but
that girl’s heart and soul was in it. I really think
that’s true in all of her material. One of my favorites
from the old days is “Kanske var min kind lite het”
[Maybe My Cheek Was A Little Hot]. She wrote both the lyrics
and the music and that’s an Agnetha song through and
through. I wish I would have been there to change one or two
words, to get that highbrow lyricist approach to it. I could
have made it a little better, to be honest, but that’s
exactly why I shouldn’t do it. It’s the best the
way it is, I think. It is so true to her, a young girl writing
this song. When you understand what she is singing, it seems
so right for a young girl to think those lyrics. No one should
try to make anything else out of it.
Jd. Then it took a while before
you wrote more together.
BC. After a couple of years Agnetha and Björn
moved to Vallentuna where I was living. That was the added
“kick” that it needed to get started. We bumped
into each other a little more often. I guess the thought came
to my mind, “Why couldn’t we write some more?”
She thought so, too, and we started working on the new album.
I see here in my notes that on the 5th of January ’74
I took a bike trip to Agnetha’s house and I wrote, “She
likes the idea for the LP. Whew!” Like I was relieved!
So probably, if this is right, I must have had the embryo
of this whole idea that we could do an entire album about
different people living in one house.
Jd. Before that you did a
few songs in English.
BC. Yes, my first single with Agnetha was “Golliwog”
backed with “Here For Your Love”. It was a request
from the record company that she do something in English to
get into the pop oriented “Tio i Topp” [the Top
Ten] radio list, as opposed to the Swedish language top list.
One of the songs intended for the “Elva kvinnor i ett
hus” album was picked to be the A-side. I’m sorry
to say I was not very good at writing in another language.
I had to go to a dictionary to find the right title for Golliwog,
which means a sort of rag doll. I guess that started the whole
idea of the lyric, we wanted to describe this person as something
not so pretty. I had to use the dictionary for many of the
words. That’s always bad because you can’t get
it quite right. It seems a little constructed, not really
coming from inside you. I can’t remember if it ever
reached “Tio I Topp”.
Jd. How did it evolve? I assume
you started with “Gulleplutt”.
BC. No. “Golliwog” was first. As you see
here in the notes from the 6th of March, “Got the message
that we are going to do an English lyric for ‘Something’s
Burning’”. That was the original demo lyric that
Agnetha used. I think
she got the idea from something else, maybe she found it on
another album. Then, the 10th of March Agnetha was at my place
and we were working on “Golliwog”, as I called
it then, and a couple of new songs that I taped when she played
my piano. We were working simultaneously on “Elva kvinnor”
so we also checked out some of the material for the album.
I worked the next day on the lyrics for the single and I checked
with Agnetha. I had simultaneously done a sound on sound recording
with myself on one of the other tracks that became “Var
det med dej?”. A couple of days later I wrote “Golliwog”,
definitely, and an English musician said okay to the lyrics.
He also said okay to “Came For Your Love”, too.
That’s quite surprising since
the phrase sounds so awkward to English speakers.
BC. Yes, it does. I guess it was one of the musicians,
saxophone player Dave Castle, who later corrected me. Then
we changed it to “Here For Your Love”.
Jd. Let’s go back to
when you talked to Agnetha about the LP in January. Was that
before any music was in sight?
BC. Yes, it was. Less than a week after that meeting
I had written an outline of some of the characters that were
to appear. I even had names for the ladies. The concept was
that we should have twelve songs, so the album should have
been titled “Tolv kvinnor i ett hus”, or “Twelve
Women In A House”. Each one was to be very different
from the others in order to give Agnetha and myself the chance
to write songs of very different characters. This was not
to be just Agnetha’s own thoughts. It would be sketches
of other people’s thoughts, but with some of Agnetha
– and me, too, of course – in it. It gave us a
wider scope from which to write and the idea was to write
a résumé on every one of these twelve women.
This is a sketch for the cover that I showed the company and
Agnetha during this process. We wanted to have a double gate-fold
cover so when you opened it up you would see their faces –
or at least an image of them – and you could read a
little about their lives, their background. Then, when you
listened to the songs, you would have all the facts you needed
to understand who is really singing which song. The women
had names, what they were called and what their problems were.
Jd. Can you tell me more about
BC. All the first names of the women started with an
“A”, so we had a little connection to Agnetha.
One was Miss Alvine Längtan-Trängtan. It’s
a name made from rhymes common in older poetry. She was “Longing-Pining”
for a man. This man is a fat and overaged managing director
and he seems to be, well, repulsive, but he was good to Miss
Alvine. She sang “Gulleplutt” of course. Another
woman was representing desire, one longing and one motherly
love. One was boldness and one wanted revenge.
Jd. How did the idea of the names
BC. That’s a typical idea of mine since I am
as much as anything else a designer. We wanted to give them
names to really show that it wasn’t only Agnetha, there
were other people. In this August '75 version everyone’s
first name is Agnetha and the last name is a variation of
Fältskog – Fält means field and skog forest
or wood. Skog is a very common part of Swedish family names
so it didn’t seem so strange. Agnetha Hemskog –
home forest. Älskog – the word älskog is really
an old word in Swedish for making love, so this is the girl
who likes men, and they like her. Morskog – mother forest.
Agnetha Stjärnskog – the old star, “Of course
you know her. You must remember her! She was so big in the
'50s. She sang the one, well, well… you mustn’t
have forgotten.” Something like that. If we could have
at least that background, people would understand the lyric
is about a singer that everyone has forgotten. This is Agnetha
Kurskog [laughs] – I don’t know why she... Grönskog
– green wood. Hatskog – hate wood. This is another
suggestion, Agnetha Gråtskog – that’s Agnetha
Please tell me how it was to collaborate
BC. It was such an inspiration to work with her. She
was nice to be with and I so much liked every song that she
wrote. We had other ideas, too, that never were written, but
everything she did I enjoyed very much. We had fun and realized
that we were onto something. In 1974, when most of “Elva
kvinnor i ett hus” was written, I had a double work
period working several jobs. Sometimes I wonder how Agnetha
and I ever got this together, but we did. The songs sort of
wrote themselves when we got going. We had the skeleton and
put some meat on it and when we found that this was working,
we were able to fill this house with different women. I see
in my notes that I went to her place and she came to my place
every other day in March, so that was a very intense period
for a couple of weeks. I was writing lyrics almost every day
and I wrote the final lyrics for “Är du som han?”
the 19th, “Visa i åttonde månaden”
on the 24th and “Dom har glömt” finally on
the 25th. The background for “Golliwog” was recorded
the 28th of March with lots of alterations of the lyrics that
day. Agnetha took me home in her car and I got a start on
Jd. That was first recorded
BC. Yes. It was on an ABBA album already. She said
something like, “You haven’t heard that one?”
“Oh, I guess I haven’t” I had to tell her.
“I haven’t been able to keep up with what other
people do.” She had written the melody. I guess it wasn’t
too often when ABBA recorded one of her songs.
Jd. It was the only one.
BC. She probably felt that “this is my song”
and when she was going to do her own album in Swedish she
wanted it on there. When I really started to listen to it,
I liked that song very much. Now it’s one of my favorite
songs from the album. I wish you could understand the lyrics,
because I really tried. You couldn’t call it great poetry,
but it is more poetry than the common pop song. I was allowed
to use phrases and ways of expression that you normally never
find in a hit song. Some of it came out well. At the end of
March I started to work on it at Europafilm Studio One. It
was on the 29th of March when Dave Castle told me about “Came
For Your Love” and I changed “Came...” to
“Here…” I must have tried “Tack för
en underbar, vanlig dag” for the first time somewhere
between March and April. I’ve written a little bit here.
Agnetha had come to me with a demo tape. Most of the demos
for Elva kvinnor i ett hus were recorded at my house with
my own simple equipment but a few were done at the Ulvaeus
residence, probably on equipment that was simpler still. I
believe I had my Revox A77 by this time, or at least a Tandberg
Stereo recorder. Both were rather good reel-to-reel recorders.
Anyway, I got the demos just about every time with English
lyrics. She needed English lyrics as a body to write music
around. She told me that she almost always did it with some
from the back of an LP of another artist or she invented some
half nonsense English lyrics herself. In one case I guess
you can hear some lines from Simon & Garfunkel or a Paul
Simon song. Others are not familiar to me, but probably artists
she liked. “I hear a song to this one”, she would
say, so she started to sing and play. Sometimes that gave
me an idea to go on with, but for the most part I wrote something
BC. In the case of the “Garden” song here,
“Come Into My Garden” is what she was singing,
even though nothing about this garden resembles the one we
have in the Swedish version. This garden is inside an apartment.
The woman turned the whole flat into a garden, so it was a
weird or sort of fantastic song and concept! It’s not
really possible to have that, but you can imagine that you
have it anyway and she really feels she has. There is grass
on the floor in the bedroom and she’s got fish in the
bathtub. Everything is like in nature. It takes a little courage
to try to write something like that because you could also
have said, “Oh, that’s a lousy idea to have a
garden in a flat”. Sometimes you won’t recognize
anything from the demo in what evolved. For instance, the
one that nowadays is the most played and well known, “Tack
för en underbar, vanlig dag”, was another concept
completely in her demo. Listen!
Jd. Is she saying “Lord,
let me die…”
BC. “…knowing my people are proud of me”.
At first I thought it was pathetic. A young girl in those
days saying these things seemed a little too much. I couldn’t
think that she wrote that herself. When I was listening to
the “My Love, My Life” compilation I heard many
of her old songs are about motherhood, the responsibilities
towards her family or her child and wanting to be a good wife
for her husband. Listening to this demo now I am more certain
that she wrote it by herself and it was at least half meant.
Maybe it comes out stronger than she intended but I think
this is what she really wanted, to be a good mother and a
good wife. That comes across on the songs she wrote before
she had a child and she was telling me that she must have
had this picture of how it should be. Let’s see, did
I write anything about this? Yes, “Sov gott min lilla
vän” [Sleep Well My Little Friend] is a song on
the bonus CD of the compilation. I wrote to myself “The
mother Agnetha, already here, so obvious and so clear.”
I heard it in a couple of other places, too. So this is true
to herself, I believe. Maybe I was wrong to change the subject
when I wrote my version of it, but this felt so far from me
I could never try to write that kind of a lyric for anyone.
Agnetha obviously had no objections.
BC. No! I think she was pleased with what I suggested.
Like I said, this was not meant to be an Agnetha confessional
album or anything. It shouldn’t be exactly what she
wanted to say all the time. I think that’s why she thought
it was alright that I changed it. You see there are changes
made all the time here. “Disillusion” –
oh, I really tried hard on that. “Mina ögon”
– I still like it very much and out of all the songs
on this album, maybe it must be the most true Agnetha song.
I think so, even if my lyrics are not very neutral in that
respect. You can grasp a little of how thoroughly I always
worked with the lyrics. There are so many hours behind every
one of them, I can assure you. Of course, you have to consider
what the artist thinks, too, but most of all what you think
yourself. You’re always your own worst critic, so you’ve
got to learn how to stop. “No, no, I can’t enhance
this anymore! This must be it.” It gets easier to know
when that time has come, but this was my fourth or fifth year
as a lyricist and I was never really sure. I guess you learn
shortcuts as you go on, so I don’t need that much time
Jd. After you got Agnetha’s
demos, the lyrics were written and the songs completed, how
were they documented for recording in the studio?
BC. I wrote the lyrics on paper and then she put down
the letters for the notes. Then she had the song.
Jd. She actually knew, obviously,
what the notes were?
BC. She did, yes, but she didn’t want to write
them down herself. I think she had told me she didn’t
really need to write the score. She had Sven-Olof Walldoff
help her, ever since she was very young I think. He did her
first collaborations so she knew she could rely on him to
transcribe the music for her. Once she had completed a song
she had it within her. I guess she needed only a few notes.
You know, A, D, whatever, and she could have written down
the harmony analysis and chord structure, like A flat minor.
Then she knew the song. The lyrics led her into the right
meter so she needed only that and a little reminder of what
notes go where. She could then play it as she does on this
Did Agnetha come to you with the
complete song, or would she come to you with part of something
and then work on it more it later?
BC. Sometimes she said, “I really don’t
know how we will do this, there are only three verses”
and sometimes she only had a couple of bars, not very much
at all. That could be enough to give me an idea that could
develop into something. Sometimes when that’s the case
I can take four bars, maybe hear something in that and write
lyrics that go further so the composer can try to feel that.
I don’t think Agnetha and I ever did that, though.
Jd. Tell me more about your
BC. I sort of do what Agnetha does in her demo tapes,
where she wants to sing something in English, preferably,
to get the right meter, the right stresses on the right places
and everything. It’s easier when you have a real word
to sing, the word that you think is right at this place. The
words don’t always make sense in those demo tapes. That’s
not the issue. When I write other things and I can’t
find the words at once, as I sometimes do, then I think the
second best is to write something else, without sense but
with the right kinds of words, the right sounds or the right
meter or whatever. It’s not the same if you write three
one syllable words as if you write a two syllable word and
a single syllable word, and a word with three syllables would
sound completely different. So you must be careful to use
a word of the right length in every place in the music. You
have to try to get what the music needs. Sometimes you get
a demo tape with no words, only someone playing the piano
or something, then you have to make this decision yourself.
Where should I put a four syllable word or where should I
put shorter ones, staccato like that, it’s very important.
When you listened to what Agnetha sings on the demos, you
told me that I found the same meter in the final lyrics that
she has here.
Jd. Yes, like in “Something’s
Burning, Fire, Fire!” It almost rhymes, too, “Aja
Baja!” and “Fire, Fire!”
BC. Oh, yes, you begin to understand how I do it. I
sort of heard how she wanted it. If I could I tried to keep
it, not that I count syllables and words like that all the
time. It’s a natural thing. The sound “fire, fire”
was so right in that place and, of course, Agnetha knew that,
too. That was her intuition. She used that melody to those
words or vice versa. These things might seem to come from
nowhere, without any particular meaning or at random, but
maybe they are really predestined to come together. Sometimes
I feel that I should stay there, that that sound and those
notes should be played or sung in this order, so I keep them.
Even the next line “Lugn i
stormen, lugn i stormen”, it has the same sound as “Burnin’.”
BC. Yes, you noticed! It’s pretty obvious. You
also have to keep the meter; you mustn’t destroy the
music with the lyrics. It’s far too common that you
hear people singing awkward lines that really are not possible
to sing to the music, so they have to either destroy the music
to sing them or destroy the language, pronounce it in the
wrong way. This is one of my highest goals and it’s
a given in my view, even if you have to rewrite the whole
verse or half of the song. If you end up in one place where
you have to do that kind of damage to everything and you can’t
find a substitute, go back! Start all over from some point
and think it through. Eventually, you’ll always come
up with a solution that really fits. It takes a helluva lot
more effort to do it that way. I went all the way to satisfy
that aspect of most of the things I have written that were
recorded or used on stage.
Jd. It’s kind of refreshing
to see that she had the melody and you add the lyrics!
BC. Some people are more comfortable the other way
around, but since I started out as a cover lyricist I got
used to that order. If songwriters or composers give me demos
and say “I can’t give you any idea of what to
write about”, I say the music will tell me. Many times
I can hear it from the start what it should be about, and
sometimes a line in the music sort of speaks words to me and
I can just tell. “Ah! Thank you, thank you whoever told
me that!” If you ask a thousand other people though,
they would hear a thousand other things. In Agnetha’s
case we had many songs that she had these kind of nonsense
lyrics to, but they could set me off in the right direction.
[sings] “I Love A Man”. That is her demo lyric
to “Är du som han?” “I am a simple
girl” is an idea we never did anything about. “Disillusion”
should be about death, I thought. It was to be a hard and
a rough kind of lyric, but these are more cute things so it
could also be about some passion. Maybe crime or a broken
heart. The garden could also be a sweet little lyric, I thought,
but with some social connection. “Dom har glömt”
should be a rather tough soul, but a little sweet, too. [laughing]
“Golliwog”, also rough but sweet. “My child”
should be the sweetest one, about a baby. “What about
me?” That’s fun! That was her lyric for “Var
det med dej?” We called it “Män” [Men].
The original idea was that we should have a woman who hated
men very much. We tried, and I tried, to get that. I really
never got it good, so at last I started on another idea. I
don’t know if it was my idea to direct it to one single
man, not to all men in the world. It made it a little easier
to work for me. The first time it was about women’s
lib and I never really could get into that.
Jd. I read that Agnetha felt
several years after the album had been recorded some of the
ideas were leaning towards women’s lib and she regretted
BC. On this album?
That’s my understanding.
BC. Since we meant it to be 12 different kinds of women
living in a house nothing really had to be Agnetha’s
own opinion. It could be sort of a mirror of many opinions
that were relevant to people at that time, everyone that was
living in this house. I think both Agnetha and I, when we
worked on it, felt liberated. We could really write almost
anything. It didn’t have to be something that she had
to stand up to. Like this one, “Tack för en underbar,
vanlig dag”. It’s a really hard song to explain
in another language! These are the first notes from when I
called it “An Evening Prayer on the Best TV Couch”,
and I wrote here, “If I prayed to God, it would be in
this manner. It’s really the little things that you
forget to be grateful for. I hope there are people out there,
believer’s who say evening prayers in this way.”
I really knew that, when I started to write it, because I
had met people like that. Even so, if you want to draw a portrait
it is not enough to do it the way they are. You have to make
it more obvious, you have to exaggerate things. This woman
is thanking the Lord for things that no sensible person would
ever think of coming from God. Like when the merchant sends
you a flyer about cheap meat, and that she could buy shoes
and coffee at a low price! You had to raise your eyebrows
and think, “This is not right. This can’t be true.
She’s crazy.” All through the years I don’t
think there is one single thing I have written that I have
had so many comments on from people. Some say it’s the
best thing they have ever heard in their whole life and they
can’t understand why anyone would object. Others say
exactly the opposite: “This is shit, man. How could
you write that?” It leaves no one unaffected. They have
to form an opinion, and that, I think, is good. I should learn
to do this more often when I write. It’s fun! I understand
why certain artists have been doing things they know would
offend people to get a reaction.
Jd. Do you think the lyrics from
“Elva kvinnor” are specific to that period of
time, or are they still applicable today?
BC. I think most of them stand the test of time. It’s
really rather good after 25 years. Maybe that’s a result
of our concept to portray different types of people. We didn’t
try to show anything from that period of time, but there are
more “timeless” characters that we can meet on
this album. As I said, since it was conceived that way it
is not really more than maybe “Mina ögon”
and maybe one other, “Visa i åttonde månaden”,
that are really meant to be Agnetha. Otherwise, it was other
people that we portrayed. It’s fascinating to see how
“Tack för en underbar, vanlig dag” is now
often played and used in Sweden. It has even been used by
the biggest department store chain in Sweden, Åhléns.
They bought the rights to use it in their television commercials
and radio ads. They said in a radio interview that this song
captured everyday life in a way that they wanted.
Did Åhléns approach you at all before the campaign?
BC. Yes, sure. I had no objections because they assured
me that they wouldn’t do anything to mock the song or
anything. What I’ve seen and heard is quite alright.
I can see in the papers I kept, all my manuscripts for this
song, it took me a very long time to find the title. The day
I found this line I really knew it was right. One would never
say that, thanks for a wonderful ordinary day.
Jd. How do you feel that you
and Agnetha complemented each other in the songwriting?
BC. What makes my work interesting to me has always
been to try to blend my own interests and knowledge with other
people to get, well, when one and one become hopefully three
and not necessarily two! In order to do that you must try
to understand the other person and to really honor them and
what they put into the project. It’s give and take all
the time to achieve something that we both feel is right.
We never had any problems as I see it. We could discuss openly
and had lots of things to say to always get it better and
better. It was no problem to tell her that I thought “this
should be another ending here”. I always could. She
only altered things if she felt she really could or wanted
to. [chuckles] The same with me. I would have got up to fight
for a line in my lyrics that I thought was the best, but I
could also give in and change things that were not that important
in order to achieve something that we both wanted. There’s
almost always more than one way to do things.
Jd. What brought Agnetha to
the process that impressed you the most?
BC. Most of all her sincerity, that honesty. All of
her music to me is really true. There is no fabricated work
like she’s been looking at others, or you must have
this element and this and that. I always thought and felt
that she did it from her guts. That’s what she really
felt that she wanted to write and that’s what she did.
That quality is very inspiring and she really made me feel
I wanted to do my very best to find the right words. When
I recently listened to all her old songs I really tried to
hear when the lyricist had captured the person Agnetha. When
did I feel that this was another person writing for her, wanting
her to say things that she really shouldn’t say? When
do I really feel that this is Agnetha singing to me? One was
a Stikkan Anderson lyric. It was a very good lyric, but for
an older woman. It should have been sung by a more experienced
singer. I just looked to see where it was going and I sort
of slowly recaptured, oh, yeah, I heard that one in those
days, but, well, who was that? He wrote things that he knew,
but she couldn’t have any idea. I think there were very
few times anyone but she herself really got the right lyric
for her songs. There were some that really knew what they
should write for her, to get the real Agnetha. Maybe a couple
of times I managed to do that as well, but it’s very
sensitive work. Then again, I have my own view of Agnetha
– I guess others have their views – so that’s
very personal what you think is her. Having met her and worked
a lot with her, I think maybe I did as good as many others.
At least in those days when all this was written, because
today I must admit that I don’t know her at all. I haven’t
seen her for many years now.
Why didn’t she write the
BC. I guess she felt like most people that I know who
can write music. “Well, I can write music. That’s
no big deal, but, oh, the lyrics!” I think she felt
it was safer to have other people do that because that was
too difficult. Maybe that will come to her later in life,
that she feels more confident. If she really wanted to do
something like that again, maybe now she could feel that she
can write her own lyrics, which would be, of course, the very
Jd. A part of the brilliance
of your writing is taking an idea, making it so simple and
at the same time giving it such diversity that people can
mold it to interpret however they want.
BC. I am very happy you have realized and noticed that,
especially the last quality there. I hope I have it someplace
anyway. You must leave something to be in the eyes of the
beholder. That’s the way I paint my watercolors too,
it’s not photographically correct. Sometimes you really
wonder what I have been painting! Probably you will get your
own idea and something will come across. Maybe in these songs
the lyrics are fairly direct and descriptive because that
was the object, to portray these women, but all of the time
I was thinking the people listening will have the opportunity
to read a history or something of the kind in the album. They
would get to know this person a bit and therefore I could
leave out things. When you don’t have all the information
you have to picture it yourself. That’s also good, but
I wish I could have it all!
Jd. Your sketches and “biographies”
were never used.
BC. No. All of that was taken away, much because of
the ABBA success. After that nobody really wanted to put that
much money or effort into this project, so we couldn’t
make the album the way we really wanted to. It became so small
in comparison to what had to be done for this international
career. We had to fight to get the album completed and we
couldn’t get the money to make it as advanced as we
really wanted to. Neither Agnetha nor I were really very big
on demanding, so maybe we were too nice to them. It was a
dream for both of us to get this album afloat. For awhile
it was like, “What will happen? Will we ever finish
it?” We didn’t want to jeopardize that because
it really was important for her to do her own album, not just
to be another ABBA member.
How far did that get in the project?
Did you have to give up well before you got to the end?
BC. If you look through the notes here you can see
we left the names of the girls rather early. “You can’t
have that much space”, they said. I wasn’t angry
or anything, but this wasn’t half of what we wanted
to do. The idea couldn’t be explained in the four or
five lines on the back of the album. That was all the space
we got, and I think many of the lyrics have been misunderstood
and misinterpreted because of this. People never understood
what we tried to do. For instance on “Tack för
en underbar, vanlig dag” there has been a lot of debate
as a result of that. When people thought it was Agnetha that
had those ideas in the lyrics, they either thought that she
was nuts or untrue to herself. It must have been the case
in many of the other lyrics, too. If they didn’t know
this was a kind of theater where she is impersonating other
people, how could they really take the songs the way they
were supposed to be received?
Jd. Why wasn’t all the
material on the album yours and Agnetha’s, as planned?
BC. The “SOS” idea came after Brighton,
a long time after, I think, when this project was reopened.
Maybe a year or more after, when the last tracks were recorded.
We didn’t want “SOS” on there. Agnetha did
not. It was an ABBA song, they even used the same backing
track. My own notes tell me that she was, at first anyway,
disappointed. She had wanted it to be her own music through
and through. Maybe it came to the point where everyone told
her “if you want to make this solo album you’ve
got to have a well known ABBA song on it because we want to
sell records”. Or maybe she had a choice and was happy
with that, because “SOS” is a great song. However,
it didn’t fit into the concept with the women living
here, the character gallery of women with different types
of personalities. It’s more of an ordinary pop song
lyric. This one is a very anonymous person.
Jd. Did they consider asking
you to write the lyrics for it?
BC. Agnetha was never asked to do that. Maybe Björn
had done it from the start already. Anyway, I see here in
my notes that Lars-Johan Roundqvist called the 8th of September
'75 and told me that “SOS” was going to be on
the record and there would be only 11 songs. I can tell here
that I wasn’t pleased to hear that. I thought about
it again and then I decided not to give up the original idea.
I called Agnetha and she agreed that it was a pity that we
should only have 11 songs. She also wanted us to continue
with our original idea for the album. I did a sketch for the
cover and I wrote the text that should be in the windows and
inside the gatefold jacket and everything. I showed it to
Lars-Johan the next day and I sort of kept on protesting about
“SOS”. He liked the cover and would show it to
Agnetha, but she had other things going on so she didn’t
see it until many days later.
Do you have any special memories
from recording this LP with Agnetha?
BC. I remember that Agnetha always was very pleased
when the strings were called in, how fast they could read
music and capture the feeling of the song and record without
retakes. I shared her enthusiasm and appreciation of good
studio musicians of any kind. I think I never attended recordings
as often as I did then, and maybe it was almost the first
time for me, too.
Jd. Based upon the demos you
played for me, I assume that she was not unlike the strings
herself, she would just walk in, open her mouth and immediately
record a great take.
BC. Yes, but if Micke knew she could get into it more
he would ask her to do it again. She was never reluctant to
do that. She trusted him 100%, so she always worked hard and
wanted it to be the best. As I remember, she did many takes
sometimes until everything was ready. Having said that, she
is an incredible singer and very professional, so she always
did it in a short time.
Jd. Who were some of the other
people that were important to the project?
BC. The arranger, of course, Wlodek Gulgowski. His
ingenious arrangements made this really differ from the ABBA
sound. If you listen to her own demos you can agree that he
captured the sound and the arrangements she really wanted.
You can hear it even if she’s only playing the piano.
Also Sven-Olof Walldoff was a great asset of course, I guess
his name is here because of SOS and maybe also Disillusion
if they used the same transcription. The musicians that are
participating are top musicians from Sweden. We have names
that perhaps are not as familiar to the American or the international
audience, but they are considered to be the top musicians
from that time. Many of them still are. There were ABBA musicians
like Ola Brunkert, Janne Schaffer and Rutger Gunnarsson, but
also Anders Glenmark is on the album doing some background
vocals. Björn J:son Lindh plays keyboards. He is a Swedish
musician and composer, even a crossover composer as he is
doing more serious music, classical almost. Malando Gassama,
a percussionist, really great. Of course, we had the wonderful
man Micke Tretow at the controls. He’s a genius of an
engineer and much more because he’s the real producer
of this, as I see it. He certainly had a very, very big part
of this, as he was in the ABBA material. He made the ABBA
sound, the way I see it, to be what it was. He also did here
as well. I attended many sessions when this album was recorded
and once I even took over for him!
You were the recording engineer?
BC. Yes! He sent me into the studio with Agnetha to
make her giggle and laugh when we did “Gulleplutt”.
It was supposed to be me doing the male voice. He wanted me
to do it, but I think I was too shy to really do the good
work I should have done. I really didn’t know how! I
felt a little awkward. Although Agnetha and I knew each other
fairly well, we were very much like each other so being there
trying to produce a natural giggle from her – how on
earth do you do that?! I tried to tickle her. I tried everything,
but I just wasn’t funny enough, I guess! Micke said,
“Stay here, look at these things so that they’re
not going anywhere and I will do this.” And he did,
like the master he is...
Jd. He just pushed the right
BC. Yes! He’s a very funny guy. I think he could
do anything and, of course, he could do this, too. So I have
been at the controls for ten minutes here! That’s a
nice memory. I guess it’s quite alright to say that
Michael Tretow was, in fact, the one that directed and got
the best out of the artist at the recording sessions. He really
knew if something was missing. He could hear if anything was
badly played. He would never miss it and would request a retake.
If he knew that Agnetha could get some other energy, more
energy into it or anything else could be enhanced, he would
notice and tell her and get her to do it again until it really
was the best. You could totally rely on Micke that he wouldn’t
let it out of his hands until it was the best we ever could
do. As you know, he is also an expert at mixing the material
after it has been recorded. He should have a lot of the credit
for this being a good recording.
Jd. Lars-Johan Roundqvist
is also formally listed as the producer. Perhaps he was more
responsible for administrative decisions than creative?
BC. Yes. I think you could say that. I hope that I
don’t take away too much credit away from him by saying
Jd. Of the songs on the album,
which do you think is the best?
BC. Whew! It’s difficult because they are so
unalike! One of my favorites has always been “Mina ögon”
because, as I’ve said, I think it is so Agnetha. I like
“Visa i åttonde månaden” for the same
reason and because I think the message in this song is dealing
with a big problem. [Editor’s note: While watching the
news of a war on TV, a woman sings to her unborn child that
some people say it’s wrong to bring babies into the
world. She asks how she could ever turn down the gift of giving
birth? Should she really let the killers stop her from having
a baby?] It was a great problem for people then and I think
it might be today, too. I like “En egen trädgård”
because it is a quite unusual thought! If I had to mention
a few, it would be these. Many of the songs are not the usual
popular songs, just to be merry and bright when listened to.
Some of them could get to you and make you think.
Even though “Elva kvinnor…”
still has yet to be released on CD, it seems to be Agnetha’s
most well known Swedish album.
BC. Yes, sometimes I am surprised that so many people
know the songs. For instance, one of our most famous artists
from Gotland, Susanne Alfvengren, said to me, “Wow! Did
you write that? I have owned this LP since it was first released
and I have been singing together with Agnetha when I am cleaning
or doing the dishes”. She knew every word of it and she
used it to warm up before going on stage. It sort of became
her own material for rehearsal. That’s something! I knew
it had sold quite a lot of copies, but it must have been the
quality of it that at least made them not throw it away! After
a couple of years they have kept it and listened to it.
Jd. No other collaboration came
with you and Agnetha following this, but was it ever discussed
or was it a possibility?
BC. When the ABBA rocket went way up into outer space
it wasn’t possible. I think we mentioned it, but both
of us knew that she would have too little time. As I remember
she would have really wanted to because it was very important
to her to express herself through her own music. We wanted to
do more but it got out of hand. We couldn’t control this
and if she had any time left for anything I guess she had her
family, her children and all. She wanted more than to make a
Jd. Maybe you have what it takes
to get her back into the studio!
BC. No! I don’t think that I could get her to write
new songs. Even so, she knows I wouldn’t say no if we
were ever to try it again. We have both grown older and wiser
and, perhaps, better, too, as writers. It would be a challenge
and something very attractive for me to try, but still, Agnetha’s
holding the cards. I remember I heard her on the radio one day
ten or so years ago. She was giving a live interview in the
studio and I was thrilled to hear her speak. I really wanted
to say hello, so I called the radio station and asked them to
please get her for me. But she had already left. I wrote to
her once or twice but did not get an answer, which, of course,
I respect. I really would like to work with her again because
there are few songwriters and singers that I have felt that
their music is so true to them, to their character.
foto av mig används med vänligt tillstånd
av fotografen Jeffrey de Hart.
This photo of me holding the treasured
gold record is used with the kind permission of the photographer
and interviewer Jeffrey de Hart