Intervju / Jeffrey de Hart för ABBAs och Agnetha Fältskogs fanclub-magazin

Visby, Gotland, Sweden
February 11th & 12th 1998

by Jeffrey de Hart, American Correspondent
edited by Peter Palmquist, Swedish Correspondent

Part Four – Agnetha Benny Björn Frida Fan Club Magazine
Part Five – Agnetha Fältskog Worldwide Fan Club Magazine

På fotot Jeffrey de Hart med guldskivan för Elva kvinnor i ett hus efter fullbordad intervju. 
Jeffrey de Hart with the gold record for Elva kvinnor after the interview was completed.
Foto: Bosse Carlgren

This 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 interview.

Jd. 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 tunes.
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”.

Jd. 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.

Jd. 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 the women?
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 come up?
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 Cry Forest.

Jd. Please tell me how it was to collaborate with Agnetha!
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 “Mina ögon”.
Jd. That was first recorded as “Disillusion”.
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 completely different.

Jd. For example?
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.

Jd. 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 now.
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 tape.

Jd. 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 writing process.
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.

Jd. 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 that.
BC. On this album?

Jd. 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.

Jd. 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.

Jd. Why didn’t she write the lyrics herself?
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 best.
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.

Jd. 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.

Jd. 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!

Jd. 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 buttons!
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 that.
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.

Jd. 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 new album.
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.


Detta 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

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