How Agnetha Fältskog’s Secret Solo Career Contained The Genesis Of ABBA’s Sound

April 5, 2017

As a young girl with dreams of fame and fortune, Agnetha Fältskog’s chances of emulating her idol Connie Francis’ international success must have seemed remote growing up in the small Swedish town of Jönköping. That her first self-penned single would top the national charts before she had turned 18, and that she’d find herself one quarter of the world’s biggest pop band, ABBA, is the stuff of fairy tales, and Agnetha’s self-titled debut is a magical opening chapter.

As first issued, Agnetha Fältskog comprised of both sides of the five Swedish singles that the singer had released by the end of 1968, plus two new tracks. The teenager was credited with the lyrics to nine of those songs and, tellingly, with the composition to three, including her breakthrough single, ‘Jag Var Så Kär’, which opens the album (and whose title translates to ‘I Was So In Love’). That song, initially relegated to the B-side of a cover of Julie Grant’s ‘Hello Love’, with Swedish lyrics by Agnetha, only caught the attention of a handful of radio DJs at first, and it wasn’t until an appearance on a local TV show that the track started to take off. It’s indicative of much of the album, which Agnetha would later say she wasn’t entirely happy with (“Many of the rhymes are just awful”), though that says more about the ferocious quality control that characterised ABBA than it does about the talent on display here.

Agnetha Fältskog is a 60s pop album through and through, with much of the material reminiscent of her English-speaking contemporaries such as Judith Durham of The Seekers, Cilla Black and even Dusty Springfield. None of the tracks breaches a three-and-a-half-minute running time, and a lilting melancholy underpins them all. What strikes you almost half a century later, however, is a fully matured example of the crystal-sharp precision of Fältskog’s stunning soprano range that became so memorably central to ABBA’s sound.

Agnetha had honed her delivery providing vocals for local dance bands and, when her first record took off, was still working the switchboard at a car firm. She had been discovered when a record producer heard her demo tape and brokered a professional recording session for her at the Philips Studio in Stockholm, which got her signed to the Swedish Cupol record label.

Agnetha-Faltskog-En-Somma-Med-Dig-Single-Artwork-web-300 ABBASome of those songs made it to the album, but Agnetha’s second single stalled and the third, the waltz ‘En Sommar Med Dej’, written by her father, failed to chart at all. A deal was signed to pair her with the West German hitmaker Dieter Zimmerman, and four of their songs made it to the first LP. They epitomise the schalger sound – melodic, midtempo and often melancholic – that remains popular to this day across much of the continent and gets a wider airing at each annual Eurovision Song Contest. Fältskog’s own song from this set, ‘Försonade’, was even considered for that year’s Swedish entry to the competition by another singer, but was ultimately rejected. No matter. Agnetha would do rather well at the contest in her own right just six years later.

The sweeping orchestration that frames Agnetha’s haunting voice is a perfect fit for this folk-infused record, but there was a sharper contrast between what was then Agnetha’s more carefree personality and the brooding ballads that the public seemed to prefer. It’s a bittersweet mix that may have troubled the singer professionally at the time, but it makes for a memorable listen today. With echoes of ABBA standards such as ‘Fernando’ to be found here, the genesis of that band’s legendary sound is evident enough.

Fate would pair Agnetha with three people that would change pop forever but, on this evidence, a more solitary path may well have led her somewhere special as well.

Click here to follow the Best Of ABBA, featuring Agnetha’s more famous hits with the Swedish pop gods.

Share this story

11 comments

  1. michel Ghislain-Mollet
    Reply

    Dear Agnetha
    i wish tell you HAPPY BIRTHDAY
    and i will so happy to meet you one day in real is my dream for long
    my name is Michel i am French live south west of France near Spanish border
    evryday i listen to your nice voice and your songs i keep all on my my mind and my heart
    my children like you too theys knows all your songs too
    Agnetha i sent you a letter for you from France for your birthday i hope you will get it
    enjoy your birthday Agnetha
    kisses from me
    Michel

  2. David R Thayer
    Reply

    Happy birthday agnetha.you and your voice have brought so much happiness in my life.your personality is so unique.your so kind and giving and one of the most beautiful women i have ever seen.i widh you and bijorn could have made a happy life together.what he sees in his wife now is beyond me.the first time i seen you on television in 1974 i knew you were going to make it big.well ill say bye and tell you im 62 live in new york usa.name is david thayer.i doubt you will ever see this but have a grat birthday anyway.

  3. Siti Deliana Pasaribu
    Reply

    Happy Birthday Agnetha, I’m Siti from Bengkulu – Indonesia and one of ABBA’ s fans. Your voice is so beautiful, I really really love most of your songs…
    May you have a great life, may God bless you always..

  4. Jan-Ove Björkman
    Reply

    Without the band Engharts no one in the world should know about Agnetha, she started 15 years
    old and sing with us our bandleader know Little Gerhard producer on Cupol and therefore she have her chans!
    Drummer in the band!

  5. Ralph Benthall
    Reply

    I have been buying the reissues of her first 3 albums and have 2 original singles ‘Om tårar vore guld’ and ‘Vart Ska Min Kärlek Föra .I dont know Swedish (a few words now) but I love to listen to her sing. Theres no doubt to me she was the best singer there then. Her ‘Vart Ska Min Kärlek Föra ( I dont know how to love him) from Jesus Christ Superstar is the BEST version of that song of any! I would love to meet her as she has touched me and I have such respect for her talent Happy late Birthday Agnetha 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *