When I was a teenager, like my protagonist in A Son Called Gabriel, I worshipped everything ABBA. What I really mean is, I worshipped blonde Agnetha. Every time I saw her on Top of the Pops (a British Pop program the BBC ran on Thursday evenings), I would sit mesmerised and watch this gorgeous Swedish goddess dance and sway her golden tresses in the amber, blue, crimson and green glow of the lights.
ABBA came to prominence throughout Europe by winning the Eurovision Song Contest in the mid-seventies--a contest that all the European countries participate in today still. They won with the song "Waterloo", which oddly I didn't care for when I first heard it, though after it won the competition, I thought it the best thing since the boxy Volvo. At one point they became so successful, they became Sweden's principal export.
Everything Swedish seemed so much more alluring and exciting in comparison to the grey humdrum of my Northern Irish life where the local news was but a litany of the bombings, murders and mayhem that had broken out in the larger towns and cities. Stockholm rolled off the tongue so much more exotically than Belfast or Derry, and its river was dotted with islands which one could purchase and live on. (Ironically, I lived in a rural area of Northern Ireland that seldom encountered violence, though the media slanted their broadcasts to suggest that murder was endemic throughout the province.) Sweden represented beautiful people with golden hair, pristine lakes and a country that was very rich and looked after all its citizens. In a way, it represented nirvana to this self-conscious teenager.
And I used to dream of meeting Agnetha and how, when I did, she'd be so taken by my good looks and crooning that she'd instantly offer me a spot in her band. I visualized myself beside her on the stage, both of us aglow in the warm, multi-colored lights, the presence of Benny and the other band members narrated as an occasional flickering on the dark wings of the stage. It was she and I the fans adored, and we'd sashay or lean out heads together--glistening black against spun gold--as we sang "The Winner Takes It All", "S.O.S" and "Chiquitita". Little did my parents or siblings know the crazy plots about Agnetha and my newfound fame flooding my mind as I sat at the breakfast table clad in my school uniform eating porridge. Naturally, my family did not feature in these dreams, though I do recall I would always arrive periodically back in Ireland in a black limo to shower them with the spoils of my success. Such is the innocent fantasies of adolescents.
Recently, I was interviewed by the Princeton Packet group of community newspapers for their TimeOff arts section and the subject of ABBA and Gabriel's and my attitude to them came up. While I can't speak for Gabriel anymore, I can speak for myself, and I did.
[technorati: ABBA, Princeton Packet, Sweden, Agnetha FÃ¤ltskog]