Tuesday, September 20, 2005

At Agnetha's altar

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.

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Rachel said...

Wow... that's quite a fantasy. I'm too young to be an ABBA fan, but I do have their CDs, and have seen Mamma Mia! (the musical) in London, so I can definitely have a feel for what you describe.

Your comparisons of Northern Ireland vs. Sweden are very vivid; even though I've never been to either place yet, I can visualize everything.

I better read your book soon!

I had a similar fantasy too - with Mariah Carey - in my teens. I did meet her when I was 18, but of course, she didn't give me a record deal. :)

Damian McNicholl said...

It's amazing how many people still buy things ABBA. And Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert and Mamma Mia gave their music even longer legs.

Sinéad said...

There was a TV programme on here the other night where Blue Peter presenteres dressed up as ABBA. I couldn't bring myself to watch it and have ABBA tainted in such a way. :)

My biggest Eurovision obsession was when Buck's Fizz won in 1981 (I was 7). As part of the performance, the two guys did this trick where they pulled off these long skirts the two girls were wearing to reveal little mini-skirts below. Myself and my friend were obsessed by this and got her dressmaker mam to make us replicas. We practiced the routine and knew all the words - we just never got around to recruiting two boys to pull off the velcro-seamed skirts...

Damian McNicholl said...

Sinead, I remember the Buck's Fizz guys doing that and had forgotten. It was hysterical. Wonder what ever became of them. Probably playing a pub in Luton or Barnsley. The Nolan sisters were big in 1981 too.

Designing your skirts to do that was haute couture in comparison to what we did as kids. My cousin and I had narrow strips of green tartan (had to be green because we were Catholic) sewn into the sides of our 'parallel' trousers to replicate the Bay City Rollers garb. We also had green tartan scarves which we wore to school (Protestant school kids wore red tartan), but our headmaster banned these because they weren't official school uniform.

Ian said...

I'm with you all the way when it comes to Agnetha from Abba! I wasn't even around in the 70s, but I hear guys still musing about "the blonde from Abba", and when I see pictures and video footage of Abba, I am totally mesmerised too. She was seriously fit - and talented, too - an absolute goddess!

Damian McNicholl said...

very true, ian. thanks for stopping by.

Bobby said...

Wow, I gotta say it's good to know another kid was obsessed with Agnetha. When I first saw her on Countdown (I grew up in Australia and that was Aussieland's Top of the Pops) I fell madly in love. I went to all 3 Melbourne concerts and even crashed their hotel and got her autograph! (long story!). I've now got Abba: The Movie on DVD and Carl Magnus Palme's book about them, and it sounds like Anna was a pain in the a** - but I still love her!
Now I gotta say congratulations on getting your novel published - and ask you how the heck you manage to do it!? I wrote a teen horror adventure I'm still trying to get out there but no luck yet - even though I managed to write a low-budget (Z) movie that got made!
I was born in the UK, moved to Australia with my family when I was 9, and came to America in '91 to (perhaps foolishly) chase my dreams of success in the movie biz!
How did you get published!?

Damian McNicholl said...

Thanks for your comment Bobby.

With regard to your question, it's all to do with persistence and believing in yourself. You have to write to lit. agents who look at manuscripts in your genre and not give up. There's books listing agents in any public library--usually kept behind the reference desk--and lots of stuff on the web as well.

Another tip is to join a writers group as the members will give good feedback on your work and get published in magazines or e-zines.

Agents 'cruise' these mags looking for emerging talent.

Good luck.