ABBA star’s life of heartbreak. By John Wood

There was sadness and despair in the eyes of ABBA star Agnetha Fältskog (Anna) as she walked through the foyer of her London hotel.

It was during the visit of the famous Swedish pop group to Britain recently. The 29-year-old blonde had just left her hotel suite where, she admitted, she was “lonely”.

A few doors away, sharing a room with the new love of his life, was Anna’s former husband Björn Ulvaeus, 34.

Here there was no misery or suppressed tears and Björn was more than happy to talk about the woman who has taken Anna’s place – 30-year-old divorcee Lena källersjö.

“We are both marvelously happy with one another,” said the smiling Björn. “Lena has brought unique tranquility and peace into my life.”

Then coldly, when asked about Anna, he replied: “She moved out of our home last Christmas, 1978. Now we are friends. I look at her and I find it difficult to imagine that we had an intimate relationship.

“Actually I think she rather enjoys being a bachelor girl.

“We were incompatible. That is not the case with Lena: we are more than compatible.”

At the hotel, at first encounter, Anna had refused to talk about the break-up of her marriage and the way she has failed to find any form of contentment with anybody ever since that traumatic moment in her life. In the hotel lounge she wore dark sunglasses – to hide the redness of her eyes which had been noted by fellow guests in the lift. And she was wan and pale.

But her refusal to discuss her problems was before the group’s performance at London’s famous Wembley Stadium. Clearly, the unhappiness of one of ABBA’s stars had affected the performance of the whole group.

Although the show was a sell-out, a major London newspaper called the evening “a damp squib”. The paper added, for good measure: “Much of the group’s magic seemed locked into a Swedish iceberg: it was struggling to get out, unsuccessfully.”

Later, Anna admitted: “I just can’t help it. My heart no longer is in our performances.

“Maybe the fact that I have suffered a lot emotionally has something to do with it. I cannot say. But I see Björn there…and I remember many things.

“I try to be professional and sing and perform well, but the joy has gone.”

Anna also confessed: “All this success – which of course I appreciate – has not brought me happiness. Now all the feelings and hopes for the future are centred on my baby Christian (22 months old) and daughter, Linda (6 years old). I want everything for them.

“Linda starts school next year and I have to make an important choice – between ABBA and my daughter. She has to go to classes regularly, and that is when she is going to need me most.

“In fact, I’m pretty certain what I’ll do. I shall spend all my time with my daughter – and baby son. And if that means quitting ABBA – the end of the group, perhaps – then so be it.

“Now, with the divorce, I know that there are emotional problems which they (Linda and Christian) have to face. Being away from them for long periods is just too much. So I’m prepared to sacrifice my career, if necessary, to ensure their happiness.”

Anna is trying desperately hard to prevent the world noticing her anguish and the emotional storms which have resulted from the ending of her marriage to Björn.

With a brave show she agreed to dine out with Björn and the new woman in his life, Lena – who used to be one of her closest friends. But the strains and tensions simmering beneath the surface were clear for all to see.

Since winning the Eurovision Song Contest five years ago, ABBA has sold more than 100 million records.

Since their hit Waterloo, their other records, like Mamma Mia, Fernando, Dancing Queen and Voulez-Vous, have swept to the top of pop charts worldwide.

The foursome – Benny Andersson, his wife Frida, and of course Björn and Anna – have become multi-millionaires.

For the first time, Björn recently gave a glimpse of behind-the-scenes strains which caused the break-up of his marriage and which threaten to bring an end to the ABBA success story. That is, unless they can persuade Anna to continue in the group, or a replacement can be found for her who will be acceptable to the millions of ABBA fans.

“There were immense pressures as we became successful,” he said. “We had to strive to reach the top and then remain there. The more successful we became, the worse the pressure grew. I took our work seriously and immense thought and effort went into the choice of every song and our presentation. It was just too much in the end.”

It was too much, for Anna grew tired – and a little jealous, say some connected with the group – of the way Björn devoted so much time to the musical and financial aspects of ABBA.

“For days on end, he would not say a word to Anna,” one person said, “as he worked up to 20 hours in the 24 on a new number.

“Agnetha never took it as seriously. She tried to distract herself by going for runs in the woods near their home, or busying herself with the children. But in the end the very success they achieved professionally resulted in the breakdown of their marriage.”

Once Anna was full of happiness as she and Björn sampled the joys of world success. Now, for the divorced singer, there’s only despair as she sees her former husband in the arms of another and contemplates quitting the group.

Björn now tries to cover up for the marriage’s failure and the stress it is causing by declaring publicly: “Anna and I are now better friends than we were when we were married. I have not felt in any way jealous of her friendships with other men. And, of course, as you can see by the way she, Lena and I dine out together, she is no way jealous of my relationship with Lena.”

Those who have seen Anna, however, judge for themselves that it is not as simple as that. She has been out with men like the Swedish international ice-hockey star Lars-Erick Ericsson, but none of these friendships lasted.

And the 34-year-old Björn demonstrates that he, too, can be touchy, for he becomes angry when asked about the reported romance between his former wife and Hakan Lonnback, the psychiatrist the couple went to see last year as they tried to patch up their marriage.

“There was no substance in that story of a romance,” he says, his voice rising.

The truth, despite a public display of friendship between Anna and Björn, is that the strains are not diminished by the fact that their divorce is now almost a year old.

When television crews were invited to see for themselves how “happy they all were together”, the couple demonstrated this by smiling and even embracing for the cameras. But when filming was over, said one crewman, they stood apart and refused to talk or even to look at each other.

Now, many fear that the continuing emotional storm between Anna and Björn will bring about the end of ABBA.

Photo from 1977: Agnetha (who is pregnant with Christian), and Björn, pose for the cover sleeve of the single Take A Chance On Me - Anna and Björn in happier days. Now she is finding it difficult to hide her unhappiness and he is insisting they are still friends. Transcribed for ABBA World

New Idea (Australia) · 29 December 1979 (Pages 6 & 7)

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