It felt like something straight out of a Gyllene Tider song. I did wait by Picasso, and we were indeed in the same small town Per Gessle sings about in Småstad. That’s because singer Lena Andersson and I grew up in the same small town as Per, and my suggestion that Lena and I should meet by Picasso was more a matter of practicality, than me being clever. It’s a big statue, there are seats to sit on (I am old) and it’s across the street from the church café that I felt might be a good place for some ‘fika.’
And had it not been for my plumber who phoned me on my mobile to ask where to send his invoice, then the local radio station would have lost its star turn for the day. Lena is back in Sweden this summer to stage a come-back, and she has been interviewed by everyone, everywere. During two months she will have covered great parts of the country and she will have sung in lots of places and been interviewed in many more.
So while I was spelling my address out to the plumber, Lena got her phone out and looked at text messages – as you do – and discovered that she needed to get her skates on to get to an almost forgotten about live radio interview on time. In fact, she couldn’t make it to the original venue (her parents’ balcony), so quickly switched to a nearby park, as she’d cycled into town.
Luckily we had drunk our tea and coffee, and eaten.., well, never mind what we’d eaten, and chatted about being foreigners where we live and about coming ‘home’ and whether our husbands are tidy men when left on their own. (No comment.)
I had forgotten to ask Lena if she could bring a copy of her new CD Open Your Heart when we met, but luckily she did anyway, and I’m listening to it as I write this. (I’ll tell you more about that later.) Her voice hasn’t changed much from the days of gospel singing over the skipping rope in the late 1960s. Neither has she, which is nice.
We all looked the same, if slightly more adult. Usually people have school reunions from the last year at school, whereas on Saturday night I attended a small, select meeting of eight primary school girls. Actually, no I didn’t. One of us had not been part of that school, but with people coming and going, it seemed as if everyone belonged. We all claimed to have been in the same class as each other, except we couldn’t have, and I was right. Obviously.
So, 47 years on, we are still very young. It was especially nice for us to see Lena Andersson, who is over from Phoenix to launch her new CD, and who’s appeared in every newspaper and magazine imaginable, as well as on television. I was intrigued when my stats shot up a week ago, but presumably all who saw her interview then googled her and found the CultureWitch interview (and in English) from a few years ago.
Our reunion happened at Heagård, which is a large farm owned by another ‘girl’ in the group. There was a Rock & Blues Festival on last night, so we retired indoors for our dinner, or we wouldn’t have been able to hear ourselves speak. But it was nice with all that music. Two nights earlier Lena had performed on the same stage, which I’d had to miss. Wish I hadn’t now.
But as I said, we haven’t changed a bit. We gossiped. Laughed at the same ridiculous boy, and that was even without my story of the drinks lorry. We remembered those who have died. The grandchildren were discussed (as the youngest I don’t have any). And just as people felt some boys should have been invited (why?), one turned up out of the blue.
As Mikael Rickfors, pop star from back when, started singing, we decided it was time to leave. We had enjoyed Andrea Dawson’s music earlier, but for primary school girls the time comes when they need their beds.
You know how it is. The girl who lived down the road and who sang the most beautiful songs as you skipped rope together is discovered and becomes a star almost overnight. Your lives go in different directions, and forty years later one of you (that would be me) thinks it’d be good to interview the other one (Lena Andersson, or Lena Hubbard as she is today), to find out what she did after stardom.
Lena always had a fantastic voice, so it was more circumstance – like the birth of ABBA – than any lack of talent that had her career fade away some years later. But I’m never sure if teen fame is a good thing, so it might have been for the best.
Ten years ago Lena married Tobe Hubbard and moved to America with him. And a couple of years ago we met up again, online, and I had my idea of interviewing her. She rarely travels to Sweden these days, and I travel to the US even more rarely, so an email interview was inevitable. But it’s OK; we have our shared skipping background.
This is mainly about her present life. We – some of us, anyway – know about her famous past. It’s interesting to find out what Lena does now.
(For good measure I interviewed Lena twice. Once for each language, so here are two interviews for the price of one! English. Swedish.)
I had my old school friend Lena in the kitchen just now, singing Silent Night. She was only present on the iPod, but that’s good enough. I decided for the umpteenth time that her voice is really very good. It was always great, even when singing American spirituals over the skipping rope, which isn’t the most normal thing for a twelve-year-old to be doing.
Lena Andersson was “discovered” in 1971 when she was fifteen, and was a star almost overnight, with hits and tours and the whole circus. Remembering what she used to sing before fame hit, I’m not convinced Lena was given the best songs to record. Är Det Konstigt Att Man Längtar Bort Nån Gång was her first hit.
By 1972 we hoped she’d get to represent Sweden in the Eurovision song contest with Säg Det Med En Sång, but she didn’t quite make it.
A couple of years later some other Swedes became Eurovision winners, and as they had been involved in writing songs for Lena and producing her records, it’s not altogether surprising that her career didn’t do so well after this. They had other things on their minds.
As I’ve been reading in ABBA – The Story, Lena wasn’t the only victim of Abba’s success, but singing Abba covers in German isn’t one of the greatest things to end up doing, when two years earlier it was Abba singing back-up for Lena. Though she did get to go to Australia with them and you can almost catch a glimpse of her in ABBA – The Movie.
Though, looking at what happens to many child stars, maybe it was just as well. I don’t know. Lena found God at the age of thirty, and more recently she found love online, and married and moved to California. I worried a little when I read about this in a magazine, but a chance encounter with Lena’s best friend a while back, reassured me that she is fine and happy. And that’s what matters.