“Around the Music” features true life tales: coming-of-age, slice-of-life, and anecdotes, all based around music. Poignant, humorous, weird and wacky. Road trips. Concerts. Good drugs. Bad Drugs. Cups of tea. For more stories and submission information, visit “Around the Music.”
Taking a Chance on Agnetha
An Injury, a Crush, and a Misheard Lyric
A cricket ball—or “corky”—is made from solid cork wrapped in tightly-wound string encased in leather. It is extremely hard and potentially lethal. When a corky drops from a height of approximately fifty feet and lands on a human skull, the human skull will always come off second best. I found this out the hard way.
During lunch break at school, a couple of lads made the wise decision to throw a corky to each other across our makeshift soccer game. I sarcastically say “made the wise decision,” but the word wise here would indicate the possibility of an awareness beyond: hold cricket ball; see other boy; shout to other boy; throw ball to other boy; raise arm and shout to indicate that other boy should throw ball back; feel adrenaline rush at the anticipation of catching the ball; catch the ball and, for that split second, feel like the fucking champion of the universe; rinse and repeat. Those seven steps, without rinse and repeat, are more than enough for an eleven-year-old boy’s brain to process, thank you very much. When a misdirected throw goes high up into the air above a group of twenty lads playing soccer—and lands smack bang on the head of one of those lads—there’s no malice aforethought involved. There is simply that sudden awareness. And that instant feeling of dread. That “oh shit” moment. Yeah, you’re for it now, Neil Winterbottom!
We’ve all heard the line “what the hell were you thinking?!” Well, truth is, we weren’t thinking. None of us were. At that age, our brains aren’t fully developed in terms of actions and consequences. The misdirected throw could just as easily have landed a few inches on either side and have gone unnoticed. But it didn’t. It landed squarely on the crown of my head. According to onlookers, I was knocked out instantly and toppled sideways like a felled tree, no gentle crumple to the ground. After finding out that I wasn’t dead or permanently brain damaged, my father thought the fact that I had been hit by a cricket ball while playing soccer was pretty damn funny. “Trust you,” he said—as though I actually had something to do with it.
Next thing I knew, I was in hospital being stitched up. How are they managing to get that needle through my skull, I wondered? But I didn’t ask. I simply sat there wincing. They know what they’re doing. With a very fashionable bald spot on the crown of my head, I ended up looking like a young Friar Tuck for a few weeks.
“If you change your mind . . . on the virgin line, honey I’m still free, take a chance on me.”
Brilliant! I love ABBA. “Dancing Queen”, “Money, Money, Money,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and all that. And I particularly love ABBA’s latest single, “Take a Chance on Me,” which was playing on the radio in the hospital room where I was being sewn back together.
The attending nurse hummed along. Everybody loved ABBA.
“Take a Chance on Me” was providing a much-needed distraction to the needle being thrust in and out of my skull. “Hey, just be careful of my brain, OK?” I thought to myself, although I didn’t say anything.
My thoughts wondered from needles in my brain to Agnetha Fältskog. Agnetha, the blonde singer from ABBA was my first major crush. I liked Frida too—wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings—but Agnetha, Agnetha, Agnetha. She was everything. A-B-B-A: Agnetha was married to Bjorn and Benny was married to Frida. Frida’s real name was Anni-Frid—thankfully—otherwise the group would have to have been named ABBF!
I had heard a rumor that Agnetha was not getting on so well with Bjorn.
“If you change your mind . . . on the virgin line.” Hmm, sounds tempting, Agnetha. “Honey I’m still free, take a chance on me.” See! She is free! Free from Bjorn! It’s a secret message through the airwaves. For me. Sounds like I could well be in with a chance.
My skull was all stitched up and my brain had, at least to my knowledge, not been pierced. Would they tell me if it had been or would they just let me bleed out slowly? It was time to go home. Well, not so fast. I needed an injection to prevent something called lockjaw. Lockjaw did not sound good. It made me think of the times that my parents would tell me not to frown in case the wind changed direction and I became stuck like that forever. And so an injection was fine. Just a quick jab—in the bum! This “quick jab before you leave,” however, ended up hitting a buttock nerve, which almost sent me through the roof.
Of course, the best thing about being smashed on the head and stabbed in the bum was . . . no school! The stray lockjaw jab which hit my buttock nerve earned me a couple of extra days off due to the fact that I could barely walk. As I lay in bed the next morning thinking about how everyone else would be on their way to school—yeah, suck on that Neil Winterbottom—I turned on the radio.
“If you change your mind . . . on the virgin line.”
It was fate! It had nothing to do with the fact that “Take a Chance on Me” was the runaway number one single in the charts that week. No sir. It was yet another message through the airwaves. For me. I was meant to be off school in order to receive the all-important transmission from Stockholm!
Agnetha! Yes! For you I definitely want to change my mind on the virgin line!
“Honey I’m still free, take a chance on me.”
I knew that I was going to have to move quickly in case Bjorn had a change of heart.
“Take a chance on me . . . that’s all I ask of you, honey.”
Agnetha—honey—that is certainly not too much to ask. I was picturing Agnetha in the “Take a Chance on Me” video—soft-focus, flower in her hair, lip gloss, winking seductively. At me. Imploring me to take a chance on her. If only I could find a way to get to Stockholm as soon as possible and find out what was going on with Agnetha and Bjorn, then maybe, just maybe, I stood a chance—as long as Bjorn was cool with it all.
“We can go dancing, we can go walking, as long as we’re together. Listen to some music, maybe just talking, get to know you better.”
I would have to start looking into airfare prices to Sweden. No time to waste.
With no school at least for the rest of the week and with time to lay around and relax, my thoughts were with Agnetha and Stockholm. I wonder what it’s like over there? I wonder how much this plane ticket will be? And I wonder whether Bjorn is going to be cool with all of this?
Shortly thereafter, JON WILSON became obsessed with punk rock, post-punk, and all things Bowie, Joy Division and non-ABBA. ABBA posters were swiftly removed from his bedroom wall and his clothes and hair became all shades of black. However, despite outward appearances, ABBA never left his heart and soul.