This post is adapted from an idea posted on my Instagram feed, where nobody noticed it. I thought it deserved to be grossly overinflated and posted here for a second chance at obscurity.
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The Mundane Moments series of posts is an ongoing effort to dredge my grandfathers’ photos out of the family scrapbooks where they sit unappreciated, and bring them out for contemplation.
Another installment, then:
The setting is a quiet wooden cabin in the Nordic summer countryside, comfortable but spartan. It has been chosen principally for its obscurity, as its occupants have no interest in being observed.
On wooden seats around the big central room sit two greyed, bespectacled men and two women of similar age. The cut of their clothes suggests good fortune, while the tone of their conversation suggests both familiarity and caution.
They are discussing the resumption of a long-halted and extremely successful business relationship in the realm of recorded music.
The men, Benny and Bjorn, are the sellers. They pace, gesture with their hands, consult notes, and bring out the occasional chart or bit of data in support of their proposal — a potential reunion album.
The women, Frida and Agnetha, are the skeptics. They raise questions, point out concerns, glance at each other with ruffled brows, and make points that can’t always be easily countered by the occasional chart or bit of data.
We join them in progress. Some worries have been soothed, while some are newly rising.
“A comeback at this age worries me. We are so old. We are grandparents,” Agnetha says, and all four flinch gently in the way people sometimes do when reminded of advancing age.
“Will we seem out of touch?” Frida adds. “Will the kids have any interest at all? Why would they want to listen to people our age? We might fall flat.”
“We have the songs, as strong as ever. Benny and I have been seeing to that over the past eight months,” Bjorn replies, his voice solid with certainty. “We have cultural momentum also: The most popular pop producer and songwriter in the world is a Swede like ourselves.
“But most of all, we have a lasting popularity all over the world that very few performers have ever attained. Our songs are played at clubs and weddings every night, while the work of many of our contemporaries goes by the wayside. Our music appears on Broadway, and people flock to Broadway. Our music appears in movies, and people flock to the theater.
“There is no need to be modest among ourselves about what we have built. We split apart before we could make bad music, so our legacy has never been tarnished. Our group is to pop music what Moet et Chandon is to champagne, or what Rolls-Royce is to motor vehicles. We are the gold standard. We were then. We still are.”
Frida nods; but something in the mention of gold has stirred an objection in her.
“We do not need the money, and at this point in my life, I do not need anyone to think I do,” she says. “Why should I open myself to that public speculation?”
“That,” Benny replies firmly, “is where The Foundation comes in.” He takes out two thick folders and passes them to the women, giving them a few minutes to read before he resumes.
“We’ll let the public know that we won’t take a penny. One hundred percent of the profits from this music will go to a special foundation, which will distribute it to help solve the most pressing needs of our country. Fields will stay green forever, and hungry children will sit down to full tables. We can make the future bright for decades to come.”
“It is ingenious,” Bjorn adds. “We give the record buyer great music and the satisfaction of donating to the public good. And the money goes straight to the foundation; it doesn’t trouble us at all. Who can resist?”
Agnetha’s brow has been knit throughout the meeting, and finally, she speaks her mind.
“Being in a group again … what about all the things that came between us before? Not just the couples, but all four of us. I cannot forget them.”
Silence holds the room. Benny looks at Bjorn, whose expression indicates the point is Benny’s to carry. He picks his words carefully.
“My friend. My colleague,” he starts. “None of us will ever forget the difficult days. That would be impossible. But that is not what we are suggesting. What we are suggesting is to focus on the magic.
“The four of us together have something many have tried to copy but no one has ever captured. Millions of vocal groups have come and gone. Some have sold many records. None have ever had our magic, our signature, our charisma.”
A handheld mirror sits on a side table. Benny picks it up, holding it to the faces of each person in turn, and finally to his own.
“Someday soon one of us will be gone,” he murmurs, “and then? No magic. No group. Forever. On the day that happens — and I hope it is well into the future — the other three will wish we had stepped through that door again while we had the chance. While we had the magic.”
“We are not trying to recapture our youth,” Bjorn adds, finding his tongue. “There will be no form-fitting jumpsuits. No glamor photo shoots. No tours that pull us away from our homes for weeks on end. No appearances in music videos — that is what actors and actresses are for.
“What we are recapturing, we won’t even need to try for. It is the magic.
“The magic of us.”
Silence reigns. At last Frida rises and says the only words necessary — perhaps the only words possible.
“Very well,” she says, and exhales deeply. “We are a group once more.”
The four men and women meet in a circle, hands interlocked. A sense of quiet power, of something being unleashed, fills the cabin. Signatures on a contract will be just a formality later on; this is the true moment of reconnection.
Then they break the grip and step slowly outside, one by one, where a gentle wind is tousling the trees, and where a hired photographer has been patiently waiting to capture the moment.
The biggest comeback in popular music history begins with the click of a lens.
(The actual provenance of this photo is unknown except that my grandpa almost certainly took it, my grandma’s definitely in it, and it dates to roughly 1974. The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself.)