once upon a time there were two little girls and, for a long time, they were inseparable. they spent all their free time together. they were the best of friends.
two little girls whose names both began with the letter ‘K’. two little girls with April birthdays, one a year older, K1, and four inches taller than the other, K2. two little girls in love with all things that 8 year old girls fell in love with then: roller skates, lip gloss, dolphins, puppies and ABBA.
two little girls who loved to sing. and sing they did. every day.
they called themselves “The 2 Ks” and, every weekend, they staged ‘concerts’.
K1 would save up her pocket money to buy every album ABBA ever released, or she would bribe her parents into buying them for her, by promising to tidy her room more frequently. soon the girls did, indeed, have every album ABBA ever released, and their repertoire was growing. they soon knew all the words to all the songs, by heart.
K1, being the taller of the two girls, with the fairer hair and stronger voice was, obviously, Agnetha. K2, being smaller with dark hair and a deeper, rich, velvety voice was, naturally, Frida.
the two little girls would rehearse almost every day or night when they had free-run of K1’s living room and her brother’s stereo, with speakers that were as tall as them. the TV would be turned off, the door closed and nobody was allowed to enter the living room until the girls had finished their rehearsals for their next concert. and every Friday or Saturday night, there would be a concert. each concert would last three to four hours, or until K2’s mother decided it was bedtime.
planning these ‘concerts’ began every Monday afternoon, after school, when the set list was prepared and decisions were made regarding who would sing what song. rehearsals took place all week with painstakingly choreographed dance routines. harmonies, and counter-melodies were worked out and memorised. by the end of the week they were ready for the next forthcoming show. costumes would be tailored to suit the theme of each segment: leotards with chiffon scarves carefully attached so that they moved like flames as the girls danced; silk pyjamas with grown-up strappy sandals; gypsy skirts with boob tubes, no boobs and boho beads; Bermuda shorts and shirts with bow ties.
tickets and signage were other important aspects of the shows that the girls meticulously prepared: signs such as “No talking or smoking during performance” were hand-drawn. K2 was particularly artistic. she would spend hours designing and colouring in posters, with a full spectrum of felt tip pens at her disposal. she would often embellish the posters with glitter or fresh flowers glued to them before pinning them up in obvious places: the hallway door, and the living room door – the entrance to their ‘auditorium’. tickets were issued the night before.
One of K1’s older brothers, S, was in a band and he would often set up an amp and microphones for the girls, to which more chiffon scarves were attentively attached. the volume dial was, after being set by S, strictly out of bounds. they were told not to touch it but the girls often cranked it up regardless – especially if they thought that their audience wasn’t giving them the attention they felt they deserved!
the concerts were all the more special for the two little girls with microphones. however, if K1’s brother had a gig of his own, then singing into their hair brushes would have to suffice. this happened on many an occasion.
every weekend K1’s house would be full of music and joy. the two little girls would sing their hearts out. a mixture of singing together and solo performances, while the other ‘K’ went backstage to slick on more lip gloss, brush her hair and sip some water, or to pet the dog.
to the two little girls, the concerts were real. in the wilds of their minds, they were performing in a stadium, in front of a crowd of thousands of screaming fans – not just singing along to records to an audience made up of their long-suffering mums, their neighbours, the neighbours’ kids and the dog, in a mid-terrace Council house living room.
these two little girls had feral, unfettered imaginations. for the duration of these shows, they really believed they were ABBA. An ABBA without Benny and Bjorn, however. their Bennys and Bjorns would remain invisible. they did, however, at one time ‘audition’ a boy to join them. the boy had huge ears and lived next door to K2. he was a firm friend to both girls but he turned out to be completely tone deaf despite the size of his ears (wholly incapable of singing any key played on K1’s piano, despite their best efforts to teach him) so they abandoned that idea, post haste. he would remain their friend, however, and was often bullied into being their compère for the evening, or invited to ‘mime’ the vocal parts of Benny or Bjorn, should that be required. for the most part, Benny and Bjorn would remain being merely the girls’ left hands, as the girls would practise their kissing on the back of their hands during the intermission. the tone deaf boy with big ears never got any kisses, but he lived in hope.
backstage, it was chaos. a trail of discarded chiffon scarves, thick tinsel boas, the odd ballet pump or long black velvet evening glove would leave a trail upstairs to the “dressing room”. once again, K2’s artistic skills were put to good use where a big Broadway style dressing room door sign, complete with glam gold Hollywood stars, would adorn the bedroom door. more scarves; fancy patterned tights, with one leg inside-out; kitten-heeled sandals; a pink hairdryer and curling tongs would be scattered on the floor of K1’s bedroom floor.
little pots of iridescent green and gold eyeshadow and loose translucent powder spilled over the dresser; lipstick kisses smeared many a mirror; skirts, sunglasses and furry hats were strewn across the bed; hairbrushes, that just happened to land spiky side up, on the floor would be hidden hazards to small bare feet rushing “backstage” to change costume.
and there were a lot of costume changes. every half hour, and that meant a lot of hairspray. it is no wonder smoking was not permitted.
but these two little girls could really sing. they sang with everything they had, belting out hit after hit. they sang with such emotion and raw power that their parents’ friends suggested they enter talent competitions, or apply to be on some televised talent show, join a theatre group or even write to Jim’ll Fix It.
but like all little girls, they grew up. by and by, the ABBA obsession ended as, eventually, did their friendship.
K1 went on to make her first real public performance as a vocalist singing with her brother’s band at the tender age of nine and a half. she sang ‘Daddy’s Working Boots’, a real heartbreaker of a song written by Dolly Parton, one time at a local Country & Western club. K2 joined the local church choir.
(c) Kat McDonald 2020
dedicated to Karen O. wherever you may be now…. big love, my dear friend, and thank you for the music.