403. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, by ABBA

Already we reach the mid-point of ABBA’s chart-topping run! Their fifth #1, coming from the same album (‘Arrival’) as both ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Fernando’. Hit packed!

Knowing Me, Knowing You, by ABBA (their 5th of nine #1s)

5 weeks, from 27th March – 1st May 1977

Speaking of ‘Fernando’, the intro to this record sounds like a leftover from that recording session – acoustic guitars and a hint of pan-pipes. Fear not, though, for straight away that funky bass-line comes to our rescue and actually, the nearest comparison from the band’s earlier hits is to ‘SOS’. Power chords and actual hard rock guitars.

No more, Carefree, Laughter, Silence ever after… I’ve mentioned ABBA’s unique brand of English before, and I do love these rhymes that you can see coming from a mile off. Then we get a bit emo: Walkin’ through an empty house, Tears in my eyes… We are a long way from ‘Mamma Mia’s camp exclamations, or ‘Dancing Queen’s affirmation.

Knowing me, Knowing You, There is nothing we can do! It’s a break-up song, but at least it sounds like it’s mutual. A conscious uncoupling, if you will, and the intricate male backing vocals in the chorus do make it sound like a conversation. Breaking up is never easy I know but I have to go… Meanwhile the image of empty rooms in which children used to play is a powerful one.

In fact, it’s an early example of the sorts of songs ABBA would go on to make in the 80s, after their imperious phase and their disco phase. It doesn’t hit as hard as, say, ‘One of Us’, though; because the band had yet to go through their famed break-ups. Agnetha and Bjorn were still together, while Benny and Frida wouldn’t get married until 1978. Perhaps, then, we can say it’s a fictional story about a break up; while those later hits were documentaries.

I have seen ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ on top of several ‘ABBA – Ranked’ articles over the years, which has always surprised me a bit. It’s a cracker of a chorus (I mean, it’s ABBA, duh), but it’s never been my favourite. I have, for example, never really understood the song’s signature hook: the a-haaaaa. What does it mean? What does it signify? Meanwhile, Brits of a certain age will never now be able to listen to this song without picturing Alan Partridge.

Maybe it’s because those writers didn’t want to choose the obvious singles, or maybe the song’s slightly low-key vibe makes it a hipsters’ choice. (Though ‘SOS’ is the true hipster’s favourite ABBA single.) It is not as instant as their earlier #1s, but still a classic. Few bands have runs like ABBA did in the mid-to-late seventies. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ gave them their 4th chart-topper, and their seventeenth week at #1, in little over a year. And they will be back soon enough…

11 thoughts on “403. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, by ABBA

  1. Despite Alan Partridge’s attempts to ruin the record, it’s still my fave Abba record, totally guaranteed to give me goosebumps, not least helped by the snow-filled video. There was a buzz building up for this track before it was released as a single (I remember one current rock star surprisingly picking this in Record Mirror as an example of a brilliant pop record, and it was noticeably the perception of Abba as a cheesy Eurovision act that was on the wane by the time this came out. And let’s not forget The Sex Pistols were in the process of nicking SOS for one of their singles around 1977.

    So what’s so good about? The multi-tracking vocal parts and harmonies. There’s so much going on in the background, at one stage there are 2 brilliant song lyrics and melodies going on simultaneously. I mean, nobody does that anymore – if you have two great hooks it’s par for the course to chop them up into small clips and use each clip over and over and over during, ooh, say, 4 or 5 pop tracks fluffed up with a lot of minor key filler 🙂 Those guitars riffs! Abba aren’t thought of as a rock riff band, but the soaring riffs on this and Eagle are stunning. The heartbreak in the lyrics: Benny wasn’t always autobiographical, but there’s a sense of “sounds a bit TOO close to the bone not to be based on experience”. And the vocals of Agnetha and Frida alternate with hushed refrains, solo and together. Their voices can’t be under-stated as a huge part of the appeal, after the songs. Benny singing lead just, errr, just no! 🙂

    Hmmm, I might be a fan, then….. 🙂

    1. I don’t think there’s any disputing that you’re a fan! : )

      It’s definitely one that gets better and better the more you listen to it. Other ABBA hits are instant (cough ‘Waterloo’ cough cough). The male backing vocals in the chorus are really complex, and it is really well constructed. But it’s just never been my favourite, or even in my Top 5. Of their 5 #1s so far. I’d go… ‘Fernando’ > ‘KMKY’ > ‘Mamma Mia’ > ‘Waterloo’ > ‘Dancing Queen’

      1. Ooh can i play? 🙂 5. Waterloo 4. Fernando 3. Mamma Mia 2. Dancing Queen 1. Knowing Me Knowing You unless we include non-chart-toppers, in which case it’s 5. Fernando 4. SOS 3-1 as before 🙂

      2. Ah, if we’re including non chart-toppers up until May 1977 then it’s… (checking discography on Wikipedia)… I Do x5 > Fernando > Ring Ring > Money x3 > Knowing Me Knowing You > SOS> Mamma Mia > Waterloo > Dancing Queen

  2. badfinger20 (Max)

    I like this one better than their early ones…I don’t know…it just sticks with me longer…I do like SOS a lot…our band covered that one and surprised the hell out a club for a few nights…NO one expects a cover of an ABBA song from a rock band.

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