To quote Tommy Tiernan, “And now it’s time for a sad song”. Not that ABBA’s back catalogue is 100% full of up-tempo bangers of course, but one can’t help but listen to this, their very last number one from late ’81/early ’82, and feel like it is a million miles away from the stuff that brought them to the dance. It is, of course, very reflective of where the group was at the time, the two couples that made up the acronym divorced and the larger entity winding down its productive time, after several years when they were arguably the biggest band on the planet. I have an enormous amount of time for ABBA, the kind of group that transcend eras and have proven themselves to be effortlessly popular down the years, long before Mamma Mia gave them a modern re-invention of sorts.
But you have to wonder what Agnetha Fältskog’s reaction was to this song. She’s the primary singer, while it was co-written by her recently divorced husband. After all, the person singing is a woman who has recently broken-up with a lover, and is left looking up at the ceiling and regretting what has happened. She literally describes herself as “stupid” and “like a child” and begs her ex to take her back. It is, perhaps, not terribly difficult to see what Björn Ulvaeus was trying to get at. It may have been a bit of a power trip really, to write a song about breaking up with your wife, and then get your wife to sing it. Beyond what may have been an uncomfortable recording studio, the song itself is actually quite good, even if by ABBA’s standards it probably isn’t a patch on their apogee years: it’s flowing, with a simple beat and a nice choral background when required. Still, it doesn’t quite fit together, especially in the chorus, where there are sometimes some gaps between lines that are just a bit too long. It’s a slightly more maudlin version of the same idea that resulted in “The Winner Takes It All” (my personal ABBA favourite), and it is affecting, if not quite as memorable.
Still, it’s ABBA: their worst song is better than most, which is probably why this topped Irish charts for four weeks. The music video isn’t great, featuring a miserable-looking Fältskog setting-up shop in a new home, including putting up pictures and painting, before we jump into the familiar mirror and split-screen effects for the chorus. Everyone else gets to look comparatively serious. It looks remarkably cheap, and forms a bit of a half-assed accompaniment to the actual song. ABBA weren’t really know for their music videos though. They were the kind of band where you could match any one of their songs up to just about any big moment in your life, and you can say that for this one too. We’re starting at the end with them here, and I’m sure I’ll get to talk about them again.