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ABBA – When All is Said and Done


Knowing when to leave a party is a trick that not many pop stars have learned – realising that the lights are about to come up and making a dignified exit is absolutely the best way of preserving your legacy and preventing an unfortunate occurrence of Lisa Scott Lee syndrome. Nowadays of course, popstrels tend to leave the party for about five minutes, to huge sighs of relief from the remaining guests, only to nip back five minutes later with news of an exciting reunion tour. That one’s wearing a bit thin to be honest.

ABBA knew exactly when to leave the party. Creatively they had reached a high watermark with 1981’s The Visitors (Two For the Price of One notwithstanding) but despite reaching no.1 it heralded a marked downturn in the group’s chart fortunes. A subtle changing of the guard had taken place when The Human League released Dare! a month before The Visitors and in the blink of an eye, Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny and Bjorn became an anachronism. This speaks volumes about the brutality of pop, but it’s something that needs to happen from time to time.

When All is Said and Done is the great lost ABBA single. You can read it in a couple of ways – as a comment on the breakdown of Benny and Anni-Frid’s marriage or of the group itself – but it is the single most devastating song they ever recorded. “Standing calmly at the crossroads, no desire to run – there’s no hurry any more when all is said and done.” I don’t think there’s ever been a more honest depiction of the acceptance of a broken relationship in the whole of pop.

Epic declined to release it as a single in the UK – I suspect that by this point they inexplicably tended to think only Agnetha lead vocals deserved that honour – and only the USA really took it to heart, becoming one of their bigger Hot 100 hits at no.27. Now of course, thanks to the huge global box office success of Mamma Mia! there is a very real and terrifying possibility that more people have heard Pierce Brosnan sing this song than Anni-Frid Lyngstad.

ABBA quietly slipped away the following year without telling anyone –  inventing the now common practice of “ghosting” in the process – and have yet to announce their break-up. Classy to the last.

Entered chart: was not released

Who could sing this today and have a hit? Christ, imagine Adele doing this.


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