Abba - The Winner Takes It All




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Published on Nov 1, 2009

Abba visited Paris on October 21-22 1980 to appear on the Stars tv show at the Pavillon Baltard in Nogent, which was broadcast on October 25. They performed The Winner Takes It All and Super Trouper after host Michel Drucker interviewed famous Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, who asked Frida a couple of questions at the end.
The Winner Takes It All was recorded on June 6 1980, and had the working title "The Story Of My Life". It was released as a single on July 21 1980. It reached #1 in Belgium (2 months), Ireland, South Africa, Holland and UK and made the top 10 in another 14 countries. It was voted Britain's favorite break-up song in 2006.
Bjorn went home with a tape of the backing track to write the lyrics. The layers of French chanson suggested something melodramatic and emotional. On this night Bjorn opened a bottle of Scotch whisky and drank freely during the writing process. "I was drunk" he recalled "and the whole lyric came to me in a rush of emotion in one hour". Tears flowed in the recording studio after Agnetha recorded her lead vocal. She called The Winner Takes It All "the best of all Abba songs. The lyrics are deeply personal, and the music is unsurpassed. Singing it was like acting a part. I mustn't let my feelings take over. It was quite a while afterwards before I realised that we made a small masterpiece."
Benny recalls "As a melody its the simplest ever. There are only two different melody lines in it that are repeated throughout the whole song, and yet I think we managed to avoid a feeling of repetition. The song includes a lot of emotion and their is a counterpoint thing going on with the vocals in the backing track. That's the Brian Wilson influence. Counterpoint harmony, thats what the Beach Boys did all the time and what I always liked a lot."
Bjorn admits the lyrics were inspired by the heartbreak with Agnetha, but says the basis of the song "is the experience of a divorce, but it's fiction. There wasn't a winner or a loser in our case. A lot of people think it's straight out of reality, but it's not". The couple decided to separate in late 1978, and Agnetha moved out of their home on Christmas night December 25 1978. In January 1979 they filed for divorce, which was finalised in June 1980.
Agnetha and Bjorn explained the situation in an exclusive interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen on January 16 1979.
Agnetha: "What has happened only concerns the two of us. There's no point talking about what went wrong with our marriage. The fact is that Bjorn and myself can no longer live together."
Bjorn: "Its important to say this is an amicable divorce, if you can call it that. In the beginning it was all very romantic and we were in love. But after we got married bit by bit we began to move apart. Our tastes and opinions started to differ more and more. We thought that a second child would bring us closer together.
Agnetha: "Christian doesn't know about what's going on because he's too young but Linda understands. In the end the three of us sat down to talk about it. Its almost a month since we separated and I think she prefers to see that her two parents are happier now. And anyway I only live 7 minutes away from Bjorn. The news isn't a surprise to Benny and Frida because they're close to us and see how we work."
Bjorn: "Its not very nice to talk about all this in public. Which is why we won't be talking about our divorce any more in the future like we have done here. Its important that we stress that Abba is not going to break up. The group means so much to us."

Music / Lyrics: Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus
Lead Vocal: Agnetha

I don't wanna talk
About the things we've gone through
Though it's hurting me
Now it's history
I've played all my cards
And that's what you've done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play

The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That's her destiny

I was in your arms
Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I'd be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

The gods may throw a dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It's simple and it's plain
Why should I complain

But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name
Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say
Rules must be obeyed

The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all

I don't wanna talk
If it makes you feel sad
And I understand
You've come to shake my hand
I apologize
If it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence

But you see
The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all

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  • Suggested by UMG

  • Song

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  • Writers

    • Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG (on behalf of Polar); EMI Music Publishing, LatinAutor, LatinAutor - UMPG, CMRRA, ASCAP, UMPI, SODRAC, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, UMPG Publishing, and 16 Music Rights Societies


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