‘Does Your Mother Know’ was the second single to be released from ABBA’s 1979 Voulez-Vous album, following ‘Chiquitita’. Whilst it didn’t sell as many copies as other songs from the same album, it still troubled the charts in a number of countries around the world, reaching the top ten in eight countries. ABBA nerds will tell you that this song is of particular significance because it features a male lead vocal (Bjorn, just in case you’re curious) rather than their signature female warbling.
Bass nerds (such as myself) will tell you that ‘Does Your Mother Know’ is of some significance in the grand scheme of ABBA bass lines, because it was played by Mike Watson rather than Rutger Gunnarsson, who is often referred to as the ABBA bassist; Mike also contributed bass to several other of the band’s hits, including ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ and ‘SOS’.
Although not particularly challenging, ‘Does Your Mother Know’ is definitely a lot of fun to play; you get to double a synth during the introduction, pump steady 8th-note roots in the verses and even throw in some clichéd octave parts in the chorus – what’s not to like?
As with almost every bass part, the devil is in the details. Note length, as always, is hugely significant to getting the right feel on ‘Does Your Mother Know’. The introduction requires quite a lot of fretting hand control to mirror the attack of the synth part; you almost have to consistently ‘pump’ your fretting fingers in order to generate the right sort of tight, staccato articulation.
The verse and chorus sections require a much smoother fretting hand approach; the verses are built on smooth, even 8th-notes that include octave slides and semitone approaches to add interest. In the first two bars of the chorus, Mike Watson opts for a tried-and-tested bass pattern over the C major harmony, employing root, 5th and 6th before adding tension in bar three by using chromatic notes in his ascending line. In the tag section of the chorus, we’re back to the clipped articulation of the introduction. These might seem like obsessive details, but they’re the part of the minutiae that separate good players from great ones.