‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ was ABBA’s fourth single from their insanely popular fourth album, Arrival (1976). As if previous singles ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Money, Money, Money’) hadn’t been cause enough for celebration, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ was one of ABBA’s most successful singles, becoming the biggest selling song in the UK in 1977 and firmly cemented the group’s position as a pop phenomenon.
Bass duties were handled by ABBA’s main studio bassist Rutger Gunnarson, whose sublime playing anchored the bulk of the band’s output. Lyrically, it was one of the first songs to deal with the breakdown of the relationships between the band members, which would be highlighted further in later releases such as ‘The Winner Takes It All’.
ABBA studio bassist Rutger Gunnarsson delivers a masterclass in creative pop bass playing throughout his part on ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’; this is particularly evident during the verse section, where he uses hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides to weave a melodic line around the vocals.
Rather than keeping things the same during the prechorus, Rutger switches up his articulation – take a look at the transcription and notice how the ties and slurs that dominate the verse section are replaced by a more staccato, root-focused approach with greater use of rests. This change not only helps to keep things interesting but also acts as an important musical transition that builds to the driving chorus line. During the breaks between chorus and verse sections, the descending scale line serves as an important ‘sub-hook’.
If we ‘zoom out’ and look at the bass part as a whole, we can see that each section has been given its own distinct part – this is an important idea to keep in mind whenever we’re tasked with writing our own basslines.
Regardless of his concept, Rutger’s playing always retains a smooth sound and remains inventive without getting in the way of any of the vocal parts. In the final chorus, he fills out his original part with more rhythmically active playing and greater use of chromaticism.
Like many other British people, I now can’t hear anyone say ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ without thinking of Alan Partridge. A-HAAA!