when all is said and done

When All Is Said and Done (song)

"When All Is Said and Done" is the name of a song recorded in 1981 by Swedish pop group ABBA. It featured on the group's final studio album, The Visitors, and was released as a single in the United States in January 1982.

The song

ABBA consisted of two married couples who later divorced. Similar to the group's 1980 track, "The Winner Takes It All", which explored the split between band members Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog, "When All Is Said and Done" detailed the divorce between Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson.

Written during a time of emotional turmoil, Ulvaeus has admitted that the recent divorce between Benny and Frida was at the back of his mind during the songwriting process for this song. However, there is no doubt that he was influenced by the marital split of his bandmates. Björn sought approval from Benny and Frida before the group began working with the song. When recording began in March 1981, only one month had passed since their separation.

"When All Is Said & Done" saw Frida giving words and emotions detailing all of her sorrow & pain, not only for herself, but for all of those who had been through a separation. The backing track the group had first recorded was completely changed after Frida had laid down her powerful & emotional vocals. As Frida herself later recalled: "All my sadness was captured in that song."

This track is often considered one of ABBA's finest hidden gems. To this day, many believe that had ABBA chosen to release "When All Is Said and Done" in place of "Head Over Heels" as the follow-up single to "One of Us" in Europe and other territories, the quartet would have been rewarded with yet another worldwide hit.

ABBA recorded a Spanish version of "When All Is Said and Done", "No Hay A Quien Culpar", which was released as a single in Mexico and several other South American countries. The Spanish title written by Buddy and Mary McCluskey translates as "No One Is To Blame". The track was also slightly remixed, for example leaving out the double-tracked snare drum of the original English version and adding new synth overdubs, giving the song a warmer feeling than the original version. In Mexico it reached the #29 chart position.


"When All Is Said and Done" was a modest success in the United States, peaking at No.27 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming ABBA's final Top 40 hit in that market. On Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, the song reached No.10 and was the group's eighth & last Top 10 hit. On Billboard's Dance/Disco chart, the song peaked at No.7.

'Mamma Mia!'

"When All Is Said and Done" was included in 2008 film version of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia!, performed by Sam Carmichael (as played by Pierce Brosnan), with one line - "slightly worn but dignified, and not too old for sex" - also sung by Meryl Streep. The song is substantially different from the original release, not only in that it has been reworked into a ballad but also that a new second verse was written by Björn Ulvaeus specifically for the movie soundtrack and added to the song's original lyrics as recorded by ABBA;

"It's been there in my dreams,
the scene I see unfold
Two at last, flesh and blood, to cherish and to hold
Jealous fools will suffer, yes, I know and I confess:
Once I lost my way when something good had just begun
Lesson learned - it's history - when all is said and done"

In the context of the movie the lyrics also take on an entirely different meaning, as opposed to the original which describes a couple going their separate ways it portrays two lovers finding their way back to each other and rekindling their romance. "When All Is Said And Done" is also the only song present in the film that was not included in the original stage version.

Cover versions

  • British singer Hazell Dean recorded a dance-oriented cover of "When All Is Said & Done" for her own ABBA tribute album.
  • Swedish opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter covered the song on her ABBA tribute album I Let The Music Speak.
  • A soft vocal cover version of the song can be found on the ABBA tribute album Funky ABBA by Swedish musician Nils Landgren. This version features Benny Andersson on piano and vocals by Swedish jazz singer Viktoria Tolstoy.
  • Power Generation Project covered the song on the ABBA Super Hits album.
  • A euro-trance version by DJ Ensamble (a.k.a. Popcore) was featured on the tribute album Trancing Queen by DJ Ensamble. It is also included on the compilation V.A. Remixland Summer 2007.
  • The Idea of North performed an a cappella version of this song on their Live at the Powerhouse CD and DVD (2007)

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