I Know Him So Well

Album: Chess (1985)
Charted: 1
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Although they each had hits as solo artists, this was the only UK #1 for Paige and Dickson. Paige had previously starred in Evita and Dickson was a former folk singer.
  • The song is from the musical Chess. It was written by Tim Rice with Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus from Abba. It gave Benny and Bjorn their 10th #1 as writers.
  • Chess took two years to write. Bjorn said, "We were very pleased as we had something longer to work on, both the bigger format and the concept of drama and music together. I can see now that there is quite a lot of that in the later Abba songs, so we were working towards that. "One Night In Bangkok" and "I Know Him So Well" could well have been Abba songs. We had Elaine Paige in mind from the start. She was with Tim at the time and she was the best theater singer in the world. When we heard Barbara Dickson, we realized that she was wonderful too. She retained that folksy quality even when she did Chess and that really attracted me."
  • Barbara Dickson recalls, "It sounded to the average person in the street like a fantastic new Abba record and they loved the chance of buying an Abba record again. It was a sophisticated song- two women singing different things about the same man. We didn't record it together. Elaine had been to Stockholm and done the recording and I was brought in much later. When the record came out, we promoted it together of course." (Both the above quotes are taken from 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh.
  • This is the all time best selling song for a female duo in the UK.
  • The song has reached the UK Top 20 on two further occasions. In 2001 it featured on the double A-side of the last ever Steps single, reaching #5 as the flip to "Words Are Not Enough." Ten years later, a cover by Susan Boyle and comedian Peter Kay recorded for Comic Relief peaked at #11.

Comments: 4

  • Robin Brown from Hadleigh.essex UkI have enjoyed this song for many years
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdIn the musical this is sung by a Hungarian woman who is in love with a Russian (Soviet) chess master and the chess master's wife.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdSadly the song did not do to well in the US
    as it did in the US. Chess opened on Broadway
    with miscast actors and a terrible book and lasted only two months. The song was recorded by Barbra Streisand as well as Whitney and Cissy Houston. A recent concert version of the show starred Josh Groban and Julia Murney.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesOh blimey, I remember this was at number 1 for ages in the UK, seemingly 4eva...
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Van Dyke Parks

Van Dyke ParksSongwriter Interviews

U2, Carly Simon, Joanna Newsom, Brian Wilson and Fiona Apple have all gone to Van Dyke Parks to make their songs exceptional.

Who's Johnny, And Why Does He Show Up In So Many Songs

Who's Johnny, And Why Does He Show Up In So Many SongsSong Writing

For songwriters, Johnny represents the American man. He has been angry, cool, magic, a rebel and, of course, marching home.

Barney Hoskyns Explores The Forgotten History Of Woodstock, New York

Barney Hoskyns Explores The Forgotten History Of Woodstock, New YorkSong Writing

Our chat with Barney Hoskyns, who covers the wild years of Woodstock - the town, not the festival - in his book Small Town Talk.

John Parr

John ParrSongwriter Interviews

John tells the "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" story and explains why he disappeared for so long.

Oliver Leiber

Oliver LeiberSongwriter Interviews

Long before she was judging contestants on American Idol, Oliver was producing Paula Abdul. Here's how he helped turn this unknown choreographer into a star.

Top American Idol Moments: Songs And Scandals

Top American Idol Moments: Songs And ScandalsSong Writing

Surprise exits, a catfight and some very memorable performances make our list of the most memorable Idol moments.