The Day Before You Came

I’m following up yesterday’s Norwegian song with another Scandinavian classic: Abba’s The Day Before You Came was released in 1982 as a follow up to the Visitors album and was actually their last song to be recorded, although Under Attack was released later. According to Guardian journalist Stephen Emms at the time, the “ordinariness [and] universality [of the] first-person account” of a depressing day is what draws the audience in, and “morphs [the song] into an unusually poignant parable of what modern life means”. The song actually came in #6 in the NME Greatest Pop Songs in History countdown.

There is much discussion as to the meaning of the lyrics and whether they refer to the imminent arrival of a lover or the narrator planning an alibi following a murder! Indeed, while the lyrics refer to the mundane happenings of “the day before you came”, the accompanying video seems to suggest that there were several hours unaccounted for: it takes 1h15 minutes to get to work and yet she leaves work at 5 and arrives home at 8. We see Agnetha driving a car at one point in the video, and there’s no mention of this in the song, so what exactly were you doing between the hours of 5 and 8, Miss Fältskog, other than “picking up some Chinese food to go”?

For me, I’ve always thought of this song from a language learner / teacher’s point of view: with lots of examples of “must have” in the lyrics, the sequence of tenses requires a bit of thought if we were translating it from English into another language!

I hope you enjoy The Day Before You Came.