Listening to Blancmange recently I was reminded of this phenomenal ABBA song. The Blancmange version is dark and with such a sadness in Neil Arthur’s voice that it got me thinking about who “you” was. What had happened to prompt this retrospective of the day before he or she came? I’ll admit there is a huge amount of this kind of reflection on this song available online and I doubt I’ll add much you cant find on Wikipedia.
As much as I love the Blancmange version, if I’m honest I think I prefer it. Switching to Barbara Cartland is a stroke of genius. I have to focus on the original. It was one of the last songs released by ABBA and at 6 minutes one of the longest. Sung by Agneta with backing from Frida over a pretty basic backing track. It was the lowest charting ABBA song and all members of the band admit to the sadness they were all feeling at the time. They were planning their futures after Abba and that included solo careers for Agneta and Frida and musical theatre for Benny and Bjorn which you can hear in the song. I love this quote from Benny Anderson
“I really like that song. It becomes extremely sad when you hear it like this. The recording is sad too, but the lyric itself is not sad, which is the genius of Bjorn (Ulvaeus). To me, when you read that lyric and take the music away it’s just someone saying what they did that day — ‘I read a book’, ‘I watched TV’, ‘I took the tube’, whatever; it doesn’t say what it really is. But when you put that lyric onto that music you realise something not good has happened. It’s a very intelligent lyric.”
— Benny Andersson, Interview with News.com
Despite there being some discrepancy in the lyric such as the hour long train journey in the morning becoming just over 3 hours on the way home even allowing for the stop of at the Chinese. Where did she go? For me though the most fascinating part is between the end of this fairly mundane day in someone’s life and the time at which they decided they needed to reflect on it and we must assume direct it at whoever “you” was. The video hints at something then drifts away. So this is where I start my musings into the missing story which could make a novel or film or TV series. I’m surprised they haven’t, a slightly darker “Mama Mia” perhaps….
Option one could be that the singer is just sitting in that same house 6 months later talking to a lover with whom she’s become bored. They met on the train the next day and had an exciting affair. Maybe he was married and she was thrilled by being the other woman but that spark went out. Nothing in common but sex. Life was mundane before you, it’s worse now, we’re over. Time to move on. I guess that’s the most obvious. Certainly it fits the ABBA narrative of their break ups. A standard romantic drama girl meets boy, they fall in love, they break up, they try again but no. It’s done. A 3 part ITV drama “The Day Before You Came”
In another version I can picture her two years later standing over his body, lifeless in a hospital or at a graveside. Tears pouring down her face as she remembers the time they had together before cancer or brain tumour or road traffic accident took him away. A new member of the “usual bunch” perhaps who appeared the next day who became her soulmate, her life partner cruelly taken away. A French language film “La Veille de Ton Arrivee”
Maybe she’s sitting opposite him in a prison visiting room. He was her stalker, following her home that day after seeing her at the Chinese restaurant. The had spoken briefly but he misinterpreted her politeness and began a reign of terror. Slowly making her life a misery from the next day as friends and police told her she was imagining things. After possibly years of torment she can finally now look him in the eye and reflect on her life before the terror started and yearn for a return. A proper Swedish Noir Drama. Dark and frightening to be watched behind the sofa. “Dagen Innan du Kom”
If course it could be as mundane as the lyric itself, a lost pet or a life just being lived as we all do and this is how it makes her feel. Maybe if it was sung a different way it could be a celebration of how great her life is now compared to the day before he came but the song is so downbeat that surely something bad has happened.
I’ve probably over thought this haven’t I? I wish I had the talent to expand on the Swedish Noir idea I’d pitch it to Channel 4 if I could… Anyway, what can’t be in doubt is just how great the song is. Simple yet clever, full of intrigue yet a little dull, drawing you in if you let it or washing over you without leaving a mark. Leaving the listener to analyse if they want or just wallow in the mood. I know ABBA are very much a Marmite act but this song is just sublime.