61. ABBA – ‘The Day Before You Came’ (1982)

“I must have lit my seventh cigarette at half past two
And at the time I never even noticed I was blue
I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day
Without really knowing anything, I hid a part of my away
At five I must have left, there’s no exception to the rule
A matter of routine, I’ve done it ever since I finished school
The train back home again
Undoubtedly I must have read the evening paper then
Oh yes, I’m sure my life was well within it’s usual frame
The day before you came”

Written by Bjorn Ulvaeus/Benny Andersson

Produced by Bjorn Ulvaeus/Benny Andersson

Taken from the album The Singles: The First Ten Years

Also released on More ABBA Gold: More ABBA Hits, Thank You For The Music, The Definitive Collection and The Complete Studio Recordings

UK #32, AUS #48

I already rambled on about my conspiracy theory concerning ‘The Day Before You Came’, but here it is again: this song is the bleak, desperate diary of a woman documenting her last day on earth. As she falls asleep at the end of the song, she slips into a trance. The story then picks up on ‘Like An Angel Passing Through My Room’, where the woman sees the Angel of Death, and eventually goes with her. Of course ‘Like An Angel’ was released before ‘The Day Before’, making this a prequel, but whatever, I still think it makes sense.

Even if that is nonsense, it’s fairly obvious that something bad is happening in ‘The Day Before You Came’, whether it is impending death or the arguably worse predicament of having the boringest life imaginable. This song could have turned out absolutely horrible, and terribly uninteresting, but Agnetha’s quietly depressed lead vocal mixed with that haunting, relentless backing beat make ‘The Day Before You Came’ an exercise in how to make unending sadness sound beautiful.

I believe the official line on this song is that it’s about a woman who meets her lover the next day, but I prefer to think of alternate theories. There is something strange about ‘The Day Before You Came’ that makes me certain it is not just a love song, or rather a pre-love song. It’s a social commentary, a tragedy, a ghost story. There is but one ABBA song left on this list, included higher because it bursts with pure joy, but ‘The Day Before You Came’ is by far their most cinematic and beautiful moment.

Music video:

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