'...I'm sure I had my dinner watching something on TV... There's not, I think, a single episode of Dallas that I didn't see....'
- Agnetha Fältskog in The Day Before You Came -
Highest score: 3 * 11.00 - @Uno @Scoundrel_Days @Ed72
26 * 10.00 - @Baby Clyde @Weslicious @LTG @JonBcn @Animalia @kalonite @idratherjack @AGiantSheep @Mumty @ufint @Gotnomoretosay @VivaForever @Sprockrooster @tylerc904 @WhatKindOfKylie? @cityofdoomsday @Mikey1701 @CasperFan @P'NutButter @WhipperSnapper @chris4862 @SecretsOfFatima @Mina @nlgbbbblth @Angeleyes @Remorque
Lowest score: 1 * 5.00 - @dancingwithmyself
My score: 10.00
You know those days when you're not quite feeling yoself after waking up, eat something, go to werk, endure it, go home, eat and sleep again? Let ABBA preach about it to the high heavens with this synthy slice of gloompop.
The Visitors loses its last song at #9 in the form of the fantastic The Day Before You Came... Well... Sort of...
After that album was released, Benny and Björn decided to take a break and paired up with Tim Rice to write their own musical Chess, while both the girls were off pursuing solo stardom. It was well known that Frida was working on her album Something's Going On with Phil Collins, while Agnetha had recorded a song with Tomas Ledin and had appeared in the Swedish movie Raskenstam...
Yet, the group had some time booked at the Polar Studios between May and August of 1982 and that studio time would result in six songs being finalized, namely two singles (Under Attack and The Day Before You Came), two b-sides (You Owe Me One and Cassandra) and two songs they didn't use at the time... I Am the City was eventually released on More ABBA Gold in 1993, with Just Like That staying in Björn's vaults for an eternity. Y'all stay salty now.
It's one of their most minimalistic songs, as the only instruments used next to Agnetha's vocal and Frida's vocal line that's interspersed with the instrumental are Benny's synthesizer and drum machine, Björn's acoustic guitar and a snare drum played by Åke Sundqvist. Yet it all sounds so very rich and atmospheric.
Since releasing the song Björn has admitted that the lyrics were in fact inspired by how mundane he found life after divorcing Agnetha back in 1978 and had some difficulty adjusting to normal life again... That's the feeling he tried to avoke within the listener and asked Agnetha to perform her lines, not acting as a lead vocalist, but as an ordinary woman. She had absolutely no qualms about that and her excellent, deadpan delivery are what makes the song a theatrical highlight of their later career.
Rumour has it she recorded her lines in a dark studio with dimmed lighting with the other three members looking at her, which is something Michael Tretow, ABBA's sound engineer recalled vividly... He remembers a certain sadness appearing in that studio and how everybody involved somehow knew this was the end...
The song was released as a single in October 1982 as the first single from their compilation album The Singles: The First Ten Years, which was to be released a month later. It didn't reach the spot anywhere, yet did become a top 5 hit in Belgium (KWEENZ OF TASTE!), The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and on the Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart, reached the top 15 in Ireland, narrowly missed out on such a placing in Austria and was a top 30 hit in Spain. In the United Kingdom, it was their first single not to enter the top 30 since I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do did the same back in 1975... It stalled at no. 48 in Australia and didn't even chart in the United States.
Were ABBA finally over?
tylerc904 puts it beautifully in simple terms that "It's been amazing to see this so embraced by ABBA fans, because it really is so different to that pop music we so strongly associate them with. Truly a poignant swan song for the gang."... Everything about it was so fucking spot on that the general public literally didn't understand what was going on with such a popular group. The sheen had worn off, but the legacy they left is fucking magnificent.
It's in Mina's "personal top 5 ABBA tracks and my 2nd choice for the coveted 11. Hauntingly beautiful.", with P'nutbutter going one further, calling it "A dark, foreboding masterpiece.".
The same word is used by SecretsOfFatima, who thinks it's a "Perfect, flawless, masterpiece, etc etc. How else can I describe this discography highlight? Just like Agnetha’s Chinese food, my weave has been taken out.", but enough about your buss, eh, sis?
ufint, meanwhile, is feeling "an ominous vibe here, such a dark song. But I'm absolutely enthralled by the story Agneta shares. The unusual Swedish accent, the way she fits way too many syllables into each line, the Yoda-isms, the incredible eye for details all the while not remembering what she actually did. Truly a masterpiece.".
VivaForever approves all of the above, thinking "This deserves all the hyperbole actually.", which it does...
Hudweiser first questions his scoring with "Only an 8!? How dare I?", but then explains that "Any 6-minute song requires a lot of my attention and ABBA are no exception. But the fact they can make a song of this length with so little going on still not get boring at any point is a magnificent fear. It *is* a lost classic alright, but it's so very un-ABBA that it's difficult to grasp or categorise. Sad to think of it as the last thing they ever recorded just as they were becoming so experimental. Gotta wonder had it been a big UK hit if they'd've stuck it out for another album in 83/84?"... Personally I don't think they would have stuck around for much longer. Agnetha and Frida had said that for their other albums they always had to choose between a lot of songs and that for The Visitors they didn't have any more than appeared on the album... I think the songs we got on the '82 compilations, however brilliant they were, were flukes.
Now... Let's pit two popular women against each other, shall we?
Mikey1701 has "always found this track to be profoundly unsettling." and gives us one of the many stories surrounding the song and its subject matter... "I’ve never seen this as the story of a woman recounting her boring life before she died, but a story of a woman detailing the last day of her life before death came for her. The sinister flourishes within the production, Agnetha’s vocal as a woman resigned to her fate. It’s one part uncomfortable and one part theatrical. But crucially, it’s one of the most adventurous and ultimately haunting tracks the band ever did.".
Whereas he gave it a 10, bichard nearly missed out on being 'lowest scorer', admitting the song's "A fan favourite that has never really clicked with me. It would have received an even lower score a few years ago, but it remains overlong, monotonous and repetitive and I don't like Agnetha's dowdy vocal much. Personally I think a more theatrical Frida vocal would have served it better. Still, it's not terrible, just a bit...average.". NñnN, her deadpan delivery was exactly what the song asked for though. Giving it a more theatrical feel would have taken away a lot of the atmosphere the songs evokes. As Epic Chocolat tells us, the song does in fact contain "Nice storytelling and theatricality." in its own special way.
WhatKindOfKylie? "Can't believe I always ignored this utter piece of brilliance before doing this rate. In fact, I'd always called it boring, outrageous I know! Now, thanks to my rate research and with each repeated listen, I now can thankfully see the true wonder of it all. It truly does get better and better each time, and it's truly somerthing that's so dark, so haunting can be so repeatable as many of their more perkier pop hits." , while Filippa is of the simple opinion that it's "Boring."... You in danger, girl. Though I get why some people call it overlong and boring, it's definitely a song that needs time to grow on you and that you have to fully understand to appreciate...
Poor ol' Sprockrooster is lost in music, because "The flute is that final push to make it into a 10. Another example of exquisite production. A true epos." and all the little "nuances in the production totally make this for" constantino. To TrueBeliever it "Starts off a bit stripped down, but emerges as a bit of a butterfly, buffeted around a bit by its aimlessness. Reminiscent of Eagle, The Day Before You Came is both more haunting and hollow.", while the more kalonite thinks about this one, the more he likes it. "The vocals are a bit flat, but again, the more I think about it the more I realise that's the point.". Exactly...
It was a "Strong contender for" idratherjack's "11. It is astonishing that a band on the brink of implosion created this gloompop masterpiece. I love all the different interpretations of this song. For me it isn't about Agnetha being murdered, rather her recounting the mundanity of everyday life before someone special comes into it. I can relate to "I must have lit my 7th cigarette at half past 2"!", yet ultimately gave his 11 to another song...
Let's wrap this up with someone who did give it to The Day Before You Came in the end...
"It's not my most played song by ABBA, and I'm not always in the proper mood to listen to it, so it gets skipped pretty often, but when I am in the mood... damn, does this song hit me hard. The fact that it's their last song ever recorded adds so much meaning for me - my favorite band of all time's last time in the studio together. I can just picture Agnetha singing it alone in a dark studio booth. I love when a song tells a story, and this one does it so perfectly - a reflective piece on how monotonous and unexciting life has been up until the day she meets a mysterious someone. Whether that person changed her life for better or worse isn't clear, which adds to the haunting atmosphere. Agnetha is easily one of my favorite vocalists ever, so I'm glad she was given the full reign on the song, but Frida's vocalizing in the background elevate the song to stirring levels; like an intense romantic dream sequence. I do think this is their best work, ever - I don't even care that there's no chorus."...
And with that being said, let's close the blinds, light up some candles and listen to this extremely brilliant piece of gloompop.
The video was filmed in September 1982 and was directed by Kjell Sundvall and Kjell-Åke Andersson. It features Agnetha acting as a business woman who goes about her usual day and flirts with a stranger on the train, played by Swedish actor Jonas Bergström. The other members are seen, gazing into the void while Agnetha performs the song around them in the studio, which was to be a clear symbol for them reaching the end in their creative partnership...
The song was only performed once on television too. The band mimed the song on the German television program Show Express, along with a performance of Cassandra and Under Attack.
In 1984, only two years after ABBA's initial release, British duo Blancmange released a cover version of the song (albeit with some lyrical altercations), which was featured on their Mange Tout album. It eventually became a bigger hit in the United Kingdom than the original, reaching no. 22 and became a minor hit in some other European countries.