Music is another of my passions, aside from movies and photography. While I’ve heard people say that musical hooks make a song great, for me it is the lyrics that always get my attention. So I’m going to begin lyrical analysis of songs I’m fond of as a new topic to expand my blog. Today I’m going with an underrated song from super group ABBA. The Day Before You Came was one of their last songs before splitting and for my money, it’s a song that needs more recognition. While I know many think the song is about a woman talking of how her mundane life is changed by a lover, I have always thought there was something darker to it. Rather than being about a lover, I consider the ‘you’ in the song as being death and that the woman is talking about her existence before she died. So here are the lyrics and my analysis:
‘I must have left my house at eight because I always do/ My train I’m certain left the station just when it was due.’
These opening lyrics begin by conveying the protagonist’s daily activities, beginning with the morning. Yet there is a hesitancy to her remembrance with phrases like ‘I must’ and ‘I’m certain’ that feed into the idea that the woman is recounting her last day alive before her death.
‘I must have read the morning paper going into town/ And having gotten through the editorial no doubt I must have frowned.’
Her narration of her actions begins to detail the most minute thing, hinting at the fact that her life was very mundane and uneventful. The fact that she frowns also gives us the feeling that she is unhappy with something, probably the routine of her life.
‘I must have made my desk, around a quarter after nine/ With letters to be read, and heaps of papers waiting to be signed.’
Once again there is hesitancy to her delivery, with her not being quite sure about her time of arrival. The papers on her desk reference her dull office job which appears to have been monotonous.
‘I must have gone to lunch at half past twelve or so/ The usual place, the usual bunch.’
The presence of the word usual continues the routine in a dragging fashion. The protagonist is someone locked in a cage of time as the places she frequents are the same again and again.
‘And still on top of this, I’m pretty sure it must have rained/ The day before you came.’
The rain is an ominous warning of something sad and mournful to come, in my opinion her death and this being a hazy recollection of her last day on Earth.
‘I must have lit my seventh cigarette at half past two/ And at the time I never even noticed I was blue.’
She has become so accustomed to her life being very mundane that it has become the norm for her. Her existence is unhappy and melancholy as a result. Only in death has she now found purpose and understanding.
‘I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day/ And without really knowing anything, I hid a part of me away.’
The part of her life that desires freedom and release said been concealed for so long, she doesn’t even notice it herself. Instead she is buried in her tasks.
‘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.’
Her life is ruled by a rigid regime of going about business in a robot like state. The mention of school adds to the idea of her being obedient to rules and regulations. Again her recollection of the events seems hazy, further backing up my theory of this being her last day as one of the living.
‘The train back home again, undoubtedly I must have the evening paper then/ Oh yes, I’m sure my life was well within its usual frame/ The day before you came.’
Another day of no accomplishments is rounded out by her observation that her life is nothing more than just a cycle of events. The spectre of death can be seen as relieving the protagonist of this life by taking her. The following instrumental features a high-pitched wail, reminiscent of a ghost calling out which adds another ominous tone to the song.
‘I must have opened my front door at eight o’clock or so/ And stopped along the way to buy some Chinese food to go.’
She doesn’t cook herself because she is so tired from living a miserable existence.
‘I must have had my dinner watching something on TV/ There’s not, I think , a single episode of Dallas that I didn’t see.’
The program Dallas charted the eventful lives and romances of an affluent family. The irony here is the woman’s life has nothing dramatic or entertaining in it. Watching Dallas could be seen as her escape from her dull life.
‘I must have gone to bed, around a quarter after ten/ I need a lot of sleep, and so I like to be in bed by then.’
She is preparing for once again for the drudge of another day at her job that will consist of all the events she has spoken of. Only this time, she won’t have to live through the morose nature of what was once her life because the ghostly you of the title will take her away from misery.
‘I must have read a while/ The latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style.’
Marilyn French was known for her books about feminism and women asserting themselves in a man’s world. The irony is that the protagonist embodies neither of these qualities.
‘It’s funny, but I had no sense of living without aim/ The day before you came.’
Looking back on what was her life, she comes to see that her existence was plain and how she hid all that should have done away without ever really acknowledging it.
‘And turning out the light, I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night/ And rattling on the roof, I must have heard the sound of rain/ The day before you came.’
For the final time, she will do this routine so her turning out her light is her beckoning death to release her. The rain is a reference to what was once gloomy in her life that is now gone because the angel of death has plucked her from the hell of her old life.
I hope everyone has enjoyed reading my analysis and I hope you leave your opinions.