SVM Blog – Alphabet CoverSeptember 19th, 2011
Abba…Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. So why did we chose The Day Before You Came?
When we started listening to the records the first thing we noticed was how great they still sound. How were we going to interpret something so perfect? We thought we’d start by looking at some of their earlier records, thinking they’d be a little more raw and therefore more likely to be able to be played by a three piece. However, lyrically you really notice the growth in the Abba catalogue from early songs like Honey Honey, up to songs like the mighty The Winner Takes It All (Nick, I agree – surely a contender for one of the best songs ever written). So it seemed a crime to not pay homage to the part of Abba that largely gets overlooked – their lyrical brilliance.
Not being fans of the film Mamma Mia (understatement), we had a lot of popular choices tainted by thoughts of Meryl Streep running across a Greek island, crying… probably. I haven’t actually seen the film. I saw the first ten minutes and wanted to cut off my ears.
So we moved away from the ‘hijacked part of their catalogue’ and on to the end of Abba’s career. The Day Before You Came was released in Oct 1982 and was their penultimate single release. It failed to make the UK top 20.
Lyrics: The Day Before You Came is structured chronologically to follow the narrator’s day. It starts with the narrator leaving his or her house for work, then listing the little events of the day including: reading the newspaper, getting to work, eating lunch, commuting home, getting a Chinese take away, watching TV, going to bed, reading a book, going to sleep. Pretty boring, actually. Imagine the conversations in the studio: ‘What’s this one about?’ ‘Well… ermm.. nothing really’ ‘Great, let’s do it!’ In all seriousness though, it’s an amazing lyric and very difficult to achieve. There is a lot of discipline needed to write this sort of narrative.
Musically: The song is harmonically driven. The rhythm is just a metronome to the machine-like story of the narrator. The verses of the song are made up of a 36 bar chord sequence (most pop songs have phrases of 4 or 8 bars). There are subtle time signature changes and key changes within these 36 bars that move the song along and yet seem to pass unnoticed. Only at the end of this 36 bar journey do you get to see how far you’ve been when it resolves back to the staring chord (C minor), on the word ‘came’.
Choosing this song was difficult given the amount of great and probably better songs written by Benny and Bjorn. However, at the end of the day choosing material to cover is about finding something in the song that you understand, and therefore hope to communicate as well as, if not better, than the original. Hope you enjoy. Next up: ‘B’.
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