The unkillable, oh-so-profitable afterlife of a-ha’s '80s classic
September 21, 2019 11:23 AM   Subscribe

 
I've never been a huge fan of the original, but their 2017 "unplugged" version of it was really something special.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2019 [10 favorites]


is it weird that my first thought is sad about the ending of The Magicians last year?
posted by supermedusa at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


As a songwriter, engaging in the thought exercise of what it would mean to have such a career-defining hit, I've always gravitated towards Joni Mitchell's philosophy:
"A painter does a painting, and he does a painting. That's it, you know? ... But he's never - nobody ever says to him - nobody ever said to Van Gogh, 'Paint a "Starry Night" again, man!' [Laughs] You know? He painted it, that was it."
So I can't even begin to fathom in my body what it's like to reconcile oneself to playing that one big hit, usually to the exclusion or ignorance of everything else, forevermore amen. I get that it's only 3m30s out of your daily life, and most folks would kill to have such a problem, but I guess that, and a whole lotta luck and perseverance, is what separates the Morten Harkets from the likes of me. Good on 'em.
posted by mykescipark at 12:00 PM on September 21, 2019 [13 favorites]


He knew the fleet, perky melody would launch him into a noteworthy music career.

Ah but did he know which of the notes he would be worthy of?
posted by srboisvert at 12:15 PM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Come to think of it, one can easily imagine “Taaaake, ohhn, meeee” in a rich Orbisonian croon.
posted by acb at 12:18 PM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]


So I can't even begin to fathom in my body what it's like to reconcile oneself to playing that one big hit, usually to the exclusion or ignorance of everything else, forevermore amen. I get that it's only 3m30s out of your daily life, and most folks would kill to have such a problem, but I guess that, and a whole lotta luck and perseverance, is what separates the Morten Harkets from the likes of me. Good on 'em.

Go to a choir choir choir show where they teach the audience to sing one hit song all night long. Then imagine doing that at least 100 nights a year. I came away from the experience of learning "When Dove's Cry" with a deep appreciation of just how brutal being a star musician must be. I was burnt out on it in just an hour.
posted by srboisvert at 12:20 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ah but did he know which of the notes he would be worthy of?

Flagged
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:31 PM on September 21, 2019


"just how brutal being a star musician must be"

It's not just stars, or just musicians. Any performative art requires endless practice. I saw an interview with Ricky Jay, where he said "There's no secret to doing card tricks. Just get a copy of Erdnase and practice in front of a mirror for 10 hours a day."
posted by Marky at 12:35 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


I discovered via Pandora a few years ago that I quite like a lot of their later stuff, especially Minor Earth, Major Sky. It's a pity they are really only known for the one song.
posted by tavella at 12:43 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]


They were not a one hit wonder, they had many successful albums in Europe. I think they probably had the best kind of musical success you can - a few huge hits and then financial stability and a long career in a stable band in a country where they had some privacy.
posted by fshgrl at 12:54 PM on September 21, 2019 [15 favorites]


They were also responsible for The Living Daylights - the theme song to the James Bond film - much akin to Duran Duran's A View to a Kill. They may not have garnered as much cultural awareness in the states - but they were an 80s rolling stones to the Beatles
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


oh, i had forgotten about the cock-crow in lesson one. the bones are there, but my goodness was that awful.

harket's solo wild seed had some gems, too, one of which i sang at my mother's memorial service.
posted by Clowder of bats at 1:10 PM on September 21, 2019


For me, A-ha will forever be associated with the amazing song "Hunting High and Low". Their other stuff is great too, like their 2000 album "East of the Sun, West of the Moon".
posted by Triplanetary at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2019


Great band. The entire Hunting High And Low album is fantastic.
posted by The World Famous at 1:38 PM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


It saddens me that a-ha is only known for Take On Me in the US. They have made so many beautiful pop songs, and some of them even have cool videos:

LIfelines
posted by Dumsnill at 1:42 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’m still angry the Washington Nationals no longer use it as their middle of 8th Inning song.
posted by jmauro at 2:03 PM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Your band sucks. Except for that one song.
Hey Mickey!
posted by zengargoyle at 2:47 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


I wish Johnny Cash covered this song.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:04 PM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


Looking at the black and white photo of the three of them in the article, I had the decidedly odd experience of remembering being a pre-teen and thinking these guys looked so old and glamorous, and simultaneously being my present age and thinking they look so impossibly young.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:56 PM on September 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


It saddens me that a-ha is only known for Take On Me in the US.

A guy from Norway once chatted me up at a bar, and he was asking me “Do you know the song ‘Take On Me’? The band is from my country! And that is NOT their only song.” So someone out there is preaching the gospel of A-ha in the US.
posted by sallybrown at 7:32 PM on September 21, 2019 [6 favorites]


Hey Mickey!

I will brook no disrespect toward Toni Basil, and you take that back, bubs (or not, I’m not really that worked up about it. But Basil is an important artist who had a significant impact on American pop culture, she just didn’t get a lot of money for her work).
posted by mwhybark at 8:16 PM on September 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


A guy from Norway once chatted me up at a bar, and he was asking me “Do you know the song ‘Take On Me’? The band is from my country! And that is NOT their only song.”

All ten of a-ha's albums have gone to either #1 or #2 in their home country of Norway. Every one of them has been in the top 20 in Germany. Every one of them in the top 40 in Austria. Likewise in Switzerland. And many albums as big hits in various countries across their career.

They faded fast in the US, but they have remained a global band for nearly 35 years.
posted by hippybear at 8:34 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


But were they Big in Japan?
posted by chavenet at 12:43 AM on September 22, 2019


I liked this bit:
Then, Ayeroff saw a picture of the group.

“It was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. Do people actually look like this?’ Morten Harket was one of the best-looking men in the world,” Ayeroff said a few years ago in an interview for the book “I Want My MTV.”
posted by medusa at 9:35 AM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


But were they Big in Japan?

That's an interesting suggestion because Alphaville's first single Big In Japan dropped in 1984, just as did Take On Me (the first version).

I linked to the charts above, and a-ha had early success in Japan but by their fourth album they were fading out of the public eye, just like in the USA.
posted by hippybear at 1:11 PM on September 22, 2019


*Swoons*

I had their poster on my wall, the album on cassette. Had no idea about its more recent popularity. Cannot believe Morten Harket is nearly 60.

You can imagine my delight when, in the late 90s, in an achingly cool hairdresser’s in Clerkenwell (it had CCTV cameras trained on the back of your head and b&w screens at your feet so you could watch your haircut), I discovered my hairdresser had once cut Morten Harket’s hair.
posted by penguin pie at 4:21 PM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


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