We’ve been here before…

After a lot of teasing, they finally shared the tour poster yesterday:

And the idea sounds pretty awesome:

Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Pål Waaktaar-Savoy will be performing in An Evening With format, with an interval. For the first half of the concert, they will play new and old, familiar and less-familiar songs. Then, after returning to the stage, they will play the ten songs of their 1985 debut album Hunting High And Low in the running order of the original release.

Which, as I recall from my cassette tape days is this:

Take On Me
Train of Thought
Hunting High and Low
The Blue Sky
Living a Boy’s Adventure Tale
The Sun Always Shines on T.V.
And You Tell Me
Love Is Reason
I Dream Myself Alive
Here I Stand and Face the Rain

I thought that I’d missed their last ever concert. And then I thought I’d seen it.
It turns out that I was wrong on both of those.

But it’s always been a privilege for me to see a-ha in concert, and I’m happy that they’re still around and – hopefully – producing even more new material. While this all sounds very special, the surprising omission of a South African leg on the tour, together with the frankly terrifying state of the South African Rand means that we won’t be going along this time.

Still, if they’re going to do all their albums this way, there’s always the 2020 Scoundrel Days tour to consider. And then another 8 to follow that…

I’ll start saving now.

The difficult second album

Apparently, it’s a thing. Young band bursts through, full of promise and innovation, releases a fantastic debut album to widespread acclaim and sales and then has to follow it up with something equally good to show that they are more than just a flash in the pan.

Back in late 1986, a-ha faced this hurdle – having given us a debut album which spawned 4 top 10 hits – and thirty years ago today (thirty…!) they released Scoundrel Days.


Despite enjoying what had gone before – and the eight studio albums which have followed since – Scoundrel Days remains my favourite a-ha album, and with that, my favourite album. In fact the eponymous single is my favourite a-ha track. The power of Morten’s voice in the chorus is spine-tinglingly good.

The album sold over 6 million copies worldwide (c.f. 7.8 million for Hunting High And Low) and gave us three singles: I’ve Been Losing You (in which the protagonist expresses a certain amount of regret over murdering his partner), Cry Wolf (in which the band repeatedly insist, somewhat prophetically, that the time to worry is “now”) and the ever-beautiful Manhattan Skyline (in which our star gently describes the blustery scene juxtaposed with his wiild frustration as he leaves his lover during a storm, and which features a fantastic Roland Juno-60/106 synth intro).

Oh, and there was the strange case of Magne’s Maybe, Maybe featuring lines such as:

Maybe it was over when you chucked me out the Rover at full speed.

The doubt in his statement here was probably caused by the fact that in 1986, full speed in a Rover was virtually unattainable because they were usually found broken down at the side of a road.

Maybe, Maybe was released as a single, but only in Bolivia.
It failed to chart. A lesson there for us all, I feel.

I remember reading a review of the album in Smash Hits in October 1986, and being disheartened as they predicted the end of the band, proclaiming that anyone coming up with stuff like:

One left low left two who left high: they seem so hard to find.

Three came twice took once the time to search.

was probably on their way out. And at the time, it seemed a reasonable assertion to be honest, but the album was so good, I bought the CD to go with my cassette tape version – before I even had a CD player.
This was advanced technology, hey?

And yes, I still have the CD. Finding a CD player to play it on is difficult for entirely different reasons now though.

Thirty years seems an awfully long time ago. It is an awfully long time ago, but this one has really stood the test of time and I still enjoy listening to it as much now as I did back then.

a-ha’s next 30 year albumaversary is in May 2018.

It’s here

The new a-ha album Cast In Steel came out last night. And I’m listening to it right now. I’ve been listening to it most of the morning, truth be told. I’ve missed several important phone calls and ignored all my colleagues in a meeting. These people must just understand. After all, I’m usually very accommodating. Today is different, though, because a-ha’s new album came out today and that’s actually far more important to me than they are right now.

I’ll obviously have to do a proper review at some stage (of the album, not the colleagues), but for the moment, have this:
First thoughts (spoiler: I’ve been listening to excerpts and track leaks for the last couple of months, so these are actually not my first thoughts at all) are that it is very Radio 2. This is no longer the cutting edge of pop music. This is mature music for a more mature audience. A Radio 2 listening audience.

However, there remains, amongst the music for old people, hints of the electronic synth-pop which made a-ha so popular 30 (*weep*) years ago. That ting-ting-ting in the chorus of The Wake, the first few bars of Forest Fire, which could be straight off 1985’s Hunting High And Low, will happily take you back to younger days.

Then add the 5 bonus tracks: demo versions and interesting remixes of previous releases, and you’ve got a proper treat for fans like me who have been around for too long since the early days.
And there’s more on the way, with a concert tour (yes, I shall be making plans) and the 30th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition Box Set of Hunting High and Low [lengthy tracklist here] coming out later this month (strike while the iron is hot).

September has been kind to us.


Ooh. Exciting news for the legion of a-ha fans that follow this blog in order to hear exciting a-ha news. This are that day!

Marking the 30th [weeps slightly] anniversary of the release of their first album Hunting High And Low, a-ha are releasing… Hunting High And Low. But this one is “a Super Deluxe Edition of the album… remastered and packed full of bonus content”!

Colour me excited. So excited, in fact, that here’s the title track of that 1985 classic:

Morten featuring as both singer and super-predator there. (Aquila chrysaetosCarcharodon carcharias and Panthera leo for the Linnean purists.) Although that notched caudal fin at 2:29 looks far more like that of Prionace glauca, I’m sure you’ll agree.

But minor shark identification discrepancies apart, what a song – drama, an orchestral background, harmonies deluxe and when you’ve seen it performed live, several (or more) goosebump moments.