Sunday, August 29, 2010

Farewell to the first, the last, the only . . .

My early days were pretty much spent beside my father's vinyl collection, one that contained a healthy mix of obscure and commercial music; from Young Marble Giants to Tears For Fears, Portion Control to Simple Minds, Durutti Column to a-ha. And while I must admit that I gave the latter a fair amount of spins, I never really felt like a fan.

That aside; today I read about a-ha's performance in Bergen, and also watched the video recording of the two opening tracks that was made public on, Norway's national TV and radio broadcaster. The article's author begins by claiming that "Rolling Stones' Bergen-visit was of course bigger/grander", and "MUSE and Coldplay are of course more exciting (than a-ha)" . . . Well, I say ha-ha! Respect is due.

a-ha had the world at their feet when they released 'Take On Me' and the album 'Hunting High And Low' in 1985. It became massive and stayed in the Billboard Charts' top 20 for a long time, as well as elsewhere. They stayed at the peak for many years. But what a-ha also faced was a kind of silence in their homeland; they fell victim for what we call "Janteloven". It's a law that came to be long after the Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose wrote it down in a book from 1933. It basically says that "you shall not think that you are better than anyone else". a-ha sort of left Norway and became an English/American product instead. Thank God for that!

a-ha WAS better than everyone else, they WERE bigger (or at least as big) as most international names at the time, they sold out a staggering 200 000 crowd in Brazil (while Guns'n'Roses, Prince and others drew some 60 000). a-ha was, however, met with silence from a relatively large amount of music journalists and other "key-people" in music biz, even though a-ha's collected record sales exceeds 50 million albums and singles worldwide!

We will never, ever witness this kind of "Norwegian" success again. Not to mention international success. The Stones may have had a 20-years head start over a-ha, but are not "bigger" for it. MUSE and Coldplay may have made music that lacks emotion and, more importantly; dynamics, and are therefore by no means more exciting than a-ha. Morten Harket's voice is one of the very few that matches that of the late Billy MacKenzie of The Associates; both of which makes my hair stand up.

Noone can ever compete with the first, the last, and the only a-ha, because as far as musical success goes; they are Gods. Period.

Here's one of the best ballads of the eighties:

"And in the distance I could hear a soft voice whispering: Bigger than Beatles . . ."

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