Late last year, Norwegian pop trio a-ha decided to call time on their 28-year association. With a world tour and a repackaged greatest hits, the band are going out in a blaze of glory. Nick Parkhouse caught up with singer Morten Harket.
STAYING at the top of your business for a quarter-of-a-century isn’t easy. That’s especially true of a fickle music industry in which fashions come and go with the latest talent show that hits our TV screens.
Despite the changing face of pop music over the last twenty-five years, a-ha have remained one of the most original, talented and successful bands in popular music.
Since their debut single Take On Me reached number two in the UK and hit the top of the American charts in 1985, a-ha, comprised of keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, guitarist Pal Waaktaar-Savoy and singer Morten Harket, have sold more than million albums and 25 million singles.
They are not only Norway’s biggest band but also one of the most successful and enduring pop acts of the last two decades. Now, almost at the peak of their powers, the trio have decided to call it a day.
“There’s nothing sad in the flag that we are raising,” says Harket.
“They are all good emotions, and we are leaving the band when we are in top shape. We have never been better than today.”
That’s the assessment of a clearly tired Morten Harket, as the band’s punishing End On A High Note world tour enters its final weeks.
They’ve had 73 dates across four continents alongside endless publicity for repackaged versions of their seminal albums Hunting High And Low and Scoundrel Days – and it’s clearly taken a toll on the singer.
“This has been a relentless schedule – the hardest tour since our first world tour. There’s been no real time to contemplate the end of the band as such. I’ll only really be able to take it in after the concluding night of the tour on December 4.”
With fourteen top twenty singles and nine hit albums in the UK, the band have enjoyed something of a renaissance over the last few years. Their most recent studio album Foot Of The Mountain was their biggest album hit since 1988 and their 2006 single Analogue returned them to the top ten singles chart for the first time in 18 years.
Did the band’s enduring popularity surprise Harket?
“No. Our focus has always been the music and so the longevity is not a surprise. We have never really been a ‘fashion’ band, and we wouldn’t be doing it if we felt that we couldn’t contribute to music in some way.”
The trio must have enjoyed plenty of good moments?
“It’s difficult to pick a highlight,” Harket mused, “as everything matters at that point in time. If you asked me to name my favourite a-ha album I’d choose the last one as it’s the most cohesive album we have made.
“I suppose the obvious highlights were when Take On Me made number one in America – that was a turning point. Also the Rio Maracana gig where 200,000 people came to see us.”
Despite his claims that a-ha always live in the moment, it is clear that this final tour is different.
“For the first time in our career we are looking back on what we have been doing. There are only a few songs from each album that can be included – I suppose it is more of a highlight from each album. We are touring our entire career.”
A lucky Nottingham audience will get one final chance to enjoy classic pop singles including The Living Daylights, The Sun Always Shines On TV, Cry Wolf and Take On Me before the band go their separate ways.
And what’s next for the singer?
“It’s an open book,” he said.