The Adventures of Morten Harket (not that one): Part 1

It seems that about six years ago I wrote seven ‘shorts’ about a man called Morten Harket who wasn’t the Mortenguy from a-ha.

Morten was not complicated. He was a nice man with a loving wife and all he wanted was to work, pay the bills and try and get through a day without somebody bringing up the fact that he had the same name as the guy from a-ha.

I’m guessing I posted these on the very popular Cold as Stone website back in 2007 as part of their “song of the week” threads. These scenes were written as a mechanism for delivering a “rating” for a particular a-ha song every week. To be honest I had virtually no recollection of writing these – I happened across them when going through some old files.

So without further ado, here is the first part of The Adventures of Morten Harket (not that one)

I’ve Been Losing You

“Good morning! Come in, Mr … ”
“Harket.”
“Mr Harket! Sit down, please.”

The office was large and spacious. The oak desk which seperated Mr Harket from the bespectacled gentleman looked like it would take a small town of Eastern European contract cleaners to keep it gleaming.

“I’m Ron McDonald. It’s lovely to meet you,” the gentleman said politely. “So, it’s Martin, is it?” Ron inquired, removing his spectacles temporarily to admire just how beautiful they were. Which they were.

“No, it’s Morten,” corrected Mr Harket.

“Oh! Like the singer from that Swedish band, Haha?”
“Yes, like the singer from that band…it’s a-ha actually and they’re from Norway.”
“Not Iceland?”
“No.”
“You’re not him though?” the gentleman asked, scrubbing furiously at a blackhead on his cheek.
“No, we just share a name,” smiled Morten Harket politely.

“Right, well, Morten,” he winked, “let’s get down to business. You’re interested in the branch manager job here at the Acme Bank Company.”

“Very much so,” Morten replied, adjusting his tie so that the knot was roughly the size of a large Japanese plum.

“Your CV is very impressive. You left out the bit about you being the singer in a rock band though!” laughed Ron grabbing at a nearby handkerchief for fear his sides would split and cause an unholy mess – intestines and the like.

Morten laughed politely and tried to turn the conversation to his achievements in life. “As you can see I have managed upwards of 30 people in my last job.”

“Was one of them Paul Waaktaar-Savoy?” laughed Ron, slapping his own thigh too hard and wincing slightly.

“Look, Mr McDonald, I’d really rather tell you what I can bring to your company,” Morten said. “I once project managed the installation of a foreign exchange system that processed multip…”

“Did Magne have a logon to that system?” Ron guffawed, the eyeglass in his spectacles cracking from his own sheer hilarity.

“Mr McDonald…” Morten began before Ron cut across him.

“What do you think of that ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ song, eh?” he enquired. God it’s bloody marvellous isn’t it?”

“I don’t know anything about it,” replied Morten, eager to recite the EU exchange rates that he had memorised.

“It’s just so moody and rocky – isn’t it?” Ron continued. “I especially love the lyrics, the desperate begging of lines like ‘please now, talk to me’ and ‘how can i stop now’. It’s such a gritty song but yet melodic too. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Morten stood up. “Mr McDonald, I’m not from that band,” he said sternly, extending his hand to Ron. “I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t be such a good fit here.”

Morten turned and walked out as Ron hummed “helpful…ahhhh” to himself, his eyes closed, his foot tapping.

“10/10,” he murmered. “10/10 for that live performane in Oslo too…”

Morten turned the key in his front door and was met by his expectant wife.

“So…?”

“No joy,” he said, turning his face to the cheap wooden floor that adorned their hallway. He slowly raised his eyes to her again, tears visible behind his lashes. “It was the a-ha curse again.”

“Never mind, love,” she said, embracing him. “Maybe next week you’ll find that perfect job.”

“I have lost my way,” he said to her in a pained voice.

“No,” she smiled warmly. “No, you haven’t.”

And they went, hand in hand, to the bedroom to have some adult time together. 

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[Album Review] "Scoundrel Days" – a-ha

Scoundrel Days - a-haAlbum Title: Scoundrel Days
Artist: a-ha
Year: 1986
Running Time: 39m 9s

Track listing: 1 Scoundrel Days; 2 The Swing of Things; 3 I’ve Been Losing You; 4 October; 5 Manhattan Skyline; 6 cry Wolf; 7 We’re Looking for the Whales; 8 The Weight of the Wind; 9 Maybe Maybe; 10 Soft Rains of April

In 1986, A-ha were coming off massive success – a huge selling debut album, four top ten singles and a fanbase hungry for more of the same. It had only been twelve months since “Hunting High and Low” and already the band had made leaps, albeit small ones, with their musical style. A heavier reliance on recognised instruments more so than the rather cliched 1980s keyboard/drum machine approach, helped to emphasise their writing qualities a lot more than before.

Their second album, “Scoundrel Days”, was to spawn three more massive hit singles – ‘I’ve Been Losing You’, ‘Cry Wolf’ and ‘Manhattan Skyline’.

The title track starts us off with Morten almost whispering his paranoid ramblings from under his duvet. But the edgy keyboard refrain soon gives way to a loud and committed band performance where Morten roars mysterious lyrics such as; ‘i reach the edge of town, i got blood in my hair, their hands touch my body, from everywhere’. Wonderful stuff, and should have really been a single.

The familiar keyboard sound returns for ‘The Swing of Things’. But this is a beefy number which slows down effectively for the chorus and picks up again during the verse. The almost-accapello mid-section performance from Morten is wonderful, and the song moves towards fade with a super vocal stretch from the lead singer – another quality tune.

But it is the first single from the album which steals all the plaudits. ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ is a remarkable tune which combines maturity and imagination way beyond their relatively novice years. Thundering drums, fast-paced guitar riff, strategically placed horn sections, powerful lyrics and a false ending, which returns heavier than ever before fading again. One of the bands timeless tracks, right up there with ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’ and ‘Take On Me’.

The next two tracks are also well worth the purchase price. ‘October’ is a somber but catchy number which relies on Morten hissing and sighing through much of it in order to give it an angle as such. However, one can’t deny this rather pleasing tune is as relaxing as it is charming. ‘Manhattan Skyline’ turned out to be the third and final single released from the album, and in fact was the first of A-ha’s seven releases to date, not to make the top ten (it made #11). Certainly very different, the track has long been a favourite of fans. From it’s slow and delicate entree, to it’s loud and brash chorus, to it’s thoughtful post-chorus verse, ‘Skyline’ is eventful, and exciting to listen to.

‘Cry Wolf’ was the second single but I’m dumbfounded as to why. It’s very much old-school sound here as the keyboards carry this song pretty much through on it’s own, but it’s one-dimensional style is only really bearable for the reflective mid-song section. However, the track was a huge hit and out-performed both of the far-superior songs released from this album.

‘We’re Looking for the Whales’ is not much to write home about. Pleasant enough, but essentially pointless outside of some gentle foot-tapping. ‘The Weight of the Wind’ is much better, even if it is another throw-back to the older sound. Slightly atmospheric, some nice epic touches and effective backing vocals elevate this above average status.

Upbeat and perky, ‘Maybe Maybe’ has either one of the most tongue-in-cheek, or most woeful lyric ever – ‘Maybe it was over when you chucked me out the Rover at full speed’. It’s a decent tune, if a little light weight, but in the 1986/87 pop landscape it probably could have been a huge hit. Closing off the album is the dated, but harmless, ‘Soft Rains of April’.

This album contains some of the best material the band have written in their career, but is weighed down by more filler than their debut album, leaving you slightly underwhelmed.ability to do it all again? The rock world will be a better place if he does.

3star