The Adventures of Morten Harket (not that one): Part 2

Part 1 – I’ve Been Losing You

The Blood that Moves the Body

It had been a full week since Morten Harket’s unsuccessful job interview at the Acme Bank Company. The Morten Harket words of the bespectacled manager Ron McDonald echoed in his brain: “how can I stop now”…

“Indeed,” he thought to himself, “how can I stop now?”

The rain had been bucketing down all day, his flimsy and inexpensive rainjacket barely protected him from its incessant, almost intrusive actions. He stared at the insurance company shop front across the street, the dreary weather hardly lifting his spirits. “Ok,” he muttered.

A bell tinkeled as he opened the door. There must be a bell deployed just over the door frame, he thought to himself.

“Either that or an amazing coincidence,” piped a voice to his left.

“Excuse me!?” Morten frowned, looking towards the man sitting behind a cheap pine desk in the corner.

“If there is no bell deployed over the door frame then it must be a incidental sound that coincided with you opening the door!” smiled a short, balding man.
“But…”
“You’re thinking, ‘how did he know I said that to myself?'”

Morten nodded, looking around him wearily.

“Ah, well, I can read minds. I don’t do it for a living – I sell insurance for a living!” he snorted rather unattractively. “Oh, I’m Ralph Cake.” He extended his hand.
“Morten Harket,” replied Morten.

“Yes, I know. You rang about the job as office manager here at the Acme Insurance Company.”
“I did.”
“Well, please sit down. Your CV was extremely impressive…but I have to say…I thought you would be more suited to somewhere like a bank. Say, a bank?”

“Yes,” Morten smiled. “I did go to the bank but…” Morten paused.
“Yes?” Ralph inquired by raising his left eyebrow – using his finger rather than his facial muscles.
“Well, I just didn’t think I’d be a fit there. The manager was, uh, a bit fixated on my name.”
“Really?”

Ralph Cake pursed his lips. “How odd. I mean what’s in your name that intrigued him so much?”
“There is a singer who shares my name. And Mr McDonald seemed to think it would be funny to talk about the singer all the time.”

“YES!” yelled Ralph, banging his fist on the desk. “Morten Harket!”
“You remember the singer?” Morten asked nervously.
“Of course! Yes, I remember him. Oh, he was great. The blood that moves the body now covers the ground do do do dooo dooo”

Morten stared incredulously at Ralph as he proceeded to sing the entire “Blood that Moves the Body” song.

“I loved that one,” he said excitedly. “Oh, it was so moody. For me it was a direct descendant of that James Bond song. I didn’t like that one. Probably because that guy who wrote all the James Bond songs was involved. I mean COME ON!! How many songs did he get to co-write!!? There must have been about 800 Bond movies. Sheesh!”

The room descended in to silence.

“Anyway, the job…” Morten began to ask.

“The song performed poorly in the charts yet it was one of their most mature works. Makes you wonder what goes on in people’s heads sometimes. I know when that song came out I was a big fan of Sabrina. Remember her?? Boys, boys, boys, I’m looking for a good time.”

Morten stared at Ralph. “That’s the song…”

“Yes, the song, not me recounting my youth,” Ralph reaffirmed. “Wasn’t the background vocal great in that ‘Blood that Moves the Body’ song? The way My love and your love were whispered just lent a mysterious air to the whole thing. I thought it was classic. Definitely worth 9/10 of anyone’s money.”

“Are you finished now?” asked Morten as he started to button his coat.

“I’d just add that they really made an arse of it when they brought it back to the live set in the ‘Lifelines’ tour. Much like the trick they pulled with ‘The Swing of Things’, they slowed it right down and took the urgency out of it. I’d have to say 6/10 for that one.”

“I must go,” Morten said politely, turning towards the door. “Thank you for your time.”
He left Ralph Cake humming the refrain in an annoying, out of tune, high-pitched way.

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

“So…?”

“No joy,” he said, staring at the damp patches that were becoming more prevalent in the walls, as well as his pants. Well, it had been raining. “It was the a-ha curse again,” he said as he brushed away a tear masquerading as a rain drop.

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

“The ironic thing was that as the rain fell and the interiors of the office fogged – my pain didn’t fade. It was sharper and more intense.”

“That’s not irony, dear,” she assured him. “That’s life.”

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

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[Album Review] "Stay on These Roads" – a-ha

Stay on These Roads - a-haAlbum Title: Stay On These Roads
Artist: a-ha
Year: 1988
Running Time: 43m 40s

Track listing: 1 Stay On These Roads; 2 The Blood That Moves the Body; 3 Touchy!; 4 This Alone is Love; 5 Hurry Home; 6 The Living Daylights; 7 There’s Never a Forever Thing; 8 Out of Blue Comes Green; 9 You Are The One; 10 You’ll End Up Crying

With the musical landscape shifting, A-ha returned in 1988 with their third album, “Stay On These Roads”. It was an album that had the advantage of containing two huge hit singles from the outset. The 1987 single, ‘The Living Daylights’, the soundtrack to the Bond movie of the same name, was re-mixed and sounded even better second time around. Brooding and dramatic, it personified the kind of direction that A-ha would benefit from following in the future.

The title track was the lead single. ‘Stay on These Roads’, a sweeping and emotional ballad with epic intentions, isn’t close to being the barnstorming classic that ‘Hunting High and Low’ is, but is competent enough to be enjoyable. It made #5 in the UK charts.

Following on from that, A-ha found top ten hits hard to come by. ‘The Blood That Moves the Body’ was almost a direct descendant from ‘The Living Daylights’. A strong rhythm section gives ‘Blood’ a rare hook and displays originality that was starting to fade as A-ha’s career progressed. Probably the most original and credible song on the album, it disappointingly only made #25 in the charts.

‘Touchy!’ is a quintessential pop song that caught the imagination of many non-A-ha fans after it’s release. The up-beat, catchy semi-classic made #11 in the charts and breathed new life into the band. They followed it up with the similar but less-impressive ‘You Are the One’, which also just missed out on the top 10. The track is fast-paced and melodic, but without much substance.

The rest of the album is a mixed bag. The slight ‘This Alone is Love’ never really takes off, plodding along in a rather subdued and muted fashion. ‘Hurry Home’ completely misses the mark, only sparking to life for a brief moment during the chorus, but even that doesn’t sound quite right.

‘There’s Never a Forever Thing’ is pretty good stuff. A superior ballad to the title track, the acoustic and piano accompaniment along with gripping vocals work beautifully together. More reminiscent of ‘Hunting High and Low’, it’s the type of sound that helped A-ha maximize their quality song-writing. ‘Out of Blue Comes Green’ is also a pretty likeable tune. Weighing in at almost 7 minutes, this well sculptured power-ballad got some well deserved radio airplay after the album’s release. A single release seemed plausible but didn’t materialise.

We finish off with the peculiar, almost operatic, ‘You’ll End Up Crying’. Nicely performed but essentially a little bland.

“Stay On These Roads” is a disappointing record. None of the singles are outstanding, although ‘The Blood That Moves the Body’ and ‘Touchy!’ are definitely quality tunes, if for differing reasons. Unfortunately the album-only material is overall quite poor and this is A-ha’s weakest album to date.

2star