Polly Weeks discovers A-ha have found a new meaning in their music 24 years after their debut hit.
Plenty of hairspray, a quick pout of the lips and a denim shirt seemed to be all that were required to become a pop star in the Eighties.
However, while most of the Smash Hits cover stars have now been consigned to the pop history books, a few still make the charts today, including one of the original boy-bands, A-ha.
Hailing from Norway, the band is made up of lead singer Morten Harket, 49, guitarist/keyboard player Magne Furuholmen, 46, and songwriter and guitarist, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy, 47.
The trio burst onto the music scene 24 years ago and are still going strong. They arrive at Birmingham NIA on November 2 as part of their latest tour to promote new album Foot Of The Mountain.
“Throughout the band’s history, we have always had this feeling of being 14 years old. When we go into a room together, we’ve got the same dynamics,” says Furuholmen.
When they released their debut album Hunting High and Low in 1985, it included anthemic single Take On Me. Their haunting, catchy pop songs soon earned them a Grammy nomination and of course the attention of a generation of teenage girls.
The boys found themselves whisked into photo shoots and teen magazine interviews, as the nation became officially smitten with the trio.
“I found it very strange and confusing. When we did gain attention it came about in quite a convoluted way. With the success also came this status of being poster boys. We struggled our way through that and never really embraced it,” explains Furuholmen.
With his six-pack stomach and sultry glances, Harket, then 25, was the band’s main icon. “I was never comfortable as a poster boy though,” Harket admits. “I was an object and being used for a particular sequence. When someone is focussed on by the media you will get a reaction from the public.”
His negative memories of those glory days may come as something of a surprise. The boys were not only idols for the Eighties, but also achieved global musical success. The band even topped the coveted US charts.
“Any 16-20-year-old who wants fame has no idea what it’s going to be like until they achieve it,” Harket admits.
“It’s nothing like you’d think, so even if you really want fame, you’ll quickly change your mind when it comes to having to deal with it.”
While they may have received unwanted attention, A-ha can take solace in the fact they have inspired many of today’s leading bands and artists. Everyone from Robbie Williams to Oasis and Coldplay, have spoken of their admiration for the Norwegian musicians.
“That’s where we feel vindicated. Now we get credited for the music we left behind,” Furuholmen says seriously.
“One of the best feelings you can have is to have active musicians saying, ‘Your music changed my life and was one of the reasons I wanted to get into music’. That’s meaningful. That is the inheritance you want to leave behind – not the frustration of being an awkward pop-star or a misplaced poster boy.”
So is that the reason they continue to make music 26 years down the line?
“That and the hope that when we’re in our sixties we’ll become poster boys again,” Harket jokes.
With music still at the forefront of their mind, the band are just as excited as ever about their new album Foot Of The Mountain. And fans of their earlier material should be pleasantly surprised.
“This album has given us the opportunity to go back into our own history and dig out some of the elements that we left out for a long time in our pursuit of creative freedom,” Furuholmen says.
“We’ve come far enough down the line to look back and say, ‘Was there something we left along the way which could be of use to us now?’ It was a real thrill to re-examine our formative efforts and use them in ways which rejuvenate them.”
With artists such as La Roux, Ladyhawke, MGMT bearing more than a passing resemblance to early A-ha’s synth-pop sound, the instigators of the original scene are around to show the youngsters how it’s done.
But Harket denies that the rise in the popularity of synth-pop has influenced their decision to go back to their roots.
“It may feel a bit like that but we don’t think that way. We do what’s right for us. Sometimes you hit a wave at the right time and ride it, other times you don’t really know what’s out there and you just have to do what you think is best for you at the time.”
With their new release the band are happy to confirm their status, while avoiding the scrutiny of the public gaze.
“In the past the success we had was important to propel the music forward but it wasn’t the reason we got into music. Neither was the attention,” Furuholmen says. “The attention was a tool to get the music known. Now that the music has a life of its own and that’s been the pay-off for all the years of hard work. To be able to find yourself still in music and still able to present it to people – that’s a meaningful thing.”
* TICKETS: A-ha play the NIA, Birmingham, on November 2 – £27.50 plus booking fee from www.ticketfactory.com or 0844 338 8000.