Friday, March 18, 2016

A-ha: A Career Retrospective 1985-2015

First posted 9/10/2020.

Anthologies: 1985-2015

A-ha

After 25 years with an astonishingly unchanged lineup, A-ha announced their retirement in 2009. They made their biggest mark with 1985’s “Take on Me,” a #1 song throughout the world, but were far more than the one-hit wonder they were painted to be in the United States. They had nineteen top-ten hits in their native Norway; nine of those songs went to #1. They also landed nine top-ten hits in the UK.

The band released ten studio albums over their 30-year career. The first eight hit #1 in Norway and the last two peaked at #2. In the UK, A-ha’s first three studio albums peaked at #2 and then they returned to the top ten with their last two studio efforts.

Throughout their career, A-ha managed to hold on to their synth-pop sound throughout, managing to consistently sound fresh without abandoning their ‘80s roots.

The Players:

  • Morten Harket (vocals, guitar)
  • Magne Furuholmen (keyboards, guitar, bass)
  • Pål Waaktaar-Savoy (guitars, drums, percussion)
In 2010, they released 25, a double-disc retrospective was released to celebrate their quarter-century career. It turned out the collection was premature. The synth-pop trio returned in 2015 with their tenth studio album. Once again, they followed up the next year with a two-disc sampling of music from throughout their career. As of 2020, it still marks the end of the group’s legacy. As such, this page highlights A-ha by focusing on four of their compilations:

The Compilations:

These years include ten studio albums, each with their own DMDB page, but with brief snapshots here.

The Studio Albums:

Under each album snapshot, songs featured on the anthologies are noted. If the song charted, the date of the song’s release or first chart appearance and its chart peaks are noted in parentheses. Click for codes to singles charts.


Hunting High and Low (1985):

Unwitting fans of A-ha in America might think this was all the Norwegian trio did. After “Take on Me” became a #1 hit in the U.S., the group followed up with the top-twenty The Sun Always Shines on T.V., but never hit the Billboard top 40 again. In their native Norway, however, all four of the album’s singles were top-ten hits with “Take on Me” and Train of Thought each going to #1. All four of these songs are featured on all four compilations highlighted on this page with the exception of “Train of Thought,” which was omitted from the 2016 Time and Again collection.

  • Take on Me (9/16/85, 1 US, 4 AC, 2 UK, 1 AU, airplay: 3 million) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • The Sun Always Shines on T.V. (12/16/85, 20 US, 1 UK, 19 AU) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • Train of Thought (3/24/86, 8 UK, 47 AU) HD, DS, 25
  • Hunting High and Low (6/2/86, 5 UK, 33 AU) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • The Blue Sky 25


Scoundrel Days (1986):

All three of the album’s singles were top-five hits in Norway with “I’ve Been Losing You” hitting #1. On a personal note, this is my favorite A-ha album.

  • I’ve Been Losing You (9/22/86, 8 UK, 21 AU) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • Cry Wolf (11/24/86, 50 US, 5 UK, 45 AU) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • Manhattan Skyline (2/16/87, 13 UK) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • Scoundrel Days 25
  • The Swing of Things 25


Stay on These Roads (1988):

Six singles were released to promote the trio’s third album, but only two songs charted in Norway. Those two, however, went all the way to #1 (The Living Daylights and Stay on These Roads).

  • The Living Daylights (6/22/87, 5 UK, 29 AU) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • Stay on These Roads (3/14/88, 5 UK, 56 UK) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • The Blood That Moves the Body (6/6/88, 25 UK) HD, 25, TA
  • Touchy! (8/15/88, 11 UK) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • You Are the One (11/21/88, 13 UK) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • There’s Never a Forever Thing (1989, --) 25


East of the Sun, West of the Moon (1990):

The band’s cover of the Everly Brothers’ Crying in the Rain gave the their sixth #1 hit in Norway. I Call Your Name and Early Morning were minor hits in the UK, understandably left off of the Definitive Singles Collection, despite the name of the collection, and Time and Again.

  • Crying in the Rain (10/1/90, 13 UK) HD, DS, 25, TA
  • I Call Your Name (12/3/90 44 UK) HD, 25
  • Early Morning (2/25/91, 78 UK) HD, 25
  • Slender Frame 25

Headlines and Deadlines

A-ha


Rating:

4.320 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)


Recorded: 1985-1991


Released: November 4, 1991


Peak: -- US, 12 UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.3 UK, 0.3 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: synth pop


Tracks: (1) Take on Me (2) Cry Wolf (3) Touchy! (4) You Are the One (5) Manhattan Skyline (6) The Blood That Moves the Body (7) Early Morning (8) Hunting High and Low (9) Move to Memphis (10) I’ve Been Losing You (11) The Living Daylights (12) Crying in the Rain (13) I Call Your Name (14) Stay on These Roads (15) Train of Thought (16) The Sun Always Shines on T.V.


Total Running Time: 68:25

While the group still had plenty of years left in the tank, this collection offers a nice sampling of their early years, capturing every single the trio released from 1985 to 1991. Had they waited until after their next studio album, 1993’s Memorial Beach, it could have been the perfect time capsule of their first wave, (They took a hiatus from then until 2000) but this comes pretty close. The collection also offered up a new song, Move to Memphis, which would also be featured in a new version on the aforementioned Memorial Beach album.
  • Move to Memphis (10/14/91, 47 UK) HD, 25, TA


Memorial Beach (1993):

This was A-ha’s first album to not land a #1 hit in Norway; Dark Is the Night for All peaked at #4.

  • Dark Is the Night for All (5/24/93, 19 UK) DS, 25, TA
  • Angel in the Snow (9/6/93, 41 UK) 25
  • Cold as Stone 25


Minor Earth, Major Sky (2000):

The band got back to #1 in Norway with Summer Moved On. The title cut and Velvet were also top-40 hits in Norway.

  • Summer Moved On (5/22/00, 33 UK) DS, 25, TA
  • Minor Earth Major Sky (7/10/00, --) DS, 25, TA
  • Velvet (9/14/00, --) DS, 25, TA
  • The Sun Never Shone That Day (9/21/00, --) 25


Lifelines (2002):

Lead single Forever Not Yours was A-ha’s seventh trip to the top of the charts in Norway. The singles didn’t have much impact anywhere else, but all three are on 25 and Time and Again.

  • Forever Not Yours (4/2/02, --) DS, 25, TA
  • Lifelines (7/8/02, 78 UK) DS, 25, TA
  • Did Anyone Approach You? (9/30/02, --) 25, TA

The Definitive Singles Collection

A-ha


Rating:

4.293 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)


Recorded: 1985-2002


Released: April 5, 2005


Peak: -- US, 10 UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.1 UK, 0.1 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: synth pop


Tracks: (1) Take on Me (2) The Sun Always Shines on T.V. (3) Train of Thought (4) Hunting High and Low (5) I’ve Been Losing You (6) Cry Wolf (7) Manhattan Skyline (8) The Living Daylights (9) Stay on These Roads (10) Touchy! (11) You Are the One (12) Crying in the Rain (13) Dark Is the Night (14) Shapes That Go Together (15) Summer Moved On (16) Lifelines (17) Velvet (18) Take on Me (enhanced video)


Total Running Time: 70:00

Despite the name of the collection, this doesn’t quite capture all of the singles released by A-ha from 1985 to 2005. It was also confusingly released in two versions. The Singles 1984-2004 bumped the enhanced video of “Take on Me” in favor of the songs Minor Earth, Major Sky and Forever Not Yours. The collection does include the single-only release of Shapes That Go Together from a decade earlier.
  • Shapes That Go Together (3/14/94, 27 UK) DS, 25


Analogue (2005):

A-ha’s eighth album gave them their ninth and final #1 hit (at least as of 2020) in Norway with Celice. The group also made it back to the UK top-ten for the first time since 1988 with Analogue (All I Want).

  • Celice (10/7/05, --) 25, TA
  • Analogue (All I Want) (1/23/06, 10 UK) 25, TA
  • Cosy Prisons (4/17/06, 39 UK) 25, TA


Foot of the Mountain (2009):

After eight #1 albums in Norway, Foot of the Mountain was A-ha’s first studio effort to stall in the runner-up spot.

  • Foot of the Mountain (5/5/09, 66 UK) 25, TA
  • Nothing Is Keeping You Here (9/21/09, --) 25
  • Shadowside (9/21/09, --) 25

25

A-ha


Rating:

4.400 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)


Recorded: 1985-2010


Released: July 19, 2010


Peak: -- US, 10 UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)


Genre: synth pop


Tracks, Disc 1: (1) Take on Me (2) The Blue Sky (3) The Sun Always Shines on T.V. (4) Train of Thought (5) Hunting High and Low (6) I’ve Been Losing You (7) Scoundrel Days (8) The Swing of Things (9) Cry Wolf (10) Manhattan Skyline (11) The Living Daylights (12) Stay on These Roads (13) Touchy! (14) There’s Never a Forever Thing (15) You Are the One (16) The Blood That Moves the Body (17) Crying in the Rain (18) Early Morning (19) Slender Frame (20) I Call Your Name


Tracks, Disc 2: (1) Move to Memphis (2) Dark Is the Night for All (3) Cold As Stone (4) Angel in the Snow (5) Shapes That Go Together (6) Summer Moved On (7) Minor Earth, Major Sky (8) The Sun Never Shone That Day (9) Velvet (10) Forever Not Yours (11) Lifelines (12) Did Anyone Approach You? (13) Celice (14) Analogue (All I Want) (15) Cosy Prisons (16) Foot of the Mountain (17) Nothing Is Keeping You Here (18) Shadowside (19) Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah)


Total Running Time: ?


25 (2010):

When it was released, this was supposed to be the cherry on top of the band’s quarter-century career. The exhaustive double-disc set captured every single the band had released and added new song Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah). The song marked A-ha’s last appearance on the Norway charts, peaking at #13.

  • Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah) (7/5/10, 98 UK) 25, TA


Cast in Steel (2015):

None of the band’s three singles released from their final album scraped the charts, but the album did peak at #2 in Norway. The only song recognized on an A-ha anthology was Under the Makeup, the lead single from the album.

  • Under the Makeup (7/3/15, --) TA

Time and Again

A-ha


Rating:

4.267 out of 5.00
(average of 3 ratings)


Recorded: 1985-2015


Released: March 18, 2016


Peak: -- US, 75 UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)


Genre: synth pop


Tracks, Disc 1: (1) Take on Me (2) The Sun Always Shines on T.V. (3) Hunting High and Low (4) I’ve Been Losing You (5) Cry Wolf (6) Manhattan Skyline (7) The Living Daylights (8) Stay on These Roads (9) You Are the One (10) Crying in the Rain (11) Move to Memphis (12) Dark Is the Night for All (13) Summer Moved On (14) Forever Not Yours (15) Lifelines (16) Celice (17) Analogue (All I Want) (18) Foot of the Mountain (19) Under the Makeup


Tracks, Disc 2 (remixes): (1) Take on Me (2) The Sun Always Shines on T.V. (3) Cry Wolf (4) Touchy! (5) You Are the One (6) The Blood That Moves the Body (7) Summer Moved On (8) Minor Earth, Major Sky (9) Velvet (10) Lifelines (11) Did Anyone Approach You? (12) Celice (13) Analogue (14) Cosy Prisons (15) Foot of the Mountain (16) Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah)


Total Running Time: ?

If the first disc of this collection were available on its own, it would be a great way for a casual fan to get a career overview of A-ha. However, the second disc of remixes – most of which are already on the first album – makes this a set only diehards would want. It’s unfortunate the two discs aren’t available separately to appease fans on both ends of the scale.


Resources and Related Links:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

3/8/1930: “Happy Days Are Here Again” goes to #1

image from redmp3.su


Ben Selvin “Happy Days Are Here Again”


Writer(s): Milton Ager/ Jack Yellen (see lyrics here)

First charted: 3/1/1930

Peak: 12 US, 11 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --


Review: “Happy Days” was originally written for the movie Chasing Rainbows and sung by Charles King and Bessie Love. JA-69 It accompanied a scene where World War I soldiers learn the war has ended. TY-47 Unfortunately, the song was cut from the film. When movie producer Irving Thalberg heard the song played at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, he wanted to know why such a great song wasn’t in the movies. When he found out it had been cut from one of his own films, he immediately had it put back. Unfortunately, the movie was a failure. RCG

However, the “bright and tuneful” RCG song which urged everyone to “sing a song of cheer again” found life beyond the film. The publishers took it to George Olsen, whose orchestra played it at the Pennsylvania Hotel Ballroom in Manhattan a few days after the October 1929 stock market crash. RCG Jack Yellen, the song’s lyricist, recalled the dining room being populated with “gloom-stricken diners.” Olsen directed his singers to “sing it for the corpses” and, according to Yellen, “after a couple of choruses, the corpses joined in…[and] before the night was over, the hotel lobby resounded with what had become the theme song of ruined stock speculators as they leaped from hotel windows.” SS-364

The song became an unofficial anthem for the Great Depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt used it in his 1932 Presidential campaign and it was adopted by the Democratic party SB as their “unofficial theme song for years to come,” WK being used again in campaigns by Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. RCG

Three versions of the song charted in 1930. Ben Selvin and Benny Meroff each took it to the top; Leo Reisman’s orchestra, with a vocal from Lou Levin, hit #3. Judy Garland adopted the song as an allegory of her life. RCG The song has been featured on more than 70 commercially-released albums and in more than 80 films. WK Some of the notable recordings were by Mitch Miller and Barbra Streisand. WK


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Award(s):


Thursday, March 3, 2016

3/3/1945: Les Brown charts with “Sentimental Journey”

image from allmusic.com


Les Brown with Doris Day “Sentimental Journey”


Writer(s): Bud Green, Les Brown, Ben Homer (see lyrics here)

First charted: 3/3/1945

Peak: 19 US, 14 HP, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --


Review: Sentimental indeed. When she first saw the sheet music, Doris Day commented, “What a lovely title,” to which Les Brown responded “Wait till you hear it.” SS-375 “The song’s aching nostalgia struck a chord in a nation welcoming its boys back from the front lines,” TM becoming “one of a handful of songs that summed up romantic longing during World War II.” SS-375 Will Friedwald called it “the definitive end-of-war song,” SS-375 “a song that helped define an era.” SS-375

Doris Day’s “honey with a dash of pepper” TM voice compelled one “to pack your bag and join her on that journey home.” TM “In the lilting fox-trot…and in Arthur Green’s swinging sen-tuh-men-tul phrasing — you can almost see the locomotive wheels chugging, hear the steam spurting from the smokestack and feel the second-class coach swaying back and forth as the train makes its way down the tracks.” TM

The top hit of 1945 TY-125 launched the career of then-twenty-year-old Doris Day as a solo artist and America’s sweetheart. It would be the biggest hit of her career as well as Les Brown, the orchestra leader credited with the song. Stunningly, the record could potentially have been even bigger. According to George Simon in the December 1946 issue of Metronome, war restrictions prevented Columbia Records from pressing more copies of the song to maximize its potential. SS-376 On top of that, Les Brown and His Band of Renown performed the song for awhile, but couldn’t record it because of the musicians’ strike of 1942 to 1944. WK

Brown adopted the million-seller as his theme song TY-125 and Ringo Starr later used it as the title cut for his 1970 debut solo album, a collection of standards. JA-170 It became a jazz standard and was recorded by numerous artists, including Booker T. & the MG’s, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Harry James, The Platters, Frank Sinatra, and Amy Winehouse. WK


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Award(s):