In 1986 I was nine years old, and my only introduction to music was the hits on POP SHOP tapes that floated into my room via my sisters’ tape deck. One of the tracks that would literally howl through my head was a song about a wolf, smeared in 80’s synth-pop backed up by an electronic drum kit and the most potent voice belting out over this mushy musical wonderland.

PHOTOGRAPHY: (live)
Jacqui Van Staden

WORDS:
Rick De La Ray


A-HA’s “Cry Wolf” had burned into my neural pathways and impaled me with a dopamine-pumping music addiction that would last to this day. A year later, I had turned into a full-blown, law-breaking delinquent. I was dealing with uncomfortable anxieties about the FBI bursting into our living room in Randpark Ridge and arresting me for illegally copying music on to “borrowed” TDK tapes from my sisters’ room. Every time I pulled out an inner sleeve of a record, the printed warning stared me in the face. HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC AND IT’S ILLEGAL. I still feel the guilt to this day. This is also one of the reasons why we have Spotify today.

Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

A year later, I had turned into a full-blown, law-breaking delinquent. I was dealing with uncomfortable anxieties about the FBI bursting into our living room in Randpark Ridge and arresting me for illegally copying music on to “borrowed” TDK tapes from my sisters’ room.

My emotions had found a voice, and it was in the form of a Norwegian band from Oslo called A-HA. I had no idea where Oslo or Norway even was and still would only be able to point it out on a world map with great difficulty.
They had weird names like Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy which at the time I assumed were pseudonyms.
Thinking back now, these guys were the “whitest” pop musicians to have walked on the planet. I mean Norway, humans don’t get more white than that. During that time South Africa and the broadcasting commission enjoyed nothing more than the fact that three honest looking boys from Europe were adorning the walls of every teenage white girl in the country. At that age, I was oblivious to all these horrors that the world was hiding from me.

TRUST ME THEY WERE GODS


They came out of such an unlikely place rather than the usual British or American pop stars that I had begun to recognise from posters at the CNA.

I was convinced that they were British because I saw an image of a blushing Princess Diana posing for a picture with them at the launch of ‘The Living Daylights’ Bond film in 1987. Her eyes glistened as she stared at the lead singer Morton Harket. Who is this man I thought, a common man from a middle-class upbringing that could make a neighbouring country’s royal princess blush? No man is allowed to have that kind of power.

So I did what any coming of age Cisgender boy would do at that age. I started adapting my wardrobe accordingly down to the leather strings around his wrists and the socks wrapped over his denim trousers – which I quickly realised was not a very hip look for Randburg in the middle of summer.

Trusted by parents

If this man could make a Princess blush, imagine what he could do to your sister

Not a very hip look for Randburg in the middle of summer

Randburg Minimalism – The AIWA ICS-J21

A sign of middle class taste – The AIWA ICS-J21

I had tracked down all of the first three albums at a neighbour’s house down the road. Their daughters were in high school, and I quickly transported the records to our living room which became yet another crime scene as I recorded them onto the TDK mentioned earlier. By this stage, I had also demanded a personal stereo system for my birthday in the form a grey AIWA ICS-J21  with matching headphones. Now I had three tapes and three albums to secretly listen to while everyone was asleep. I allowed the sounds of each song to engulf me as it ingrained musical grooves into my young mind. Back then, time stood still, and it seemed as if the eighties
would stay there forever.

“Cry Wolf” it turned out was on ‘Scoundrel Days’ the second album that these Nordic gods had released. The second album to follow up the hit breaking first album ‘Hunting High and Low’ which they played in its entirety on Friday the 14th at the Green Point A Track in Cape Town. One thing you have to understand about A-HA is that they were not a boy band and did not only have one hit as mistakenly ascribed by many online one-hit-wonder lists from the eighties. Boy bands were based on these guys, and the recipe was copied and milked well into the nineties.

Justin Bieber of the Eighties

In some ways, Morten Harket was a type of Justin Bieber of the eighties. A time before the music industry felt no shame about exploiting thirteen-year-old boys to the masses and robbing them of their innocence in full public view.
They had a string of hits “Hunting High and Low”, “The Sun Always Shines on TV “, “Stay on These Roads” and “Crying in the Rain” including the theme song for the above-mentioned Bond film. Their exact sale figures are somewhat controversial. According to their label they have sold 55 million records, but other sources assert that they have sold more than 100 million units. They graced the pages of countless news tabloids and teen poster walls worldwide.

SONY – 80’s IPod

The TDK A60 – Low Noise High Out Put

Back then, artists made real money, eighties money, and had to try and produce full quality albums. They had no choice because when the world was littered with tapes and personal stereo systems in the form of Walkman’s, you did not have the luxury of just skipping a track. You had to tediously fast forward and rewind your tape and guess where the desired song was, so it was easier to listen all the way through. Most albums would kick off with the only hit on the record to get you pumped about why you bought the album. Tapes were just an old form of USB which is also basically dated now as the FBI still make it harder and harder for us to share music without paying for it. Death to the classic mixtape mentality.

Live in Cape Town – Jacqui van Staden

Live in Cape Town – Jacqui van Staden

The show in Cape Town was basically flawless except for a few minor sound problems with Mortens earpiece. They played the entire ‘Hunting High and Low” album in the first hour of the show. Followed by a surprising number of songs from ‘Scoundrel Days’ including “I have been losing you” which I was pleased about as it is still my favourite album and we sang in unison as they counted them down. This is coming from a guy that flew to Dublin over a year ago to watch SLAYER play their final European tour. A-HA ended off with “The living daylights”. Sadly they did not play “Cry Wolf”. It was not the first time an old pop star let me down. Last year Mr Bryan Ferry robbed me of the three minute keyboard outro on “More than this”. Morton by himself is a magical human being who was (and is still) listed in the Guinness World Records book in 2001 for the longest live note held; he held a note in “Summer Moved On” for 20.2 seconds.
Every generations fads, fashions and fears will always seem more important to them than those of others. One day 40 year old Bieber fans will feel the same nostalgia in their veins as they return to their darkened rooms and iPods.

Live in Cape Town – Jacqui van Staden