Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

Rockin’ Out in Pyongyang

Posted in Current Events,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the February 13th, 2012

Everyone else is sharing this recent video, so I suppose I should follow suit. Here’s a North Korean accordion band turning in a fine rendition of a-ha’s “Take on Me.”

For fun, here’s a piece I originally posted here in October 2009 about my own East Asian encounter with a-ha:

Newspapers in the West and in Japan are reporting that the Norwegian rock group a-ha have announced they will disband next year after a farewell concert in Oslo. Back in 1985, they had one of the first really cool MTV videos with “Take On Me,” and they’ve soldiered on since. Remembered here in the States as primarily a one-hit wonder, they’ve always had a solid following in Japan.

In 1987, my wife worked briefly at the front desk of the Plaza, one of the best hotels in Sendai. It was where touring musicians usually stayed when they passed through town for a show. A friend of mine used to own a ramen shop in front of the Plaza, and his walls were lined with signed photographs of pretty much every artist you can imagine, Japanese or Western, who had dropped in for a late night snack after the show. One of my favorite stories about his shop is the night Bob Dylan stopped by–and the high school kids working the late shift behind the counter didn’t recognize him.

Anyhow, in 1987 I was going to stop by the Plaza one evening to pick up Satoko after work and take her out for dinner. I get to the hotel and see maybe a hundred teen-age girls milling around outside, as well as a handful of police officers keeping an eye on the crowd. That’s when I remember that a-ha are in town for a concert that night. It’s kind of fun, I think.

So I keep walking toward the front entrance of the hotel. Suddenly there’s a stirring in the crowd and I realize: here I am, blonde, tall, moderately handsome, and about the same age as the guys in the band (in fact, I was born the same week as guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy). Every teen-age girl in the crowd has spotted me and I can feel them wondering: is he one of them?

The moment lasts for maybe three seconds. Then, all at once, everyone realizes that I’m just an ordinary bloke. I continued on my way into the hotel, picked up Satoko, and we had a lovely dinner. But for a few seconds there, it was a-ha and me.

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