Tyne and again

By Greg Lansdowne


Eddie Howe

With Newcastle United Football Club having appointed Eddie Howe as their new manager this week, expect to see one or two references to his love of a-ha.

While some in the media will view his musical preference in mocking tones, readers of ‘a-ha live’ know differently.

Having been involved in professional football as a player and manager for 20 years by the time of this interview in 2015, Howe was in a very relaxed mood as he took time out from justifying his latest team selection to the local media for a discussion about one of his other great passions.

Prominent in the then AFC Bournemouth manager’s matchday room at the Vitality Stadium was a motivational slogan adorning the wall that read ‘Together, anything is possible’. It is a sentiment that could be equally applied to the members of a-ha.

Greg Lansdowne: You would have been nearly eight when Take On Me came out. Was that what got you hooked?

Eddie Howe: [‘Take On Me’] was definitely when I got hooked. I think like most people at the time the video was the thing that drew me to the song and upon hearing that song, watching the video and seeing the band members it was an instant hook. And that has stayed with me to this very day.

If you were anything like most males growing up liking a-ha in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it probably didn’t do much for your credibility. Was that how it was for you?

It was, unfortunately. None of my friends or peers felt the same way as I did about a-ha. They had that teen girl fan-base – or at least that was how they were recognised – and that doesn’t sit well with teenage boys. For me it was purely about the music – never about how they looked – Morten’s voice and the songs. I didn’t hide it but it certainly didn’t do anything for my credibility. I was very much alone in my love for a-ha.

In the Daily Telegraph interview you did before the start of the 2014-15 season you described yourself as being ‘quite nerdy’ and you were ‘OK with being different’. That could have been a member of a-ha describing his childhood so have you found an affinity with them as people as well as their music?

I have been interested as I’ve got older – having loved their music for so long – that I immediately wanted to find out a bit more about them and why they made the music they did. I think I can relate to them – they had big dreams, they took a big risk in going to another country to follow that dream and didn’t give up until they achieved it. I have a huge admiration for that part of their journey, the risks they took and the bravery it took to make their dreams come true. Certainly that relates to me and the world of football so I have taken inspiration from that.

In that same Telegraph interview the journalist described a-ha as ‘Europop’. Like most fans, do you often find yourself defending them?

It’s a frustration. Any serious a-ha fan will feel it. The frustration for me is their music doesn’t have the credibility or recognition that it deserves. Three incredibly talented guys that have done what they’ve done, achieved what they’ve achieved, the longevity of their career tells you they are supremely talented and the only frustration is the mainstream – whatever that means – of British music, which is obviously where I am, doesn’t seem to recognise what I feel. That’s a frustration because I feel they should be given a lot more recognition for their songwriting and the music they have developed.

But is it good to be part of a niche fandom?

Quite possibly. And that might have been one of the reasons that has enabled me to be such a strong fan of theirs. I always seem to have a liking for people that are being written off or people that are being criticised and me trying to back them, so maybe – as a fan – you want them to get that recognition and is one of the factors that drives all a-ha fans to talk about them and support them.

What is it about a-ha that makes them your favourite band?

It is the music. It is very different and was unlike anything I had heard not just at the time as a young boy growing up but also since. I’ve not heard another band similar to them. I think it is also down to the fact they are Norwegian and the English in their songwriting material is slightly different sometimes. Musically they are very dark but uplifting at the same time – it is strange and I can’t really describe it. I find their music uplifting but not in a cheesy way. The songwriting is incredible and the reason they are still making music now is because it is very interesting.

How many times have you seen them live?

Off the top of my head I would say around 15. The first time I had a chance to see them was after their (first) comeback on the ‘Lifelines’ tour. For whatever reason – as a family we didn’t have the money or I wasn’t able to travel – I hadn’t been able to see them before that. Now as an adult I have the ability to travel so always catch them when they are over here. I haven’t seen an overseas concert yet – that’s one of the things I would like to do but it can be a bit difficult during the football season.

Are you excited about their latest comeback (the interview was done shortly after the release of ‘Cast In Steel’)?

Hugely. For me it’s a chance to hear their music again. The three of them together is what I crave. I have really enjoyed the new album and am pleased to see them touring again. I would love to see more albums and music.

The London gig in March 2016 is during an international break from domestic football so is that a potential one you could attend?

Absolutely! I don’t know what gig I am going to be at but I’m going to be at one, if not more, UK gig. I like seeing them live. I think they have got better and better through time. The chance to hear Morten’s voice… I’ll definitely be there.

What do your players/did your team-mates think of your musical taste?

I don’t think my players at AFC Bournemouth have a clue. In all honesty I don’t think any have heard of a-ha so there’s no embarrassment there. My team-mates [when I played] used to give me some stick but because I pushed it on them quite a bit – and tried to get them to like the band – a couple of them ended up liking them, although probably discreetly. I don’t think they would ever admit it to me but I did see a couple of CDs in cars that meant they were following them as well. [Pushing it meant] when I listened to music on the team bus people would ask ‘What are you listening to? You’re listening to that (a-ha) again, aren’t you!’. Any time someone is in my car that’s what I have on and I will try and force it on them – especially my best friends. Get them to hear what I hear and it’s a frustration when they don’t like it.

When you listened on the team bus it was in effect your motivational device pre-match?

Yes, listening to a-ha was what I used as motivation. I found their music inspiring and motivational and had no problem listening to certain tunes before a game to get me in the mood to go and play.

You were invited to go on BBC Radio Five Live to meet a-ha on 1st September 2015 but couldn’t because it was transfer deadline day. You must have cursed football that day!

I didn’t know about it until afterwards. I was incredibly busy that day and then somebody told me what had happened and I was devastated to be honest. Somebody said ‘no’ on my behalf and I would have had to have said ‘no’ anyway but I was disappointed. It’s one of those things – do you ever want to meet your idols? I have always shied away from any encounter to meet them because I’m not sure you should…but I have so much respect for them.

What are your favourite a-ha albums/songs?

Albums – I like them all and don’t think they have made a bad album. If I had to pick one I would pick Minor Earth Major Sky – I was really impressed by their comeback. I was blown away the first time I heard ‘Summer Moved On’. Off the new album I like ‘Forest Fire’ although I don’t think it’s a favourite of everyone! I was a big fan of ‘Lifelines’, ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ and ‘Hunting High And Low’ – they are the ones that stand out for me.

Eddie Howe’s interview was done as part of the research for Greg Lansdowne’s book: ‘Living A Fan’s Adventure Tale – a-ha in the eye of the beholders’ (published in 2016).


(Posted on 11 November 2021)


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