The Story of Pop: 2000 (Chapter 36)

It’s Thursday, and midday, and time once again for another revisitation of another poptastic nugget of the UK singles chart from Y2K with The Story of Pop: 2000. This week: one of the 00s biggest boybands cover an 80s classic and claim their first chart topper…

Founded by the same management team behind Steps, A1 had launched in a be-curtain-haired, colour coordinated, shiny trousered and poptastic blaze of glory in 1999, notching up four top 10 hits from their gold selling debut album Here We Come.

It was pretty commonplace around this time to see their members – but especially lead singer and heartthrob Ben Adams – winking or grinning back at you from the pages of the teen mags or on Saturday morning telly. They also had the most popular website of any major pop act in the UK, even beating the Spice Girls.

However, one thing still eluded them to that point, even though their career was only a year fresh – they hadn’t yet had a chart topping single. But as September 2000 dawned, with the launch of their second album The A List, that was all about to change.

It was suggested by their A&R guy at the time to kick off the album with a cover of a song that had been a hit fifteen years previously, itself having had a protracted route to glory. ‘Take On Me’ had been the debut single for Norwegian synth pop types A-Ha, fronted by their own resident pin-up, chisel jawed Morten Harket.

It had failed to do anything at all on its first two releases in 1984. However, a re-release, coupled with a now iconic part animated video in October 1985 saw to it that the track eventually became a massive hit all over the world, peaking at #2 here in the UK and topping the Billboard Hot 100 in America.

A1 duly gave ‘Take On Me’ a suitably poptastic update for the new millennium, with Ben hitting those infamous high notes on the chorus to perfection. And in keeping with the spirit of the original, they also saw fit to go a bit ground breaking with the accompanying promo video directed by Stuart Gosling, which saw them enter a Matrix style dimension to eradicate a deadly computer virus.

As you can see watching it above again, it may seem a bit date stamped now, but this was pretty of its time to be using such special effects in a pop video, particularly for a boyband who were still yet to leap into the big leagues. But with this release, A1 announced their true arrival in style.

Twenty years ago this very week, ‘Take On Me’ gave them their first UK number one single, becoming the fourth chart topping cover version of 2000 to outpeak the original release. At that year’s Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party, the single also won them the ‘Best Video’ award, which they duly recreated in the outfits from the video, flying over the audience (that included a pre-fame Miranda Hart) in a bit of early 00s telly pop gold.

They grabbed their second number one with ‘Same Old Brand New You‘ that November, and with a BRIT Award win for Best British Breakthrough in February 2001, A1 were now amongst the boyband A list, and would remain there even after a change of image to a more serious, play-our-own-instruments set up for the still genuinely brilliant ‘Caught In The Middle’ before their split in 2002.

They’ve since reunited as the full lineup of Ben, Mark Read, Paul Marazzi and Christian Ingebrigtsen in the last year, touring the UK (or at least they were until recent events) with Five, 911 and Damage on The Boys are Back tour. But to this week, we toast and remember their take on a true 80s pop classic, ‘Take On Me’.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2000. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments or Tweet us, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2000.

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