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a-ha is a synthpop/rock band from Norwaymarker, formed in 1982. The group initially rose to fame during the 1980s and has had continued global success in the 1990s and 2000s. The band is the best-selling Norwegian music artist in history.

a-ha achieved its biggest success with their debut album, Hunting High and Low, in 1985. Hunting High and Low peaked at number 15 on the Billboard charts and yielded an international number-one single, "Take on Me", earning the band a Grammy Award nomination as Best New Artist. Hunting High and Low was one of the best-selling albums of 1986. In 1994, the band went on a hiatus, the same year a-ha reached a sales number of 26 million albums sold worldwide. After a performance at the Nobel Peace Prize Concertmarker in 1998, the band returned to the studio and recorded 2000's Minor Earth Major Sky, which resulted in a new tour. By 2000, they had reached 36 million albums sold worldwide plus a double figure million singles. In 2002 the band released its seventh studio album Lifelines. Their 2005 album Analogue was certified silver and was their most successful album in the UK since 1990's East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Their 9th album, Foot of the Mountain, was released on 19 June 2009 (release date different in some countries). On 15 October 2009, the band announced their split after a planned worldwide tour in 2010, (more specifically after their two farewell shows in Oslomarker) 3 and 4 December 2010.On 19 October the tour's name was announced as Ending On A High Note.



The trio—composed of lead vocalist Morten Harket; guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (Pål Waaktaar until his marriage in 1994); and keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, also known as "Mags (2)"—formed in 1982 and left Norway for Londonmarker in order to make a career in the music business. They chose the studio of musician, producer, and soon-to-be-manager John Ratcliff because it had a Space Invaders machine. John Ratcliff introduced them to his manager, Terry Slater, and after a few meetings, a-ha enlisted Ratcliff as manager as well. Slater and Ratcliff formed T.J. Management. Ratcliff dealt with technical and musical aspects, and Slater acted as the group's international business manager and as liaison to Warner Brothers's head office in Los Angeles.

The origin of the name "a-ha" comes from a title that Paul contemplated giving to a song. The song used the words "a-ha" and "ahem". Morten was looking through Paul's notebook and came across the name "a-ha". He liked it and said, "That's a great name. That's what we should call ourselves". After checking dictionaries in several languages, they found out that a-ha was an international way of expressing recognition, with positive connotations. It was short, easy to say, and unusual.

Hunting High and Low (1984–1985)

An early version of "Take on Me" was the first song that Morten Harket heard Magne Furuholmen and Pål Waaktaar play in Askermarker. At that time, the song was called "The Juicy Fruit Song", and the two men were still known as Bridges. It was named "Lesson One" when it was first recorded by a-ha. After some rewriting, multiple re-recordings, and three releases, "Take on Me" became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1985 and was the second-best-selling single of 1985. The first version of the song, released in 1984, was promoted by a now-rare video of the band performing the song in front of a blue background. Both the original recording and video were failures. The song was re-recorded with production by Alan Tarney but failed to light up the charts. It was then re-released with a new, groundbreaking video and ultimately sold 1.5 million copies worldwide in one week. Eventually, the single "Take on Me" was estimated to have sold 7–9 million copies worldwide; it peaked at number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. a-ha became the first Norwegian band to have a number 1 song in the U.S.Sales were aided in the U.S. by heavy rotation on MTV of the new music video, which may have been inspired not only by the truck-chase scene from Terry Gilliam's film Brazil but also by the climactic scene from Ken Russell's film Altered States.The video used a pencil-sketch animation / live-action combination called rotoscoping, in which individual frames of live video are drawn over or colored. It became one of the most instantly recognizable and most enduringly popular music videos in the U.S., where it was nominated for eight awards at the third annual MTV Video Awards in 1986, winning six, including Best New Artist in a Video, Best Concept Video, Best Direction, Best Special Effects, and Viewer's Choice. "Take on Me" was also nominated for Best Video of the Year at the 1986 American Music Awards. Their six MTV Award wins for that video gave them twice as many wins as Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and more than any artist in the three years of the awards combined.

But those were not a-ha's only MTV awards that year. The band's second single was "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.". In the U.S., the song peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number 17 on Radio & Records airplay chart. A remix version was a club hit, rising to number 5 on the Hot Dance Singles Sales chart. The music video for the song was another popular and critical success, nominated in three categories at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards and winning two awards, for Best Cinematography and Best Editing, bringing a-ha's total to eleven nominations and eight wins. The following year, Peter Gabriel would earn thirteen nominations and win nine awards, also for two videos. In successive years, even as the award categories have expanded, only a few artsts have approached—and none has surpassed—the single-year award totals of a-ha and Gabriel.

a-ha's American success culminated in their 1986 Grammy nomination in the coveted Best New Artist category, which was eventually won by Sade. "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." turned out to be a-ha's last Hot 100 Top 40 single, and to this day in the United States, a-ha is remembered by the general public almost entirely because of the singularly huge success of "Take on Me". As such, the band is frequently considered a one-hit wonder there, despite their two Top 40 hits. In the UK, however, the story was very different: "The Sun Always Shines on TV" was an even bigger hit among British fans than "Take on Me", peaking at number 1. In the UK, a-ha enjoyed continued success with two more hit singles from the same album—"Train Of Thought" and "Hunting High And Low" (with another innovative video)—and the band remained popular throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

The band's first album, 1985's Hunting High and Low, became a worldwide bestseller, spending most of October and November in the top 20 of Billboard's Top 200 album chart. The album and its four hit singles garnered international recognition for a-ha. Hunting High and Low earned platinum status in the United States, UK, and Germany and earned gold status in Brazil and the Netherlands. Hunting High and Low has sold 11 million copies worldwide. The album peaked at number 15 in the U.S., according to Billboard music charts, and has sold about 1.8 million copies in the U.S. It peaked at number 2 on the UK charts, and it spent 38 weeks in the top 10 in Norwaymarker, including 8 weeks at number 1.

Golden Age (1985–1994)

a-ha's second album, Scoundrel Days, was released in the midst of the 1986 world tour and represented a move towards alternative rock, as synthpop began to fall out of style. Although the album received favorable reviews and sent three singles to become international radio hits, the album's sales did not match those of its predecessor (except for Switzerlandmarker, where it is a-ha's best-selling album). "Cry Wolf" would be the last a-ha single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. After the release of the album, a-ha went to tour in the U.S., its last appearance there for 20 years. The album has sold 6.4 million copies worldwide, has been certified platinum in the UK and Switzerland, and has been certified gold in Germany and Brazil. Ned Raggett of AllMusic Guide would later write of the album, "The opening two songs alone make for one of the best one-two opening punches around: the tense edge of the title track, featuring one of Morten Harket's soaring vocals during the chorus and a crisp, pristine punch in the music, and 'The Swing of Things,' a moody, elegant number with a beautiful synth/guitar arrangement (plus some fine drumming courtesy of studio pro Michael Sturgis) and utterly lovelorn lyrical sentiments that balance on the edge of being overheated without quite going over...The '80s may be long gone, but Scoundrel Days makes clear that not everything was bad back then."

In May 1988, a-ha released their third studio album, titled Stay On These Roads, which matched the number-2 chart peak of its two predecessors on the British album charts. Stay on These Roads became a big hit and is now the best-selling a-ha album in Brazil, where it is certified platinum. The album has been certified gold in Switzerlandmarker, Germanymarker, UK, and the Netherlandsmarker. The album includes the title-track theme song to the James Bond film The Living Daylights. The version that appears on their album is a re-recording of the film version and single. The band has said that they are particularly proud of the title track, and all three members contributed to its writing. To this day, "Stay On These Roads" and "The Living Daylights" are a part of their live set. After the release of the album, the band went on a 74-city world tour. The album has sold more than 4.2 million copies worldwide.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon featured a cover version of The Everly Brothers' 1963 single, "Crying in the Rain". In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a-ha was very popular in South America, especially in Brazilmarker, where the band sold out some of the largest stadiums in the world. At the Rock in Rio II festival in January 1991, a-ha shocked the international entertainment press by drawing an audience of 198,000 at Maracaña Stadium for their top-billed evening concert—a Guinness World Record for paying audiences. In contrast, George Michael, Prince, and Guns N' Roses drew only 60,000 each. In a recent interview in Musicweek, celebrating a-ha's upcoming 25-year anniversary, the band members revealed that the record-breaking concert and the lack of media attention they received were a devastating blow to the band. The 1991 Rock In Rio festival, which should have been the band's crowning achievement was, instead, a moment of crushing disappointment. The nine-day event featured mega-headliners including Guns N’ Roses, George Michael and Prince, but it was a-ha's show at the Maracaña Stadium that drew the Guinness World Record–breaking crowd of 198,000—the largest paying audience ever. “MTV interviewed everybody except us”, remembers Waaktar-Savoy. “They were all calling their bosses and saying, ‘We must cover a-ha; it’s the only night that has sold out'. But they weren’t allowed to”. “I felt very alienated”, says Furuholmen. "It made us feel hopeless. We played to the biggest crowd in the world, and they ignored it.”

"East of the Sun, West of the Moon" was certified gold in Switzerland, Brazil, and Germany and was certified silver in the UK. Steven McDonald of AllMusic said of their fourth album, "This is a nicely crafted collection of songs, performed and sung beautifully, with lots of echoes and suggestions tucked into the music. While not an album one can discuss at length, it's an album that's a pleasure to listen to." The album sold 3.2 million copies worldwide.

The compilation album "Headlines and Deadlines" sold more than 2 million copies worldwide.

Their last album before their hiatus was "Memorial Beach" in 1993. The album was a commercial failure, with sales of 1.2 million copies. The only single to officially chart outside Norwaymarker was "Dark Is the Night", which went top 20 in the United Kingdommarker. Ironically, given the lack of attention to their later work in the U.S., "Dark Is the Night" nearly charted on the U.S. Hot 100, peaking at #11 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, a position often construed as being #111 in reference to the Hot 100. "Memorial Beach" is the last official American release by a-ha to date, though their material has continued to have (limited) availability there as imports. In February 1994, a-ha performed two concerts during the Winter Olympics in Lillehammermarker, Norwaymarker, followed by tours of South Africa and Norway. a-ha was also chosen to compose the official song for the Winter Paralympics in Lillehammermarker, which they entitled "Shapes That Go Together". Because of apparent internal conflicts between the band members and conflicts with the record label at the time , a-ha took a break in 1994, and the members started focusing on solo projects.

Reunion (1998–2007)

a-ha live at Cologne, 20 October 2005
The band was invited to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize Concertmarker in 1998. Paul wrote "Summer Moved On" especially for this performance. They also performed "The Sun Always Shines on TV." This performance was a-ha's comeback into the world of music, yet the band's set was controversially omitted from a programme of highlights from that concert televised in the UK. Nevertheless, the band returned to the studio. Those recording sessions resulted in 2000's "Minor Earth Major Sky", an international tour, and a webcast performance of the band opening the new Vallhall Arena in Oslomarker on the 24th and 25th March 2001. The webcast was the third most-viewed webcast concert ever with 3.6 million hits, along with the longest average viewing time--28 minutes. Only webcasts by Madonna and Paul McCartney recorded more hits. a-ha's video for "I Wish I Cared" was the first fully web-based animated flash music video to be made available. The album reached platinum sales, with sales of 2.5 million copies and spawned four #1 hits: "Minor Earth Major Sky," "Velvet," "The Sun Never Shone That Day" and "Summer Moved On." "Summer Moved On" is notable not only for going to #1 in 17 countries, but for earning Morten Harket a world record for the longest note held in a UK hit song, at twenty seconds. With the music video for the song "Velvet," a-ha received criticism for flirting with necrophilia. Paul has said of the comeback album, "We made a demo very quickly and intuitively, and that gave us the contract. But then we were at the next stage: is it a record? There wasn't any panic, it was only about the final most difficult fractions, coming up with the finishing touch. In fact, some of the songs were untouched since New York. I think we did a good job."

a-ha made a return appearance at the Nobel Peace Prize Concertmarker in 2001. The subsequent album "Lifelines", which was released in 2002, went platinum in Norway and produced two Top 5 hits, "Forever Not Yours" and "Lifelines". Jesper Hiro directed the video for "Lifelines" which was originally 12 minutes long. The end result shows a whole year passing by in one shot at 50 000 times the normal speed. The art film on which it was based, "A Year along the Abandoned Road," was directed by Morten Skallerud in 1991.

A live album from their 2002 tour, titled "How Can I Sleep with Your Voice in My Head", was released in March 2003, preceded by a live single of the 1986 hit "The Sun Always Shines on TV." In 2004, a book entitled "The Swing of Things" was published, which also featured a CD of early demo material. That year a-ha celebrated their twentieth anniversary with the release of a new singles collection, "The Definitive Singles Collection 1984–2004". This compilation brought them back into the UK Top 20 Album Charts, where they reached number thirteen and earned a Gold album.

On 2 July 2005, a-ha performed at the Berlinmarker edition of Live 8, in front of an audience of nearly 200,000 people. They began with "Hunting High and Low", followed by "Take on Me", however Morten Harket had difficulties hearing himself and requested a two-minute break, which he used to comment on the cause of Live 8. The intended two minutes became almost seven, and the third song, "Summer Moved On," became the last of their set. Although four songs had been rehearsed, the band's time had run out and the organizers told them to leave the stage.

On 12 September 2005, a-ha played a quickly-sold-out show at Irving Plazamarker in New York Citymarker, the band's first concert in North America since 1986. The band has not returned to North America since, nor have they released anything there since 1993. On 27 August 2005, the band played a concert for 120,000 people in Frogner Parkmarker in Oslo, the largest concert ever in Norway.

On 4 November 2005, the band released its 8th studio album, "Analogue". The UK release of the single "Analogue " gave a-ha their first top ten hit in the UK since 1988. The album includes a guest appearance by Graham Nash of Crosby Stills & Nash performing back-up vocals on the songs "Over the treetops" and "Cosy Prisons". The video for the song "Celice" sparked criticism for its sexual content. The following tour included performances at a gig at London's Shepherd's Bush on 2 February 2006, and a TV special in Africa. In 2006, a-ha recorded a cover of John Lennon's "#9 Dream" for Amnesty International. It was released in June 2007 on the album "Make Some Noise." On 30 October 2006 in London, a-ha received the prestigious Q Magazine Inspiration Award for their long contribution to music and for inspiring many of their younger colleagues in the business. On 15 September 2007, a-ha played a free outdoor concert in Kiel, Germany. The band played on a floating stage in the harbour. This concert was streamed live on the internet via MSN.

On 24 January 2009, a-ha won the Norwegianmarker Spelleman award for Hit of All Time for Take On Me on the 50th anniversary of the official hit list in Norwaymarker.

A New Direction and Farewell (2008–2010)

On 20–22 May, 2008, Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy performed concerts in Oslomarker, Norway, to promote their respective solo material before coming together as a-ha to play "Train of Thought", "Take on Me", and two new songs, "Riding the Crest" and "Shadowside", which previewed the new a-ha album, Foot of the Mountain. These events led up to their performance at London's Royal Albert Hallmarker on 24 May.

On April 24, 2009, a-ha surprised their fan base by releasing their new single, "Foot of the Mountain", premiering that day on Norwegian radio. The single had been completed only the night before. The song is based upon the track "The Longest Night" by Magne Furuholmen, which was released on his album A Dot of Black In The Blue Of Your Bliss. The single was released on May 22 in Germany. The band promoted the song by playing it during the Final of Germany's Next Topmodel on May 21 in the Lanxess Arena, Cologne.

Foot of the Mountain, a-ha's ninth studio album, was released in Europe on June 19, 2009. The album's material marked a return to synth pop, similar to the band's earliest work, although the first single (and title track) was not wholly indicative of this. The band collaborated with successful producer Steve Osborne, who has produced albums for such artists as New Order, Starsailor, Doves, Elbow, and U2. "What There Is", an earlier solo track by Magne Furuholmen, aka "Mags (2)", was re-recorded for the album.Foot of the Mountain entered the German album chart at #1, the UK album chart at #5 and debuted on the Billboard European Album Sales Chart at #8.

"I feel more connected to Depeche Mode (compared with other acts of the 80s)," claimed Magne Furuholmen. a-ha performed a cover of "A Question of Lust" during a live performance for BBC Radio 2 - The Dermot O'Leary Show on 25 July 2009.

a-ha headlined the iTunes Live festival on 24 July 2009. The lineup for the festival also includes Simple Minds, Oasis, Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian and The Saturdays. All the performances were recorded and made available for download on the iTunes site as with the previous festivals. In the norwegian iTunes store a-ha's release has yet to see the light of day.

On 15 October 2009, the band announced they are to split after a worldwide concert tour in 2010. The same day their final concert was announced to take place in Oslo, Norway, at the Oslo Spektrummarker arena 4 December 2010, with ticket sales starting the next day. The concert sold out the first day on sale, 16 October. On 19 October 2009, a second farewell show was announced to be given on 3 December 2010, and on 4 November a third show was announced 2 December 2010.


After the successful release of the single "Take On Me", the band was nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy Award in 1986 but did not win; the band have never been Grammy-nominated since. a-ha has also won eight MTV Video Music Awards, for "Take On Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.". "Take On Me" won six of these awards while the other two went to "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." A-ha has also won eight Spellemannprisen awards, the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammy awards.


Studio albums

Year Title Label
1985 Hunting High and Low Warner Bros. Records
1986 Scoundrel Days
1988 Stay on These Roads
1990 East of the Sun, West of the Moon
1993 Memorial Beach
2000 Minor Earth Major Sky
2002 Lifelines
2005 Analogue Universal Music Group
2009 Foot of the Mountain


As of October 2008, a-ha have held 461 concerts around the world.

a-ha have toured in: Argentinamarker, Australia, Austriamarker, Belarusmarker, Belgiummarker, Brazilmarker, Canadamarker, Chilemarker, Denmarkmarker, Estoniamarker, Finlandmarker, Francemarker, Germanymarker, Greecemarker, Icelandmarker, Irelandmarker, Italymarker, Japanmarker, Latviamarker, Lebanonmarker, Lithuaniamarker, Netherlandsmarker, Norwaymarker, Polandmarker, Russiamarker, Senegalmarker, South Africa, Spainmarker, Swedenmarker, Switzerlandmarker, Ukrainemarker, United Kingdommarker and United Statesmarker.

  • Hunting High and Low Tour 1986–1987 (USA, Europe, Australia & Japan)
  • Stay On These Roads Tour 1988–1989 (Europe, Japan and South America)
  • Walk Under the Sun Dance Under the Moon Tour 1991 (South America)
  • East of the Sun West of the Moon Tour 1991 (Europe)
  • Memorial Beach Tour 1993–1994 (Europe, South Africa & Lebanon)
  • Minor Earth Major Sky Tour 2000–2001 (Japan, Russia & Europe)
  • Lifelines Tour 2002–2004 (Europe, Brazil & Russia)
  • Analogue Tour 2005–2007 (Europe, Russia, USA, Senegal & Chile)
  • Foot Of The Mountain Tour 2009 (Europe, South America and Japan)
  • Ending On A High Note Tour 2010 (Dates and venues TBA, only known concerts are Oslo Spektrummarker 2, 3 and 4 December 2010): (Australia, USA, Canada, South America and Europe)

a-ha has on tour, been backed up by various musicians, including some of the very best studio and touring musicians in Norway and Scandinavia. Most of them have also been involved in studio with a-ha.

Leif Karsten Johansen (Bass player) - 1986-1987,Mike Sturgis (Drums) - 1986-1987,Dag Kolsrud (Keyboards) - 1986-1987,Ian Wherry (keyboard) - 1988-1989,Randy Hope-Taylor (Bass) - 1988-1989,Matthew Lettley (Drums) - 1988-1989'Danny Gayol (Percussion) - 1988-1989,Jørun Bøgeberg (Bass) - 1991-1994,Per Hillestad (Drums) - 1991-1994,Sigurd Køhn (saxophon) - 1991-1994,Øyvind Madsen (Bass) - Africa leg of tour 1994,Sven Lindvall (Bass)- 2000-2007,Per Lindvall (Drums)- 2000-2007,Krister Karlsson (Keyboard)- 2000-2007Anneli Drecker (Backing vocals / Duet partner / Tambourine) - 2000-2002,May Kristin Kaspersen (Backing vocals / Duet partner) - Russian leg of tour 2003,Karl-Oluf Wennerberg (Drums) - 2009,Erik Ljungren (Programming / keyboards / bass) - 2009,Johnny Sjo (Bass) - On occasions between 2000-2005,Kjetil Bjerkestrand (Keyboard) - On occasions

See also


External links

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