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A-ha (stylized a-ha; Norwegian pronunciation: ['??h?\]) was a Norwegian band formed in Oslo in 1982.
The band was founded by Morten Harket (vocals), Magne Furuholmen (keyboards) and Pål Waaktaar (guitars).
The group initially rose to fame during the mid-1980s after being discovered by musician and producer John Ratcliff, and had continued global success in the 1990s and 2000s.A-ha achieved their biggest success with their debut album, Hunting High and Low, in 1985.
That album peaked at number 1 in their native Norway, number 2 in the UK, and number 15 on the U.S.
Billboard album chart; yielded two international number-one singles, "Take on Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on T.V."; and earned the band a Grammy Award nomination as Best New Artist.
In the UK, Hunting High and Low continued its chart success into the following year, becoming one of the best-selling albums of 1986.
In 1994, after their fifth studio album, Memorial Beach, failed to achieve the commercial success of their previous albums, the band went on a hiatus.Following a performance at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 1998, the band returned to the studio and recorded their sixth album, 2000's Minor Earth Major Sky, which was another number-one hit in Norway and resulted in a new tour.
A seventh studio album, Lifelines, was released in 2002, and an eighth album, Analogue, in 2005, was certified Silver in the UK — their most successful album there since 1990's East of the Sun, West of the Moon.
Their ninth album, Foot of the Mountain, was first released on 19 June 2009 and returned the band to the UK Top 5 for the first time since 1988, being certified Silver there and Platinum in Germany.
The album peaked at number 2 in Norway (their first release not to reach number 1 in their home territory).
On 15 October 2009, the band announced they would split after a worldwide tour in 2010, the Ending on a High Note tour.
Thousands of fans from at least 40 different countries on six continents congregated to see A-ha for the last time.The band has sold more than 60 million albums and 15 million singles worldwide.
In less than a year, during 2010, the band earned an estimated 500 million Norwegian Kroner on touring tickets, merchandising and the release of a greatest hits album, making them one of the 40–50 largest grossing bands in the world.FormationThe trio—composed of lead vocalist Morten Harket; guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (previously known as Pål Waaktaar until 1994); and keyboardist Magne Furuholmen (informally known as "Mags"), formed in 1982 and left Norway for London in order to make a career in the music business.They were trying to think of what to call themselves, focusing on Norwegian words people could say in English.
They jettisoned that idea when Morten spotted a song called "A-ha" in Waaktaar's songbook.
"It was a terrible song but a great name," says Morten.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 too.
Slater and Ratcliff formed T.J.
Ratcliff dealt with technical and musical aspects, and Slater acted as the group's international business manager and as liaison to Warner Brothers' head office in Los Angeles.Hunting High and Low (1984–1985)An early version of "Take on Me" was the first song that Morten Harket had heard Magne Furuholmen and Pål Waaktaar play in Asker.
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.
The song was then re-recorded with production by Alan Tarney, but both of these releases failed to chart.
It was then re-released with a new, groundbreaking video which 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.
The song's popularity earned the band a spot on the American television series Soul Train in 1985, making them one of the few white artists to appear on the black music-oriented show.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 and Best Video of the Year.
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 separate videos.
In successive years, even as the award categories have expanded, only a few artists 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 their number one hit single, 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 triple platinum status in the UK, and reached platinum status in the US and Germany, while earning gold 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 peaked at number 2 on the UK charts, and it spent 38 weeks in the top 10 in Norway, 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 had three singles become international hits, the album's sales (6.4 million copies) did not match those of its predecessor (except for Switzerland, 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 toured in the U.S., its last appearance there for 20 years.
The album has been certified platinum in the UK, Switzerland and Brazil, and it's earned gold certification in Germany.
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-two chart peak of its two predecessors on the British album charts.
Stay on These Roads has been certified Platinum in Brazil and France, and Gold in Switzerland, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands.
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.
"Stay on These Roads" and "The Living Daylights" would remain a part of their live set throughout the rest of the band's history.
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 were very popular in South America, especially in Brazil, 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 Maracanã stadium for their top-billed evening concert—a Guinness World Record for paying audiences.
In contrast, the other performers (George Michael, Prince, and Guns N' Roses) each drew less than a third of that audience, 60,000 each.
In a 2009 interview from Cody Eide 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.
"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 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.Their last album before their hiatus was Memorial Beach, in 1993.
Relative to previous releases, the album was a commercial disappointment.
The only single from the album to officially chart outside Norway was "Dark Is the Night", which peaked at number 19 in the United Kingdom.
Memorial Beach is notably the last official American release by A-ha to date, although their material has continued to have limited availability there as imports.
Despite the commercial reception, Q magazine listed the album as one of the 50 best albums of 1993.
The following February, A-ha performed two concerts during the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, followed by tours of South Africa and Norway.
A-ha was also chosen to compose the official song for the Winter Paralympic Games in Lillehammer, which they entitled "Shapes That Go Together".A-ha entered a hiatus period in 1994, and band members then focused on solo projects.Reunion (1998–2007)The band was invited to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert 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 that was 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 Oslo on the 24 and 25 March 2001.
That 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, also produced and filmed by Chris Frampton's international webcaster MediaWave, recorded more hits.
A-ha's video for "I Wish I Cared" was one of the first fully web-based animated flash music video to be made available.
(The first was Duran Duran's flash video for the 2000 song "Someone Else Not Me".) The album reached platinum status, with sales of 1.5 million copies, and spawned four singles: "Summer Moved On", "Minor Earth Major Sky", "Velvet" and "The Sun Never Shone That Day".
"Summer Moved On" went to No. 1 in 17 countries.
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 Concert in 2001.
The subsequent album, Lifelines, was released in 2002, going platinum in Norway and producing two Top 5 hits, "Forever Not Yours" and "Lifelines".
Jesper Hiro directed the video for "Lifelines", based on the short film A Year Along the Abandoned Road, which was directed by Morten Skallerud in 1991.
The original short film was 12 minutes long; it shows a whole year passing by in one shot at 50,000 times the normal speed.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 Berlin 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", during which Morten Harket had difficulties hearing himself when his in-ear monitor failed: he 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 Plaza in New York City, the band's first concert in North America since 1986 despite not having released any material there since 1993.
On 27 August 2005, the band played a concert for 120,000 people in Frogner Park 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 (All I Want)" 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 song "Celice" became the band's ninth to go No. 1 on a major national chart, and its music video sparked criticism for its sexual content.
The following tour included 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 "No. 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, twenty-five years after its first release, A-ha won the Norwegian Spellemann award for Hit of All Time for "Take on Me" on the 50th anniversary of the official hit list in Norway.A new direction and farewell (2008–2010)On 20–22 May 2008, Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy performed concerts in Oslo, 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 Hall on 24 May.On 24 April 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 22 May in Germany.
The band promoted the song by playing it during the final of Germany's Next Topmodel on 21 May in the Lanxess Arena, Cologne.Foot of the Mountain, A-ha's ninth studio album, was released in Europe on 19 June 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, was re-recorded for the album.
Foot of the Mountain entered the German album chart at number 1, the UK album chart at number 5 and debuted on European Album Sales Chart at number 8.
In January 2010, Foot of the Mountain was certified platinum in Germany."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 included 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 would split after a worldwide concert tour in 2010 ending in Oslo, Norway, at the Oslo Spektrum arena on 4 December 2010, with ticket sales starting the next day.
The concert sold out the first day on sale.
On 19 October 2009, a second farewell show was announced for 3 December 2010.To coincide with their split, the band released The Singles: 1984 – 2004 in the USA and re-released deluxe versions of their first two albums (Hunting High and Low and Scoundrel Days) as well as a third and final compilation album, a new live DVD and a re-release of the book The Swing of Things by Jan Omdahl.
A new single titled "Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah)" was revealed on 14 June 2010 and released as a single on 5 July to promote the new, double CD compilation, 25.
It was announced that this was to be A-ha's last ever recording.On 6 July 2010, the albums Hunting High and Low and Scoundrel Days were released as deluxe editions in the USA through Rhino Records, featuring remixes, B-sides, demo versions, and extensive liner notes.
Available in 2-disc CD and digital versions (with additional material), both albums debuted in the top 40 Billboard Top Internet Sales Chart, Hunting High and Low at number 34 and Scoundrel Days at number 36.Furuholmen revealed in an interview published in Magasinet, the magazine section of Norway's third largest newspaper, Dagbladet, that he's suffering from a heart disease.
The news was picked up the same day by the electronic music magazine Side-Line.At the Spellemannprisen award show on 5 March 2011 in Oslo, Norway, various Norwegian artists from various music genres including Kaizers Orchestra, Ida Maria and Bertine Zetlitz performed a cover of one of A-ha's biggest hits, "The Sun Always Shines on TV", in honor of the band.
After the performance, the band received the Spellemannprisen honorary award handed out by A-ha's Norwegian music colleagues with the words "Our Heroes – Once upon a time, now – still and forever".A-ha's final concerts in Oslo, Norway, were recorded by 10 HD cameras with digital, surround-sound audio.
Ending on a High Note Live, mixed by Toby Alington, will be available beginning April 2011 in several formats, including the band's first Blu-ray release.
A single-disc live album on CD culls sixteen tracks, while twenty tracks are featured on the Blu-ray, DVD, and deluxe edition double-CD set, which comes with a DVD.
A bonus documentary appears in the deluxe set and Blu-ray versions.
An NTSC version will be available for the U.S.
and Japan.On 1 April 2011, A-ha released the DVD as well as the Box-set containing both the DVD and the CD of their last concert, Ending on a High Note - The Final Concert.
The Blu-ray of the concert; however, was released on 11 April 2011.A-ha played together for the very last time at Oslo Spektrum on 21 August 2011, performing the song "Stay on These Roads" for a national memorial service dedicated to the victims of the 2011 Norway attacks.A-ha awarded Royal Norwegian Order of St.
OlavThe three members of A-ha, Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar Savoy, were appointed Knights of the 1st Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St.
Olav for their contribution to Norwegian music.
The Royal Norwegian Order of St.
Olav is granted as a reward for distinguished services to their country and mankind.
The official ceremony took place on 6 November 2012.Legacy and impactA-ha is the biggest music export from Norway.
The success started in 1985 and by the end of 2010 A-ha was still the biggest-selling band from Norway.
The band were in many ways pioneers.
Before A-ha there was no one that had managed to be commercially successful around the world from Norway.
Even though Norway has fostered several successful acts after A-ha, the band is still considered to be in a league all by its own in Norway.
The band has had huge success in the USA and UK, however perhaps even more success in non English-speaking areas of the world, such as Germany, France and South American countries, Brazil in particular.
In 1986, A-ha received 8 MTV Video Music Awards during one award show.
Their music video for the song "Take on Me" is still considered to be one of the top music videos of all time together with Michael Jackson's "Thriller".
In 1986, Michael Jackson was in the audience at their first US concert.
He later invited the band to his Neverland Ranch, an offer the band had to decline due to work overload.
In the early years their fan base consisted of a lot of teens, however with the band progress in music and songwriting capabilities the fan base has become much more diverse and now consist of fans from all age groups and genres.The band has sold some estimated 80 million records (albums and singles).
They are the only non-British, non-American performers who have written and performed a 007 James Bond official theme song – "The Living Daylights" from the movie with the same title.
Songs by A-ha have also been included as background music in episodes of popular television series, such as Family Guy, Baywatch, Melrose Place, South Park, Smallville, Cougar Town, Chuck, "Private Practice (TV series)" and The Simpsons, as well as in promotions for shows like Dance Moms .
Their music has also been featured in movies such as One Night at McCool's, Grosse Pointe Blank and Corky Romano.
They have a Guinness World Record from 1991 for drawing the largest paying audience at a popconcert with 198,000 people at the Estádio do Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
In 2006 the band was awarded the Q Awards Inspiration Award.In Fall of 2013, "Take on Me" is being used as a central element in a Volkswagen commercial promoting the Jetta lifetime maintenance program.A-ha has influenced bands such as Coldplay and Keane.
They are just a few of A-ha's international colleagues that in later years has commented on A-ha and shared their enthusiasm for the band.
Most notably perhaps is Chris Martin and Coldplay; " Everyone asks us who has inspired Coldplay, who we have stolen from, who we listened to when we grew up.
Such questions remind you of what has formed you and had an impact on you.
One of the first bands I loved was a-ha".
"I was in Amsterdam the other day and I put on the album Hunting High and Low.
I remembered right there and then how much I loved that album.
It's just unbelievable songwriting."(Chris Martin, Coldplay).
Other notable comments on A-ha; "They are definitely my favorites this summer.
Their last CD (Minor Earth Major Sky) is just fantastic, and how the vocalist sings!" (Sarah Brightman in 2001).
"A-ha was always kind of a misunderstood band in my ears.
They were perceived as a teenage group for girls, but in reality a very creative band." (Adam Clayton, U2 – 2000).
"A-ha is a great band, and the songs that I did backing vocals for ("Over the treetops" & "Cosy Prisons") is very good.
Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it, because this isn’t something that I need to do.
It all depends on how I feel about it.
That’s how privileged I am"' (Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young).
"What they did back in the day was very groundbreaking ...
Not only the record, but the video was amazing" (Pitbull)Christina Aguilera and Pitbull performed the song "Feel This Moment" which contains sampling of A-ha's "Take On Me" live at the MGM Grand during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards with a surprise appearance from Morten Harket.A-ha's songs have been covered or sampled by several artists in many genres, including such varied as pop, rock, dance, electronica, country, goth rock, metal, Latin, techno, punk, jazz, folk, house, lullabies, classical-crossover and various instrumental versions.
The band's songs have also been covered in various languages.
This small cover selection section is by no means complete:For a more extensive list of artists that have done cover versions of a-ha's songs, go to a-ha's discography.AwardsFollowing the success of their debut, the band was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1986 but did not win.
A-ha did win eight MTV Video Music Awards, six for "Take on Me" and two for "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.".
"Take on Me" was also nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Video at the American Music Awards of 1986.
A-ha has won 10 Spellemannprisen awards, the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammy awards.
Take On Me
The Sun Always Shines On TV
Hunting High And Low
Feel This Moment
Stay On These Roads
The Living Daylights
I've Been Losing You
Take on Me
You Are The One
Crying In The Rain