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Formed in early 1983 this Norwegian rock trio comprises Morten Harket (b. 14 September 1959, Kongsberg, Norway; lead vocals), Magne Furuholmen (b. 1 November 1962, Manglerud, Oslo, Norway; vocals, keyboards) and Pal Waaktaar (b. Pal Garnst , 6 September 1961, Manglerud, Oslo, Norway; vocals, guitar).
After several years spent playing in various Scandinavian bands, including Spider Empire, Soldier Blue and Bridges, they finally found the perfect pop combination and set about selling their image to the international market. Warner Brothers Records signed them, but the debut single, Take On Me, produced by Tony Mansfield, sold poorly.
Undeterred, a-ha's management elected to re-record the song with Alan Tarney at the helm. With the assistance of a brilliant promotional video (still regularly voted in many best of rock promo lists around the world), utilizing animated pencil sketches, the single reached number 1 in the USA and number 2 in the UK. The timing could not have been better, and during 1985 the trio neatly assumed the teenage pin-up pop idolatry previously bestowed on Duran Duran and Wham!. With their chiselled good looks and exotic Scandinavian accents, the band could seemingly do no wrong.
The expertly enunciated The Sun Always Shines On TV took them to the top of the UK charts and reached the US Top 20. This was followed by a world tour and a further series of UK Top 10 hits, including Train Of Thought, Hunting High And Low, I've Been Losing You and Cry Wolf (the latter two taken from their second album, Scoundrel Days).
In 1987, Pal Waaktaar was commissioned to compose the theme for the James Bond movie The Living Daylights, with John Barry. This secured the band a further Top 5 UK hit. After two essentially pop albums and acutely aware of the ephemeral power of the pin-up pop star, the band carefully attempted to make the uneasy transition to long-term success with 1988's sombre Stay On These Roads.
In 1989, Harket appeared in the Norwegian film Kamilla Og Tyven, in addition to recording a one-off single with Bjorn Eidsvag. The band's solid musicianship continued to serve them well, and their mannered vocal style brought further UK chart success in 1990 with a revival of the Everly Brothers' Crying In The Rain and the album East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon.
The follow-up album Memorial Beach included the minor hits Move To Memphis and Dark Is The Night, but failed to capture the hearts of the critics. Tensions within the band had always been high and whilst they recorded the 1994 single, Shapes That Go Together, things finally fell apart and the band split up. Rumours and gossip abounded about the reasons behind the break up but the generally held view is that Harket had been listening to record executives who advised him that he no longer need the band and should go solo which he subsequently did.
Meanwhile, Furuholmen formed Timbersound with Kjetil Bjerkestrand, while Waaktaar formed the New York-based Savoy with his wife Lauren. The trio re-formed a-ha after seven years in the late 90s and returned to the studio to record Minor Earth/Major Sky. This was both a crital and an overall commercial success with good reviews from the critics and to date selling over a million copies. Howver, the sales in various territories was patchy. Whilst they sold well in their native Norway and in Germany, the first single from it, Summer Moved On failed to break into the UK top 30 and the album wasn't even released in the US.
The follow-up album, Lifelines (2002) was also well received and this time the band extended their itinerary to support it, including a sold out gig at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
a-ha have never flirted with fashion or tried to jump on the latest
musical bandwagon. Instead, they have quietly gone about the business
of creating well crafted and memorable pop songs. Their skills at this
have produced poetry at times and helped turn the 3 minute pop song
into an art form. In that respect they have followed the path blazed by
The Beatles. Okay, some of their work has been awful but even The
Beatles wrote Yellow Submarine and the highs have far outweighed the
Home page: www.a-ha.com
|A l b u m s|
Hunting High and Low (WEA Records, 1985)
Headlines and deadlines - The hits of a-ha (WEA Records, 1991)
Minor Earth Major Sky (WEA Records, 2000)
The Singles - 1984-2004 (WEA Records, 2010)
25 - The Very Best of a-ha (WEA Records, 2010)
Ending On A High Note (The Final Concert) (Universal Music, 2011)