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The trio, composed of lead vocalist Morten Harket, guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (Pål Waaktaar until his marriage in 1994) and keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, formed in 1982 and left Norway for London in order to make a career in the music business. They chose the studios of musician, producer and soon-to-be-manager John Ratcliff, because it had a Space Invaders machine. The origin of the name "a-ha" comes from the lyrics of an early song ("Nothing To It"). 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.

"Take on Me" and "Hunting High and Low"

"Take on Me" was the first song Morten Harket heard Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar play. At that time the song was called "Lesson One". After multiple re-recordings and two failed releases, "Take on Me" became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1985 and was the second best-selling single in 1985.
The first release of the song in 1984 was not a major success, but after a few songs were remixed by producer Alan Tarney a year later, it 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 one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and number two in the UK Singles Chart.
Sales were aided in the U.S. by a music video on MTV that may have been inspired by the truck chase scene from Terry Gilliam's movie Brazil, and the climactic scene from the Ken Russell film Altered States.
The video used a pencil-sketch animation / live action combination called Rotoscoping (where individual frames of video are drawn over or colored).
At the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards "Take on Me" won in six categories. It was also nominated for Best Video Of The Year at the 1986 American Music Awards.

The a-ha's second single was "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.". In the U.S., the song peaked at number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number seventeen on Radio & Records airplay chart. In addition, the music video for the song won in two categories at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.

a-ha's American success culminated in their 1986 Grammy nomination in a coveted Best New Artist category which was eventually won by Sade.

"The Sun Always Shines on TV" turned out to be a-ha's last Billboard 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 there as a one-hit wonder. In the UK (and much of the rest of the world), 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 one. In Australia, as in the UK, a-ha had continued success with "The Sun Always Shines on TV" and were consistently popular throughout the 1980s.

The 1985 album Hunting High and Low, containing "Take on Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on TV," was a worldwide bestseller. In the U.S. it sold more than a million copies and acquired platinum certification by RIAA.
As of 2005, Hunting High and Low has sold 10 million copies worldwide.

First phase (1986-1994)

a-ha's second album was Scoundrel Days (1986) and represented a move towards alternative rock as synthpop began to fall out of style. a-ha won eight MTV awards in 1986.[1] In 1987, they provided the title song for the James Bond film The Living Daylights. Stay on These Roads (1988) received more mixed reviews than the previous albums. In spite of a drastic decline in sales in the next few years, a-ha continued to record two more albums, East of the Sun, West of the Moon (1990) and Memorial Beach (1993). 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 Brazil. 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 gathering a paying audience of 198,000 people at Maracanã Stadium - a world record for paying audiences [1] . George Michael, Prince and Guns N' Roses managed to gather only sixty thousand each.

In February 1994, a-ha performed two concerts during the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, followed by tours of South Africa and Norway. a-ha were also chosen to compose the official song for the Winter Paralympics in Lillehammer, 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 summer 1994 and the members started focusing on solo projects.

Solo careers

Paul Waaktaar-Savoy has released five albums with his wife Lauren Savoy and their band Savoy.

Morten Harket has released three solo albums. Among them is Wild Seed which sold around 200,000 copies in Norway and half a million altogether. It is the best-selling a-ha solo project to date.

Magne Furuholmen has developed a reputation as a sculptor, painter, and has made music for films and television. In 2004, he released his first solo album proper, Past Perfect Future Tense, backed by members of Coldplay, who are big fans of a-ha. In recent times, he was commissioned by the Norwegian government to design a postage stamp.

Second phase (1998-present)

After a very well-received performance of "The Sun Always Shines on TV" and a new song, "Summer Moved On", at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 1998, the band returned to the studio and recorded 2000's Minor Earth Major Sky, which resulted in a new tour, and a videocast performance of a-ha (with Briskeby) opening the new Vallhall stadium in Oslo. "a-ha on the net" in 2001 from Valhall, was the third most-viewed webcast concert ever as 3.6 million hits were recorded, half a million with an average viewing time of 28 minutes. The average viewing time was the longest for a webcast concert. Only webcasts by Madonna and Paul McCartney recorded more hits. Sales of this album and 2002's Lifelines showed that their fanbase was still there, and also that they were able to attract new audiences, especially in Central Europe and Scandinavia, where the albums sold extremely well. They appeared again at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in 2001. a-ha's music video for the song, " I Wish I Cared " was the first fully web-based animated flash music video to be made available.

In 2001, the song "Velvet" was used in the film One Night at McCool's and also featured on the soundtrack. When the DVD version of the film was released, the music video was included as one of the special features. A live album (from their 2002 tour) with the title How Can I Sleep With Your Voice in My Head? was released in March of 2003, preceded by a live single of the 1986 classic "The Sun Always Shines on TV".

In 2004, an in-depth book entitled The Swing Of Things was published, also featuring a CD of early demo material. In 2004, 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. Over their career, a-ha have officially released 32 singles. 13 of these became top ten singles in the UK, and 14 singles have been number one on the radio lists over the world. The compilation included some of the highlights from a-ha’s last 20 years.

On July 2, 2005, a-ha performed at the Live 8 Berlin concert. Following music legend and former Beach Boy Brian Wilson, a-ha took the stage in Berlin in front of an audience of nearly 200,000 people. They started out with "Hunting High and Low," with the requisite audience participation near the end. "Take on Me" got the crowd moving really hard, however, Morten Harket had severe difficulties hearing himself and requested a two minutes break, which he used to comment on the cause of Live 8 and the "Long Walk to Justice". The intended two minute break became an almost seven minute break and the third song, "Summer Moved On", became the last of their set, although four songs had been rehearsed. a-ha's allotted time had run out and the organizers told them to leave the stage. Following the concert, Magne Furuholmen said that indeed they had had some technical difficulties. "That is normal in a festival this size. In the end, the audience wanted more when we left the stage, so hopefully we did our bit for the overall success of the event", he commented.

On September 12, a-ha returned to the U.S. (at Irving Plaza in New York City) for the band's first concert on American soil since 1986. A short impromptu performance of "Take on Me" occurred on September 11 in Times Square. On August 27, 2005, the band played a concert for 120,000 people in Frognerparken in Oslo, the largest concert ever in Norway.

On November 4, 2005, the band released its new studio album, Analogue. The first single "Celice" was released on October 4 in mainland Europe. Later that same month, a tour followed, with concerts in Brussels, France, Germany and the UK. While the first UK release of the track, "Analogue (All I Want)" followed in the UK, January 2006, giving a-ha its first top ten hit in the UK since 1988. More dates were added to the tour, including a gig at London's Shepherd's Bush on 2 February 2006, a TV special in Africa and a festival gig in Chile.

The third single in Europe (second in the UK) from the Analogue-album was the Magne Furuholmen penned "Cosy Prisons", already a live-staple in the band's set.

Their upcoming tour will take them to Norway, London,Berlin (IFA) and Russia. Despite the success of the Irving Plaza show the previous year, and much to the dismay of their United States fan base, the band have no Canadian or American dates scheduled, or even a domestic release of Analogue.

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 - The Amnesty International Campaign to save Darfur".

Fans in the United States and Canada are keeping their hopes up. There are plans for a new album to be released in spring of 2008, and a tour will likely follow. Many fans hope they will again tour the States.

On 30 October 2006 in London, a-ha received the prestigious Q Inspiration Award for its long contribution to music and for inspiring many of their younger colleagues in the business.

On 19 June 2007, a-ha revealed that the new Savoy album is finished, recorded and mastered. It is called Savoy Songbook Vol. 1, and will work as an introduction to the band outside Norway. The band had been in the studio and had recorded new versions of songs from the previous albums, as well as three brand new songs.

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.

Morten Harket has completed a new English language album, "Letters from Egypt", due for release in March 2008 in Norway only. Releases in the remaining Scandinavian countries are highly likely.


a-ha has sold 81 million records (including singles) worldwide.

Main article: a-ha discography

Studio albums

* Hunting High and Low (1985)
* Scoundrel Days (1986)
* Stay on These Roads (1988)
* East of the Sun, West of the Moon (1990)
* Memorial Beach (1993)
* Minor Earth Major Sky (2000)
* Lifelines (2002)
* Analogue (2005)

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