Hailing from Oslo, A-ha took root in 1982 when keyboardist Magne Furuholmen and guitarist Pål Waaktaar-Savoy left the band Bridges to come to London and try to break into the UK’s music scene. After returning home six months later, the pair got together with vocalist Morten Harket, formerly of Souldier Blue, and started recording demos. While brainstorming Norweigan words that people could say in English, they chose the name A-ha because it was a familiar expression in any language.
The trio returned to London in 1983 and began working with producer John Ratcliff, who spotted their potential and helped get them signed to Warner Brothers. Teamed up with producer Tony Mansfield, they recorded and released the first version of their debut single Take On Me in 1984, which met with lukewarm response – and sold just 300 copies in the UK. A second version of the song that added synth-pop instrumentation was produced by Alan Tarney for their 1985 debut album Hunting High And Low.
Accompanied by a ground-breaking animated video that got worldwide exposure on MTV, Take On Me became a massive hit. The song not only reached No.2 in the UK in 1985, but also No.1 in Australia and many European countries as well as on the US Billboard Hot 100. In addition, the video went on to win six awards at the MTV Video Music Awards.
A-ha’s follow-up The Sun Always Shines On TV reached No.1 on the UK singles chart, with their 10-track album also spawning hits with Love Is Reason, Train Of Thought and the title song Hunting High And Low. With girls going crazy for their tousled hair and laid-back look, the group found themselves nominated for Best Newcomers at the 1986 Grammy Awards.
The threesome continued to release new music including their sophomore album, 1986’s Scoundrel Days. In 1987, A-ha recorded The Living Daylights, the theme tune for the James Bond film of the same name starring Timothy Dalton. The following year, their third album, Stay On These Roads, arrived and was a big success internationally.
A-ha kicked off the ’90s, with the album East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon. Their appearance at Brazil’s Rock In Rio II festival in 1991 set a Guinness World Record for largest paying audience with over 198,000 people in attendance.
A-ha’s fifth studio album Memorial Beach came out in 1993, just before the band split up in 1994. However, after reuniting for a performance at the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, they got back together and recorded four more albums released throughout the noughties: 2000’s Minor Earth Major Sky, 2002’s Lifelines, 2005’s Analogue and 2009’s Foot Of The Mountain.
In early 2010, A-ha embarked on their Ending On A High Note world tour. Plus, that autumn they celebrated the 25th anniversary of Hunting High And Low by playing the album in full at Oslo’s Konserthus and London’s Royal Albert Hall, before calling it quits for a second time.
A-ha were inducted into the Norwegian Music Hall Of Fame in 2011. Four years later, they confirmed plans to reunite again as well as release their 10th album Cast In Steel, head out on tour and perform at the 2015 edition of Rock In Rio.
The band have always liked to try different things with their live shows. In 2017 and 2018, A-ha’s MTV Unplugged album and tour proved that their songs could be given new acoustic settings and remain as powerful as ever.
In early November 2019, the trio performed a series of shows in “An Evening With” format that had an interval. During one half of the concert, they played a mix of old and new material, while the other half featured all 10 songs from their debut album Hunting High And Low in running order.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the original version of Take On Me, A-ha announced four UK dates during which they’d play Hunting High And Low in full again. Those dates were rescheduled to May 2022.
“We played the full Hunting High And Low album live once before and that was a great experience,” said Waaktaar-Savoy. “There’s not one song on that album that we’re not looking forward to playing live.”
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