Date of birth : -
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Oslo, Norway
Nationality : Norwegian
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-04-04
A-ha was a Norwegian pop 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.
In their small snowy country of Norway, members of the 1980s super group A-ha are considered close to royalty. The pretty boys of Oslo were the first Norwegian band to make it big in pop-music. By the end of 1980s, they had amassed numerous awards and platinum albums.
Two of the band members, Magne Furuholmen and Pal Waaktaar, grew up in Oslo. Their first band together, Spider Empire--formed in 1977--was heavily influenced by the music of the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Spider Empire evolved into another band called Bridges in 1979 and took on a bassist and drummer. Soon they released their first album, Fakkeltog--Torchlight Procession--on their own label, Vakenatt. The Bridges were working on their second album when Morten Harket entered the scene. Influenced by the falsetto of Freddy Mercury of Queen, Harket had been singing in other Oslo bands.
After deciding to work together, with Harket on lead vocals and Furuholmen writing many of the lyrics, the band began tossing around ideas for a new name. They decided upon A-ha because, as Furuholmen explained, it was easily memorized and a familiar exclamation in any language. "Originally, we were trying to find a Norwegian word that people would be able to say in English. Eventually Harket spotted a song called "a-ha" in Waaktaar's song notebook. "It was a terrible song, but a great name. I mean, you say it, a-ha, all the time," Furuholmen said online.
In 1982, the band began changing its tune and started working on becoming a more commercial, synth-pop sounding band, like pop kings Duran Duran. The trio began looking toward England for a record label to offer them a contract. Even with their chiseled good looks and snappy sound, success would take a while.
1983 was to be the dawning for the Norwegian music marvels. After ringing in the new year by relocating to London in January, the trio managed to purchase some recording time at Rendezvous Studios. One demo, "Lesson One," caught the ear of John Ratcliff, manager of the recording studio. Ratcliff in turn played it for Terry Slater, a former record company executive who once worked with the Everly Brothers. Slater was so impressed with the band that he agreed to manage the trio immediately, and he arranged a series of influential auditions.
As a Christmas present for their families and compatriots, A-ha brought home a worldwide contract with Warner Bros. Records. The first album, Hunting High and Low, included the single "Take On Me." Released in early 1984, it was a reworked version of "Lesson One." The band experienced a successful Norwegian debut but failed to reach audiences over in England and abroad. Only 300 copies of the album were sold outside its native Norway. In 1985, the band, at the urging of Slater, remixed and re-released the single.
During the summer of 1986, Warner Bros. Records decided to invest some money on a revolutionary video for the struggling band. "Take On Me," directed by Steve Barron, was a charcoal animation of the band members and was a forerunner in the semi-animated video market. At the third MTV Music Awards in 1986, the video won for Best New Concept Video, Best New Artist Video, Best Special Effects, Best Direction, Most Experimental and the Viewers Choice awards, among other awards. According to the Encyclopedia of Rock Stars, it was a record number of wins by one act for both the fledgling ceremony and band.
In 1986, A-ha released its sophomore album, Scoundrel Days. Although less successful than Hunting High and Low, the album did include the hit single "Cry Wolf." A year later, the band was commissioned to create the theme song for the new James Bond movie, The Living Daylights. Their third album, Stay on These Roads, almost entirely written by guitarist Pal Waaktaar, continued A-ha's popularity in England while marking its journey into obscurity in the United States. The album entered the English charts early in 1988 at number two.
After a two-year holiday, A-ha released its fourth album, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, in November 1990. This new album shows a departure from the heavy synth-laden albums of the past. In 1991, after a string of little- noticed singles, A-ha released a six-year retrospective album entitled Headlines and Deadlines, The Hits Of A-ha.
During the fifth annual World Music Awards, the darlings of Norwegian pop music were named Best Selling Norwegian Artist of the Year two years in a row--1992-93. In 1993, the band released Memorial Beach, which featured the single "Dark Is the Night." More than previous A-ha albums, this album highlighted the talents of the other band members including new members bassist J. B. Bogeberg and Per Hillestad on drums. Much of the album reflects time spent in America.
After feeling "spent out" artistically, the band took a two-year sabbatical according to an online interview at http://www.wwiv.com/a-ha/a-ha-faq.html. The trio decided to pursue individual artistic challenges. Furuholmen co- wrote the soundtrack for the Norwegian movie Ten Knifes in the Heart, which world-premiered in 1994. He also created a wood carving for the cover design for the album Songs from the Pocket, a solo project of his fellow tour mate J. B. Bogeberg. During this time apart, the band did regroup to record "Shapes That Go Together," theme song for the 1994 Special Olymics that were held in Lillehammer, Norway.
Harket recorded the Frankie Valli hit "Can't Take My Eyes off of You" for the Coneheads soundtrack in 1983. The movie was directed by Steve Barron, the gentleman behind the record-shattering "Take On Me" video. In 1995, Harket released Wild Seed, his first solo album with Warner Brothers Records International. In 1996, Pal Waaktaar also released an album with Warner Brothers Records International. With his band Savoy, he released Mary Is Coming in early 1996 in Europe and the United States, writing all the songs on the album.
In 1997, A-ha decided to regroup and work on some new material. According to Furuholmen, in an online interview, "Yes, I am counting on returning to the studio as A-ha now. We needed a break, we all agreed on that, but now the time has come again." His bandmate Harket agreed in the same interview: "The whole time, it was more or less obvious that we should do something more, because we feel A-ha is everything but a finished chapter. A large part still needs to be said and done."
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 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 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 have sold over 36 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 release of a greatest hits album, making them one of the 40-50 largest grossing bands in the world.
Following 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.
View the full website biography of A-ha.