a-ha was the Norwegian rock band that soared to dizzying heights in the late 80s and early 90s, filling arenas around the world with thousands of screaming teenagers and memorably-costumed fans. Led by the ever-charming and charismatic frontman Morten Harket â€“ with Paul Waaktaar-Savoy and Magne Furuholmen providing the vital guitar and synth elements respectively â€“ a-ha became one of the most recognized pop bands in the world, their pictures gracing millions of teen bedroom walls.
Despite such success, however, a-haâ€™s tale began in 1982, emerging as a trio from the small town of Kristiansand in the south of Norway. Already interested in the possibilities of synth-pop music, the band quickly began making early demos under the capable hand of producer and mentor John Ratcliff, claiming an opening slot at the legendary Oslo song contest at just fourteen years old. This led to a short-lived recording deal, with the trio making their first single, â€˜Take On Meâ€™, in private studios. From there, a-ha were invited to Eastern Europe by Ratcliff, exposing them to the underground and lending a unique flavor to their sound.
It would, however be another two years before â€˜Take On Meâ€™ was ready for release as a full-scale single, due to extensive re-recording in London to appeal more strongly to British and American audiences. Packed full of the sonic adventure, emotion, and humor of the trio, it was an instant worldwide smash, impossible to ignore and climbing its way to the top of the Friday night American charts in 1985. The legacy of the video for â€˜Take On Meâ€™ was to prove particularly enduring; showcasing the cutting-edge rotoscope animation techniques provided by physical media director Steve Barron, it became an enduring favorite and went on to garner four MTV awards.
The groupâ€™s follow-up singles â€˜The Sun Always Shines On T.V.â€™, â€˜Train of Thoughtâ€™ and â€˜Hunting High and Lowâ€™ propelled them to international fame, and in 1986, a-ha released their renowned debut album Hunting High and Low. It turned out to be a superstar formula, pushing a-haâ€™s soaring melodies, gentle singing harmonies and poundingly-propulsive Roland synths into the very highest reaches of the charts. Spawning still more hit singles â€“ such as â€˜The Living Daylightsâ€™ and â€˜Cry Wolfâ€™ â€“ the album became their most successful work of the decade and was the launching pad for a global music career.
The years that followed saw a-ha develop a long string of top-selling albums, hits and lives shows, appearing globally from Norway to their US and Europe tours and from Tokyo to Moscow. Developing their musical palette in all directions, they explored everything from country-rock touches to synthesized electronica to indie-pop influences â€“ the videos for â€˜Manhattan Skylineâ€™ and â€˜Cry Wolfâ€™ continuing to be particular favorites. During this time, a-ha also marched to their own commercial-free beat; refusing to win the favor of any radio stations or large advertising clients, staying remain independently owned and focused solely on their craft.
It was however the lengthy â€œLifelinesâ€ tour of 2003 that was the groupâ€™s true political statement â€“ taking them around the Middle East and South America â€“ before they eventually returned to their home country in 2005 with their now-legendary final show at the historic Oslo Spektrum arena. After seven studio albums, numerous other releases and countless awards to their name, and a-haâ€™s extensive contributions to the foundations of pop-rock and electronic synth-pop have deservedly provided musical legacy for a generation of young Norwegian pop vocalists since then.