The pop group, A-ha, is the most successful and enduring band ever to come out of Norway. They are still going strong 36 years after forming, and have released a string of hit singles, including the famous James Bond theme, The Living Daylights, in 1987.
Their music remains a contemporary force, with one of their most famous singles, Take On Me, being featured in a key scene in the 2018 movie, Deadpool 2, reaching a whole new generation of fans and attracting more than five million hits on YouTube in just two months.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Morten Harket, keyboard player Magne Furuholmen and bass guitarist Paul Waaktaar were three ambitious young men from Oslo when they first formed the synthesiser band, A-ha, back in 1982.
Singer and songwriter Harket, who was 23 at the time, was raised on classical music and had learned to play the piano at the tender age of four. As a young man, he studied theology and had considered becoming a priest, but at the age of 16, he discovered rock music and formed a band called Bridges instead, quitting his studies.
After meeting fellow musicians Furuholmen, 20, and Waaktaar, 21, they formed A-ha, choosing the band’s name from an early song of the same name that Waaktaar had written. Early on in their career, they moved to London from their native Norway because they felt living in the capital would enhance their chances of success.
The move paid off and their 1985 debut single, Take On Me, with a revolutionary video that combined live action with animation, made them the first Norwegian band to have a number one single in the US Hot 100 chart.
It was also number one across much of Europe and in Australia and peaked at number two in the UK, turning A-ha into superstars overnight. The video had a great deal to do with the song’s success, as it used pioneering techniques at the time that sent the band crashing into a virtual reality world, inspired by the film, Tron.
Their debut album, Hunting High and Low, also released in 1985, was another major hit, reaching the number one spot in the album charts in Norway, Austria and Sweden, number two in the UK and the top 20 across Europe and in the United States.
They released the title track of the album, Hunting High and Low, in 1986 as their fifth single. It was another chart hit across Europe and was also hailed as one of their most beautiful and poignant songs.
The song was written by Waaktaar and played on synthesisers on the album. When released as a single, it was remixed and featured an orchestra. The video, directed by Steve Barron, used animation techniques similar to those in Take On Me.
It featured Harket transforming into a number of animals, including a lion, a white shark and an eagle, flying over a frozen landscape and “hunting” – not for prey, but for his one true love.
The lyrics were written from the point of view of a man who had lost the love of his life. Filled with regret, he was trying to find her again, in the hope they would reunite – hence the line, “I’ll always be hunting high and low, only for you.”
It’s a melancholy song, as the narrator recalls how he watched her slipping away and realised too late what was happening. He speaks his thoughts out loud, asking his absent love, “Do you know what it means to love you?”
The video was considered so innovative that in 1986, a special documentary on how it was made was shown on the television show, Blue Peter.
A-ha went on to have a series of hit albums and singles throughout the 1980s and ’90s. The band had taken a brief hiatus from performing together in the mid-1990s. Harket released three solo albums: Wild Seed, Poetenes Evangelium and Vogts Villa.
After reforming, they were invited to play at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 1998. They continued making hit records and playing live gigs into the 21st century, but in 2009 broke fans’ hearts by announcing they were splitting up again, following a world tour in 2010.
Their album, Hunting High and Low, was re-released in a deluxe edition, featuring remixes and demo versions that hadn’t been heard before, to commemorate their split.
Furuholmen became a mentor on the Norwegian version of the TV talent show, The Voice. He has become an esteemed producer and songwriter for other artists.
In 2012, each band member was recognised for their contribution to Norwegian music and became a Knight of the 1st Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olav.
To the fans’ joy, following months of speculation, A-ha got together again in 2015, when they began writing new material. They have recently announced a live tour planned for October and November 2019.
Although the venues haven’t yet been announced, the band has teased that they will be playing at a few cities where they haven’t played for more than 15 years.
Will you be hunting high and low?
The January sales aren’t quite the same anymore – in fact, many prices are discounted in the run up to Christmas, so now is a great time to trawl the high street for some incredible bargains.
If you want to get the best bang for your buck, here’s where and when it all kicks off:
Gap – currently up to 60% off
House of Fraser – currently up to 60% off
H&M – currently up to 60% off
Topshop and Topman – currently up to 60% off
Laura Ashley – currently up to 50% off
The White Company – currently up to 50% off
Debenhams – currently online and 26th December instore
M&S – starts 24th December online and 25th December instore
Next – starts 24th December online and 26th December instore
John Lewis – starts 24th December online and 27th December instore
Although we can all be a little ruthless as we search for the best bargains, please consider the Great British high street – use it or lose it!
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