Synopsis of Pop Music
"Take on me, take me on…"
Three chiseled-face Norwegians took on the MTV generation, and won, when the breakthrough video for their single "Take on Me" hit the air in 1985. A-ha broke through the music barriers with their debut album, Hunting High and Low, and were primed to take over the new wave of 80's pop music with their good looks and synth-driven sound.
Two childhood friends, Pal (Paul) Gamst Waaktaar and Magne Furulolmen, disbanded the band Bridges in 1982 and formed a new group with a new lead singer, Morten Harket. The trio became A-ha, a universally understood exclamation discovered in Paul’s lyrics. The group traveled to London and snagged a recording contract with Warner Bros. music, but their first single, "Lesson One," was dead in the water. They quickly learned what a little remixing, a new name, and an ingenious video concept could do when the renamed "Take On Me" won over the MTV viewers.
The magic of MTV worked its wonders when A-ha's once-mildly-received single employed the animation genius of Mike Patterson and Candice Reckinger and video director Steve Barron to produce the ‘Best Concept Video’ Grammy winner of 1986. The memorable video to "Take on Me" featured a lonesome woman invited into the sketchy world of a comic book romance by the hand of a handsome youth (played by Harket). The two found themselves trapped in a love triangle: the real world of loneliness, the animated world of love and danger, and a catchy tune.
A-ha's follow-up single, "The Sun Always Shines on TV," burned up the charts (#1 in the U.K., #20 in the U.S.) and placed them in the running for the 1986 Best New Artist Grammy. Although they lost that award to Bruce Hornsby and the Range, A-ha swept the rest of their Grammy categories, winning a then-record total of 8 awards for their debut effort.
A-ha followed Hunting’s success with Scoundrel Days in ‘86, but failed to capture the same attention in the U.S. The album stopped at #74, although it reached the #2 spot on the U.K. charts. America had become slaves to MTV, and clever videos delivered hit singles more than catchy songs did.
A third album in 1988, Stay On These Roads, brought the band close to a breakup, but they returned to the fast lane with the theme song from the Bond thriller, The Living Daylights, composed by Paul. 1990’s release, East is the Sun, West is the Moon, returned the group to the U.S. Top-10 with their remake of the Everly Brothers tune "Crying in the Rain."
1993’s Memorial Sound took the band in a dark direction, both musically and professionally. The move from synthesizer sounds to heavy guitars alienated many in their old audience, and the new listeners they gained weren't enough to pick up the slack. A-ha continued to land Top-5 honors on the U.K. charts, but they faded in the U.S. Unable to follow up the acclaim of their debut album, the band officially disbanded in 1994.
Morten went solo with 1995’s Wild Seed and honed his acting skills in the film Kamilia and the Thief. Paul joined video director Lauren Savoy in matrimony and formed a new band, Savoy. Magne wrote TV and film scores, but none of the solo careers received the success of A-ha, prompting a band reunion in 1998 for a new album. The 2000 release of "Summer Moved On" from Minor Earth, Major Sky, topped the charts in Norway and Germany, but has yet to garner attention on the international charts.
It remains to be seen if A-ha can shine once again in the world of hit music, but their past successes will always remain cherished memories and prized musical/visual works from the early days of MTV.
Artist Release History1985 - Hunting High and Low
1986 - Scoundrel Days
1988 - Stay on These
1990 - East of the Sun, West of the Moon
1992 - Memorial Beach
2000 - Minor Earth, Major Sky
Pop Sub Categoriespop
Essential Music AlbumsHunting High and Low (Warner Bros.)
Band MembersMorten Harket lead vocals
Pal (Paul) Gamst Waaktaar guitars, backing vocals
Magne Furulolmen keyboards