a-ha in the 1980s



By Mark Nobes

a-ha were formed in 1982 by Paul Waaktaar Savoy (guitars), Magne Furuholmen (keyboards) and Morten Harket (vocals). The band first rose to fame in the UK during the mid 80s with the hit singles "Take On Me" (which reached No.2 in the UK) and "The Sun Always Shines On TV", their only UK number one. They have sold an impressive 35 million+ albums worldwide, making them the best-selling Norwegian music act in history. 

The trio's biggest success came from their debut album, Hunting High and Low in 1985, which peaked at no.1 in their native Norway, and no.2 in the UK.

The album included the band's first two aforementioned singles, and also the title track as the third single, and "Train of Thought" as the final release. "Love is Reason" was only released in the band's home country and the Phillippines.

Hunting High and Low Vinyl LP front sleeve, a-ha

Front sleeve froma-ha's debut album Hunting High and Low

As well as composing some seriously catchy songs, some of the band's success is down to Morten Harket's distinctive, otherworldly voice.

Change in MusicalDirection

During the second half of the eighties, a-ha joined many other artists in moving away from synthpop and adopting a more rock-orientated sound, which was evident on their second album release Scoundrel Days. However, although the album was very successful (in some countries such as Switzerland and Brazil it performed even better than their debut) the total sales were not as high as the band's debut album, particularly in the UK. Nonethless, it sold around 6 million units globally.

Whether the band should had stuck firmly to their synthpop roots (like the Pet Shop Boys) or move forward with a new sound, was up for debate with the music critics of the day. 

Scoundrel Days (Album)

Scoundrel Days vinyl LP by a-ha

Front sleeve of the band's second vinyl LP Scoundrel Days

The band's follow-up album, Scoundrel Days, was released in October 1986. The album's title track reached the top 10 in several countries, including the UK, US, Germany, and Sweden.
The album charted a-ha's change from a synth-pop band to a more rock-oriented sound, and was their last album to rely mainly on synthesizers.
Singles released from the Scoundrel Days album were "I've Been Losing You" (#8), "Cry Wolf" (#5) and "Manhattan Skyline" (#13) which all reached the top 5 in Norway. UK chart positions are shown in brackets.  

Stay On these Roads (Album)

The trio released their third album Stay On These Roads in May 1988, and although it reached the same chart position in the UK as the previous two albums, sales were not as high, and this was the first album not to achieve platinum sales. It sold around 4 million units worldwide.
Singles released in the UK were the title "Stay On These Roads" (#5), "The Blood That Moves The Body" (#25), "Touchy" (#11), "You Are The One" (#13), "There's Never A Forever Thing (-). 
Stay On These Roads Vinyl LP by a-ha

The front sleeve of a-ha's third vinyl LP Stay On These Roads

FourAmazing Facts About A-Ha

  • The band's iconic video for their first hit single "Take On Me" won twice as many MTV awards as Michael Jackson's "Thriller" - yes, it's true! It won six awards at the MTV Video Awards in 1986.
  • a-ha were the first band from Norway to reach No.1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and they remain the country's most successful band.
  • Sales from the band's three albums from the 1980s are around 21 million, with 11 million of these coming from the band's debut Hunting High and Low.
  • a-ha's official Take On Me video has received over 1.2 billion views on Youtube

Studio Albums (UK)

1985  Hunting High and Low - #2 (3 x Platinum)

1986  Scoundrel Days - #2 (Platinum)

1988  Stay On These Roads - #2 (Gold)

1990  East of the Sun, West of the Moon - #12 (Silver)

1993  Memorial Beach - #17

2000  Mirror Earth Major Sky - #27

2002  Lifelines - #67

2005  Analogue - #24 (Silver)

2009  Foot of the Mountain - #5

2015  Cast in Steel - #8 (Silver)

Includes UK peak album chart positions and BPI certificates (shown in brackets)

Band Members

Morten Harket - lead vocalist, guitars

Magne Furuholmen - keyboards, guitars, bass, backing vocals

Paul Waaktaar-Savoy - drums, percussion, guitars, backing vocals

CRY WOLF (1986)

"Cry Wolf" was the second single from the second album, Scoundrel Days, was the last song to chart in the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, reaching #50. The song revolves around the old story about a boy who cries wolf, which I remember being told (many times) at primary school.

Stay On These Roads (Single) 1988

Released on March 14th 1988, this song was the lead single and title track from the Norweigan band's third studio album, reaching #1 in their home country and #5 in the UK. 

This was A-ha's last British Top 10 hit of the eighties, and they had to wait until 2006 to get another one, when they reached #10 with Analogue.

The B-side featured the very seasonal Soft Rains Of April. The single sold around 3 million units globally.


Now this track rocks! When I first heard this on Radio 1 back in the 80s, it was a nice surprise when the electric guitars kicked in and turned what could have been just a chicken in the basket ballad into something far more interesting.

"Manhattan Skyline"
reached #13 in the UK singles chart in February 1987. It was the last single to be released from a-ha's second album Scoundrel Days. This video is from the Vallhall Football Arena in Oslo, Norway where a-ha played live on 24th March 2001.
a-ha Manhattan Skyline single sleeve front

The Living Daylights (1987)

The band may be best known for their iconic video for "Take On me", but they're also responsible for one of the best movie soundtrack moments of the 80s with "The Living Daylights.", for the 1987 James Bond film starring Timothy Dalton. The track was actually written by band member Pal Waaktaar-Savoy, who was unhappy at the time that John Barry was credited as the co-writer.

A second version of the song was created by a-ha for their album Stay On These Roads, and they did not want to credit Barry on this version. Apparently, John Barry fell out with the band and described them as "difficult to work with".

A-ha - The Living Daylights (1987) single
James Bond - The Living Daylights poster ft. Timothy Dalton (1987)


Sounding like another theme from a James Bond movie The Blood That Moves The Body was, surprisingly, the least successful single from the album Stay On These Roads.

Released on June 6th 1988, and peaking at #25 in the UK, the song was the second single release from the album and the follow-up to the title track which had previously reached #5. Two further singles were released from the album.
a-ha - The Blood That Move The Body vinyl
a-ha are still making music today and sounding just as good as they did in the 80s.
a-ha Special Pop Annual 1986
a-ha on the cover of Smash Hits January 1988
A-ha on the cover of Smash Hits magazine in January 1988

a-ha on bikes 1986 Smash Hits Poster
Morten Harket 1987 Poster
a-ha rare poster magazine from the 1980s

Rare poster magazine from the 1980s

a-ha em Recife 2010?