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10 Fun Facts About the Norwegian Band A-ha

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A-ha became one of the world’s biggest names in pop during the 1980s. Here’s some fun facts about the Norwegian pop group that may surprise you.

Depending on your age, your may not be aware of legendary Norwegian pop group A-ha. But it’s not a huge stretch to say that absolutely everyone has heard their biggest hit, Take On Me, at least once.

Artwork from various A-ha music releases over the years. Photo: Kraft74 / Shutterstock.com.
Artwork from various A-ha music releases over the years. Photo: Kraft74 / Shutterstock.com.

Although their popularity peaked in the 1980s, the band remain popular to this day. Lead singer Morten Harket remains one of the most recognisable faces in Norwegian music.

Are you ready for a walk down memory lane? We’ve compiled a list of fun facts about the trio for your enjoyment.

Even if you’re an A-ha fan, you might actually learn a thing or two. If you don’t know them, you now have a golden opportunity to learn all about the most popular and successful pop group ever to come out of Norway.

They produced one of the most iconic animated music videos of all time

The music video for Take On Me was not the first animated music video. That honour goes to Elvis Costello and the Attractions who released Accidents Will Happen, already in 1979.

A-ha live on stage. Norwegian band A-ha live on stage. Photo: Avis De Miranda / Shutterstock.com.
Norwegian band A-ha live on stage. Photo: Avis De Miranda / Shutterstock.com.

The 80s saw other artists such as The Rolling Stones and Paula Abdul release partially or fully animated music videos. But A-ha’s Take On Me is undoubtedly among the most iconic.

It was spoofed many times (notably in animated sitcom Family Guy) and was only the fifth music video in history to reach one billion views on YouTube. Add one more by watching it here.

They wrote a song especially for a James Bond film

When James Bond producers picked a band to write the theme song for their 1987 offering titled The Living Daylights, their choice fell on A-ha. The band wrote their song of the same title for the movie.

The song seems to have received mixed reviews from Bond fans. A top-list of James Bond theme songs published by Rolling Stone magazine ranks The Living Daylights 20th on a list of 22. Ouch!

MTV predicted A-ha’s success

Predicted, recognised or engineered… the truth is probably somewhere in between the three.

In an era where there was no online streaming service constantly keeping everyone up to date about the popularity of every song in existence, awards nominations were arguably even more relevant than they are today.

In 1986, MTV nominated A-ha for a whopping 11 awards, of which the band won 8. If you’re curious to know what an award show looked like back then, you can watch the video below.

They are knights! Actual knights!

Okay so not the shining armor, horse riding, damsel-in-distress-saving kind of knight, but Knights of the 1st Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. All three members of the band were awarded the title in 2012 for their contribution to Norwegian music.

The name A-ha was originally destined for a song

Paul Waaktaar-Savoy wrote a song titled a-ha, and when Morten Harket saw the word written in a notebook, he declared it a great name, and suggested the band should call themselves that.

The pair consulted dictionaries in several languages and found out that the word was in every single one of them.

According to Morten Harket, the song of the same name was “terrible”.

Two members of the trio were in a band called “Spider Empire”

Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar formed a band called Spider Empire in 1977. A couple of years later, the band switched names to Bridges.

A-ha album artwork.

It was when Bridges were recording their second album that they met Morten Harket. Shortly after that, they came up with their new name and left Norway for London to make a career in the music industry.

Take On Me was released unsuccessfully three times before it caught on

It’s hard to believe now, given the heights reached by this classic hit, but Take On Me was initially anything but successful. The first release was by Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar’s band Bridges. The song was titled “Miss Eerie” at the time.

The newly formed trio revamped the song and re-released it under the title “Lesson One” in 1984. The song’s video featured the band performing it in front of a blue background.

When that second release failed to reach the charts, they tried (and failed) again, with a new recording produced by Alan Tarney.

Only on the fourth try did they finally succeed. In 1985, they released a new recording of the song, together with the now iconic animated music video.

This time the song reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 (the first song by a Norwegian band to attain that position) and number two on the UK Singles Chart.

Take on Me original artwork.

To this day, A-ha remains the most successful pop music band ever to have come out of Norway.

The title “The Sun Always Shines On TV” comes from a TV presenter

By his own admission, guitarist Paul Waaktaar came up with the title for the band’s single The Sun Always Shines On TV while watching television in a British hotel room.

As the story goes, the presenter announcing the next programme said “it's a rainy day, but the sun always shines on TV.”

They have two entries in Guinness World Records

The first is for the “longest same-pitch note in a song that made the UK’s Official Singles Chart”. It was set at 20.2 seconds, performed by A-ha frontman Morten Harket in the “Summer Moved On” single from 2000.

As part of Rock in Rio, the band also held the record for the highest paid concert audience in history. Their performance at the Maracanã was watched by a crowd of 198,000 in January 1991.

You can eat Magne Furuholmen’s favourite burger in Trondheim

Sesam is somewhat of an institution in Trondheim. Nestled at the bottom of the iconic red Studentersamfundet building, it’s been helping partygoers deal with their late-night hunger for decades.

Magne Furuholmen tasted a Sesam burger in 2003, after a A-ha concert at Studentersamfundet. He liked it so much that when he organised a garden party at his place a year later, he had the owner travel to Oslo to do the catering.

If you’d like to give it a try, Sesam now has two locations in Trondheim. One is in the Solsiden nightlife area and the original one remains at Studentersamfundet.

Are you an A-ha fan? What’s your favourite song? Let us know in the comments.

About Daniel Albert

Daniel was living a perfectly normal life as a journalist in Canada until he was swept off his feet by a Norwegian. He now lives in Trondheim where he still works in communications.

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5 thoughts on “10 Fun Facts About the Norwegian Band A-ha”

  1. HI David thanks for the post have been following A-ha since 1985 and have had the pleasure of seeing them perform 2x in Australia the most recent being 2020. My favourite song of theirs is Scoundrel Days. Looking forward to hearing the release of their new album True North which is meant to be coming out this year.

    Reply
  2. I was a perfectly random political activist in the US until meeting my Scandinavian Dane, who swept me off my feet, one night as we said goodbye on the phone, by quoting, word for word, “how can I sleep with your voice in my head, with an ocean between us and room in my bed?” from The Swing of Things on Scoundrel Days. lol

    I had the pleasure of seeing them in Kansas City in 1986 for the original Hunting High and Low tour. Never imagined that I would one day meet my own a-ha loving soulmate, move to Denmark, and get to see a-ha again, as well! lol We got to travel to Oslo by ferry, where we saw them for the Afterglow show in 2016, and then again in Oslo for the acoustic Mtv Unplugged show in 2018, which was great. Then they came to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen a few months later!

    Last night, we got to see them again at Royal Arena here! 🙂 They sounded like the musical legends they are and we had a blast! <3

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  3. I began to study English to understand their songs about 38 years ago and now I am learning Norwegian just in their Honour.
    I have been listening to their songs since 1985.
    Favourite song…. hard to say.
    If I had to choose one, I would say White Canvas or This is our home or The swing of things.

    Reply
  4. Hi, I’ve seen aha 32 times and been a fan from the start,,my fave song is either nothing is keeping you here or cast in steel

    Reply

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