Hunting High and Low is the debut album of the Norwegian New wave band a-ha. Released 1 June 1985 through Warner Bros. Records, the album was a huge commercial success selling more than 10 million units worldwide, peaking at #15 in the United States Billboard 200 and reaching high positions on charts worldwide. The album was recorded at Rendezvous Studios in London, produced by Tony Mansfield, John Ratcliff and Alan Tarney.
In all, five singles from the album were released, though not all were released internationally: Take on Me, Love Is Reason, The Sun Always Shines on T.V., Train of Thought and Hunting High and Low. The group was nominated for best new artist at the Grammy Awards in 1986, making a-ha the first Norwegian band to be nominated for a Grammy.
Take on Me was the first single released by the band. An early version was recorded and released in late 1984 with an early music video. The song became a #3 hit in a-ha's native Norway but failed to chart in the United Kingdom. The band went back into the studio to re-record the song for the Hunting High and Low album, but a second UK release in early 1985 was again ignored. Before releasing their single in the United States, the band undertook the production of a new music video for the song, working with director Steve Barron. Barron had previously created hit videos for Toto, Thomas Dolby, Culture Club and Michael Jackson, but the a-ha video was unlike any of his earlier work. A plot-driven amalgamation of live-action and rotoscope-style animation by husband-and-wife team Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger, it drew inspiration from Patterson's animated film Commuter and the film Altered States. The innovative video for "Take on Me" was first broadcast on local Boston music video station V-66, and soon after given heavy rotation on MTV.
The single debuted in Billboard the week of July 13, 1985, and was heading into the U.S. top twenty when it was given an international release, including a second release in Norway and a third shot at the UK market. It hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, spending 27 weeks on the charts and becoming the tenth-biggest single of 1985, and this time going to number two in the United Kingdom and number one in Norway. In all, the song reached number one in 36 countries, becoming one of the world's best-selling singles of all time with nearly 9 million copies sold.
The second single for most of the world was The Sun Always Shines on TV (Love is Reason had failed to hit the Norwegian Top 40 earlier in the year), and the band followed its massively successful music video with another critically acclaimed clip for the song. Starting off as a sequel of sorts, Morten Harket breaks away from his happy ending to join his band in performance amidst mannequins at a rural church, Saint Albans in Teddington, which has since become an art gallery. "The Sun Always Shines on TV" improved upon the first single's success in the United Kingdom, hitting number one and remaining there for two weeks in January 1986. It was a top-10 hit nearly everywhere it was released except in the United States, where it peaked at #20 and would be the band's last major hit to date in that country. The single sold 5 million copies around the world. The track was remixed as a dance version, which was a top-5 hit on the U.S. Dance chart, and B-side to the single and remix was the otherwise unreleased Driftwood.
Train of Thought saw limited release as the third single in Europe. It was not released as a 7" in the United States but received rock radio play and a set of remixes again made the dance charts. Waaktaar based the lyrics for this song on existentialist authors and poets Gunvor Hofmo, Knut Hamsun and Fyodor Dostoevsky, his favourites at the time. It was a-ha's third consecutive Top 10 single in the United Kingdom and Ireland, reaching #8 and #5 respectively, and charting well in Germany and Sweden. World sales hit 500,000 copies.
The last single from the album was Hunting High and Low, released in June 1986. The single saw its highest chartings in France, where it peaked at number four, and the United Kingdom, where it was number five. The single was released in the United States but did not make the Hot 100. An extended version was available on 12" vinyl, but the midtempo track did not see dance chart success.
Coldplay, a band influenced by a-ha, has been known to perform Hunting High and Low in concert.
The "Take on Me" video was nominated for eight 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, and at the third annual ceremony September 5, 1986, the video won six awards, including Best New Artist and Viewer's Choice. "The Sun Always Shines on TV" was nominated for an additional three awards, winning two, for a total of eight wins. Even as the total number of categories has nearly doubled, only one other artist to date has won as many MTV Awards in a single year. Peter Gabriel won nine the following year for "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time," two videos which progressed further down the roads a-ha ventured in groundbreaking use of animation in music video.
In 2002, "Take on Me" was ranked at number eight on VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders, although this status is slightly misleading as it reflects a-ha's lack of mainstream success in the United States; the group was by no means a one-hit wonder elsewhere or in career terms. In 2006, "Take on Me" was ranked number 24 on VH1's Greatest Songs of the 1980s.
The band released a live version of The Sun Always Shines on TV in 2003.
Hunting High and Low was a-ha's breakout album. Upon its release in May 1985, Hunting High and Low peaked at number 15 on the Billboard's Top 200 album chart. The album granted a-ha international recognition. Hunting High and Low got 3x platinum status in the UK and Platinum status in the United States and Germany, and Gold status in Brasil, and the Netherlands.
The album peaked at 15 in the U.S., according to Billboard music charts and has sold about 1.8 million copies in the U.S. It peaked at 2 on the UK charts, and hit 1 in Norway. The album has been certified platinum in the United States and 3x platinum in UK.
Beginning with the single Take on Me, a-ha's debut album sold more than eight million copies worldwide and spawned two number one hits. In the fall of 1986, "Take on Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on TV" were nominated for 11 MTV Video Awards combined, and a-ha won eight of these.
Tim DiGravina of AllMusic Guide said "It's a cohesive album with smart pace changeups, and it rarely fails to delight or satisfy a listener's need for a synth pop fix… One can't escape the feeling that Hunting High and Low is a product of the 1980s, but with highs like 'Take on Me' and 'The Sun Always Shines on TV,' and no lows in sight, a-ha's debut is a treat worth relishing."
The album has sold more than ten million copies worldwide.
In June 1986, a-ha began a world tour which went through August 1987. The band had never played a single concert when "Take on Me" shot to #1 in America; soon it could boast a 16-country, 113-city tour under its belt along with countless interviews and television appearances.