Were you the first to believe in A1? They covered a-ha but what about the same old brand new music?
A1 originated from UK born singer Paul Marazzi (b.1975), who had auditioned for Steps, but didn’t quite make it to the famous five. He and managers Tom Byrne and Vicky Blood came together to form a new group, which turned out to four lads in total. Having auditioned numerous hopefuls, they found a mutual bond with Norwegian singer Christian Ingebrigtsen (b.1977), and from the UK, Mark Read (b.1978) and Ben Adams (b.1981). A1 were signed to Columbia Records in early 1999 and six months later, released their debut single, “Be The First To Believe”, a harmless but well meaning number that went to No.6 on the UK singles chart and also made a small impression in Germany and Sweden.
Not wishing to be just another manufactured boy band, A1 wrote many of their own songs and this continued with the follow up, “Summertime Of Our Lives”, in late August. This did slightly better in breaking the top five in the UK and made an impact in Australia and New Zealand. The A1 boys had finished their first album in the early Autumn ready for release in November of 1999. “Here We Come” was a good enough title and it proved a satisfying success for all concerned, gaining a Gold certification in the UK for sales of 100,000 copies. Sales through Christmas that years were helped by the third single, a double A sider “Everytime” and “Ready Or Not”, which went to No.3 in the UK and in Norway, Christian’s home country, the group’s first charting single there. “Like A Rose” in early 2000 gave them four out of four when it reached No.6 in the UK.
A1 were cementing their place in pop music history and wasting no time at all, they launched straight into writing and recording a follow up album. For the lead single, they tackled the thorny challenge of covering a-ha’s classic 80’s hit, “Take On Me“. With their own sound but paying homage to the original, the plan worked as “Take On Me” went to number one in both the UK and in Norway, one place further than a-ha’s version had achieved back in 1985 in the UK! “Take On Me” also became their breakout hit across much of mainland Europe and allowed the next album, “The A List”, to become a much bigger success than its predecessor when released in November 2000. A1 crowned their best year yet with a second chart topper the following month. “Same Old Brand New You” also topped the Norwegian chart and was a top ten success across most of Europe.
A third and final track was “No More” in early 2001 (UK No.6) while sales of “The A List” had surpassed “Here We Come”, producing another Gold certification in the UK and a Platinum disc in Norway. A1 spent most of 2001 on tour across the world as well as writing and recording their next album, which would materialise in the Spring of 2002. The year kicked off with a brand new song, “Caught In The Middle”, which proved their biggest success yet across multiple countries where it went top ten in practically every territory. “Caught In The Middle” was also their best seller yet ‘down under’ in both Australia and New Zealand. Their third album, “Make It Good”, was another well chosen title, charting in more countries than their previous two. The title track was released as the second single in May, but it broke A1’s run of top ten hits when it stopped at No.11. The track did, however, give the boys a top ten hit in Norway.
But while A1 were on top of the world, as often happens, all good things come to an end. In the Autumn of 2002, Paul Marazzi decided to leave the group for ‘personal reasons’ and soon after the remaining three members chose not to continue without him. So that was it. A1 were done. Or were they? In the immediate years after the group ‘split’, a greatest hits album was released, Ben released his solo single “Sorry” in 2005 (UK No.18), Christian released his debut album, “Take Back Yesterday” in 2003, Mark became a songwriter to the likes of Rick Astley, Sam Brown, Ronan Keating and a number of X Factor finalists, and Paul simply wanted the quiet life and disappeared into nothing. But…in 2009, A1 regrouped, as a trio this time! Ben, Christian and Mark got back together, but without Paul and headed back into the studio to record new material. “Take You Home” was the first new A1 single in seven years and it dropped in November 2009, peaking at No.9 in Norway. The song served as the Comic Relief single there that year but saw no release elsewhere.
The new A1 set their eyes next on the Eurovision Song Contest and announced in early 2010 that they wanted to represent Norway with the song “Don’t Wanna Lose You Again”. After a feircly fought contest, the song came second in the country’s televote and missed out, although when released as a single, it peaked at No.4, their highest charting single since “Caught In The Middle” eight years earlier. The focus if A1’s releases and success was just in Christian’s homeland as reflected in their ‘comeback’ album “Waiting For Daylight” and subsequent singles. The album proved a success making the top five as all of A1’s previous albums had done. The trio returned to their ever-ready process of writing and recording and performing and after a tour in 2011, released their fifth studio album, “Rediscovered”, in 2012. The group also worked with Norwegian band D’Sound on the song “Do I Need A Reason?”.
Having been away from the UK for over a decade, A1 made their return to Ben and Mark’s place of birth in 2013 when they appeared on the TV show The Big Reunion, alongside former boys bands Blue, 5ive and 911. They all toured the UK throughout 2014 and it was in 2014 that the A1 albums “Waiting For Daylight” and “Rediscovered” were finally released in the UK. Having toured extensively as a trio in the Far East in 2015 and 2016, the big news for 2017 was that the full compliment of A1 were to reform as Paul came out of hiding and rejoined his fellow bandmates for a 20th anniversary tour. Not only that, the full A1 recorded and released a new single, “Armour”, their first together in 16 years! The shows were a sellout and continued into 2019 with another new song, “Spiders”, released in 2021. As yet, there is no news of a possible album full of new material, but at least the ‘boys’ are together again and happy to do what they want, when they want. Never be the last to believe!
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