Released on October 19th, 1984, “Take on me” is a song by Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha, recorded for the album “Hunting high and low”. Produced by John Ratcliff and Alan Tarney. It reached #1 song on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, the only one in the top 100 by the band in the US and the 1st Norwegian band to achieve such result. It also reached #2 in the UK.
A-ha were a trio formed by Morten Harket (vocals), Pal Waaktaar (guitar) and Mags Furuholmen (keyboards). Furuholmen chose the name A-ha as it was an internationally recognizable exclamation, revealing the high ambitions of the group.
“Take on me” was initially written in 1982 as “Lesson one”, released in 1983, but although it hit #3 in their native Norway, it was a flop everywhere else, especially in the UK. In the midst of frustrating times, A-ha got a break when the enough of the right people in the industry saw the band’s potential and decided to invest heavily on them. So the song was re-recorded, tweaked, more energy and instrumentation were added (with a tempo of 169 BPM), the definitive video was shot and this time, it got heavily promoted (with a US bias) and success was achieved all over. #2 in the UK this time, and #1 in the US, where the video, which was made with an appealing technique of experimental animation, catapulted the song to the top of the charts. The song reached #1 in other 27 countries including Austria, Belgium, Greece, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland. #2 was also reached in Canada, Denmark and Ireland, while #3 in France, #4 in Finland, #7 in New Zealand and South Africa, only #11 in Spain.
The video, which took 6 months to complete, also won six awards and was nominated for two others at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, a record for the event, previously held by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in 1983.
The video is very well recognized. It was so impactful that it’s an established symbol of 1980s music. The shoot was in London in the then called Kim’s Cafe’, now Savoy Cafe’ (corner of Wandsworth Road and Pensbury Place, London SW8).
The animation used in the famous video, is a pencil-sketch and live-action combination called rotoscoping.
The girl in the video is Bunty Bailey, who became Morten Harket’s girlfriend for a few years after meeting during the video shoot.
The video posted above is a 4k video restoration of the original (which was actually a second version of a much different prior one).