23 February 2021

The evolution of A-ha's "Take On Me"

The enduring iteration of “Take on Me” was actually the group’s fourth attempt at the song...  When “Take on Me” was released in October 1984, it sold 300 copies... Barron instructed the animators to use a technique called rotoscoping, which amounts to tracing animation over live-action footage... It took four months for Patterson and Reckinger to draw a total of 2000 sketches that would be used in the video... When the rotoscoped version of “Take on Me” debuted on MTV in 1985, it became a sensation, helping the single hit the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. MTV bestowed 11 Video Music Awards nominations on the song, of which it won eight.
More information at Mental Floss.


  1. There's a lot of =>25th anniversary albums coming out, like Hunting High and Low. In a (rather desperate attempt) to get fans to buy albums again, most of them are bloated with demos and live versions. Most of those are crap.

    However, with some hits, it is fun to see how they have developed.

    With Take On Me, it really was waiting for the right remix to get the hook of the song to become irresistible instead of just catchy. And then the video came on top of that.

    A lot of artists like Queen, Prince and Pet Shop Boys have enormous website dedicated to following each version of a song. It's amazing how some hits were written in 25 minutes and recorded in an hour while others kicked around for years just waiting to be marinated long enough to just be right.

    Every time Prince's vault gets opened a little, more versions of songs come out that show exactly that. Prince would record some songs in a night. Other themes can be heard in different versions in all kinds of demos recorded over many different years, just waiting for the right time.

    It's a shame that the record industry has sat on many of these tracks for so long. If they'd opened their back catalogues in the 90s, when Napster was the thing, they could have made so much money of all these tracks. Now, they get fractions of a penny for a few listens on Spotify. Spare me the whining about copyright infringement.

    Coming back to Take on Me, this post is not complete without the hilarious cover of Take on Me by Reel Big Fish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHpU0ZfXZ_g They even mimic A-ha's the claustrophic element from A-ha's clip by walking through a bunch of corridors. A bit more surprising is Feel this Moment from Pittbul and Christina Aguilera that liberally samples the hook from Take on Me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jlI4uzZGjU

    Finally, Chris Martin from Coldplay has spoken several times on how A-ha has influenced him. Howard Stern has some side-by-sides.


  2. I think that there more recent acoustic version is the best one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xKM3mGt2pE


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