The 80’s song “Take On Me” by A-ha is one of the most viewed songs on Youtube. The video is nearing 1 billion views already.
“Take On Me” is a song by Norwegian synthpop band A-ha, first released in 1984. The self-composed original version was produced by Tony Mansfield, and remixed by John Ratcliff. The second version was produced by Alan Tarney for the group’s debut studio album Hunting High and Low (1985). The song combines synthpop with a varied instrumentation that includes acoustic guitars, keyboards and drums.
The original “Take On Me” was recorded in 1984 and it took two versions and three releases to finally chart in the United Kingdom, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart in October 1985. In the United States in October 1985, the song became the only A-ha song to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100, due in no small part to the wide exposure on MTV of its innovative music video, directed by Steve Barron. The video features the band in a live-action pencil-sketch sequence. The video won six awards and was nominated for two others at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.
The first release of “Take On Me” in 1984 includes a completely different recording, and was featured in the first video, which shows the band singing with a blue background.
The second video, directed by Irish-born British film director Steve Barron, is the more widely recognized video for the song. It was filmed in 1985 at Kim’s Café (now called Savoy Café) (on Wandsworth Road, London SW8), and on a sound stage in London. The video used a pencil-sketch animation / live-action combination called rotoscoping, in which the live-action footage is traced over frame by frame to give the characters realistic movements. Approximately 3,000 frames were rotoscoped, which took 16 weeks to complete.
The video’s main theme is a romantic fantasy narrative. It begins with a montage of pencil drawings in a comic-book style representing motorcycle sidecar racing, in which the hero, played by Morten Harket, is pursued by two opponents, one of whom is played by English actor Philip Jackson. It then cuts to a scene in a cafe, in which a young woman, played by Bunty Bailey (Harket’s girlfriend at the time), is seen drinking coffee and reading the comic book in a coffee shop. As the woman reads, the waitress brings her the bill. The comic’s hero, after winning the race, seemingly winks at the woman from the page. His pencil-drawn hand reaches out of the comic book, inviting the woman into it. Once inside, she too appears in the pencil-drawn form, as he sings to her and introduces her to his black-and-white world which features a sort of looking-glass portal where people and objects look real on one side and pencil-drawn on the other. See the video: