In A Version or Two

Take On Me is a song by the Norwegian band A-ha. The song is the first single from their album, Hunting High and Low. The song and the animation style combine to become one of the instantly recognizable videos from the 1980s.

take on me


Even though it’s A-ha’s most well-known  song, Take On Me took three years, three song versions, and three music video versions for it to find success on the charts.

The band recorded the demo version of the song at Rendezvous Studios at Sydenham, London. Working with John Ratcliffe, A-ha secured a deal with Warner Brothers for their debut album. Tony Mansfield produced the first studio version of Take On Me, However, the execs at Warner Bros. were unhappy with the result, so they turned to Ratcliffe and Neill King to rerecord most of the song. Set to a plain video of the band singing against a blue background, the song initially flopped after a hasty 1984 release in the UK.

Composition and Music Video

Alan Tarney produced the final and most successful version of the song. The second video, combined with the catchy synth melody and hooks of the Tarney’s version, gave overseas success for the Norweigan band.

Directed by Steve Barron, the video uses rotoscoping to combine live-action sequences with pencil-sketch animation scenes. Animators traced the live-action segments frame-by-frame to achieve this effect. The video took two months complete due to the painstaking animation process.

In the unlikely case that you haven’t seen the video, it involves motorcycle races, a diner, and angry men with a pipe wrench. The video’s two main characters switch between the real world and the world inside a comic at the diner. The animation, haircuts,clothing, and campy synths make up a wonderfully campy snapshot of the 1980s.