A-ha wrote and recorded the first version of this song in 1982 with the title "Lesson One" - it had different lyrics but contained the basic keyboard riff. In 1983, the song got the attention of industry veteran Terry Slater, who became their manager and helped them secure a contract with Warner Bros. Records later that year.
In early 1984, they re-wrote the song as "Take On Me" and recorded it with producer Tony Mansfield. Released as a single only in Europe, it went to #3 in their native Norway, but didn't chart anywhere else, flopping particularly hard in the UK. A video was made for this version that was remarkably undistinguished compared with the one that came after.
At Slater's suggestion, they re-recorded the song with producer Alan Tarney, who beefed it up with more instrumentation and energy. Around this time, a record company executive named Jeff Ayeroff moved from A&M to Warner Bros., and championed the song. In the book I Want My MTV, he said: "I fell in love with the song. Then I saw a picture of the band, and it was like, Do people actually look like this? Morten Harket was one of the best-looking men in the world."
Ayeroff commissioned a new video, hiring Steve Barron, whose work included "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League and "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson, to direct.
The video was released in May 1985, and used the new version of the song produced by Alan Tarney. A promotional single was released at the same time with stills from the video in the sleeve art. Warner Bros. promoted the song through the video, getting movie theaters to show it before films and eventually getting it on MTV. When MTV picked it up, radio stations also played the song, and by August it was in the US Top 40. The song continued to climb the charts until it hit #1 on October 19, where it stayed for one week. A week later, the song also reached its UK chart peak, coming in at #2 behind "The Power Of Love" by Jennifer Rush.
This song became a hit in the US because of its innovative video where a cartoon figure beckons the reader to join him in comic. It was created by Michael Patterson and his wife Candace Reckinger, who would later work on videos for "Opposites Attract," "Luka" and "Impulsive."
Patterson told us: "We started on a-ha's 'Take on Me' - the project began with my animated film Commuter, which won the student academy award in 1981 - it's done in the same animation style. I directed the animation and drew everything on that clip - we also did the finish for it here in LA. It's credited for bringing experimental animation into the mainstream."
The video was inspired by the transformation scene in the 1980 sci-fi film Altered States. Every scene was shot live then projected onto paper and traced.
A-ha were a Norwegian trio formed by Morten Harket (vocals), Pal Waaktaar (guitar) and Mags Furuholmen (keyboards). They moved to London in January 1983 and signed to Warners later in the year. Furuholmen chose their name as it was a simple exclamation known all over the world.
With this hit, a-ha became the first Norwegian band to have #1 in USA.
Bunty Bailey, the woman Morten Harket falls for and saves in the video, became Morten's girlfriend for a couple of years after they met on the shoot. After their breakup, she moved on to other music videos, and was one of the girls singing "back-up" for Billy Idol in his video for "Got To Be A Lover." Look for the blonde in the white outfit in the middle.
Suggestion credit: Kristy - Cobourg, ON, Canada
In 1986, a-ha had a UK #1 hit with "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.." The next year, they recorded the soundtrack for the James Bond movie The Living Daylights. They have a fairly large following in parts of Europe, but had less success in the US.
Producer Alan Tarney generated the main rhythm on a Roland Juno 60 synthesizer. There is also a LinnDrum in the mix, programmed by Pal Waaktaar.
The TV show Family Guy did a spoof on the famous music video, with Chris Griffin being pulled into the black-and-white animation at a supermarket (in the 2005 episode "Breaking Out Is Hard to Do").
Suggestion credit: Bert - Pueblo, NM
Some notable cover versions of this song:
The Christian punk band MXPX covered it on their 1995 album On the Cover.
Reel Big Fish released their cover in 1996, which was used in the 1998 movie BASEketball. It's a popular song at their concerts.
Pentatonix did it acapella on their 2017 album Vol. IV - Classics.
Weezer included it on [b]The Teal Album[/b], a 2019 covers set.
The group Strangers With Candy, who were later known as Lifer, won the MTV Ultimate Cover Band Contest with their version of this song in 2000.
Suggestion credit: Jesse - North Providence, RI
Because of the singer's Norwegan accent, lyrics to the song are often misinterpreted. In one verse, many people hear, "Talking away, today isn't my day to find you," but the correct lyrics are actually, "Today's another day to find me."
Suggestion credit: Freya - Dorset, United Kingdom
The song reached #1 in 27 countries including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. It remained on top of the Eurochart Hot 100 for nine weeks.
Volkswagen used this song in a commercial titled "Feeling Carefree." In the spot, a guy daydreams during a meeting as he sketches out scenes reminiscent of the video. When he comes back to reality, he realizes he is singing the song.
In the 2018 movie Ready Player One, this is mentioned as the favorite song of James Halliday, creator of the virtual world where most of the action takes place. The song was used in a trailer for the film.
The band learned the hard way that chart success doesn't equal financial success, at least not right away. When they found out the song went to #1, they celebrated with dinner and champagne at a swanky restaurant - only to have their credit card refused.
This was featured in the 1997 John Cusack film Grosse Pointe Blank and was included on the second volume of the official soundtrack.
This was used on The Simpsons in the 2005 episode "Future-Drama."
In 2008, a "literal version" of the video went viral, with a Morten Harket impersonator narrating the action of the clip. Mags Furuholmen was a big fan of the comedic take. "I thought it was f--king fantastic. It was amazing. I wish we'd have that video back when we made it," he told Rolling Stone. "The lyrics make so much more sense than the one we have."
Furuholmen said early versions of the song were influenced by The Doors, particularly keyboardist Ray Manzarek. He told Rolling Stone: "Manzarek's almost mathematical but very melodic, structured way of playing the keyboard was a huge influence in how I approached my instrument. And I think a lot of the strength of a-ha comes from absorbing things like that and adding our own Scandinavian flavor to it."
The video won six out of eight nominations at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best New Artist in a Video and Viewer's Choice. It was a record number of wins in the ceremony's three-year history (Michael Jackson's "Thriller" won half as much in 1983).
When the trio performed this on Solid Gold in 1985, they were accompanied by The Go-Go's drummer, Gina Schock.
a-ha recorded a gentle, acoustic version for the 2017 MTV special Unplugged – Summer Solstice. This rendition was used in the 2018 movie Deadpool 2 in a scene that evoked the video: Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) pulls Wade (Ryan Reynolds) into her realm, so they can be together on another plane of existence.
James Gibbs from Nycone of the best of the 80s in America they are known as a one hit wonder it's a great hit to have
Anton from EarthSong has always had a bittersweet, poignant feel to it, with the lyric "I'll be gone in a day", almost to bringing tear to the eye. As others have said, a quintessential synthpop song and amazing video from the beginning of the music video era. I an' I always turn volume up for this one.
Malone from Far East, West SideYour lyrics are a bit off: There should be no "We're" in the first line, And later on it shouldn't be "I'll be stumbling away" it should be "but I'm me / stumbling away". Finally it shouldn't be "Is it live or", the correct lyric is "is it life or".
As you can see their line formatting is different too, you could adopt that if you wanted to. They also don't capitalize XD
Anyways, nice collection of information, cheers!~
Shandroise De Laeken from Davao City, PhilippinesSomeone asked what's that blurred out thing on the Hunting High and Low album photo - this photo shows it's a girl who moved. https://scontent-hkg3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xfa1/t31.0-8/474525_570593362963587_131159608_o.jpg?efg=eyJpIjoiYiJ9
Shandroise De Laeken from Davao City, PhilippinesI agree with Jeff Ayeroff's comment on Morten! I'd like to be born the same year as my mama (1962) so that on 1985, I was already 23!! Morten is soooo my type!! Oh sooo handsome!! The people my age who don't know a-ha are unfortunate not to see such a LOVELY-looking man!!
Shandroise De Laeken from Davao City, PhilippinesAnother 90's baby here who wishes she were born back in late 70's or early 80's because songs were just GREAT then. I can't say that word about songs produced since 2005.
I really love how most Scandinavian singers enunciate words. I love the Scandinavian English accent! Soo cool~!
I miss those times music videos are like this! What they made is ART!
Sherry from Bay City,miLove the song and the video to this day. Still sing along with it whenever I hear it or see the video.
Marc from -, MdFirst-ever interview with the girl in this video, including what she's doing now and never-published pics: http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-girl-in-video-take-on-me-1985.html
Roann from Apalachin, NyOnce again, the ad men proved they are no longer creative. Not only did VW "steal" the song but they also "borrowed" the video. Such a shame!
Kent from Greensburg, PaNow THIS is what a music video SHOULD be! What ever happened to the art of the video? The last great videos played on MTV and VH1 that were just as creative and memorable and not just a bunch of back up dancers were Beyonce's 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), and Cee Lo's 'Forget You.'
Megan from Stevenson, AlThis song is amazing! WOW! God, I wish I grew up in the 80s!!! WHY?!?! This is how you do it!
Camille from Toronto, OhOh, just one more thing: the song went to #1 in 27 countries!!! Amazing!!!
Camille from Toronto, OhThis video defined the MTV generation. Everything about it is memorable: the instantly recognizable keyboard opening, the high notes, the animation. The word order of the title: Take On Me, adds to the uniqueness. I agree with the comments of Bertrand from Paris, France~great quality combining song with video. Definitely one of the best all-time videos and love to hear it when it comes on the radio, it never gets old.
Rick from Mason City, IaA-Ha continues to put out great "Synthpop" oriented music today....www.adifferentdrum.com carries their latest releases. What can you say about Take on Me? I can still hit the high notes.....but may need a punch in the Jims to get there nowadays!
Jorges from Oaxaca, Mexicoif someone ask for an example of one representative song of contemporany pop 80's 90's Take on Me and its video is one of the best fit.
Hannah from Gustavus, OhAn interesting note about this song - "Take on me" translates literally into Norwegian as an idiomatic phrase for "Touch me." So it's possible the song should be "Touch Me," although not likely, as A-Ha had visited England before and this song was produced by an English-speaking producer.
Ashley from Chawton,hampshire,england, United KingdomA Classic song and video one of the best of the 1980's,and one that I keep coming back as it's SO,SO Catchy!!!and is imprinted in my Mind.When I play the video/song I must say my eyes are usually not dry by the end of it!!!the girl in the video(bunty bailey)is ABSOLUTETLY Stunning and it's not surprising that her and Morten where dating each other at the time.
Paul from Washington Dc, DcThe video always reminded me of Speed Racer, my favorite animated series when I was a little kid in the '60's.
Mimzy from Salem, Orbest pop song ever made! and best video too.
James from Chicopee, MaWow, I love this song and can't stop listening to it... Lol I love the pipe wrench fight in the music video.
Rob from Glasgow, United Kingdomyep 198.000 paying customers at rock in rio 2(GUINNESS WORLD RECORD),over 40 million albums sold, maybe more to date,James Bond sound track,THE SUN ALWAYS SHINES ON TV reached number 5 in the AMERICAN dance singles chart,first norwegian band to hit number 1 in AMERICA,it goes on and on .One hit wonders eh.
Kevin from Birmingham, United KingdomBoy Band A1 did a cover of this in 2000 on their album A1 The A List
Katie from Fairfield, OhTHIS SONG IS BEAST!!!!!!!... NUFF SAID.
BUT, when I was in the 8th grade, me and my friends used to sing this and it would get on the teachers nerves. It was SO funny.
I wasn't even born in the 80's! Nor did I grow up in them! That's how BEASTLY the 80's are.
<3 that shiat.
Victoria from Memphis, TnThe best 80's song EVER!
Eugene from Minneapolis, MnDon't mean to be funny or anything, but these guys are one hit wonders. Let me tell you why.I am willing to bet that the average person in the US of A remembers A-ha for only "Take On Me" along with their wicked video. Sad but true. I personally I like their other singles such as "Cry Wolf" (which I bump rather loudly on my car stereo) & "The Sun Always Shines on TV" much more than "Take On Me", really.
Malena from Monterrey, Mexicocan´t believe it...........23 years have passed and still feel the same why as i did when i was 22 years old in collage....love it
Mitchell from Adelaide, Australia God, I wish I was alive in the 80's women were so my type back then, now they're all like 40 and 50 and old and wrinkly :(
Crystal from Fort Worth, TxThis is just an idea, but maybe they were tlking about a girl who wasn't very open who always put on a front, even towards a certain boy...
Again, just an idea....
Audrey from Laurel, MdTake on Me: an amazing tribute and excellent representain of the forgein industry of musical europe, painted with talented falsetto vocal skills, and amazingly well designed graphic sound.
Janush from London, United KingdomI met Bunty (her real name is Therese) when she was a dancer for the Monte Carlo Show in the summer casino in Monaco in the early 80's - I guess you could say we had a weekend fling type thing. She told me she lied about her age to get the dancing gig (she was only 16) and only did it to get her Equity card. One weekend her mother was in town (she was quite a looker) and we all went out to dinner at the "Bistroquet" restaurant where this charming older guy sort of joined us and ended up doing the tango with Bunty's mum through the restaurant and telling brilliant jokes. He was one of the funniest and charismatic people I had ever met. I didn't really see much of Bunty after that as I think she left Monaco. I discovered the next day that the guy was Richard Burton, the actor. I wonder if she ever found out herself.
Chris from Houston, TxDuran Duran did the Bond theme "View to a Kill". It was the last Bond file with Roger Moore and the ONLY bond theme to hit #1. "Live and let die" only hit #2.
Brett from Tampa, FlA wonderful blend of a great melody and words. This song's music video took the states by storm in 1985. I hadn't seen it in years but recently I joined a gym here in Tampa. They have an in house station on TV that plays music and music videos and I have now seen the A-Ha video twice in the past few weeks. I am reminded of how cutting edge it was and what a terrific blend of fantasy and music it was. Many young people working out near me saw my enthusiasm and asked about it, especially the meaning behind the use of comic book characters and reality. I recently loaded their hit song "Take on Me" on my IPod and enjoy this great sound once again.
Bertrand from Paris, FranceWhen the topic of this song (or the Norwegian band that recorded it) comes up, most music fans tend to associate the groundbreaking animated music video most strongly. Or maybe they make fun of the falsetto lead vocals that threaten to break glass items in kitchen cabinets halfway across town. But in reality, the most notable aspect of this No. 1 hit is not even its unforgettable keyboard opening but its overall quality from start to finish. American listeners probably never figured out exactly what these particular Scandinavians were singing about, but most of us knew transcendent pop when we heard it.
Jamey from Montgomery, AlDoes anyone know what is going on on the cover of this album (Hunting High And Low)? I've never been able to figure out what is going on and what that blurred thing is. Anyone have any ideas?
Dave from Cardiff, WalesA-Ha had 12 Top 20 hits in the UK between 1985 and 1990 - "Take On Me", "The Sun Always Shines On TV", "Train Of Thought", "Hunting High And Low", "You Are The One", "Cry Wolf", "Manhattan Skyline", "Touchy!", "The Living Daylights", "The Blood That Moves The Body", "Stay On These Roads" and "Crying In The Rain", and after 1990 they went on to have a few 'lesser' hits as well
Helen from Leeds, EnglandAs far as i remember aha had a few hits in england.Cry wolf, Hunting high and low, The living daylights as well as take on me and the sun always shines on tv.Def not a one hit wonder band.Only last year they were on top of the pops over here.I love aha and Morten is still rather sexy!
Brandon from Peoria, IlI thought The Living Daylights was Duran Duran
Marianne from Baton Rouge, LaI don't care what people say this is one of the greatest videos ever made. And no one will ever top it.
John from Boston, MaRegarding the one hit wonder stuff; I think a band can be considered a one hit wonder if they have a #1 song like this one that is immediately followed by a lesser hit. I don't really consider #50 to be enough to take a band off one-hit wonder status. "Sun Always Shines on TV" was big enough to cause debate on the matter.
Anyway, why do people act as if being called a "one hit wonder" is a bad thing?
Douglas from WaterlooI personally don't see how a-ha could be considered a one-hit wonder. I mean, they did a Bond song, or has everyone forgotten The Living Daylights?
Carlos from Lima, PeruThis is a great song, maybe the lyrics aren't so extraordinary, but the music is simply gorgeous. In my country other 3 A-ha songs struck, they're Maybe Maybe, You're the One (for me just as goos as TOM) and Cry Wolf. Great band.
James from Alpharetta, Gai love and hate this song. whenever i hear it i'm 19 again and back in college. no other song puts me back in a moment like this song. maybe it was the animation. it reminds me of those old times, and makes me sad that they are gone. if they were one-hit wonders, what great one-hit wonders they were. thank you a-ha.
Penny from Geelong, AustraliaLove a-ha and have been a fan since I was 13!! Yeah a-ha may have been a one hit wonder in Australia but a-ha have always been an underrated band! The boys have other songs that are far better than 'Take on me'
Wish Oz radio stations would play other a-ha songs besides T.O.M!! I think people from Oz would really appreciate the band more if they knew about a-ha's new album 'Analogue'! A-ha are more than just an 80's band!
Penny from Geelong, AustraliaLove a-ha and have been a fan since I was 13 yo. 33 now!! Yeah a-ha may have been a one hit wonder in Australia...but a-ha have always been an underrated band!! I think a-ha have written some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard ...yes other songs that are so much better than 'Take on Me'!
Jared from Pacific, MoWeebl and Bob, a web cartoon, also spoofed this song, with hilarious results. You can find it at http://www.weebls-stuff.com/wab/paper/
Nathan from L-burg, KyHas anyone noticed the top 3 A-Ha hits begin with the letter 'T' Take on me,The Sun Always Shines On TV , And Touchy
Spencer from Los Angeles, CaiTunes has 8 a-ha videos, none of which are "Take On Me." What's up with that? I love this song, and that Family Guy spoof was hilarious.
Matthew from East Brunswick, NjGreat song. Brilliant spoof by Family Guy. Love it.
Richard from Mound, MnOn the contrary, a-ha were NOT one-hit wonders here in the US. Take On Me did go to number one but what alot of people don't realize is that they again cracked the Top 40 with 'The Sun Always Shines on TV' which peaked at #20. Not to mention 'Cry Wolf' which hit #50. Now to me, that seems more like just one-hit. VH1 helped support this lie with their one-hit wonder countdown.
Ane from Indre Sogn, NorwayA-ha released their new single last week. It's called 'Celice' and it's both catchy and classy.
James from Edmonton, CanadaI love this song and this video, also, am I the only one who thinks Bunty Bailey is very pretty in this video?
Dee from Indianapolis, InA-HA, what a contemporary video for it's time and is still considered one of the top 10 of all time. I have caught the spoof on Family Guy and it was a riot. I feel these guys could have done better in the states if more of their music had gotten radio play off future albums. That seems to happen to many a great band out there, but we are a society of instant gratification instead of one which listens to what could be.
Bert from Pueblo, Nmanyone catch the spoof of this music video on Family Guy?
Rob from St Davids, WalesGreat keyboard solo in it. But the bands name is ****! That high note is too high for me to sing. Belive me I have tried!
Kat from Tbilisi, OtherBrilliant song
Anastasia from Anaheim, CaThe ska band, Reel Big Fish redid this song. this song was seriously meant for ska. it's awesome. check it out..
Pete from Nowra, Australiaone hit wonder in Australia
Skuld from ReykjavÃ?k , IcelandThis song is in fact only a one hit wonder in the US. a-ha are currently writing for their 8th studio album and have a contract for two additional albums with Warner Music. They were massively popular in Europe and South America during the 80's and the early 90's.
Annabelle from Eugene, OrI Love this song! And I Love This Band! I'd be excited and jumping with joy to meet them when I go to Norway!
Sebastian from Munich, Germanymy all-time favorite song, even before i knew the video, even more so after i knew it. damn i love the 80ties