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Retro Video Spotlight: a-ha – Take On Me

February 15th, 2008


Things you didn’t know about Norwegian superstar band a-ha:

– they’re still together and making albums
– their last album, 2005’s Analogue, sold 2.5 million copies
– over the past 20 years they’ve sold 81 million albums worldwide. 81 million!! Each of their eight albums has gone platinum.
– the entire country of Norway has a population of just over 4 million (ie: fewer people than Toronto, but more than Montreal)
– a-ha won 8 MTV Video Music Awards in 1986 – at the time, the most any band had ever won in one year
– in 1991, a-ha set a Guinness World Record by playing for the largest paying audience in the world: 198,000 people.

So the band’s first album, Hunting High And Low, is coincidentally the first album I ever bought with my very own money. It has sold 10 million copies, likely thanks to the monster hits The Sun Always Shines On TV and Take On Me. IMO that album is flawless. I listen to it constantly and two decades later it’s still amazing. And two decades later, who doesn’t remember the then (and arguably still now) innovative video for Take On Me??

Watch the video: a-ha – Take On Me

The video was directed by Steve Barron, who also directed Michael Jackson‘s Billie Jean, a trio of Bryan Adams videos (Cuts Like a Knife, Heaven, Summer Of ’69) and also a bunch for Culture Club. Take On Me incorporated a combination of pencil-sketch animation and a technique called “rotoscoping” that involves tracing over individual frames of live action video. The result is very realistic animated movements.


The “star” of the video is actress Bunty Bailey, who dated a-ha frontman Morten Harket for some time before leaving him for another 80s heartthrob, Billy Idol. In the video sits in a coffee shop and reads a comic book about competitive motorcycle racing. As she reads, the book comes to life, and Morten, the motorcycle race winner, reaches through the book and pulls her into his world with an animated hand. Bunty & Morten see each other alternately in live action and animation. While the pair are off cavorting together, two of the race losers come back for revenge and smash the comic frame. Struggles ensue. Near the end, Morten suffers a bunch of injuries after thrashing back and forth within a doorframe at Bunty’s house as he flashes between animated and live action. And you know how the video ends.

Official Site: a-ha
MySpace: Morten Harket
MySpace: Magne Furuholmen

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