Take on Me: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Take on Me"
Single by a-ha
from the album Hunting High and Low
B-side "Love Is Reason"
Released 16 September 1985
Format 7", 12"
Recorded 1984-1985
Genre Synthpop
Length 3:46
Label Warner Bros. Records
Writer(s) Magne Furuholmen
Morten Harket
Pål Waaktaar
Producer Alan Tarney
Certification Gold (BPI)
a-ha singles chronology
"Take on Me"
"Love Is Reason"
Alternate covers
1st Release cover of "Take on Me"

"Take on Me" is a song by Norwegian pop band a-ha. Written by the band members, the song was produced by Alan Tarney for the group's first studio album Hunting High and Low, released in 1985. The song combines synthpop with a varied instrumentation, which includes acoustic guitars, keyboards, drums and synthesizers.

The original "Take on Me" was recorded in 1984, and took three releases to chart in the United Kingdom, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart in November 1985. In the United States the song reached the top position of the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1985, due in no small part to the wide exposure of its memorable and cutting-edge music video on MTV, directed by Steve Barron. The video features the band in a pencil-sketch animation/live-action combination called rotoscoping. The video won six awards, and was nominated for two others at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards.



Pål Waaktaar and Magne Furuholmen began their music careers playing in a band called Bridges, together with Viggo Bondi and Øystein Jevanord.[1] In 1981 the band produced Fakkeltog, an LP for which all of the music was composed by the group themselves, most of it being written by Waaktaar. Soon after, Bridges disbanded. Waaktaar and Furuholmen relocated to London to try their hand in the music industry there, but after six months of disappointment they returned to Norway.[1] The duo decided to try to get Morten Harket to join them as lead singer. At the time, Harket was singing in a band called Souldier Blue, but he felt that his band was stagnating, and decided to join Waaktaar and Furuholmen. They stayed together for six months, writing some songs and working on demo tapes, including "Lesson One," the song that eventually became "Take on Me." In January 1983 the trio returned to London in search of a recording a contract.[1]

Recording and production

The band moved into a flat in London and began calling on record companies and publishing houses. After a few meetings with various A&R personnel, the band signed with a publishing house called Lionheart. a-ha then returned to Norway to earn some money. When they returned to London, they left Lionheart out of frustration.[2] They decided to record new demos, and chose the studio of musician and producer John Ratcliff, intending to re-record five songs. The band signed with Ratcliff, who in return introduced them to his manager, Terry Slater. With this encouragement, the band managed to complete some songs, including "Take on Me." After a few meetings, Slater signed them with Warner Bros. Records.[2]

The band met with Tony Mansfield, an expert in the use of computerized synthesizers, who mixed the demos with electronic instrumentation. The sound was not what a-ha had hoped to achieve, and the album was remixed again. The band rushed to release "Take on Me" as a single in the United Kingdom but failed to make an impact. After this, Warner Brothers' main office in the United States decided to invest in the band, and gave them the opportunity to re-record the song.[2] Terry Slater convinced Alan Tarney to produce the new version. The song was soon completed and re-released in the United Kingdom, but the record label's office in London gave them little support, and the single flopped for the second time.[2]

In the United States, Warner Brothers put the group on high priority, and made the move to invest serious money in a revolutionary video for "Take on Me" using the version produced by Tarney. The single was released in the United States a month after the music video, and immediately appeared in the Billboard Hot 100.[2]


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"Take on Me" is a synthpop song, written in the key of A major,[3] and includes instrumentation from acoustic guitars, keyboards, and synthesizers.[4][5] Like the majority of pop music, the song is set in common time. It moves at a very quick tempo of 170 beats per minute.[3] The lyrics are a plea for love,[6] and are constructed in a verse-chorus form with a bridge before the third and final chorus. In the song, Harket demonstrates a vocal range of over two and a half octaves.[3] He sings the lowest pitch in the song, A2, at the beginning of the chorus, on the first syllable of the phrase "Take on me."[3] As the chorus progresses, Harket's voice hits ever higher notes, reaching a falsetto[4][7][8] and hitting the song's highest note (E5) at the end [3] (note values specified in this article using scientific pitch notation). One should also note the temporary change of markings in the drum pattern in the chorus, where for two bars the drums play in half time, only to pick up the same rhythm as before for the climax of the vocal line. A mix of drums,[9][10] acoustic guitars and electronic instrumentation serves as the song's backing track.[4]

Music video

Lead singer Morten Harket and actress Bunty Bailey in a scene from the music video, which features them in a pencil-sketch animation/live-action combination called rotoscoping.

Two videos were made for the song. 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.[11] The second video was directed by Steve Barron, and filmed at Kim's Café and on a sound stage in London, in 1985.[12] 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.[13]

The video's main theme is a romantic fantasy narrative.[14] It begins with a young woman, played by actress Bunty Bailey,[12] drinking coffee and reading a comic book alone in a coffee shop. The comic contains a narrative about competitive motorcycle racing in which the hero is pursued by two villains. As the girl reads, her waitress writes out the bill for her to pay. The winner of the race, played by Morten Harket, winks at the girl from the page. Then a graphical representation of a hand reaches through the comic book, inviting the girl to enter his animated world. Through a creative effect they both view each other through a strange window which allows them to see each other in live action, while they each actually remain in pencilled comic book form.

When the waitress comes back for the bill, she discovers the girl missing and believes that she has left without paying. She angrily crumples up the comic book and throws it into a garbage can. Then, since the comic book is crumpled, the pages overlap and touch, allowing the two motorcycle villains to cross over into the panels containing Harket and the girl. One, wielding a pipe wrench, smashes the window. Harket punches one of the thugs and retreats with the girl into a maze created by the crumpled paper. Harket tears a hole in one panel so the girl can escape as he faces the two thugs with his own monkey wrench. She reluctantly complies, and reappears on the floor in the coffee shop, to the surprise of the shop clientele and employees. The startled girl grabs the crumpled comic book and runs home, where she attempts to smoothe out the creases to learn what happens next.

One of the panels shows Harket seemingly lying lifeless, and she begins to cry. Harket then wakes up and begins throwing himself against the edges of the panel of the comic book's page, attempting to break out into the real world. As he does this, he begins to flash between animation and live action. The live-action version of him appears in the hallway leading to the girl's room, throwing himself against the corridor walls. He finally escapes from the comic book by becoming human and embraces the girl. This final scene is based on the 1980 movie Altered States.[12]

At the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, the video for "Take on Me" won six awards—Best New Artist in a Video, Best Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Best Direction, Best Special Effects, and Viewer's Choice—and was nominated for two others, Best Group Video and Video of the Year.[15] It was also nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Video at the 13th American Music Awards in 1986.[16]

Chart performance

"Take on Me" was originally released in 1984, and was mixed by Tony Mansfield, but failed to make an impact in the United Kingdom.[2] The group re-recorded the song with the help of producer Alan Tarney,[2][12] releasing it for the second time in late 1984, peaking at number three in Norway[17] but also failing to reach audiences abroad.[2][18]

In the United States, Warner Bros. invested in the revolutionary second video for "Take on Me," which used Tarney's version of the song. The new video was released to dance clubs and television a month before the record was available in stores or played on the radio.[19] Wide exposure on MTV[18] made the song quickly soar to the top position of the Billboard Hot 100 on 19 October 1985.[20] It remained on the chart for twenty-three weeks, and ended up at the tenth position of the 1985 year-end chart.[21]

"Take on Me" was released for the third time in the United Kingdom in September 1985.[18] The song debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number fifty-five, peaked at number two for three weeks, and received a gold certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[22] In Norway, a-ha's native country, "Take on Me" reentered the VG-lista singles chart, reaching a new peak of number one, a year after it was first released.[23] The single was largely successful across the rest of Europe, reaching the top of the Eurochart Hot 100 for nine weeks, topping the singles charts in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland,[24][25][26][27][28] and reaching the top three in France and Ireland.[29][30]

Formats and track listing

  • 7" Original single (1984)
  1. "Take on Me" (Original version) – 3:10
  2. "And You Tell Me" – 1:48
  • 12" Original single (1984)
  1. "Take on Me" (Long version) – 3:44
  2. "And You Tell Me" – 1:48
  3. "Stop! And Make Your Mind Up" – 2:57 (Pål Waaktaar)

(On this record, Pål Waaktaar is miscredited as Päl Waktaar)

  • 7" Single (1985)
  1. "Take on Me" – 3:46
  2. "Love Is Reason" – 3:04
  • 7" Single (1985)
  1. "Take on Me" (LP version) – 3:46
  2. "The Sun Always Shines on TV" (LP version) – 4:30
  • 12" Maxi-Single (1985)
  1. "Take on Me" (Extended version) – 4:45
  2. "Love Is Reason" (LP version) – 3:01
  3. "Take on Me" (Single version) – 3:31


Charts and certifications

Chart positions

Chart (1984) Peak
Norwegian Singles Chart[17] 1
Chart (1985) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report[31] 1
Austrian Singles Chart[24] 1
Belgian VRT Top 30[25] 1
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[32] 2
Dutch Top 40[26] 1
French SNEP Singles Chart[29] 3
German Singles Chart[27] 1
Irish Singles Chart[30] 2
Italian Singles Chart[28] 1
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart[33] 7
Swedish Singles Chart[34] 1
Swiss Singles Chart[35] 1
UK Singles Chart[36] 2
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[20] 1
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary[37] 4


Country Provider Certification Sales/shipments
Germany IFPI Gold[38] 250,000+
United Kingdom BPI Gold[22] 500,000+
Preceded by
"Oh Sheila" by Ready for the World
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
19 October 1985
Succeeded by
"Saving All My Love for You" by Whitney Houston
Preceded by
"Cheerio" by The Monroes
Norwegian VG-lista number-one single
23 October 1985 – 6 November 1985
Succeeded by
"Cheri Cheri Lady" by Modern Talking
Preceded by
"Cheri Cheri Lady" by Modern Talking
German Singles Chart number-one single
8 November 1985 – 6 December 1985
Succeeded by
"Nikita" by Elton John
Swiss Singles Chart number-one single
10 November 1985 – 1 December 1985
Eurochart Hot 100 number-one single
23 November 1985 – 18 January 1986
Preceded by
"(I'll Never Be) Maria Magdalena" by Sandra
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
30 November 1985
Preceded by
"I Got You Babe" by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
11 November 1985 – 18 November 1985
Succeeded by
"The Power of Love" by Jennifer Rush

Reel Big Fish version

"Take on Me"
Single by Reel Big Fish
from the album BASEketball
Released 1999
Format CD single
Genre Ska punk
Length 3:14
Label Mojo Records
Reel Big Fish singles chronology
"Sell Out"
"Take on Me"
"Talkin' 'bout a Revolution"

In 1999, ska punk band Reel Big Fish covered "Take on Me" for the film BASEketball. The song was later released on the BASEketball soundtrack and the international version of their album Why Do They Rock So Hard?.[39][40] The band also performed the song at concerts.[41] Reel Big Fish released a video clip for "Take On Me", directed by Jeff Moore,[42] and features the band playing the song while walking down an aisle in the stadium, and playing a game of BASEketball interlaced with clips from the film. An alternative video for the song's international release that contained only the stadium aisle footage was also released. Reel Big Fish also included a live version of the song in their live album Our Live Album Is Better than Your Live Album.[43]

Track listing

  • CD Single
  1. "Take on Me" – 3:02
  2. "Alternative Baby" – 2:56
  3. "Why Do All the Girls Think They're Fat?" – 2:22


a1 version

"Take on Me"
Single by a1
from the album The A list
B-side "I Got Sunshine"
Released 14 August 2000
Format CD single, 7"
Recorded 2000
Genre Pop
Length 3:46
Label Epic Records
Certification Silver (BPI)
a1 singles chronology
"Like a Rose"
"Take on Me"
"Same Old Brand New You"

In August 2000, British boy band a1 released a cover of "Take on Me" for their second studio album The A list.[44] Despite being panned by music critics, who called it a "lame cover version",[45] and a "note for note copy" that seems like "a re-release of the original";[46] it was commercially successful, topping the charts in Norway and the United Kingdom,[47][48] where it was certified silver by the BPI.[22] The cover's music video was directed by Stuart Gosling, and features the band saving the world from a deadly computer virus,[49] an inspiration from the 1982 science fiction film TRON.[50]

Formats and track listings

  • CD, Maxi-Single, Enhanced, CD1
  1. "Take on Me" – 3:31
  2. "Beatles Medley (I Feel Fine / She Loves You)" – 3:20
  3. "I Got Sunshine" – 3:41
  • CD, Maxi-Single, Enhanced, Limited Edition, CD2
  1. "Take on Me" (U.K. 2K Mix) – 3:25
  2. "Take on Me" (Metro Extended Club Mix) – 6:02
  3. "Take on Me" (D-Bop Saturday Night Mix) – 7:52


Chart (2000) Peak
Australian ARIA Singles Chart[51] 46
Dutch Mega Single Top 100[52] 47
German Singles Chart[53] 61
Irish Singles Chart[30] 12
Norwegian Singles Chart[47] 1
Swedish Singles Chart[54] 9
UK Singles Chart[48] 1


Country Provider Certification Sales/shipments
Norway IFPI Gold[55] 5,000+
United Kingdom BPI Silver[22] 200,000+
Preceded by
"Music" by Madonna
UK Singles Chart number-one single
3 September 2000
Succeeded by
"Lady (Hear Me Tonight)" by Modjo
Norwegian VG-lista number-one single
5 October 2000 – 19 October 2000
Succeeded by
"Beautiful Day" by U2

Other cover versions


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  • Fiske, John (1994). Reading the Popular. Routledge. ISBN 041507875X. 
  • Keating, Jody; Pizer, Tom; Fig Leaf Software (Firm) (2002). Inside Flash. New Riders. ISBN 0735711054. 

External links

Simple English

Take on Me is a 1985 synthpop song by the Norwegian pop band a-ha. It was originally released in 1984, and was mixed by Tony Mansfield, but failed to make an impact in the United Kingdom.

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