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Song of the day #2: Take On Me

It's hard to believe that this song is 25 years old, though it's lasted remarkably well. Part of that was that it was so damned catchy, but perhaps the larger part was its wonderful video. It's become commonplace to bang on about how videos were much better when we were all knee-high to a grasshopper and the only mobile phones were the size of housebricks, but the video for Take On Me was genuinely splendid. Lovely and silly and mockable and yet heartfelt.

The reason I was reminded of it this morning was this fascinating article on the BBC website about how the video came to be made. It not only interviews the band, who are retiring at the end of this year, but also Steve Barron, the director who made this, and Billie Jean among other videos.

The best part of the interview for me was that it spoke to Mike Patterson, whose distinctive style of rotoscoping is what makes the video so memorable. It includes an embed version of the short film Commuter, which got him noticed as a twentysomething animator. Commuter is just as brilliant now as it must have seemed then.

However, talking only about the video does a disservice to the song Take On Me, which is so embedded in the culture that it's hard to remember how odd it sounded at first, with that incredibly high chorus. It has given the band the status of one-hit wonders purely because they had one astonishingly memorable song, whereas in fact they were successful on and off to this day. I just read that they have sold 35 million records, which seems a bit unlikely, but Amazon assures me it is true. (i have their greatest hits album [link]. Judge me all you like. It is fantastic pop music.)

I reckon that if you're remotely interested in music and were alive in the 80s, you'll have this song buried somewhere in a collection of MP3s, so instead here are some cover versions:

Here's a melodramatic cover version by A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers Take On Me (you can hear this one without downloading it).

Here's a dance remix: Take On Me (The Twelves Remix)

But I think most people might enjoy this, a lo-fi, very sugary but very charming version by the Spanish singer Anni B Sweet.

This entry was originally posted at http://finisterre.dreamwidth.org/1921.html. All comments welcome anywhere. comment count unavailable.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 9th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
I'm downloading AC Newman's cover. I love TNP and "Take on Me" so it should go well (just had a listen. Very cool).

Also really liked "The Sun Always Shines on TV" even if it didn't have a similarly amazing vid clip.
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC)
I did too, but my favourite is "I've been losing you", which is the song that should've been a Bond theme
Oct. 10th, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
Oh my god, I LOVE I've Been Losing You! That whole album is really good. Actually, here's where I come out and admit I was hugely into a-ha for their first three albums.

As a semi-Norwegian teenager, I told everyone in my family about how this awesome band was from Norway! I think my Nana was super impressed. Ha!

Then they faded from my radar, and only recently did I start picking up other of their albums. They had a few duds after the first three, but the past handful have been pretty darned good.

Morten Harket has lost neither his voice nor his good looks as he's aged. Gotta love those Norwegians.

PS: I think The Sun Always Shines On TV is a better song than Take On Me. (Blasphemous!)
Oct. 9th, 2010 08:48 am (UTC)
I also read that article. BBC ftw.
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC)
YES. TORIES FTL. HANDS OFF THE BBC. (I'm getting in practice for next year)
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:09 am (UTC)
25 years? OMG that's a scary fact! I have to say it is one of my all time favourite songs.

I have never thought of them as one hit wonders - and I've often wondered why they didn't sue U2 for plagiarism when they brought out their version of the chorus of 'The Sun Always Shines on TV' and called it 'Beautiful Day'.... And I was a big U2 fan back in the day too.
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:44 pm (UTC)
I think that musical themes have to be almost identical to succeed in a plagiarism suit.

I once saw a US show about one-hit wonders which included A-Ha but I've really liked a lot of their songs and The Sun Always Shines On TV was No 1, wasn't it?
Oct. 10th, 2010 09:24 am (UTC)
The Sun Always Shines on TV was a number one, and I think Hunting High and Low might have been too, then more recently Dark is the Night was a top ten hit too. There were probably others that I can't remember so early in the morning(!)

As for 'The Sun etc' and 'Beautiful Day' - just go and listen to them one after the other...
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:31 am (UTC)
I judge you strictly for having that greatest hits album! Because it's a really great pop album, and strictly speaking, everybody should have it.

I'm going to have to go get the original of this song now, curse you. I think it's one that got lost in the great Old Computer Death of '01. I do, however, have one cover version that with your versions will make 4 versions I have without having the original. That could be some kind of record.
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
I'd upload it for you but I don't have the proper version either. It's in my CDs but lord knows where that particular one might be. It's such a good song but I wouldn't want to hear it a lot -- I like it when it comes on the radio though.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )