October 9th, 2010

spooks: OTP

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.

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