Behind The Song: Take On Me By A-ha

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Submitted by Site Factory admin on Wed, 02/06/2019 - 15:02

Behind The Song: Take On Me By A-ha

Posted 6 Feb 2019
take on me
A-ha, 1987  (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

It may now be one of the biggest hits to come out of the 80s, and still one of the highest streamed throw-back songs on Spotify, but it wasn't always an easy ride for "Take On Me" by Norway's A-ha, and it certainly wasn't an immediate smash.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, lead singer Morten Harket reflects on the time before the band broke. 

"We had to leave Norway and go where it was all happening, which was London. We loved it there, but it was hard. We had no money – we were literally starving. It started to get ugly. Paying for food wasn’t an option. I remember nearly fainting in the street. It was affecting my mental state." 

"We’d already written Take on Me but hadn’t recorded it. Paul [Waaktaar-Savoy, guitarist] had first played it to me in his parents’ house, down in the basement. He had a crappy old nylon-stringed guitar with hippy paintings on it and he strummed the chords with Magne playing the riff on piano. The moment I heard it, I knew it was the one that would break the whole thing open."

Oddly, it was a cheesy TV commercial that sparked the bouncy melody of the song.

"It was only a riff, though. We wrote the rest together. It reminded me of an advert for chewing gum that went: “Juicy Fruit is a packet full of sunshine.” That influenced the verse melody."

It wasn't until the music video was released that the song really took off on a global scale.

"It was released three times and kept flopping. Things weren’t well managed in the early days."  

"It was a steady climb, getting to No 2 in the UK and No 1 in America in 1985. It was what we’d been waiting for and expecting to happen. It was meant to be. Since then, the song and video have been played to death around the world. It has its own career. It lives its own life."

Hunting High and Low was A-ha's breakout album. Upon its release in May 1985, it peaked at #15 on the Billboard's Top 200 album chart. The album granted A-ha international recognition. Hunting High and Low got 3x platinum status in the UK and Platinum status in the United States and Germany, and Gold status in Brazil, and the Netherlands.

Thanks to the strength of the single "Take On Me", the album sold more than eight million copies worldwide and spawned two number one hits. In the fall of 1986, "Take On Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on TV" were nominated for 11 MTV Video Awards combined, and A-ha won eight of these.

a-ha take on me
A-ha with producer Tony Mansfield (sitting, right, at the mixing desk) in the control room during the recording of their first album 'Hunting High And Low' at Eel Pie Studios, Twickenham, London, 1984. L-R (back) Mags Furuholmen, Morten Harket, Pal Waaktaar. (Photo by Erica Echenberg/Redferns/Getty Images)

Listen to the entire album on Spotify...

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