You thought they'd be gone in a day or two
September 21, 2019 4:08 PM   Subscribe

(Inspired by a recent previous post) A large portion of the mammoth success of a-ha's first single Take On Me was because the music video was so simply magical. It still is. Hand drawn animation blends with live action in an entertaining comic-book-intersects-with-reality story. a-ha went on to do a LOT of innovative music videos (to great songs!), and those released between 1985 and 1991 were assembled into the DVD compilation Headlines And Deadlines: The Hits Of a-ha. Covering the first four of their albums (they have released 10, the most recent in 2015), the second of their 1985 videos was The Sun Always Shines On TV.

Train Of Thought followed in 1986. A bit of a quickie video, it's notable for using the student art film project which inspired the Take On Me video for a major portion of its run.

The final video from their first album was the title track Hunting High And Low. [Bonus: Blue Peter behind-the-scenes of the video 6m25s]

1986 saw the release of their second album Scoundrel Days, and the first single was I've Been Losing You. Quickly followed by one of my personal favorites Cry Wolf. That pop-up book thing has stuck with me for decades.

Continuing their exploration of paper media in music videos into 1987, the final single from their second album Manhattan Skyline has a newspaper theme. This was followed by their opening song for the James Bond movie The Living Daylights.

Stay On These Roads was the title of their third album in 1988, and also Stay On These Roads was the first single. Their next single, The Blood That Moves The Body continued in much the same style. But the single after that, Touchy!, is a bit more back to their inventive fun.

Their final video of 1988 was You Are The One (two happy songs in a row!), but the final video from Stay On These Roads was back to the melancholy with There's Never A Forever Thing in 1989.

East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon was released in 1990, and the first single from that album was the Everly Brothers song Crying In The Rain. This was followed by I Call Your Name.

The final single from East Of The Sun... was Early Morning, released in 1991. This was followed by Move To Memphis, a bonus track created specifically for the 1991 video collection release.
posted by hippybear (27 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to round out the whole a-ha video experience, You can listen to their sound evolve and watch their faces never age here:

From 1993's Memorial Beach: Dark Is The Night For All [Bonus: banned "MTV says it's too disturbing" version], Angel In The Snow, Lie Down In Darkness

From 2000's Minor Earth Major Sky: Summer Moved On, Minor Earth Major Sky, Velvet, The Sun Never Shone That Day, I Wish I Cared [no video]

From 2002's Lifelines: Forever Not Yours, Lifelines, Did Anyone Approach You?

From 2006's Analogue: Celice [Vimeo link, Bonus making-of video] Birthright [no video], Analogue (All I Want) [it's almost a happy song!], Cosy Prisons

From 2009's Foot Of The Mountain: Foot Of The Mountain, Nothing Is Keeping You Here, Shadowside

From 2010's anniversary album 25: Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah) [Bonus: making-of video]

From 2015's Cast In Steel: Under The Makeup, Objects In The Mirror
posted by hippybear at 4:08 PM on September 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

I owned the first four on cassette, Hunting High And Low the album still runs in my brain even though I haven't listened to it in decades.

Putting together this post was a bit of a journey. a-ha is way more than Americans think they are. This was fun. Thanks for the inspiration, Etrigan!
posted by hippybear at 4:10 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

That entire album is just incredibly solid — if nothing else, I feel like Train of Thought doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

Take On Me might be a strong candidate for best music video ever made, though.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:19 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I strongly recommend this truly remarkable low-budget, shot-by-shot Otamatone remake of the Take on Me video. [Otamatones previously.]
posted by eschatfische at 4:20 PM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

A-Ha are so great. I listened to a lot of the early aughts stuff. And Stay On These Roads was on a tape I (badly) recorded off the radio that I still mourn sometimes. *sigh*
Great post, thanks!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 4:21 PM on September 21, 2019

Gonna brag with my brush-with-fame; a friend of mine, Ken Rudolph, was involved with filming Take on Me. I mean literally filming, he had a studio with a bunch of custom computer-driven film and animation equipment. I just asked him and he says "I shot it to film using my aerial image camera to combine live and animation in one pass." Uncredited I fear, the technician's fate.

Ken did a lot of pioneering film animation work back in the 1980s, there's a nice profile of him here. He did a bunch of work on movie title animations, etc in the pre-digital days using film and a custom set of servos and computer software to animate things. Mostly a lost art now but a lot of beautiful precision work.

While following references I found the Patterson + Reckinger page about making this video, he's the animator. The music video was inspired by a short film Patterson made, Commuter.
posted by Nelson at 5:14 PM on September 21, 2019 [19 favorites]

A large portion of the mammoth success of a-ha's first single Take On Me was because the music video was so simply magical

And we cannot discount the winning presence of the woman starring in the video: she rejoices in the name Bunty Bailey.

Bunty Bailey. I feel my life has become richer and more intense in its pleasures since I learned this.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:16 PM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

I would have loved to have been there when the props master for "the sun always shines on TV" was getting ahold of all those mannequins...
"Let me get this straight. You need 1000+ mannequins, and at least 5 of them have to have their mouths wide open?"
posted by cirhosis at 5:38 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

As great as "Take On Me" is, they are much better than you'd think for having such an iconic video driven single. Of course, that doesn't mean I didn't make my 15 year old watch the video yesterday for not the first time, so this post is quite timely.
posted by mollweide at 5:45 PM on September 21, 2019

My favorite version of Take On Me is from the 2017 unplugged performance they did. Here it is.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:46 PM on September 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

a-ha are just so good. Take on Me is iconic but I think the entirety of Minor Earth, Major Sky is their best work altogether. I only have a bootleg rip of it because I don’t think it ever got a proper US release, or if it did, it was limited, and the full album isn’t on Spotify in the US. I think I’m going to have to prowl through a music shop or two when I go back to Norway. I don’t like buying CDs so much anymore but I feel like the absence of that one is something I need to rectify.
posted by angeline at 7:40 PM on September 21, 2019

Minor Earth Major Sky is available to order in the US on Amazon for a physical copy, or you can order digital through Amazon music and put them in your music library of whatever form that is. It's also available through iTunes.

It's easy to get, while not on Spotify.
posted by hippybear at 7:45 PM on September 21, 2019

935,799,140 views and counting -- guess when their YT video hits a billion and win a trip to Norway to meet a-ha at their February 7th show.
posted by cenoxo at 10:58 PM on September 21, 2019

The beginning of the video for "The Sun Always Shines on TV" is as big a "fuck you" to the audience as the opening of Alien 3. "Remember when our favorite characters lived happily ever after? Yeah, no, that didn't happen. Anyway, on with our story..."

Also: you know that 80's synth-pop hit where the characters fall into a comic book and have adventures getting chased by bad guys only to end up reunited in the real world at the end? No, not that one—the other one (which is, fair warning, more racist than I remembered).
posted by The Tensor at 11:32 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

The beginning of the video for "The Sun Always Shines on TV" is as big a "fuck you" to the audience as the opening of Alien 3.

a-ha is not a band full of happy songs.
posted by hippybear at 4:34 AM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

A great spoof by VW.
posted by ensign_ricky at 5:29 AM on September 22, 2019

I can't remember the last time I logged in to Metafilter to post a comment, but I couldn't let this post pass by - I was so happy to see it. When anyone brings up Take On Me, I'm always eager to pipe up that they were more than a one-hit wonder.

They've been touring in Europe, and after waiting impatiently to see if they were ever going to come to the US, I realized I would have to go to them. So I'm going to Belfast next month to see them, and I am so excited. (Plus, finally getting to Belfast after three trips to Ireland.)
posted by corianderstem at 9:19 AM on September 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

Also, I've Been Losing You is my jam.
posted by corianderstem at 9:20 AM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Speaking of "my jam" I can't get Cosy Prisons out of my head since I heard it while writing up this post. lyrics
posted by hippybear at 1:56 PM on September 22, 2019

There's also Take On Me, Starring Paul Manafort courtesy of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

And I just love "The Sun Always Shines On TV." Highly underrated song.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:48 PM on September 22, 2019

I feel like the video for The Sun Always Shines On TV is a direct repudiation of the kind of videos they ended up making later in their career. Which when first released was sort of thrilling and anti-MTV but then as you go along, they're literally making those videos that they're parodying early on. I guess a-ha either has a strong sense of irony or none at all.
posted by hippybear at 3:12 PM on September 22, 2019

Highly recommend: Andrew Huang's '80's dubstep' cover of Sun Always Shines...
posted by kaibutsu at 3:48 PM on September 22, 2019

We can't have 23 comments and fail to mention this 10 year old classic of the meme genre: Take On Me, the literal version. Pipe wrench fight. Fifteen million views.
posted by Acey at 4:33 PM on September 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

The first time I heard the title track on Scoundrel Days, I immediately rewound the tape and played it again. Starts off tense and moody and then just soars.
posted by Eikonaut at 6:49 PM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really like this pared-down version of "Manhattan Skyline" by Kings of Convenience. While a-ha purists might take issue with the arrangement, I like both the original and this cover.

Years ago, I recorded (for fun) the song based on this cover. I've occasionally thought about posting it on MeFi Music...maybe one day, if I'm feeling up to it.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 10:31 PM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

(Okay, I posted's my cover of Kings of Convenience's cover of "Manhattan Skyline" - hope it's okay to self-link here. Thanks, hippybear, for this post and reminding me of it!)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 11:30 PM on September 30, 2019

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