The album that all three songs came from.
An early version of "Take On Me" was the first song that Morten Harket had heard Magne Furuholmen and Pål Waaktaar play in Asker. At that time, the song was called "The Juicy Fruit Song", and the two men were still known as Bridges. It was named "Lesson One" when it was first recorded by A-ha. After some re-writing, multiple re-recordings, and three releases, "Take On Me" became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1985. The first version of the song, released in 1984, was promoted by a video of the band performing the song in front of a blue background. The song was then re-recorded with production by Alan Tarney, but both of these releases failed to chart. It was then re-released with a new, groundbreaking video which peaked at number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. A-ha became the first Norwegian band to have a number 1 song in the US; the song's popularity earned the band a spot on the American television series Soul Train in 1985, making them one of the few white artists to appear on the black music-orientated show. Gino Vanelli, Elton John, David Bowie, Hall & Oates, Sheena Easton and Teena Marie all had performed on Soul Train prior to A-ha's 1985 performance.
The second video was directed by Steve Barron, and filmed at Kim's Café (now called "Savoy" cafe) and on a sound stage in London, in 1985. 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. Approximately 3,000 frames were rotoscoped, which took 16 weeks to complete.
The video's main theme is a romantic fantasy narrative. It begins with a montage of pencil drawings in a comic-book style representing motorcycle sidecar racing, in which the hero, played by Morten Harket, is pursued by two opponents, one of whom is played by English actor Philip Jackson. It then cuts to a scene in a cafe, in which a young woman, played by Bunty Bailey (Harket's girlfriend at the time),is seen drinking coffee and reading the comic book in a coffee shop. As the girl reads, the waitress brings her the bill. The comic's hero, after winning the race, seemingly winks at the girl from the page. His pencil-drawn hand reaches out of the comic book, inviting the girl into it. Once inside, she too appears in the pencil-drawn form, as he sings to her and introduces her to his black-and-white world which features a sort of looking-glass portal where people and objects look real on one side and pencil-drawn on the other.
Meanwhile, back in the restaurant, the waitress returns to find that the girl is not there. Believing that the girl has left without paying the bill, she angrily crumples and throws the girl's comic book into a bin. This makes Harket's two opposing racers reappear, armed with a large pipe wrench and apparently aggressive. The racers smash the looking glass with the pipe wrench, evidently trapping the girl in the comic book. Harket punches one of the thugs and retreats with the girl into a maze of paper. Arriving at a dead end, he tears a hole in the paper wall so that the girl can escape as the menacing opposing racers close in on him. The girl, now back in the real world and found lying beside the bin to the surprise of restaurant guests and staff, grabs the comic from the bin and runs home, where she attempts to smooth out the creases to learn what happens next.
The next panel shows Harket lying seemingly lifeless, and the girl begins to cry. But he wakes up and tries to break out of his comic-book frames. At the same time, his image appears in the girl's hallway, seemingly torn between real and comic form, hurling himself repeatedly left-and-right against the walls as he attempts to shatter his two-dimensional barrier. (This scene is largely patterned after a climactic scene in the 1980 film Altered States). He escapes from the comic book by becoming human and stands up. Smiling, the girl runs towards him and he embraces her. The video story is effectively concluded in the intro sequence of its successor, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.".
1st edition of "Take on Me" by A-ha.
Extended version of the more famous video version..
But those were not A-ha's only MTV awards that year. The band's second single was "The Sun Always Shines on TV". In the US the song peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number 17 on Radio & Records airplay chart. A remix version was a club hit, rising to number 5 on the Hot Dance Singles Sales chart.The music video for the song was another popular and critical success, nominated in three categories at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards and winning two awards, for Best Cinematography and Best Editing, bringing A-ha's total to 11 nominations and eight wins. The following year, Peter Gabriel would earn 13 nominations and win nine awards, also for two separate videos. In successive years, even as the award categories have expanded, only a few artists have approached — and none has surpassed — the single-year award totals of A-ha and Gabriel.
"The sun always shine on TV" Music video
In early October 1985 A-ha recorded the video for The Sun Always Shines On TV at Saint Alban the Martyr Church and Udney Hall Gardens at Teddington, Middlesex, in England over three days with the Director Steve Barron.
The video opens with an epilogue scene to the highly successful Take on Me video, continuing with the use of rotoscoped animation. The romantic young lovers (played by Morten Harket and Bunty Bailey) having survived the ordeal of the first video's story now face one another in a night wood. Suddenly the male youth begins physically reverting to his original animated condition from the Take on Me video's story-line. The female youth in distress realizes that he cannot remain in her world. In pain, he flees the scene into the distance back to his comic book world, she being left behind, sundered from him. At this point the camera rises vertically away from her alone and closing credits roll in the style of the end of a Hollywood classic film bearing the legend: The End, A Warner Bros. First Picture, followed by an animation of a television graphic with the text: you are watching channel 3, followed by the A-ha stylized brand logo. The next scene opens on A-ha performing The Sun Always Shines on TV (with a session drummer (Lindsay Elliot) and a bass player also being present) within the dramatic setting of the interior of an English Victorian Gothic church. The performance is filmed mainly in black-and-white footage, with splashes of pastel coloring; spectating at the performance is a dense crowd throughout the church of bare mannequins, some being clothed in formal concert dress holding musical instruments to represent the song's classical instrumentation arrangement. The video ends with A-ha being cut out from the background and becoming a still frame. The music video for the band's next single, Train of Thought, would pick up from this cue shot, making a visual & story trilogy of Take On Me, The Sun Always Shines on TV and Train of Thought.
"Train of Thought" Music VideoThe music video was directed by Candice Reckinger and Michael Patterson. The video concept was designed by the same producers who brought "Take on Me" into the video mainstream. The black-and-white footage and animation in the "Train of Thought" video actually predated the "Take on Me" single, and was the inspiration for the animation in the "Take on Me" video. It originated as Michael Patterson's student film at CalArts, which went on to influence a generation of MTV videos.
Most of the video was the old animated footage, interspersed with live parts with a-ha filmed during a break in the band's tour.
A-ha's American success culminated in their 1986 Grammy nomination in the coveted Best New Artist category, which was eventually won by Sade. "The Sun Always Shines on TV" turned out to be A-ha's last Hot 100 Top 40 single, and to this day in the United States, A-ha is remembered by the general public almost entirely because of their number one hit single, Take On Me.As such, the band is frequently considered a one-hit wonder there, despite their two Top 40 hits. In the UK, however, the story was very different: "The Sun Always Shines on TV" was an even bigger hit among British fans than "Take On Me", peaking at number 1. In the UK, A-ha enjoyed continued success with two more hit singles from the same album—"Train of Thought" and "Hunting High and Low" (with another innovative video) —and the band remained popular throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.