Norwegian ’80s superstars A-ha will perform their debut album Hunting High and Low in full at A Day on the Green and at a handful of arena shows early next year.
Norwegian ’80s superstars A-ha will perform their debut album Hunting High and Low in full at A Day on the Green and at a handful of arena shows early next year.

The best music videos of the 1980s

The only thing more iconic than the keyboard riff and high notes of A-ha's 1985 hit Take on Me?

Its music video - which will soon become only the second from the '80s to reach one billion views on YouTube.

From Wham's "CHOOSE LIFE" T-shirts to Courteney Cox dancing on stage with Bruce Springsteen, music videos are synonymous with the '80s.

MTV launched in 1981 and, spurred on by Michael Jackson's Billie Jean and Thriller clips, videos quickly became the record industry's No.1 marketing tool.

As the art form was still taking shape, the possibilities were endless.

It's that spirit of experimentation and excitement that ensures a video such as Take on Me still resonates today.

While Guns N' Roses pipped the Norwegian trio to the one billion post last month when Sweet Child O' Mine passed the milestone, Take on Me is hot on its tail with 957.1 million views and counting.

 

A-Ha lead singer Morten Harket shakes the hand of a fan at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne, 1986.
A-Ha lead singer Morten Harket shakes the hand of a fan at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne, 1986.

The groundbreaking clip cast A-ha - Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy - as comic book heroes brought to life by a technique called rotoscoping, in which animators trace over live-action film footage.

The fairytale storyline has Harket break out of a comic's pages and into the real world to save his love interest from wrench-wielding baddies.

 

Frontman Harket has said the one billion views number is "not an easy thing to get your head around" - but the trio long ago accepted that the song has a life of its own.

"It's been much better at being a pop star than we have ever been," Harket told the Herald Sun's Cameron Adams. "It lives a parallel life to us."

After three previous releases of the single gained no traction, high rotation for the video finally allowed Take on Me to get its hooks into listeners, propelling it to No.1 in 27 countries.

A-ha's first live shows followed in 1986 - an Australian tour including four sold-out nights at the Melbourne Concert Hall.

The band will finally return for a belated second tour in February, playing A Day on the Green with Rick Astley, and a handful of arena shows.

Norwegian rock group A-ha members Mags Furuholmen (left), Morten Harket and Pal Waaktaar give a press conference in Melbourne in 1986.
Norwegian rock group A-ha members Mags Furuholmen (left), Morten Harket and Pal Waaktaar give a press conference in Melbourne in 1986.

Almost 35 years later, Take on Me is still in high rotation. The video averages 480,000 views a day on YouTube.

A limited edition vinyl release hit No.1 on the UK physical singles chart just last week.

When Weezer dropped a cover version in February, they didn't just cover the song, but the video as well.

Recent pop culture appearances include superhero movie Deadpool 2, Dulux paint ads and Netflix show Stranger Things.

And any new outing leads back to one place: the original, on YouTube.

"The beauty of YouTube is that it enables a new generation to discover the awesome music videos of the past - as well as helping the older generation relive their youth," says ARIA chief executive, Dan Rosen.

"A classic song stands the test of time, so it is not surprising that an '80s classic like Take on Me would hit one billion views. As for me, I still love watching Barnesy wake up in a bathroom singing Cheap Wine."

Let's take a journey through some of the other videos from the decade of big hair, shoulder pads and leg warmers still making noise online today.

GUNS N' ROSES - SWEET CHILD O' MINE (1987)

Views: One billion

Sweet Child O' Mine has averaged 590,000 views per day on YouTube this year.

But why? As a video, it's restrained for the hair metal era (contrast it with Warrant's Cherry Pie), featuring grainy black and white performance and behind-the-scenes footage.

 

Guns N' Roses, pictured in 1987, pipped A-ha to reaching the one billion YouTube posts first.
Guns N' Roses, pictured in 1987, pipped A-ha to reaching the one billion YouTube posts first.

There must just be something about Gunners - their nine-minute epic November Rain is also the only video of the 1990s to have passed one billion views.

QUEEN - I WANT TO BREAK FREE (1984)

Views: 345.3 million

When Queen dressed in drag as a tip of the hat to British soapie Coronation Street, America didn't get the joke.

 

Speaking to NPR in 2010, guitarist Brian May recalled doing promo in the US and seeing "people's faces turning ashen and they would say, 'We can't possibly play this … it looks homosexual'."

MTV banned the clip, and more recently, Malaysian censors removed the scene recreating the video from the movie Bohemian Rhapsody.

JANET JACKSON - RHYTHM NATION (1989)

 

Views: 19.3 million

Two decades before Beyonce had us doing the Single Ladies dance, these were the moves we wore holes in the living room carpet trying to master.

 

Did we ever get our moves as razor sharp as Janet's? Doubtful.

But on the 30th anniversary of her landmark album, and after her recent performance at RNB Fridays Live, we're still card-carrying members of the Rhythm Nation.

PETER GABRIEL - SLEDGEHAMMER (1986)

 

Views: 30 million

It's hard to come up with something new these days, but in 1986, Sledgehammer was revolutionary.

 

Utilising claymation, stop-motion animation and pixilation (which is basically stop-motion animation of real people), it went on to become the most played video of all time on MTV.

Fun fact: the dancing chickens at 3min 21sec were animated by Nick Park, creator of Wallace & Gromit.

BEASTIE BOYS - (YOU GOTTA) FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT (TO PARTY!) (1986)

 

Views: 47.6 million

What music video gets a sequel? Twenty-five years after the Beastie Boys literally party-crashed their way to fame with this instantly iconic clip, they recruited Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and Elijah Wood to depict the aftermath of the party in 30-minute short film Fight For Your Right (Revisited).

 

Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Jack Black also showed up as older, but no wiser, Boys.

MADONNA - LIKE A PRAYER (1989)

 

Views: 89.8 million

On the 30th anniversary of this video in March, Madonna wished herself "happy birthday to me and controversy!" on Instagram.

 

The superstar wrote that she "made a video that caused so much controversy because I kissed a black saint and danced in front of burning crosses!"

Indeed, the Vatican condemned it as blasphemous and Pope John Paul II encouraged a boycott of her Italian concerts.

COLD CHISEL - CHEAP WINE (1980)

 

Views: 1.2 million

In ARIA CEO Dan Rosen's pick of the Aussie '80s bunch, Chisel cemented their reputation as working-class rockers and Barnesy taught a grateful nation the correct technique for putting on an inside-out T-shirt.

 

 

 

 

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PAUL SIMON - YOU CAN CALL ME AL (1986)

 

Views: 68.2 million

Hands up who wasn't old enough to realise Chevy Chase (the tall one in the white jacket) wasn't actually the singer of this song?

 

Thrown together when Simon didn't like the first attempt at a video, the Saturday Night Live funnyman's cameo trumped a complete lack of production values.

PAULA ABDUL - OPPOSITES ATTRACT (1989)

 

Views: 17.8 million

In 2015, Paula Abdul recreated this super cheesy video on the Late Late Show with James Corden wearing a MC Skat Kat suit - he made a far more wholesome paramour than the animated Skat Kat, who doesn't really fly in the post-Me Too era.

 

At the end of the '80s, however, Opposites Attract was everywhere - the video even won a Grammy.

In 1991, Abdul wisely upgraded her video love interest to Keanu Reeves.

DAVID BOWIE - LET'S DANCE (1983)

 

Views: 7.9 million

Bowie's death in 2016 sparked much reminiscing about this video, filmed in an outback pub in Carinda, NSW.

 

Whatever images listeners conjured in their minds the first time they heard the sleek, stylish sounds of Let's Dance, we're guessing it wasn't a Aussie shearer dancing in his Stubbies or commentary on indigenous peoples' place in a capitalist society.

It's a reminder that the '80s weren't completely shallow.

INXS - NEVER TEAR US APART (1987)

 

Views: 25.8 million

INXS have more than their fair share of '80s videos worth revisiting, including the Mad Max-style Listen Like Thieves (shot at the Palais in St Kilda) and the cutting-edge photocopied and tinted film frames in Need You Tonight.

But in his Michael Hutchence documentary Mystify, director Richard Lowenstein recalled the making of Never Tear Us Apart was a special time.

 

The six-day shoot in Prague, in then-Czechoslovakia, allowed the band a rare chance to smell the roses.

Hutchence fell in love with the city - the misty romance of the clip makes it clear why.

No visit to Prague is complete without crossing the Charles Bridge with this song in your ears.

MICHAEL JACKSON - THRILLER (1983)

 

Views: 631.5 million

Jackson's legacy these days is troublesome, to say the least.

 

But the impact of this ambitious 13-minute clip - inspired by horror movies and helmed by An American Werewolf in London director John Landis - is impossible to erase: it was instrumental in the establishment of music videos as both art form and business, gave real cultural power to MTV, and was hugely influential on budding film directors and on pop culture generally.

Jackson did the short film thing again in 1987 with Bad, an 18-minute epic directed by Martin Scorsese.

RICK ASTLEY - NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP (1987)

 

Views: 622 million

Joining A-ha on their upcoming Australian tour is English singer Rick Astley, whose career was spawned by the same Stock Aitken Waterman hit factory that made our Kylie a pop superstar.

 

Thirty years after this song hit No.1, it became an internet meme known as rickrolling - in which users are duped into clicking a link they think will lead to one thing, only to be redirected to this video and Astley in all his '80s finery.

A-ha will perform their debut album Hunting High and Low in full at A Day on the Green, Rochford Wines, February 22; and Margaret Court Arena, February 23. Rick Astley will be special guest throughout their Australian tour.

Norwegian band A-ha will return to Melbourne for A Day on the Green and arena shows.
Norwegian band A-ha will return to Melbourne for A Day on the Green and arena shows.
Rick Astley will join A-ha to play A Day on the Green and a handful of arena shows.
Rick Astley will join A-ha to play A Day on the Green and a handful of arena shows.


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