Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"The Final Countdown" by Europe - April 4th 80's Quest Song/Band of the Day

The late 80's was a big time for metal music in America, and around 1986 I remember hearing "The Final Countdown" and the ballad "Carrie" on the radio all the time over the summer.  I didn't know a lot about Europe until researching for 80's Quest, but it turns out they are one of Sweden's most popular bands

Europe was formed in Upplands Väsby, Sweden in 1979.  Originally the band was called Force and consisted of Joey Tempest (vocals and keyboards), John Norum (guitars), Peter Olsson (bass) and Tony Reno (drums).  They started out playing cover songs and getting better at their instruments, and then began writing original material.

The band sent demos out to record companies but were told that they would have to cut their long hair and sing in Swedish in order to be signed.  After two years, Olsson left the band and was replaced by John Leven on bass.  Only a few months later Leven left the band to join Yngwie Malmsteen’s band Rising Force, and Malmsteen’s former bassist, Marcel Jacob joined Force.  This was a short lived 3-month arrangement, as Leven had difficulties with Malmsteen and came back to Force and switched places once again with Jacob.

In 1982 the band changed their name to Europe.  That same year, Tempest’s girlfriend entered Europe into a talent contest for rock bands in Sweden called Rock-SM.  Europe competed against 4,000 other bands and won (Tempest also won for Best Lead Singer and Norum for best guitarist).  Two of their songs in particular,  “In the Future to Come” and “The King Will Return” help land them a record deal with Hot Records.  Their self-titled debut album was released in 1983 and did very well in Sweden and Japan.  The single “Seven Doors Hotel” was a big hit in Japan.

Their second album Wings of Tomorrow was released in 1984.  Their single “Open Your Heart” caught the attention of major label CBS Records who offered them an international recording contract in 1985.  Europe brought on Mic Michaeli as a full-time keyboard player.  Reno was fired because he was not attending rehearsals and was unmotivated.  He was replaced by Ian Haugland on drums.

In 1985 Europe recorded a soundtrack album for the movie On the Loose which contained the single “Rock the Night”.  That same year Tempest was asked to write a song for the Swedish charity project called Swedish Metal Aid, and wrote “Give a Helping Hand”.  The biggest metal and rock stars in Sweden recorded the song, and proceeds went to help the starving in Ethiopia.

In September 1985 Europe worked with Kevin Elson, who was the producer for Journey on their next album The Final Countdown which was released in May 1986.  The single of the same name was the song that broke the band internationally.  It reached #8 on the American Billboard charts and was a worldwide success in countries including the U.K., France, Spain, and Germany.  The next single was a power ballad called “Carrie” which hit #3 on the Billboard Charts in America.  Other singles included “Cherokee” and a re-recorded version of “Rock the Night”.

Guitarist Norum was not fond of the bands move towards a more keyboard-driven sound which he felt was too bubble-gum sounding, and left the band in November 1986 to pursue a solo career and play heavier, guitar oriented music.  Kee Marcello came on as Europe’s new guitarist.  The band toured Europe and America in support of The Final Countdown album.

Their follow-up album was called Out of This World and was released in 1988.  It spawned the hit single “Superstitious” which rose to #31 on the mainstream US Billboard Charts and #9 on the rock charts.  This would be their last song to chart in the USA.  The band toured America with Def Leppard, and played a big festival gig at the National Bowl in Milton Keynes, England with Bon Jovi, Skid Row, and Vixen.

At the end of 1992 the band was tired from 10 years of recording and touring and decided to take a break.  Tempest and Marcello released solo albums and the other band members participated in other music projects.

In 1998 the band began talking about a reunion.  In 2000 Europe was asked to perform at a millennium celebration in Stockholm on New Year’s Eve 1999.  Both Norum and Marcello came back and played guitar during that show.

In October 2003 the version of the band that recorded The Final Countdown album officially reunited, and made plans for a new album and world tour.  The band again worked with Journey producer, Elson for the new album, Start from the Dark, which was released in September 2004.  Prior to its release the band toured Europe during the summer to rev-up interest in the project. 

Europe released another album in October 2006 called Secret Society.  In January 2008 the band performed along with a string quartet performing reworked versions of their songs for the Almost Unplugged event at rock club Nalen in Stockholm, Sweden.  During the show they also played cover songs of bands who had influenced them including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, UFO and Thin Lizzy.  The show was broadcast live over the internet on Europe’s website, and released on CD in September 2008, and on DVD in August 2009.

In July 2008 Europe performed with Whitesnake in Padua Italy.  In August 2008 they opened for Deep Purple for two concerts in Lingköping and Ystad, Sweden. 

On July 21, 2009 Marcel Jacobs (Yngwie Malmsteen’s bassist, who had also played with Force for a short time) committed suicide at the age of 45 after struggling with personal and health issues.  His last recording was an album called Expressions with a Swedish band called Impulsia in 2009. 

Europe released an album in September 2009 called Last Look at Eden and a single of the same name.  The album had more of a classic 1970’s rock sound.   A second single “New Love in Town” was released as a digital download. 

In August 2011 Europe played before over 40,000 boy scouts and guides at the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Rinkaby, Sweden.  King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden were also in attendance.  Europe will release their 9th studio album, Bag of Bones in April 2012 in Japan and Sweden.

We're leaving together,
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back,
To earth, who can tell ?
I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground
Will things ever be the same again?

It's the final countdown

We're heading for Venus and still we stand tall
Cause maybe they've seen us and welcome us all
With so many light years to go and things to be found
I'm sure that we'll all miss her so.

It's the final countdown.

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