Europe: The Final Countdown [1986]

Released 26 May 1986
Recorded September 1985 – March 1986 at Powerplay Studios, Zürich, Switzerland; Soundtrade Studios, Stockholm, Sweden; Mastersound Studios, Atlanta; Fantasy Studios, Berkeley
Genre Glam metal, hard rock
Label Epic
Producer Kevin Elson

The Final Countdown is the third studio album by the Swedish hard rock band Europe. Released on 26 May 1986 through Epic Records, the album was a huge commercial success selling over 3 million units in the United States alone, peaking at number 8 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and reaching high positions in charts worldwide.[1] It was recorded at Powerplay Studios in Zürich, Soundtrade Studios in Stockholm, Mastersound Studios in Atlanta and Fantasy Studios in Berkeley.

Five singles were released from the album: “The Final Countdown,” “Love Chaser,” “Rock the Night,” “Carrie,” and “Cherokee.” The first one was responsible for launching Europe into mainstream popularity.

Eight of the ten tracks on the album were featured in the 2007 comedy film Hot Rod.

Recording and production

The recording of the album began in September 1985 at the Powerplay Studios in Zürich, Switzerland.[2] At the suggestion of their record company, Epic Records, the band decided to work with the American producer Kevin Elson, who had worked with bands like Journey and Lynyrd Skynyrd.[2] Originally the band had approached Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks and Bon Jovi producer Bruce Fairbairn to produce the album, but in the end they decided to go with Elson.[2] Elson would also produce the band’s sixth studio album, Start from the Dark in 2004.

During the recording sessions, vocalist Joey Tempest got a cold, which delayed the recording for a while.[2] The vocals for the title track were recorded at the Soundtrade Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, while the rest of the vocals were recorded at the Mastersound Studios, Atlanta and Fantasy Studios, Berkeley.[3]

The album was mixed in March 1986 at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley.[3] Guitarist John Norum was not pleased with the result, claiming that the keyboards had “buried” the rhythm guitars in the final mix.[2][4]

Songs

Rock the Night” and “Ninja” were the first songs written for the album, and were premiered on the band’s Wings of Tomorrow tour in 1984.[3] “Rock the Night” was released as a single in Sweden in 1985, peaking at number 4 on the chart,[5] and was also featured on the soundtrack EP for the Swedish film On the Loose the same year, together with the songs “On the Loose” and “Broken Dreams.”[3][6] “Rock the Night” and “On the Loose” would be re-recorded for inclusion on The Final Countdown along with “Ninja,” all with slightly different lyrics.[3]

Due to the national success of On the Loose and “Rock the Night,” Europe went on a new tour around Sweden in 1985, with new songs “Danger on the Track,” “Love Chaser” and the power ballad “Carrie” included in the setlist and ready for the album.[3] “Carrie” was co-written by Joey Tempest and keyboardist Mic Michaeli during a jam session.[6] The early version of the song consisted of only keyboards and vocals, and was performed that way on the 1985 tour, but the album version would feature the whole band.[3][6]

The song “The Final Countdown” was based on an old keyboard riff that Tempest had composed as early as 1981–82,[6] on a Korg Polysix keyboard he had borrowed from Michaeli.[3][7] In 1985 bassist John Levén suggested that Tempest should write a song based on that riff.[6] The lyrics were inspired by David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity.”[4] The sound of the keyboard riff used in the recording was achieved by using a Yamaha TX-816 rack unit and a Roland JX-8P synthesizer.[8] “I made a brassy sound from the JX-8P and used a factory sound from the Yamaha, and just layered them together,” Michaeli said.[8]

Cherokee” was the last song written for the album, being written only a week before the band went to Switzerland to start recording the album.[6] Tempest said he had been inspired by the history of the Native Americans to write the song.

When it was time to choose the first single from the album, Tempest suggested “The Final Countdown.”[2] Originally the band had never planned to release the song as a single, and some members wanted “Rock the Night” to be the first single.[2][4] “The Final Countdown” was written to be an opening song for concerts, and they never thought it would be a hit.[2] But when their record company Epic Records suggested that it should be the first single, the band decided to release it.[9] It became a worldwide success, peaking at number 1 in 25 countries,[10] including the United Kingdom,[11] France,[12] West Germany,[13] and Italy.[14] In the USA it peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 18 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[1] The song has been a regular in Europe concerts ever since its live debut on the premiere of the band’s Final Countdown Tour on 29 April 1986 in Gävle, Sweden.[3][15] One of the most memorable performances of the song took place in Stockholm, Sweden on 31 December 1999, as part of the Millennium celebrations.[7][16]

“Love Chaser” was released as a single in Japan only, and was on the soundtrack for the movie Pride One. “Rock the Night” was released as the worldwide follow-up single to “The Final Countdown.” It became a Top 10 hit in France,[12] Ireland,[17] Italy[14] and Switzerland,[18] and peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart[1] and number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.[11] The next single, “Carrie,” peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.[1] “Cherokee” was released as the last single from the album, peaking at number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Final Countdown was the band’s breakout album. Upon its release in May 1986, The Final Countdown peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200 album chart.[1] The album granted Europe international recognition. The Final Countdown achieved triple Platinum status in the United States, double platinum status in Canada, and Gold status in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.[21][22][23][24]

Allmusic gave The Final Countdown four and a half out of five stars. Reviewer Doug Stone said, “This is the story; this is the legend told by Teutonic guitars and predictable keyboards ringing pure and hurtling through each and every convention perfectly. The quintet’s big-boy Epic inaugural, The Final Countdown deftly combines the Valhalla victory of Europe’s heroic debut with the American poodle pomposity that devoured the band. You could live without The Final Countdown, but why?”[19]

Rolling Stone writer J. D. Considine said, “The words to “The Final Countdown” make almost no sense whatsoever on paper, but there’s genuine drama to the way Tempest’s keening vocals surge through the mock-orchestral morass of synths and guitar. Maybe it’s trite, maybe it’s derivative, but it’s also undeniably effective. From the stirring stadium schlock of “Rock the Night” to the self-indulgent melodrama of “Love Chaser,” the best moments here are insidiously catchy, leaving you humming along against your better judgment”.[25]

Howard Johnson of Kerrang! is “nauseated” by the keyboard sound on the album and concludes that “Europe are [not] bad, just bland and boring”.[20]

The Final Countdown included the hit singles “The Final Countdown,” “Rock the Night,” “Carrie” and “Cherokee,” all of which had accompanying music videos. All four placed on the Billboard Hot 100.[1] A fifth single, “Love Chaser,” was released in Japan only. “The Final Countdown” was the most successful song from The Final Countdown on the rock charts, reaching number 18 on the Mainstream Rock Charts and number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.[1] “The Final Countdown” arguably became the band’s most recognizable and popular song. Its music video received heavy airplay on music television.

The first leg of the Swedish tour started in Gävle on 29 April 1986.[3][15] The album hadn’t been released yet because the cover art hadn’t been completed, but Europe was forced to start the scheduled tour.[2] The album was eventually released on 26 May, the same day as the band played the last concert on the leg, at Solnahallen in Solna.[9] The band did two concerts at Solnahallen, on 25 and 26 May.[2] These concerts were filmed for a TV broadcast, which would later be released on VHS and DVD, entitled The Final Countdown Tour 1986. A 20th anniversary edition of the DVD was released in 2006. The promotional music video for “The Final Countdown” was shot partly during the soundchecks for those concerts and partly during the actual concerts.[2]

Europe went on a Japanese tour in September 1986,[15] playing four concerts in Tokyo and one concert each in Nagoya and Osaka.[3] During that tour, guitarist and band co-founder John Norum told the other band members that he wanted to leave the band,[3][6] due to musical differences and a disagreement with the band’s manager, Thomas Erdtman.[2][4] Norum agreed to stay in the band for the second leg of the Swedish tour, which started in Örebro on 26 September 1986, as well as a promotion tour around Europe including TV appearances and interviews.[3] He made his last appearance with the band for a Sky Channel broadcast at the club Escape in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on 31 October 1986.[3][9]

Norum was then replaced by Kee Marcello, who had just left another Swedish rock band, Easy Action.[6] At first Marcello had been hesitant to join Europe, because he had put a lot of work into Easy Action’s upcoming album That Makes One.[26] After some consideration he changed his mind and decided to join the band.[26] He appeared in the music videos for “Rock the Night”, “Cherokee” and “Carrie,”[3] before making his first TV appearance with the band at Peters Popshow in Dortmund, West Germany on 12 December 1986.[3]

The European leg of the tour started in Bergen, Norway on 24 January 1987 and ended in Genoa, Italy on 3 March 1987.[15] A concert done at Hammersmith Odeon, London on 23 February, was filmed and released on video, entitled The Final Countdown World Tour.[15]

On 15 April 1987 the band started their first U.S. tour at The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco.[15] The tour ended in Philadelphia on 17 May 1987, as the band had been playing in 23 cities and traveling 14,565 km.[3] A Swedish TV crew followed the band on the tour, producing the documentary Europe in America, which would be shown on TV and released on video.

Europe ended the Final Countdown Tour at the Roskilde Festival in Roskilde, Denmark on 4 July 1987.

Track listing

Side one  
No. Title Writer(s) Length  
1. The Final Countdown”   Tempest 5:09
2. Rock the Night”   Tempest 4:03
3. Carrie”   Tempest, Michaeli 4:30
4. “Danger on the Track”   Tempest 3:45
5. “Ninja”   Tempest 3:46
Side two  
No. Title Writer(s) Length  
1. Cherokee”   Tempest 4:13
2. “Time Has Come”   Tempest 4:01
3. “Heart of Stone”   Tempest 3:46
4. On the Loose”   Tempest 3:08
5. Love Chaser”   Tempest 3:27

Lyrics

1. The Final Countdown

(Joey Tempest)

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.

2. Rock The Night

(Joey Tempest)

I’ve gone through changes
I’ve gone through pain
But there’s not enough reason for me to go insane
I know the feeling, when it grows
I’m in a rage up from my head down to my toes.

You know it ain’t easy
Running out of thrills
You know it ain’t easy
When you don’t know what you want.

Rock now, rock the night
‘Til early in the morning light
Rock now, rock the night
You’d better believe it’s right.

I know my limit
Just what it takes
When things ain’t good enough
I just pull the brake
Sometimes it’s easy
Sometimes so tough
But just have one thing clear
I can’t get enough.

3. Carrie

(Joey Tempest, Mic Michaeli)

When light goes down, I see no reason
For you to cry. We’ve been through this before
In every time, in every season,
God knows I’ve tried
So please don’t ask for more.

Can’t you see it in my eyes
This might be our last goodbye

Carrie, Carrie, things they change my friend
Carrie, Carrie, maybe we’ll meet again

I read your mind, with no intentions
Of being unkind, I wish I could explain
It all takes time, a whole lot of patience
If it’s a crime, how come I feel no pain.

4. Danger On The Track

(Joey Tempest)

I was heading for the mountains
I had saved so much for you
And in the town I left behind me
There was nothing left to do.

I knew that you were waiting
For me to share your life
Cause I told you when I left, that
When I come back you’ll be my wife.

But someone was waiting
In the shadows of the night
Someone was waiting
It just didn’t feel right.

Danger on the track
Something told me there were
Strangers on my back
And I was so right.

Maybe I should surrender
Maybe I should give it up
But the strength I had inside
Told me you can never stop.

The men wanted to break me
Steal and bring me down
But I fought for you and later
They were lying on the ground.

5. Ninja

(Joey Tempest)

Tell me the story, tell me the legend
Tell me the tales of war
Tell me just one time,
What it was like before
Bring me the feeling, right in that moment
When a heart for battle cries
Find me the treasure where the legend lies.

If I were a noble ancient knight
I’d stand by jour side to rule and fight
It will always feel the same
When I call out your name.

Ninja survive, in dreams I walk by your side
Ninja survive, with you there’s no need to hide.

A handful of sayings are more than a reason
For me to feel this way
I’d like to be near you
Maybe for just one day
So tell me the legend, tell me the story
Tell me the tales of war
Tell me just one time
What it was like before.

6. Cherokee

(Joey Tempest)

They lived in peace, not long ago
A mighty Indian tribe
But the winds of change,
Made them realize, that the promises were lies.

The white man’s greed, in search of gold
Made the nation bleed
They lost their faith
And now they hade to learn
There was no place to return
Nowhere they could turn.

Cherokee – marching on the trail of tears.

They were driven hard, across the plains
And walked for many moons
Cause the winds of change,
Had made them realize, that the promises were lies.

So much to bear, all that pain
Left them in despair
They lost their faith
And now they hade to learn
There was no place to return
Nowhere they could turn.

7. Time Has Come

(Joey Tempest)

Long for the sailor, beneath the skies
Long for the white dove, no matter where she flies
Long for the stranger you know so well.

Pray for the soldier, who’s wounded bad
Pray for the dreamer, he’s still so sad
Pray for the stranger you know so well.

Cause I’m coming home.

Now the time has come

For me to come back home.

Long for the eagle, on wings so strong
Long for the hunter, he won’t be long
Long for the stranger you know so well.

8. Heart Of Stone

(Joey Tempest)

I’ve told you once and I’ve told you twice
Wait for that day, when our love will rise
To that song that brought our hearts together.

Even though you’re mistreating me
I know the girl that you used to be
For me those days were meant to last forever.

Time after time I’m wondering why
Am I to be all alone
Day after day I pray that you’ll stay
Cause you’ve got a heart of stone.

I walk the streets like a broken man
Oh I wish that you would understand
Even though you’re still the one I wait for.

I guess in love there’s no guarantee
Sometimes it’s not what it seems to be
Even though you’re still the one I care for.

9. On The Loose

(Joey Tempest)

Running out on the streets
He lives from day to day
Looking for someting to do
He needs to get away.

Hoping that maybe one day
He could be someone
Praying that maybe someday
He could be number one.

In his world of make believe
He always tends to be

On the loose, so young, so tough, so wild

On the loose, again.

Dreaming, dreaming about
All the things he’d like to do
Trying, trying so hard
To make it all up to you.

10. Love Chaser

(Joey Tempest)

Someone’s at your door tonight
Someone wants your love
Is it real or just imagination
You decide to wait inside ’til the break of dawn
In dreams you see yourself seeking affection.

He’ll know just who you are
He’ll know just where you’ve been
He’ll know just what to do.

Love chaser – If you look deep in his eyes
Then you’re in for a big surprise
He can take your breath away
There’s nothing you can do or say.

You can feel that someone’s at your back
You can hear his pounding heart
But something tells you not to be afraid
Cause even in the darkest night
Someone’s at your side
But when morning comes it all starts to fade away.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s