Those Swedish kings of rawk, Europe
I simply HAD to do an article on Europe. The following is an average Europe-related conversation:
“Hey, do you like Europe?”
“You know…*hums ‘The Final Countdown’*”
“Oh yeah! I know that song. That band were a bunch of one-hit-wonders, weren’t they?”
Well, that’s the average Europe-related conversation in my own experience. Someone says Europe, you think of that one piss-poor song that got them famous. Maybe piss-poor is a bit harsh, but I’m bloody sick of it. They have so many better songs that should be recognised! Perhaps the odd person will mention ‘Rock The Night’, but that’s often the best I can get out of anyone.
Now, as is sometimes necessary, I’m going by a “best of”, here (namely ‘Europe 1982-2000), but that just means the kick-arse choons on this album are particularly kick-arse, and stand out from the rest. The album smashes through to a storming start with the classic ‘In The Future To Come’, a personal favourite of mine; I’ve always been rather keen on songs that tell backward or forward looking stories (see: ‘Seven Seas Of Rye’, ‘The Prophet’s Song’, ‘Black Shuck’), as opposed to just endless empty sentiments (see: ‘Carrie’ – not sure about that one…). But the song that really stands out, for me, is the hard-rocker ‘Seven Doors Hotel’. On its release, it got into Japan’s top ten, which some might say was a triumph, but during the height of the rock scene in Britain, the lads should have been shipped over here from the start. When I first listened to them, I thought they were very much like Whitesnake – and though I’ve decided against that now, they still hold some similar elements. I think it’s the whole playing-their-instruments-like-raging-motherfuckers thing. Oh, and all the hair.
Anyway, let’s add a little history. Vocalist and keyboardist Joey Tempest, guitarist John Norum, bassist Peter Olsson and drummer Tony Reno started off as a band called Force, Stockholm 1979. The lads were, as the story so often goes with the underdog rock band trying to be different (see: The Darkness), suppressed by the record companies, who would only sign them if they cut their hair short and sang in Swedish. Luckily for us, Force told them where to stuff their contract, and carried on alone, regardless. There was a revolving door of musicians popping in and out, but by the time the band were entered into a Swedish rock talent contest in 1982 by Tempest’s girlfriend, they were settled with the original line-up, minus Peter Olsson, who was replaced by John Levén. Competing against 4000 bands, Europe won (they had been forced – har har – during the contest to change their original name), and their prize was a record deal. Tempest also won an individual award for best lead singer, and Norum for best lead guitarist. Mic Michaeli was soon employed as a keyboardist to play at Europe’s live concerts, and was then offered a permanent place within the band. Tony Reno turned out to be a lazy bastard, and was sacked.
Now, skipping a few years… ‘The Final Countdown’ was released in 1986. It became a worldwide hit, selling more than six million copies. The title track was number 1 in 26 countries, and the ballad “Carrie” reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the USA. So… I guess I shouldn’t hold a grudge against people who know nothing else about them.
My message is, if you’re a heavy/classic rock fan, GO AND GET SOME MORE EUROPE. And if you’re not so sure, just get the Best Of. Europe are still going, with the addition of Ian Haugland on drums – perhaps slightly less hairy, but truly one of rock’s greatest treasures.