|Taking the world by storm|
EUROPE's pretty boy express steams across
America on a non-stop ride towards global domination. Any chance of the
Joey Tempest teen train hitting an obstacle and leaving the rails? Not
according to Steffan "Tickets, please" Chirazi...
The pretty boy express has finally come to town. Let me make my position perfectly clear from the outset: EUROPE are a fine band, "The Final Countdown" is a good album... but I gotta say I was surprised - very surprised - by the level of the success of the group achieved last year and carried on into '87. I can honestly say that the only person of my acquaintance who knew that EUROPE would be mega-big was our own Derek Oliver. And whilst we're a-warbling on about "super success", read in black and white exactly what that constitutes. EUROPE started off by securing the number one single position in 14 countries with "The Final Countdown". The album of the same name went gold and platinum, their first proper tour sold out, their national profile grew daily and they became fodder for the ever-hungry hordes of young teens who love to have idols. Take into consideration that we're only talking about the band's European success at this moment...
Now EUROPE are over here, in the USA. They've been here for two weeks now, "The Final Countdown" LP has already sold in excess of a million copies in the US, they're about to embark on the first leg of a sold-out tour, are the focus of MTV's darling little eyes and at the time of writing have "The Final Countdown" single nestling nicely in the top ten. Statistically, there can be no argument at all about EUROPE's amazing success. No, where I start to throw my hands up in the air is when I ask myself the question why? Why now? Why EUROPE as opposed to, say, someone like Giuffria? I had to find out and I needed to get the shop floor view, discover the reason why the Joe Public army suddenly decided to buy "The Final Countdown" instead of, say, a Fishbone LP. I wanna know why EUROPE are so fucking massive, why they're the hugest flavor around, and I wanna know now.
That's why I'm off my whining arse and in San Francisco's Warfield Theatre watching EUROPE prepare for their first-ever US date. And perhaps the first thing you notice about the EUROPE camp is that they're always on schedule. Now, anyone connected with the music business will tell you that this is indeed A) a rarity and B) a friggin' good start to proceedings. Punctuality is all-important when your schedule is as tight as EUROPE's and the band and their entourage seem to be both on time and on the case. The second big thing in the EUROPE camp's favor is having Journey's Nocturne / Nightmare Productions around to help 'em out in the US. With people such as Herbie Herbert, John Villanueva and Sandy Einstein aiding your cause, you can be assured that your US shows are gonna run mighty smooth. The band's whole impressive stage set (including brand new, polished steel light trusses) is owned by Nocturne, the sound system is supplied by them too. Add to that the private jet that'll transport EUROPE from date to date, and it's clear to see what a plus smart US management is. Of course, the inner-core of EUROPE is predominantly Swedish, with personal manager Thomas Erdtman very much in control of the detailed aspects. All in all, the EUROPE set-up appears amazingly efficient... such solidity is certainly not always seen on the road, especially when it's your first US tour.
And what of the band themselves? Well, what can you say except that EUROPE seem to be dealing with everything and everybody to their collective stride? They do things with minimal fuss, they are polite and they are proficient. Special note for all those who like to receive ego reports and watch shit hit fans: Joey Tempest, all impressive six feet of him, has no ego whatsoever when it comes to do dealing with people and situations. Of course, this may come as a surprise, seeing as every other pin-up boy seems to have a swell-head, but Joey genuinely cares about EUROPE the band, not Joey the star. And as I wandered around the Warfield Theatre taking it all in, I found my first answers staring in my face. You really can't beat a damn good hype, clever organization, strong management, good radio rock and clever marketing when trying to achieve top level success. Christ, even I can see that EUROPE's success, their train trip to glory, was simply inevitable.
Another day and another headache. Today is a warm, sunny San Franciscan mid-April day... it is also the day of the Big Date. The final countdown starts now for real, and Thomas Erdtman is trying to keep everyone away from the band. It's no great surprise. The 'I told you so's and the hangers-on have finally come into town, each wanting to tell EUROPE that, yeah, they knew it would happen all along... Of course, there's one guy they couldn't keep out! So, thanks to JV, I'm waiting patiently for EUROPE to arrive back at their hotel. My first official meeting with the band leaves an impression of acute cleanliness and wholesomeness. EUROPE don't just look like chart-topping mega-boys... they are! They're all impressive, but then there's Joey Tempest. The focal point of EUROPE, the super-chief pretty boy, the king of the EUROPE castle. Wearing simple black jeans, Adidas vest top and white bumpers, plus those ski-sunglasses on a cord, Joey Tempest looks every inch the star he knows he is. Two geeks gawp at him before asking him how he is, and Joey don't flinch one little bit; he just smiles, says he's great, wishes them a good show and signs his name. I have 20 minutes in which to have coffee and a chat with Joey...
So here we are, Joey and I sipping coffee and thinking about the fact that, this time last year, EUROPE couldn't even get arrested in America, let alone airplay. How does he feel towards those who thought it couldn't happen?
"Sometimes, I do find it all very amusing I must admit, but we have already had a taste of strong success in Scandinavia and Japan (where the kids amuse themselves with dolls of the fab five!) so we were always ready, I think. As far as other people are concerned, yes, I laugh when I think of teachers at school who told me I should study instead of rehearse, that I was wasting my time. I also laugh at some of the journalists who want to be our buddies now, but who wouldn't give us the time of day before."
He's direct, polite and pretty good with his English. I guess it's all part of the package, the perfect Europack.
"We just try to be ourselves," counters Joey. "We really do let anything go image-wise, as long as it's where we wanna be. I guess it's part of what we're doing, but the image will never overtake us as musicians, it can't. I figure that if your poster is on a wall then your album's in the house, and its obvious that we write strong songs and that they are ten times stronger than the image... we, I, take the music very, very seriously."
"Even in coming to American, we haven't brushed up our image any more than we usually would, because we know that our music will carry us through over here. We never once sat down and really discussed clothes and all that.... we maybe talked about how we should have tans to look healthy for promotion purposes, but nothing else as far as appearance is concerned."
As Joey talks of EUROPE's standing in America, it seems that he's forgetting Bon Jovi and the hand they've had in helping his band achieve their success.
"I think that the only way Bon Jovi really helped EUROPE was to break down the US radio into accepting hard rock again. People must remember that, musically, there is a big difference between us and them. They have a very American feel, based upon the basic three chords, whereas we really do sound so much more European."
"It was a guy from CBS USA who was just telling me that he felt we were actually like a breath of fresh air to the whole country, that that's why everyone seems to want us as opposed to other rock bands. We have our video and album ready at the same time as Bon Jovi's last year, so I don't really feel that there can be too many people thinking that one copied the other's image and so on. EUROPE is only EUROPE, and those are the merits that we're being taken on."
"No-one has ever done what we're doing with this tour, no-one has come over for the first major tour without a support act, but we must do things on our own terms to succeed. It's working so far in the US and I think that it will work all over the world."
Maybe EUROPE will have to move to America full-time?
"Well, that is a possibility, because we have to move from Sweden due to the taxes. Don't get me wrong, I'm very, very proud of my country and being ambassadors for it, but I would like to save a lot of money so as I can enjoy a good life. I am realistic, this won't go on forever, maybe ten years, and I won't be doing this forever, so I have to consider my life. So we might move here... or to the Bahamas or Monaco."
How will you approach writing a follow-up LP to "The Final Countdown"?
"Well, I had two years to write the songs for the last album, and I don't feel I can give that much time for this next one. There will, of course, be pressure on us. I won't undertake all the songwriting, but only because I am a very selective writer and I reject too much of my own stuff. I don't wanna change the fact that I will be mostly responsible for the material, because that's what EUROPE has always been based on."
"However, Kee Marcello (guitarist) will be putting songs on the next album, which we hope to have out by this time next year, and with Kevin Elson producing again. When I go back home for a few weeks this summer, I'll be recording demos. We come back to the States again, you know," announces Joey. "We're gonna follow up this live-promo tour with some arena dates for three months either with Boston or possibly by ourselves, we're still checking possibilities."
And what's all this teazin' mikestand behavior, Joey? A touch like Coverdale, even though it looks good.
"People have been saying that," he says sounding exasperated. "But I really don't see it at all. We share a few things, but don't all singers really?"
He laughs, I get ready for another question, but suddenly it's time to leave. The final bloody countdown really is upon us, it's 5.05 and I've only just finished my coffee.
So here we finally are, at the gig proper, 7.30 for an 8.00 PM start. There's a lotta people around, various press milling here and there, but I'm more interested in the bread 'n' butter, the real people if you will... the fans themselves. A strange bunch, I'd say that a good half of them got dropped off by their parents at kerbside; some actually have their parents with them, while others are old enough to scream by themselves. Then there's the Swedes. Two groups of them from Stockholm with every inch of skin plastered with their national flag. They keep on droning away in a drunken babbling mess such things as "EUROPE, EUROPE" and "Here we go, here we go..."
As the lights finally go down, there's a huge scream. Read s-c-r-e-a-m, not roar... this is á la Beatles, Bay City Rollers, Adam Ant, Duran Duran. Then the parping great intro (God, where's Del Boy, I thought he dreamt of things like this) and BLAM! Pyro signals the arrival of Joey and Co, looking resplendent in their leather, tousled hair and smiles. It's family rockin', a girl three seats away with her parents is screaming her little head off and there's a crush of teenies at the front wailing whenever Joey wiggles those leather-clad cheeks. Kee Marcello is proving himself quite a find, the ex-Easy Action guitarist ripping up floorboards with some mean string bending. He plays "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and it sounds good, very good, the best part of the show if only because half the kids don't know what the hell it is and are therefore not screaming, allowing me full aural range. I'd say that when the teenies stop screaming forever, Kee could be the element to increase EUROPE's longevity beyond chart hero status. A box is passed up on stage, no doubt containing some underwear or some such gift. Joey bends down, receives, turns to a roadie and passes it in one fluid move, all the time smiling thanks to the giver. This highlights the razor-sharp professionalism of a EUROPE performance, slickly sensational, nothing flusters 'em. The set remains the same as it was when you saw it, and they finish just as they started, with the big chart-topping parper. This was no baptism of fire, this was one slick, smooth success.
Backstage after the show, people are waiting to get EUROPE's signatures and are babbling excitedly. One girl tells me that, for her, EUROPE had five cute guys and don't play "real hard Heavy Metal". There are nods of approval from various others who are earwigging, and that seems to be the general consensus. EUROPE are perfect. They don't offend anyone, parents like their image too, they're probably more virtuous than Stryper and they haven't been verbally slapped by the PMRC. Joey, Kee, Ian, John and Mic will probably end the tour with the biggest collection of female underwear on the US tour circuit, and I for one wouldn't wanna take it away from them... they deserve it! EUROPE aren't on the final countdown any more, they've taken off... and they're heading for the stratosphere.