Idol hysteria in Chile
By: Anders Tengner
From: OKEJ - No. 8, 1990
Now EUROPE have swept yet another part of the world off their feet - South
America. During a week in an idyllic town outside Santiago, the big articles
boomed and made thousands of girls scream like crazy from adoration. For real, you don't have to be a rock star to make thousands of girls scream for
you. The reporter team from OKEJ learned that as we landed at the airport in
Santiago and were stormed by an army of teenage girls, journalists and press-photographers.
Quite overwhelming, especially because we saw our tired faces on the cover of at least three
newspapers the next day.
But the welcome in the airport, from which we escaped in a taxi, followed by at least a dozen of girls, actually was a good pointer to how the rest of the week would go. At the hotel in the little coast town Viña del Mar, 14 miles outside the hot Santiago, the police kept the kids away from the entrance. But they couldn't keep them from screaming their heads off as soon as we got out of the car, showed up in the lobby - or even better - went out and took pictures of them. Then the screaming went up like a typhoon-like howl. Fun in the beginning, but a little annoying later on. No one cared about the fact that we were journalists. Long hair = rock star, they thought and screamed on.
EUROPE arrived the day after, meeting the same chaos, and after a few hours of rest, they went to the different press conferences and interviews. This was the beginning of what the local newspapers later called a scandal. In a small and smothering press room, the band kindly answered questions of the most unusual kind. Most of the journalists hadn't noticed that "The Final Countdown" actually had been followed up by "Out of This World" - they thought that the guys were still working on the follow-up album.
The Festival on January 31 in Vinã del Mar is the absolute top of what goes on in the music scene in Chile every year. It goes on for six days, mostly with local Latin American bands, but also a bunch of artists from the Western countries - and often this is the people of Chile's only chance to see them. 1990 was an exception, because Bon Jovi did a show weeks before, at a sold-out stadium in Santiago together with a bunch of other famous guests. EUROPE will play on the two last days of the festival, and they have got a whole theater scene to rehearse at in advance.
"That's the coolest rehearsal room I've ever seen," Joey laughs before they start the set, which includes a couple of the new songs, but mostly material from "The Final Countdown".
The scandal articles which you read in "Expressen", which obviously fully trusts the spies from Chile, caused a good laugh for the band. "Can you picture the "panic scenes"?" Kee jokes and shows, with a John Cleese-like precision, how the supposed kick out from the nightclub Ceasar would have looked. We knew the truth. We were there. Nothing happened. Nothing!
The truth behind the "Scandal in Chile" was that EUROPE, together with us - no girls were there - went into a taxi to the above mentioned discotheque, just to find it almost empty! Five girls were dancing on the dance floor, and yet another two sat talking in a corner. We ordered beer, drank it, danced a little (on the floor, not on the tables) and got tired of it pretty fast. After a few hours, we all went back to the hotel. That's it! Nothing more, nothing less happened. The guys were a little loud - that's true, but that was the only thing "Expressen" could say that they hadn't gotten confirmed. The rest, which was a pure lie, was the evening paper's truly verified information. BIG LAUGH!
"We are going to frame this article," Kee laughs. "This is some of the funniest stuff I've ever read!"
Later we'd learn that the press from Chile had decided that they would do anything to get a scandal. They didn't care if they had to lie, make up or exaggerate facts! EUROPE were longhaired rock beasts - they should be told so, they seemed to think. When Kee said at the first press conference that they didn't play in Chile before because of Pinochet's dictatorship, he thought that the people in Chile were fed up with the dictator who now no longer was the dictator - but he was so wrong.
Pinochet is no longer hated by the masses. He's a damn hero for a whole lot of the people! Yes, it sounds weird, but that's how it is. Say something bad about "Pinnen" (The Pin) as we called him, and you get grim looks as an answer. Who would have known that? Not us, not Kee - not a healthy thinking individual. But the press attacked EUROPE like wild animals and ripped them into pieces. One lie after another. The tour leader, Bosse Johansson, who almost got hit on the nose by a journalist in the airport when he carefully tried to cut off the pushy reporters from the band, got the nickname "Mike Tyson" in the big articles, and was also accused of having waved around a guitar to score with the young girls...
"It's totally obvious that they want a scandal", Joey thinks. "But we couldn't care less. We know it's not true."
Except from the cannibalistic press, Chile turns out to be a quite lovely country. The people are friendly, like to talk, and are forthcoming. The food is great, the beer too, and the prices are amazingly low. 6 Kronor (almost 80 cent) for a bottle of Cerveza, which is the Spanish name for beer. That's when it's served in a bar or on a restaurant. We didn't find out what it costs in a shop.
We were fully satisfied with the life in the burning hot sun. EUROPE took the chance between some rehearsal sessions and went out to some beaches and small towns. In the evening John Levén tells us about the day's adventures: "I got a huge crab from a fisherman. 'Here you are,' he said and gave it to me. Of course I thought it was dead, so I touched it - and it started to move and tried to grab me with its claws! I almost had a heart attack!"
Joey welcomes the week as a good break from the songwriting. "It has actually not been going so well," he admits. "Before Christmas I was kinda down, but I've taken new steps. The thing with Thomas Erdtman didn't make it better. It's not too funny having to separate under such circumstances, and all that has been written about our tax situation also. I actually haven't been in Sweden for more than a couple of months during the last two years, so it was all made up. But now we're really on a roll. After Chile we're going to San Francisco, where our new management is, to finish up the material and plan the next album recording."
He has a lot to say about Chile: "I didn't know much more than that they had political problems in 1973 and that the country was long and thin. But the girls are very beautiful and the people are friendly. We are going to come back to South America for a longer tour."
Almost all the time is spent on interviews with the gathered press. EUROPE's visit is big news and the papers are full of articles. Most of them with a negative tone. But after their first gig, it all turns around. Now they are suddenly the press' favorites. When they turned out to be a vital rock package that the audience loved, the press started to treat them nicely.
"We even got a journalist prize," Joey laughs after the gig. A fun surprise during the concert was kept a secret until the last minute. It was a calypso, where Joey suddenly invites about 20 girls on stage for a dance. The band dances around laughing in the crowd of beautiful girls - and the audience cheers.
In the last days we make sure to bring the band along with us out in the jungle. We would have preferred a photo-shoot in town, but the thousands of fans which constantly surround the hotel, makes it impossible. A few days earlier, OKEJ's photographer Michael Johansson and myself got caught in the middle of a crowd of screaming girls who pulled our hair and begged for autographs. That was really nasty! Mass hysteria, as well intended as it maybe is, can lead to really bad situations. We ran away from the place. Instead we take off for a nature reservation nearby the concert arena. Gigantic trees make us think of a tropical rainforest, and while EUROPE pose among fallen trees and stones, I film machinegun-armed military men who crawl around in the bushes.
"They are there for a preventive sake," EUROPE's pistol-armed bodyguard from the army says quickly. "There is a certain risk of bomb-threats." But everything goes quietly. EUROPE's two concerts go by without problems and we finish off our Chilean experience in the hotel bar until the early morning.
"Every time we come to a new exotic country, we say 'we've got to buy a house here'," Joey says.
If you do that, guys, we'd love to come by and visit.