|EUROPE guitarist Kee Marcello tells all in new book|
Plus - October 9, 2011
Translation by: Stein-Vidar
Their career took off like a rocket in the 80s. From
the outside, EUROPE was a clean band without major scandals. But behind the
scenes, lines of cocaine that were as thick as Swiss rolls were snorted and
groupies passed by in a steady stream. In his autobiography "Kee Marcello -
The rock star God forgot", the EUROPE guitarist tells all about the big
years - and a bit more. Here it is: The only Swedish rock biography: "Kee
Marcello - The rock star God forgot." There is sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll
to the extreme. It is a rock biography that would make Ozzy Osbourne and Nikki
Sixx of Mötley Crüe do a salute... It could only be written by Kee Marcello.
For he is the only Swede who had the chance to live that life - and took it. It
should have been his death. He survived. In the end the life style confronted
him with a question that was as simple as it was difficult. "Live or die?
That was the question. I decided to live. When I had made the decision I had to
take the consequences."
That is to say goodbye to cocaine altogether. And alcohol just about completely. Day after day and year after year he had been as high as a lost kite. Now he hit the ground. Hard. "I had such horrendous anxiety attacks, slipstream, the turn-offs after cocaine. It is blurred in time here. But in anyway, for a week, I was not communicable. I kept to myself. I felt better so. I could not justify to others why I was such a mess. This, the abuse, was something I had tried to hide."
It has been said that cocaine does not lead to the day after-effects. That's a lie. In any case, if one uses in such quantities as Kee Marcello did. "You suffer from a strong, unjustified depression combined with anxiety. Everything is black. It is hardly possible to live with. But when you have it in you, it is all good all the time. It's these 'coming downs' that become harder and harder every time. I felt it so clearly."
One way out was to totally immerse himself in work. Specifically with the solo album "Shine On" (1995). Another way out was love. Kee was invited to appear on a TV show and when the recording was finished, he stood and looked at a television screen. The obnoxious, ubiquitous commercial for Colgate, which at that time was aired all day long, came up. A blonde Miss Splendid looked self-righteous out from the TV and said, "I'm not just a mom. I am a dentist too."
Then Kee heard a voice in his ear. "I'm not just a mom. I am a whore, too."
Result: Bang, boom, flash. He and Pia have been a couple ever since. "Such a damn spot on comment. I understood it right away. This is the WOMAN. The humor. Seriously, I don't know what would have happened if I had not met Pia. I was drug free when we met, but who knows, I was done with the album and was easily able to go back to Stockholm and roll back again."
Now, he had instead met a mother of two. Today, they have a child together. Kee went from a single rock 'n' roll life in Stockholm to a secure family life in Gothenburg. "If one is going to quit abuse, one must first and foremost make the decision. That is number 1. But one must also have prerequisites. I got that when I met Pia," says Kee Marcello.
For those who do not happen to know: Kee was the guitarist in EUROPE from 1986 to 1992. The only Swedish rock band that broke through big time in the world, including the United States. They sold millions and millions of albums. "The Final Countdown" topped the charts in 26 countries and the single sold eight million copies. "Carrie" was also an international smash hit. Kee Marcello is the only Swedish guitarist who really stood with the big hair, tight leather pants and soloed on a Gibson Les Paul for 60 000 people. Not once. But, as it were, every day. The tour with Def Leppard was seen by over half a million people. The highlight that year was the gig at Milton Keynes. "65 000 people and a beautiful day and everyone was there (among other acts were Bon Jovi and Skid Row). And Bombay... Imagine, 50,000 Indians at a cricket stadium and everyone loves hard rock."
In Munich he ran into his childhood idols: Deep Purple. The band, whose album "Who Do We Think We Are" (1973) was the first one Kee had bought. "They played at a venue for 4000 people. We played in an arena which took in 12,000 and it was sold out. Then it dawned upon me: Okay, we are therefore now bigger than Deep Purple! Crazy. And totally awesome. Later I heard that Ritchie Blackmore is a hardcore fan of me. It was Purple's drummer Ian Paice who told me."
It was the premier league of rock 'n' roll. Take, for example, the time when Kee stepped into a private jet and ran into Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton of U2. "Hey Kee, this is our private jet, EUROPE's private jet over there," said Bono.
A number of years earlier, Kee Marcello had been Kjell Hilding Löfbom and playing air guitar with a tennis racket at home in Umeå. That was when the dream was born. He and a friend formed a band without being able to play, and without even owning instruments. "I became obsessed with the guitar. I caved in completely. It is a love relationship and it is as strong today. It was not talent that took me to the top, it was stubbornness. If it took all night to learn a lick on the guitar, I would sit all night and play to my fingers bled. It is the guitar - or nothing. It was make or break. There was never a question IF I would be a rock star, just WHEN."
Now the dream was realized. Rock 'n' roll. But not only. There was also a lot of sex. Groupies in clusters at each venue. The service was complete. In an anecdote in the book Kee opens the door to his room and there, ready, willing, and basically naked, is a bombshell. She takes off her panties and puts them on Kee's head and the rest you can figure out yourselves. "It must have been a concert promoter who fixed that. It's one thing I'm not so damn proud of, this whole woman thing. But we were five guys in our 20s who got everything served on a silver platter, there's nothing more flattering. There were groupies everywhere. I don't get how they figured out where we lived. We tried to keep it a secret. But they were always there when we arrived..."
Sex and rock 'n' roll. But not only. There were also drugs, cocaine, in droves, and oceans of alcohol. Welcome to a typical day in Kee Marcello's life. "Yes, when I was in LA I woke up, went to some diner, downed a milkshake to get some fat in the bones. Then it was an early beer. And then four lines of coke, for avec, just to get into the game, to feel the sun. And then you were on track and increased the pace gradually."
In one scene in the book Kee is at a party. The guitarist in Toto, Steve Lukather, calls him over. He has put out a line of cocaine as thick as a Swiss roll and long as a vacuum cleaner cord. Then they snort from opposite directions and meet in the middle. Or not quite, Lukather goes past the middle... "I bought my cocaine from the same guy who supplied the celebrity elite of L.A. with drugs. You know, Hollywood in the 1980s. Cocaine was like a snack. EVERYONE took it."
Kee's autobiography opens with a scene where he wakes up sharply off-put and confused: Where is he? He doesn't know. But he stands up, downs four lines of cocaine, half a glass of Johnnie Walker, a joint, two lines of cocaine more, throws up, takes a glass of whiskey and a few lines more, collapses, wakes up after an indefinite time on the toilet floor, gets up, downs four lines more and suffers a cardiac arrest... "An incident like that, I could simply wave it away with a joke. The heart stopped. I fainted and almost died..."
It was only with his return to Sweden that Kee Marcello realized he was on his way off the track. In high speed. "I felt I had problems I should do something about. I mean, it just broke away. Grunge with Nirvana in the lead had come and I walked around feeling like a has-been. EUROPE was over. I was a relic from a bygone era. Just that in itself made me want to snort more .."
Fast forward to the millennium change. Jan Stenbeck, a billionaire who appreciated a good party, felt that he wanted EUROPE on a stage, which was also a raft, in Stockholms ström. Jan Stenbeck wanted two songs, "Rock the Night", and at the stroke of 12, "The Final Countdown". "He called Thomas Johansson, boss of EMA Telstar, now Live Nation, and laid out his plan. Thomas said, 'Yes, but Janne, EUROPE no longer exists. It may require money to get them together.' Stenbeck said, 'How much?' Johansson said, 'One million each.' Stenbeck said, 'Done.' Afterwards it was just, 'Aaah! Thomas, why didn't you ask for five million each! He would have paid that!'"
The gig - in front of up to one million people - was successful and the next thought was obvious, to reform the band, head out on tour and record new material. Grunge faded. The time was ripe. To make a long story short. The promise of a six-piece, with both the guitarist from the original line-up, John Norum, who was there before the big years, and Kee Marcello, was broken. EUROPE's manager Petri H. Lundén announced cold and short that Kee was out of the band. The day after that message Kee collapsed. It was not an epileptic seizure. But the symptoms were identical. It was an ambulance ride to the emergency room and one night in hospital. Crash landing. "There was no one in the band who called, e-mailed, texted, or talked to me face to face. So incredibly fucking low and cowardly! In the music world it shouldn't happen like this. I mean, you have stood and sweated in a rehearsal place to make music together, then it's not going to happen like this. Still, no member of the band has said a word to me," says Kee.
It's a story that doesn't end. When he joined the band, Kee Marcello bought out the former guitarist, John Norum. One million Swedish Kronor. Kee's conclusion is quite obvious. He owns a fifth of the brand EUROPE. He has the contracts to prove it. He has not received a penny in royalties since 1993. 18 years of lost income. Now he is suing his former band members for one fifth of all the revenue the band has pulled in during this time. "We tried to reach a settlement, one million Euros (nine and a half million Swedish Kronor), but they did not react to it and therefore we must take them to court."
It is about the money. But not only. It is also about having an influence on what is released in the name of EUROPE. "They travel around the world and pretend that I have never been in the band. But I know I brought something special. There are great video recordings with multiple cameras from big concerts we did. Things I want out on DVD. But it's not something the EUROPE of today are interested in. Because then John Norum wouldn't get any money. To put it like this: I'm not interested in being involved in EUROPE today, good luck and power to them, they have taken their music to an entirely different direction, but I AM interested in being part of the phenomenon, for I have been to the highest degree."
Kee Marcello compares it to letting go of a chief executive and simultaneously cheating him out of his shareholding. "It can not work like this. The right thing would be having all the money that has been earned split in five. When I receive my fifth, the other members can dig into their collective share and pay John Norum his salary."
I wrote that first sentence to this story and interview: Here it is: The only Swedish rock biography: "Kee Marcello - The rock star God forgot." There is sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll to the extreme. It is a rock biography that would make Ozzy Osbourne and Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe do a salute... It could only be written by Kee Marcello. For he is the only Swede who had the chance to live that life - and took it.
But - why? Everything is a choice. Also to write a book about one's life and put all the cards on the table. "I knew that I wanted to do it, that I had a story worth telling. I will be releasing an album soon, on which I have recorded the best of my past again. Songs by EUROPE and Easy Action, and some newly written stuff as well. It is a way to recapture my past. The book is the same thing - but in letters."
Kee Marcello chose to tell it all. "Yes, but there was no doubt, if it shall be done, it shall be done. And it was nice. A catharsis, a purification of one's soul, to avoid having to lie to oneself and everyone else. Yes, I fucked up like hell. But today I am clean. This is what happened. It's really nice for myself to tell it all and draw a line over it and move on."
The book is written in close collaboration with the journalist Stefan Johansson. "He has done a tremendous job. Outstanding! It is very much my language and so in the book, but it would never have been completed without him. And it is so nice, because we've known each other for so long, it was he who, during a hangover brunch in 1986 told me, when I had received the offer to join EUROPE: 'Kjelle, take it!'"