The early years
It all began in 1978 when the band
WC was formed in Upplands
Väsby, a suburb outside Stockholm. WC's first lineup consisted of guitarist and
vocalist John "Jonta" Norum, drummer Tony "Pippi" Niemistö, guitarist Micke Kling and bassist
Jan Erik Bäckström. Norum and Tony had previously played in Norum's first band,
Dragonfly, in 1976. WC mainly played cover versions of Thin Lizzy and UFO songs. After a while Norum left to start a new band with bassist Peter Olsson and
drummer "Werner". However, "Werner" left after a couple of
weeks and was replaced by Tony Niemistö. The band decided to adopt the WC name,
thus creating WC's second lineup. One time WC got an offer to appear on a TV show, on one condition: That they changed their band name.
One day another local musician, Joakim "Jocke" Larsson, went to see WC in concert and was particularly impressed by Norum's guitar playing. Joakim and Norum became good friends, much thanks to their shared interest for music and mopeds. In 1979 WC decided to get a fourth member. "We decided that we needed a singer," Norum said, "An awesome singer." At that time Joakim was the vocalist and bassist in another Upplands Väsby band, Roxanne, and Norum had seen them in concert. "I thought that he was really great. He had a charisma on stage and a beautiful pitch to his voice." One day Norum met up with Joakim and asked him to join WC. "'We need a singer, but we already have a bass player,' I said and then he just took on the job, ha ha! So that's how it started." At Joakim's suggestion, WC changed its name to FORCE, after the UFO album "Force It".
The first FORCE rehearsals took place at Centrumgården in Upplands Väsby. "It clicked right away," Norum said, "It was a special sort of chemistry." At the time they still played cover versions, but soon Joakim began to think about original material: "I remember when we started the band FORCE we were playing covers in the rehearsal room, because we just wanted to learn our instruments, like all bands. Then one day I said maybe we should do our own stuff. Nobody had any ideas, so I brought mine into the rehearsal room, and that is when we started writing our own stuff." Some of the first songs he wrote were "Rock On", "Strange", "Midnight Show" and "Black Rose". At that time FORCE got 100 Swedish Kronor (14 US dollars) for each concert. In 1980 they recorded their first demo tape, which included six songs. They sent the tape to several record companies, but didn't get much of a response. "Quite soon we met some record company people that seemed to like what we did," Joakim said, "But they said we had to cut our hair and stop singing in English. We told them to fuck off."
Early in 1981 Peter Olsson left FORCE. The official explanation has been that he left because Joakim got together with his ex-girlfriend Anita Katila shortly after they broke up, however Peter told the complete story in the unauthorized EUROPE biography "Only Young Twice" in 2011: "It was I who broke up with Anita after we had been together for seven years. And I already had a new girlfriend when I found out that she had gotten together with 'Jocke', and for some reason I got jealous. And later on there was a drinking race where we started bitching and then I called it quits because I would never cope. The whole thing was my fault. I had no reason to be jealous. But I was also dissatisfied with FORCE's development. I wanted to play harder and more guitar based music and hadn't quite gotten the concept of choruses. For the most part I was after guitar masturbation, but I didn't understand that you have to prostitute yourself a bit to get anywhere. It wasn't the kind of music I wanted to do and I don't think it was the kind of music 'Jonta' really wanted to do either. The way FORCE sounded in the beginning was just nonsense by today's standards. In a sense I regret leaving. But at the same time it would never have worked out between us in the long run. Furthermore I had a weak spot for beer already at that time, and I wouldn't have coped living the way that they would do. It would have crashed in every way. But at the same time I'm a bit proud of having been part of it and starting the band." After Peter left FORCE, he joined Rising Force, the band of guitarist Yngwie J. Malmsteen. In 1983 he joined the band Power, who released a couple of singles before splitting up in 1990.
While the band was searching for a new bassist, they recorded a second demo with Joakim on bass. The record companies remained indifferent. The consistent comment: "A Swedish hard rock band will never make it big." One rainy evening Norum visited his good friend John Levén, who was a guitarist at the time, and said, "You get the job in the band - if you'll play the bass." Levén accepted, admitting, "I realized that I was not that great of a guitarist, so I switched to bass and jumped into FORCE."
In the same year FORCE participated in a rock band contest at the rock club Underground in Stockholm. They didn't win and that was a big disappointment for the guys. In April 1981 Levén got an offer from Yngwie Malmsteen to join Rising Force. He was so flattered that he couldn't resist the offer, so he joined the band. "It wasn't that strange, really," Levén said, "Yngwie was already a big name in Stockholm and I was incredibly impressed by his guitar playing." At the same time Rising Force's former bassist, Marcel Jacob, joined FORCE. During that time, Marcel and Joakim co-wrote the song "Black Journey Through My Soul". Marcel only played two concerts with FORCE, at Centrumgården and Folkets Park in Upplands Väsby and left the band after three months. "It was too much for me to travel outside of Stockholm and not rehearse because John Norum didn't show," he said. Meanwhile, the single that Levén was going to record with Rising Force was never released. Levén also had issues with Malmsteen and decided to switch places with Marcel again.
In 1982, the rock competition "Rock-SM" (Swedish rock championship)
was held in Sweden. It was arranged by Thomas Erdtman, who was a former product
manager at CBS Records, and his own, newly started record company Hot Records,
as well as the Swedish newspaper "Aftonbladet". At first Erdtman asked
another newspaper, "Expressen", about arranging "Rock-SM"
together with him, but they declined the offer. So he teamed up with
"Aftonbladet" instead. He had gotten the idea from Norway in 1980,
where the contest "NM i rock" was arranged. Bands who didn't have a
contract, could send in demo tapes. The best band won a record contract. Erdtman
hoped that with his "Rock-SM" he could find a new Swedish band to make
Actually FORCE didn't care so much about this competition, but Joakim's girlfriend, Anita Katila convinced them to record a demo tape with five songs: "The King Will Return", "Seven Doors Hotel", "Rock On", "Children of This Time" and "Paradize Bay". They didn't post the tape, though, because they didn't think the recordings were good enough. "It didn't sound good," Norum said. "We didn't care about sending the tape, and soon we forgot why we even recorded it." But only a couple of days before the deadline, Anita sent the tape to "Rock-SM" without telling Joakim or the band about it. The "Rock-SM" contest was a success. Thomas Erdtman received a total of 4000 tapes and listened to them all. After that, he and his family picked out the 485 best bands to participate in "Rock-SM". One of the bands who qualified for the contest was FORCE. They began practicing seriously because they now finally had the chance to make it big.
But some of the band members thought it was time to change the band name. Since Yngwie Malmsteen had a band called Rising Force, they thought the name FORCE was too similar. "We've got to change it, it's too close to that," Norum said, "We've got to come up with something better and stronger." Joakim had an idea. "I was traveling by train a lot. I had a cleaning job as a half-day job, cleaning factory floors. I was sitting on the train station waiting for a train, and I was going through Deep Purple albums in my head. There was 'Made in Japan', 'Made in Europe'... And I stopped and I thought, 'Hang on, Europe, that sounds pretty cool.' In my head I pictured somebody presenting us, saying, 'Tonight ladies and gentlemen, on stage: EUROPE.' Alright, that'll work." One day the band had a couple of beers at Joakim's house, and he decided to tell the other guys about his idea. "I said, 'How about EUROPE?' And it was quiet for two minutes. I felt really awkward!" Norum and Levén exchanged confused looks. "What is he thinking? Is he nuts?" Norum said, "I think it went pretty quick, though. After a couple of more beers, we really started liking it a lot!"
The same day that FORCE became EUROPE, they went to Solna to participate in the first part competition of "Rock-SM". One of the bands they met there was Trilogy, whose drummer was Jan Håkan Haugland from the suburb Märsta. Trilogy was defeated, while EUROPE went to the quarter finals. Erdtman was impressed by EUROPE, even though he originally was looking for a pop band, not a hard rock band. He was mostly impressed by Joakim's vocals.
At the same time that EUROPE participated in "Rock-SM", Levén was doing his military service. He didn't always get a day off to be at the competitions, so often he decided to go AWOL. "Guys who wanted time off to participate in sport contests could get it all the time, but I who was in a rock band, didn't!" Levén said. Between the competitions, Norum also took time to tour Sweden with Eddie Meduza, one of Sweden's most famous rockers. EUROPE won the quarter final in Uppsala, and now it was time for the semi final being held in Södertälje. They won easily and were then qualified for the final.
That's when Joakim decided to take an artist name. If the band would ever become famous abroad, he would need a proper artist name. He wanted to have a name with a historical association. Finally he chose the name Joey Tempest. "I was in the USA when I was 12 years old," Joey said. "And the guys there couldn't pronounce Joakim properly, so they called me Joe instead. And one time when I was at a library, I saw a book with the title "The Tempest" on the cover. So I decided to put those two names together, and thought it sounded cool." "The Tempest" is a famous play written by William Shakespeare. "I haven't read it that much, but I saw a movie based on it on TV once," Joey admitted. Tony knew that his last name, Niemistö, would be hard to pronounce abroad, so he decided to take an artist name too. He chose the name Tony Reno, while John Norum and John Levén decided to stick with their real names.
The "Rock-SM" final was held on Sunday, December 12, 1982 at Gröna Lund in Stockholm. Now there were only eight bands left. The final was shown live on TV. EUROPE were the favorites. They played two songs: "In the Future to Come" and "The King Will Return". Some of the members of the jury were Thomas Erdtman, along with rock stars like Mikael Rickfors and Tomas Ledin. But Erdtman, who had become friends with the EUROPE members, didn't vote for them as best band. The first prize of the contest was a record contract with his record company Hot Records, and he didn't think that EUROPE, a Swedish hard rock band singing in English, would sell many albums in Sweden. Instead he voted for Joey as best vocalist and Norum as best guitarist, and voted for Café Midnatt as best band. But thanks to the rest of the jury, EUROPE won the contest with just one vote more than the second band. As if that wasn't enough, Joey and Norum won one award each, for best vocalist and best guitarist.
Even though Erdtman really liked EUROPE, he thought that they could do with a few changes to become more successful. He suggested that they could start singing in Swedish, maybe change to a more "poppy" music style and cut their hair. Joey considered it, but Norum didn't, so they didn't change anything at all. After that Norum never really liked Erdtman.
The first album
EUROPE recorded their debut album, "Europe", in December 1982, and it
was released on March 14, 1983. New versions of all the songs from the
"Rock-SM" demo tape were included on the album, as well as "In
the Future to Come" and new songs like "Memories" and "Words
of Wisdom". Both the lyrics and title of the song "Rock On" had
been changed completely. Now it was called "Farewell". The music was melodious hard rock, and it's obvious that they borrowed a lot
from bands like Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple. But EUROPE still had their own
style, thanks to Joey's great skills as a songwriter. Most of the music was
recorded live in the studio, and the album was recorded in just a couple of
weeks. For example, they only used a half hour to record the instrumental song
"Boyazont". John Norum and his former tour buddy Eddie Meduza co-wrote
that song. Hot Records was a small record company, so there was a low budget: Just 100 000
Kronor (14 000 US Dollars). The sound quality wasn't that good either, mostly
because Swedish hard rock was fairly untried earlier. So it was hard to find
producers and technicians who were used to its sound. But EUROPE tried to
produce the album themselves, and it turned out OK in the end. They also got a
little help from Thomas Erdtman and engineer Erik Videgård.
The first cover for "Europe" was a band photo with the EUROPE logo - designed by Tony Reno's brother, Teijo Niemistö - on top. "Europe" became very popular in Sweden and reached number 8 on the album charts right after its release. 30 000 copies were sold in just a couple of weeks, which was very good for a Swedish hard rock band making their debut. Erdtman didn't make a penny on the album, even though it was successful. But he continued to work with EUROPE because he understood that they were going to make it big in the future. In total, one million copies of "Europe" have been sold all over the world.
An interview with EUROPE in the studio and a live performance of "Children of This Time" was shown on the popular TV show "Casablanca" during the spring of 1983, and boosted their popularity. Later that spring they went on a folk park tour, doing 25 concerts in total. That tour was very successful, with sold out concerts almost everywhere. At that time EUROPE had a scarce stage equipment. Newspapers wrote about EUROPE all the time, and they were undoubtedly the most popular hard rock band in Sweden. Most of the other hard rock bands at that time, like Iron Maiden and Motörhead, were rawer, faster and more aggressive than EUROPE, and it was mostly boys who listened to them. Both girls and boys listened to EUROPE, who opened the musical boundaries between them. Joey used to have a moustache, but once he shaved it away, he became the girls' new idol. After a while he bleached his hair.
One day the Japanese rock journalist Masa Itoh visited an import store in London. There he found the "Europe" album and decided to buy it. He liked it so much that he played it for a good friend of his, T.T. Tsutsumi, director of the Japanese record company Victor Records, who liked it too. Then Erdtman got a phone call from Tsutsumi, who told him that Victor Records was interested in releasing the album in Japan. Erdtman started to think seriously about an abroad launching, but "Europe" wasn't released anywhere else at that time. The Japanese edition of the album was given a new cover, and it's the cover that has been used for most (if not all) editions of the album that have been released ever since. The castle-like building depicted on the new cover is the Karlskirche, a church in Vienna, Austria. The angel statue is the Angel with the Sponge, one of the statues situated on the Ponte Sant'Angelo in Rome, Italy. The statue was sculpted by Antonio Giorgetti. The album became a big success in Japan, reaching the Top 10, mostly thanks to the popular single "Seven Doors Hotel". The single was released in Sweden as well, but didn't sell quite as much there. It was the only single to be released from "Europe". At the same time the band decided to make their first music video, for the album's opening track, "In the Future to Come". The standard performance video featured the band playing in a desert area, mixed with clips of rocket launches and explosions. The video's budget was low, so it wasn't a big production. It was only shown once on Japanese TV in 1983, and nowadays the EUROPE members prefers that it stays that way. "You just laugh at that one," Joey said, "It's just us running around in snow, which was actually soap flakes! At one point, two of us knocked each other in the head and that part remained in the video."
Now Erdtman thought that EUROPE would have to get a new and prettier look and get their own image. But the band didn't care so much about that, because they thought that image bands didn't have any future. EUROPE cared more about the music, so they stayed with their straight, long hair and black denim clothes. EUROPE's victory in "Rock-SM" wasn't just a breakthrough for them, but also for Swedish hard rock. Now that EUROPE had done so well, CBS Records were quick in finding more Swedish hard rock bands to make money on. They found 220 Volt, who did become a big band in Sweden, but not nearly as big as EUROPE would become.
Wings of Tomorrow
Since "Europe" had been such a big success in Sweden, there was no doubt about recording a new album. Earlier
on Thomas Erdtman had given Joey a portable studio, which was a multi-track recorder. Joey would spend a lot of his time with the portable studio at home in his apartment, recording demo tapes of songs he had written for the new EUROPE album.
"When I was going to record a demo, I first recorded a drum beat, humming the song to myself," Joey
said, "Then I recorded the guitars, keyboards and vocals. It took a long time, and often I played something wrong. Then I had to start all over again."
The recording sessions for the second album, "Wings of Tomorrow", began in late 1983. It was recorded in Polar Studios, a studio earlier used by bands like ABBA, Scorpions and Led Zeppelin. It was there that EUROPE had met Leif Mases, who would produce the album. He had earlier worked with Led Zeppelin. The budget for "Wings of Tomorrow" was about 400 000 Swedish Kronor (56 000 US Dollars). At that time Joey was very influenced by UFO guitarist Michael Schenker's solo band. This can especially be noticed in songs like "Wings of Tomorrow". Other songs Joey wrote then were the beautiful ballads "Dreamer" and "Open Your Heart". The sound quality on that album was much better than "Europe", but Joey wasn't completely satisfied with the production. "Their digital recording system gave us a lot of problems with the rhythm guitars," he recalls. "And that made a lot of the rock feeling disappear."
The cover art was great, one of the best covers ever made in Sweden. The painting of an iron-clad eagle flying in front of a big planet was painted by Peter Engberg. The album was released on February 24, 1984. Shortly after its release, 38 000 copies of the album were sold in Sweden, and in total - just like "Europe" - one million copies have been sold all over the world.
Originally the first single from the album was going to be an early version of "Lyin' Eyes". But the day before its release, several copies of the single were taken back and destroyed. Instead EUROPE decided to release "Stormwind". Both the "Lyin' Eyes" and "Stormwind" singles have a high market value among collectors today. There are only 500 copies of "Lyin' Eyes" left in the whole world. The second single, "Open Your Heart", became the biggest hit from the album, reaching a number 2 spot on the Swedish radio charts. It also gained EUROPE some attention and interest from American record companies. The song "Black Journey Through My Soul", co-written by Joey and Marcel Jacob in 1981, was also included on the album, but the title had been changed to "Scream of Anger". "That song is a good example of the 'fire' between me and John Norum," Joey said.
Up until now, Thomas Erdtman had been EUROPE's friend and "Jack of all trades". But now the band felt that they needed a manager, so they offered Erdtman the job. After some consideration he accepted the offer. In late February Joey and Erdtman went on an international promotion trip to represent EUROPE. First they went to the USA to negotiate for an international record contract for the band. Erdtman had booked meeting with the big record companies Polygram, A&M, Warner Brothers and CBS. In New York Erdtman met an old CBS colleague who helped him into the A&R department at Epic Records. There he left a copy of "Wings of Tomorrow" and a note with the address of the hotel he stayed at. Soon he got a phone call from Lennie Petze, the manager of the A&R department at Epic. He was very excited after hearing the album, and wanted to meet Erdtman as soon as possible. But then Erdtman and Joey was on their way to Los Angeles to meet some people from another record company, A&M. Petze, who had planned to go to San Fransisco, decided to go to L.A. instead to have a meeting with them. Only one hour before the scheduled meeting with A&M, Joey and Erdtman had lunch with Petze, who had brought a suggestion for a record contract. They accepted it and dropped the meeting with A&M. But it would take some time before a final contract was ready. After the meeting with Petze, Joey and Erdtman went to Tokyo, Japan. For an entire week Joey did many interviews with newspapers, TV and radio stations.
Joey had played the keyboards on the first two albums and the first tour in order to give the music a broader sound, but by the time of "Wings of Tomorrow" he had grown tired of being stuck behind the keyboards. As he was the lead vocalist he wanted to concentrate on the singing and the stage performance. "Joey played keyboard live, but it didn't always work," Norum said, "The straw (that broke the camel's back) was probably when we played a gig in Upplands Väsby. The keyboard just howled during 'The King Will Return'." So they decided to find another keyboardist who could play on their tour. That's when Joey thought about Gunnar Michaeli, the keyboardist in the band Avalon. One evening Thomas Erdtman and the band hung out at the club Zamora in Upplands Väsby and Gunnar happened to show up. "When I came in, they waved me over to their table," Gunnar said, "Thomas introduced himself and explained that they needed a keyboardist for the upcoming tour." At that time he was supposed to record an album with the band Universe. "I walked up to Universe and said I wanted to borrow their keyboardist for a tour," Norum said, "'Sure, as long as we get him back,' they said. 'Forget it,' I thought to myself and in the back of my mind I counted on him becoming a permanent member of EUROPE."
"I was the only keyboardist they knew," Gunnar said. "That's why they asked me to join!" With Gunnar on keyboards, the band kicked off the first leg of the "Wings of Tomorrow" tour in Mjölby, Sweden on March 16, 1984. This time they had bigger light and sound equipment, so the concerts were bigger than on the first tour. But that wasn't the only change. Everyone in the band had gotten a perm and new stage clothes. But the new look took some getting used to. "The first time you get a perm, your hair looks like an... an acceleration pedal!" Joey said. EUROPE was becoming more and more famous, and there were fewer people who only associated them with "Rock-SM". Thousands of people came to their concerts, and they appeared often in newspapers and TV shows, like "Nöjesmaskinen", where they did a singback performance of "Dreamer". In late June EUROPE went to Finland to play their first concerts abroad, at Jyväskylä Rock in Jyväskylä on June 22 and Ahvenlampi Rock Festival in Saarijärvi on June 23. Everyone thought that it had worked out really well having Gunnar in the band on the tour, so on the boat home from Finland he was asked if he wanted to join the band officially. "He was the right guy for us," Joey said, "A great guy who's really talented on keyboards!" But Gunnar was hesitant at first. "I contemplated whether I should join since I had my own band. I also wrote songs. We were gonna make it and become really big! But in the end I came to the conclusion that I could give it a try. It wasn't my band, but I got into it really fast."
At the same time another major change happened to the band lineup, as the concert in Saarijärvi turned out to be the band's last concert with Tony Reno. Everyone in the band knew except for Tony himself. Already a month before that concert, the decision to fire him was made. The consensus was that he didn't practice hard enough and didn't seem to take the band's hard work seriously enough. "Tony never arrived on time for rehearsal," Norum said, "Half an hour would be okay, but not two, three hours. Every now and then he didn't show up at all. Then we got a little angry. He had a nonchalant attitude. He thought it was more important to be at home with his girlfriend than to rehearse. And when we told him so, he would just start laughing." Unbeknownst to the band, Thomas Erdtman sent Tony a letter telling him he was fired. "Tony called me up and cried," Norum said, "He was devastated and said that we could have at least said something. 'Then I would have pulled myself together,' he said. The worst thing was when his father started to phone terrorize me. He screamed that I was a fucking moron for doing this to my old friend. I had to take all the shit since I had played with Tony for six years. Still I was the last one to agree on firing Tony. But what could I do? With Thomas involved it was four against one. At the same time I felt the possibility to evolve as a guitarist with a more competent drummer." Tony claimed he had no idea why they fired him. "Suddenly I was just gone! And the other guys would slack off on rehearsals every now and then too." Nowadays Tony prefers not to be associated with EUROPE at all. "Today we're in touch again, but as soon as I mention EUROPE he won't talk about it," Norum said in a 2006 interview.
While the band was looking for a new drummer, John Norum found out that former Trilogy drummer Håkan Haugland was looking for a new band. At that time Håkan worked together with his father at the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, but he still wanted to go on with his musical career: "Either I had to find a famous band in Sweden or I would have tried to do like Yngwie and move to America because I wanted to be a musician." One day when he came home from work, his father met him in the doorway and told him that there had been a phone call for him. "Some guy from a record company or management called up and asked for you and he left his phone number, so please call him up." Håkan did and found out that it was Thomas Erdtman, who told him that EUROPE was looking for a new drummer and wanted to try him out. Håkan met up with the band at their rehearsal place at Berns in Stockholm and received a tape with four songs to rehearse to: "Seven Doors Hotel", "Scream of Anger", "Wings of Tomorrow" and "Treated Bad Again". "Then there was nothing left to do but go home and rehearse like hell." After that, he hooked up with the band for the deciding rehearsal. "We just went for it and the guys said, 'Well, you're in!'" Håkan joined the band officially in August 1984 and met Tony a couple of times since then. "The first time I met him was when I just joined the band. It was kind of weird, because I came to the management office and Tony Reno was signing off all the papers and stuff that he was doing in order to leave the band. And I was coming there to sign on to the band, so it felt kind of weird. I greeted him and he looked at me and said, 'Hi man.' He didn't look all that happy and I totally understand him, obviously. Another time I met him was in the 90s when I was playing with Glenn Hughes. We were playing the same festival thing, I guess. I saw him and said hi to him. But that's it. I never really sat down and spoke to him. But I would like to do that, 'cause he seems like a nice guy. Maybe we can exchange experiences or whatever."
After Håkan joined the band, he decided to take an artist name, Ian Haugland. "Håkan was too hard to use internationally. 'å' would be difficult to use because it doesn't exist in English. I took Jan and made it to Ian. Mostly because of similarity and because of Ian Paice." The band rehearsed for a month before going out on the road again to start the second leg of the "Wings of Tomorrow" tour in Värmland. "I was nervous as hell before that first gig," Ian said. But after the gig it was a quite different story. "After his first gig with us, I remember him running naked in the corridor, screaming," John Norum said, "It was a good start. He was a real drummer. Crazy. But in a good way." An interesting side note about that leg of the tour is that Gunnar had also decided to take an artist name, Greg Michaeli. "I was stupid enough to try and find a name that sounded 'coool'. Now, a really cool name in English would be Gunnar." Later on he settled for Mic Michaeli. Two new songs, "Rock the Night" and "Ninja", had been added to the setlist and both were received warmly by the fans, something that certainly bode well for the next EUROPE album.