On the Loose
|In the winter of 1985, the band went to the
Soundtrade Studios in Solna to record the single "Rock the
Night". This was the first EUROPE recording with Mic and Ian in the band.
EUROPE produced this single themselves together with sound engineer Ronnie
"Thunder" Lahti. Originally they had asked Leif Mases to produce it, but he had turned down
the offer. Then he changed his mind, only to never show up after all. The band also recorded a new version of "Seven Doors Hotel"
there, which was going to be the B-side for the single. "We had an idea about recording new versions of all the songs from
the first album," Joey said. "And then we would use them as B-sides for the singles from the next
But because of lack of money, they couldn't afford to re-record any more
songs than "Seven Doors Hotel". This meant that the plans they
had about recording a new version of "The
King Will Return" had to be dropped.
Right when EUROPE were hard at work with the "Rock the Night" single, Thomas Erdtman ran into the studio. The record contract with Epic Records was finally finished, and Erdtman had brought it along to be signed. It was a pretty big contract on more than 100 pages, so they didn't have time to read it all. But they decided to sign it anyway. This was, after all, their big chance. "You should never sign a paper without having your own lawyer look at it," John Levén said, "But we didn't."
Later that year EUROPE were approached by movie director Staffan Hildebrand. He asked them if they were interested in acting in his new movie "On the Loose", which was produced by LO, the Swedish Federation of Trade Unions. He also wondered if Joey would be interested in making the movie's soundtrack. "It sounded exciting," Joey said. "And I felt that I could do a good job." Joey decided to put "Rock the Night" on the soundtrack, together with two songs he had recorded alone: "On the Loose" and "Broken Dreams". He played all the instruments there himself, except for the drums, which were drum machines, and the guitar solo in "On the Loose", which was recorded by John Norum. First the "Rock the Night" single was released. Then sometime later the EP "On the Loose" was released, including "Rock the Night", "On the Loose" and "Broken Dreams". But even though two of the songs on that EP were recorded by Joey alone, the EUROPE logo had been printed on its cover by mistake, making it look like a EUROPE single. John Norum didn't like that very much. "Joey had done everything there himself," he said. "So it wasn't too cool that the single was released as a EUROPE single. We, the other guys in the band, weren't even there!" But it wasn't all bad. In total 90 000 copies of those two releases were sold in just a couple of months, making "Rock the Night" EUROPE's first huge hit in Sweden.
The movie "On the Loose" was recorded in the small town Katrinaholm in 1985. EUROPE acted in the movie, with Joey being one of the main characters. Another actor appearing was the old rock star Jerry Williams. The plot of the movie evolves around the young couple Peter and Nina. EUROPE come to their hometown to do a concert, and it turns out that Nina had an affair with Joey a couple of years ago. Peter doesn't like this very much. If you haven't seen the movie, you're probably wondering: Is it any good? Well, personally I have to admit that I wouldn't have seen it if EUROPE hadn't been there. EUROPE themselves aren't too thrilled about the movie either. "One of the worst movies ever made in world history," John Levén said.
"On the Loose" was shown at schools and youth clubs all over Sweden, and became a big success. Since both the movie and the "Rock the Night" single had become such huge successes, EUROPE decided to go on a new tour: The "On the Loose" tour. This time they would play in big sports halls. The budget for this tour was much bigger than for the earlier tours, so their light and sound equipments were better than ever. It was a successful tour, and EUROPE were better on stage than ever. Now they showed that they truly were a world class band. On the tour they presented the new songs "Danger on the Track", "Love Chaser" and "Carrie". The first version of "Carrie" consisted only of piano and vocals, and was more tranquil than the version on their next album. According to the EUROPE members themselves, the first version is the best.
After the tour EUROPE finally had time to relax for a while. One day the Japanese rock magazine "Burrn!" paid them a visit. There was now a huge EUROPE fever in Japan, with many fans waiting for a new album. In the USA there was quite a different story. "Wings of Tomorrow" had been released there in May 1985, but didn't sell much, mostly because Epic didn't bother to do much promotion for it. To quote rock journalist Anders Tengner: "It was like they threw the record at the wall and hoped it would stick..." Another reason was that EUROPE never made a video for their first single ever released in the USA, "Open Your Heart". They didn't make videos for any of the other singles from the "Wings..." album either. Perhaps it was because of the big fiasco they had had with the "In the Future to Come" video...?
In the summer Joey wrote and produced the single "Can't You Stay?" for John Norum's sister, Tone Norum. Originally he had written it for the next EUROPE album, but realized that it didn't quite fit the band's style. So he gave it to Tone instead, and it became a big hit during the fall. Besides producing the single, Joey played all the instruments and sang background vocals on it, while John Norum recorded the guitar solos and Ian Haugland recorded some drum parts. At that time Joey was asked by producer Dieter Dierks to write a ballad for the German band Scorpions. He wrote the song "One of a Kind" and sent it to them. But he never heard from them again, so the song would later be included on Tone Norum's debut album "One of a Kind" instead.
Later Joey was asked to write a song for the charity project "Swedish Metal Aid". It was kind of like "Band Aid", but this time there were only Swedish hard rock bands involved. They were going to do a single, and the income from its sales would be donated to the starving people of Ethiopia. Joey wrote the song "Give a Helpin' Hand", which was recorded in the fall of 1985. He was one of the five lead singers on the song, accompanied by a huge choir consisting of members from almost every hard rock band in Sweden, including EUROPE. The single was produced by Kee Marcello, the guitarist of the glam rock band Easy Action. He also recorded the guitar solo. This was the first time EUROPE and Kee worked together, but it wouldn't be the last.
The Final Countdown
Many years ago there was a discotheque in Stockholm called Galaxy. Before it was opened in the evenings,
a lot of people were waiting outside to get in. The people who owned Galaxy wanted an instrumental song
that could be played while the crowd was waiting. So around 1983-84 they asked Thomas Erdtman if Joey could write a song for them.
Joey decided to do it and borrowed a keyboard from Mic, who hadn't joined EUROPE
yet at that time. After a while Joey came up with a keyboard riff that he really liked, and gave
it to Galaxy. Then, one late night in the summer of 1985, the EUROPE members were at Galaxy.
Joey's song was played over the speakers, and John Levén really liked what he heard: "I said, 'It's fantastic. You
have to write a song!'"
"One day Joey asked us to listen to this new song he had written," Ian remembers. "He had recorded a demo of it and was really excited about it. So we all sat down in his car and Joey put the demo tape into the car stereo." That song was "The Final Countdown". "I was inspired by David Bowie's song "Space Oddity" when writing it," Joey said. In the beginning the other members' reactions were mixed. "It didn't feel quite like a hit, but there was something special about that song," Ian said. "A song with a life of its own."
"My first impression was: Do we have to include this song on the new album?" John Norum laughed. "I was pretty skeptic towards it in the beginning, but later I thought: 'OK, let's give it a shot'. And it turned out pretty good!"
In the summer of 1985 it was time to think about a new EUROPE album. And now it wasn't enough with the best producers in Sweden. Now it was time to get an international producer. Scorpions' producer Dieter Dierks was interested, but would eventually produce Twisted Sister's "Come Out and Play" instead. Other producers EUROPE asked were Gary Moore's producer Tony Platt and Bon Jovi's producer Bruce Fairbairn. But none of them were interested either. Fairbairn even said that there were no hits among the demos he had heard. One of them was "The Final Countdown", a song that would become number 1 in 25 countries. Finally they ended up with Kevin Elson, former sound engineer for Journey. At the same time that EUROPE asked Elson, he got an offer to produce UFO's comeback album. But he chose EUROPE, and the budget for the album "The Final Countdown" was 1 million Kronor. (140 000 US Dollars) Then Elson suggested that EUROPE could use the Powerplay Studios in Zurich, Switzerland. "He had worked in that studio before and therefore he knew that he could give us a good sound there," Joey said.
Most of the songs had been ready for a long time, but one week before going to Zurich, Joey wrote the last song that was going to be included on the album. He had been fascinated by the history of the Native Americans, and that led to the song "Cherokee". New versions of "Rock the Night" and "On the Loose" had been included on the album, together with the new songs they had played live in 1984-85, like "Carrie", "Ninja" and "Love Chaser". Another new song was "On Broken Wings", which would only be used as B-side for the "Final Countdown" single.
The recordings started without problems, until something terrible happened. Everything was finished, except for the lead vocals. But Joey couldn't sing. His voice was completely "broken". First they thought that he just had a cold, because both Levén and Ian had had a cold not long ago. But Joey soon found out that it was far more serious: His vocal cords were completely inflamed. He had gotten a mysterious virus, and was told not to sing or speak at all. He went back to Stockholm to rest, and ate lots of garlic to make his voice better. The other guys had already went home, as they were finished with their recordings. When his voice had gotten a little better, he sang "Give a Helpin' Hand" together with Swedish Metal Aid, live at the show "Nöjesmassakern" with a fever of 38°C.
Then he went to the Soundtrade Studios in Solna to try recording the album again. First he sang the song "The Final Countdown". It went well, even though he still had a fever. But that was the only song his voice could manage for now. After that he went to Florida, because the warm weather there might help improving his voice. Later he went to Kevin Elson's studio in Atlanta. After a lot of trying, he succeeded at singing the vocals for "Ninja". But he wasn't satisfied with the result. Joey was deeply depressed over the fact that he couldn't do better than that, and started to think that his career could be over.
This problem had made the recordings cost more than the budget had allowed. But when Lennie Petze at Epic Records heard "The Final Countdown", he didn't think twice about doubling the budget to 2 million Kronor (280 000 US Dollars). Back in Sweden, Joey and Ian had gone to the resting home Skebo Herrgĺrd. There Joey rested and Ian dieted after the "On the Loose" tour. "I think I lost about 10 kg in one week!" Ian laughed.
After that, Joey hired singing master Bo Sydow to help his voice getting better. That helped, and they went to San Francisco where Joey recorded the remaining nine songs in ten days. In February 1986, the first single from the album was released: "The Final Countdown". It smashed right into number 1 on the Swedish charts, and that was a bit surprising for EUROPE. Originally they had just wanted it to be an opening song for concerts, and not a single. But since "Rock the Night" had already been released in Sweden one year earlier, and "Carrie" didn't fit as a first single, they decided on "The Final Countdown". But they still used it as opening song during the entire "Final Countdown" tour, even though it had become such a huge hit.
The release of the album had been delayed because of Joey's voice problems. But even though the album was finally finished, the release had to be delayed again. EUROPE had hired the American artist Les Katz to make the cover art for the album, but he hadn't started working on that art before the album was finished. So EUROPE had to start their Swedish "Final Countdown" tour without any support from the album. The first concert was in Gävle on April 29. Joey and EUROPE were better than ever, giving a fantastic show in every concert. But during almost the entire tour, the concert halls were only half-full. If a rock concert is going to be successful, one of the most important things to have is an audience that knows all, or most of the songs and can be a big part of the show. But now EUROPE played all the songs from the new album, and there were several songs that the audience had never heard before. The newspapers were saying that the tour would probably end up in an economic fiasco for EUROPE. The tour leader this time was the experienced Bosse Norling, who earlier had done tours with ABBA. The tour was very expensive; it cost 102 000 Kronor (14 300 US Dollars) a day to keep the tour going on.
Finally, on May 26, the same day that the last concert of the tour was arranged in Solna, the album "The Final Countdown" was released. It got stunning reviews everywhere. Everything was great: The songs, the music, the vocals, the production. Ironically, the only thing that they got bad reviews for was the album's cover art. It was basically just amateur-painted portraits of the EUROPE members flying up in outer space. The EUROPE members themselves weren't too thrilled about the cover either.
"It's pathetic that an album release has to be delayed because of the cover art," John Levén said. "And even then the art wasn't exactly of world class!"
"It looks like somebody threw up and added some pictures to it!" Ian said.
A Swedish TV crew was in Solna that day to film EUROPE's concert. It would be broadcasted on TV in the fall. An American promotion team were also there to film the concert, and there was a European album release party. At the same time and place, EUROPE decided to shoot their second music video, "The Final Countdown". That video captured the excitement of EUROPE in concert, and video cuts of Swedish landscape and TV technicians working on the broadcast of the concert were also included. EUROPE were ensured a gold record on basis of the advance ordering of the album alone - 50 000 copies. In only two months, 100 000 copies were sold. But despite the huge success, not everyone was satisfied with the production of the album. "I couldn't stand the way it was mixed," Norum said. "The keyboards completely buried the rhythm guitar."
"It was a better production than the two previous albums and it was the first 'professional' album," Levén said. "But I think there are too much keyboards and too little guitars. And the drums shouldn't have that reverb sound and crap like that. But that's how albums should sound back then, it's a document of the time."
The success of the song "The Final Countdown" was a blessing and a curse for EUROPE. "We usually say it's the best thing and the worst thing that happened to us," Mic said, "It was good because we got internationally recognized and it was number 1 in close to 30 countries. But we're always gonna be compared to that success we had, and I think that we're more of an album band than a Top 10 band."
The international release campaign of "The Final Countdown" started in Europe in July 1986. First the single was sent to radio stations, and after much airplay on radio, the single started climbing most of the European charts. The first foreign country where it became number 1 was the Netherlands. Joey spent almost the entire summer producing Tone Norum's debut album, "One of a Kind". He got a break when he and Thomas Erdtman went to the USA to promote EUROPE. The video for the "Final Countdown" single had achieved a "High Rotation" spot on MTV. ("High Rotation" = The videos played most often on MTV)
On September 3, EUROPE started a Japanese tour. This was their first tour there ever. The only other Swedish band who had toured Japan before was ABBA. EUROPE did six concerts in Japan - four of them in Tokyo, the two others in Osaka and Nagoya. The Japanese had built a copy of EUROPE's stage design, because bringing it all over from Sweden would be too expensive. Sound and light equipment was also rented there, so all that EUROPE had to bring was their instruments. In concerts one of the most popular songs was a medley of songs from "Europe", in which an instrumental version of the Swedish national anthem was included. Needless to say, the most popular song was "Seven Doors Hotel", their first hit in Japan. EUROPE had a lot of work to do in Japan: Their Japanese record company, Victor, had planned several TV interviews, press conferences and photo sessions, among other things. A new single had already been released in Japan only: "Love Chaser". Instrumental versions of it and "Carrie" were also included on the soundtrack for the movie "Pride One".
Right in the middle of the Japanese tour, a shock came: John Norum wanted to leave the band. He was tired of the endless promotion touring, having to do playback shows, interviews and photo sessions all the time. "Now it was all about the money and our image, and the music took second place," Norum said. "It all became too much bubble gum metal, and I didn't like that. I hated the whole image - those hairstyles made us look like poodles." Norum and the other members had serious disagreements about their music: He wanted to play harder guitar, which the others didn't think fitted their songs. They, on the other hand, wanted to use more keyboards, but Norum didn't. He had songs that he wanted to be on the album, but there wasn't any room for them. "'Tempest writes the songs' was the word." Another reason that Norum wanted to quit, was that there was an intern conflict between him and manager Thomas Erdtman. Right from the start Norum realized that Erdtman only wanted to make money and wouldn't think twice about fooling EUROPE for big sums. Norum never wanted to sign the contract with Erdtman and Epic Records, but was convinced by the other members.
Around 1984-85, Norum's mother Sofie had started to date Erdtman. "At first I thought it was cool and so did the other guys," Norum said, "But she started telling me that he often had lots of money in his pockets saying: 'This is the boys' cash but I don't care - let's have fun with it instead'. I thought it was strange that he had so much money and we had so little when we already had two gold albums. It was all a mystery. I left partly because of Erdtman's management, and partly because he and Joey made too many decisions. Joey and Erdtman were the bosses, and the rest of us had to deal with it."
The others were shocked by Norum's decision, but at the same time they understood him. They hadn't gotten along really well lately, so maybe it would be best if he left the band. "There was a silent agreement between us," Ian said. "He wanted to leave the band, and we wanted him to leave the band."
"It grew on us, I guess, the vibes got worse and worse," Mic said. "He isolated himself more and more, so his decision didn't come as a shock. I guess there was too much press and promotion and too little rock 'n' roll."
"To a certain extent I don't blame him," Levén said. "You had dreamt about playing and touring. Not about doing interviews."
"One of the reasons that John Norum left when the band got big, was that we stopped talking and even communicating with each other," Joey said, "Things were enclosed instead of just talking it out. This was done to improve the situation, but instead we just drifted further and further apart, of course."
Norum agreed to go on with EUROPE for a new tour in Sweden, but then that was it. The guys agreed to keep Norum's decision secret. An incomplete band could mean loss of popularity. The only thing that was on the four remaining members' minds that night was to find a replacement for Norum. They wanted a really good Swedish guitarist, and in the end they all thought of the same person: Kee Marcello, the Easy Action guitarist who EUROPE had worked together with on the "Swedish Metal Aid" single. "Kee had just recorded an album with Easy Action and I remember that we got a copy of it before it was out," Levén said. After listening to it, there was no doubt about him being the right guitarist for EUROPE. Then Erdtman called Kee and gave him the offer, but Kee refused. "He felt bad for the other members of Easy Action and their record company, and he was the most important writer in the band. They took the cover photo for the album the day after we asked him, so you can see on the photo that his mind is somewhere else." But EUROPE didn't give up. One evening Erdtman met a friend of Kee's at the Hard Rock Café in Stockholm, and asked her to convince Kee. She thought that Kee was stupid to refuse the offer, so she promised to do her best.
Meanwhile, EUROPE got their revenge with the second leg of the Swedish tour. Now the talk about economic fiasco was long gone. EUROPE were greeted by the masses at ice stadium after ice stadium, in town after town. The leg also included two concerts in Norway, namely Trondheim and Lillestrřm. The grand finale was at the Ice Stadium in Stockholm. Now the "Final Countdown" single was number 1 in West Germany, and it kept climbing the charts all over Europe. On October 14, 1986 the band went to Munich to do a showcase gig, a concert for specially invited guests, press and record companies. It would be Norum's last live concert with EUROPE for 13 years. Right after the gig Thomas Erdtman got a call from Sweden. Kee Marcello had changed his mind and was ready to join EUROPE.
Norum was asked to do one last promotion tour with the band because there wasn't enough time to rehearse with Kee. They did playback performances at several TV shows all over Europe, ending the tour in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on October 31, 1986. There they played at Sky Channel's annual music festival, which was held at the discotheque Escape. Norum was happy when the show was done. "Finally it's over," he said. "Now I can make my own music." He and the band parted good as friends at the Arlanda airport in Stockholm. It was probably best for them all that it went that way. But did Norum ever regret it? "That's happened a few times - I missed my pals from Väsby! But at the same time it was the best thing I could have done. I got a solo deal and could make a solo album with my own songs. After that, Dokken called and in 1990 I moved to Los Angeles and lived there for eight years. I wanted to get away and try something new."
"In retrospect you can say that Norum did the right thing," Ian said. "He believed in his thing and stood up for his opinion."
Now Kee was the guitarist in EUROPE. After practicing their songs at home for weeks, it was time to start rehearsing with the band. "The first rehearsals with him were great," Mic said. In late November they shot the music videos for "Rock the Night" and "Carrie". The "Rock the Night" video was shot at the Hard Rock Café in Stockholm and the "Carrie" video was shot at the Swedish Film Institute in Stockholm. Kee's first official performance with EUROPE was a playback performance at the TV show "Peters Pop Show" in Dortmund, Germany on December 12, 1986 in front of more than 16 000 people. Other artists performing were Samantha Fox, Depeche Mode and Billy Idol, but the most popular ones were EUROPE. The show was aired on TV in 36 countries, and watched by 50 million people. Then the band did another promotion tour on various playback shows for TV. "It was so bizarre to play 'air guitar' to songs I hadn't recorded," Kee laughed.
On November 2, the "Final Countdown" single had finally reached number 1 in England. The band celebrated with beer at an English pub in Stockholm. At the end of the year, the single had sold almost 2 million copies.
Their first live tour around the European continent started in Bergen, Norway, on January 24, 1987. "The first two months I was so worried," Kee said, "Did I do the right thing when I threw myself into EUROPE's world career? What would the fans think? The hardest part was when the guys in the band wanted me to play those melodic parts of the songs the way John Norum did. For example, I had to do 'Carrie' like he'd done it. That felt really difficult in the beginning. I was scared that I'd lose my own playing style... But later everything felt great. I didn't lose anything by playing like John, quite the contrary. I learned a lot and broadened my own playing. Today I don't regret even for a second that I joined EUROPE!"
On February 22 and 23, EUROPE recorded their concerts at Hammersmith Odeon in England for the home video "The Final Countdown World Tour" that was released later that year. The tour ended on March 12. The arenas were filled in every city they had played, like in Zurich, Switzerland, where 12 000 people came to the concert. In Italy a total of 66 000 people came to the seven concerts EUROPE did there. In total 155 000 people had come to see EUROPE live on the tour. Right after that, the band went to the Soviet Union to do a TV show. "That's probably one of the weirdest places I've played at," Kee said.
"The Final Countdown" was climbing fast on the Billboard chart in the USA. The videos for "The Final Countdown" and "Rock the Night" were shown often on MTV. America was ready for EUROPE, and the band's first US tour started in San Fransisco on April 15. They decided to play in theatres with room for 2000 - 3000 people, as they didn't know how many people would come to their shows. They thought it would be better with a full theatre instead of a half-full ice hall. All the concerts were sold out quickly.
EUROPE played in 23 cities all around the USA and traveled 14565 kilometers. For the tour they had hired a private jet for 650 000 Swedish Kronor (91 000 US Dollars). "The idea was to save time to do more promotion in every city," Ian said. "At that time it was said that the record label was gonna pay the difference between commercial and private flying. But we ended up with the whole bill making it cost more than it was worth."
"Someone said we should fly private," Levén said. "We just thought, 'Cool - our own stewardess bringing pizza every time you get on the plane'. I mean how good can it get? But they forgot to tell us the important thing: 'By the way - you're paying for this.'"
The tour ended in Philadelphia on May 17. The Swedish TV channel SVT had followed the band during the tour, producing the documentary "EUROPE in America", which was shown on TV in 1988. It was also released on home video. EUROPE's biggest hit in the USA was actually "Carrie", reaching number 3 on the Billboard single chart. The "Final Countdown" single ended up as number 8. The album stayed on the chart for over 60 weeks, also reaching number 8. The band could go home with a platinum record - 1 million sold albums. In total, the "Final Countdown" single has sold more than eight million copies and been number 1 in 26 countries. The album has sold just over six million copies.
In September they went to the Sierra Nevada in Spain to record the video for "Cherokee". It was filmed a half mile from where Sergio Leone shot the famous Clint Eastwood spaghetti western "A Fistful of Dollars". When filming the scene where the horses run through the valley, someone accidentally set some brush near the set on fire. The entire video crew, including band members, had to fight the fire by quickly digging a road that the fire could not bridge.
The taxes were high in Sweden, and EUROPE's tax advisers, who were pretty sloppy at that time, suggested that they should move abroad. EUROPE decided to so, and only Mic chose to stay home in Sweden, while the others moved to the tax haven Nassau on the Bahamas. But Mic's adviser told him to move as well if he wanted to make it. So eventually Mic moved there too. Later they all moved to an island in the West-Indies called Turks and Caicos.