Finger on the trigger

By: Jodi Beth Summers            From: Hit Parader - September, 1987

Swedish rockers finally hit American shores to support "The Final Countdown"
By now you've heard the song "The Final Countdown" at least 7927 times. Its hauntingly familiar guitar / keyboard riff echoes through your head at the mere mention of the tune. No question about it, there's something about that "da da da da" hook that leaves your emotions somewhere in between, "Yeah, it's catchy" and "I think I'm gonna puke". Face it, "The Final Countdown" is one fetching tune - even if it has been played so many times on radio and MTV that it makes you slightly nauseous.

Don't let it get to you all you budding "Euromaniacs". The whole world is in the same predicament. EUROPE's "The Final Countdown" has topped the charts in two dozen countries, and the song was voted the single of the year in five of them including Germany and the band's native Sweden. Consequently, EUROPE's third album, which is named after that mega-successful single, is also fairing rather impressively.

Actually, if you were to break rock and roll down in scientific terms, EUROPE have everything they need for success. Vocalist Joey Tempest (who took his name from a Shakespearean play), guitarist Kee Marcello, bassist John Levén, drummer Ian Haugland and keyboardist Mic Michaeli incorporate all the elements necessary for superstardom into their approach. EUROPE's music is simultaneously melodic and rocking, with hooks that make them just right for mainstream radio playlists.

They also have "the look". If you're female, you probably think Joey is the best face to grace glossy magazine pages since Jon Bon himself! If you're a guy, you just have to admire these foreigners who have become one of the year's major groupie gropes.

Recently, we had a chance to hook up with Tempest, while he relaxed between tour dates on the band's first U.S. road venture.

Hit Parader: "Obviously you're pleased by your success."

Joey Tempest: "It's fun. 'The Final Countdown' wasn't written as a hit song, but it is straight from the heart. It's a really nice surprise that so many people like it."

HP: "What was your inspiration for the song?"

JT: "I wanted to write an adventure song. I wrote the basics of it a long time ago, then I just put it away on tape. I brought it out again when we were writing for this album. Basically, I work alone at home when I write. Then I bring my ideas into the studio where we work on it as a band, like a democracy."

HP: "Hearsay has it that you've had some vocal problems over the past few years. What happened?"

JT: "During some of the recordings of this LP I was having troubles with my vocal chords. We originally went to Switzerland (Powerplay Studios in Zurich) to record the album, vocals and all, but I got this virus. I had a terrible cold and I became allergic to something in Switzerland. I sang anyway and damaged my vocal chords. We tried different places - Stockholm (Soundtrade Studios), Atlanta (Mastersound Studios) - and I was having a very hard time. I was really depressed because we had to finish the album, even if it ended up not sounding that good. One day our manager called and said that he had been talking with our record company and that they were willing to put more money behind us. That was really nice, a real vote of confidence. And it meant I was able to go home, rest and work with a voice coach. It took about four months for me to heal. Then, we went to San Fransisco (Fantasy Studios) to finish the album. Everything went great there. I did 10 songs in 10 days with no problem. Now my voice feels fine, it's been holding up well on tour. I try to prepare well before all our concerts so I'll have no problems. I just hope I never have to go through that again."

HP: "You speak English beautifully considering it's not your native language. You also compose in English. How did you become so proficient in the language?"

JT: "English was my favorite subject in school. And when I started to write music, it was in English."

HP: "Do you think that's why you're the first Scandinavian rock band since ABBA who's become so successful?"

JT: "Well, over the past 10 years, there have been a lot of bands who sing in Swedish, but the record companies - they just didn't want to know about them. We wanted to sing in English, it's in our hearts. When we first started playing, obviously we were aiming for the international market because we didn't write or sing in Swedish even though the record companies wanted us to. We knew we wanted to go abroad."

HP: "How did you first get interested in music?"

JT: "My father's friend taught me the three magical chords on guitar when I was seven years old. Then I tried to copy songs from the radio and then tried to write my own! I guess I was an obnoxious kid back then. I didn't understand about playing solo guitar. I just put chords together, because that's what was fun for me."

HP: "What was the first song you learned how to play?"

JT: "It was probably some Elton John song like 'Crocodile Rock'. I remember hearing that on the radio and really liking it. Later on when I joined with some other guys who lived in my neighborhood, we would try to play like the bands we listened to: Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith and Deep Purple."

HP: "Is that the stuff that was played on Swedish radio?"

JT: "We get to hear all kinds of music now. In Stockholm they have a station which plays rock all day long. They didn't have that a few years ago, or when I was growing up. Back then, heavy metal wasn't played on the radio, so we had to buy the albums. Then after we bought them and listened to them, we would play some of the songs in rehearsal. We liked that kind of music, and we liked rock magazines too. We regret 'Hit Parader' wasn't sold in Sweden. We would have bought it every month."

HP: "Are you aware of the fact that girls around the world find you very sexy?"

JT: "That sounds great. I'm glad, because I work hard on my presentation. I try to look and act the way people want me to, so I work on the way I move onstage. It's good that people watch what you do, but remember, we're a rock band, not movie stars. For me, it's more important that people listen to what I'm singing than spend their time just looking at the band, EUROPE are more than just a bunch of pretty faces."

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