"With Prisoners in Paradise we had taken it as far as we could"
By: Carl LinnaeusFrom: Sweden Rock Magazine - No. 8, 2021Photography by: Michael JohanssonTranslation by: Stein-Vidar

When the Out of This World tour wrapped up in Brussels on April 5, 1989, EUROPE had the plan set for their fifth album. It was going to be more swinging, harder and riffier - and it would be ready in the foreseeable future. That did not happen.

The making of Prisoners in Paradise is like a three stage rocket. The first phase began in May 1989 when singer Joey Tempest, guitarist Kee Marcello, bassist John Levén, keyboardist Mic Michaeli and drummer Ian Haugland set up base in California to write, rehearse and record an album on the other side of the Atlantic for the first time. The change of scenery wasn't the only new thing. In a warehouse in San Francisco, the material would for the first time be put together by a collective. Gone were the days when pretty much all of the songs were written by Joey Tempest.

"We had a discussion and decided that everyone else in the band would be more involved in the songwriting," says Joey. "They had started to become more interested in it. They had gotten better and put more time into writing. Mic has always been very musical and had ideas, but here he started to get down to action with his material. Of course, Kee was also a songwriter and Levén started to come up with ideas. I welcomed it, I thought it was fantastic. We knew each other so well that it was easy to put the material together collectively."

For the most part, the band was living together. Each member had an apartment in a rental complex in San Francisco. Every morning they took the elevator down to the garage, hopped in two Chrysler LeBaron cars and went to the rehearsal room.

"Earlier, Joey had sent demos to us and then we'd meet up to rehearse them," says John Levén. "Now that we were living together and going to the rehearsal room every day with the mindset of writing songs, it was a different vibe. It was different to start from scratch, all together. Maybe that's why it became a little more guitar oriented and more relaxed. Out of This World had been more of an attempt to follow up The Final Countdown. Now we thought, 'Fuck it, let it loose.' Not that the previous albums were bad, but we thought we should riff it up a little more on the next album."

"For the first time I started to use 'drop-D' tuning in EUROPE," says Kee Marcello. "I had previously used this guitar tuning when I played on Mikael Rickfors' soul album Rickfors in 1986. Back then I did it because I liked to capture the chords in a different way, but now I did it to make the riffs sound fatter."

In England, the recurring hard rock festival Monsters Of Rock had to be canceled after the previous year's tragic accident when two spectators lost their lives in the turmoil that arose in the quagmire in front of the stage. In its place, on August 19 - the same day that Joey Tempest turned 26 - a one-day event was held at the National Bowl Amphitheater in Milton Keynes. EUROPE had been given the spot just below headliners Bon Jovi and made a detour from the rehearsals in San Francisco. The turnout was huge - 60,000 people - when EUROPE took the stage led by a straight-haired singer. The fact that the poodle hair was now history was symbolic. EUROPE were set to show that they had more than ballads and grandiose synth fanfares to offer. Daringly, they played four songs that were so new that no one had heard them - "Yesterday's News", "Seventh Sign", "Little Bit of Lovin'" and "Wild Child". The procedure was sassy. So was the material. The reaction did not take long. The important hard rock magazine Kerrang was so taken aback that they considered EUROPE to be louder than Motörhead. On the plane back to San Francisco, the five Swedes could be happy with their surprise attack. They had earned valuable hard rock credibility for their upcoming album.

Having tried out the new material in Milton Keynes, it was time for Los Angeles. On September 17, the band booked the legendary venue Whiskey a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. Another new song, "Bad Blood", had been added to the setlist. However, they would not perform as EUROPE.

"At that point we could have probably sold out an arena like Irvine Meadows, but we wanted to do a secret gig," says Kee. "It was the in thing to do and it was a perfect opportunity to see how the new songs would go down. We called ourselves Le Baron Boys, because Chrysler sponsored us with their cheaper LeBaron cars during the making of the album."
It turned out to be an excellent sponsorship deal for the carmaker, as the demo songs that were immortalized during this period are referred to as the Le Baron Boys recordings among fans, even to this day. These songs, recorded both in the warehouse in San Francisco and in the rehearsal studio S.I.R. in Hollywood, follow in the same rough footsteps as the new songs that were premiered live in August and September. "Rainbow Warrior", "Blame It On Me", "Wanted Man" and the suggestive ballad "Don't Know How to Love Anymore" exude a homogeneous vibe of 70s hard rock. However, one song stands out.

When Joey produced Tone Norum's album One of a Kind in 1986, he also provided her with material, including "Stranded" which, carried by its synth riff, would become a bit of a hit. EUROPE's rendition of "Stranded" is located among the so-called Le Baron Boys recordings.

"We thought Joey had written such a good song for Tone," says John Levén. "We reckoned we could do that one and rocked it up a little. It's a strong song, even if it's a little poppier."
Sweden Rock Magazine - No. 8, 2021
"I don't know whose idea it was to pick that one up," says Joey and laughs. "We recorded a demo of it in the warehouse in San Francisco where we rehearsed. However, I never had any plans to release 'Stranded' with EUROPE, it was more of a test. I never felt it was an idea to go down that route with the band."

EUROPE's version of "Stranded" has a different bridge. However, Kee does not remember this recording. "The version I've heard has a drum machine and we would never have used that on a EUROPE demo. I think what leaked is Joey's original demo that he showed Tone. However, I remember that we tried out 'Stranded' in the rehearsal room. We did the same thing with 'Talk of the Town', a song that was on my previous band Easy Action's second album That Makes One. We tried it out before both Out of This World and Prisoners in Paradise. Joey liked it, it had a strong chorus, but we could never get the shuffle rhythm right."

Kee reckons that there are several songs that are incorrectly referred to as Le Baron Boys. "Joey did some demos in London with the famous songwriter Russ Ballard ('Never Gonna Say Goodbye' and 'Little Sinner'). It's not me but Russ playing the guitar. I can hear that in his awful vibrato."

"The material which is referred to as Le Baron Boys is more spontaneous and unfinished," says Joey. "You can hear that the lyrics aren't finished on certain songs. They are pure demos, but if you look at their expression, it's stripped down, raw and heavy. The idea of Prisoners in Paradise was to go further in that direction."

In the spring of 1990, the band moved operations to Los Angeles, where they would stay in apartments on North Fuller Avenue. Creativity was bubbling. All they needed now was a producer who could provide the material with the weight and authority it deserved.

"We had been discussing producers and we really liked the sound that Bob Rock stood for," says Joey. "We thought he made albums like The Cult's Sonic Temple sound superb, and heard that he was on his way to the top. We had started working with the legendary manager Herbie Herbert and he came down to the S.I.R. studios, where I remember that we were rehearsing at the same time as Lenny Kravitz. We asked Herbie to call Bob, which he did: 'Bob, I've got EUROPE here, they would really like to discuss making an album with you.' Bob was very positive. He flew us up to his studio in Vancouver, we met, went out and had some beers, talked and listened to our demos."

"We were damn happy after the meeting with Bob," says Kee. "Among other things, he was known for finding a new approach with bands that needed a vitamin injection. Just look at what he did with Mötley Crüe after their daft Girls, Girls, Girls. He did Dr. Feelgood where everything just slaps. It was really an injection of steroids and vitamin C. He had done similar things with other bands and was well-known for it. After our meeting with him we felt like, 'This is fantastic, now we really get a chance to do something beefy.' In our minds we had 'Wild Child' and 'Rainbow Warrior', these heavier, riffier songs in the back of our minds, and thought about what they could sound like with Bob Rock. We felt like, 'Wow, what an album this is going to be.'"

After shaking hands on producing EUROPE's fifth album, the party parted ways. The band was well-rehearsed at this point and was now just biding their time. They split up between Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Caribbean and were waiting to get into the studio.

"Everything was hunky-dory," says Joey about the plans to work with Bob Rock. "It really felt like everything was set. But it turned out that Metallica had also had discussions with him leading up to what would become their Black Album and I think it was a priority for him to work with them."
EUROPE's singer Joey Tempest basking in the Stockholm summer sun on July 13, 1991. The perm is back again after the "straight-haired" experiment of two years prior.
Curtain call. Suddenly the whole strategy had vanished into thin air. When manager Herbie Herbert received the cold shower, Kee was in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where the band members were registered for tax reasons and owned a house. The guitarist was lying in the pool when the telephone rang.

"It was Herbie who told us that we were up shit creek. Bob Rock was out of the picture and we had already started to book a world tour. Furthermore, Bob Rock's manager was producer Bruce Fairbairn, and Herbie and Bruce were good friends in private. They used to have a gang that once a year went up to Newfoundland in Canada, rented a big Jaws boat and went out and drank beer, smoked joints and fished blue marlin. Herbie was a bit old-fashioned when it came to business, a handshake went a long way for him. He had a solid reputation in the industry and people rarely dared to screw him. So when Bruce Fairbairn called him and said they were backing out, that there were no signed papers anyway, that was the last time Herbie talked to him. He told Bruce to go to hell. It was a fiery conversation. After that, they never talked again. Herbie cut all ties with him. They became mortal enemies, at least as far as Herbie was concerned. For us, it was a disaster, because we had everything planned out. What the hell were we going to do now?"
Beau Hill was always on the periphery. A producer who, thanks to his productions with Winger and Warrant, had been at the forefront of the radio-friendly hard rock sound that was customary at the midway point between the 80s and 90s. Joey remembers that Beau had approached him after the gig at Whiskey a Go Go in September 1989, extended his hand and expressed his desire to work with the band. Kee in turn says that he ran into Beau at the hard rock convention Foundations Forum a few days later and re-established an old contact, since Beau had been asked to produce what was supposed to be Easy Action's second album with original singer Zinny Zan in 1985.

"I said it was a shame that there was no collaboration with Easy Action, because it would have been fun to work with him since I liked what he had done on Ratt's Out of the Cellar," says Kee. "Beau said, 'Yes, but that was then, I would love to produce your current band.' I explained that we had already decided to work with Bob Rock. He said, 'How fun, but you know what it's like in this business - shit happens.' Then he gave me his business card. When Herbie called me on the Turks and Caicos Islands and painted a hellish scenario where we'd end up with an eight-figure loss for not having a album and going on a world tour, I came to think of Beau. I rummaged through all my jackets and found Beau's card, then called him and said, 'This is Kee, shit just happened.' This was only a few months before we were scheduled to go into the studio. Producers at that time, especially of that dignity, were usually booked two years in advance. Beau said, 'Oh,' and sighed. 'I'll call you back in ten minutes.' It was the longest ten minutes of my life. When he called back, he said it would work out. I called Herbie and said I had solved everything. After that he called me 'Keesus'. I actually saved our asses that time."

Now began the second phase of the three stage rocket that was Prisoners in Paradise. Under Beau Hill's supervision, the recording session would finally begin at the Enterprise Studios in The Valley in north Los Angeles, in the fall of 1990. According to Kee, the working title of the album was Break Free, named after one of the faster and flashier songs that were on the agenda. Incidentally, several of the heavier, riffier songs that came to life in the warehouse in San Francisco had disappeared one by one after the band's move to Los Angeles.

"From the beginning, the idea was that it was going to be a heavier album, but spending too much time in Los Angeles can leave its mark on you," says Joey. "We were colored by the times, you can't avoid that. You can blame it on anything you want, but if you are in California for a long time, like we were, and live the life... Some places have the ability to influence you and Los Angeles influenced all of us in the band."

John Levén reckons that the record company had been a driving force in the move to Los Angeles. "They probably thought that we should be a little more accessible to them, so that they could come and talk to us and listen to the material. Maybe that's why many of those early songs went away. I can imagine that it was the record company that opposed a bit of the riffier stuff, it wasn't the in thing yet."

Beau Hill originally came from Texas, which paved the way for a minor culture clash.

"He called us 'the lame Swedes'," says Joey and laughs. "He provided us with many expressions that we still use to this day, such as 'biggest balls' and 'loudest balls'. It was a lot of 'balls'. He was nice and a genuinely cool guy. It was a fun recording session, but it was a bit tumultuous for him. He had just started working for a big and important record company (Interscope) in Los Angeles, so he had to deal with it while he had us - a touring band that was eager to get back on the road."

"We called Beau Hill 'Phone Bill' because he was on the phone a lot," John remembers. "He was very nice and had good ideas, but we asked, 'Are you going to produce or are you going to talk on the phone?'"
During the recording session, band members would often refer to Beau, whose name is pronounced as an American variant of the Swedish name Bo, as "Bosse". In the liner notes, he is named Beau "Now that's excitement" Hill.

"That was something he would say when we had done seven or eight guitar overdubs," says Joey and smiles. "He had his own work approach, a method he had used with the bands he had previously worked with. It was difficult for him to deviate from that method and make it sound more stripped down, like our demos were. But his recording procedure was still pretty cool."

"Beau was fantastically musical," Kee continues. "He had good production ideas and got me to overdub an acoustic guitar on all of the songs. It could sound strange on the heavier songs, but then he would scale it down completely and use it more as a percussion instrument that would groove in the background. For the same reason, he would overdub a tambourine, which was located far back in the mix. We had a very good working relationship. He was the one who thought that 'Got Your Mind in the Gutter' should be included, even though it's basically a blues song. Maybe his Texas background played into that."
EUROPE gathered at the Cirkus in Stockholm for the video shoot for "I'll Cry for You" in September 1991. From left to right: Bassist John Levén, drummer Ian Haugland, singer Joey Tempest, guitarist Kee Marcello and keyboardist Mic Michaeli.
Maybe there's also the fact that "Got Your Mind in the Gutter" was a song co-written by Beau Hill? Did it originally come from him?

"No, it's based on a song I had that was called 'Voodoo Vibe'. The verse and the bridge were mine, but the chorus did not measure up. Beau had another idea for a chorus that we'd work out. Then he wrote the lyrics with Joey. Otherwise, I was usually not asked to take part in the songwriting. Joey wanted to write everything himself, if possible. Sometimes he would let me or Mic in, when it felt necessary due to band politics. At least, that's how I experienced it."

In the end, you still received co-writing credit on five of the album's tracks.

"Yes, but if we had included the earlier songs, I would have been credited on all of them, because my riffs were the foundation that everyone built upon. It was much more of a team effort in the beginning."

"It went back a little to Joey writing the songs," says John. "The earliest songs were made more as a band where everyone was involved as a songwriter. I think it was manipulation by the record company. They thought, 'Who wrote the hits, like 'The Final Countdown'?' That was Joey. Therefore, they probably pushed us into the mindset that Joey should write the songs this time as well."

One of the songs that the singer wrote on his own was called "Girl from Lebanon" and would eventually form the basis for the upcoming album cover artwork painted by Mark Wilkinson.

"I like 'Girl from Lebanon'," says Joey. "It stands out. The title came about by pure chance. While I was producing One of a Kind for Tone Norum in 1986, I went out with the sound engineer Ronny Lahti. In a park we met some girls from Lebanon. They recognized me, they were fans, and we talked for a while. They told a little about their life situation in their home country. I then wrote that down on a napkin. That's how I've always worked. Now I write down ideas on my cellphone. I have so many phrases written down, whatever happens to me on a normal day is written down and then it can be turned into lyrics. That's how all my songs have come to be. Inspiration for lyrics come from all sorts of strange places."

Kee, if we can talk about the making of the songs, do you remember how you wrote "Bad Blood"?

"That was a real LA riff. The song took ten minutes to write. It came about when we were living in Los Angeles, in one of the apartments we were renting. For a while we were living at North Fuller Avenue, at another point we were renting apartments on Barham Boulevard. I had a riff that I played for Joey, he started singing a melody and said, 'Try playing the verse in B.' We tried it out again and then the verse was ready. Writing that one went really fast."

On the album, "Bad Blood" starts with an intro of sampled sounds that sounds like moaning men.

"Haha! Yeah, what a damn strange intro. I was never a fan of that intro and I was not there when it was done. I think the sampling thing came about because we had toured with Def Leppard and they had samples all over the place. We probably picked that up."

"Seventh Sign" was a song that survived from the first demo session.

"That one came about at a soundcheck during the Out of This World tour. I had this riff that I started playing. The song is very much based on that riff. Everyone hopped on, Joey sang something over it and when we started rehearsing it for real, the lyrics came to him quickly."

You also played "Little Bit of Lovin'" at Milton Keynes as early as the summer of 1989.

"I think we wrote both that one and 'Break Free' in the apartment that Joey had in London. He and I were sitting there making pretty primitive demos when the doorbell rang. It was a woman who invited us to Roger Taylor's housewarming party. It turned out that Queen's drummer had moved into the same building as Joey. Later in the evening we went downstairs and each got a glass of champagne. There were people from the industry. We said hello to Roger, but I remember he was very shy. Then we went upstairs and continued working."

Was that how you got the title "Break Free", from Queen's hit "l Want to Break Free"?

"Haha, that would have been a really cool story! But no, unfortunately not, I remember quite clearly that we were working on my guitar harmonies in the intro, which was among the last things we did on the demo, when the doorbell rang. The lyrics were finished long before then."

"Homeland" is a slightly different ballad for EUROPE.

"It's about homesickness. We had hardly been home for a long time, but had just been away and working with the band. It was a song that was jammed out. Rod Stewart wanted to record it."
EUROPE during the video shoot for the song "Prisoners in Paradise" at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris on August 26, 1991.
You've claimed that Joey refused to give it to Rod Stewart.

"Yes, that's how it was. I'm not making this up. Thomas Johansson at our booking agency Ema Telstar had played the finished, but at that time unreleased, version of 'Homeland' for Rod when he was in Sweden. Rod liked it and said he wanted to record it. Then the whole band had a meeting with Thomas about the tour and afterwards Thomas took me and Joey aside and asked if Rod could record it. I said yes, but Joey said no. He said, 'We need it for the album.'"

"Haha, I have absolutely no memory of this," says Joey. "If that were the case, I would have told you. I would definitely not have said no to that. Had I been asked that question directly in a professional manner, that would have been great."
Maybe it's, at least according to Kee, not too late yet. "There was a rumor from somewhere, which I can not confirm, that Rod had plans to record it now instead. Do it, Rod."

The last phase of the three stage rocket that was Prisoners in Paradise, began towards the end of 1990 when four chiefs from the record company marched into the studio to listen with critical ears.

"They locked themselves in a room and listened to the whole album," Kee remembers. "Then they ran off without saying bye. We were told afterwards that they had rejected parts of the albums. They said, 'We are not releasing the album in its current state, you'll have to write more material with outside songwriters.'"

Curtain call. Again. The songs that got nixed were the ones that Joey calls "the more spontaneous ones". "They did not think 'Break Free', 'Yesterday's News', 'Mr. Government Man' and 'Long Time Comin'' were that fun, but we thought they were cool. They wanted us to write more songs and I felt like, 'Why?'"

"Record companies are very interested in statistics," says Kee. "They saw that our biggest hit in the US was 'Carrie', so they wanted more ballads. They listened to the album and said coldly, 'We need ballads.' That's why Joey did some songwriting sessions with outside writers, and I wasn't even asked to join."

"At that time there was a certain involvement from the record company," John remembers. "Or 'certain and certain'... The record company's A&R guy came up and said, 'No, you should make a song that's a little more in this direction.' Then we had to comply in a completely different way than we do today. Now the record company has to take what we give them. In 1990, this was a sort of relic from the 80s that would later on die out fairly quickly."

"I remember that I went up to Epic, which we had worked with for many years, and there was a completely new staff there," says Joey. "It was a completely different feeling. When I went up to the office, I felt that we no longer had the same priority that we did before."

"I went home to Sweden over Christmas 1990," Kee remembers. "By then, it had leaked out to the Swedish press that our album had been rejected. I was at an event when a journalist jumped me. I said what I had been instructed to say, that we had chosen to extend the recording session. It was to keep the media at arm's length."

Over the coming months, Joey wrote "All or Nothing" with Eric Martin from Mr. Big, among others. The ballad "I'll Cry for You" was a collaboration between Joey and Nick Graham, who three years prior had co-written Cheap Trick's number 1 hit "The Flame". In April 1991 Joey went up to Vancouver to find the last piece of the puzzle, with the help of Bryan Adam's songwriter partner.

"I wrote 'Halfway to Heaven' with Jim Vallance out on the countryside," says Joey. "It was fun to meet him, a cool guy and talented songwriter, but he had his own approach to songwriting and I had mine. We wrote several songs, probably four or five, some of which have been leaked."

What did you learn from working with outside songwriters?

"To be more open. I was a very purposeful songwriter in the beginning because I wanted to learn the craft, learn everything properly and do it properly. With this I became a bit of a lone wolf. But luckily, the guys in the band have always been an incredibly good sounding board. They've really guided me all the time. But what I learned was, 'This also works, this can be developed further.' Although I might have done it a little differently if I had done it on my own."

These three new songs would start off the album, and the record company considered both "Halfway to Heaven" and "I'll Cry for You" to be so splendid that they deserved to be released as singles. However, it was a song written by Joey Tempest on his own, arriving at the last minute, that would become the first single and provide the album with its definitive title.
"I was a bit tired of this talk of having to have more songs and write with others. As a reaction to that, I spontaneously got the idea for the piano part in 'Prisoners in Paradise'. It started growing into a song and I said, 'Wait a minute everyone, I have something going on.' I even asked our manager to call the record company office in New York. 'Stop the presses!' I felt like I had this flow that I used to have earlier in my career, when the songs would just flow out of me. That's exactly what I experienced with 'Prisoners in Paradise', it just flowed out of me. I brought it to the studio, everyone liked it, and so we started working on it with Beau Hill's work approach. We managed to get a really good song and production. It just came to me when I needed it and today it's my favorite on the album."

It does not take a tweed hat and pipe, to use one of Kee Marcello's expressions, to figure out what the title alludes to. "I remember at some point we were going back and forth to the Turks and Caicos Islands," says the guitarist. "Herbie was with us and said, 'Jesus guys, you're like prisoners in paradise.' That expression was picked up by Joey. Herbie was good that way. He was also the manager of Journey and designed all their album covers and often came up with their album titles."
No, Joey Tempest hadn't become "roadkill" in July 1991. Although it's usually not recommended to cross any of Stockholm's pedestrian crossings barefoot. And despite the fact that gloomier times would follow the release of the album two months later.
"'Prisoners in Paradise' alludes a a little to the fact that we were living in the Caribbean for a while," Joey continues. "It felt like we'd rather be on tour, or be in the big city and record, than sit there. There was such a thought behind the lyrics, but it was also retrospective and nostalgic and went to some extent to question things. It became a dramatic and thoughtful song."

What were your thoughts in regards to the voices in the intro?

"We wanted to build up a drama before the song itself, build it up in a way that would make people curious. We didn't have time to get any actors, so we had to use people who were in our vicinity at the time. They were friends of ours, two of our studio assistants and I think Beau Hill's girlfriend at the time was there. The last voice is mine."

Am I totally off track if I think "Prisoners in Paradise" reminds me a little bit of Jim Steinman?

"He was probably not a direct inspiration, but now that you mention it... Of course, these two chords going back and forth in the riff and a bit of storytelling in the lyrics. Absolutely. There's also a bit of Queen over the dramatic descents in the chorus. That was something that came into place in the studio. My demo version was very stripped down."

Kee remembers how the guitar solo part came about. "Joey had no clear idea there. Then I suggested that we take a song I had started writing called 'Eye of the Storm'. I took the chords and melody from there and worked that into 'Prisoners in Paradise'. If you think about it, after the second chorus, it's like a completely different song begins, and it is. It's 'Eye of the Storm' that begins with the melodic guitar solo, then it returns to 'Prisoners in Paradise'."

The guitarist chuckles, "Even then, I was not allowed a co-writing credit!"

As if there hadn't been enough drama surrounding the making of EUROPE's fifth album, around this time the band's guitarist fell victim to the cocaine temptations that Los Angeles was persisting with. In his book The Rock Star God Forgot, Kee openly talks about his drug escapades, one worse than the other.

"I pretty much ran my own race there and then," says the guitarist. "I found a friend in the coke. Now I'm not pointing any fingers, but I was far from alone in doing so. I might have gone overboard, though. At that time in Los Angeles, coke was considered a party booster, an extension cord. They made the party last a little longer, quite simply and there was nothing strange about it. I can say that most bands, pretty much everyone, were doing it."

When one reads your book, one wonders how you actually got the job done.

"I have always had a huge work ethic, no matter what. That's kind of the double character I am. But I know I screwed up sometimes. Especially when they were working on intros, like the beginning of the title track with those synth pads, I was absent. They wanted me to take part in it because I was good at putting together intros, but at that time I was away somewhere in an apartment in an unknown place where they could not get a hold of me. By the way, that intro feels like it's inspired by the concert intro I put together for the Out of This World tour, which was based on the Eurovision anthem. Anyway - I dare say that I did not screw up the recording session. On the contrary, that album is among the best I have done. I saw an interview with Beau Hill fairly recently. When he was asked who was the best guitarist he had worked with, he mentioned me first."
EUROPE 1986-92 comprised bassist John Levén, drummer Ian Haugland, singer Joey Tempest, keyboardist Mic Michaeli and guitarist Kee Marcello, and was at that point regarded as the band's classic line-up - at least by the non-Swedish audience.
"I actually thought about that the other day," says Joey when the guitarist's addiction is brought up. "EUROPE were no angels, and I think everyone in the rock world knows that. We had partied hard, but this was a period when the rest of us in the band had calmed down a bit. Kee had only been with us for two albums and was perhaps still in that world where you want to mess around. The rest of us had already done that. Kee partied quite hard on his own during the period in Los Angeles. He hung out with buddies outside the band."

How was the album affected by Kee taking cocaine?

"Kee was a professional in the studio, he's a fantastic guitarist and had many good ideas. It might have been tough when he didn't come to the studio one day, but then we would just work on something else, there was nothing more to it. No, it did not affect how the album turned out. I usually have a pretty big overview of the project anyway. That album was as good as it could have been in that studio, in that city and at that point in EUROPE's career."

"The drugs did not make Kee play worse," John continues. "He was alert when we recorded, but things would happen. Like that time when he just disappeared for three or four days. We were standing around in the studio and no one could get a hold of him. I think we even reported him as missing to the police. A guy who just disappears when he's supposed to be in the studio... Of course we got worried. 'Where's Kee? Did something happen? Is he alive?' But then it turned out that he had been out on a cocaine trip."

In September 1991, Prisoners in Paradise would finally be unveiled to a hard rock world in a revolutionary paradigm shift. The album release was preceded by a lavish video for the title track, a love story between a woman in Los Angeles and a man in Paris. The band's film sequences were immortalized at The Arab World Institute in the French capital.

"It was a very twisted place," Kee remembers. "The different windows could resize, like the iris of the eye opening and closing. There was a huge crew and we were walking around Paris, watching as they were filming the actors in different places in the city. In the video, I used a Gibson Les Paul Single Cut Special with two P-90 microphones. Gibson was sponsoring me, Slash and Zakk Wylde with guitars at the time. Gibson had been out of style for many years. It was considered an ancient guitar. Up to the end of the 80s, every hard rocker wanted guitars from Hamer and Jackson, that looked like hockey sticks."

The video shows John Levén with a specially built bass from Yamaha. "The whole album is recorded with that bass," says John. "It was the first time I used a five-string bass on a EUROPE album. I liked that I could go down to a lower register, but the neck was very wide and therefore the bass became heavy. It was not comfortable to go around with a five-string bass on tour and play every night. I was forced to have neck surgery in the 2000s and I think that is because I played five-string. I got 'bassist neck', as it's called. Now I play four-string instead, but put on fatter strings and skip the G string completely."

The darker register that characterizes the album becomes extra clear in the verses of "I'll Cry for You", the video for which was shot in - and on - the Cirkus in Stockholm.

"It was hell to film on the rooftop," says Kee. "I'm scared of heights and the roof was leaning quite a lot. If you slipped, you were done for. Other than that, it was a fun video shoot. It was fun to muck about in their costume storage with various hats and masks."

In terms of quality, Prisoners in Paradise stands well today alongside its big-selling predecessors. In Sweden, the album sold well and it too was awarded a platinum award. In the United States, it was all the worse. Whereas The Final Countdown had reached number 8 on the Billboard chart and Out of This World peaked at number 19, Prisoners in Paradise did not even make it into the top 200.

Joey thinks back to the time and the drawn-out recording session. "It was a period in my life when I really felt like, 'Come on now, we're going to make this album. We're going out on tour now, we've been sitting for too long, come on.' We really wanted to make this album and we wanted to make it as good as possible. It was an important album. At the same time we noticed that the winds were changing. Times were changing. In Europe and Sweden it was a slightly smoother transition, but in the US it was all the sharper."
It can all be summed up in one single word: Grunge. EUROPE's fate was sealed even before Prisoners in Paradise was ready-mixed.

"You have to take into account that this was 1991," the singer continues. "When we were living in Los Angeles, someone had written 'Who the fuck is Joey Tempest?' on a wall. People said it was Kurt Cobain. Now I don't know if that's true, but in any case it was a period when our type of hard rock was on its way out and grunge was on its way in. There was no doubt about it."

Kee remembers the first concert they did after Prisoners in Paradise was out. "It was New Year's Eve in Tokyo and the concert went under the name The Final Countdown. We would go on before Metallica, who were the headliners. When I was at the hotel getting ready to go to the arena, Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' went on repeat on radio and television. It was like someone wanted to say, 'This is what matters now, screw everything else.'"
The video shoot for "I'll Cry for You" partly took place on the rooftop of the Cirkus in Stockholm. Not fun for Kee Marcello who's scared of heights, pictured second from the right.
During the early months of 1992, the tour continued through Europe. Musically, the band was at the top of their game. That didn't matter much.

"When we went out on tour, it was like night and day compared to the Out of This World tour," says the bassist. "We didn't make any profit on this tour. Epic wanted a follow-up, but the air had gone out of our balloon."

"The record company wanted a new album," Kee confirms. "It would be a misdemeanor not to ask for a follow-up if an album sells a million copies, which Prisoners in Paradise actually did in total. But we talked in the band and felt that we had no place in this time. What were we going to do in a time of Nirvana and a bunch of other bands that could barely play? There was no room for us. We had no ideas and definitely didn't want to try to hop on the grunge train, as so many other bands did. We said, 'Let's sit this one out for a while.'"

It would be a long while. Specifically, eleven years until EUROPE were reunited for real, with Kee Marcello dismissed in favor of original guitarist John Norum.

EUROPE's fifth album is interesting in that its creation gives rise to many "what ifs". Would EUROPE have become more accepted in the 90s if they had recorded the riffier material from the so-called Le Baron Boys demos? Would the album have been better if the record company had not removed the more improvised songs and insisted that EUROPE should stick to their more singalong-friendly formula? Is it fair to call the final product The Final Compromise? And if so, was it a successful or unsuccessful compromise? The only thing that can be stated is that Prisoners in Paradise has gone down in history as one of those melodic hard rock albums from the early 90s that deserved a better fate.

"Prisoners in Paradise became a turning point in EUROPE's history," Joey sums up. "It came about during a period when we were both on our way up and on our way down. At least, that's how it felt to me. The whole musical climate was changing. It was a strange time, but I think we made the best of the situation with the album. We wrote quite a few songs during this period and it wasn't just because the record company wanted it. I wrote a lot in general. There were a lot of ideas and I actually think the best ones ended up on the album."

"It's a pity that the early songs didn't make it," says John. "We should have made a double album. We should have released everything, but we probably wouldn't have got the record company to agree to making a double album."

"It took a long time before I could actually be proud of what we had done," says Kee. "Back then I thought it was a damn shame that the record company interfered and brought in outside songwriters, but today I love 'I'll Cry for You' and I think 'Halfway to Heaven' is a belter. I can not see the album without these two songs. And if we hadn't taken that break, the title track would never have come about. If we had followed the original plans of a harder direction, it would have been a completely different album, an album that would have paved the way for us to continue past the grunge era, and then perhaps this line-up of the band would have lasted for much longer. However, it is impossible to say whether that album would have been better or worse."

"There was a lot of production, a lot of bells and whistles on Prisoners in Paradise," says Joey, as he takes one last look back. "It's a pretty cool time document of how rock could sound when you produced it that way. I think it's pretty nifty. The album was a bit of an end to the 80s. The dot over the 'i'. We had taken it as far as we could."

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