Friday, 9 August 2013

Europe 'The Final Countdown'

Chart Peak: 1
Charted at No. 71 on 28th October 1986, became the first Swedish group to top the British chart since Abba when 'The Final Countdown' was No. 1 for 2 weeks in December.
Of course, "first since Abba" seems like a long time ago now, but 1986 was only six years after Abba last topped the chart with 'Super Trouper' - and it was about that long to the next one I can think of, Ace of Base. It is true though, that for all of the success of Swedish producers and songwriters, relatively few have topped the chart in their own names and only in recent weeks has Avicii become the second Swedish act to be credited on two UK Number One singles. Perhaps this single has an even greater place in history as the one and only Number One single from the so-called hair-metal subgenre; Europe were hardly the biggest act operating in this style but somehow time was on their side.

It's by no means uncommon for songwriters to dismiss their biggest hit as a fluke and lead European Joey Tempest insists that the song was written only as a concert opener and was only picked out as a single at the record company's insistence. I don't in all honesty remember enough about the other Europe songs I've heard to know whether it's atypical of their work, but with hindsight it's hard to connect this song with rock music at all. To be sure there's a widdly guitar solo in the middle, but the main part of the song that people remember is the synthesiser intro and with further synth washes throughout the track in 2013 terms it's a lot closer to Icona Pop than Avenged Sevenfold. I presume the lyric about "leaving together" on a journey into space is supposed to fit in with the idea of band and audience embarking on the show together, though the band claim the influence of 'Space Oddity'. That's interesting in context, because of course Bowie's hit came at a time when people were still using the phrase "space age" with a straight face and when space travel was on everyone's mind. By the mid-80s of course we seemed to have got a bit more used to the idea, and reconciled ourselves to the fact that most of us would never go beyond our home planet, which gives the song a bit of a quaint effect. With unfortunate irony, in fact, the single was originally released in Sweden just a couple of weeks after the Challenger disaster put a temporary stop to the US space programme, and for those old enough to comprehend it soured the mood still further. I don't know whether this is the reason why the single didn't make it to British or American shops until much later in the year, but it worked to the song's advantage as it found its niche as a song for Christmas and especially New Year parties; that found its logical conclusion with the release of the woeful remix 'The Final Countdown 2000' in December of 1999. Rumour has it that some initial copies of that single missed one letter "o" from the title on the cover.

Available on: Haynes Ultimate Guide To Classic Rock

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