Europe In 3, 2…1

Sweden's biggest rock export ushers in "The Final Countdown" in this week's Forgotten Videos
  • Europe's Joey Tempest in "The Final Countdown"
June 08, 2011 -- 4:00 am PDT
GRAMMY.com

Welcome to Forgotten Videos. For some, these videos are forgotten, for others just filed away, and for others still, a totally brand-new discovery. Whichever category you fall into, each week we'll feature a video that's possibly been collecting dust when what it really deserves is a fresh look. Or vice-versa…. We're not here to judge, we just want to take you on a little trip down memory lane. Yep, you'll remember when hair was really that big, when drums were that up front in the mix, when video was young(er) and so were you.

Europe
"The Final Countdown"
1986

The introductory keyboard riff to Europe's "The Final Countdown" is arguably one of the most recognizable rock keyboard riffs ever. Go ahead, try and get it out of your head.

Emerging from the neutral country of Sweden, Europe ascended to popularity in the United States appropriately during the height of the Cold War in the mid '80s. Penned by frontman Joey Tempest, the title track to Europe's third album seemingly served as a viable alternative for escaping a world on the verge of nuclear warfare, with post-apocalyptic allusions in the form of departures to Venus and light-year-long searches across the universe for many "things to be found."

The video almost tricks viewers into believing the end is actually near with the inclusion of vast wastelands, dramatic skyline views, dark control rooms, and countdown clocks. But armed with spotlights, fireworks and healthy coiffures, the Swedish rockers explode onstage to the roar of the crowd, as if they are either oblivious to the countdown and impending doom, or they're happy to bring on the apocalypse.

"The Final Countdown" was Europe's first song to launch into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 8 in 1987, and impressively catapulted to No. 1 in 25 countries. Europe had become Sweden's most recognizable export this side of ABBA.

Unfortunately, Europe's final countdown to obscurity elapsed in 1991 when Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and his flannel-wearing friends ushered in a new sound and style that had little to do with keyboards and hair care. As a result, Europe left solid ground in 1992 only to later reemerge for a special outdoor performance of "The Final Countdown" as the calendar turned from 1999 to Y2K on New Year's Eve in Stockholm.

The band — featuring Tempest, drummer Ian Haugland, bassist John Leven, keyboardist Mic Michaeli, and guitarist John Norum — mounted a full-scale comeback with a new studio album, Start From The Dark, in 2004, and has since released Secret Society (2006), Almost Unplugged (2008) and Last Look At Eden (2009) while continuing to tour, mainly in the UK.

As the band forges on, "The Final Countdown" has passed 17 million views on YouTube, maintains constant footing on the iTunes rock singles chart (currently No. 10 as of this writing), and continues to be played at sporting events worldwide.

What is it about "The Final Countdown" that has continued to resonate with listeners for 25 years?

"I think people around the world have different ideas what the song means to them," opined Tempest in a recent interview.

Or perhaps AllMusic.com's album review sums it up best: "One of the most glorious launches in history, the title track for the thrice-platinum The Final Countdown is so bombastically brilliant, such glorious garbage, that this nuclear hair assault could only spew from the vacuous '80s…. You could live without [it,] but why?"
 

Have you gotten the keyboard riff to "The Final Countdown" out of your head yet? Got any Forgotten Video recommendations? Leave us a comment.

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