Europe (Swedish Band)
During the mid to late 1980s, at the height of the mainstream success of hair/glam metal, most of the successful music groups came out predominantly represented Los Angeles' Sunset Strip and its musical scene however, there was a distinct group of European groups who were equally involved in the whole fray - bands like Whitesnake, Def Leppard and Scorpions had adjusted their sound and appearances to fit the 'MTV-friendly' 'hair-band' sound but no country produced more glam-metal artists than Sweden.
While groups like 'Treat', 'Alien' and 'Glory' had some decent songs and had achieved success, they're were predominantly out-shined by the quintet, aptly called 'Europe' who dominated the Scandinavian country's lead within the 'hair-metal' scene.
A few of my readers would've read my review about Motley Crue and Adult/Album Oriented Rock, this article will now review this Swedish group and hopefully offer an insight on how their sound was significantly different but equally powerful and radio-friendly as against their American counterparts of the era and why their legacy within the genre of hair and glam metal won't be forgotten.
In 1979, lead singer Joey Tempest (born as Rolf Magnus Joakim Larsson on August 19, 1963), Norwegian lead guitarist John Norum (born February 23, 1964), bassist Peter Olsson (born on October 21, 1961) and drummer Tony Reno (born as Tony Niemisto on February 10, 1963) formed a group named 'Force'.
At that time, the teenagers weren't quite proficient with their musical skill (with Joey Tempest himself being a racing and football enthusiast before developing an interest in music) and formed the group with the aim of essentially honing their musical prowess. With their influences reportedly being British rock super-groups of the day including Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, the group quickly began rehearsing and composing some raw and edgy songs driven by some power guitar-riffs by Norum and even approached record labels with the hope of signing a deal. The labels however turned them down asking them trim their long hair and sing in Swedish instead of English - Neverthless, the group soldiered on with new bassist John Leven (born on October 25, 1963) who replaced Peter Olsson and entered with the rest of the group in a Swedish rock music competition in 1982, which the band won and scored a record deal they'd been waiting for - the band also changed their name to 'Europe' from 'Force' (citing years later during an interview that considering that the continent 'Europe' was as such the center of world-affairs and politics, they aptly decided to name the group after the region they call home).
The eponymous debut album (released in 1982) fared well in Sweden and Japan and paved the way for the group to produce their next album, "Wings of Tomorrow" which featured the first rendition of the single "Open Your Heart" (a song which was reproduced and re-released again a few years later with a music video). The first version of "Open Your Heart" featured Joey Tempest's voice as raw and 'developing' with some hard-edged production, a theme which actually helped the album and single sell well and helped the group secure an international recording contract with CBS Records a couple of years later and brought in the group 'Journey's producer Kevin Elson to produce the group's future albums from the 1980s. (Kevin Elson was also active within the AOR-Scene and helped produce Scottish AOR band, Strangeways).
Between 1982 and 1983, keyboardist Mic Michaeli (born as Gunnar Mathias Michaeli on November 11, 1962) joined the group as a permanent keyboardist while drummer Tony Reno was dismissed from the band (due to his lack of enthusiasm and motivation) and was replaced by permanent drummer Ian Haughland (born as Jan Hakan Haughland on August 13, 1964) and this line-up along with the CBS-record deal set the scene for the group's major international breakthrough album (and the title-track/single), "The Final Countdown" in 1985/86.
Europe - Open Your Heart (1984, Wings of Tomorrow)
The Final Countdown (1986)
The Japanese and European success of 'Wings of Tomorrow' brought the band into more limelight and caught the interest of America's CBS Records who offered an international recording contract for them in 1985.
That same year, Europe recorded the soundtrack for a hit Swedish movie, "On The Loose" and released the song, "Rock the Night" as a single.
Under the stewardship of the American band 'Journey's producer Kevin Elson and backing from 'Epic Records', Europe recorded in 1985/86, their 3rd and what would become their best-selling album, 'The Final Countdown'.
Released in May 1986, 'The Final Countdown' featured slick glam/hair metal style pop-metal production and was considered one of the most influential albums for the AOR/Pop-Metal sound which began taking shape in the late 80's to the early 90's. The title and opening track from the album eventually became one of the best known English language pop songs of all times and Europe's signature hit, while the album itself spawned at least 5 singles out of its 10-track list.
After the success of 'The Final Countdown' as a single, which had a video filmed at a Swedish concert to accompany it, the follow-up single and power ballad 'Carrie' reached as high as #3 on some charts including UK, eventually ensuring that the group was among the hair-metal elite of the day along with the likes of Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi.
'The Final Countdown' also contained the previously released single, 'Rock The Night' (originally recorded by the group in 1985 for the Swedish movie, 'On The Loose') - the song was released as an album single again with a different music video, shot at a Hard Rock Cafe in Stockholm.
Another notable single 'Cherokee' (The final single released from the album in 1987) whose lyrical theme was dedicated to the Cherokee Indians of North America - however, the video itself was historically inaccurate as it was shot in a barren land showcasing the Cherokee Indians lived in the desert - the reality being they actually lived in wooded areas.
Despite the success of the album, guitarist John Norum left the band midway during their tour to support it due to creative and musical differences between him and the rest of the band. In an interview he roughly stated, "I just wasn't happy with where the band was headed - we had become this teeny-bop, bubble gum, poodle-haired group. I was more into the more guitar-oriented heavier stuff, so I decided to leave and pursue something else". John Norum was replaced by new lead guitarist Kee Marcelo (born as Kjell Hilding Lovbom on February 20, 1960) who became a permanent fixture within the group until the 21st century.
Europe - The Final Countdown (1986, The Final Countdown)
Europe - Rock The Night (1986, The Final Countdown)
Europe - Cherokee (1986, The Final Countdown)
Out Of This World (1988)
After a successful tour to promote 'The Final Countdown' and the addition of new lead guitarist Kee Marcello into the group, the band wasted no time in getting back to the studios and begin recording new material with their new band member with the intent of releasing their next album within the next two to three years.
The result, in 1988 was the group's 4th studio album, 'Out Of This World', which in my opinion is perhaps the group's most outstanding effort to date, surpassing the lyrical and musical output of its predecessor.
With Kevin Elson on the helm once again taking on production duties, the album more or less stayed faithful to the group's and as such glam-metal's tried and tested formula of infectious shred guitar solos, keyboard hooks and high-pitched and passionate vocals and though 'The Final Countdown' might have been the group's best known and signature songs, 'Out Of This World' as an album to any critic sounded way more polished - with Kee Marcello being universally hailed for his excellent lead guitar solos on most tracks, especially on 'More Than Meets The Eye', 'Just The Beginning', a new reworked version of 'Open Your Heart' and 'Let The Good Times Rock' (The video for which was shot predominantly at the Budokan in Tokyo, Japan).
Despite superior production and better guitar work than John Norum's on the 'The Final Countdown', the album didn't chart as high but the title track nevertheless managed to reach #2 (including British charts) and the songs 'Open Your Heart' and 'Superstitious' managed to get significant airplay across on MTV thanks to a very catchy and 'haunting' video for the latter, shot during the night in a castle. All in all, the best tracks out of this album are 'Superstitious' (for its slow but powerful and hypnotic hooks), 'Let The Good Times Rock' (which follows a similar formula like that of 'Superstitious' but is medium-tempo), 'More Than Meets The Eye' (featuring a killer guitar solo by Kee Marcello), 'Tower's Calling' and 'Signs of The Times'.
Despite a lower performance on the charts compared to 'The Final Countdown', the group embarked on a global and sold out tour and came to even more prominence within the mainstream hair/glam metal industry.
Europe - Superstitious (1988, Out Of This World)
Europe - Open Your Heart (1988, Out Of This World)
Europe - Let The Good Times Rock (1988, Out Of This World)
Europe - More Than Meets The Eye (Sound-check at Stockholm in 1989)
Prisoners In Paradise (1991) and subsequent career until today....
The growing emergence of grunge towards the end of the 80's (despite hair-metal still dominating the commercial charts between 1988 and 1992) didn't spare bands from either sides of the Atlantic and this was evident when Europe released their 5th album 'Prisoners In Paradise' in 1991.
Despite bringing in veteran producer Beau Hill (who was known to provide slick productions to albums like Winger's debut album) and a decent reception to the singles including the title track and the follow-up singles 'I'll Cry For You' and 'Halfway To Heaven', both the album and single failed to chart as well as their predecessors during the 80's, signalling that public interest in the group had probably begun turning lukewarm in light of the change from hair-metal to grunge. As Kee Marcello put it, things might have been different had his original choice of producer, Bob Rock had been in charge (but Bob instead chose to work with Metallica on their 'Black Album' instead) however chart-listings for the singles were evident that listeners were probably losing interest, thus making 'Prisoners of Paradise' the group's swan-song before they went on a hiatus for as long as 13 years, until returning in 2004 with a new album named 'Start From The Dark'.
During the 2000s and beyond, renewed interest in the group (and a general renewed interest in hair-bands) and positive reception to their new material ensured the group once again began actively touring Europe and North America along with other big acts from the hair-band era like Whitesnake and Def Leppard.
Kee Marcello eventually left the group to pursue his own project while John Norum decided to rejoin the group after nearly 20 years.
As of today, the group's still actively touring and released their most recent album, 'Bag Of Bones' in 2012 (including on Vinyl!) and have scored well on Sweden's album charts - this album being certified 'Gold'.
There's absolutely no indication that the band plans on retiring or releasing more compilation albums, giving many pop-metal fans that the genre will one day make it back into the mainstream like it did during the 1980s.