Hailing from Sweden, the band has been in business since 1979 (although they went into hibernation for most of the '90s), specializing in a sound that MTV and Top 40 radio embraced for a spell, thanks to songs like "Carrie," "Rock the Night," "Superstitious," and the aforementioned "Final Countdown," which was the title track to their 1986 album.
After reuniting in 2003, Europe took a turn towards the heavier side of things, as evidenced by their tenth studio album overall, 2015's War of Kings. Around the same time as the album's arrival, Europe singer Joey Tempest spoke with Songfacts, covering such topics as following up the success of The Final Countdown, his favorite singers and songwriters (who he lists may come as a surprise), as well as the story behind his band's biggest hits.
Joey Tempest: I think it's been an organic journey we've been on since we started up again 11 years ago. Just going on our own adventure musically. Every album's got its own life. I suppose this record is - in ways - heavier than the others, but it's also more tender in other aspects, like on "Praise You" and "Angels (With Broken Hearts)." It just happened that way, to be honest. The bass player supplied us with a few more riffs on this record to write music to. He has some heavy notes in there. It just happened this way.
Bag of Bones, the last record that we recorded with Kevin Shirley, that's when we started recording live again - around the drum kit. It took about two or three weeks: just pick the best takes and move on. With War of Kings, we did the same but we also added a bit of vintage gear and Mellotron and Hammond. We wanted to create an atmosphere for the record.
But yeah, it is quite heavy in places, but it doesn't surprise us - it's more of a natural thing for us.
Songfacts: Let's discuss the title track a bit, including its lyrical inspiration.
And then the title we liked a lot when we were in the studio, so we thought, "Maybe this can be the album title." And everybody was liking the song, so we said, "Maybe it should open the album." There was something new about it, something a bit "left field" for us, to do that kind of riff. And it felt fresh for us, because we want to be excited with every record. We changed the producer, we changed the studio - we wanted to be on a journey. And we felt, "This song could raise some eyebrows." We were pleased with that one.
Songfacts: It sounds like you're describing a trip into space on "The Final Countdown." What did you have in mind with that lyric?
Joey: The music to that song was very much inspired by British rock bands - that sort of galloping tempo. But lyrically, one of the first singles I bought was "Space Oddity" by David Bowie, and I was really fascinated with his fascination with space.
So I was doing the lyrics for "The Final Countdown." That was for our third album, and I had the demo without vocals, and I was singing it over and over again. The music was almost like a soundtrack to a movie, about leaving Earth, and that the Earth was spent. And one day, we'll probably have to leave this place. It was kind of a dream-like lyric, but that was the backdrop for it.
Songfacts: What are some memories of filming the video?
Songfacts: Was there a real Carrie behind the song "Carrie"?
Joey: Not really. We were young then, the normal breaking up and finding a new girlfriend. It was more of a general thing, actually.
Songfacts: What inspired you to write "Cherokee"?
Joey: It was a book, actually, that [producer] Kevin Elson's then-wife had. I think I saw it laying around, and I thought, "That would be interesting." I started reading the story about the Cherokee Indians, and I thought it would be an interesting thing to write about.
It wasn't so easy to write it, but I thought I had to give it a go. Musically, it was the last song written for The Final Countdown, and I remember having that riff, and we said, "We need to have one more song." I showed that one and the guys said, "Yeah, let's try that." We built the solo part, which is quite nice, and recorded it with Kevin.
Songfacts: What about "Rock the Night"?
Joey: We started touring in Sweden - this was before The Final Countdown. It was just describing the feeling of having fun and the touring life.
However, Whitesnake may be the undisputed kings of the re-record, as evidenced by re-takes of "Here I Go Again" "Crying in the Rain," and "Fool for Your Lovin'."
Songfacts: What about "Superstitious"?
Joey: I don't remember that, but I do remember it was the first single after The Final Countdown, from Out of This World. It sort of went back to the day when we used to see early Whitesnake, with Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody. It was a song that had that sort of hard rock with a slight blues feel, but it was also a big chorus. It was just a cool track. It was a good song to start off with after The Final Countdown record. I don't remember the lyric inspiration. I would suspect I was interested in superstitions at the time... I don't know!
Songfacts: Do you feel it was difficult following up the success of The Final Countdown album?
Joey: We just decided not to emulate it. We tried to go on our own journey after that. Out of This World is slightly different: more guitar driven, more classic rock driven. I don't remember having a big problem with it, because we took the decision not to try to write another The Final Countdown. It was just moving on, really. Out of This World was quite a good album and a great tour, I remember.
Songfacts: Something I've always found interesting is quite a few Swedish music artists have been very successful in the US: Abba, Europe, In Flames, The Hives, Opeth, etc. Why do you think this is?
Joey: It is fascinating that Scandinavia and Sweden can produce these bands. I don't really have an answer. Maybe it's the long, dark winters.
It's kind of a melancholic kind of streak to the music that comes from old Scandinavian boat music, perhaps. And the work ethic... I don't know. I know that in other fields we've succeeded. We've had some big tennis players, and then 10-20-30 years after, there were a lot of tennis players. So maybe we get inspired by bands that make it, and we want to do the same thing. Maybe that gives us the drive. There were a lot of bands after Europe that tried to do the same thing, and some of them were successful. I don't know. I can't explain it.
Songfacts: Who are some of your favorite singers and songwriters?
Joey: These days, I really like the new bands that carry the torch for classic rock, bands like Rival Sons, White Denim. I do appreciate what Jack White is doing, too. But in the past, I was very thrilled when Audioslave came out with "Cochise" just after the millennium. That's when we re-started, and we used that record as a benchmark. It's amazing.
In the past, I was a huge fan of Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin. But I also have another side: I did three solo albums in the '90s when I was very much influenced by Jackson Browne, Randy Newman, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. I did a few years just going to those shows and buying all those CDs. It gave a new perspective lyrically when we started Europe up again.
Songfacts: Do you feel that John Norum is one of the more underrated guitarists in rock?
Joey: Absolutely. He's not much into self-promotion, he's very laid-back in that sense. He knows everything from cables to how to set up a guitar - he works on guitars himself. And as a player, he's one of the best of his generation. I'm so lucky to play with that guy. I saw him play when I was 15 and he was 14, and we've been brothers since then. He's an amazing guitar player - I'm so proud to stand on the same stage. He's one of the best of his generation, without a doubt.
April 16, 2015.
For more Europe, visit europetheband.com.
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