Growing up in a suburb outside Stockholm in the 70s, meeting up with like-minded musicians wasn't hard if you were into hard rock.
Most international rock bands made it to Stockholm on their world tours. The crowds were big and enthusiastic. It was good business to hit Sweden on your European or Scandinavian tour. This was of course a godsend for us rock heads from Upplands Väsby. From where me and my friends lived we had a 40-minute train ride into the famous Johanneshovs Ice stadium, a mecca for all rock fans and bands alike.
We would meet up at someone’s house, have a few beers, and listen to the artist we were going to see that night. It could be Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, early Whitesnake, UFO, Queen, Deep Purple (Perfect Strangers-era) , AC/DC, Sabbath, Gary Moore, Scorpions and many many more.
Before I hooked up with the guys in Europe when I was a very young kid I was mostly into to David Bowie, Mott the Hoople and Elton John. Of course the “pop-rock” glam movement also reached Scandinavia, and in our early teenage years we were heavily exposed to bands like Slade, Sweet and Mud, which I have to admit also spiced up our adolescent lives in a fun way.
But the records I have chosen here made a deeper impact on me. In the long run they have given me so much more than if I just jumped on bandwagons (pardon the pun) as a teenager, following the musical trends.
The records below shaped my musical universe and expression through it all, and I can draw inspiration from these records and artists even today. I’ve recently started to collect vinyl records again, and in doing so I realised what music really made a difference to me.
My vinyl collection will not by huge. Maybe it will end up being only around 150-200 records, but it will be the pure essence of what shaped and moved me, including the records I bought when I was the most impressionable, between 15-25 years old.
When I give it to my sons they will know there is no filler, simply the very music that made their dad a rock fan, songwriter and performer.
Europe tour the UK next month, including a date at London's iconic Royal Albert Hall (full list of dates below). Tickets are on sale now.
Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush live ‘78
Hearing Frank Marino on this very recording, his guitar and vocal introduction into the raging version of the classic Johnny B Goode is - in my view - on the same level as Hendrix or Edward Van Halen hitting our eardrums for the first time. It is simply from another place, another dimension.
The precision yet undeniable speed, groove and expression in Franks playing on this particular song may be the best captured live guitar playing performance I have ever heard. I heard this for the first time at house of Europe's first drummer - possibly in ‘79 when our band was still called Force - and hearing this it felt like time stood still and exploded at the same time!
Michael Bloomfield - A Retrospective
Looking through my early vinyl collection I came across a record called Bloomfield - A Retrospective. Michael Bloomfield was an influential guitar player and had an interesting career, and this collection also gives you a good insight into the 60’s blues scene in around Chicago and the south.
However, I’ve chosen this album purely because one of my favourite singers and drummers are on there. Buddy Miles. His vocal performance with the band Electric Flag on the song Texas inspires me even to this day and teaches me expression, feel and honesty. As a singer, if I ever need a boost and want to reset everything and get to what’s “real”, I put on this song. A life saver.
Van Halen - Van Halen I
Without the extraordinary Montrose album (‘72) produced by Ted Templeman (guitars Ronny Montrose, vocals “Sam” Hagar), Van Halen's debut album may not have been the monster record it turned out to be.
Ted Templeman and Mr Montrose really started it all and paved the way for American hard rock. But make no mistake, the debut album from Van Halen was more than that! The impact of Edward Van Halen and Co.’s first album had on all teenagers that were into rock music around the world could only be compared to the arrival of other revolutionary artists for early generations, be it Hendrix or Zeppelin.
For us, some young rock punks from the suburbs of Stockholm, it was a revolution! It was a new movement! Something to believe in and aspire to, and this was mostly due to one young mans possession of ”the hands of god”, Edward Van Halen.
When it came to the vocal, even though I’m a huge Sammy Hagar fan, the cocky swagger and the insanely confident delivery, attitude and lyrics of David lee Roth is undeniable! The ultimate rock vocal experience. So unique he may be the hardest vocalist ever to emulate. I’ve always loved the musical way Alex Van Halen plays the drums, you can tell that he has a personal involvement in developing the “sound” of the drums for the band and his sheer groove and conviction. There is something about brothers playing together in a band. There is that “soul-bond” that just makes the whole thing move and groove so effortlessly.
I remember seeing Van Halen in 1984 at Monsters of Rock. It also reaffirmed how incredible Michael Anthony was on bass, and yes, those famous pure and striking backing vocals... even when playing live. There have not been many records like this in rock history, but Van Halen's debut was one of those revolutionary records that gave a whole new generation the power to dream.... hard!
David Bowie - Space Oddity
One of the first records I bought as a kid was Bowie’s Space Oddity. To me, it’s still one of the best compositions, productions and performances ever put on record! The imagination going into this creation is above normal human level. I personally find it soaring above even The Beatles during their more elaborate experimental period.
I was very young when I was exposed to this and it just opened all the doors. After hearing this anything was possible. My future was decided. I’ve also realise today how much the lyrics affected me. Writing the words for The Final Countdown as a young man, the inspiration and fascination came from just this song, Space Oddity! On our latest album Walk The Earth - without even knowing it - that song inspired and motivated us to write and produce the track Pictures.
If I had to pick a song and album as my all-time favourite, it would most likely be Space Oddity by David Bowie.
Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers
As a musical force and inspiration, I probably speak for all of the members in the band Europe when I say that this band has been the main source of inspiration throughout our career. From the their unrivalled masterpiece live album Made In Japan to their latest album Infinity, they have always showed us the way. Through all their musical twists and turns and lineup changes, their musicianship, relentless touring and songwriting, they remain the masters.
I never forget (us in the band Europe) taking time off working on our second album Wings Of Tomorrow to go and see their comeback tour with Perfect Strangers in Stockholm in 1984. We had tickets quite close to the stage, fifth row I believe. We had never seen Deep Purple perform - we were too young the first time around.
Of course we had watched the Deep Purple members perform with other bands. Ritchie Blakemore and Roger Glover with Rainbow, Jon Lord with Whitesnake, and Ian Paice with both Gary More and Whitesnake. But we had never experienced Deep Purple with this amazing classic lineup! That night when they raged into the title track Perfect Strangers with their laser show, brilliant musicianship and groove we were lost forever!
That night everything changed. We went back in the studio the next day with new elevated belief and a reinforced dream that maybe one day we could be like them. An international touring rock band.
Oh... and we also nicked the name Europe from their live album Made In Europe.
One thing is certain: Without Purple we (the band Europe) would not be here today.
Whitesnake - Live In The Heart Of The City
Live albums was a big deal for us growing up. And it was also a case of being very lucky - the 70s was the ultimate era for live recordings!
For the producers and artists making these albums, it was clearly a labour of love. They made sure they recorded their shows the best way possible, they took time “fixing” and mixing the albums on great recording consoles etc. These albums were like greatest hits albums, with an amazing, huge audience mixed in to truly enhance the experience!
And we loved them! Together with UFO’s Strangers In The Night, Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous, Deep Purple's Made in Japan and Scorpions' Tokyo Tapes, Whitesnake’s Live In The Heart Of The City became one of my favourites. This album is a testament to great musicianship, groove and sound, with some of the best players of the time: it is a blueprint, a bible for how to communicate and elevate the listener's spirit by means of the human voice!
David Coverdale‘s bluesy, husky expression with that beautiful, unique tone is unmatchable. As a very young man, In the basement of my parents' house, I sang over the title track on full volume over and over again. Every time Whitesnake came to town we were there taking it all in.
What would the rock world be without the voice of David Coverdale?
Black sabbath - Heaven And Hell
Lately I've listened to more early Sabbath records, since it’s been one of the common denominators and sources of inspiration for the latest couple of Europe albums, with our producer Dave Cobb. However, I’m still a devoted fan of Ronnie James Dio's first album together with Sabbath. The impact of this record on myself - and possibly all of my musical friends out in the suburbs - was nothing short of enormous!
On any given night we would usually gravitate towards the person whom we’d heard had the latest interesting vinyl or cassette of the bands we were into. We’d meet up at their house (when the parents were out) have a drink, play air guitar, and sing out loud until it was time to head downtown to hook up with other mates. On one particular night I can still remember me and my partner-in-crime John Norum walking down “Main Street” in Upplands Väsby, belting out the vocal lines “Sing me a song, you're a singer...”
Heaven and Hell by Sabbath showed the ingenious, seemingly organic way the band shifted their direction and career and made something musically different, but in my view even more effective and interesting. Dio's singing is so fluent and soaring, with lyrics a cut above all his other stuff.
Tony Iommi just reigns here, and simply proves he is “the only one”! Not only are the riffs as catchy, dark and infectious as they were on the earlier Sabbath albums, but on this album there was something more. It communicated with lots more people in a magical, dark and bewildering way. This is simply one of the best rock albums made.
Audioslave - Cochise
Every time we go into the studio with a new producer, be it Kevin Shirley, Dave Cobb or even Kevin Elson - who worked with us when we reconvened with our “comeback” record Start From The Dark in 2004 - we play them this debut album by Audioslave, and we explain that for us it's is the ultimate-sounding rock record. We believe that this album is still the benchmark for what you have to aim for when recording a rock album.
To me this album more or less saved rock music in the new millennium. It so strongly restored our belief. The sound, mix and mastering and the outstanding performances makes this one of the best rock recordings in this new millennium! In my world - after the mighty Tony Iommi - Tom Morello is the prince of guitar riffs and innovating playing.
The vocal performance on this album is from another place all together! Cris Cornell is soaring high above us all here.
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV
I was given this on cassette as a young teenager, and hearing the song Black Dog for the first time just made the universe a greater place to hang out in! Hearing the main guitar riff and vocal on this track just breaks down any defence you may have to heavy rock. This album contains the essence of what great rock'n'roll should be. It makes you want to become a rock fan, it makes you want to become a rock journalist, it makes you wanna become a rockstar! I’ve also been a big fan of Robert Plant's solo career. I went to see him perform countless of times.
Well, it’s just a pleasure for us that we're lucky enough to walk this earth at the same time as Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul John, and are invited to be part of their musical universe.
Rush - Moving Pictures
Well, there's no denying that AC/DCs Back in Black deserves a place in the time capsule placed out in space for future civilisations to find. However, as a band, as a unit, as a musical force and inspiration, I believe Rush should be our planet's musical ambassadors.
If our planet ever finds itself in the situation where we have to describe and explain rock music to a new civilisation - or another life form from another galaxy - I would put forward the catalogue of the band Rush!
And in that first intergalactic chit chat, I would suggest opening up the meeting with the song Tom Sawyer, followed by the rest of the tracks from Moving Pictures.
This action would insure new positive future relations with other galaxies, with respect and admiration for planet Earth... Amen.
Europe 2018 UK & Ireland Tour
Sep 11: Ulster Hall, Belfast
Sep 12: Olympia Theatre, Dublin
Sep 14: Academy, Manchester
Sep 15: Barrowlands, Glasgow
Sep 17: O2 Academy, Newcastle
Sep 18: Rock City, Nottingham
Sep 19: O2 Institute, Birmingham
Sep 21: St David’s Hall, Cardiff
Sep 22: Pyramids Centre, Portsmouth
Sep 23: Royal Albert Hall, London
Sep 24: Dome, Brighton