To anyone outside of Sweden, Europe appeared to burst out of nowhere when they topped the charts of 25 different countries with their single The Final Countdown in 1986.
However, with seven years of groundwork laid (they were initially known as Force) and two albums to their name, this was no bunch of overnight sensations. Eight albums and a ten-year hiatus later, Europe are about to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
These 40th anniversary shows are being billed as ‘The Time Capsule’. What does that mean?
It’s still pretty early to talk about all of that, but we will be including quite a few cuts that we usually don’t play. It will be a more varied show than usual, and longer – with an interval. These venues, like the Palladium in London are ‘nicer’, but we are still deciding upon the type of production we will use.
As a resident of London, after the two Palladium shows, you can take the Tube home.
[Laughing] That way there will be no worries about traffic. Yeah, I love that venue. I did a Led Zeppelin tribute show there not too long ago. In Stockholm we are doing three nights at the Circus [capacity 1,650] which all sold out very quickly, those are the perfect places for a show like this.
Back in the mid-eighties when the readers of Smash Hits argued over which band was the cutest – Europe or Bon Jovi – what were you secretly thinking?
It was quite a surprise for these suburban kids from Stockholm. We had done two albums, but then the promotion for The Final Countdown kicked in and suddenly the teeny magazines were all over us. My initial thing was that I wanted to look like Robert Plant, but [the big hair] became something. We were being pitted in rivalries with these other bands, which was not the case.
Right from the start we had wanted to be a touring rock band like Deep Purple, and suddenly these stupid questions [from pop magazines] were coming left, right and centre. We hadn’t expected that. It was kind of a drag for a while but we’re Swedes, we work hard and don’t complain.
Do you ever wonder how different life might have been for Europe without The Final Countdown?
Sometimes I do, yeah. With Wings Of Tomorrow [the second album, released as a four-piece in 1984] we knew we were going places but we could never have dreamt what that song gave us. As international rock bands, Def Leppard and Iron Maiden had opened a lot of doors and for a short period we were the biggest band in the world. Suddenly we were playing festivals with Duran Duran and it was like: ‘Okay, we’re here for a while, are we?’ We became a ‘crossover band’; I don’t know whether that’s good or bad.
Since its release have you ever done an interview when The Final Countdown wasn’t mentioned?
I don’t think so. Even a specialised interview about another song would reference it to The Final Countdown. That’s an interesting fact, now you mention it.
What goes through your mind when you sing that song for the ten millionth time?
At that point in the set we don’t really think about how many times we have played it. It’s an ‘in the moment’ song because it brings everybody together.
For ‘people watchers’ it’s a heaven-sent opportunity because it can be a bucket list moment.
That’s true. My family are sometimes on the stage and they always like to watch the audience. When we play heavier festivals like Bloodstock or Hellfest, it unites people from all kinds of genres, which is amazing.
Is new Europe music on the way?
Some writing has been going on and we’re at the stage where we are listening to what we have. It seems as though there’s more than we need. Some of them are amazing. I would like to release a couple of songs before the anniversary tour, though I’m not going to promise that will happen – because we want them to be special – but we will try to make it happen.
Could the band go back to playing in the more melodic style of The Final Countdown?
You know what? Had we been having this conversation ten years ago that would have been completely impossible but we have reached a point where it’s no longer the case, and the great thing is that it happened in a completely natural way. I’m realising that my writing has returned to its roots, the melodic elements connected to that era have returned.
I find that quite exciting because it wasn’t premeditated. Had I suggested ‘doing an eighties album’ then John [Norum, guitar], John [John Levén, bass], Mic [Michaeli, keys] and Ian [Haugland, drums] would have shot me. But it turns out they are also thinking: ‘This could be pretty cool’, so we will see where it goes.
How else are Europe planning to celebrate this anniversary?
It’s something that’s been in the pipeline for quite a while, but at last we are doing a documentary. The interviews with the band are shot, we’re going through old VHS tapes and there’s a list of people we want to be involved [as ‘talking heads’]. I’m so pleased. It will tell the definitive story of Europe. The idea is to have it ready for September or October. Just before the tour, that’s the plan anyway.
What piece of advice would the fifty-nine-year-old Joey offer to the wide-eyed twenty-year-old preparing to release Europe’s debut album?
I’d tell him to just relax a little bit, also maybe to drop the key on a few songs. Why did we record them so high? You’ve got to sing them for the next forty years.
Europe’s Time Capsule tour begins in Lausanne, Switzerland, on September 30, and reaches The UK on October 17. For dates and tickets, visit the Europe website.