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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Their number’s up

Europe's Joey Tempest says The Final Countdown remains the gift that keeps on giving.
The cover for Europe's 1986 single The Final Countdown.
The cover for Europe's 1986 single The Final Countdown.

Europe will take to the stage at the Dubai Tennis Stadium in high spirits on Friday night. Their latest world tour has brought them not just to the UAE for the first time but to other territories as well.

“It has been an amazing tour,” says the band’s singer Joey Tempest. “We did Mexico, which has been great. Generally I feel that we managed to re-establish the band and created new interest, which we are very happy about.”

The source of the new-found attention is Europe’s latest album Bag of Bones. Released last year, their ninth album finds them moving away from their trademark majestic rock towards a dirtier blues sound.

Tempest explains the album is meant to sound deliberately grubby. “It is more of a touring band’s record,” he says. “We went to an old studio in Stockholm that was full of old gear and we managed to record it quite quickly. I feel the album has now brought us to the classic rock and blues community, so in the live shows we now get a nice mix of the young and old.”

Tempest also credits Bag of Bones for cementing Europe as a bona fide recording act.

The band have released four albums since their reformation in 2003, but Tempest says Bag of Bones has the band recapturing their mojo: “The first few albums was us trying to find our feet again. With this album we just wanted to do something real and that was very honest. I am happy that we can produce something like this – a band from Sweden producing this kind of blues and soul expression.”

Away from pop

Formed in 1979 in Stockholm, Europe immediately turned heads by producing a heavier sound far from the saccharine pop emerging from Scandinavia at the time.

“We never listened to the Swedish music scene,” Tempest says. “When people were listening to Abba we were into Deep Purple. We always wanted to be a rock band and I think that with our success, we probably became the first band to open the doors for other rock groups from Sweden.”

After the first two albums won some minor regional success, Europe hit the big time with their 1986 release The Final Countdown. The third album, also called The Final Countdown, was also home to the chart successes Carrie and Rock the Night.

While the latter two remain live favourites, The Final Countdown took on a life of its own, becoming a staple of live sporting events and covered by the likes of the pop singer Dannii Minogue and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Behind the beat

Tempest says the song’s signature synth-riff came from him dabbling on a borrowed keyboard.

“When I was in high school I borrowed a keyboard and I wrote that riff on a synthesiser. I put it aside for a few years and when we worked on our third album I brought that riff into this song which had this nice galloping beat,” he recalls. 

“The lyrics were influenced by David Bowie because, like him, I was also fascinated with space. We also wanted an opening song to our show and this one worked well for that. We knew the song sounded different and unique but never thought it would cross over to such a level.”

The Final Countdown remains the gift that keeps on giving. Its latest pop-culture reincarnation was in the hit American comedy series ­Arrested Development where it served as the theme song for the illusions of the character Gob Bluth (played by Will Arnett).

While Tempest didn’t spot Arrested Development T-shirts in the mosh pit, he praises the show’s use of the track. “The way Arrested Development used Final Countdown was really good,” he says. “It’s quite fun actually to watch it and if they use the song like that then it’s great because it actually strengthens the show.”

Say cheese

The Final Countdown couldn’t ­escape the mandatory cheesy dance remix, however. A few weeks before the millennium, Final Countdown 2000 was released to a tepid response.

Remixed by the British producer Brian Rawling (responsible for Cher’s Believe), the track – meant to be a New Year’s Eve anthem – sank without a trace, with both fans and the band deriding the version. Their drummer Ian Haugland went as far as reportedly stating he “wouldn’t pass water on it if it was on fire”.

Tempest takes a more diplomatic approach. “The band were not happy with it. We were trying to get some other people to do the remix and it just didn’t pan out so it ended up becoming a last-minute thing,” he says.

• To find out about Europe’s 1980s rivalry with Bon Jovi, head to our Scene&Heard blog for an extended interview with the frontman Joey Tempest. Europe perform on Friday night at the Dubai Tennis Stadium. Tickets begin from Dh200 and are available from mpremiere.com. Doors open at 7pm. Visit www.europetheband.com for more information

sasaeed@thenational.ae