580. ‘The Final Countdown’, by Europe

I take back what I said about our last #1, Berlin’s ‘Take My Breath Away’, having the ultimate ‘80s riff. For I had forgotten about this baby…

The Final Countdown, by Europe (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 30th November – 14th December 1986

Da-da-daadaa… A handful of synth notes that have entered our collective consciousness, in a way that few songs manage. I’d say there aren’t very many people who wouldn’t Dada-da-da-da… back at you if you abruptly Da-da-dada’d in their face (there’s a sentence I never imagined writing…)

Is this as close as we’ll come to that most eighties of genres – hair metal – having its moment at #1? I had previously suggested Doctor & The Medics, or Survivor, but this trumps them hands down. It isn’t particularly metal, save for the shredding guitar solo, but boy do they have hair to spare. In the video, lead singer Joey Tempest (pause to relish the name…) bounds onto the stage in a leather jacket and trousers, doing things to his mic stand that make you hope he bought it dinner first. His hair is glorious, though the amount of hairspray used was probably a major factor in our current climate crisis, while his face is prettier than most boyband idols.

I love rock music – proper rock music, by men with beards – and songs like ‘The Final Countdown’, by preening, prancing, clean-shaven hair metal bands like Europe, really get the rock snobs’ goats up. But I have a secret love for ‘80s hair metal that I file under ‘guilty pleasures’, because in some ways it is the purest form of rock and roll. It exists solely for pleasure: no introspection, no shoe-gazing, very little thought at all; just rocking out in ridiculous clothes, and getting laid.

Speaking of getting laid… Is ‘The Final Countdown’ about going to space, with lyrics inspired by David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, as the band claim…? Or is it a five-minute extended metaphor for sex? Since release, it’s moved into the sporting arena, and is regularly used as a hype song before matches. It also gets an airing every New Year’s Eve, around the globe, and charted again in 1999 ahead of the millennium celebrations. The band weren’t very impressed by that remix (their drummer claimed he ‘wouldn’t have pissed on it if it were on fire’…) In fact, certain band members weren’t impressed with the original, thinking it a poppy betrayal of their metal roots.

There haven’t been too many light-hearted chart-toppers as we’ve plodded through the mid-eighties, so I will welcome Europe with open arms. They didn’t hang around long – this was their only Top 10 hit – but they reformed in the 2000s and are touring and recording to this day, remaining very successful across, well, Europe – especially in their native Sweden. Adding to the ‘peak-eighties’ feel of this record is the fact that we’ve now had two successive number ones by acts named after geographical locations. Berlin, Europe… Not to mention Japan, and Asia. Write an iconic synth riff, do a line of coke, and name your band after a continent. The 1980s in all its glory…

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14 thoughts on “580. ‘The Final Countdown’, by Europe

  1. If I read your third paragraph correctly, you’d much rather have seen ZZ Top at No. 1 than this. Me too I suppose, but I can’t resist a bit of rock bombast like this with a decent poppy hook to it. I always thought at the time that Europe and Bon Jovi helped to liven up a pretty vapid chart considerably, although Europe never really stayed the course. I loved their third single ‘Carrie’ as well, though.

    • Well I suppose if you take pure rock being men with beards, then ZZ Top are the purest rock act in history… I would have liked them to get a #1, but I do enjoy The Final Countdown, as ridiculous as it is. Bon Jovi, though, I struggle with… I like certain of their songs, the early rockers like ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ and ‘Bad Medicine’, but I especially dislike their more earnest ballads. And if I never hear ‘Livin on a Prayer’ again it will still be one time too many…

  2. Remember this well and Carrie. There were plenty of hair bands here in the US. Technically, the grandfather of that is KISS, one might argue. Glam morphed, I suppose. This was also the time frame that KISS took off their make up.

    Much of the hair band movement is now shunned, much like disco was at one time. It was a cool time to enjoy it, tho. I was 20 at this point…

    • Yeah I think hair metal is painfully uncool nowadays, whereas disco has been reintegrated. If you enjoy hair bands you almost have to do it tongue-in-cheek, with an embarrassed shrug : )

      Its funny – the 70s was the big glam decade in the UK, then the US caught on a whole decade later. KISS were almost like the bridge between the two…

  3. Ah ha, now there’s another possible for you – ‘Never had a No. 1 – KISS’. Several UK hits from the late 70s onwards, a few great, a few rather ho-hum, but I’d say there are at least two bona fide rock classics (one actually a rock meets disco favourite, there’s a giveaway) on the list.

    • Can I admit that KISS don’t do much for me…? I’ve tried, because I love other glam acts, but there’s just a little too much schtick about them. Certain songs are palatable, but I couldn’t sit through a whole album.

      • Agreed up to a point. Inspiration tends to run dry over a full album, but when pared down to a handful of decent singles – ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’, ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’, ‘Turn on the Night’, and even ‘Reason to Live’ (another sub-Foreigner AOR weepie, I hear you say), that’s where KISS sparkle.

  4. Pingback: 581. ‘Caravan of Love’, by The Housemartins | The UK Number Ones Blog

  5. Another fun pop classic. Though I always thought it was about armageddon in the tradition of Two Tribes! That riff and the tune are still fab. I had a bet with a non-chart-music fan of the time who disliked this and Berlin while we listened to Radio 1 out surveying Dorset highways. Its all disposable trash he argued. No, Take My Breath Away and Final Countdown are future pop classics i argued. Think chart and popular opinion has proven me right… 🙂
    Very much a one hit wonder for me though, and that also applies to Kiss. That disco track was the only half decent thing they did. 4 Roy Wood and Wizzard visual rip offs without the songwriting talent. I can guarantee we in the UK will be hearing glam rock in the charts shortly, and Kiss will remain unplayed and unloved. God Gave Rock n Roll To You was an amzing record though. By Rod Argent and Russ Ballard…. oops! 🙂

    • What’s your return of glam rock prediction based on…? How much like the early seventies things are looking, politically and economically…? To be honest, if this mess brings back glam rock then it might just have been worth it!

      • Based on xmas streaming of slade, wizzard, mud mostly 🙂 though i can see self imposed electricity cuts, gas cuts and people struggling to pay rents. So very much like xmas 1973 again. I know i already do 3 day working weeks from home, watch new doctor who and star trek to brighten my day! I know 2 young people who can personally thank Liz Trussed for their property sales falling through with no hope of a decent mortgage replacement offer. Happily I told everyone she was a talentless moron some time before she was elected so i have the luxury of “told you so” if anyone dares to suggest my judgement is flawed 😅

  6. If it hadn’t been for synth-heavy hair metal I very much doubt I would have spent my teen years exploring the music of the 60s and 70s quite so much. I had really switched off from modern-day music by the time this came out – and I was only 20.

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