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…