Saturday, September 18, 2010


  I know, I know...I'm really pushing my man card on this one. Taking us back to the pure testosterone of Trixter. A couple years ago, while at the Motley Crue Maximum Rock Concert with old friend Dave Russo, we couldn't help but notice that despite it's many "power ballads" and 80's heyday, I'll be damned if there weren't more men in attendance than women. Dave explained to me, almost incredulously, that "The Crue is a F**king MAN BAND". You see, bands like Motley Crue, Megadeth, Metallica and Queensryche are bands normally championed by men and bands such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Poison have a primarily female audience. Now, I like all those bands, but I can see where he was coming from. Maybe it has something to do with those certain bands trying their damnedest to look as feminine as possible. Maybe those bands spent just a little bit more time in front of the mirror or in the studio writing "silly love songs". Sure, the Crue had "Home Sweet Home" but after that, the closest they came to a ballad was "You're All I Need" which was about loving a corpse. Nothing says 'manly' like necrophilia.
  Let's lay our cards right on the table. Europe, while successful, was, is, and will always be, a "chick band". It all boils down to one big reason...Joey Tempest. The lead singer was so ridiculously good looking that I'm pretty sure if you threw some boobs on him, every one of those dudes at the Motley Crue show would sleep with him...twice. He had to have been engineered in some Swedish lab. And any of you, with a gun to your heads, could not name any other member of Europe.
  But what everybody does know is that riff.
Damn that infectious synthesizer riff!! It still permeates our soul at any major league sporting event we attend. The title track of Europe's 1986 crowning achievement "The Final Countdown" is about as cheesy as it comes. In fact it was named #1 in a VH1 countdown of the top 25 awesomely cheesy. And it is.
  It also works.
  It's got probably a bigger collection of cliches in five minutes then Paul Stanley has in 30 years in interviews. OK, maybe that's stretching it. But, I swear when nobody is watching or I'm cruising along in my car, and the Final Countdown comes on, the volume goes up. Because that's the thing about my generation. We didn't care how inane the lyrics were. We only cared about air-guitar capabilities or if it had a chorus we could sing along to while hanging out with Danielle and Jessica in our parents basements. Music is many things to many people and chief among them is making the listener happy. Go to any hair metal concert at Harpos or DTE and all you see is a sea of smiling fans who know the lyrics to every song.
  But I didn't come here to tell you all that...
  I came here to tell you about Europe's "The final Countdown" and to answer the burning question :
Despite it's obvious flaws, is this album still considered a "Hair metal Classic"?
 The Final Countdown: Arguably the most popular song by the band. I'd be lying if I told you it wasn't the song that hooked my ear and requested a "taped" copy from my hair metal guru, Dave Windsor. What it lacks in utterly forgettable lyrics, it more than makes up for in structure. This is just a well crafted pop song, evidenced by the fact that almost 25 years later, it still receives tons of airplay.
  Rock The Night: The first single from the album and more in line with a traditional rock song. I really dig this song with it's infectious chorus and surprisingly effective guitar work. Europe guitarist John Norum is actually an accomplished guitar player, having released several solo albums and even playing in Dokken for a bit. It's a little formula, but isn't that why we love this stuff to begin with?
  Carrie: OK this is where they lost me. On the surface, all seems fine. Power ballad, check. Catchy Chorus, check. Great melody, check. It's a perfect example of having all the pieces in place, but it still goes horribly wrong. It's just so whiny. I feel sorry for any woman named Carrie around this time as I'm sure it appeared on many high school romance mix tapes. The song is about lost wonder that girl left you Joey, just stop. I dated a girl in high school named Keri and remember being teased unmercifully by my friend Jeremy Wright with this song. Regardless, the song was uber successful even making it all the way to #3 on the billboard top 100. However whens the last time you heard it on the radio? Yeah, I can't remember either.
  Danger On The Track: I don't recall much about this song. I do remember the chorus which I guess speaks somewhat to a well put together song. It's just easily forgettable. I think I was the only one excited though when it appeared in the 2007 comedy, Hot Rod starring SNL funnyman, Andy Sandberg along with 6 other Final Countdown tracks. I instantly felt a kinship with the creators of the film. Metal is like that. I've been known to start conversations with complete strangers if they're wearing a Slaughter T-shirt. We just have to look at each other, nod, hug, and say "I know".
  Cherokee: The album's most hard rocking song and my personal favorite. Couple gripes though. First, what in SAM hell is said at the very beginning before the drums kick in? In 25 years I've still never been able to figure that out. Second, as good as it is, who the hell is Joey Tempest, a Swedish rock singer, to be writing about the plight of the Cherokee Indian? These debates give me pause but who cares, I still can't help loving this song. I freely admit to "air-drumming" this one whenever played.
  The rest of the album is your run-of the-mill pop songs. Nothing memorable but nothing offensive besides the mind boggling dated lyrics. In fact, Europe is labeled a rock band but with their heavy use of keyboards it's truly more of a pop band Ala Huey Lewis & The News. Not a bad thing, as I think Huey kinda rules, but it's just an observation.
  Is it a Hair Metal classic?
  For the first time in this history of this column, I have to go with a qualified: No.
  While "The Final Countdown" sold 3 million copies in 1986, and was no doubt lumped in with other successful "metal" releases such as Slippery When Wet, Night Songs, and Theater of Pain, the album just doesn't stand the test of time. The fans simply don't clamor for these songs like they do those other bands. The album is very much a product of it's times and though I occasionally look back, listen and smile, it pales in comparison to earlier and even current work. That's right, they're still together and predictably, they do very well overseas. However, as long as sports are being played, "The Final Countdown" will always have place here on Planet Earth...

Chicks like to rock too, you know.

Until Next Time...
"Do You Take Sugar? One lump or Two?"

-The Casual One, Marc Walentowicz
for DRB 

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