The Final Countdown (song)

"The Final Countdown" is a song by Swedish rock band Europe, released in 1986. Written by lead singer Joey Tempest, it was based on a keyboard riff he made in the early 1980s, with lyrics inspired by David Bowie's "Space Oddity". Originally made to just be a concert opener, it is the first single and title track from the band's third studio album. The music video by Nick Morris, made to promote the single, has received 1 billion views on YouTube. The video features footage from the band's two concerts at Solnahallen in Solna, as well as extra footage of the sound checks and footage from Stockholm. The song "Pictures", from the 2017 album Walk the Earth, is a sequel to "The Final Countdown".

"The Final Countdown"
Single by Europe
from the album The Final Countdown
B-side"On Broken Wings"
Released14 February 1986[1]
  • 3 October 1986 (UK)[1]
  • 5:09 (album version)
  • 4:56 (video version)
  • 4:03 (radio edit)
Songwriter(s)Joey Tempest
Producer(s)Kevin Elson
Europe singles chronology
"Rock the Night"
"The Final Countdown"
"Love Chaser"
Music video
"The Final Countdown" on YouTube
Audio sample
"The Final Countdown"

Origin and recording Edit

The song was based on a keyboard riff which Joey Tempest had written, as early as 1981 or 1982,[6] with a Korg Polysix keyboard which he had borrowed from keyboardist Mic Michaeli.[7][8] In 1985, bassist John Levén suggested that Tempest should write a song based on that riff.[6] Tempest recorded a demo version of the song and played it for the other band members.[9] At first, the members expressed mixed reactions to it, including guitarist John Norum who was put off by the synth intro but said that he was glad that they didn't listen to him.[10] Tempest described their uncertainty: "Some of the guys in the band thought it was too different for a rock band. But in the end, I fought hard to make sure it got used."[10]

The song's lyrics were inspired by David Bowie's song "Space Oddity".[10] The sound of the keyboard riff used in the recording was achieved by using a Yamaha TX-816 rack unit and a Roland JX-8P synthesizer,[11] as described by Michaeli: "I made a brassy sound from the JX-8P and used a factory sound from the Yamaha, and just layered them together."[11]

When it was time to choose the first single from the album The Final Countdown, Tempest suggested the song "The Final Countdown".[9] The band had not originally planned to release the song as a single, and some members wanted "Rock the Night" to be the first single.[9][10] "The Final Countdown" was written to be an opening song for concerts, and they never thought it would be a hit.[9] When their record company Epic Records suggested, however, that it should be the first single, the band decided to release it.[12]

As Tempest stated in 2005:

It's always a nice feeling. Sometimes, you hear it on the streets or someone has it on their mobile phone or something… it's a nice feeling! Actually, I did an interview about a year ago with a newspaper from America and they talked about how much it's been used in sports in America… which I didn't know so much about. Apparently, it has been used a lot and it was nice to hear. The ironic thing, though, is that the song was actually written for the fans. It was over six minutes long and was never meant to be a hit or anything like that. It was meant to be an opening for the 'live' show. We were putting out our third album and we wanted a really 'grand' opening for the show. So, I had that 'riff' tucked away in a drawer since my college years and I took it out, found a tempo for it, wrote lyrics, and it turned out to be a great opening for that album and for the show, as well. Nowadays, we don't rehearse it, but when we play it live, it is still just so amazing! It does communicate so well with the audience and we really love playing it.[13]

In 2009, Tempest told the BBC's Liam Allen, "I can trace bands like UFO in it, sort of a galloping theme like Iron Maiden had on The Number of the Beast album on quite a few songs. I wanted to make a combination of guitars and keyboards. That was a statement on that and it sort of worked out nicely."[14] It is set in the key of F♯ minor.[15]

Release and reception Edit

"The Final Countdown" became an instant success on the charts worldwide upon its release, reaching number one in 25 countries (including the UK, where it spent two weeks at the top and is Europe's only Top 10 hit to date),[16] and is widely regarded as the band's most popular and recognizable song. The single reached number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and is the most successful song from the album on the Album Rock Tracks chart, peaking at number 18 (and charting for 20 weeks).[17]

The song is also the band's highest-charting single in Australia and Canada, peaking at number 2 and at number 5.

Blender listed "The Final Countdown" as the 27th worst song ever,[18] and both VH1 and Blender included it at 16 on the list of the "Most Awesomely Bad Songs...Ever".[19] VH1 ranked it at number 66 on their list of the best hard rock songs of all time.[5]

Music video Edit

The music video, directed by Nick Morris, contains footage from two concerts the band did at Solnahallen in Solna, Sweden on 26 and 27 May 1986, as well as some extra footage filmed at the sound checks for those concerts.[9]

Live performances Edit

The song has been a regular in Europe concerts ever since its live debut on the premiere of their Final Countdown Tour in April 1986. One of the most memorable performances of the song took place in Stockholm, Sweden on 31 December 1999, as part of the Millennium celebrations, as it was the first, and to date only, Europe performance with both of the band's lead guitarists, the original guitarist John Norum and his replacement, Kee Marcello.[20][21]

Personnel Edit

Charts Edit

The song reached number one in 25 countries,[16] including the United Kingdom, and was certified gold in that country in 1986.[22] In the United States, the song peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 18 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.

Certifications and sales Edit

Certifications and sales for "The Final Countdown"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[62] Gold 50,000^
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[63] Platinum 90,000
France (SNEP)[64] Platinum 1,000,000[64]
Germany (BVMI)[65] Gold 250,000
Italy (FIMI)[66]
sales since 2009
Platinum 70,000
Japan (RIAJ)[67]
2003 digital release
Gold 100,000*
Netherlands (NVPI)[68] Platinum 100,000^
Portugal (AFP)[64] Platinum 60,000[64]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[69] Platinum 20,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[22]
Physical and digital combined sales
Platinum 600,000

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

The Final Countdown 2000 Edit

"The Final Countdown 2000"
Single by Europe
from the album 1982–2000
B-side"The Final Countdown" (Original Radio Edit)
Released7 December 1999[70]
Songwriter(s)Joey Tempest
Europe singles chronology
"Sweet Love Child"
"The Final Countdown 2000"
"Got to Have Faith"

In 1999, the dance remix "The Final Countdown 2000" was released. It was produced by Brian Rawling, who had previously had success with "Believe" by Cher. The band's reaction to the remix was less than enthusiastic. "That remix was a disaster", drummer Ian Haugland said, "I wouldn't pass water on it if it was on fire!"[71] In a 2013 interview with The National, Joey Tempest commented on the remix, saying, "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."[72]

Chart positions Edit

Chart (1999–2000) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[70] 33
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[73] 12
Germany (Official German Charts)[74] 35
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[75] 60
Norway (VG-lista)[76] 12
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[77] 6
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[78] 33
UK Singles (OCC)[79] 36

Year-end charts Edit

Chart (1999) Position
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[80] 99

Legacy Edit

The song is a favourite at sporting events, often being played to rally crowds. It has also become a staple of high school and college pep bands for the same purpose.[13]

On 26 December 1987, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ΕΡΤ), used the song as the theme for the documentary "The Road to Glory" about EuroBasket 1987, which was won by the Greece national team. Since then, the song is considered by fans as the unofficial anthem of the team.[81]

On 2 October 1990, just a few hours before the German reunification, the English segment of international radio broadcaster of former East Germany RBI, played the intro of the song while the female radio announcer says: "Our broadcast came to you from Radio Berlin International, the voice of the disappearing German Democratic Republic".[82]

The song and band Europe appeared in a 2015 USA television commercial for GEICO insurance, playing in a lunchroom as a microwave oven's timer is counting down toward zero seconds, saying if you're Europe, "you love a final countdown: it's what you do."[43]

The song was used as entrance music for professional wrestler Bryan Danielson on the independent circuit and in Ring of Honor until September 2010.[83] He used the song again during All Elite Wrestling's Forbidden Door event in June 2023, as Danielson faced New Japan Pro Wrestling's Kazuchika Okada, and for AEW's All Out event that September against Ricky Starks.

The song has been used repeatedly as a leitmotif for the character of Gob (Will Arnett) on the sitcom Arrested Development.

The song's opening strands was briefly used in a scene in DC League of Super-Pets, where the characters PB, Merton McSnurtle and Chip attempt to harness their newly-attained superpowers in a parody of a superhero training montage, only to clumsily fail in the process.[84]

It was also used in films Tad, The Lost Explorer, The Angry Birds Movie 2, The Lost City and Tetris.

The song appears in a 2023 TV commercial for Applebee's.

Cover versions Edit

"The Final Countdown" is a particular favourite of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who incorporated elements of it into "Gone with the Wind", his 1999 reimagining of Lev Knipper's "Polyushko-polye".[85][86]

American husband-and-wife banjo-players Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn performed an interpretation of the song in May 2015 for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series.[87] Time magazine called out the cover as "really, really lovely."[88]

See also Edit

References Edit

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