When I was 8 years old, I got my first cassette tape, from my dad, Europe‘s Final Countdown. My dad was a fan, of course, and was understandably thrilled that I liked them too. It was the mid-80’s, the perfect time to become a Europe fan, and while I was a bit young to have celebrity crushes, I was nonetheless fascinated with Joey Tempest. (Joey Tempest and his bandmates started their band under the name Force, the same year I was born, and the band is all about the same age as my parents. If I had been in my 20’s in the 1980’s I’d have had a huge crush on poor Mr. Tempest, but he was thankfully spared having me as one of his obsessive adoring lady fans.)
The first VHS video I owned was the one from their Final Countdown tour, and I had it pretty much memorized long before I started middle school. By the end of the 80’s, though, hair bands and guitar ballads were going out of style, and the style Europe matured into with their Prisoners in Paradise album didn’t appeal to me as much. It was ok, but it seemed forced and a bit dull. I drifted away, though I did still listen to Prisoners in Paradise a lot in high school and college. (I was getting into Queen by high school and by my sophomore year I was far too gone on bassist John Deacon to have much interest in Europe as potential crush objects.)
I had good taste as a kid, if I do say so myself. Listening to Europe’s first few albums again, I still really enjoy their music. Sure, their earliest 2 albums are a bit rough, but the songs are cool, and I could imagine how they might sound if recorded in a modern studio. I still enjoy singing along to my old favorites, “Dreamer”, “On Broken Wings” (which was on my old VHS), and “Tower’s Callin'”. But Europe has not stood still while I’ve been away. Joey Tempest did some solo work around the time of Prisoners in Paradise, which I remember hearing about as I was drifting away those years ago, and while it was not my style then, he had some music worth revisiting in his solo work.
Kee Marcello also recorded solo work in the early 80’s, apparently (according to wikipedia, which is surprisingly well written for this band). Marcello was my favorite musician on electric guitar for much of my childhood, and I loved listening to his rendition of “Flight of the Bumblebee” on electric guitar. When people talk about guitar legends, he still always comes to mind, though most people I know now have no idea who Kee Marcello is. While there’s not much on spotify from any of the musicians connected to Europe, and only the Europe albums from before 2004 are actually available on spotify, I am sure from what I have heard in clips and youtube videos that Mr. Marcello is as impressive as I remember, only improved with age.
Since the early 90’s, these guys have all been busy, but in 2003 the group reassembled and created a new album, Start From the Dark, which sounds a bit like a fresher continuation of what the group was doing with Prisoners in Paradise. This album was fairly well received, though Europe has still not charted again on the US charts since they released the single “Superstitious” back in the late 80’s. In Europe, and especially near Sweden, where the band is from, Europe is doing quite well, and have produces several more albums on the strength of their success.
Sadly, Marcel Jacob, the bassist I recall most clearly from my childhood, committed suicide in July of 2009. Jacob was in the band Talisman for many years after leaving Europe, and also played on Marcello’s solo album. Jacob started out early on playing bass with the legendary guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, and was an excellent musician (though I, as a kid, had no basis for comparison yet). Kee Marcello also left Europe, but is still a working musician outside the group with a new solo album out just this past year, Redux: Europe, which includes some revisited Europe tunes. A show I’d have loved to see live- Kee Marcello joined the rest of Europe again briefly in 1999 after the band had been on hiatus for years, and for one show he played alongside John Norum, the guitarist who is currently with the band.
Fast forward to 2012, and Europe is still going strong. They recorded the album Bag of Bones last year, and have a new video premier on their website related to this latest album. They are hoping to continue alternately touring and creating new albums for many more years, expanding into more and bigger markets as they continue making music. One fun trivia tidbit- Europe performed as the headliner for the “closing ceremonies of the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Rinkaby, Sweden before an audience of 40,061 Scouts and Guides which included King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Queen Silvia of Sweden.(wikipedia)” However you feel about the Boy Scouts after all the sex-abuse scandals that have tarnished this organization, it is still a huge honor and opportunity to play for the World Scout Jamboree, and this is another show on my list of concerts I wish I’d seen. Hopefully as Europe ages, they will be at least cognizant enough of the fact that their 80’s style might not be a great act for men my parents’ age to be doing on stage. So long as they keep maturing and improving I am optimistic that we may again see Europe on the US music charts soon.