JOEY TEMPEST understood the jig was up the day he walked into his record company’s offices and heard Pearl Jam blaring from the speakers.
“Europe were signed to CBS in the United States,” says the singer. “It was the early 90s and I was visiting their HQ in New York. I noticed copies of the Pearl Jam record on a desk. Later I found out they were spending more promoting Pearl Jam than Europe. Nothing was ever said to us about it obviously. They wanted to put their money into new things. I had ambitions to record solo material anyway. It was a good time to take a break.”
Europe were part of the 1980s explosion of big-haired, tight-trousered hard rock bands. They notched up a string of hits, including the cheesy/genius ‘The Final Countdown’. One of those songs that truly has taken on a life of its own, Countdown has become an anthem for sports teams across the United States, was the theme for RTÉ’s Sports Stadium (ask the nearest old person) and, for a fair chunk of the 80s, was essentially ubiquitous. Even more than Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ or Guns ‘n’ Roses ‘Sweet Child O Mine’, it was the headbanger that defined an era.
“When I brought it to the band, they liked it,” says Tempest, a Stockholm native whose accent has, after nearly 12 years in London, softened into a sort of American-Mockney hybrid.
“However, we had to have a few goes trying to change the tempo. There was discussion as to where on the album it should go – ought it be our first single, stuff like that. We all loved it. It was written to be performed live. It’s one of those songs we always, always play. It never gets old for us.”
Europe are touring with Thin Lizzy spin-off Black Star Riders and visit Dublin in March. It will be their first gig in Ireland in over 20 years. Tempest is looking forward to coming back for other reasons. “I lived in County Wicklow for nearly six years,” he says. “Up in the mountains, just outside Ashford. I spent a lot of time in Dublin. A lot of my solo stuff was inspired by Ireland.”
In 2003, after more than a decade apart, Europe reunited. They’d always suspected they would reform. Tempest had wanted to experiment as a solo artist and, nothing if not canny, understood the best way to withstand the grunge firestorm was to vanish from the scene.
“Some of the guys agreed. Others weren’t so sure. They were saying stuff like ‘I can’t live outside the band – I don’t even know how to operate a dishwasher!”
Still, there was never a major falling out and the musicians stayed in touch. Since returning Europe have put out five new albums, including this year’s War of Kings. Maintaining a profile has, Tempest confesses, been a slog.
“We’ve toured a lot. It’s hard work, spreading the word. We’re writing some of the best songs of our career. It’s tough - you have to put in the hours.”
Growing up in suburban Stockholm, the future members of Europe worshiped hard rockers such as Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy. As kids from Sweden, it seemed an impossible dream that they would ever emulate your heroes.
“Breaking out of Sweden was hard back then,” says Tempest. “We tried to get some interest. But all of the labels wanted us to sing in Swedish. They told us that if they did we could have a good career. For us, that didn’t make sense. We saw ourselves as as in the tradition of our favorite rock bands. Which meant singing in English. So we turned them down and stuck it out and, eventually, we got there.”
- Europe and Black Star Riders play Olympia, Dublin, Monday March 2