February 14, 1986: Europe Launches to No. 1 with "The Final Countdown"

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Rob Verhorst/Redferns

The title track to Europe's third album became their blowout moment, centered around the single's thunderous synth riff that seared straight to memory. "The Final Countdown" perfectly captured the spirit of 80's hair metal, from its blaring guitar solos to its unrepentant lyrics. 

“I was still at college back then. And there was a guy I knew called Mic Michaeli who was in a band called Avalon,” Europe singer Joey Tempest (also known as Joakim Larsson) recalled to Louder Sound. “I walked up to him one day and asked whether I could borrow his keyboard. Mic must have thought I was a complete loony, but he said yes.”

Michaeli would eventually take on the role of the Swedish band's keyboardist, a proper role for the man whose keyboard enabled the band to take off. While messing around on Michaeli's keys, Tempest came up with the song's sweeping intro and pieced the song together, from its drum machine beat to its fiery lyrics.

Released May 26, 1986, the single shot to No. 1 in 25 countries, including the UK, and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The song still remains essential to American pop culture - immortalized through countless appearances in TV and film comedies. Arrested Development fans might recognize the epic tune as the theme song for Gob's magic shows or the song performed a cappella in 2012 romantic musical comedy.

Not to mention the song's ceaseless rotation in advertisements - in 2015, Europe finally scored a top spot on the Billboard chart - Billboard's Top Commercials chart, that is. 30 years after the song first premiered, "The Final Countdown" took the throne in the world of ad campaigns by partnering with Geico for an office-humor placement featuring a worker heating up his food in the microwave. The band shows up impromptu as the microwave enters its...final countdown.

Love it or love to hate it, the tremendous anthem continues to live on, both onstage and the memories of many. 

“I love looking out at all the smiling faces when then that intro kicks in,” Tempest confessed in 2016. “In all four corners of the world I’m often told that it’s a bucket-list moment for fans who never saw us play it before. And that’s a very special thing for a musician to hear.”


Watch the Floppotron, a machine made of scanners, hardware drives and disc readers, take the show away with its computerized performance of "The Final Countdown." Be sure to watch till the end...


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