The Final Countdown (song)

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"The Final Countdown"
Single by Europe
from the album The Final Countdown
B-side "Cherokee"
Released 14 February 1986
Format CD single, 7" single, 12" single
Recorded 1985
Genre Pop metal[1]
Length 5:10 (Album Version)
4:03 (Radio Edit)
6:53 (Extended version)
Label Epic
Writer(s) Joey Tempest
Producer(s) Kevin Elson
Certification Gold (UK)
Platinum (FR)
Europe singles chronology
"Rock the Night"
"The Final Countdown"
"Love Chaser"
Music sample

"The Final Countdown" is a pop metal song by the Swedish heavy metal band Europe, released in 1986. Written by Joey Tempest, it was the first single from the band's third studio album which was also named The Final Countdown. The song reached No. 1 in 25 countries,[2] including the United Kingdom, and was certified gold in the United Kingdom in 1986.[3] In the United States the song peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 18 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.


The song is played in the key of F-sharp minor while the guitar solo is in the key of B minor. Although the song eventually modulates to different keys such as A and C# [4]

Origin and recording[edit]

The song was based on a keyboard riff that Joey Tempest had written as early as 1981–82,[5] on a Korg Polysix keyboard he borrowed from keyboardist Mic Michaeli.[6][7] In 1985, bassist John Levén suggested that Tempest should write a song based on that riff.[5] Tempest recorded a demo version of the song and played it for the other band members.[8] At first the members expressed mixed reactions to it. "When I first heard the synth intro to 'The Final Countdown', my reaction was: 'No, this is nuts. We just can't use this,'" guitarist John Norum said, "Thank God they didn't listen to me."[9] "Some of the guys in the band thought it was too different for a rock band," Tempest said, "But in the end I fought hard to make sure it got used."[9]

The song's lyrics were inspired by David Bowie's song "Space Oddity".[9] 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.[10] "I made a brassy sound from the JX-8P and used a factory sound from the Yamaha, and just layered them together," Michaeli said.[10]

When it was time to choose the first single from the album The Final Countdown, Tempest suggested the song "The Final Countdown".[8] Originally the band had never planned to release the song as a single, and some members wanted "Rock the Night" to be the first single.[8][9] "The Final Countdown" was written to be an opening song for concerts, and they never thought it would be a hit.[8] But when their record company Epic Records suggested that it should be the first single, the band decided to release it.[11]

As Tempest stated:

"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."[12]

Release and reception[edit]

"The Final Countdown" was released in the spring of 1986 and became the most successful song from The Final Countdown on the American rock charts as well as the band's most recognizable and popular song.[13] It appeared on Billboard magazine's Billboard Hot 100 chart, reaching the top 10. The following week it debuted on the Album Rock Tracks, where it peaked at No. 18 in its eighth week and remained on the chart until its 20th week. The band's next hit was "Superstitious," which achieved a higher chart position on the Album Rock Tracks.

In Canada, the song reached the top ten on the Canadian Singles Chart, peaking at number five and becoming the band's highest charting song in that country. "The Final Countdown" reached number three in the UK, eventually spending two weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart in December, and was the only single from the album that charted in the UK top 20. "The Final Countdown" reached number 1 in 25 countries,[2] including France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and Italy.


The song enjoys notable popularity in many sports arenas, stadiums, and venues; public address booths have often played the opening keyboard riff to rally the home crowd; it has also become a staple of high school and college pep bands for this same purpose.[12]

The song was named the 66th best hard rock song of all time by VH1.[1] Blender included it as the 27th worst song ever,[14] and both VH1 and Blender included it at 16 on the list of the "Most Awesomely Bad Songs...Ever".[15]

Swedish metal band Sabaton has "The Final Countdown" playing to the crowd just before they enter the stage at their concerts.[16]

When British DJ Alan Freeman retired in 2000, his final 'Pick of the Pops' program featured a countdown of the top ten of 1986, and the very last record which Freeman played, was "The final Countdown".[citation needed]

Music video[edit]

A still from the music video for "The Final Countdown".

The 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.[8]

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.[17]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by various artists, including Affiance, After Forever, Crazy Frog, Dannii Minogue, Dispatched, Freezepop, Furillo, Geoff Downes, Grimethorpe Colliery Band, Immolation, Leif Garrett, London Symphony Orchestra, Melo-M, Norther, Gigi D'Agostino, Stone, The Delegates, The Protomen, Toy Dolls, van Canto and Vision Divine. Slovenian avant-garde group Laibach made a rework of the song for their NATO album, they also recorded a promo clip.[citation needed]

A cover by a band called Deep Sunshine has brought an additional notoriety to the song. Deep Sunshine's live performance was captured on video and later became a variation of a Rickroll on, receiving over 1 million views on YouTube. The video has been entitled "Worst cover ever" on YouTube, its success stemming for its lack of artistic value.[18]

The song was also performed by the a cappella group the Hullabahoos in the 2012 film Pitch Perfect. They also featured in the novel from which the film was loosely based on: Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory.

Chart positions[edit]

Order of precedence
Preceded by
"Papa Chico" by Tony Esposito
Austrian number-one single
1 December 1986 – 15 December 1986 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"You Want Love (Maria, Maria)" by Mixed Emotions
Preceded by
"The Lady in Red" by Chris de Burgh
Belgian Ultratop 50 Flanders number-one single
11 October 1986 – 25 October 1986 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Take My Breath Away" by Berlin
Belgian VRT Top 30 Flanders number-one single
11 October 1986 – 25 October 1986 (3 weeks)
Preceded by
"The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby and the Range
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
27 September 1986 – 18 October 1986 (4 weeks)
Preceded by
"True Blue" by Madonna
European number-one single (first run)
25 October 1986 (1 week)
Preceded by
"Take My Breath Away" by Berlin
European number-one single (second run)
29 November 1986 – 31 January 1987 (10 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Is This Love?" by Alison Moyet
Irish Singles Chart number-one single
27 November 1986 – 4 December 1986 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Caravan of Love" by The Housemartins
UK Singles Chart number-one single
6 December 1986 – 13 December 1986 (2 weeks)
Preceded by
"Ève lève-toi" by Julie Pietri
French number-one single
8 November 1986 – 27 December 1986 (8 weeks)
Succeeded by
"T'en va pas" by Elsa Lunghini
Preceded by
"Rage Hard" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
German number-one single
13 October 1986 – 3 November 1986 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Coming Home (Jeanny Part 2, ein Jahr danach)" by Falco
Preceded by
"Notorious" by Duran Duran
Italian number-one single
13 December 1986 – 7 February 1987 (9 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Si può dare di più" by Gianni Morandi, Enrico Ruggeri and Umberto Tozzi
Preceded by
"Sing Our Own Song" by UB40
Single Top 100 number-one single
6 September 1986 – 11 October 1986 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Don't Leave Me This Way" by The Communards with Sarah Jane Morris
Preceded by
"Holiday Rap" by MC Miker G & DJ Sven
Swiss number-one single
5 October 1986 – 16 November 1986 (7 weeks)
Succeeded by
"In the Army Now" by Status Quo
Preceded by
"Suburbia" by Pet Shop Boys
Polish number-one single (first run)
6 December 1986 – 20 December 1986 (3 weeks)
Preceded by
"In the Army Now" by Status Quo
Polish number-one single (second run)
3 January 1987 – 17 January 1987 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Ulica miasta" by Aya RL
Preceded by
"Krew Boga" by Kult
Polish number-one single (third run)
7 February 1987 – 14 February 1987 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Rock the Night" by Europe
Preceded by
"Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung
South African number-one single
7 March 1987 – 4 April 1987 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Boom Boom (Let's Go Back to My Room)" by Paul Lekakis
Preceded by
"Geronimo's Cadillac" by Modern Talking
Spanish number-one single
31 January 1987 – 4 April 1987 (10 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Shake You Down" by Gregory Abbott
Preceded by
"Dover–Calais" by Style
Swedish number-one single
28 May 1986 – 25 June 1986 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" by Samantha Fox
Preceded by
"We Are the World" by USA for Africa
Single Top 100 best-selling single of the year
Succeeded by
"Sailin' Home" by Piet Veerman

"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)
Released 7 December 1999
Format CD single, 12" single
Genre Eurodance
Length 3:47
Label Epic
Writer(s) Joey Tempest
Producer(s) Brian Rawling, Gary Miller
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 single release caused minor controversy as the first pressing had a misprint that left out the first "o" in "Countdown," spelling the word "Cuntdown." 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!"[57]


Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1999–2000) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[58] 33
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[59] 12
Germany (Media Control Charts)[60] 35
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[61] 60
Norway (VG-lista)[62] 12
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[63] 6
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[64] 33
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[65] 36


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External links[edit]