The Final Countdown (song)

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"The Final Countdown"
The Final Countdown single.png
Single by Europe
from the album The Final Countdown
B-side "On Broken Wings"
Released 1986
Label Epic
Songwriter(s) Joey Tempest
Producer(s) Kevin Elson
Europe singles chronology
"Rock the Night"
"The Final Countdown"
"Love Chaser"
"Rock the Night"
"The Final Countdown"
"Love Chaser"
Music video
"The Final Countdown" on YouTube
Audio sample

"The Final Countdown" is a song by Swedish rock band Europe, released in 1986. Written by Joey Tempest, it was based on a keyboard riff he made from the early '80s and inspired by David Bowie's "Space Oddity". Originally made to just be a concert opener, it is the first single from the band's third studio album, also named The Final Countdown. The song reached number one in 25 countries,[4] including the United Kingdom, and was certified gold in that country in 1986.[5] 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. A music video by Nick Morris was made to promote the single that features footage from the band's two concerts at the Solnahallen in Solna, as well as extra footage of the sound checks at said concerts.

Origin and recording[edit]

The song was based on a keyboard riff which Joey Tempest had written, as early as 1981 or 1982,[6] on 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 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:

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]

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),[4] and is commonly 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).[15]

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

Music video[edit]

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

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.[16][17]


Charts and certifications[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"
Europe The Final Countdown 2000.JPG
Single by Europe
from the album 1982–2000
B-side "The Final Countdown" (Original Radio Edit)
Released 7 December 1999
Length 3:47
Label Epic
Songwriter(s) Joey Tempest
Europe singles chronology
"Sweet Love Child"
"The Final Countdown 2000"
"Got to Have Faith"
"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!"[55] 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."[56]

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1999–2000) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[57] 33
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[58] 12
Germany (Media Control Charts)[59] 35
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[60] 60
Norway (VG-lista)[61] 12
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[62] 6
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[63] 33
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[64] 36


The song is a favorite 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 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 with the female radio announcer says: "Our broadcast came to you from Radio Berlin International, the voice of the disappearing German Democratic Republic".[65]

Blender listed it as the 27th worst song ever,[2] and both VH1 and Blender included it at 16 on the list of the "Most Awesomely Bad Songs...Ever".[66] However, VH1 later ranked it at number 66 on their list of the best hard rock songs of all time.[3]

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; the script touts the intrinsic activity of the band, saying if you're Europe, "you love a final countdown: it's what you do."[67]

Cover versions[edit]

A performance of the song by a band named Deep Sunshine was captured on video and later became a variation of a Rickroll on, receiving over 5 million views on YouTube.[68] The video has been labeled the "worst cover ever", its success stemming from its lack of artistic value.[69][70]

Slovenian avant-garde music group Laibach released a cover in 1994 on their NATO album.[71]

"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".[72][73]

Swedish metal band Sabaton has "The Final Countdown" playing to the crowd just before they enter the stage at their concerts.[74]

American banjo players Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn performed a version of the song in May 2015 for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series.[75]


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External links[edit]