GETTING MORE TALE #852: On The Loose
Though they formed in 1979 and were already on their third album, I didn’t notice Europe until 1986. Even then, I managed to ignore their first few airings on MuchMusic’s Pepsi Power Hour. Host J.D. (John) Roberts made a big deal out of the fact that they were from Sweden, which I didn’t understand since Yngwie Malmsteen was also from Sweden and nobody mentioned that as the most interesting thing about him. Roberts warned us that Europe didn’t really sound like heavy metal but they were playing them anyway.
After the second or third run, the hook to “The Final Countdown” was stuck in my head and I decided that I liked the band. I asked for their album for Easter of 1987. What did I think about this new band from Sweden when the Easter bunny granted my wish?
Didn’t care for it much. The title track still had me hooked, and a song on side two called “Cherokee” was a sure-fire hit. The rest of it sounded like awkward filler. “Rock, now, rock the night!” What kind of chorus was that? I knew English wasn’t their first language but it didn’t hook me. Likewise “Stranger on the Track”, which I still envision as a guy running around on a 400 meter track & field course. Even the mighty “Ninja” slipped past me with lines like, “If I were a noble ancient knight, I’d stand by your side to rule and fight.” As for “Carrie”, it was just too soft.
But I was committed now; I had received this cassette tape as a gift and I had to give it a fair chance. “Ninja” did rock, and so did a song called “On the Loose” on side two. It was this song that rocked the hardest. It also featured some amazing shredding by guitarist John Norum, which turned me into a fan. That and his cool guitar strap.
By summer it was safe to say that I really liked the album. Once the big singles wore themselves out on me, I found favourites on side two. “Love Chaser”, “Heart of Stone”, “Time Has Come” and of course “On the Loose” were great songs. As I learned more about the band, I discovered that John Norum had already departed and been replaced by Kee Marcello, who was in the video for “Rock the Night”. But all anybody remembers about “Rock the Night” now is Joey singing into a ketchup bottle. the band miming their instruments on silverware in a diner.
Though clearly dated to a specific part of the 80s, The Final Countdown still stands as a thoroughly enjoyable album. Every song is fondly remembered. It’s brighter and more instantly appealing than its following Out of This World. Though they burned out by ’92, they have enjoyed a quality second era with Norum back in the fold. Who could have imagined that back in ’87?