25
Jan 10

EUROPE – “The Final Countdown”

FT + Popular110 comments • 7,172 views

#580, 6th December 1986, video

The first metal song to get to number one, which more than anything else tips you off as to what a strange, broad, inclusive-despite-itself church metal is. And yes, this surely qualifies. “The Final Countdown” puts its fanfare riff atop a gallop of power hair and Valkyrie guitars and the result is impeccably pop – so much so it split the band! – but their roots were heavier, trading personnel with Yngwie Malmsteen, paid-up members in good standing of the Swedish Metal Scene.

My experience of metal in the 1980s was entirely vicarious – people at school would buy Kerrang! or RAW or Metal Hammer, and I would read them with an amused disdain I guess I’ve never fully managed to shake, even though I’m ashamed of it: metal is the most vocational of fandoms and it didn’t choose me. I later started reading the NME instead and felt myself much smarter for it at the time – but of course what strikes me now is how similar, and how precarious, both magazines’ worlds were.

In an environment where access to music was through specialist gatekeepers – radio stations and print magazines – genres became coalitions. Metallica were truer metal than Cinderella? Perhaps, but the economics of genre meant that gatekeepers had to pitch a product that would capture fans of both. And the very existence of the umbrella thus held over them would exaggerate the similarities as well as the differences. Even so the coalitions had to be policed – the very first issue of NME I ever bought agonised on its cover over whether certain bands (The Darling Buds, The Wonder Stuff) joining major labels meant disaster. To a great extent the story of popular music in the 80s and 90s is the story of these grand coalitions – hip-hop and dance music, too – forming, winning and facing the consequences.

Even to an outsider the world of metal seemed particularly split-prone, perhaps because the temptations were greater: the marketplace seemed unlikely to put the integrity of The Wedding Present under too great a strain. But metal bands had the chops and the stagecraft and the gumption to fit right into a stadium rock world – all they needed were the songs, and “The Final Countdown” is such a song. Not that Europe necessarily realised – the riff had been kicking around since the early 80s and Joey Tempest wanted to press it into service as a tour curtain-raiser, not as a single. You can hear exactly what he meant: but the label knew a monster when they heard one.

Is it much more than the riff, and the headlong charge of the rhythm guitar? Does it have to be? The lyrics are well-documented nonsense but Tempest puts in the yearning and abstract conviction they need to not spoil the record, and really they’re just placeholders to get you back to – “It’s the FIH-NAL COUNT-DOWN!”. And there’s a welcome crispness and space in the production which gives Tempest’s voice and keyboards room. It lessens “The Final Countdown”‘s heaviness but if you’re heading to Venus you don’t need too much ballast.

7

Comments

  1. 1
    Billy Smart on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Well, fair enough, Europe’s appearance and use of signifiers might make them first in a taxonomy of metal, but you could claim that ‘You Really Got Me’ or ‘Voodoo Chile’ or ‘Down Down’ function as well as rifftastic headbangin’ metal singles.

    This is fun! Best heard in the context of a Council municipal fireworks display, rather than as something you’d listen to on your own, perhaps.

  2. 2
    Tracer Hand on 25 Jan 2010 #

    There’s something sneery and bratty about the way he sings “countdown” that I’ve never really understood. It’s almost Axl-like. Was this a vocal leftover from punk that hadn’t quite died in the metallic afterglow of 1986?

  3. 3
    Steve Mannion on 25 Jan 2010 #

    This one I remember disliking which seems odd esp. as I did like one of their follow-ups (‘Superstitious’…ack). And being both a bit precocious and pedantic back then (UNLIKE NOW) I took umbrage with the “we’re heading for Venus” line – it’s a fiery sulphuric inhospitable world you poodle-haired bellends.

    These days I associate it first and foremost with the sight of Gob in Arrested Development, knife in mouth doing his hilarious dance, which is enough for me to warrant a 6. But as with many big fun well known Anthems, never something I really want to hear.

  4. 4
    Tom on 25 Jan 2010 #

    #1 part of my point about coalitions is that genres are (or were) determined by audience as much as function/style – those singles are HEAVIER than TFC but I dunno if they’re metal?

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 25 Jan 2010 #

    #2 Watch: A week for Erasure’s glorious and lovelorn ‘Sometimes’. They got their best moment in early, perhaps…

  6. 6
    rosie on 25 Jan 2010 #

    That B side – surely not a throwback to the early charts?

    (As I’ve never even heard of this one I’ll duck straight back into lurkdome.)

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Retunrning to this again, I sense an affinity with Roxette in that they don’t bother in even pretending to ponce around with verses at all, wisely knowing that all the listener will be wanting to hear is fanfare and FINAL COUNTDOWN! action, reworked in slightly different combinations.

    Such audience-pleasing showmanship and lack of tortued artistry is only to be commended, I think. Though I probably wouldn’t have thought so in 1986.

  8. 8
    Tom on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Oh it was produced by the guy who produced Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, a song that seems to have a fighting chance of bunnification.

  9. 9
    Tom on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Always worth a link: http://www.takebackthehorns.com/

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 25 Jan 2010 #

    TOTPWatch: Europe performed The Final Countdown on the Top Of The Pops transmitted on 20 November 1986. Also in the studio that week were; Swing Out Sister, Erasure and Bon Jovi. Janice Long & John Peel were the hosts.

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 25 Jan 2010 #

    for some reason this seems more palatable because the band are Swedish. Just as the muppets could make any song vaguely appealing there’s something commendable and comforting about performers from Europe (see what I did there) singing this nonsense in a foreign tongue. Had it been a British or American act I’d be thinking, blimey is this the best you can do?
    Having said that I do enjoy a bit of metal – I liked Def Leppard’s Hysteria from this era and Hawkwind and Led Zeppelin from an earlier age.

    Also re ‘The first metal song to get to number one’, do Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or Alice Cooper’s ‘Schools Out’ not qualify as metal Number 1s?

  12. 12
    Lex on 25 Jan 2010 #

    I hate this song so much…in no fit mental state to offer more constructive criticism but it’s just so horribly naff, I find it quite hard to think of it as music at all – it’s like the soundtrack to some awful British comedy skit. It doesn’t even sound triumphalist, it sounds like people taking the piss out of triumphalism. I basically cannot be in a room with this song and have been known to leave parties because of it. UGHHHH, in short.

    I fucking hate “Don’t Stop Believing” too.

  13. 13
    Tom on 25 Jan 2010 #

    #11 actually they probably do, well, Alice probably does, Survivor I think were just a rock band.

    #12 Lex what is your favourite metal track??

  14. 14
    koganbot on 25 Jan 2010 #

    My nephew Bobby says that he hates ’80s music, and this is the quintessential ’80s song, but he loves this song for being the quintessential ’80s song.

    Yes it’s metal, but it feels very disco, especially the fanfare, which is the sort of thing that disco did well but that other genres hadn’t quite tried, that I remember, anyway (though I can’t think of examples of disco fanfares at the moment; when I think fanfare these days I think of Young Jeezy’s first album, the slow, suspended, arcing sounds he was rapping over).

    #2. Tracer, I’d thought “Plant” rather than Axl, whom I hadn’t heard yet (Plant had something of a… not sneer, but a knowing twist), though Plant hardly precludes Axl. I remember an article in the U.S. press about Europe being biz know-it-alls’ pick to storm the U.S. in ’87. Turns out that no band stormed the U.S. in ’87, but by mid ’88 it was clear that Guns N’ Roses and Def Leppard were to be the bands.

  15. 15
    koganbot on 25 Jan 2010 #

    #9 Speaking of umbrellas, when I saw the P-Funk Allstars in the early ’80s I remember lots of the audience were throwing metal horns.

  16. 16
    Lex on 25 Jan 2010 #

    #13 I don’t think I hate this for the reason I don’t get most metal, which is a huge huge blind spot of bafflement for me. I’m not really baffled by “The Final Countdown”, I just hate it. My favourite metal track is Tricky’s cover of “Black Steel”.

  17. 17
    Tom on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Yes that’s why I was interested – I mean I’m guessing a lot of metallers hated TFC too, the guitarist basically quit the band over it. I wondered if there was, er, ‘less false’ metal that you did like more.

  18. 18
    Steve Mannion on 25 Jan 2010 #

    re #14 I figure the notorious Axl ‘whine’ was itself inspired by Plant.

    I was enjoying all kinds of things in the charts in ’86 but my reactions to (hair) metal were pretty random and as affected by visual signifiers as anything (obviously it was an incredibly strong medium visually and many of the bands took to the MTV-orientated agenda with seeming relish). To 8 year old me the sight of Bon Jovi flying around the stage on strings in the ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ just made the song seem even more spectacular. Van Halen’s ‘Why Can’t This Be Love’ sounded similarly, joyfully euphoric. Despite all this (and vivid memories of jumping up and down on the bed with a tennis racket to Def Leppard’s ‘Animal’ the following year) I don’t recall ever feeling a big urge to pick up a guitar, but then they seemed such distant, exotic objects (more than keyboards where at least you could start off with a cheap crappy version and work your way up). Maybe it’s just that dance music was just about to push all this to one side (for me personally at least), tho not to be completely disregarded.

    What’s interesting as far as metal in the charts at this point goes is how Iron Maiden went from routinely peaking between 11 and 30 in the mid 80s to repeatedly going straight into the top 10 a couple of years later and regularly from the on. What changed for them between 86 and 88 in terms of the fanbase and their approach to buying IM singles, if anything?

  19. 19
    taDOW on 25 Jan 2010 #

    if survivor counts foreigner does (foreigner don’t). cooper clearly heavy metal but not hair metal, at least not at the time of his #1 (sweet and slade and maybe even t. rex otoh…). impossible to think of anything but gob when i hear this song now (they even sorta snuck it into his sesame street appearance). VERY similar to eye of the tiger though – almost all intro and very aware that the intro is all it’s got going for it; eye of the tiger makes more of an actual effort to build a song around it, final countdown seems satisfied just treading water in between appearances (fc does have the much better solo though right?) – not sure what’s the better option really. somewhat atypical hair metal track – neither the stones/springsteen roots of g’n’f’n’r or cinderella or bon jovi or the straight glam of poison, and despite the journey producer it doesn’t feel like the high sheen boston residue of hysteria either (it is funny to think that this and taylor swift share dna beyond hair crinkle though). some hybrid of prog and video game music, it seemed clearly a joke at the time (not that we didn’t love the hook – it is undeniable), and not the ‘laughing with them’ kind like warrant or poison (til they ditched glam for stones/springsteen and became very much ‘laughing at them’), more the mix of revulsion and amusement that would accompany white lion and reach it’s peak with nelson. 5 for me.

  20. 20
    taDOW on 25 Jan 2010 #

    horns @ p-funk possibly due to ‘never buy texas from a cowboy’? ok prob not

  21. 21
    Kat but logged out innit on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Hundred Reasons used this as their curtain-up music. I have been to more Hundred Reasons gigs than was strictly necessary and got rather sick of it in 2001 as a result. But that ridiculous guitar solo gets at least an 8!

  22. 22
    Conrad on 25 Jan 2010 #

    It’s obviously a memorable riff, though I’ve never been able to take it seriously, as that mind of major key, almost Mozart-ian kind of melody, just puts me in mind of a rock/classical crossover of spinal tap proportions.

    So, #12, ‘naff’ is a pretty fair summary.

    I did start to take heavy rock seriously at about this point though. The Bon Jovi singles were great fun, and then The Cult went all AC/DC and delivered a memorable leather-trousered TOTP performance with ‘Love Removal Machine’ (title!)

    I think late 86 was probably the start of heavy rock’s most popular period, what with Run DMC resurrecting Aerosmith, and Guns n Roses and Metallica soon to follow Bon Jovi into enormodomes around the world.

  23. 24
    Ben on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Does the make Lordi the second coming of Europe then?

  24. 25
    AndyPandy on 25 Jan 2010 #

    I always thought it was accepted that Heavy Metal/Rock started in 1968 – Blue Cheer were on their 2nd album (even now about as heavy as you can get), Led Zeppelin formed, Steppenwolf recorded ‘Born To Be Wild’ (with its “heavy metal thunder” lyric), Hendrix and Cream were at their heaviest. I remember seeing an article to this effect in a “Kerrang” in (I should imagine 1988 – 20th anniversary? don’t know why I was reading it I think I must have seen a copy at work or something!

    And by early 1969 it was complete – Black Sabbath changing from heavy blues to their legendary sound, Deep Purple completing their change to heaviosity and countless other bands already working to the template.

    It’s a pity Led Zeppelin hadn’t released “Whole Lotta Love” in 1969 or Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” or Deep Purple’s “Black Night” hadn’t gone a couple of places higher in 1970 as then we’d have had a definitive answer to the question of the first Heavy Metal Number One. As it is you’d have to go for “Voodoo Chile” in 1970 wouldn’t you?

    Having said that I’ve always looked on 1972 as the LOUDEST ever year as far as the upper echelons (not Number 1s but maybe Top20 hits)in British pop charts history – this first came to me when I watched the 1972 edition of something like “Rock n Roll Years” – Top 5 hit after hit seemed to be blaring (not Heavy Metal but even blatant opo was just loud) everything from Slade, Gary Glitter, Alice Cooper, T Rex, Hawkwind, Sweet starting to rock it up,David Bowie and “The
    Jean Genie”, even the Osmonds with “Crazy Horses”, Blackfoot Sue and loads of other one hit wonders with the rock overwhelming the pop – whether power chords, screaming backing singers and bawling lead singers fighting against cluttered and cacophonous productions everything seemed to be turned up to 11 – for any year before or since at least as far as the top of the pop charts went anyway.

    I have memories of lying in bed aged 7 one summer’s evening whilst the White Hart pub down the road had what must have been a party/disco (probably before that word really existed)on don’t know how they got away with the sheer volume coming out of their windows that night but notwithstanding that I’m sure the reason the records all sounded so clear in my bedroom was because it was 1972 and everything was so bloody loud!

  25. 26
    tonya on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Not a number 1 in the US, and I think rightly now seen as a bombastic joke (music that adorable little girls would use in their Microsoft commercials): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssOq02DTTMU&feature=player_embedded

  26. 27
    byebyepride on 25 Jan 2010 #

    “people at school would buy Kerrang! or RAW or Metal Hammer”

    ahem.

  27. 28
    Tom on 25 Jan 2010 #

    Hello! It was S1mon W00lley though too so I decided not to name names :)

  28. 29
    JonnyB on 26 Jan 2010 #

    It has, can we agree, a great air guitar solo?

    Oddly, despite that, I’ve always thought that solo was a bit… knocked off? A bit ‘fuck it – it’s a little pop tune – I’ll do the hammer-on thing then go down the pub’. So it fits that the guitarist (John Norum, from memory?) wasn’t that into it.

    But I loved it when I was a kid.

    I started getting Kerrang, Metal Hammer etc, cos the interesting girls at school were into all that. But being too rubbish to speak to them, I just ended up being the geeky one who read the metal mags. I didn’t even particularly like the bands. Oh dear.

  29. 30
    Paulito on 26 Jan 2010 #

    #25 – lest we forget, 1968 was also the year of early HM behemoth “In A-Gadda-da-Vida” (Iron Butterfly) and of “Helter Skelter”, the first of two Beatle experiments with the emerging genre (“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” following in ’69).

    As for “The Final Countdown”: its all-conquering (albeit synth-based) riff, propulsive rhythm guitar work and wiggly, wailing solo just about qualify the song as metal – but of the soft variety, with strong Euro-pop inflections. Tom speaks of HM as a genre defined by its audience as much as its output, but I reckon the more, erm, discerning metallers (at least, those over the age of 14) would have been pretty suspicious, if not downright disdainful, of “TFC” at the time. And from the oh-so-sophisticated vantage point of 2010 it survives essentially as a dumb but likeable poodle-rock remnant, akin to contemporaries such as “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.

  30. 31
    swanstep on 26 Jan 2010 #

    Tom, does your talk of ‘coalitions’ work? In political systems like the UK’s only a few large parties can normally be electorally successful, so those parties tend to be broad churches, which we can think of as assembled-in-advance-of-elections coalitions. In other electoral systems relatively small parties can be electorally successful and coalition aren’t organized (or at least finalized) until after the election. In the first sort of system the coalitional stucture is intra-party and largely invisible to non-initiates, in the second sort of system the coalitional structure is inter-party and visible to all. [Google ‘Bawn Rosenbluth coalition parties’ for good academic papers on these matters.]

    Setting aside what the counterpart of electoral success is in your music model (I assume it’s just information, access to free music on radio stations, and the like, rather than chart success as such), the thing you seem to want to say is that genres in the 80s and 90s functioned like *large political parties* (that you joined, that had sub-wings, bitter internal divisions, and all the rest of it), whereas what we have now is a landscape of tiny parties with coalitions formed on-the-fly festival-by-festival, ipod playlist by ipod playlist. There’s more and more visible coalitional activity now than ever before on this view, what’s really changed is the underlying party landscape, hence the locus of that coalitional activity.

    At any rate, part of what restating your theses in terms of parties does is reveal the limits of the basic analogy. Genre-transcendence is close to the rule in the upper eschelons of pop surely. People who liked Elton John or Kate Bush or Jeff Buckley found it by hook or by crook regardless of labels.

    As for the song… it’s pretty damned irritating in my view (I’m not quite as opposed to it as Lex is, but I know where he/she’s coming from). Even the Darkness would probably turn up their noses at this one!
    Tom’s point about this having started life as a show opener is interesting, because I remember *lots* of bands in this period marching on stage to the Wagner from Apocalypse Now (with all the soldier chit-chat from the movie left in, thank you very much). TFC’s intro does feel exactly like that, and I’d bet that’s where this started. Bon Jovi’s first few hits (all the Bon J. anyone really needs or likes surely) are massively superior to this.

    I reserve a special kick for the vid. here. I’ve always found it odd that when a band steps out onto the world stage for the first time it should make a vid showing them with huge crowds, gold records etc.. Most of the people who ever see the vid. are going to be thinking ‘Who are you?’ And all you’re telling us about yourself is that you’re massive apparently (but for what?), you sure as hell don’t need my money. In other words, I hate ‘first’ videos that feel like they should be ‘third’ videos (at which point that massive audience would nominally be able to include us):
    3

  31. 32
    TomLane on 26 Jan 2010 #

    Great Hair Metal Cheese, one of those defining songs of that oft-maligned genre. As it turns out, it has aged better than we thought possible. Grunge supposedly banished these acts. But which do you prefer now? Peaked at #8 in the U.S. And that’s the grade I’d give it.

  32. 33
    Tom on 26 Jan 2010 #

    #31 I think it’s a thin but not useless analogy – maybe “unions” works better than coalitions but the collective self-interest is much looser! It’s to do with access to information anyway.

    In fact thinking about it the problematic word is “winning”: in politics the object of a coalition is access to government, the structure of power that exists above the party system. But in music – in culture generally – access to mass popularity ISN’T necessarily the aim of everyone, and it turns out to be a mixed blessing. (There’s also a difference between what coalitions mean here for the artists and for the fans, of course.)

    Maybe there isn’t a perfect metaphor for what I’m talking about – groups which put aside their differences for access to a resource (publicity/information/distribution) but which in doing so risk success. I read an interesting blog post by Nitsuh Abebe today, though, which identifies something like this dynamic existing at the heart of online culture: a thing created for a group becoming accessible to everyone outside that group. Perhaps pop in the 80s and 90s (and before potentially, not sure why I picked those decades specially) is a preview of the internet :)

  33. 34
    MikeMCSG on 26 Jan 2010 #

    18

    “What’s interesting as far as metal in the charts at this point goes is how Iron Maiden went from routinely peaking between 11 and 30 in the mid 80s to repeatedly going straight into the top 10 a couple of years later and regularly from the on. What changed for them between 86 and 88 in terms of the fanbase and their approach to buying IM singles, if anything?”

    Basically Steve their sales held up in a significantly declining singles market. We’re at the height of the CD boom here when people were re-buying old albums in the new medium and record companies were re-cycling their back catalogue instead of developing new talent. Also you had Radio One’s new playlist which alighted on random records without regard to fanbase or track record and cut off a vital source of oxygen for the likes of China Crisis, Howard Jones, Nick Kershaw, Paul Young, Frankie and Ultravox who all suffered major flops in this period. Spandau and Duran were diminished. Iron Maiden never got much airplay anyway relying instead on a fanatical following so they survived while others fell away. It wasn’t just metal acts either, any band who’d developed a following over time got nearer the charts without compromising their sound ; hence you started seeing hits for The Fall, Sisters Of Mercy, The Cramps and finally The Wedding Present themselves.

    “TFC” is the sole hair metal number one, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard never quite getting there. Has there been a more critically unloved genre over the past 30 years ?

    Pity the fans of Blackburn Rovers who still endure this on a regular basis !

  34. 35
    Tom on 26 Jan 2010 #

    I think for as long as I’ve been an ‘active’ critic – a decade or so – hair metal has had a pretty good CRITICAL rep! (Maybe that’s hanging out online with Maura too much tho!) The problem is it’s become a joke for the kind of next layer of the media, filed under “dumb things about the 80s”.

    I wish there had been more hair metal #1s!

  35. 36
    Erithian on 26 Jan 2010 #

    Somehow I’m reminded of how Hugo Speer’s character was recruited to the troupe in The Full Monty. “You don’t sing? You don’t dance? Hope you don’t mind me being nosey, but what do you do?” – “Well, there is THIS…”

    And that’s what the intro is. This great big proud erect ten-inch musical hook, that carries a fairly “meh” song and a solo that is little more than fretwank along with it. Once you’ve heard the hook there’s not much else selling the record, but that’s all they really needed. But what’s missing for me is any kind of heart or passion – the abovementioned Bon Jovi and Def Leppard tracks may be hair metal as well, but they have that in abundance.

    I love AndyPandy’s reference to 1972 upthread – we mentioned in the “School’s Out” thread that we missed out on the hairiest 1-2 in chart history when Hawkwind were held off at number 3 by “Seaside Shuffle”. Being three years older than Andy judging by his post, I was at a holiday camp disco that summer with the likes of “Silver Machine” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” bludgeoning the kiddies. The older lad up our street was introducing me to Purple, Sabbath, Wishbone Ash, Budgie etc, and so by the time the New Wave of British Heavy Metal came around, I thought it was pretty tame by comparison.

    Steve #18 – plenty of chance to discuss the Iron Maiden phenomenon in about four Popular-years’ time, but as I understand it it wasn’t so much that their sales held up as that the band and record company got their marketing down to a fine art several years ahead of the rest of the industry – they might not get the biggest sales but ensured that the fanbase all knew when the records and associated goodies were coming out, so got the highest chart position possible to try to draw others in. And it worked like a charm.

    Oh, and could one of our North American colleagues tell us just how massive “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was?

  36. 37
    will on 26 Jan 2010 #

    I was never able to take this record, or indeed any hair metal (as it was later to be christened) seriously. I think it was the haircuts that were so laughable. And the ridiculously widdly solos. But then I was brought up in the South East where you were either into soul/ funk or an indie kid.

    The following year, 1987, I started university in South Wales and remember being shocked at how many the local youth were into metal. Wandering around Swansea town centre on a Saturday afternoon you lost count of the Iron Maiden/ Leppard/ Saxon T Shirts.

  37. 38
    MikeMCSG on 26 Jan 2010 #

    # 35 Do we take it you weren’t a big Nirvana fan then, Tom ?

  38. 39
    Tom on 26 Jan 2010 #

    Loved lots of American alt.rock and never had much of a problem w/Nirvana – though a lot of the other grunge acts were (I thought) terrible, and have aged worse. My favourite 90s Seattle thing is Peter Bagge’s HATE, however!

    The, er, “first grunge #1” makes Europe look like paragons of total authenticity though so I’ll save a lot of this discussion for 1994 :)

  39. 40
    swanstep on 26 Jan 2010 #

    Swedish metal band does knowing me knowing you
    Yngwie Malmsteen does gimme gimme gimme
    In general, metal Abba is hair-metal I can get behind! :)

    @erithian, 36. Didn’t NWOBHM sound at least a lot faster? I’m no expert but my general sense is that things quickly went utterly bonkers on the speed and abrasiveness front with obscure NWOBHM bands as inspiration. By 1988 people like Napalm Death were around doing insane ultra-heavy hyperspeed songs that were only 30 seconds long. And John Zorn’s more jazzy/artsy end of the spectrum had things down to just 10 seconds by the mid-80s. And *all* of those people claimed to be building on NWOBHM bands not on Sabbath, etc..

  40. 41
    thefatgit on 26 Jan 2010 #

    TFC enthralled me and repulsed me in equal measure. A change of pace at the top of the charts, with A HEAVY METAL RECORD!?! You coulda knocked me dahn wiv a fevva Guv! But this is no “Reign In Blood” or “Master Of Puppets”. The “balls out” rocker analyses this example of Swedish heavy metal and find that it’s lacking in weight. The heavy metal fan listens and sneers from behind his sleeveless denim jacket at this example of Swedish hard rock and finds it somewhat floppy. The rock fan who is open to other genres and owns a couple of ABBA records listens to this example of Swedish poodle pop and finds it lacks bite.
    It’s a song that wants to be an anthem for the end of civilisation, but it’s more end of the pier unfortunately. It falls between too many stools to be representative of anything other than Europe’s biggest hit. As a pop record, it stands up well. Memorable tune, check. Silly but quotable lyrics, check. Lead singer has sex appeal…er, check-ish?
    I can hear hundreds of people saying “I don’t like heavy metal, but I like this!”
    And today it’s filed under “ironic student disco favourite” alongside “Don’t Stop Believin'” and The Baywatch Theme.

  41. 42
    Rob K on 26 Jan 2010 #

    Popular sing along at school for the Indie kids versus the Metal Boys

    We’e heading for Venus
    and still we stand tall
    You’re just a big penis
    with very small baaaaaaaaaalllllls YEAH

    As a card carrying metal boy this was all a bit embarrasing really. Not least because Joey Tempest really did look he should be called Josephine. Still, it was part of an undeniable surge in metal popularity and for every TFC there was a Livin on a Prayer or a Dude (Looks Like A Lady) or a Gimme All Your Lovin’ or further on Paradise City. I may be wrong but i suspect the reason behind this was because if you rejected the weak, often insipid, usually dull, winsome indie bollocks that the NME were pushing ad nauseam there wasn’t that much else around.

    For me it looks like the Metal movement has proved to be more enduring. These days the aforementioned Indie kids I grew up with like nothing better than to crank up Sweet Child Of Mine and warble along but you’ll never find The Mighty Lemon Drops anywhere near my turntable.

  42. 43
    Steve Mannion on 26 Jan 2010 #

    good sensible points Mike and Erithian thx

    re lack of hair metal #1s…Alice Cooper of all people would come very close with ‘Poison’.

  43. 44
    MikeMCSG on 26 Jan 2010 #

    #39 Definitely with you on that 1994 one Tom;at least Europe didn’t inspire Tommy Iommi to blow his brains out !

  44. 45
    swanstep on 26 Jan 2010 #

    So, what’s the comical, first grunge #1? I checked and none of the obvious, big bands got to #1 (I was a little shocked that none of teen spirit, jeremy, today, black hole sun, them bones, doll parts got to the top – this stuff felt inescapable at the time) – so that just leaves various acts I’ve never even heard of before like Doop and Stiltskin.

  45. 46
    LondonLee on 26 Jan 2010 #

    #41: “I don’t like heavy metal, but I like this!”

    I always filed ‘Black Betty’ by Ram Jam under that too, another I guess “ironic” favourite.

    It’s not exactly Motorhead heavy is it though? That big synth riff sounds more like Prog to me, I can imagine Rick Wakeman playing it wearing a cape.

    Hated it at the time and thought I’d like it more now, but I think I’m just indifferent to it which is an improvement of sorts.

  46. 47
    Elsa on 26 Jan 2010 #

    #36: “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” as a single hit US Billboard #30 in summer ’68; the album #4.

    “Whole Lotta Love” was a US single in ’69 and very nearly topped the charts – #4 Billboard; #2 Cashbox.

  47. 48
    Elsa on 26 Jan 2010 #

    It looks like Led Zeppelin were stopped at #2 in US Cashbox by Peter, Paul and Mary (“Leaving on a Jet Plane”). Those were the days.

  48. 49
    MikeMCSG on 26 Jan 2010 #

    #45 You’ve named the guilty party there Swanstep but I’d advise you to remain in blissful ignorance (same goes for the other one you mention which was widely touted as the worst number one of all time)!

  49. 50
    koganbot on 26 Jan 2010 #

    I always thought it was accepted that Heavy Metal/Rock started in 1968

    #25 Nothing is ever accepted, but 1968 seems right, as before then no one quite had the technical capacity to do Big And Lumbering, except I actually think Vanilla Fudge were horribly there by 1967. And the only thing holding back The Music Machine in ’66 was technical capacity.

  50. 51
    Rory on 26 Jan 2010 #

    “The Final Countdown” entered the Australian charts in February 1987 and stayed for six months, peaking at number two; no Aussie pop fan of the time could forget it, because it became the unofficial anthem for exactly what its title described. Countdown, the ABC-TV pop music showcase that had dominated teenage Sunday evenings since November 1974, went to air for the last time on 19 July 1987, bringing to an end a force that was instrumental in the success of not only many Australian acts but also such Popular titans as ABBA, Blondie and Madonna, all of whom owed key early hits to promotion on the show. It’s impossible for me now to think of Europe’s song without remembering the show that was pop music – which gives this bunch of Swedish hair-metallers an unfair advantage, really.

    Amazingly, no metal act – hair or otherwise – reached number one in the Australian singles charts in the 1980s, although Jon Bon Jovi made it in 1990 with “Blaze of Glory”, a few years after Slippery When Wet had spent six weeks on top of the album charts. Van Halen’s “Jump” reached number two in 1984, but that was also their least-metal song to date, with the same out-of-genre synths as “The Final Countdown”. Other than those, and this, the only artists who came close were more heavy rock than heavy metal.

    If I’d been a couple of years younger I might have helped their cause, but by 1986/87 I’d passed through my temporary fixation on Iron Maiden and Van Halen. Although Van Halen’s 5150 held some appeal and Def Leppard’s Hysteria held even more, most hair metal seemed like a pale imitation of whatever it was that I’d heard in metal in the first place. I didn’t know about Metallica yet in 1986/87, so the only band I still listened to who were unequivocally metal were Judas Priest, and even they were flirting with synths on 1986’s Turbo. Whether on that album, or in “Jump”, or “The Final Countdown”, synthesizers in 1980s metal too often sounded wrong, the spandex leggings to the electric guitar’s leather jacket.

    So although I can appreciate Europe’s accomplishment in producing an anthem that captures a certain kind of moment to perfection – that moment when a big game enters its final seconds and this comes blaring over the arena speakers – I can’t say it does a lot for me outside that limited context. 5.

  51. 52
    punctum on 26 Jan 2010 #

    No British rock band could have come up with something as unknowingly unapologetic as “The Final Countdown.” Imagine the Darkness tackling an anthemic song about imminent apocalypse; Hawkins would be gurning away in his unfunny falsetto, the guitar solo would be suffocated by the gigantic inverted commas enclosing and enslaving it, the night flight to Venus would be but a planet-sized eyebrow to ward off the blasted Cool Police.

    But Europe were Swedish, and thus had neither guilt nor guile. Their TOTP performance of “The Final Countdown” was a masterclass in 1974 Rock School bits of business, with their frontman Joey Tempest – I ask you, Joey Tempest!!! – with his magnificent sub-David Lee Roth mane of perm, dressed head to foot in leather but with his permed chest proudly on display, going through all the tricks; using the microphone stand as phallus, agonised hand pointing towards sky as he considers the end of Earth and the wisdom of rhyming “Venus” with “seen us,” even picking up and spinning the guitarist around mid-solo…meanwhile the defiantly 1974 synth lead melody (bargain basement Star Trek) affects its would-be poignancy as 1986 drums cascade like the motors of the rocket ready to convey Earth’s few benighted survivors to Another and Better Land.

    Quite admirable in its way, and clearly appealing to those same neglected pop-metal punters who had bought “Eye Of The Tiger” and had lately picked up on the greased flag-waving of Bon Jovi (“Livin’ On A Prayer,” a #4 hit that autumn, was inescapable) but for whom Metallica and Slayer were perhaps a little too “progressive,” “The Final Countdown” did its Continental business. Whether Europe ever managed to reach Venus, however, is not recorded; their follow-up, “Rock The Night,” suggested that earthly pursuits maintained a greater pull.

    (I’d give this a 4 but for some reason can’t post my marks above)

  52. 53
    Tom on 26 Jan 2010 #

    (Yes, the mark adding plug-ins been disabled for behind-the-scenes reasons out of our control – hopefully we can get it going again.)

  53. 54
    Lex on 26 Jan 2010 #

    #35 – “The problem is it’s become a joke for the kind of next layer of the media, filed under “dumb things about the 80s”.” – I’ll unabashedly cop to dismissing it in EXACTLY this fashion.

  54. 55
    tonya on 26 Jan 2010 #

    36 and 47 – Smoke on the Water was a #4, if I have to think of a ubiquitous metal tune from my childhood, it’s that one.

  55. 56
    thefatgit on 26 Jan 2010 #

    One that stands out from my childhood is Mountain’s “Nantucket Sleigh Ride”.

    Anyone remember “Weekend World” with Peter Jay and later, Bwian Walden?

  56. 57
    AndyPandy on 26 Jan 2010 #

    Will at 37: that is so true – I also come from the South East and it seemed to be a pretty straight correlation working-class=soul/funk/hip-hop-any other music fans=indie. If you encountered any young heavy metal fans they were(generally) just a tiny sect of the same sociological group as the indie fans but generally pretty inconspicuous to say the least.

    However travelling to other parts of the country to watch football etc you’d be having a few beers on the way home (for obvious reasons maybe not in the actual place you’d been at the game!)in various small /medium sized towns and be surprised to see loads of obviously working-class heavy metal fans.I remember going to a game in Leeds and having a few drinks in Wakefield and actually chatting to some such lads and the town (well city but its town-sized!)seemed to be full of them.

    West Country market towns were full of them too (actually those type of
    places throughout the rest of England if they were more than about 40 miles* from London all seemed to be), I suppose I should have had an inkling of this as I had a part of my family down there and my cousins-working-class football and speedway-following mechanics/coachbuilders etc had been into Led Zeppelin/Deep Purple as far back as I can remember (probably 1972 again!)and although I was discovering Slade, Sweet etc these were just weird names that the oldest one used to have records by in his bedroom.

    And as I would later realise so different to the working-class culture
    of the south-east – I think there’s the makings of a decent essay there “MUSICAL DIVIDE:THE CHASM BETWEEN THE SOUTH-EAST AND THE REST OF ENGLAND”…

    *note for non-British readers 40 miles might not seem far but approximately about 20 million of England’s 50million plus population live in this area

  57. 58
    AndyPandy on 26 Jan 2010 #

    And of course along with Prince’s “1999” this had a second lease of life at the Millenium.

  58. 59
    Billy Smart on 26 Jan 2010 #

    I could say quite a lot here about the huge popularity of Iron Maiden and U2 amongst my Dulwich College mid-1980s peers, and the factors to which I attribute this.

    On reflection, though, these notions can wait until we get to 1988/ 1991…

    One thing that I do vividly remember about being at a London public school in 1986, was that most of the early-blooming musos in my year were really really excited by the rise of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, to an extent that I suspect only Melody Maker journalists were in the wider world. I think that this was due to a feeling of having missed out on the excitement of punk, and wanting to follow something similar. The next year, the same boys fell for the Beastie Boys in a big way, even being suspended from school for stealing the badges of Volkswagens.

  59. 60
    Mark M on 26 Jan 2010 #

    37/57: I remember there being a certain number of metal fans in my corner of suburban London, although obviously they were as of nothing compared to the massed followers of Luther. Certainly, there were dramatically many more metal heads per capita out in England proper…

    (Re assorted): I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the most disillusioning moments of my life was popping my head into the Kerrang office and hearing Belle & Sebastian on the stereo.

  60. 61
    swanstep on 26 Jan 2010 #

    @MikeMCSG, 49. Thanks, I understand your comments at #44 now! Blimey, the offending party is truly hilarious. (But the youtube video has thousands of appreciative comments and relatively few dissenters. I guess I am/we are a tough crowd by comparison!)

    Seeing this now has made me think a little more kindly of Tom’s genre as coalition/broad church party idea. To have supported and voted for the grunge party, and then get *those guys* at #1 (in your name, as it were), really is a little like the exquisite torture of being a hard core leftie, who worked hard to elect Labour etc., who suddenly finds they have a load of Blair (in Baghdad no less) to deal with that *they* voted for/worked for.

  61. 62
    taDOW on 26 Jan 2010 #

    u.s hair metal #1 singles (very possible last uptempo u.s. rock #1 is among these):

    van halen – “jump”
    bon jovi – “you give love a bad name”
    bon jovi – “livin on a prayer”
    whitesnake – “here i go again”
    g’n’f’n’r – “sweet child o’ mine”
    def leppard – “love bites”
    poison – “every rose has it’s thorn”
    bon jovi – “i’ll be there for you”
    jon bon jovi – “blaze of glory”
    nelson – “(can’t live without yr) love and affection”
    extreme – “more than words”
    mr. big – “to be with you”

    #1 hair metal albums:

    quiet riot – metal health
    van halen – 5150
    bon jovi – slippery when wet
    van halen – ou812
    def leppard – hysteria
    g’n’f’n’r – appetite for destruction
    bon jovi – new jersey
    motley crue – dr. feelgood
    skid row – slave to the grind
    van halen – fuck
    g’n’r – use yr illusion ii
    def leppard – adrenalize
    aerosmith – get a grip
    van halen – balance
    van halen – best of vol 1
    vampire weekend – contra

  62. 63
    Alfred Soto on 26 Jan 2010 #

    taDow, you forgot Boston’s “Amanda” and “Bad Medicine.”

    Also: note how these bands hit #1 with ballads.

  63. 64
    taDOW on 27 Jan 2010 #

    “amanda” seemed borderline (truth be told the van hagar’s borderline, esp balance, and aerosmith only really felt hair metal around permanent vacation), and i thought if i listed that then foreigner, journey, reo speedwagon, some other midwest mallrat aor i’m forgetting would qualify also. probably should’ve listed heart’s ‘alone’, thought for sure desmond child wrote it but no. i knew that ballads were the way to #1 for hair metal (was actually surprised how many weren’t ballads actually), but it’s striking just how progressively softer they get (almost listed ‘when i see you smile’ cuz it seemed too soft and noone ever bought waite’s makeover – i might as well list richard marx – but that thing sounds like ‘when the levee breaks’ compared to mr. big and extreme). in a better, more just world bon jovi records ‘heaven is a place on earth’ and it’s up there also.

  64. 65
    wichita lineman on 27 Jan 2010 #

    Rather late to this but… wasn’t ‘heavy metal’ a Burroughs line? (I’m using Hammer Of The Gods as source material here, to my deep shame). Which probably predates Born To Be Wild. Plus I always guessed ‘heavy metal thunder’ in that instance was a literal bike reference.

    And if metal vocals define metal (ie sound like stuck pig Plant) then this is is the first metal no.1.

    I like dumb. I like Wild Thing. And I like good (ie quite rare) AOR – from Keep On Lovin’ You to Eye In The Sky to Hazard to Over My Shoulder. And good hair metal ballads – Alone can give me the shivers. But The Final Countdown is none of the above, just foil-thin metal, and – cough – affection for it is on a par with fancying She-Ra.

    Re 50: Fudge were def proto-Tap, if that’s a definition of the beginning of metal. The Beat Goes On is one of the funniest albums ever – the entire history of music (not just pop) in 35 mins!

  65. 66
    Elsa on 27 Jan 2010 #

    #65 I think you’re right about “heavy metal” as a literal bike reference. And yes, Burroughs wrote about the “Heavy Metal Kids” in The Soft Machine, I believe (1962). But if we’re going back that far, chemists have talked about “heavy metals” for a long time, predating Burroughs.

  66. 67
    taDOW on 27 Jan 2010 #

    dudes it’s 1968 and they named their band steppenwolf – very totally a burroughs ref. apparently barry gifford (!) was the first to use it as a genre term but even there it’s used like it’s a common term – was ‘heavy metal’ the ‘glo-fi’ of 1968?

  67. 68
    fivelongdays on 27 Jan 2010 #

    Coming late tot the party, but I’d still argue the toss in this song’s favour. A lovely piece of Hair Metal/Glam Metal/Cock Rock (and one can argue there’s a bunch of lads from South Wales who we’ll be meeting later who liked a bit of this stuff), and it is rather said that a wonderful, fun, subsection of music is now rather maligned.

    As far as metal=provinces goes, I’m a metalhead, and I grew up in a small town in West Oxfordshire, and there were maybe three or four other fans in my year at school in the 90s. However, most of the metalheads I know are also from the small towns.

    Love how Tom calls metal ‘vocational’. Fair point!

  68. 69
    Conrad on 27 Jan 2010 #

    68, Yes – heavy metal is/was in the 70s and 80s anyway, a very provincial thing. And very popular in places like the midlands, west country, yorkshire.

    Might have been a reflection on the different type of entertainment on offer. So, for example, you live in let’s say Taunton in 1980. You aren’t going to have any fancy electro clubs on your doorstep, or metropolitan scenesters forming bands (a la Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield). But you are going to have plenty of gigs/live music to go and see, and no doubt Saxon and Girlschool will be in town on their latest tour.

    The South-East was of course much more proximate to London and so not subject to the same factors

  69. 70
    wichita lineman on 27 Jan 2010 #

    Re 69: Growing up in the middle of Surrey I had no venues or ‘fancy’ electro clubs either, but we did have the radio which is how I got to hear stuff. So did Taunton, Shrewsbury, West Runton and other metal strongholds. Plus the second biggest conurbation in Britain is metal’s heartland. So it isn’t quite that simple.

    Possibly metalheads are an extension of the rockers/teds who held out against the Beatles, Stones et al in the 60s? Were they a noticeable presence in small town Britain and the Midlands?

  70. 71
    admin on 27 Jan 2010 #

    READER VOTING HAS BEEN RESTORED (nb you still need to be logged in to see and use this)

  71. 72
    Garry on 27 Jan 2010 #

    #46 That big synth riff sounds more like Prog to me, I can imagine Rick Wakeman playing it wearing a cape.

    I can remember Mike Oldfield being surprised one of his songs was called metal (something off Crises I think); he said he’d just always called heavy guitars rock. The link between Prog and the metal is obvious, especially 80s stadium metal: the showmanship, the great riffs, the bad hair, the bad costumes, and epic songs (though rarely 20 minutes long).

    #51 I was turning ten when Final Countdown came out in Australia. It was one of the first songs I recognised as a chart hit.

    While I was aware of songs on the radio from quite young (Golden Brown, Stop the Cavalry etc), I just knew them as individual from an electronic box, not as part of some chart or broader narrative.

    In 1987 I started listening to Take 40 Australia, and the Final Countdown was one of the earliest songs I knew as being a popular song. In fact, it was on the first commercial tape I owned – Smash Hits 87 – whose track listing in all it’s full glory was:

    01 Respectable – MEL & KIM
    02 Witch Queen – CHANTOOZIES
    03 He’s Gonna Step On You Again – THE PARTY BOYS
    04 Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now – SAMANTHA FOX
    05 He’s Just No Good For You – MENTAL AS ANYTHING
    06 Locomotion – KYLE MINOGUE
    07 The Final Countdown – EUROPE
    08 We Gotta Get Out This Place – THE ANGELS
    09 I Heard A Rumour – BANANRAMA
    10 Love & Devotion – MICHAEL BOW
    11 Walk Like An Egyptian – BANGLES
    12 Take Me Back – NOISEWORKS
    13 Funky Town – PSEUDO ECHO
    14 Slice Of Heaven – DAVE DOBBYN WITH HERBS
    15 Sugar Free – WA WA NEE
    16 Suddenly – ANGRY ANDERSON

    Such was my very important first step into music collecting.

  72. 73
    Martin Skidmore on 27 Jan 2010 #

    taDOW, how is Steppenwolf a Burroughs reference? I always took it to refer to the Hermann Hesse novel.

  73. 74
    thefatgit on 27 Jan 2010 #

    The Prog to Metal Arc:

    ELP
    Focus
    Gong
    Yes
    Genesis
    Marillion
    The Mars Volta
    Mastodon
    Cradle Of Filth
    Children Of Bodom
    Nile

  74. 75
    farflung sukrat of very metal shr3wsbury on 27 Jan 2010 #

    that list begins with king crimson! they invented metal and prog!

    actual real metal begins with judas priest though

  75. 76
    Steve Mannion on 27 Jan 2010 #

    Marillion to Mars Volta is an insane jump. Or rather, yay the 90s!

  76. 77
    MichaelH on 27 Jan 2010 #

    I think talking about this in terms of metal misses the point. I was a metal fan till the mid-80s, when my allegiances shifted to indie, but my group of friends included a lot of metal fans. They didn’t like Bon Jovi, but they respected them, and some of them bought Bon Jovi records. Same with Def Leppard. Van Halen were the inventors of modern metal (ie metal that wasn’t recylced blues) and were venerated. Quiet Riot were considered proper metal. Coverdale’s past earned Whitesnake kudos. There were violent schisms over Motley Crue. But not one of them thought Europe were a metal act: they were a pop act with long hair. No one even cared about Europe’s existence.
    If there’s a hair metal continuum that runs Aerosmith-Halen-Crue-Ratt-GNR and so on, I think there’s a parallel one, filled with the “metal” bands who weren’t really metal, one that features the likes of Europe and Extreme, with Jovi floating somewhere in the middle, JBJ clearly realising that to keep a career you needed the metal core onside, but to keep the career enormous, you needed the pop fans too. Extreme and Europe only realised the second part, to their cost.

  77. 78
    David L on 27 Jan 2010 #

    Do I detect a touch of score inflation over the past few years? I can certainly accept that TFC is silly but in a good way, but is it really on a par with Space Oddity, Are Friends Electric, Jailhouse Rock, Help!, Day Tripper, etc., who also got 7s?

  78. 79
    Pete Baran on 27 Jan 2010 #

    I always like to think that The Final Countdown as a sequel to clouds across the moon, and the galactic battle having moved to Earth has destroyed it and thus we are scurrying off to Venus to retreat.

    I will come back to this thread vis a vis my own metal past. Just safe to say I was the singer in a band called Stormchild for a while (until they threw me out for refusing to wear leather trousers).

    And I would certain;y agree that The Final Countdown is as good as the tracks you mention (except Jailhouse Rock with is an 8 or 9 for me).

  79. 80
    Steve Mannion on 27 Jan 2010 #

    A little bias towards your own time is surely unavoidable.

  80. 81
    Rory on 27 Jan 2010 #

    MichaelH @77: that’s an astute comment, but the trouble is that none of us in the Anglo countries knew anything about Europe apart from this track. I still have no idea what their other songs sounded like, particularly their stuff before this, but can only assume that they were metal and that this was an aberration. Their guitarist objected to it as such, apparently (shades of Berlin and “Take My Breath Away”).

    If all we knew of Van Halen was “Jump”, we would no doubt be saying they weren’t heavy metal either. David Lee Roth’s subsequent “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo” would have provided further evidence. But do those examples really mean that they weren’t, any more than this means that Europe weren’t?

  81. 82
    Tom on 27 Jan 2010 #

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qajDhtnpBhA – here’s the first single from their previous album. Hard rock, yes. Metal? Possibly. Borderline I’d say. No sign of TFC’s pop nous though.

  82. 83
    Rory on 27 Jan 2010 #

    Thanks, Tom. Sounds like standard-issue early-80s metal to me; I used to listen to plenty of stuff just like it. I wouldn’t have called it top-drawer metal, but it’s metal all right. “Hard rock” would have signified quite different vocal styles, guitar solos, the lot.

  83. 84
    Tom on 27 Jan 2010 #

    (actually that solo is definitely metal)

    As for the mark, what can I say? I really like it. Rather than marks creeping up it’s partly a reaction to a run of more or less dreary #1s though: was nice to have something with a bit of ridiculous gumption to review. Think of it as a 7 in the way King Of The Road, Quinn The Eskimo, In The Summertime, Yes Sir I Can Boogie and Pass The Dutchie are 7s if you like.

    Oddity aside you’ve picked a lot of the songs I underrated though! (I get another tilt at Jailhouse Rock I believe so a rare opportunity to revise the mark…)

  84. 85
    anto on 27 Jan 2010 #

    The observations about metal and its fans make a lot of sense.
    One of my best friends at school was a metal-head who was ridiculed by some for favouring Korn and Limp Bizkit (so imagine my bemusement when in my first year at college both groups became astoundingly popular).
    This friend was opinionated about what was heavy and what was not.
    He didn’t share my appreciation for Nirvana (not metal enough) and anything too overtly indie we tacitly agreed to disagree about.
    He seemed honestly surprised when I admitted to ownership of Pulp albums.
    However it was my metal-loving friend who pushed me towards my favourite ever group by loaning me some tapes of Manics album tracks.
    Previously a band who I liked better for their image than their songs
    the Manics appeared to have something in common with Guns n Roses but equally just as much in common with the Jesus and Mary Chain to bridge the gap.
    A few other groups we could agree on Smashing Pumpkins (who I always think of a making a kind of baroque metal), Placebo and Therapy?
    This to me points up the curious commonality between metal and indie fans and how it occassionly mingles as does the fact that two of the few weeklies still on the shelves are Kerrang and the NME.

  85. 86
    MichaelH on 27 Jan 2010 #

    I think Europe having been totally ignored in the UK before TFC is why I can’t think of them as metal. I don’t remember them being in Kerrang!, though of course they might have been. Certainly, I’d never even heard of them till TFC, and by virtue of my friends, I usually knew what was happening on the scene (albeit, that as they’d got older, they moved away from mainstream metal towards Nuclear Assault and the hardcore crossovers. Ot the hardcore continuum, if you prefer).

  86. 87
    MichaelH on 27 Jan 2010 #

    PS Also, this parrticular single shouldn’t be discussed as a metal song, regardless of the rest of their career – that’s what the opening line of my first post was meant to imply.

  87. 88
    MichaelH on 27 Jan 2010 #

    PPS Having listened to the previous single, I’d say this is False Metal. It’s got the skkkrng guitar, the wailing vocal – but the chord progressions are all pop. No sign of the devil’s interval.

  88. 89
    thefatgit on 27 Jan 2010 #

    #76 I kind of agonised over including any grunge or thrash in that list. I suppose I could have included Faith No More. The 90’s seemed quite a chasm although Steve Hillage was still active, I believe. Plenty of proggy metal in the noughties though.

  89. 90
    Conrad on 27 Jan 2010 #

    84, and “Are Friends Electric”, sort of…

  90. 91
    AndyPandy on 27 Jan 2010 #

    86: doesn’t the ‘ardcore/hardcore continuum refer to a nuum centred on hardcore as in rave music from the early 90s?

  91. 92
    AndyPandy on 27 Jan 2010 #

    70: Obviously “heavy metal thunder” wasn’t referring to a type of music but I have read that from the use of it by Steppenwolf (in a massive public-consciousness invading hit containing much that became to define the genre) onwards there existed a vague connection to a useful shorthand for hard rock.

    And of course it was just ONE of the signifiers (although signifying virtually alone) appearing in 1968 which when taken in context pointed to 1968 as the year when the ingredients that made up the metal brew all came together.

  92. 93
    koganbot on 29 Jan 2010 #

    apparently barry gifford (!) was the first to use it as a genre term

    #67 Don, are you sure? When and where? The earliest I know of in print is Mike Saunders in Rolling Stone in mid ’70 and in Creem in his May ’71 review of Sir Lord Baltimore – not that I’ve seen those reviews, just heard of them.

  93. 94
    taDOW on 29 Jan 2010 #

    acc. to wiki in some electric flag review for rolling stone in 68, describes them as “Nobody who’s been listening to Mike Bloomfield—either talking or playing—in the last few years could have expected this. This is the new soul music, the synthesis of white blues and heavy metal rock.” it sorta credits metal mike w/ cementing the term, bangs/creem w/ popularizing it.

  94. 95
    AndyPandy on 29 Jan 2010 #

    1968 seems to have been the “first” year for a few genres that never really died

    FUNK: although people often cite “Papas Got A Brand New Bag” in 1965 as the first funk track (but that’s almost like saying “You Really got Me” was heavy metal ie an extremely tenuous and abstract connection to the respective sounds the genres came to symbolise).
    But by 1968 we had the sound that dominated black dance music up until at least the mid 80s when after existing in tandem with hip hop for a few years until it finally died as a sound of young blacks.

    REGGAE: about as near as such things can ever be to one year indicating a definite starting point for a genre (as opposed to the ska and rocksteady that went before)

    RAP: a bit more controversial but the Last Poets are invariably cited as the first rap group and they began performing in 1968.

    re my 92: it should have read “although signifying virtually NOTHING alone”…don’t usually bother correcting my many typos but that one makes the whole thing complete gibberish

  95. 96
    Gavin Wright on 8 Feb 2010 #

    Re: #88, this sounds familiar – Nirvana were the key band in terms of my group of friends at school getting into music in a big way and their crossover appeal in terms of Kerrang!/NME meant that some of us went the indie route and some the rock (I was largely the former though partial to heavier stuff at times).

    Looking back it was perhaps a transitional era for the genre, the big names were those who had roots in thrash (about which me and my friends knew nothing) and who helped lay the foundations for nu-metal – bands like Rage Against The Machine, Fear Factory, Pantera and – later on – Sepultura’s Roots album and Korn’s first couple of records. I could never fully commit myself to the metal lifestyle – I never really liked the look for starters – but I admired it in a way and I always found myself annoyed at the snobbery displayed in the indie weeklies towards the music and its fans.

    I’m not sure what the early/mid-’90s equivalent of Europe-style pop/stadium metal would have been – Def Leppard and Bon Jovi still had hits around ’91/’92 but beyond that I’m stumped.

  96. 97
    CarsmileSteve on 9 Feb 2010 #

    early 90s pop/stadium metal you say?

    extreme, warrant, TIGERTAILZ (not that they got as far as a stadium, but deffo pop bless ’em)…

    debatable whether one could count thunder/quireboys/little angels/dogs d’amour as 90s pop metal, they were pretty much over once Nevermind came out…

  97. 98
    Steve Mannion on 9 Feb 2010 #

    What about RHCP and The Black Crowes? Not exactly metal but probably capable of filling some stadiums just before, around and still after the time of ‘Nevermind’. Depressing to think that RHCP were still some 10 years off their commercial peak at that point!

  98. 99
    Auntie Beryl on 1 Feb 2013 #

    The Wildhearts were the big mid 90s metal band in my shop.

    Amused at the Vampire Weekend inclusion in that list of US hair metal acts up there…

  99. 100
    DanH on 11 Jun 2013 #

    An alternate reworking of this song :-)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcrcuLmwjys

  100. 101
    hectorthebat on 20 Jan 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  101. 102
    Adam on 27 Mar 2015 #

    Ultimate example of the Joy of Schlock… can’t hear it without a vision of Gob Bluth, can’t consider it outside the context of Camp, love it anyway.

  102. 103
    Cumbrian on 5 Oct 2015 #

    Tom’s mentioned before that there’s generally not much opportunity to fit Popular to computer gaming – so I’m going to force fit one here, as this pops up on the recent Metal Gear Solid 5.

    The game itself is set in the mid-80s and one of the “collectibles” is a set of tapes that your character listens to on his Walkman, whilst infiltrating bases or doing various other terrorist activities (did I mention that this game has the odd premise of you playing a private military contractor/terrorist? It’m not going to sit here and say “makes you think” but it is a bit odd doing a bunch of stuff that is morally ambiguous as best, and at worst is outright facilitating Bad Shit). Anyway, there’s about 16 licensed tracks in the game, of which this is one, and it gives rise to one of the best moments in the game where you can chopper into a base to the strains of The Final Countdown. If someone on Youtube hasn’t scored the relevant scene in Apocalypse Now to TFC before now, it can surely only be a matter of time.

    Other tracks on the soundtrack are mostly well known pop hits (Kids In America, Rebel Yell and the like), though I hadn’t heard Midge Ure’s take on The Man Who Sold The World, which provides the opening theme music. It’s pretty effective in context.

    It’s the first MGS game I’ve played – it’s quite good – but the story appears as incomprehensible/batshit crazy as I was led to believe beforehand. I suspect I am missing some nuance here which might be mitigating that this guy appears to not only be building his own private army, but has, in the past, dabbled with getting WMDs. I’ve not finished it yet either, so there’s that. Still, if you’re into stealth and shooting stuff in computer games, you could definitely do worse. Best one of these games I’ve played in 20 years (i.e. since the original Goldeneye).

  103. 104
    Andrew Farrell on 5 Oct 2015 #

    It would strike me as a really weird soundtrack to Apocalpyse Now – too, er, apocalyptic.

  104. 105
    Cumbrian on 5 Oct 2015 #

    In the timeless words of Harry Hill: There’s only one way to find out!

    TFC would work well in a scene where Americans use music to try and scare the hell out of people – it would be an example of truth in movie making – they blasted Metallica at people when using rendition techniques during the most recent foray into Iraq. Metal strikes me as more likely to be scary as hell than Wagner.

    Mind you, I think TFC’s utter triumphalism and sense of apocalypse is probably why it would work better in a video game. Underscoring you running away from an exploding radar facility or whilst manning a minigun hanging out of the side of a helicopter, TFC is mightily effective.

  105. 106
    Phil on 5 Oct 2015 #

    I have very fond memories of playing a re-skinned version of Duke Nukem 3D set in Classical Greece while listening to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, a combination which worked well for reasons you can probably imagine. The PC I was using back then was smart enough to play a CD and game sound FX at the same time – while also rendering the game – without any noticeable lag on anything. I’m not sure my current Mac could do it – or rather, I’m pretty sure it couldn’t.

  106. 107
    Tommy Mack on 6 Oct 2015 #

    Worms on the PC: if you took the game CD out after you loaded the game, it played the audio CD in place of the game’s background music. In retrospect, Different Class and Stanley Road were probably not the best soundtrack of choice for this…

  107. 108
    Cumbrian on 6 Oct 2015 #

    I never had a PC for gaming, so I have missed out on this. I have often wanted to be able to plug my iPod or similar into the USB port on the Playstation and for a game like GTA to recognise it and play things through the car stereo – I believe you can do this on PC, so it’s my own fault for buying a more limited box.

    I used to turn the music settings down on Metroid and run around ice planets to the sound of Violator by Depeche Mode. That was pretty good.

  108. 109
    Kinitawowi on 9 Oct 2015 #

    The Final Countdown was also comfortably the best thing about Lego Rock Band.

  109. 110
    Gareth Parker on 18 May 2021 #

    Again another enjoyable enough track at #1. I prefer ‘Eye of the Tiger’ to this, but still, a 6/10 from me.

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