I had not thought I would write something about this, but today, a friend of mine – Stefy – reminded me how everything started for me. It is high time to celebrate a 30th year anniversary which, in truth, is not exclusive to Europe’s The Final Countdown album release, but to the Europe fans all over the world who began this very special journey with the band on that very day. I’ve got to tell you, though, this is kind of a hard hit to get in your face in the morning. I mean, I remember telling proudly to my friends (it must have been way back) that I’d been a Europe fan for over 16 years. It is still true of course and I could still say that but now that the final countdown is done, I cannot undo it: I can, however, say just as proudly that I have been a Europe fan for 30 years and counting.
I did not spend any money to buy more time, and yet, forever is definitely kicking me around! Is that a good thing? I surely hope so. I wrote a post on August 2013 entitled Europe | A love story. There I explain that after 16+ years I broke up with Europe. Little could I have known, as I wrote those words, how further from the truth I was. Love is love, I wrote about it a few days ago. There’s nothing to be done about it, set-backs or not, “love conquers all” (one way or another). They’ve always been there for me, unfailingly loyal.
So, here I am 30 years later and celebrating with I don’t know how many unknown people all around the world. This is mind-boggling!
Europe has been a family affair, for my mom got me The Final Countdown single and her eldest sister got me the album. Back then, I had no CD player and the LP player was in the living-room. It was my parents’. I remember having my dad play the album for me, over and over. My parents did not like the music, but they played it for me nonetheless. My cousin was also a fan back then and when she’d come to the South of France on holidays, we’d go to disc shops and look for Europe’s previous albums to just listen to them until we both bought them (that was after Out of this World I think). We even bought VHS although I had no VCR. A friend of mine (a few years later) who had a VCR told me I could come over to watch the videos. Good times!
Years later, my parents bought a VCR and as I was watching Europe The Final Countdown World Tour, my father was standing behind me and he said something that made me really happy then, he said as Kee Marcello was playing his solo including the famous Flight of the Bumblebee: “Yeah! They are pretty good despite their long hair.” He approved and that was it. The third part the solo made me want to dance this morning… Epic!
Europe convention in Parma
I had the good fortune of meeting Ian Haugland and John Levén in Parma, Italy, in 2002 (thanks, Stefy!) during a Europe convention. This was a memorable weekend for many reasons. I got to meet Stefy and Robbie for the first time: two Europe fans whom I had been emailing and chatting with for years. This and the convention were the highlights of my weekend. For old times sake, I will tell you what happened then.
I went to Charles De Gaulle airport and as I was about to board, the flight attendant told me that my suitcase was sent to the wrong plane. I had to wait some time for this incident to be solved, but my suitcase was finally found and put on the right flight. I got to fly first class as an apology for the inconvenience, which was pretty cool.
I had bought two bottles of red wine (one for John and one for Mic who was not attending the convention) and a gift for Ian’s wife. When I got my suitcase back, one of the bottles was broken and all my clothes were soaked in red wine. Already bummed, I took a cab to the hotel, which was a bit outside of town. When I realized what had happened in my suitcase, the hotel staff offered (not for free of course) to wash my clothes. I accepted for I had not much of a choice, now did I. The whole day was gloomy despite a shining sun high up in the sky. The restaurant at the hotel was closed, so I had to go to the city center to get a bite to eat. The hotel called me a cab and on I went out for dinner. The next day, I thought I’d have a walk in town, but I was alone and it was no fun. I found an Internet café and sat down at a computer to write an email to Göran Edman – with whom I had been corresponding for a while. I wrote to him telling him about my trip so far and I was very surprised when I received an almost instant reply. He was very comforting and I left the café in a better spirit than I had entered it. When the time came for me to go to the convention in the evening, which was really not close to where I was staying, I took a cab and met with Stefy and Robbie at the venue. At the entrance, there was a list of everyone’s name who had bought a ticket. My name was not on the list. Thanks to Stefy, I got to come in, anyway. I had the gifts with me and I think I had written a letter to Mic, although I am not sure of its content or if I actually gave it to Ian to pass it along. I was a weird and awkward fan… I can tell you that much at least. I gave the presents, got even to have my picture taken with Ian (which I later enlarged and put in a frame to hang on my wall; now it is in the basement I think). I spent my evening, standing on the side, smoking way too much, drinking a coke since I did not have enough money to drink anything else.
The good part or rather the best part of the evening was when Ian made this speech… he was strongly hinting that Europe was coming back. There was so much joy in the room, I felt all fuzzy inside. Brilliant moment!
Stefy, Robbie and I left in the same cab although we were not sure we could get a cab to come pick us up out there. We waited for some time, I don’t really remember how long. First stop was my hotel. All the doors and gates were locked. I buzzed and the night watch guy answered. He did not speak a word of English so he did not want to let me in. Stefy saved me yet again. I finally got in, went to bed and in the morning, I had to go back to the airport. I went to checkout but my credit card did not work. I had taken out too much money abroad, I had gone over the limit (of which I was not aware). What to do? Panic-stricken, I started crying. I was a fish outside the water. The hotel manager finally suggested for me to pay the invoice from France, and it’s what I did. They called me a cab and I asked to be driven to the train station. The driver told me that it was useless since there was a strike. There were no trains! He offered to drive me to the airport, but I told him that I had only 18€ in cash and I could not pay him more than that since my credit card was blocked (of course he barely understood English since he spoke only Italian, so you can imagine how long it took to understand one another). Train station it was, then. I waited… a long time and thought I’d miss my flight. I’ve never felt as lonely as during this weekend convention. In my bad luck, I had some good coming my way. A train came and I could travel for free – due to the strike – first class. All’s well that ends well and a day later, I sent a mail to Ian to thank him for the evening, despite the terrible weekend I had had, it had been a good one thanks to him and my friends. He answered a bit troubled that I’d had a bad weekend, asked for my address and sent me the Europe Best Of signed by all members of the band to cheer me up. Very sweet man!
30 years of doubts and soul-searching
Europe has been at the very core of most of my choices before I actually moved to Sweden. They were the rock I could not find in my own entourage and somehow it is a bit sad that it was like that, but I believe that everything happens for a reason – for good or ill – and this is true for Europe as well. When the band split up in the 90’s I was devastated, my rock was abandoning me, can you imagine. I did not give up on them though and as I said in “Europe | A Love Story” I widened my musical network. I discovered among others Göran Edman, Nikolo Kotzev, Mind’s Eye (to name a few) until the latter lead me to Xinema and my husband. Do you see the pattern here? Anyway, when I moved to Sweden, I received a mail from Mic that said “Welcome to Sweden”, sweet.
2004 the band is back and kicking! At first, I did not want to be interested but I was dying to listen to the music. I ultimately did and so my soul searching got extra help from Start From the Dark. All in all, it was and still is an amazing journey to be on. Europe is tagging along every step of the way, no matter how I have been or am feeling, neurotic at times but mostly grateful to them. This is hell of a ride, so Happy 30th Anniversary to you guys – that includes Europe, of course.