Rainy Portsmouth night brought back memories of Paradise City – Simon Carter

Europe - still rocking
Europe - still rocking

It is an image seared into my subconscious. One from a different era - culturally, without a doubt; musically, indisputably; and in terms of male hairstyles - hell, one thousand per cent yes!

The poodle-permed Joey Tempest, lead singer of Swedish pretty boys Europe, bounds onto the stage as the opening keyboard riff of The Final Countdown reverberates around the concert venue.

Simon Carter - also still rocking

Simon Carter - also still rocking

You know the song, of course you do. You'll pretend you don't like it, because it's not cool in 2018 to admit things like that, but if you were a teenager 30 or so years ago you probably did like it.

Guilty pleasures, air guitars and all that. Plus keyboards galore and a huge chorus that's virtually impossible to forget, even if you want to.

It hit number one in the charts, back in an age when the charts still mattered. Early December 1986, top of the pops for two weeks. So very close to being the Chrimbo No 1.

This was the mid-1980s in terms of melodic hard rock – Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Heart, Whitesnake, Cinderella, Def Leppard, Poison, Ratt, Faster Pussycat.

1980s band Def Leppard

1980s band Def Leppard

Lots of power ballads, ubiquitous guitar solos. Lots of make-up too, and that's just the blokes I'm talking about. Oh yeah, and a blizzard of hair. Lots and lots of it, and much of it permed and kept in place with enough hairspray to have opened up a hole in the ozone layer larger than Portsea Island.

I'm still talking about the blokes, by the way.

God, it was brilliant. The music and the hair, obviously, not the hole in the ozone layer ...

Here is a list of countries - Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. What did they all have in common? Their record-buying populaces, among others, all took The Final Countdown to number one.

Simon reliving his 1980s hair metal phase

Simon reliving his 1980s hair metal phase

Here is a number – 520,949,295. Well over five hundred and twenty million. That's the number of views the official video of The Final Countdown has on YouTube.

Okay, that number doesn't necessarily equate to great, critically acclaimed music – Europe aren't Radiohead or Gorillaz, I know that much. But it does equate to culturally acclaimed music. And with over five hundred million views – and rising, certainly if I've got anything to do with it! – The Final Countdown was a cultural phenomenon.

Ed Sheeran might not get out of bed for that figure – his Shape of You song has the best part of four BILLION views – but five hundred and twenty million views is pretty good, you have to concede, for a rock band with pre-internet glory days.

However, admitting to liking the above mentioned bands – as already stated – is not cool or hip these days.

In all honesty, it wasn't considered particularly cool or hip to like them when 'hair metal' – a dreadful umbrella term to gather the Europe clones under the roof of one specific genre –ruled the rock world.

Lest we forget, it really did just that. In October 1988 – almost 30 years ago – the three biggest selling albums on the planet belonged to Guns N Roses (Appetite For Destruction), Bon Jovi (New Jersey) and Def Leppard (Hysteria). And none of them ever had a number one hit in 25 different countries. Unlike Europe.

Unlike the band, therefore, that visited the Pyramids Centre in Southsea on a filthy, autumnal night last weekend.

For Joey Tempest and co are still recording, still touring, and still bringing their own brand of melodic hard rock to audiences old and new.

Predominantly old, judging from last weekend's crowd, and I say that as someone who in 1986 was 17 years old and desperately wanted hair just like Joey or Vince Neil (the lead singer in Motley Crue). It never happened at the time, but I got there in the end.

Almost three decades on, I ordered an ‘80s rock wig’ online to wear at retro festivals on Southampton Common. I looked pretty good in it, even if I say so myself ...

Joey’s poodle perm has long gone, however, as have the days when 'hair metal' – sorry – ruled the radio airwaves.

I've heard it said that all former fashions will one day be in vogue again. Flares are a classic example, I guess. And who'd have thought vinyl would ever have its time in the sun once more?

But I cannot envisage a day – really I can't – when men can again sport perms and not be laughed at.

It's one thing beards coming back into fashion for all the hipsters out there, but another thing entirely for blokes to wander merrily into a hairdressers, casually produce a picture from their back pocket of mid-80s period Jon Bon Jovi, and confidently announce to the person wrapping a sheet around their neck 'I'd like my hair to look like THIS, please'.

Hell will freeze over before Chris Waddle's (in)famous mid-1980s mullet is fashionable again.

Well, either that or you won't see a Brexit-related letter in The News ....

Back in 1986, Europe replaced Berlin's Take My Breath Away at number one in the UK charts.

That was a fantastic power ballad too, by the way, from the film that catapulted Tom Cruise to global fame.

The same Tom Cruise that played hair rocker Stacee Jaxx in the 2012 film Rock of Ages.

The likes of Catherine Zeta Jones, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand also had big roles in a script that celebrated the 80s Sunset Strip lifestyle that spawned the likes of the sleazeballs that made up Guns N Roses and Motley Crue.

The film also boasted a superb soundtrack – well, it was superb to my ears (but then my ears have never been the same since I went to a Skid Row concert in 1989; Christ, it was loud). 

But despite the appearance of one of the world's most famous actors, it was not remotely a box office success.

Perhaps the music put a lot of people off. Not everyone, I suppose, fondly remembers guitar histrionics, spandex trousers and hairstyles that no doubt contributed to the onset of global warming as much as I do.

Not everyone bought Twisted Sister singles, did they?

In the same vein, I guess there are people out there in the big wide world who never turn the dial up on their radios when the opening bars of Van Halen's Jump comes on.

Or the opening riff to Sweet Child O Mine, or the opening bars of Bryan Adams' Summer of 69.

You won't ever convince me the latter is not one of the best singalong songs of any decade, let alone the 80s.

If you haven't whacked the volume up on any of those, you obviously have no idea how to rock. I appreciate some of you might not want to ...

The bottom line is this – the 80s are a long time ago now, and some things will never be as popular as they were.

You can put ‘inner city rioting’, 'sitcoms' and ‘cabbage patch dolls’ in the same category as 'hair metal'.

Some bands from that era will be forever liked – London lads Madness are national treasures now, and fair play to them – but Sheffield’s Def Leppard will never be held in the same esteem even though they’ve shifted over 100m records worldwide.

I'd love to hear today's bands churning out power ballads like Bonnie Tyler once did – the video to Total Eclipse of the Heart is one of the most truly wonderful archive pieces of 80s culture you'll ever see, and it's a bloody good song too – or penning ditties with killer, catchy lyrics such as Living On A Prayer, Paradise City and, of course, The Final Countdown.

There is nothing wrong with a wonderful chorus you can warble along to, even if you’re rubbish at singing – my version of Summer of 69 scares small dogs (in fairness, large ones don’t really like hearing me belt out 80s rock classics either).

But today's bands don't churn out those ballads, and Coldplay or The Killers could never write anything as good as Paradise City even if they wanted to, so musically I will stay in the era I have most enjoyed.

I'm not asking you to join me, but if you like The Final Countdown I'm pretty sure you will.

All 80s rock wigs welcome, but you can leave the hairspray at home though ...