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The song was based on an old keyboard riff that vocalist Joey Tempest wrote as early as 198182, on a Korg Polysix keyboard he borrowed from keyboardist Mic Michaeli. In 1985, bassist John Levn suggested that Tempest should write a song based on that riff. Tempest recorded a demo version of the song and played it for the other band members. At first the members expressed mixed reactions to it. "When I first heard the synth intro to 'The Final Countdown', my reaction was: 'No, this is nuts. We just can't use this,'" guitarist John Norum said, "Thank God they didn't listen to me." "Some of the guys in the band thought it was too different for a rock band," Tempest said, "But in the end I fought hard to make sure it got used."
The song's lyrics were inspired by David Bowie's song "Space Oddity". The sound of the keyboard riff used in the recording was achieved by using a Yamaha TX-816 rack unit.
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