It’s now 3 weeks without Per Gessle’s Swedish radio podcast series and we thought you might miss some more ear candy while non-stop listening to Good Karma. You surely remember Per and Sven Lindström have a program on Nordic Rox called 12 Peaks. The essence of it is Per Gessle choosing 12 songs according to the actual topic and he and Sven are discussing them. Earlier we shared some of these programs and now it’s time to share another episode. The one about Mr. G’s 12 favourite Roxette songs. You can download the sound file (in 3 parts) from HERE (available until 26th July). Thanks a lot to Sven for sharing it with us!
At the beginning of the show Sven mentions Roxette were playing in Halmstad yesterday, which means they recorded this part of 12 Peaks on 23rd July 2015. They shortly talk about the XXX tour which started in 2014 and was to end in 2016 which is the real 30th anniversary year. They also talk about the comeback in 2009 and that since then they had been touring. Per says their shows are rather greatest hits concerts and they are fortunate to have a big hit catalogue with so many songs that people love all over the world. Mr. G says they have so many beautiful fans out there.
Getting down to business, the guys start talking about Per’s 12 favourite Roxette songs. Of course, it was very hard to pick 12 hits, having released approximately 60 singles over the years.
I’ve picked songs that I really like and songs that I think are easy-going for people to recognize as a typical Roxette song.
Mr. G’s 12 fave Rox songs:
- Opportunity Nox
- A Thing About You
- Sleeping Single
- It Must Have Been Love
- How Do You Do!
- What’s She Like?
- Wish I Could Fly
- Listen To Your Heart
- (Do You Get) Excited?
- The Look
The first choice is one of Roxette’s best power pop songs according to Per. Opportunity Nox. Mr. G says they couldn’t make a video for this, because of Marie’s illness and that’s why they did the cartoon thing. Per says ON is the kind of music he raised on, bubblegum meets T. Rex. Opp Nox is one of Sven’s favourites as well. He thinks it’s power pop at its best.
The next song is A Thing About You. Per and Sven talk a bit more about The Ballad Hits and The Pop Hits and Per says when they planned to do those 2 compilation albums, he wrote a lot of songs in those 2 categories. ATAY is the first song on The Ballad Hits and the video for that song was the last they recorded before Marie got ill. Mr. G says it was the end of Roxette Chapter 1. Per thinks it’s one his best songs. The whole recording is based on Per’s demo, the guitars, the vocals and they just added things to it. It has a sort of mesmerizing melody, which is hard to write for Per, but when it happens, he is very happy.
They get back to 1988 with the 3rd song on the list, Sleeping Single off the Look Sharp! album. It was one of the first songs they recorded for that album. They were just goofin’ around in the studio and tried to create what eventually became the Roxette sound. He always loved this track, because the production is so sparse and it really shows what a great singer Marie is. For Per it sums up that whole era of his life. It was the times when he started feeling everything was getting together for Roxette. They started the programming thing. They kept the guitars and the keyboards, but most of the rythm sections were made by drum loops and drum machines. It opened up a new dimension for them. They didn’t release Sleeping Single as a single, because they didn’t need one more single off Look Sharp! and they were touring and travelling a lot and wanted to record a new album, so Per was writing songs constantly for Joyride.
They got really lucky when they were asked to write a song for a movie. We all know he didn’t have the time to write a new song for that project, so he gave them It Must Have Been Love with slightly changed lyrics. Per says it was a perfect bridge for them between the Look Sharp! album and Joyride. It’s probably their biggest song still today. They didn’t go to see the premiere of Pretty Woman, but they had a screening in Burbank, CA. An earthquake was happening at the same time and the whole cinema was grooving a bit. For the first watching Per thought the movie was kind of soft. It didn’t blew his mind at all, but when he realized the potential of the film he saw it in different lights.
Talking about the XXX tour again, Sven asks Per if they get excited by playing these songs night after night. Per says they’ve been lucky to have these fantastic crowds everywhere and the positive energy and love and affection they get from the crowds every night is amazing. So they don’t consider it like ”Oh no, not another version of Listen To Your Heart!” It’s a blessing to have those songs. Mr. G says it’s hard to describe how much fun they have by playing these hits.
How Do You Do! became a huge hit in Europe (in Germany it was No. 1 for 12 weeks or so) and a big one in South America as well. It’s always a crowd pleaser. HDYD was recorded meanwhile touring with the Joyride album. The band hated Per for doing the album Tourism, because on all their days off he dragged them into the studio to record. Haha.
The next song on the list is off the album Crash! Boom! Bang!, which was recorded (most of it) in Capri, Italy. What’s She Like? is one of Roxette’s finest songs with Marie’s vocals. Per thinks it’s an outstanding track in their catalogue. He likes the melody, but he especially likes the way Marie is singing it. It’s just amazing. When they recorded Crash! Boom! Bang!, they already had the Roxette sound, the production in their heads, so they just had to get down to the songs. The album was about putting all the things together what they learned over the last 5-6 years. Marie is a great R&B and pop singer, but she is definitely one of the best ever ballad singers. Per says Marie is one of those persons who can sing the telephone book and it just sounds amazing, you believe her. It could be a B side: ”Marie Fredriksson sings the telephone book”.
After the CBB tour Roxette took a break for a couple of years, Marie had her second child and Per got together with Gyllene Tider. Then in 1998 they reunited to record Have A Nice Day. The first single off the album was Wish I Could Fly. It was recorded in Marbella, Spain. When Per wrote the song it was an experiment for him, because he never really worked with drum loops in the sense that he did in the studio. It was a side step from the classic Roxette sound. Mr. G says, when time goes by, you get a little tired of your style, so sometimes you need to drag in new people to get new blood in the system. When he listens to the album today, he thinks it sounds like a natural progression from CBB. The sound of pop music had changed and they started working with a new engineer, Michael Ilbert.
Sven and Per talk about The Look. Mr. G tells the story of how surprised he was that this song became their breakthrough hit. Their plan was Per being the songwriter and Marie the singer, but Marie had never found PG’s bubblegumish, power pop segment of songwriting too attractive, so all these songs fitted Per much better than Marie.
Regarding Joyride the guys talk about a radio convention in the US where Roxette went to present the new album. There was the Kuwait crisis back in those days and the single was held back for 6-8 weeks. After the radio convention , radio programmers came to Marie and Per to congratulate on their next No. 1, because they thought it was going to be a monster hit. And it did became their 4th No. 1. Sven and Mr. G talk about the title that it came from Paul McCartney when he said songwriting with John Lennon was a long joyride. They also mention the line ”Hello you fool I love you” which came from Åsa, leaving this note on Per’s piano in Swedish. Sven jokes Per should give a slice of the royalty to Åsa.
The next song is Breathe, which Per wrote for The Ballad Hits. It’s one of his favourite songs. Sven thinks it’s an easily overlooked song, but listening to it now it sounds really fresh. He jokes saying to Per to stop pointing that gun at him. Haha.
Listen To Your Heart comes next, their 2nd US No. 1. For Per the song sounds really American, the style of the music and the production. When they recorded it, they were just a Swedish band without an international career and they never thought it would become a No. 1, however, they strived for US success when they decided to do something really American in the studio in Stockholm. When they started recording Look Sharp!, Per made T-shirts: ”Today Sweden, tomorrow the world”. Back then it was just a silly joke. He asks Sven if he still has the tee. Together with IMHBL, LTYH is one of Roxette’s biggest songs. It got more than 5 million air plays on the radio in the US, same as IMHBL. Per says it’s amazing, Sven says it’s mindblowing and it helps to pay the rent.
Mr. G and Mr. L talk about the live performances again and Per explains in the past they tried to reproduce the albums live on stage, but nowadays it’s 100% live, without click tracks and all. Roxette live is a much more guitar-driven band, a much more rockier band than they are on the records. It’s much more fun for them to play like this and it’s much more organic.
(Do You Get) Excited? from the Joyride album is Per’s next choice. It’s a fantastic production by Clarence and it has great vocals by Marie. It was supposed to be a single in early 1992, but it never was. However, they did a beautiful video to it. There was a fusion going on between EMI and SBK Records at those times and the song just disappeared. They released Church Of Your Heart instead.
Per closes his 12 Peaks list with The Look. It’s still a big song for them and they just finished a remake of it (in 2015) with Addeboy vs. Cliff. It’s not that they ran out of new material, but they had the opportunity to be part of a commercial thing with a Swedish clothing company, KappAhl and they wanted to use The Look as the theme of their campaign. Per just felt if they do it, they should do a new version of it, so it sounds fresh and it doesn’t sound like 1989. But he realized he can’t do it himself, because he is still stuck in the old mode, so they needed fresh blood into the system. He gave the song to Addeboy vs. Cliff to think about it as a demo and do whatever they want. Then the guys came up with a backing track which Per thought was interesting. Marie, Per and their normal production team took the backing track, put guitars and keyboards on and vocals as well. So it sounds like The Look, but fresh. Sven says he sees Per keeps an eye on the new songwriting scene, keeping track of what’s happening. Per says he is really interested in what’s going on and in the record company where he is a co-owner they get a lot of music coming in. There is so much talent out there. Sven asks how it works when a songwriter who is doing it since 40 years teams up with a young talent to write songs together. Per replies it’s just fun to do that and he often gets comments like ”that’s so typical your style” when they start working together. In young songwriters Mr. G can hear that they are sort of developing their own style, but it takes time. You need to write a lot of songs, you need to find your taste, you have to follow your gut feeling all the time, you have to develop your own style in a natural way. Regarding The Look Per tells the story of how he wrote the song on the Ensoniq ESQ-1 synthesizer. He thinks when you buy a new instrument, you should write a song on it, because that’s the best way to learn how to play it. This is how The Look was born, while he was learning how to program the synth. He still has the synthesizer, by the way.