Sirius XM made some programs available online and a little Nordic Rox is also among those free programs now. Sven Lindström and Per Gessle recorded a Marie Fredriksson tribute for Nordic Rox. They did that in Stockholm in Live Nation’s office. They were sitting in the ABBA room and Sven was joking that it’s because everyone else wanted to be in the Roxette room, so they couldn’t go there.
Sven and Per are talking about Marie with mixed feelings. Per tried to pick songs that for him represent what Marie was all about in Roxette. It’s a big palette of knowledge that she gave to the band. Sven says Marie and Per are a bit like opposites to each other. Per says they shared rehearsal studios, Per was in a band, Gyllene Tider and Marie was in another band. She was screaming and shouting and she was a little bit like a hippie. They were pretty different. Per was very organized and ambitious while Marie was an ”anything goes” type.
Sven asks Per if he remembers a specific moment when he realized Marie’s potential. Per says it was day 1, when he heard Marie singing. She was singing like no one else, even back then. Per’s band took off and became successful pretty quick and they invited Marie to sing on a Christmas song for them. Later Marie left her band and started a solo career and she ended up at the same record label as Per and his band were at, EMI Records in Stockholm. Sven tells Marie had several bands before her solo career. Strul and MaMas Barn. He says Marie and Per socialized in Halmstad. Per says they were very good friends. They never had a romance, they were more like sister and brother. Marie looked up to him because he was successful and in the music industry and Per liked her because she had this voice and she was a wonderful, very generous person. They were just hanging out, watching Dynasty on TV in Per’s apartment, playing the piano and the guitar and started writing songs together. In Roxette they very rarely wrote together, but in those early days they wrote together. They were both based in Halmstad, but Marie moved to Stockholm pretty quick. She started a relationship with GT’s producer, Lasse Lindbom and they started writing songs together and that became her first two solo albums in the early 80’s.
Since Marie and Per were very good friends, they shared this dream to do something together one day. Maybe do something in English together, because they both wanted to work internationally. So eventually, in 1986 Per wrote a song and they released it in Sweden and it became a big song for them in the summer of ’86. It was Neverending Love. They released it under the name Roxette that is coming from a Dr. Feelgood song. Because Neverending Love was a big success, EMI wanted them to make an album, so in no time Per translated 12 of his songs he had written in Swedish. He intended to release those on his third solo album which didn’t happen in the end. That became the first Roxette album. I Call Your Name is the song Sven and Per play on Nordic Rox and Per says the original Swedish title of it was Jag hör din röst (I hear your voice). It was one of the first tracks they recorded for the album. For Per it was like a turning point, because then he realized that something was happening to his music. They had a new producer Per never worked with before, Clarence Öfwerman. Per says Clarence made his songs danceable and groovy. Per comes from the power pop scene and it’s always been a lot of guitars, but it suddenly became different. And also the way Marie was singing, it was like a totally new chapter for Per. Mr. G thinks I Call Your Name is a really cool song. Their ambition was that Marie would sing and Per would write, but they also had the idea that both of them sing in songs. Most of the songs became duets this way. Which is sort of the Roxette trademark.
After ICYN Sven tells Marie and Per had T-shirts with the slogan ”Today Sweden, tomorrow the world”. Per says they were pretty ambitious. With the shirts they were having fun. They always liked slogans like what Stiff Records, an indie label in the 70’s had. E.g. ”If they’re dead, we’ll sign them.”
The guys get back to Marie’s vocal abilities. Per says he always felt very limited by his own voice. In Gyllene Tider he was the lead singer and it sounded OK, but he just felt that he could write bigger songs than he could sing himself. So to write songs for Marie was liberating from a songwriter’s point of view. The more the years went by, the more he customized his songs for Marie’s abilities, e.g. It Must Have Been Love.
The next song they play is Fading Like A Flower. Per says it was a big song for them and he chose this because it’s a typical example of a standard song. It’s Marie who makes this song work, the way she sings it. Also how it’s produced. Per thinks it’s not the best song in the world. When he sings the demo, it’s boring. Marie had this enormous capacity that she could sing the telephone book and make it interesting. It’s very rare. Per says he was very lucky as a writer to have that voice to work with. Looking back now, they did 10 studio albums and he wishes that Marie would have sung everything with Roxette. Per was singing a lot of songs with Roxette as well, but Marie was such an amazing singer. Especially in the early days. They were not thinking about keys or modulations, they just did it and she was singing it.
After FLAF Sven asks Per if there is a way to describe Marie’s qualities as a singer. Per says she was a very complete singer, she could basically sing anything. It’s very rare that you can find a singer who can deliver a power pop song as well as a huge ballad. Some people are really great ballad singers, others are amazing for pop music, but it’s very rare that you find both ways. Marie could do anything. Per tells when they did MTV Unplugged, Marie was singing Aretha Franklin, but on tours they also did covers of other bands’ songs, because Marie could sing anything. Per was much more limited. From a writer’s point of view it was liberating for Per to be able to write songs like The Look, Joyride or Sleeping In My Car, which are basically 3-chord power pop songs, as well as to be able to write more sophisticated songs like Listen To Your Heart or It Must Have Been Love. Marie could do anything. Per says that compared to him, Marie also had a great pronounciation. One couldn’t really tell that she wasn’t English or American. Per adds that Marie was not inspired all the time, but when she was, everything went very quick. She just made the song her own and made the lyrics her own and you could identify with her immediately. It was just a pleasure.
The next song is Stars. Sven says it was an unusual direction, because if he thinks back, Marie was more of a blues girl. Per says she loved blues and jazz. Sven jokes that Per doesn’t have many blues notes in his body. Per laughs and says he comes from the world of The Beatles, The Monkees and Tom Petty, the 3-chord pop songs and new wave. But he thinks that was the good thing that Marie took his songs and gave them a new vitamin injection. She came in from a different angle.
Getting back to Stars, and the album, Have A Nice Day, Per says they had a couple of years off after touring and promoting for 7.5 years. Marie had her second child, Per made a solo album and worked with Gyllene Tider too. Then he started writing for HAND which was recorded in Marbella, Spain. Time went by and the whole dance music scene has changed a bit, so they tried to do different things. They used different musicians. Stars is a little bit more dancey, Pet Shop Boys-ey. Sven says Europoppy. Per says it’s like the European dance scene at the time, which was pretty far away from the classic Roxette sound, but Marie could deliver that too. Mr. G says he loves that song because it got a great melody and Marie is just the greatest on this one. Sven says the song has a fun, unusual, special video to it. Per tells it was the first time they worked together with Anton Corbijn and shooting the video was hilarious. Regarding the album Per adds that he wrote so many songs in different directions, so HAND got dance songs, rock songs, acoustic songs, a little bit of everything. He thinks it’s because he spent so many years writing, he couldn’t really decide. Haha.
After Stars, this part of the Marie tribute program is over on Nordic Rox, but Sven says they will be back with more episodes.
Unfortunately, I can’t add a direct link to the program, but search for Nordic Rox and go 5 ”shift forward” into the show to hear Sven and Per talking.