Per Gessle – Gessles nio i topp – Nine songs about flying

Last Saturday, Per Gessle and Sven Lindström discussed songs about flying in the new episode of Gessles nio i topp on Swedish Radio. Per starts the program with a tongue twister while eating a mazarin: ”Flyg, fula fluga, flyg! Och den fula flugan flög.” (Fly, ugly fly, fly! And the ugly fly flew.)

Per’s Top 9 songs about flying

9. Status Quo – Paper Plane
8. Oasis – Supersonic
7. Ike & Tina Turner – I Want To Take You Higher
6. Flamin’ Groovies – High Flyin’ Baby
5. 10cc – I’m Mandy Fly Me
4. The Byrds – Eight Miles High
3. Paul McCartney, Wings – Jet
2. Steve Miller Band – Jet Airliner
1. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Learning To Fly

No. 9 on the list is Paper Plane from Status Quo. Per says SQ is a fantastic band, but they hardly play them. Sven says it’s probably because they are similar to the Ramones, they are rarely played on the radio and they didn’t have a real chance to come out in the US. Per adds their music is not really radio friendly. SQ is Mats MP Persson’s favourite band and Mr. G says their first albums in the ’70s (Hello!, Quo, Piledriver) were great. Paper Plane was the first single released from Piledriver in 1972. Sven tells this is from the beginning of SQ’s 2nd chapter. They were formed in 1967, but they went from moderate pop psychedelia to general rock. Per says they had a classic shuffle, a typical beat in their songs and he also demonstrates it. Sven says it’s a mix of pop and blues, but the feeling is more pop. Per adds Rain and Caroline, they could also be Ramones songs. Sven tells they are actually more related than one would think. Pure pop melody. Status Quo were very successful in the UK, many of their tracks charted, but none of their songs hit the US charts.

Next on the list is Supersonic from Oasis. Per always liked this song. He mentions there was a fight between Oasis and Blur in the mid of the ’90s. Oasis had fantastic songs on their debut album. Sven agrees that their first two albums were very good, there was Liam’s great attitude, then something changed. Supersonic was their debut single in 1994. It was recorded in Liverpool, however, Oasis was from Manchester. The song was the result of a jam session and it was never remixed. Noel actually wrote it in the studio while the others were out for a break to eat Chinese food. Sven jokes and asks whether writing the song went so fast or the guys were away for too long at the Chinese restaurant. Per says they should ask Siri [a digital assistant for Apple devices]. They are laughing. The guys are talking a bit about the deteriorating relationship of Noel and Liam Gallagher before they play the Supersonic.

Next one is an old favourite of Per’s, I Want To Take You Higher from Ike & Tina Turner. Originally it was a Sly & the Family Stone B-side released in 1969. They also played it in the Woodstock movie. Sly & the Family Stone played unorganized, messy music and they had too long songs according to the guys. Ike & Tina Turner’s version of I Want To Take You Higher released in 1970 is more structured.

High Flyin’ Baby from Flamin’ Groovies is next. They are probably one of the most underrated bands in rock history according to Per. Sven agrees. Their best album was Teenage Head and it also had a terribly cool cover. Even Mick Jagger loved this album.  Sticky Fingers from The Rolling Stones was released a month later in 1971 and Jagger thought Teenage Head turned out to be better. Per thinks Sticky Fingers is The Roling Stones’ best album. Teenage Head was not as widely spread as it would have deserved. The genre, Americana is not used as a term since so long ago, but actually this music is a mix of country, blues, rhythm and blues, pop and rock ’n’ roll. High Flyin’ Baby is the opening song on Teenage Head.

I’m Mandy Fly Me from 10cc is No. 5. Kevin Godley and Lol Creme from the band are still alive and active. The song is from their How Dare You! album released in 1976, same year as Bowie’s Station to Station came out. There were 4 individualists in the band who made a collage of their ideas. They had 2 songwriter teams of 2-2 band members. According to Per, I’m Mandy Fly Me has a little The Beach Boys sound to it. It was the second single from How Dare You! Sven says the first single, Art for Art’s Sake is more his cup of tea. Per thinks it has brilliant 10cc lyrics: ”Art for art’s sake / Money for God’s sake”. Graham Gouldman is a fantastic songwriter, he already wrote so many great hits in the ’60s when he was very young. E.g. Bus Stop for The Hollies or Pamela, Pamela. After the song is played, Per jokes and says Sven can remove his hands from his ears referring to the fact that Sven doesn’t like 10cc. Haha.

Per picks a song that Sven likes too, Eight Miles High from The Byrds. The Byrds were flying to their England tour in 1965 and the idea came – according to the legend – when they landed at Heathrow. It’s a good story at least. The band did a phenomenal recording of this psychedelic pop song and they released it in the spring of 1966. Because of perceived drug connotations, the song was banned on many radio stations. Paranoia, Per says. He thinks The Byrds’ sound is still unique. They inspired many bands, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers among others. In EMH those Rickenbackers and that glittery soundscape are incredibly attractive. The Byrds’ unique sound is given by the great combination of bass, drums, guitar and even a twelve-string guitar which is special. But there is something more in there. Chris Hillman’s bass and Crosby’s guitar, as well as the vocal harmonies are phenomenal. The song was written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn and David Crosby. It’s timeless quality pop.

No. 3 on the list is Jet from Paul McCartney & Wings. Paul McCartney likes to write songs about his dogs, e.g. Martha My Dear. He had a labrador called Jet and that’s where the title comes from. The song was released on his Band on the Run album in 1973. The album was recorded in Nigeria, but Jet was recorded at Abbey Road, London. Per had Jet as a single and he thinks McCartney was wonderfully playful at the time. BOTR is one of the best solo albums a Beatle ever did, however, Per’s favourite McCartney solo album is Ram. Sven’s favourite McCartney record is his first solo album. He thinks the more instruments McCartney plays on a song it makes it more simple. Per say he is multitalented, he can play everything and in his own way. Very original. Mr. G thinks Paul is a fantastic drummer. He plays the drums e.g. in Back in the U.S.S.R. and The Ballad of John and Yoko. Sven asks Per how good he is as a drummer. Per says he is pretty lousy. Sven says drum is one thing, guitar is another. Per says he is happy that he can distinguish them from each other. Haha. Sven asks if he can distinguish different guitars, whether it’s a Fender or a Gibson. Per says there is a typical sound of Gibson Les Paul and there is a typical Rickenbacker sound or a typical Fender Telecaster.

No. 2 is Jet Airliner from the Steve Miller Band. Steve Miller is a common favourite of Sven and Per. He used Fender Stratocaster and Sven thought he used that on this song too, but it turned out he recorded it with an Ibanez. Mr. G says he could have picked Fly Like an Eagle as well. Sven likes that song too, but he thinks Jet Airliner is an unbeatable pop song. Per also thinks it’s really catchy. Sven always thought it was written by Steve Miller, but it is Paul Pena’s song. In 1973 Pena recorded an album which was produced by a former member of the Steve Miller Band who played the unreleased album to Steve Miller. He became hooked on Jet Airliner and recorded his own version in 1977. It was perfect for American radios. Sven mentions that Pena was blind and that his primary income became the royalties from this single. Talking about Steve Miller, Per says for him he was a singles artist. He had his own sound and he was kind of a prodigy. Mr. G bought his singles Rock’n Me, The Joker. Abracadabra was a big hit too. He also mentions that his brother had an album, Endless Boogie by John Lee Hooker and a very young Steve Miller was playing the guitar on it.

No. 1 is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Learning To Fly. Per thinks it’s a fantastic song with 4 chords that go round and round in a nevernding loop. The Heartbreakers took a new direction when Jeff Lynne started producing them. The cooperation started with the album Full Moon Fever that became Tom Petty’s big commercial break-through. They wrote a lot of songs together. Learning to Fly is from the album Into the Great Wide Open which includes many great songs. Per likes Jeff Lynne as a pop craftsman. He likes his productions, being it for his own band or Bryan Adams. The Traveling Wilburys sound more like Jeff Lynne than Tom Petty, Mr. G thinks. Learning To Fly is very simple, it has a damn strong text. When Tom Petty passed away, there was a clip of Bob Dylan on YouTube where he played a very touching version of Learning To Fly live on piano.

PG on a helicopter in 2013. Pic is taken from Roxette’s Facebook page