Alan Hunter meets Per Gessle on ’80s on 8 on SiriusXM

While Per Gessle was in Miami in January, Alan Hunter – one of the original five VJs on MTV – invited him on his show on ’80s on 8, SiriusXM.

Alan is thrilled to be here with a special guest from a much beloved ’80s band. He has one half of the Swedish duo Roxette, Per Gessle on the show. He tells Per what a pleasure it is to see him. Per is just as happy, he says it’s great being here.

Alan feels like all of their kind of MTV-centric, ’80s-centric family went through this thing together back in the day and here they are a few years later still alive and well. Per says, thank God. Alan also says Per has his ever present boyish charm. He is curious what the deal is, whether it’s the hair or just good living. Haha. Per says he is actually celebrating his 65th birthday while he is here in Florida. Alan says it’s a good place to celebrate it, as long as you don’t have to wear a thong on South Beach. PG says he tries to avoid that. He is feeling good. He has been very lucky in his life, having a great career and no big health issues. So he just keeps on keeping on.

Alan says Per comes from a healthy country, at least he perceives it. America has its issues, but Alan thinks people in Sweden take care of themselves. Per doesn’t know what Alan is referring to actually, but he thinks it’s a different ball game in Scandinavia. He isn’t really leading a healthy lifestyle though. He drinks too much wine and eats too much. Alan says the debate is out on that wine thing.

Alan wants to throw a few stats out. He’s got an initial thought about Roxette. Nineteen Top 40 UK hits, four number ones in the US, 80 million albums worldwide. This number is astounding to a lot of people who even love and know Roxette. Alan is not comparing Roxette and ABBA, but it’s the same sort of American-centric exceptionalism. It’s their arrogance related to these bands from somewhere else. He doesn’t think they have appreciated ABBA over the years until someone told them how huge they are and then they go and see their show. People who are in the business that loved Roxette on MTV, they know the songs, but Alan doesn’t think they realize how huge Roxette is internationally. Per thinks the problem here in the States is that they didn’t tour that much here in those days. Lots of people know the songs, they know Listen To Your Heart, It Must Have Been Love, The Look, Joyride, Dressed For Success, but they don’t necessarily know that it’s the same band who is playing all those songs. Per says it’s easier for them in Europe, where they toured so much or Australia for that matter, even South America. They toured so much, playing football stadiums in those days. There everyone knows everything about Roxette, but it’s different in the US.

Alan says the power of live shows, it was very MTV-centric back in the ’80s. People had nothing to do, but turn on their televisions. Of course, that did increase live performances as well. The two were aided by each other, but now more than ever, acts are all about playing live. Per thinks they had a big advantage in the ’80s, because they came from a live scene in Sweden before Roxette made it big internationally. So they knew how to treat a crowd, they knew how important that was. It was always fun for them to play live gigs, because they knew they were good. Marie was an amazing front person and an amazing singer, ad libbing every night. They were just as much a live band as they were a band working in the studio.

Alan thinks we get that same vibe from a lot of UK bands and other bands from Europe that they appeared on MTV – like Duran Duran or U2 – as poster boys for the video age, but they had been playing the clubs, they had been paying their dues, they knew how to play live. That was almost even different from some of the American acts that came up during the golden era of video.

Per says it was fun to be part of it, when MTV happened and the video became so crucial to illustrate your songs. That whole circus was just amazing to be part of it. He remembers they did the video of Listen To Your Heart on an island in Sweden. Coming back to the States, people asked them if they built the castle just for the video. Haha. It was like a 17th century castle. There were no budgets and anything was possible. Alan says that was the good thing about the early days of video, you didn’t need a million-dollar budget.

Here they play Listen To Your Heart.

Alan says Marie was Per’s late great collaborator in Roxette and they all mourned with Per when she passed away five years ago. Both Marie and Per had their burgeoning solo careers in Sweden and in Europe, but they had a very funny introduction to the United States via a little radio station in the Midwest. Alan says everyone knows that story well, but asks Per to tell it again. PG tries to make it short. They were touring in Sweden and there was an exchange student from Minneapolis in Sweden in the summer of 1988. He became a big Roxette fan and he went back to Minneapolis, bringing with him the Look Sharp! album, which was the new album from Roxette at the time. There was a radio show at the KDWB in Minneapolis where listeners could request songs or they could bring their own records to the reception and have them played on the radio. So he did just that. He left the Look Sharp! album at the reception. They didn’t play it, they didn’t listen to it. So he wanted it back like 2 weeks later. And by fate, the program director of the radio station, Brian Phillips was there when he took the record back. Brian noticed the record sleeve. It was like a newspaper, sort of a very special sleeve for the album. So Brian Phillips, the program director got really interested in the sleeve and he asked the guy what it is. They guy said it’s a Swedish band. He wanted the radio to play it, but they didn’t. Then Brian thought let’s listen to it and he played the first song of the album. That was The Look. So they started playing The Look on the radio. Alan says, so if it had been another song that was the first track on the album, that might have been another hit for Roxette. Per says, or maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all. It’s a crazy story, but it’s a snowball from that radio station. Alan says things bubble up here in America. They have had that story told with many other artists. A local DJ likes it and it builds a grassroots following. Nowadays it’s social media as a grassroots.

Alan is curious what was that first moment when a record company person or somebody in Roxette’s group said, hey, you are about to take off in America. If it was overnight. Per says he was having lunch in Stockholm and a friend of his who worked at Warner Music at the time came over with a Billboard magazine and he asked if Per had noticed they were in the charts. This radio chart was called Bubbling Under. It was on two radio stations, KDWB and somewhere else, it said Roxette, The Look. Per was surprised, because that was an album track, not even released in the States. He was wondering how on earth this happened. It took about a couple of months and they were on the charts before the song was commercially released. But you couldn’t get on the Billboard Hot 100 chart unless you had a commercial release, so they rush-released it and it entered at No. 50 or so. Then it took eight weeks to go to No. 1. Alan can’t remember if the video was shortly thereafter or a part of that mounting campaign, but he thinks it was around the same time. It appeared on MTV and they were like, holy cow, another Swedish band. They didn’t play ABBA, but they did play Roxette. In the spring of 1989. That’s a great story. Then from then on, it took off.

But The Look is not Roxette’s biggest hit. Still to come was the movie. Alan asks Per what happened when Hollywood started to call in 1990. PG says that was funny as well. They had four big songs from the Look Sharp! album. The Look, Dressed For Success and then Listen To Your Heart became another No. 1 for them and Dangerous became No. 2 on Billboard. So at the time they were a pretty hot band and so they got this request. He was having lunch in Los Angeles and EMI Records asked Per if he could write a song, soundtrack to a movie. David Bowie was in there and Natalie Cole and lots of great artists. Good company, Alan says. PG agrees. Per told EMI he couldn’t do that, because they were travelling, promoting Look Sharp! all over the world. They were heading for New Zealand or something. But he said they had an old Christmas song from 1987, which had only been released in Sweden. It’s a great song, a ballad. He could rewrite the lyrics a bit and they could do an updated version of it. That was It Must Have Been Love. Mr. G sent the song to them and they loved it. The movie was of course Pretty Woman. At the time it was called 3000 or 3000 Dollars, because he hires the girl for 3000 dollars. PG remembers he got the script to the movie. It was really thick and he threw it away at Los Angeles airport. He didn’t want to read it. At the time it was a low budget movie. Roxette were like, OK, let’s do it, but it wasn’t a big thing. And then of course it became the biggest song of their career.

Here they play the song that started the whole Roxette journey in America, The Look.

Alan says he could talk forever about the first half of Roxette’s career, but there are a bunch of things happening now and he wants Per to prioritize them for the listeners. He says Per had a European Tour under the banner of Roxette, carrying the flag. He is curious about how it went and what we are looking forward to in 2024. Per tells Roxette with Marie, they called it quits in 2016. Marie passed away in 2019. In 2018, Per did a Per Gessle’s Roxette tour on his own in Europe and he just released a live album from that tour.

For the future, what’s special this year is that there is the opening of the Roxette musical in September, starting in Sweden. They will be going to at least all over Europe within the next couple of years. Alan says the musical is titled after Roxette’s 1991 album, Joyride. He says he has been immersing himself in it over the past couple of days, kind of reliving how much fun he had with that album and how good it was. Per thanks for it. Alan says for him, Marie never sounded better, she wails. What a voice she had. Alan thinks some people maybe missed that with the pop quality of The Look and the fun videos that we saw of Roxette, you don’t realize what a great singer she is.

So, Joyride is the name of the musical. Alan asks if it is a Broadway stage type of musical. PG says it is. It’s based on a book called Got You Back by English writer Jane Fallon. It’s a fun story with a happy ending. It’s got loads of the Roxette stuff in there. Per thinks if the stage version will be as good as the script is at the moment, it’s going to be a big one. It’s still seven months away though. Alan says it’s in development now, kind of a jukebox of Roxette songs. Alan wants to know if Per is writing any original stuff for it too. Maybe around the edges they will say, look, we got a hole here, you need to write something. Per says they are talking about that, but at the moment there is nothing new. Alan says Per will just sit there and collect the royalty checks when it becomes a huge worldwide hit. The guys are laughing.

Alan says they have had a couple of good collaborations recently. He thinks Roxette’s music is meant to be remixed over and over again. He loves the Galantis version of Fading Like A Flower, a song from the Joyride album. It’s a beautiful rendition according to Alan. Per thought that was really cool as well. PG thinks it’s nice to do that, because there are always new generations, new people come every year and are interested in what you do. Popular music is always changing and that’s the way it should be. Some artists think they don’t want to be part of that, it’s the original that counts. But a song is never really finished, it just has its own life. It’s the same thing when you play live. You try to play it differently every time. Even though the basic thing is the same, it always becomes a new thing every night. Alan thinks that’s the beauty of modern pop music. He has younger kids who listen to modern pop music and the cross fertilization and the collaboration with older artists, e.g. Sting playing with Pink and Marshmello. Alan thinks it’s amazing. It’s a nice homage to the music from decades ago, and of course it should still live in whatever format.

Alan says there was also an Alle Farben remix of Listen To Your Heart in 2023. He wasn’t familiar with that DJ before, but he thinks that remix was gorgeous. Per tells he is a German guy, very different from Galantis, but he is very good. He did a great job, because Listen To Your Heart is not that easy to do tempo-wise. It’s good for the clubs, Alan says. Roxette is back in the clubs, if you will. In the late ’80s they were doing The Look and it sounded great when it was loud and you were dancing to it. Alan is glad Roxette is back and he is glad Per is here and he is waving the Swedish flag.

Alan asks what is in the water in Sweden, by the way. He remembers hearing a producer several years ago working on a project and they were talking post ABBA and how everybody then wanted to see what was happening in that part of the world. The music that was being produced in Scandinavia was just nuts, all these young artists going there. So Alan asks Per if there is something still in the water there. PG thinks that the whole Swedish pop wonder is declining a bit, but they had an amazing decade. Even more than a decade. Max Martin, Shellback, all those writers, producers and also artists, The Cardigans, Robyn, The Hive, so many Swedish bands. It was a golden era. The music business and the industry changes all the time, so you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Maybe that was the golden window for Sweden.

Alan is curious if Per sits around waiting for a muse, hoping for a muse. He wants to know what’s the inspiration for Per. If it is the musical that’s coming up or he wants to make an album of new music, or to play live. Per says at the same time he had been working with Roxette, he had been working in Swedish and also in English with other projects. Just as they speak, he has just finished a Swedish album that’s going to come out this year as well. He is going to do a lot of promoting and gigging with that Swedish album. He laughs and says they won’t notice it here in the US. Alan asks Per to give him one title in Swedish from that new album, but PG doesn’t share any titles, because there are so many Swedish people listening to this show. He doesn’t reveal anything, but the first single will come out at the end of February.

Finishing the interview, Alan says it’s always fun to catch up with Per and thanks him for stopping by. Per says it’s always nice to meet Alan.

As the last Roxette song, they play Dressed For Success.

Per Gessle on DJ 50 Spänn podcast

Per Gessle was a guest on Tommie Jönsson’s DJ 50 Spänn podcast the other day. He is introduced as a person who loves pop music incredibly. Tommie knows Per has some stuff going on in 2024, e.g. a new solo record. He asks if it is in Swedish. Per says it is and it’s his first Swedish album with new material since 2017. Tommie is curious how Per decided that now is the time for a Swedish solo album. PG says it’s probably his restlessness that determines his ADHD. The guys are laughing. The last thing Per did was Gyllene Tider’s Hux Flux album last year and before that it was PG Roxette in English. So now he thought he had written songs that would fit a Swedish record and he had an idea. There are quite a lot of duets on this record and that’s something Per didn’t really have before. He has sung duets before, of course, there was Roxette, of course, but now he wrote songs in a different way. It feels like – now that he is in his retirement age – he has to find some kind of new angle. A new angle every time, so that you can kind of focus on yourself in a new way. Per says it often happens that you feel like you are repeating yourself a lot. It’s very easy to repeat yourself.

Tommie asks PG if he can tell who he sings duets with. Per says it depends on when Tommie broadcasts this program, haha, but he doesn’t want to share it yet. All he can say is that there are a lot of Swedish artists that Tommie has probably heard of.

Tommie mentions that there is a lot more going on: there will be a musical based on Roxette songs, there will be a feature film based on the true story of Gyllene Tider. He wants to know how much Per is involved in these projects. Per laughs and asks it depends on what scale they are talking about. Mr. G says when it comes to the GT movie, it’s based on his good memory. All 5 of them thought that it should be a movie that is based on their good memories. It’s quite unusual to make a film based on a band that actually still exists. Tommie reminds Per that The Beatles made a movie when they were still around. Per agrees, but he says it was loosely based on that.

It’s more about how Per went to school and met Mats and founded Grape Rock, which became Gyllene Tider. It’s not a documentary, not a kind of tribute to Gyllene Tider’s great, long career. The film ends when Sommartider is released in 1982. It’s about 5 crazy guys, small town boys who have fun together and their strange fate.

Tommie asks Per if there is anything new coming under Mono Mind. There is nothing planned, Per replies. Mono Mind released an album in 2019, but it already started in 2013, so it was a long project. From the beginning it was quite secretive. As PG said before, he has to have a new angle on every project he does. The new angle here was to do modern pop music, but he was so sick of his voice that he felt like he was limiting himself. That’s why he loves working with other singers, because they can make his songs so much better. He felt so limited by his voice so they created this fake voice. It was Christoffer Lundquist who managed to do it. Per sang a fifth down and then they fixed everything on the computer. PG made the melody on the computer, in the program itself.

Tommie says Per has something that Neil Young doesn’t have. He talks about this weird synth album, Trans. Even if Neil Young sings with such a robotic voice, you can immediately hear that it’s Neil Young. Per agrees. He says the idea for Mono Mind was that there is this made up, fake band with 4 names and 4 characters. There were cartoon characters, a bit like Gorillaz, but more than that. Each character got a biography. The first single was Save Me A Place, sung by Dr Robot – as Per called himself back then – and … He can’t remember the character name of the girl who sings with him. Tommie can’t remember either, he blames it on the fictional pop stars. Anyway, the song was No.1 on the US dance charts for 6 weeks. It was fantastic. It got a lot of radio plays, but there is a big difference between ending up on the dance charts and ending up on the Hot 100. Per thinks they were just Bubbling Under Hot 100. Tommie says maybe next time. Haha.

The guys get down to the classic DJ 50 Spänn task of digging up 5 used records without breaking the budget ceiling of 50 Swedish crowns. They went to Nostalgipalatset in Stockholm. Tommie asks Per how scary it was to find himself there. Per laughs and says it just happens that you go to a second hand shop and you find your old Gyllene Tider records there. He wasn’t scared, he was just wondering if he could find albums that he has a relation to. He found actually quite a lot more records that he liked than he thought.

Tommie says the task was to get 5 records, but Per went to the checkout with a bundle that was maybe 15-20 centimeters high. Haha. What Per thinks is interesting about the idea for this program is that you go to any record store and look for records, you’ll come out with stuff you like, but maybe not the records you would have played or picked if you asked him to pick 5 favourite songs. It’s a different angle here too.

Tommie says one of the reasons why he is running this idea is that he has noticed that most of the people get total anxiety from listing their 5 favourite songs. Per gets that question often in different contexts, what your favourite records are, which records mean the most, bla bla bla. He decided that he would only answer it by day form. The thing that just pops up in his mind right now. This morning when he woke up the first song he heard was I’m Crying by The Animals, so he would say it’s his favourite song today. Maybe it wouldn’t have even popped up in his memory.

Tommie realizes that the intro is very long, it feels like they already have some kind of Emerson, Lake & Palmer intro, but he tries to make itt he Gessle way and get to the chorus, fairly quickly in the program. So here comes the first single, which Per already had in his collection and it sounded amazing when it came out. It’s a huge hit and it still sounds amazing. It’s Pop Muzik by M, Robin Scott.

Tommie asks Per if he also feels that there is something ironic about this song, a crooked smile. Per says it feels like Robin Scott has done this with sarcasm. About the production, PG thinks it swings so incredibly much. This synth music that was made at the end of the ’70s, he still likes it. It has a great dance groove.

Tommie is curious what Per feels when he listens to this song from 1979. Mr. G thinks it’s great pop music. What he loves the most about pop music is the romanticism around pop music that you grew up with. This song brings him to that universe. Tommie says when he listens to it in detail then he could almost hear that this is some kind of manifesto. Robin Scott sings „everybody made it, infiltrate it, activate it”. He thinks you should just take pop music and infiltrate it in some way. PG says in the ’60s and ’70s pop music had a position in our society that it doesn’t have today, at least he feels so. When The Beatles and all that happened, pop music, fashion, film, theatre, newspapers, books, TV, long hair on guys, it all belonged together in some kind of teenage revolution. It reflected our time in a different way. After all, pop music always reflects its own time. That’s why it’s called pop music. When you think of 1979, punk happened, it came and went and then disco happened. The ’70s were a hot pot of lots of music styles. This song here is a tribute to everything altogether.

Tommie asks Per what he thinks made him get so incredibly high in pop music. PG thinks it was something so tragic that he thought pop music and this pop universe had everything that he didn’t have in reality. He was a bit of an overweight nerd with glasses and lived a bit on the fringes of society. He spent all his waking hours sitting in headphones and listening to Ummagumma by Pink Floyd, for example. Mr. G says when he works with Christoffer Lundquist and Clarence Öfwerman as intense – they are prog rockers, that is. They love Yes and Gentle Giant and everything like that. Per can understand it, because he listened to James Harvest, Moody Blues, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He loved their Trilogy album. So it’s not strange to Per and you can actually hear that in his music too. For better or worse, he has quite different themes, even if it’s pop music, maybe the whole song ends with a brand new theme code. It might be a whole new little theme. Per likes moderations and that something new is happening all the time. However, over the years he has shrunk his songs down. If you look at his previous stuff, there are a lot of songs that are almost 5 minutes long. Billy is longer than 5 minutes, but that’s a long story, so it needs more time. But these days, he is cutting things down. He often records longer versions, then he cuts it down when he starts working on the production. Tommie is curious if it also happens the other way around, that songs become longer. In jazz, the songs become all of a sudden 7-8 minutes long. Per says that might be the next step for him. Haha.

Getting back to the band M, or the person M, it’s a bit mysterious. Tommie tells that Robin Scott went to art school with Malcolm McLaren in the late ’60s. McLaren started this clothing boutique, SEX, but Scott was not interested. He was doing a bit of folk rock, he produced some pub rock and worked with R&B band Roogalator. He worked for Barclay Records in Paris and in 1979 somehow he got by this song with some session musicians and for some reason it became a big hit in England. And then he disappeared pretty quickly. He went to Kenya and Tanzania and started recording with a band called Shikisha. Very weird, Per thinks. Tommie is very grateful that this song exists, because he loves it. It’s an earworm and is stuck in your head for weeks. Per says there are more songs that will erase this one.

Tommie says, when you make a music program, it should swing properly between years, genres and maybe also level of coolness. The time has come for the next song. Per says it’s one of the best singles that have been made in Sweden, Stefan Rüdén’s Sofia dansar go-go. This is fantastic music, he thinks. So well they play. Tommie wants to know what is so great about it. The text, PG thinks. He always loved it. Tommie says it’s like the musical or maybe lyrical equivalent of Benny Hill. Per agrees and he mentions this line: Alla tycker hon är läcker när hon vickar på sin häck är. It’s a fantastic rhyme, Mr. G thinks. It’s a bit like hembränt and Rembrandt in the Gyllene Tider song. The guys are laughing and Tommie says it’s a really good one. PG says he had one of his big moments on old Arlanda, when a man came up to him in a trench coat many, many, many years ago and said „hello, do you recognize me?” Per didn’t recognize him, so the man said, „I’m Stefan Rüdén”. Mr. G got a little star struck there. He didn’t ask for his autograph, but he is on Per’s top 5 list among the great ones he met in his life. There is Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and some others and Stefan Rüdén.

The song came out in 1972, so Stefan fought with Ziggy Stardust and Marc Bolan. Tommie says it feels that this music doesn’t fit in there in its time, but you shouldn’t forget that a lot of top Swedish schlager music continued to sound like this for a very long time. Tommie asks Per if he remembers this song from when it was on the Swedish charts for quite a long time in 1972-73. PG has no direct memory other than that he has always liked it. As a lyricist, he thinks this is fantastically written. This is Povel Ramel’s class, Hasse Alfredson’s class. Ewert Ljusberg wrote the text. In other words, it’s very, very well written and funny. And the swing and the great melody with a text like that, it’s kind of unique, according to Per.

Tommie thinks it’s an earworm too. This one can get stuck in the head pretty hard too. It’s originally a Danish song called Fut i fejemøget. Tommie is curious when was the last time Per translated a foreign song into Swedish. Per says it was a long time ago, he thinks. When he started writing songs, he translated Cygnet Committee by David Bowie. When Tommie heard this in an interview, he was wondering what it was in Swedish. Per can’t remember that, but from the same album he also translated Memory Of A Free Festival. He loved that album. He also translated Ain’t It Strange by Patti Smith. It was a way to learn how to write lyrics and how not to write lyrics. The first song on the first Gyllene Tider LP is actually a cover of Send Me A Postcard by Shocking Blue, Skicka ett vykort, älskling. Tommie thinks the original song is damn good, but it’s a real smoker on the GT record as well, a great start into the album.

PG says they played a lot of covers at their concerts in the early ’80s, e.g. Dinga Linga Lena, ABBA’s S.O.S. They even made a bonus EP for their second GT album. They did a Beatles cover, a Beach Boys cover, a Mott The Hoople song and a Tom Petty song. You often did covers to show a bit of where you come from. They played Hanging On The Telephone live, to show where they belong.

Then came this whole cover band boom in the ’80s and then it became kind of embarrassing to play covers. You didn’t want to get mixed with cover bands if you wrote your own songs. Per thinks it’s great if you can make good covers, especially if you can add something to a song of your own.

Tommie loves song translations into Swedish. From Per’s stuff there is Marie i växeln. It’s Switchboard Susan written by Mickey Jupp, recorded by Nick Lowe. Then there is Varje gång du är i samma rum (When You Walk In The Room) by dance band Flamingokvintetten. Per says this song was written by Jackie DeShannon. She is one of his absolute favourite composers. Besides this, she wrote one of Per’s favourite songs, Come And Stay With Me. What a song! It was also recorded by Ola & The Janglers on their Patterns album. It was Lasse Lindbom who asked Per to write a Swedish text for When You Walk In The Room, and he released it as I samma rum, but Per never recorded this song. Tommie is curious how it ended up with a dance band. PG says, maybe because the publisher who had the original wanted to have a Swedish translation and there was already the one Per had translated.

The guys get back to talking about Stefan Rüdén. This is probably his big hit, it was a huge hit on the Swedish charts in 1973. Impossible to top, Per says. Tommie adds that he released 4 solo albums in the ’70s. If you like translations, you can enjoy Elvis Presley’s In The Ghetto in Swedish and The Bellamy Brothers’ Let Your Love Flow. Then he ended up in trouble with justice around 1979. It was some kind of fraud thing that was related to very expensive carpets. After that he made some smurf recordings with Bert Karlsson. If you want to hear how it was, you can look up the B side of Bert Karlsson’s cover of Hoppa Hulle, a weird Israeli Eurovision song. Stefan is in the singing booth on the B side.

The next song is Looking For Clues by Robert Palmer, a single from his album, Clues. It’s from 1980. Per was a bit surprised that he found this on sale, but this is fantastic music. It has an incredible swing too. Tommie says it has a little stressed tempo. PG agrees and says that’s a bit of amphetamine music. It’s not quite divo, but it kind of has a divo-ish energy, according to Tommie. Per agrees and says he likes the production a lot. Fat snare drums that are a little too strong, but it still sounds ’70s style. PG also likes that he sings octaves with himself. It’s an old trick that Per has also tried many times.

Tommie says Robert Palmer’s 1980 album Clues is super modern and well ahead of its time. It was a hit in Sweden, it was number one in Sweden, but in the rest of the world it wasn’t a big deal. Per says he had another song that was very big on that record, Johnny and Mary. Per remembers that Palmer was in a band called Vinegar Joe with Elkie Brooks in the ’70s, but then he left and made solo albums. This song sounded a bit like something you hadn’t heard before. The production was so special and this is one of those songs that stood out. It’s not like the best composition in the world, but it’s a damn cool one, Per thinks. Tommie says they have even hit it off with a vibration solo. Per says it’s crazy.

Long after this record came out, Tommie has understood what a free-thinking composer and artist Robert Palmer was at the time. He did what he felt. He was hanging out a lot in the West Indies in the Bahamas. Apparently, he lived across the street from Compass Point Studios. Practical, Per states.

Palmer became friends with Gary Numan right around this record. So Gary Numan is on 2 songs on the album and it’s hard to imagine two pop stars who are more different from each other. Gary Numan is a little dark and robotic and a little angsty. Robert Palmer is a kind of playboy.

When Tommie listened to Clues, he heard that Palmer was very much into constantly seasoning with some kind of Caribbean stuff. There are some steel pans, xylophones, reggae grooves etc. Per adds that he was also signed to Island Records.

Tommie asks PG who Robert Palmer is to him. Mr. G says Palmer is not really for him. He had never picked this record up, had he not found it on sale. Haha. He remembers this song and this production, that it was very cool. We are talking about 1980, it’s the same year as Ashes To Ashes and the Scary Monsters album came out. It’s also a transition to the ’80s.

Tommie is curious if Per has ever met Palmer. Mr. G met him once on a TV show in Germany where he afterwards was very intoxicated, if you can say so. It was only a quick meeting. PG says they did all these big TV shows, Peter’s Pop Show and others. Then you ran into everyone from Phil Collins to Prince, but you didn’t know them, you just met them, had a little small talk about what a cool song it was, thank you very much, stuff like that.

Tommie asks Per which was the weirdest TV show he was on. Mr. G says the weirdest was when they did The Look on a German TV show called Formel Eins. They had dragged in some goats in the background, which were right there behind them. They did The Look like three times a day on TV shows all the time. He had his own moves and at a certain point he would spin around, do something with his guitar, probably a cool, sexy move and just when he did that, when he turned, this goat was standing there and farting a bit elegantly. Per doesn’t know if it appeared in the TV broadcast itself, but it was like that. He thought aha, then they had to keep going. It was a bit odd actually, but they did a lot of weird stuff anyway. They did a TV show with Status Quo. Status Quo did In The Army Now and Roxette did Neverending Love or I Call Your Name, Per thinks. It was before they had broken through. It was a little TV program somewhere and Status Quo were so angry, because they thought that no one took them seriously. Rick Parfitt had a tough pocket flask in his back pocket while he was playing, a liquor flask.

The guys get down to the next song. Another one from the ’80s. Per was again a little surprised to find that one on sale. He is surprised that it existed in someone’s possession, because it wasn’t a huge hit. It was a hit in Halmstad though in the ’80s. It’s Hanging On A Heart Attack by Device from 1986. This is a typical ’80s song, a bit too strong snare drums. Per loves this style of pop music where you have a really strong verse like this. It’s just as strong as the chorus and it’s written by Holly Knight. She was in the band too. Mr. G thinks Mike Chapman was responsible for production and he is a master at that.

Tommie asks Per what made him pick this single. Per says it was there in the store completely alone and just waiting to be picked up. Per has this in his collection. He thinks he even has their only LP. Holly Knight later became a great songwriter. She wrote The Best, for example for Tina Turner. She and Mike Chapman. Mike was one of Per’s biggest favourites as a producer. He did all The Sweet singles. He did a lot of rubbish too, Tom-Tom Turnaround by New World and Sister Jane. Later he produced Blondie’s Parallel Lines. He also produced Agnetha Fältskog’s first solo album after ABBA. Wrap Your Arms Around Me.

Hanging On A Heart Attack is so typical of the time. This is the year Per and Marie started Roxette. There was a Roxette version before Marie, with Gyllene Tider, but for the sake of simplicity, Tommie adds when they talk about Roxette, they mean the real thing. The successful one.

Tommie wants to know whether Per can just listen and enjoy music or he analyzes the songs when he listens to them. Per says it’s a good question. Unfortunately, you get to know a little too much, so you note things like this verse is as strong as the chorus and how exciting is that chord there, stuff like that. When you were little, you just listened more, you just took it in. It’s hard for Per to listen to music and be neutral.

This Device song gives Tommie really deep flashbacks to 1986, because he is pretty sure he hasn’t heard it since then. It was on the radio when he was in the eighth grade fighting acne. He remembers he liked that, but there was something dark in it, something strange. Per says they tried to be a little dangerous. It was a bit like Mad Max.

Funnily enough, there is a slight connection. Holly wrote a song that ended up on the Mad Max 3 soundtrack. Per says, she became a very successful songwriter.

Tommie says that on Hanging On A Heart Attack it’s Paul Engemann who sings and for all the Giorgio Moroder geeks out there, Paul Engeman is the one who sings on Push It To The Limit, which is on the Scarface soundtrack. Per says Tommie knows so much. Tommie says it’s Wikipedia knowledge, but he got there while checking who Paul Engemann is. Per says what’s so fun about the pop world is that it’s a small world. Not today, because there are well over a hundred thousand new songs every day on Spotify, but back in the days in the ’60s, ’70s, 80’s, ’90s everyone was in connection with everyone in some way.

Tommie says this song is from 1986 when Roxette really started rolling. He is curious what Per and Marie were listening to at the time. Per has always been hooked on his ’60s and ’70s catalogue. He listened to that, still does. But they also listened to the music of those days. There was a lot of europop in the ’80s. Modern Talking and stuff like that.

Tommie is wondering a little, because around 1986-87, when Per and Marie worked on hitting not only Sweden, but also to reach out into the world, there must have been other artists and hit songs that they thought like „why are they breaking through and not us?” Per says Tommie is partly right, but to begin with, it was so clear that their ambition was to become an international band. At the same time, they were also very aware that they were from Sweden and the odds were not on their side. When they started doing local TV in the Netherlands and local TV in Germany, they were quite grateful for it. It was kind of unheard-of that they could do it. It was something they had not been able to do before. The first country they broke through in was actually the USA, and it was absolutely insane. Tommie says so they skipped Europe. Per says they tried Europe, but when he wrote It Must Have Been Love for the Germans to release it as a Christmas song in 1987, they didn’t want to release it. The record company didn’t like it. So everything was against them, but then it happened in January 1989 with The Look.

Tommie thinks it was around 1986 that a few things started to happen. Europe all of a sudden started getting some attention, reaching critical mass also abroad. Per says it’s hard to compare them to Roxette. They were a bit more like Bon Jovi, hard rock light or top 40 hard rock you can say, with songs like Desmond Child wrote. Per didn’t think they were competitors. They were compared to Eurythmics back then, because they were a duo. Many people compared them, because they even looked similar. Great ’80s hairstyles and shoulder pads. So Roxette tried it their own way with their budget to create something unique and the probability that it would succeed internationally was very small. They were very lucky that they succeeded. Per remembers that a few years later, when they recorded the Look Sharp! album, he had quite a long time to write songs for it, because Marie did a Swedish solo record in the meantime. PG thought that production turned out fantastic. There were a lot of coincidences, too. They started working with synthesizers in a different way. Per said to himself that if they succeed with any song from this record, they will have a lot of sequels, because it was a very, very strong record. They didn’t have only one good song on it. They were lucky when The Look happened, but they had Dressed For Success, Dangerous, Listen To Your Heart. They had Paint, which became a big hit in Brazil. It was as big there as Dangerous. They had the capacity, but you have to get your foot in the door, and how do you do that from Stockholm… They had no budget and no expensive videos. It was the era of video explosion.

Tommie says speaking of Roxette, nowadays there is PG Roxette, which is a band or project that exists to carry on the Roxette legacy. He asks Per if he has ever thought about creating avatars or holograms of themselves instead. Per laughs. He says he wanted to make a record in that Roxette spirit, so he created this PG Roxette. But no, avatar is not something that can happen until he is alive. The guys are laughing and Per says he will write in his testament. Tommie is wondering if there are any avatar rights to consider these days. Per says it’s a good question. They have to ask Björn and Benny about this.

Time flies when you have to play through 5 singles here. They only have one left. Per loved this one when it came out, it was on Tio i topp. It’s Cracklin’ Rosie by Neil Diamond. Per has always been very weak for Neil Diamond’s compositions ever since he wrote I’m A Believer, a big hit of The Monkees. It was one of Per’s first singles. Tommie says it would have been enough for him to write I’m A Believer and he would still have been a legend forever. Per mentions Solitary Man as another great song of his. Cracklin’ Rosie is from 1970. Tommie wants to know if Per liked Neil Diamond there and then also when he was charting. Per liked him in this era, but it was somewhere around here that you stopped listening to him, he says. Cracklin’ Rosie was a huge hit on Tio i topp. Then in retrospect when you study it from a songwriter’s point of view, it’s a very cleverly written song with different themes. Per thinks what is a bit boring about today’s pop music is that people are satisfied with the sound being good. They often use the same chords and then raise the melody in the chorus to the same chord that you had in the verse. It’s classic. But it wasn’t classic at this time. There would have been a great verse and then comes the bridge and then maybe a little pre-chorus and then comes a chorus, then maybe a little tail on the chorus. Mamma Mia is a great example of that style. There are 5 parts, all of which are really hooky.

Tommie says that during those times, it seems like an incredible amount of things have happened in songwriting. He wants to know what was the biggest thing for Per when it comes to that. For PG the big thing was the technological development, how you can edit and work in the studio. When they recorded Listen To Your Heart in 1988, it was quite complex. It’s the only song on Roxette’s Look Sharp! album that has a real band. Everything else was programmed. They had no more channels, so Clarence played keyboards to Listen To Your Heart when they mixed it. So what he plays is on the mixer, but it is not recorded. They reached the max. Now there are no longer any technical restrictions and you can edit, cut, copy, auto tune and do whatever you want.

Tommie says he also thinks about that now there seem to be so many people who sit and work on the same song. It may not be an entirely new thing, there have been songwriting factories before, but just by looking at the Eurovision Song Contest, there are all these 3, 4, 5,6, 7, 8, 9 people who have written a Eurovision song. Per says that is precisely because digital technology allows it. You can send stuff to each other in a different way, someone is programming. He has always tried to write songs on his own, because he doesn’t like to compromise. That doesn’t mean that he plays all the instruments himself, but that means that he brings in people who can develop his idea. He has tried to choose musicians who are much better than he is. They are easy to find, haha. Tommie asks Per if he is really so bad at playing instruments. PG says he is not bad at playing, but he is bad at playing the way he hears it in his head. He can’t really handle that, so he needs people who can do that and who make the songs the way he wants them to be. That was the basic idea of starting Roxette with Marie. It was that Per wanted to find someone who could sing his songs better than himself. He is limited as a singer and almost all the songs he wrote in Roxette were written for Marie. Marie would sing them including The Look. It was called He’s Got The Look from the beginning, because she was going to sing, but she didn’t want to, because she didn’t think it was her style. And it wasn’t. So Per sang it instead.

Per thinks it’s hard to leave stuff for someone else to start writing maybe another part of a song. It has happened though. He works with other people too, but he loses a bit of interest then. Tommie understands that people are different and he knows there was a songwriter factory in England and the guy had the idea that you would bring in a lot of people who would be given very narrow assignments within the song to write. You’re going to write a hook here, we need 4 notes at the beginning that arouses interest and he dished out these assignments to several songwriters who had no communication with each other. He collected the parts and then he sat and put them together. Several of these became hits. Tommie thinks Tove Lo worked there for a little while.

Per says it’s a different kind of songwriting. This thing about being personal in your music disappears completely. Whenever Per is working on Swedish songs, the lyrics have a very big position in the song. If he was to leave it to 8 other people, then they can interpret his text differently, so it will be a completely different kind of thing. It doesn’t work. Those kinds of pop factories think now we’re going to try to write hits. Tommie says this resulted in a lot of songs, e.g. of Girls Aloud and they probably worked super well. The fun Per likes about pop hits written by usually the artist himself is that even when time has passed, it’s still very special. For example, the early Bryan Adams songs, they sound very special today, because it was him and Jim Vallance who wrote them. Per remembers that when Roxette broke through, they were told they have to move to London or to LA or New York and work with American musicians. Then they said, no, they don’t want that, because then they will sound like Richard Marx. Then they will sound like LA. They shouldn’t sound like LA. They should sound like Sweden, because once they have made it, that’s what makes them unique. They don’t sound like Richard Marx or Heart or anything else. They sound like Roxette.

It’s the same thing with Gyllene Tider. If you remove one person, it doesn’t sound GT anymore. When Per plays GT songs with his solo band, he sometimes laughs a little, because it sounds like a Gyllene Tider cover band. Because even though they might be even better musicians, they can’t really play that kind of music. GT plays music from Halmstad together, haha. Per finds it really interesting, but he is not too keen on this songwriting team idea. It might be effective, but it gets very impersonal.

Speaking of Neil Diamond, Tommie says he didn’t understand him until he got a gray beard. Then the token fell down, damn, how good is this. It might be the same thing as with country. If you are too young, maybe a lot of that music goes over your head. Per says that Neil Diamond is very, very big in the USA, it has always been so and he doesn’t care at all about any market other than the US. The years have passed and now when Johnny Cash did a cover of Solitary Man, there is a new generation that listens to him. Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon by Urge Overkill in Pulp Fiction, too. Those songs have been chosen because those American productions have Neil Diamond in there automatically. It’s like Billy Joel in a different way. Maybe you don’t really understand Billy Joel – Per doesn’t understand him at all when he listens to Piano Man. He thinks Elton did it much better.

Tommie says Neil Diamond sold his song catalogue the year before. He couldn’t find the sum, but he is curious if Per received offers like this. Mr. G has received offers several times. He said that they should wait 10 more years. Per thinks it was probably because of his personality, but he has been lucky enough to get into a position where he owns all his songs. Everything that he has written in his whole life. Tommie says it must be worth so much. His daughter now listens to Taylor Swift.

Per knows it’s worth a lot of money, but it is above all worth the feeling that they are his babies and he makes up his own mind about them. If they are going to be in commercials or movies or Netflix or whatever. So Per has the last word there. He is not really ready or in need of the monetary reward of what this is worth.

Tommie is wondering why so many people have sold their catalogues recently. There has been news like this almost all the time in the past few years. Per thinks there can be many different reasons. Bruce Springsteen has sold his song catalogue. What does that really mean? Has he sold the rights to his songs, or has he sold his recordings or what has he sold? Neil Young has sold half of something. Half of what? Per thinks that many who sell, maybe they want to divide the money among all their 18 children before they die. Then they won’t get into a lot of trouble. Then maybe there are also those who want to retire. Paul Simon seems to want to retire and he has sold his catalogue as well. Dylan doesn’t retire. Tommie says he will continue for 50 more years. Per says we must also not forget that many great artists do not own such rights. McCartney and The Beatles catalogue, he doesn’t own the rights of the catalogue.

Tommie says he thought of something brave that he would listen through everything that is released by Per. But he gave it up, because he just went on Spotify, checked everything under Per Gessle and the list was endless. A lot of stuff with Roxette, there was an endless amount of stuff with Gyllene Tider. So he almost had to scrap this project, but what he thought about then is that there are a lot of Per’s demos, outtakes, stuff like that published fairly recently under The Per Gessle Archives. Tommie is curious how many archive albums are out there, maybe 6 or 7. Per doesn’t know, but he thinks there are surely more. He says fans request to release demos, because they know there are a lot of them.

Tommie says it’s the same with Roxette. There is the Bag Of Trix collection. There are also a lot of Gyllene Tider demos. If you really want to listen to the depths, you can really get stuck in that rabbit hole. Per says Bag Of Trix is a compilation of all the remixes and single B sides. All those kinds of things that were lying around here and there. All of a sudden, via streaming services, you can do it quite easily and bring them back. In addition, there are physical boxes too. This way you can write a little story about it. It is appreciated among maybe 5-6-7,000 people who are interested in such things.

Tommie thought he would ask whether this was a need for Per to get everything out or he wants to archive it on an ongoing basis. PG says there is no immediate need, but he is thinking from a songwriter’s perspective. He thinks it would be very interesting to listen to these demos. Listen to the demos to the Revolver album. Especially songs that have become big ones with Roxette and Marie is singing them, Per thinks that’s pretty fun to hear the demos, how it sounded when he wrote it. It could be an acoustic recording or it could be a real production. The more time went by the more finished demos he made. The Joyride demo sounds almost exactly like the real Joyride.

Tommie thought it was fun to find stuff that he had never heard before until he actually sat down and tried to listen through it all. There was a demo to Segla på ett moln that became an Anne-Lie Rydé song, but here it’s Per and Marie. Very nice. Per thanks for the compliment. He wrote it for his first solo album and it didn’t make it. Anne-Lie was in a Gothenburg band called Extra and she was going to make her first solo album, which Per thinks was produced by Dan Sundqvist. Somehow they got this song and completely redid it into some kind of grand thing. Per’s demo was only acoustic. Albin Lee Meldau also recorded this song later.

Tommie says one of the Mono Mind songs sounds like Segla på ett moln. It’s a translation called Shelter From The Storm. Lyricist Hasse Huss wrote an English text which ended up with Diana Ross in the ’80s. She had it on hold for an album for six months, so it was not allowed to be sent to anyone else. But then she dropped it. It would have been fun if she had recorded it though. Hasse Huss is a legendary DJ and a great lyricist.

Per has more of those old demos with Marie from the times when everything started in the beginning of the ’80s.

Tommie wants to know if Per has always been the kind of person who was careful to write down the dates on the tapes. Per says absolutely, he is pedantic. He always has the records in alphabetical order and in the old days, when he was little, he put small numbers on all the items, so they were listed chronologically after the purchases. It became a big collection in the end. Then you have to have it organized.

Tommie is curious if Per is the old-fashioned type who still buys records. PG still buys records, vinyls. Last time he was hunting for Jim Croce. He usually gets help from a guy who looks this up for him online. As he said before, he likes album sleeves. It may happen that he sits down in front of his stereo system and listens to KD Lang on Spotify, but he has the album cover in his hand and reads the lyrics as in the past. Per thinks the cover is the face of music. It makes music even more important and even stronger, because you get a physical connection to it.

The conversation is coming to an end. Per says they can finish it here and do this one more time. Now he knows how to do that and it’s always fun to go and buy some records for 50 Swedish crowns. Tommie says you just have to thoroughly wash your hands with nail polish remover and hand sanitizer afterwards. Per laughs. He says it’s also fun to run into those people who are in these stores.

Tommie asks Per what’s next for him. PG is going to finish the recording of his Swedish album with another duet that will be recorded on Sunday and then it’s ready. The first single will be released at the end of February. 23rd February. Then there will be TV for him and then it is rolling on. He loves it when a lot of things are happening. Tommie says what else could he do as a pensioner, he would be stuck there in front of the stereo with a record cover in hand, doing nothing. Haha. In the fade-out we can hear one last thing, that Per won’t tour this summer.

Interview with Per Gessle about songwriting by Sound & Recording

Frank Mischkowski from Sound & Recording (Germany) did an interview with Per Gessle about songwriting. Per gave some insights into the way he writes songs.

Frank informs that at the age of 10, Per Gessle’s record collection is said to have already included 100 vinyls, so his passion for music has been with him since he was a child. He learned English primarily by studying the lyrics of The Beatles, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie. He earned his first record deal with Gyllene Tider at the end of the 1970s.

When he founded Roxette in 1986 with Marie Fredriksson, who unfortunately died in 2019, he had no idea how successful the duo would become: “We joked: ‘Today Sweden, tomorrow the world.’ But what we meant was small performances in Amsterdam or Germany on TV. We were probably in the right place at the right time.”

Sound & Recording: What makes a really good song for you?

Per Gessle: This changes from generation to generation. I always say the point of pop music is to reflect its times. The music of the ’60s and ’70s was much more melody driven. Today you don’t start with the melody anymore. Listen to songs like Dedicated Follower Of Fashion or SOS, they are based on melodies. That’s where I come from.

S&R: You have written so many great songs. How do you come up with these strong, memorable lines?

PG: I’m interested in words and stories. And I’m always looking for phrases – “Hello, you fool, I love you”, “Come on, join the joyride”. The first impression you get of a song is often the title. You read the title and if it sounds good, your interest is awaken.

S&R: You write in both English and Swedish. Are there ideas that you can express more easily in one language than in the other?

PG: I write very personally. Of course not something like How Do You Do!, but songs like Queen Of Rain, Perfect Day or What’s She Like? are as personal as possible. It’s easier for me to dive deep into myself in Swedish, simply because it’s my native language. On the other hand, English is a very singable language. Swedish is a pretty difficult language to sing.

S&R: Do you find it easier to write for yourself or for other artists?

PG: I prefer writing songs for my own projects. In the early ’80s, when Gyllene Tider broke up and I had a few years before Roxette started, a lot of people wanted songs from me. Especially lyrics, but also music. I never felt comfortable with it. Someone always talks you into it. I prefer to write for my own projects where I’m the boss.

S&R: But then you wrote for Marie.

PG: When I started working with Marie, I was looking for a voice that could sing my songs much better than myself. We recently listened to a live Roxette thing from the ’90s that we’re working on. Marie’s singing skills were incredible. My main talent has always been finding these people. Clarence [Öfwerman, Roxette’s longtime producer] is also a good example for that. His influence on production and arrangements changed my worldview.

S&R: Can you give us some insight into the way you write a song?

PG: Let’s say I’m sitting at the piano and I come across something special. I then record it with my phone. I date it and put a note on it; “Piano Intro” for example. Then, six months or six years later, I might be looking for something like that. I go through my archive, hundreds of fragments that have been collected over the years. So maybe I have a great chorus, but I need something interesting for a verse or intro, then I go through these files and maybe something fits. It’s like a big puzzle.

S&R – a question to mixing engineer Stefan Boman

Stefan Boman is a mixing engineer at Atlantis Studios in Stockholm and counts artists from Ghost to Avicii among his references. In a complex process, Boman transferred Roxette’s work into the immersive audio format Dolby Atmos. To do this, the original tapes were digitized and the mixes were created from scratch in Dolby Atmos.

SB: The quick and easy solution would be an upmix, but if you want to create something that lasts and leaves an impression, you have to mix from scratch. And that’s what we did. We partially baked the tapes and then carefully digitized them, divided the tracks and then, in the first step, recreated the stereo mixes. I then spent a lot of time recreating the reverb chambers and effects – not exactly, but as close as possible and in an immersive format. The Roxette tracks were recorded excellently, it was a lot of fun translating them into a new format.

Photo by Fredrik Etoall

Read the original interview in German HERE!

“You’re always 25 in your head” – Per Gessle 65 interview by TT News Agency

Anna Hedlund from TT News Agency did an interview with Per Gessle now that he turns 65 on Friday. It was already published in Göteborgs-Posten yesterday.

From stage fright to stage intoxication. Hitmaker Per Gessle’s pop journey is not just music history. It has also been a journey of development for him personally. Now he turns 65.

Nothing is as cool as having 10,000 people sing along to your own song. That’s why Mick Jagger & Co. never stop. You can’t get that energy in any other way, says Per Gessle.

His own desires don’t seem to be diminishing either. In the summer of 2023, he again toured the country with Gyllene Tider – even though the band actually had their farewell tour in 2019. Last year he released Roxette material in a new costume, under the name PG Roxette.

Although it has been 45 years since his career took off, it is still unbelievable that he turns 65.

You’re always 25 in your head. But I certainly notice that I am getting older, physically. This energy you used to have all the time now you have it for shorter periods.

It all started when, as a little boy, he fell for pop music through his older brother. From The Beatles to David Bowie’s music, Per absorbed everything: the style, the hair, the chords, the English language. But it was a pop journey that began rather introspectively.

In my teens, I was very closed in on myself and music, and didn’t have many friends. Music opened a completely new door.

When Gyllene Tider was formed in 1978, Per Gessle already had the habit of putting together pop songs – but not of being on stage.

When we started with Gyllene Tider, we were rookies. Then it was all about daring to stand on stage and survive. To do it and do it well.

To understand how great Gyllene Tider was in those years between the ’70s and ’80s, you can say this, for example: when Per Gessle turned 21, he received three mailbags with 3,000 congratulatory postcards delivered to his home.

And it often happened – much to his mother’s disappointment – that fans would come to his parents’ home and steal small souvenirs, such as clothes from the clothesline or license plates and antennas from the car.

In the years 1979-1982 I lived in a constant state of shock that it became so big.

After that, nothing would be as usual again. After the golden years with Gyllene Tider, followed the international success with Roxette, that took him and bandmate Marie Fredriksson on world tour after world tour during the ’90s.

A reality quite far from the small-town life Per Gessle grew up in. Apart from when he weighed mushrooms at Fammarp’s mushroom farm or packed boxes at Ica as a teenager, he has never had a “regular job”. But he loves to work.

During the noughties, he released several solo albums, both in Swedish and in English.

I never thought I had time to party and have girlfriends. And my life probably still revolves around work. Åsa, my wife, says that I “give birth” when I lock myself in my room for 14 days and work. But that’s in my personality, I can’t do anything if I don’t do it one hundred percent.

Per and Åsa met in 1985. They married in 1993 and have a son, Gabriel, who is now 26. Combining a family life with life as a touring rock star took some planning, but it worked. The family often accompanied them on tours, and Gabriel spent more than a semester travelling with a teacher with him.

But he has not followed in his father’s footsteps.

He works as a computer programmer. He’s been given free rein and we have supported what he has wanted to do. For a year he was a professional e-sports player too, but it wasn’t for him and now he’s got it out of his system.

Being Per Gessle is also being the brand “Per Gessle”. Posing for selfies with fans at the petrol station and in the grocery store happens everyday and is part of the package when you are recognized by everyone. Or, maybe not exactly everyone.

I know that when I leave my door I’m public property, which I have lived with most of my life. But when I was walking in town once, a girl came and wanted to take a selfie, and afterwards a little guy came and asked: “Are you a celebrity?”. “I’m Foppa!”, I replied then. Haha.

[Peter “Foppa” Forsberg is a Swedish ice hockey player. /PP]

There is no sign that “reaching the retirement age” means a quieter life for Per Gessle. This year he will release a new solo album in Swedish and in the summer there will be a premiere for a film about Gyllene Tider. Next autumn will also offer a musical at Malmö Opera which builds on Roxette’s song catalogue. Are there any other dreams still?

No. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I slipped into this and sometimes I have to pinch myself when I see that it has worked all my life.

Facts about Per Gessle

Turns: 65 on 12th January.

Profession: musician, songwriter. Owns Hotel Tylösand.

Family: wife Åsa Gessle and son Gabriel, 26 years old.

Lives: in Halmstad where he grew up.

On turning 65: “I don’t think about it too much, it’s just a number.”

This is how he celebrates: “Very carefully with very few people, only the nearest and dearest to me.”

Staying in shape: “I try to walk at least an hour every day and work out, because I got a frozen shoulder last year. I also do 15-20 minutes of exercises every day.”

Our most diligent world star – Per Gessle portrait interview by Senioren magazine

Per Gessle is one of Sweden’s most successful artists and songwriters. He always has something going on. This summer he was on tour with Gyllene Tider, now he is working on a new solo album. Roxette’s music is to become a musical and a movie is being shot about Gyllene Tider. Deep inside, he hopes for some more world tour as well.

Ulrika Palmcrantz from Senioren magazine meets Per at home in their large apartment in Stockholm. Upstairs, the one that counts as the “office”. When you go up here with the elevator, Per has to push the button. If you press the button in the elevator yourself, nothing happens.

We had to put up a lattice gate in the stairwell, because Roxette fans used to come here and sleep on the stairs.

he says, smiling.

He is kindness itself. If someone wants to take a selfie with him when he’s out in town or just express their love for his music, he almost always stops for a moment. Now he has set the table with coffee mugs, cookies and a box of After Eight.

I thought it might be suitable when Senioren comes to visit, he laughs. I was going to buy Bridge Blanding too, it’s actually my favourite sweets!

Actually, he has not moved to Stockholm from Halmstad, where he lives most of the time.

No, I’m only here for a couple of days, we haven’t really moved yet.

Halmstad is still what he counts as his primary residence. He and Åsa have their house there, there is the car collection with a large number of Ferraris – the largest part of it can now be admired in a side building to Hotel Tylösand of which Per is the largest owner.

And old friend Mats MP Persson has the studio where Gyllene Tider sometimes comes together and plays. Like before the Hux Flux tour this summer. Actually, they had been out on a farewell tour and 40th anniversary already in 2019. But then the pandemic came and everything became so sad and boring, Per thought. He got a new guitar and so “there were some new songs”.

That’s how it often happens. Rarely has a year or even a few months gone by without something happening with his music. First it was Gyllene Tider, which had its heydays in the early ’80s, then Roxette with Marie Fredriksson from the mid-80s right up until 2016. A huge success with 75 million records sold, world tours and four No. 1 songs on the US Billboard – to compare with ABBA that actually only had one. And in between a successful solo career. Plus he wrote loads of songs for other artists. It seems that both the words and the melodies just flow out of him.

Usually it just comes to me. It can be a word or maybe a piece of melody that pops into my head and then I spin on it.

Sometimes it happens when he’s sitting here on the sofa with the guitar. Sometimes when he’s out walking. It can be anytime and anywhere. But rarely before a set deadline.

No, I can’t have deadlines or a lot of times to fit in, it doesn’t work.

Creativity must be allowed to live its own life, which it does to the highest degree. Should things ever go slower, he has tricks to use. Like getting a new guitar. Or sit down at the piano for a while.

He cannot imagine to stop writing music and being on stage. Music is his life and always has been and when the inspiration is there he is extremely productive. For example, he wrote Joyride and Spending My Time on the same day. Joyride began with his wife Åsa leaving a note on the grand piano where she wrote: “Hello, you fool, I love you!” He had read an interview with Paul McCartney who described songwriting with Lennon as a long “joyride”. Together it became the chorus: “Hello, you fool, I love you, c’mon join the joyride”.

I work well together with those I have worked with for a long time too, like the Gyllene Tider gang. We have so much fun and creativity when we beam together. Nowadays it becomes like a “project” when we do it because it’s not ongoing all the time. But we’ve known each other since we were barely twenty and know exactly how each works. We are five completely different people, yet it works so well.

He says he wishes all young people could experience the feeling of being in a band and playing music together. How magically fun it is, both with the music and with the community that arises.

But I think that those of us who grew up with ’60s-’90s music had a golden window. Then there was room for personal music. Now everything is more similar. It’s just like cars, they all look the same now. Pop music reflects its time to a great extent. Today you can’t release a Sgt. Pepper and the whole world is listening. Hey Jude, it’s seven minutes long. Nobody listens to a seven-minute-long song anymore.

Much has been written about Per’s enormous music career both as a solo artist and with Gyllene Tider and Roxette. But he has managed to keep his private life pretty well under wraps.

I keep myself quite private, that’s how it is. I’m not the type who appears on TV shows like Stjärnorna på slottet or Så mycket bättre. Above all, because I can’t imagine living with people I don’t know for six weeks on Gotland. There is no value in that. It just doesn’t suit me.

I’m actually not super social. At least not when I compare myself to some others. Like my wife, for example. She always talks to everyone when we meet new people while I sit in a corner.

As a child, he was a loner, “fat and with ugly glasses” as he himself describes it. Early on, it was music that dominated his existence. Every penny he came across he spent on records. As a ten-year-old, he already had about a hundred. He wrote his first song as a 7-year-old and became really musically active in his teens. The Beatles and Hep Stars were his big favourites. Father Kurt, mother Elisabeth and sister Gunilla, who was 14 years older, did not directly share his interest in music. But his seven years older brother Bengt liked to listen to music and had many good records in his room. He became a bit of a gateway into the magical world of music for Per.

Sometimes I had to buy a few records from him if he wanted money for cigarettes. He also had an acoustic guitar, but it was out of tune. But in 1976, my mother bought me a nylon-string guitar. It cost SEK 1,800, which was a lot of money back then.

I sat in my room and practiced and practiced. I learned chords but I couldn’t read sheet music. I still can’t.

When he turned 15, he had to choose between getting a used moped or a used stereo. An easy choice for a guy who mostly sat at home with his records and headphones, listening to music and writing lists. Lists of songs, but it could also be about sports. Who scored in the TV puck, for example.

But the world of pop attracted him the most.

In the pop world there was everything that was not in the real world. It was probably inside my head that I lived most of my life during this time.

Weeks before Per was to graduate, his father Kurt died. He was the one who was most skeptical about Per’s music.

Ironically, dad died on the same day that Mats Olsson wrote about Gyllene Tider in Expressen, the first article about us. Mom said she didn’t think he’d let me do music full-time if he lived, but I don’t know. Dad was a plumber, grandfather too. They came from a completely different world.

That you could make a living from music was not something dad Kurt believed in. Per and Åsa were almost as questioning at first when their son Gabriel, now 26 and a computer scientist, said he was going to move to Spain and compete in e-sports.

We were against it at first. Play video games? But then it hit us that we were just like our parents had been and then it was just: Let him go!

Although Per describes himself as “not super social”, he still loves when things happen. Standing in front of an audience of between 60-80,000, as it could be during Roxette’s world tours in the ’90s, gives him a kick.

When we broke through and it started to get big, I felt a big “wow!”, while I think Marie felt more a “help!” I was triggered by the success and just wanted to write more and more songs. But both Marie and I agreed that we did not want to move to the United States. The record company tried to get us to move there or at least to London, but we didn’t want to. We wanted to work with those we had always worked with here at home.

Just when Roxette was planning a major European tour in 2002, Marie Fredriksson learned that she had suffered from a malignant brain tumor. It was a long break for Roxette, where Per instead released his fourth solo record and went on tour with Gyllene Tider. In 2009, Marie was back and they set off on a world tour. Roxette’s comeback tour lasted until 2016.

The whole trip we did with Roxette was fantastic. What Marie and I got to experience was completely unique and I’m so happy about it. Nothing has affected me like the time with Roxette. In a way, that was my destiny.

When he stands on stage today as a 60-plus years old and sings songs he wrote as a 20-year-old, he realizes that the lyrics are about exactly the same feelings he has today.

Although you choose a different language when you are younger. But a lot of the early songs are awesome and I couldn’t have written them today. But I’m a better composer and musician today. I was nervous throughout the ’80s on stage. It’s not the same today.

The constant battle for him when he performs, not least with Gyllene Tider, is that he likes to play new songs while the crowd wants all the old hits.

I think all slightly older artists recognize that. But there is of course something nice in the fact that you realize that the songs meant something to others.

He doesn’t feel any anxiety about getting older.

No, I think things will be as they are. I’ve always liked achieving goals, I’m a Capricorn! But often I have been surprised and frustrated when you reach the goal and realize that after that comes only a kind of emptiness. It won’t be any different, life is just as usual. I was quite old before I realized that this was the way it was.

He takes care of his health reasonably well, even if exercise is not very high on the list of interests.

I go for walks and since I got a frozen shoulder a while ago, I do a 15-minute exercise every day, some kind of Pilates stretching.

Otherwise, it’s music that counts, still and always.

I think it’s actually the most fun now. Gyllene Tider has never been as good as this summer.

He would actually think it would be fun to do another world tour as well. At the same time, he will start drawing a pension from next year when he turns 65.

Yes, I have to do that, isn’t it time for it?

he says, flashing one of his many smiles again.

Facts about Per Gessle

Age: 64

Family: Wwife Åsa and son Gabriel, 26 years old.

Lives: House in Halmstad and apartment in Stockholm.

What he is doing: Artist and songwriter. Has three legs in his huge career: Gyllene Tider, Roxette and a solo career.

Currently reading: Niklas Strömstedt’s biography. “It’s brand new.” A biography of Michael Caine. “I like biographies.”

Listening to: American singer Weyes Blood, the bands Cigarettes After Sex and Goldfrapp. “Then I always go back to my old favourites. Tom Petty is my house god! I have made a playlist on Spotify called Easy listening according to Per Gessle. It is growing all the time…”

Lennon or McCartney: Both! They are best when they are together.

Dreaming of: A little sense and common sense on this planet. And maybe another world tour!

Other: Has a large Ferrari collection in Tylösand, owns 17 cars. Is No. 1 on Ferrari’s Nordic list of customers.

Actualities: In 2024 there will be both a Roxette musical based on the book Got You Back by Jane Fallon (premiere in the fall of 2024 at Malmö Opera) and a movie about Gyllene Tider. In addition, a new solo album is coming…

Per’s 5 favourites from his own songs

* Vid hennes sida
* Tycker om när du tar på mej
* Flickan i en Cole Porter-sång
* Spending My Time
* The Look

Per’s 5 favourites from other artists’ songs

* God Only Knows – The Beach Boys (which I always tried to play on the guitar at home in my room)
* Here, There and Everywhere – The Beatles
* American Girl – Tom Petty (My house god!)
* Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks (Damn, how old I am!)
* Bird On The Wire – Leonard Cohen (The world’s most amazing artist!)
* But now I forgot Burt Bacharach, what a songwriter!

Manager Marie Dimberg

I first met Per in 1984. I worked at his record company then and we were introduced to each other at Café Opera. I remember that I said that I came from Jönköping and he replied that “we hillbillies must stick together”. He is a very positive person, cheerful and extremely professional. Great at writing, not just lyrics, a real language equilibrist. And dedicated in everything he does!

Mats MP Persson, guitarist in Gyllene Tider

Per and I have known each other since we were 16-17 years old. We both had a bit of a crazy sense of humor, then I played drums in a band and Per thought it sounded exciting. We started to skip school and spend more and more time on music. Even then he was a bit of an entrepreneurial guy, setting up plans and goals in a way that I didn’t. We know each other inside out and don’t always need to talk to understand what the other wants.

All text is written by Ulrika Palmcrantz for Senioren magazine in Swedish. Here it is a translation by RoxBlog.