Radio interview with Per Gessle about Marie Fredriksson – ”I’ve always thought she is a sister to me, it has always been so.”

Studio Ett on Swedish radio did an interview with Per Gessle after last night’s ”En kväll för Marie Fredriksson” event at Stora Teatern in Göteborg. You can judge by Per’s voice and reactions that he is still very much under the effect of what happened. Both last night and on 9th December.

It was the first time last night that he stood on stage without Marie since she has passed away. Per says it was quite long ago when he played together with Marie, in 2016. Yesterday the whole event was a really strong experience. It was fantastic being part of it, but at the same time it was tough. He says Marie was a fantastic person and he remembered the ’80s and ’90s when Roxette had their heydays. One forgets it over the years when so many things are happening. Their whole journey is unbelievable. They met at the end of the ’70s. Per was busy with Gyllene Tider, Marie had her solo career, but they shared this dream of succeeding abroad and they did and had this fantastic journey together.

The program leader says not everyone understands how big they are in e.g. Australia or South America. She asks what kind of reactions he got from there during the past month. Per says the response was tough, but fantastic. It shows how much Marie meant and still means to the people all around the world. The program leader says there was someone from Brazil in the audience last night. Per says he knows it, but there were many other hardcore fans too. There is a gang that follows everything they are doing. They live their lives via them in a way and he finds it fantastic.

The program leader asks Per how he looks back at the times when they broke through in the US. Per says it was an awesome time, the music industry and radio were totally different. They come from the pop world that has its roots in the ’60s and ’70s. They had the capacity and luck to follow up their first hit song, The Look with several others. Besides Marie singing so fantastically, she was also a fab performer on stage. When they started touring around the world, she was so good and they had a good band too, so they could also deliver on stage. A lot of artists can make records, but can’t go and perform live. It was a huge strength of Marie.

Studio Ett then asks about Per and Marie’s friendship. Per says they had a long journey together and over the years their friendship went through changes of course. They were friends from the beginning, they shared a dream, wrote songs together, played the guitar and the piano, they were singing, they shared the rehearsal studio while playing in separate bands, Per in GT, Marie in Strul. Then they went on tours and it became an intense, but rather professional friendship year in, year out with Roxette, so when they came home from a tour, maybe the first one whom he called wasn’t Marie. But they have always been very close to each other. He has always thought Marie is a sister to him, it has always been so.

Per says after last night’s event it’s very tough today. Everyone was very moved. It felt like a farewell yesterday. It was fantastic to do this, but it was tough for all of them on stage. He thinks it will be an awesome TV program. The band was a hybrid of Roxette’s bands and Marie’s solo band, consisting of fab musicians.

The program leader asks how much of Gun-Marie from Östra Ljungby was still in Marie as a successful world star. Per says there was still very much of Gun-Marie in her. She was very private. They did all this journey because they love pop music and singing and playing and writing. So why they were on TV, for example, was not because they wanted to be there, but it all came with their success. To the question how much is left in Per of Per Håkan who once worked at Bingo-Livs Mr. G replied while laughing that it’s hard to say, but he is a big part of him still. At least he thinks so.

To the question how he will go on with his songs he wrote for Roxette Per replies he doesn’t know yet, it’s a good question. During all his adult life he was writing songs for Roxette, so he wants to go on with them in a way, but he doesn’t know how.

It’s hard for Mr. G to tell what Marie would have said about last night’s event. Per thinks it was very touching, but he doesn’t know what Marie would have thought. Still the whole thing seems to be unreal.

To the question which of Marie’s songs are his favourites Per replies there are so many. One of Marie’s absolute finest lyrics is Den ständiga resan. It’s a very strong text and a very nice song. Over the years Per wrote tons of songs, while Marie was writing much less, but when she wrote something it was incredibly good. She has a fantastic song catalogue.

Per Gessle on Top 2000 in the Netherlands

There was a short interview with Per today about The Look on Top 2000 (Dutch music program). The program is available in the Netherlands only, but hopefully, they will soon upload it to their YouTube channel as well.

The interview was done on 19th November at Baggpipe Studios (the old EMI studio) in Stockholm. Per tells they recorded a lot of Roxette songs there and shows the place where e.g. Jonas Isacsson was sitting, playing the guitar, where the drums were, etc. Per says it’s a magical place for him.

Mr. G thinks Pearls of Passion was a good album, but he wanted Roxette to be a bit more programmed, digital and modern. There was a conflict between him and the original producer of Look Sharp!, because the producer wanted to use his favourite musicians. Per was lucky in the end, because their engineer broke his leg and they got another engineer. He was an amazing porgrammer and digital guy. He, Per and Clarence wanted Roxette to go to the computer world. Per bought a synthesizer with a sequencer and started learning how to use that. He wrote The Look on it. 3 chords, 1 finger. It was written for Marie, that’s why he was singing ”he’s got the look” in the demo. Marie liked the demo, but said she can’t sing it, because there is no melody. It’s almost like rap. But then she said ”I can sing the nanana part and I can do the answering in the choruses”.

Per was against releasing it as a single, because the whole idea behind Roxette was that Marie was going to sing the songs and Per was the main songwriter. So in Per’s world it didn’t really make sense to release it as a single.

In 1988 there was an American exchange student in Sweden and he became a big Roxette fan. He moved back to Minneapolis and on his favourite radio station, KDWB there was a show where listeners can call in and ask for their favourite songs or they can leave their records there. He went there and gave them the Look Sharp! album. It was lying around for a couple of weeks and he went back to pick it up again. The program director was there at the reception and thought that’s a really cool album cover. Because it looks like a magazine. So he put on the album and the first song was The Look. He thought this is an amazing song. He put it on air and as soon as he did so, the phone started to ring and people were asking what’s that. They rush released the single because it was all over the radio and it took 8 weeks until it became No. 1. It changed their lives of course.

Per explains all the Nordic countries have great traditional melodies. That’s in their DNA. If you listen to old classic Swedish songs from the 19th century, it’s very beautiful melodies and they grew up listening to that kind of music. You can hear it in ABBA’s music, you can hear it in Per’s music.

That particular Roxette sound was created in the old EMI studio, in Stockholm, with Swedish people. EMI in the US wanted them to move to Los Angeles or at least to New York or at least to London, to be part of the international music scene. But they said no, because if they moved to Los Angeles, they would have sounded like Richard Marx or what was happening at the time in the US. Roxette sounds special because it was made in Sweden.

Still is from the interview.

Thanx for the technical support, Ludo van Denderen! (Until the original video is available on the Top 2000 YouTube channel, you can watch Ludo’s recording of it HERE.)

Update on 13th February 2020: Top 2000 a gogo uploaded the video to YouTube.

Det svenska popundret – The Swedish Pop Phenomenon

2 months ago SVT broadcast a documentary about modern Swedish music’s journey around the world. I just had the time now to watch it and since many fans asked for translation, I thought I would summarize it for them. The part with Roxette in it has a more detailed summary, of course.

The documentary consists of 6 episodes and one can follow how the music industry, music consumption, production and spreading music changed over the decades. It’s a real high quality docu including a lot of information not only about Roxette, but many other Swedish artists and worldwide hits.

The 6 episodes on SVT’s website are available to watch only in Sweden, but the extras can be watched even outside Sweden. The episodes are up on YouTube though, so you can watch them from any country.

Part 1 – En magisk afton i april – A magical evening in April

This episode is about the ’60s and ’70s. I picked a couple of interesting parts of it. One of them is when the reporter asks several Swedish artists (Dr. Alban, Neneh Cherry, Jonas Åkerlund, Björn Skifs, Per Gessle among them) if they know who the first Swedish artist was that entered the US Billboard Hot 100. Even Per couldn’t guess it right. It was Siw Malmkvist with Sole Sole Sole in 1964, peaking at No. 58. When the reporter hands over the single to Mr. G he says it has a wonderful cover. He immediately takes out the vinyl from its sleeve and smells it. Haha.

Another interesting fact was that the first Swedish No. 1 on Billboard was Blue Swede’s cover of Hooked On a Feeling. Blue Swede was Björn Skifs’ band back then. What is more interesting is that the song became No. 1 on the same day when ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. 6th April 1974.

ABBA, still being Sweden’s biggest music export, was the first band that could make an international breakthrough not coming from the US or the UK.

Paul Gambaccini (known as The Professor of Pop) from BBC says they learned that if you get music from Sweden, you should at least listen to it.

Part 2 – “Today Sweden, Tomorrow The World”

Yes, this is the episode about Roxette, the ’80s mainly, but also a few words about the ’90s. It is worth watching this episode even if you can’t speak Swedish. It shows a lot of footage from concerts, studio sessions and old interviews.

In one of the old interviews Marie and Per say their dream is to break through not only in Sweden, but also internationally.

First, the reporter is talking about Gyllene Tider with Per. After a while he shows the English version of När vi två blir en (Beating Heart) to Mr. G on YouTube. Per’s facial expression says it all. Many artists tried their luck in the ’80s. They were singing in English to have better chances for their breakthrough.

Per shows The Heartland Café album that was released in 1984, one year after he released his first solo album. Then he suddenly shows another sleeve which says Roxette as the band’s name. That was the US version. Per tells he remembers he was at Tower Records in Los Angeles and found their album next to Roxy Music and it made him very happy. But they sold only a few hundred copies of that record. The Heartland Café didn’t sell good in Sweden either.

About Marie, the reporter says a girl showed up with a better voice than the best singers had. Per says Marie and him thought they could do something together and one day break through abroad. Mr. G says it was a better period for Marie when GT failed with The Heartland Café. She was an artist on her way up with a bright future. For Per, it was the exact opposite. He released another solo album that was a flop.

Per always wanted to work together with Marie and do something in English. Mr. G wrote Svarta Glas for Pernilla Wahlgren, but she or her record company never got back to Per. Then this song was just lying around and when the head of EMI heard it, he told Per he should translate it into English and record it with Marie. It became Roxette’s debut single, Neverending Love. There was no picture of Marie and Per on the cover not to risk Marie’s career. If the single flops, there is no harm done, they thought. But the single became a hit in Sweden, so they went to the studio to record a complete album. They had a video camera with them and extreme ambitions. They even printed ”Today Sweden, Tomorrow The World” on their T-shirts.

There was another Swedish band back in the days that was really successful, Europe. The reporter asks Per if they were envious of Europe. Mr. G says of course they were. Of their hairdo. Haha. After we get to know more about Europe’s breakthrough, Per says they envied the success of the guys, but at the same time it was awesome. Europe showed that it works even after ABBA. They managed to succeed in the US.

Roxette’s debut album wasn’t released abroad even if it became double platinum in Sweden. EMI in Germany said they should write a Christmas song, so it might be on the radio. Per went home and wrote It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted). It was a big song in Sweden in 1987, but it wasn’t even released in Germany.

The reporter says, if you come from Halmstad, there is only one way to go, forward. Per started writing songs for another Roxette album and they were soon back in the studio. With less musicians, more machines and of course, Marie’s magical voice.

Per thinks that their 2nd album, Look Sharp! is still magnificent. The reporter asks what people thought about the album abroad. Per says it had a nice response, but many other artists had good albums. The reporter asks if they were disappointed. Mr. G says he was disappointed because he knew it was a fantastic album, they all felt it was a strong record, so they thought it’s difficult to go forward when you don’t have success with such an album.

In 1988 another Swedish artist broke through internationally. It was Neneh Cherry with her Buffalo Stance single. Per says it’s an awesome one. He knew that Neneh Cherry was Swedish, but many thought she was e.g. from Brooklyn.

Then comes the story of Dean Cushman. As we all know, he brought his copy of Look Sharp! to the radio station in Minneapolis. Program leader Brian Phillips says it picked his curiosity, but didn’t put it on on his CD player. The album was lying around on his table among other music. Then Dean popped up again to ask his album back, so then Brian felt guilty and thought he would listen to it. The Look came up and Brian thought the intro was great. He thought the whole song was great. ”This is terrific pop. I remember hitting the false ending in the song and it picked back up again and then I got goosebumps. Oh boy… this is…”

Per says they sent it to other stations too and got the same response. Everything exploded after that. The Look became No. 1 on the US Billboard 100 on 8th April 1989. In an old interview Per explains what it means to have an US No. 1. It can open the doors to other markets, like Europe, Japan, everywhere.

Per tells the story of soundtrack to Pretty Woman. He was asked to write a soundtrack song for a movie called 3000 Dollars in the beginning. He didn’t have the time to write a new song, but thought It Must Have Been Love could work with that. And the rest is history. 6 months later Pretty Woman became one of the biggest movies of all time and IMHBL became Roxette’s biggest song. The reporter asks how the song worked in Germany. Per says it became a hit there too. It was No. 4 on the charts the reporter confirms.

The reporter gives Per a piece of paper with numbers written on it. 1, 14, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2. Per guesses it right, it’s the list of Roxette’s singles’ peaks on Billboard. The Look, Dressed for Success, Listen to Your Heart, Dangerous, It Must Have Been Love, Joyride, Fading Like A Flower. Per says the more time goes by, the more unbelievable it feels.

To emphasize how amazing it is, there were 7 Swedish No. 1’s on Billboard and 4 of them are Roxette songs. Roxette had more US No. 1’s than e.g. the Queen.

Swedish No. 1’s

1974 Blue Swede – Hooked On A Feeling
1977 ABBA – Dancing Queen
1989 Roxette – The Look
1989 Roxette – Listen To Your Heart
1990 Roxette – It Must Have Been Love
1991 Roxette – Joyride
1994 Ace of Base – The Sign

Part 3 – Hitkrattan och Cheirongubben – Exploring hits and the Cheiron guy

This episode is about the ’90s, the disco and dance floor era. DJs and music producers talk, but also Dr. Alban and Ace of Base, as well as American artists who came to Sweden to record their songs. Denniz Pop and Max Martin also appear in this part of the documentary, who wrote and produced songs for e.g. Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.

Part 4 – “Generation Blockflöjt” – Generation Recorder

This episode is also about the ’90s. The Wannadies, Atomic Swing, The Cardigans, Meja are talking among others, but also Jonas Åkerlund who directed tons of music videos. Roxette’s Fingertips and June Afternoon, as well as Per Gessle’s Kix is shown in the docu for some seconds, but he directed videos also for e.g. The Prodigy, The Cardigans, U2 and Madonna.

Part 5 – Ett paradis för pirater – A paradise for pirates

This episode is about the 2000s. It’s about how the computers and the internet changed the music industry. Basshunter, Robyn, Swedish House Mafia, Avicii and his manager, as well as Daniel Ek (VD Spotify) talk among others in this part of the docu. Most of this episode is about Avicii.

Part 6 – Må bästa låt vinna – May the best song win

In this episode we can see again the question about who the first Swedish artist was on Billboard. Then another question is asked from several artists: Which song is the biggest hit? Being for the longest time on several charts, not only in the US. In the vinyl era: ABBA – Dancing Queen; CD era: Ace of Base – The Sign; streaming era: Avicii – Wake Me Up; written by a Swede: Lady Gaga – Poker Face (co-written by RedOne).

Most of this episode is about Max Martin and Johan ”Shellback” Schuster. Martin has 22 No. 1’s on Billboard Hot 100. Only John Lennon and Paul McCartney have more. Justin Timberlake says Martin is great at making earworms. Adam Levine, Pink, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift are also talking about him. Martin together with Shellback produced tons of worldwide hits.

Extras

Hitlåtens historia på 2 minuter – Roxette – The Look

It’s the song’s story in 2 minutes. Most of it is repeating what you could hear and see in Part 2 of the docu about the song. In addition it is mentioned that the recording technician who would have originally been in the studio broke his leg, so Anders Herrlin came to record with Marie and Per. He brought computers, synths and some other stuff. Roxette found their sound. Also, they are talking about the song, what the lyrics mean. There Per explains he wrote the lyrics to remember the rythm. If you want, you can find a surreal logic in the text.

Per + Marie = Roxette

Per says he thought he was good at writing songs, but he didn’t like his own voice. He thought his voice set a limit to his material. He didn’t want to sing, but wanted to work with someone who could. When Marie started singing she made Per’s songs so much better. In the end they became a duo and Per was singing too. He says it’s effective. It’s the same as in Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles or The Beatles. You can customize the song after you wrote it. He wrote The Look for Marie, but it didn’t fit her, but it suited Per. The big ballads he wrote for her, Queen of Rain, Listen To Your Heart, It Must Have Been Love, Marie made them big anthems. When he listens to his demos of these songs he can hear they are rather boring. It’s Marie’s capacity that lifted these songs. Per says they were a good combo. Match made in heaven. They were good at different things, but when they added them together, 1 + 1 made 5.

Fönster mot TV-världen del 2: Roxette tar över Argentina – Window to the TV world (part 2): Roxette takes over Argentina

Per talks about their first tour in South America 1992. He says there was extreme poverty and Michael Jackson cancelled his tour, Guns N’ Roses too, Madonna as well. It was clear they wouldn’t earn money on that part of the tour, but they still wanted to play there. Whole South America exploded. They had to move their shows from places with capacity of 7000 to football stadiums with capacity of 48000 in Buenos Aires, 65000 in São Paulo, 55000 in Rio de Janeiro. Same in Lima and Santiago. After the first Buenos Aires concert they had to do another show and they sold the rights to broadcast live to one of the 2 TV channels in Argentina. The other TV channel was broadcasting their Zurich show from half a year before. So that night for about 90 minutes Roxette was all around Argentina.

 

Stills are from the documentary.

Gyllene Tider interview in Hallandsposten

Sara Öster from Hallandsposten did an interview with Gyllene Tider at Hotel Tylösand after the guys finished their rehearsals for the tour that starts with 2 concerts in Halmstad on 4th and 5th July. This will be the last thing that legends Per Gessle, Micke Syd, Göran Fritzon, Mats ”MP” Persson and Anders Herrlin do together, ever.

Per says one should never take the audience for granted and they feel extremely grateful to be able to do such a tour at this age. Their big break-up was in 1985, and after that, GT did only comebacks. Per says he doesn’t feel sad, not right now anyway. It would have been different if they had been a band that had run year in and year out, but it wasn’t the case. He just wants to get this summer going now.

Anders says he actually feels a little lump in his stomach sometimes and he is kidding that he is going to cry. Then he says, no, he won’t, but this tour will be the last thing they do together. At the same time he feels happy and says they are all very excited about this summer and thinks it’s going to be much fun.

Sara also can’t believe the guys wouldn’t finish their last tour in Halmstad, so she asks them when they would announce that they have a last concert there. Per says there won’t be a last gig in Halmstad at the end of the tour. They were thinking about either starting or finishing the tour there and decided for the start. Sara asks if they think Halmstad people will be disappointed if GT won’t finish the tour in Halmstad. Per says he doesn’t think people care. Maybe real hardcore fans, but not others. The whole summer will be a great adventure, and it’s very unique and amazing that they are doing this after so many years. Wherever they go in Sweden it will be a great party, for one evening they will take over the city that they go to.

Anders says the setlist will be a mix of good old songs and new ones from their new album, ”Samma skrot och korn”.

Before the tour premiere the band is in Stockholm. There they test the stage and everything else and have a major rehearsal on 2nd July.

Sara asks the guys if they are nervous. Anders says he is, a little. Or rather excited. But one should feel so before such a happening. And he turns to Per to ask what he thinks. Mr. G says he is not nervous, but he will get an adrenaline rush.

Sara asks how fired up the guys are. Per says he is of course incredibly fired up. He thinks it’s going to be so damn fun and the rest of the band agrees.

To the question if they might reunite again one day they reply a definite no. Göran says they decided that this will be the last one and that’s the way it is. He laughs and says he thought he would blow up his Farfisa at Ullevi, so then they really can’t play more together. The band members join in and tell some other ideas about how they could finish their last gig in Sweden. But these are impossible to publish in Hallandsposten. Haha.

GT has a 20 sec greeting video in the online version of the article where Micke Syd talks and the other  4 Golden Guys agree on the fact that they are so excited about the tour start.

Photo by Anders Roos

Per Gessle’s Sommartider – interview in Hallandsposten

Jan-Owe Wikström did an interview with Per Gessle in Mr. G’s home in Halmstad and it was published in Hallandsposten on June 20th online and on June 30th in print. The guys were talking about Gyllene Tider’s farewell tour and Per’s summer feelings.

Per says first they, the guys in GT didn’t think about this tour to be the last, but when they started talking about it, it made sense. Now that all 5 of them are healthy and in good shape and want to end Gyllene Tider at a high level, it doesn’t seem to be a bad idea. They don’t know what will come in 6, 7 or 10 years and they don’t want to go on tour when any of the band members is not there. Then it wouldn’t be Gyllene Tider anymore.

From the article it turns out that besides the 5 Golden Guys, there will be 2 backing vocalists on tour with them: Malin-My Wall and Dea Norberg. Per explains that Tom Petty also had backing vocalists on his last tour and The Rolling Stones also have them. It feels a bit new, but also it saves Per’s voice and widens the sound partly at the choirs and partly because Malin-My can also play the violin and other instruments.

That the guys would go on a tour and celebrate their 40th anniversary was clear already after the last show in 2013. Since GT was formed in 1978 they wanted to do a tour in 2018, but as Per went on a solo tour in 2017 (130,000 people saw him) and he played several Gyllene Tider songs, then he toured with Per Gessle’s Roxette in 2018, also some shows in Sweden and it’s a small country, they postponed it to 2019.

Even if they knew that 80-90% of the setlist will consist of their old songs, they wanted to make a new album. They recorded it in France. Per says the idea was to create an album that shows the band members have all grown up and they are either close to or already turned 60. They are older, more matured and more experienced. They wanted the album to sound like GT today, not like they sounded back in the days. It can be a little embarrassing when a band tries to sound like 1980 while it’s already 2019.

Jan-Owe mentions an article that was published on 25th July 1985 about GT’s break-up, but he says it was rather a longer break. The the guys came back in 1995, 2004, 2013 and now in 2019. Per says 1995 was the first time they realized how big they became in Sweden. Their hits survived and he had the power via his international success with Roxette.

Now it’s time for another tour that will take the band from Malmö in the South to Piteå in the North with Stockholm and Gothenburg in between, where the concerts were moved to bigger venues (Stockholm Stadion and Ullevi). The 51 songs the guys took on the rehearsals have to be narrowed down to 25-30, including 18 must-play songs.

Jan-Owe asks Per what he thinks makes GT attractive through all generations. Per says the only way to survive as a band for 40 years is never to be trendy. Then they can come back time after time, as they did.

Jan-Owe also asks Mr. G about how it will feel to play the last song on the last concert. Per says he doesn’t know, they won’t die or stop playing.

 

Per’s summer feelings

Childhood summers: ”Far too short. Always.”

Teenage summers: ”I spontaneously think about Fammarps Mushroom Cultivation. I was biking there from Villshärad and weighed mushrooms during some summers. We were 2 guys and more than 300 girls. Good enough.”

Adult life summers: ”Tour. And more tours. And even more tours.”

An unforgettable summer: ”The GT-25 tour in 2004. Awesome. That summer we had more than 25000 people in the audiences per night. How did it really happen?”

The summer I absolutely want to forget: ”There weren’t any bad summers. Or if so then I blanked them out.”

Being on a summer tour: ”Intense.”

The best summer song: ”Summertime by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. A masterpiece.”

The best own summer song: ”Juni, juli, augusti, På promenad genom stan and Min plats. They are OK.”

The best summer concert in Halland county: ”My memory is short, but Wilmer X was awesome the last time they played in Solgården at Hotel Tylösand. I wish I could say Sex Pistols in Östra stranden in Halmstad 1977, but I wasn’t there. MP and I were sitting outside in his Amazon. We didn’t dare to go in.”

The best own concert in Halland county: ”Gyllene Tider on Stora torg in Halmstad 1995 was special. That was the first time we realized how big we became in Sweden. Our hits survived and I had the power via the international success with Roxette.”

Professional expectations before summer 2019: ”To be able to say hi to the crowd.”

Private expectations before summer 2019: ” To be able to say hi to family and friends.”

Why to choose Halland in the summer: ”It’s Sweden’s front side.” (”Sveriges framsida.” -> it’s a Swedish idiom and is associated with the West Coast and Gothenburg. The reason is the geographical situation, which allows direct connections to the international shipping routes via the port. /PP)

This is how summer smells: ”Chips och grill. Näst intill.” (Part of the lyrics of (Kom så ska vi) Leva livet meaning ”Chips and grill. Almost.” /PP)

Pic of Per Gessle is taken in the studio in France by Anders Roos.

 

Thanx for your support with the printed version of the interview, Anne Rosvall!