Marie Fredriksson tribute on Nordic Rox #3

A few days ago there was the 3rd episode of the Marie tribute program on Nordic Rox, Sirius XM.

Before the guys are talking about 2 classic Roxette hits, Sven plays the first track from Bag of Trix, the upcoming archives collection of unreleased recordings by Roxette. The acoustic cover of The Beatles classic, Help! was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in 1995.

Then comes a discussion about a song from 1988, from Look Sharp! album. Per says he picked this song, because for him it sums up where Roxette was standing at the time productionwise. This is a very sparse production. Clarence is just an amazing producer and he relied on and had so much belief in Marie’s vocals, so he just scrapped everything and let Marie sing. This has got a great groove to it, a great guitar hook by Jonas Isacsson and it’s just about Marie’s voice. The demo Per is singing sounds crap, but when Marie delivers the song is just amazing. It’s Sleeping Single.

Per says when they were recording Look Sharp! they felt they were doing something very different. They had great songs and every song they recorded sounded better than the other one. Paint, Dangerous, Dressed For Success, The Look, Listen To Your Heart. Every song was so cool. They went to England to record 3 songs with a different producer which they didn’t like that much, but they wound up on the album anyway. Mr. G is very grateful to Clarence, because he trusted Per’s songs and he really trusted Marie’s voice, so he just focused on making the songs as good as possible.

Sven asks Per if Sleeping Single was an obvious single candidate. Mr. G says all songs on Look Sharp! were created to become singles. Eventually, they released 4 songs off the album and Sleeping Single wasn’t one of them, because they had The Look, Dressed For Success, Dangerous and Listen To Your Heart. Sven laughs and says ”heavy competition”. Paint was a huge song in South America. It wasn’t released as a single, but got heavy airplay as an album track, so it became a big song for Roxette. Dance Away was a big song for them live. Per could have also picked that one for the program, because Marie sings so beautifully in that one as well.

In Sleeping Single they used saxophone which they never did before. It sounded really cool. Saxophone and shoulder pads. Where did the 80’s go…, Per asks.

The third song they play is from Room Service. Per thinks it’s a good album, different from the other albums. It was the last album they recorded before Marie got ill, so it also has a very special place in Mr. G’s heart. It’s got a great sound, it’s not a heavy album at all. There aren’t big ballads on it. When they do the ballads they try to keep the production low. The song Per picked is My World, My Love, My Life, the closing track of the album. Mr. G loves the guitar riff that Jonas is playing and of course loves Marie’s voice on this one. It’s a typical Roxette song, but at the same time it’s not. He thought it was maybe the best song on the album when they recorded it. It’s a great track and Marie is just shining on this one.

Sven thinks Marie sings equally as good on Room Service as she did on the bigger Roxette albums 10 years earlier. Per agrees and says if you listen to the live recordings from the Room Service tour, you can hear she was singing so well. Maybe also because of her experience as they were in their 12th year of being international artists, so of course they learned a trick or two.

Stills are from this video.

Thanx for the technical support to János Tóth.

Roxette – Help! (Abbey Road Sessions November 1995)

On 15th November 1995, Roxette recorded 4 acoustic tracks at the Abbey Road Studios in London. Those songs were 3 Rox hits (The Look, Listen To Your Heart, You Don’t Understand Me) and a wonderful cover of The Beatles gem, Help! All 3 Roxette tracks were already released on the You Don’t Understand Me single and YDUM also appeared on the Anyone single later. Help! (Abbey Road Sessions November 1995) is released digitally for the first time on 8th May, but earlier it was released on The RoxBox. Marie’s vocals are stunning! Listen to it on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube or other digital platforms.

Per about the single:

In these days of seclusion and confusion this digitally unreleased pearl is very much needed. Roxette paid homage to The Beatles on a sunny day in November 1995 at the Abbey Road studio in London. “Help!” is the first taste of the “BAG OF TRIX – Music from the Roxette Vaults” album series that will pop up when you least expect it. Enjoy!

Parts of the Abbey Road recording sessions can be seen in the documentary, Really Roxette. The album sleeve photo of Marie and Per was taken by Marie Dimberg in 1989 when Roxette was in London to appear on TV with The Look in Top of the Pops. You can see this picture in Sven Lindström’s book, Roxette – Den osannolika resan tur och retur. The famous Abbey Road crossing is still very popular. You can wacth it online all day long via a live cam on the studio’s website. The album sleeve itself would deserve a physical release and the song would definitely sound fantastic on vinyl.

The Beatles released Help! (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney) in 1965 and it was No. 1 both in the UK and in the US. After 55 years, it still sounds amazing, even if John told in an interview that he regrets a bit that it became too fast, because they tried to make the song more commercial. I’m quite sure he would have liked Roxette’s slow version.

Marie Fredriksson tribute on Nordic Rox #2

As Sven promised in the first episode, here is the next Marie tribute on Nordic Rox, Sirius XM. Per and Sven start with Crash! Boom! Bang! Per tells they were recording the album in Capri for 6-7 weeks. Per always loved this song, because it’s so fragile and it’s so much Marie for him. Marie singing these big ballads is just mesmerizing. It’s a perfect Roxette song. Sven asks Per if he knew he would write it differently because of already knowing how Marie can deliver such songs. Per replies that he has always been a melody guy, so he could expand the melody a lot when he knew that Marie was going to sing it. For all the songs he wrote he made demos, singing them himself and some of the demos he had a really hard time to do, but it was piece of cake for Marie. If she liked them. Sometimes she didn’t like a song, then they didn’t record it. It’s natural. You have to really like what you are doing. CBB is like a trademark Roxette song. Sven says it also became a centerpiece on the live shows. According to Mr. G it’s a beautiful song and great production as well. It still sounds cool.

After CBB, the guys are talking about Roxette’s first two world tours. Sven says the CBB world tour (1994-1995) was not as big as Joyride (1991-1992), but almost. Per says it was big enough. It was different. The first world tour was when the band exploded and the tour got extended on the go. CBB was only like 100 shows. Here they start laughing. Sven says that was the first time when Roxette performed in South Africa. Per remembers they played big football stadiums. He also tells that the Crash tour was amazing for him, because they built up a great catalogue of hits, so they could make really wonderful concerts. Marie was amazing and they had a great band. They worked for basically 7 years in a row and those were the last 2 years of that period. They had their little peak there, Per thinks.

Sven asks Per if he knew in advance that Marie was such a rocker on stage. Mr. G says he doesn’t think so. Even Marie herself didn’t realize it before either. It just happened when they started making videos. When she performed her own songs with her own band, she was pretty boring on stage. She was sitting by the piano, like a singer songwriter. But suddenly, she just exploded on stage in the early videos. She always had this acting ambition. She felt very comfortable in front of the camera and eventually, she became an amazing performer on stage. That is also one of the reasons why Roxette became so big. They could deliver live as well, not only in the studio. They were a great live band, great musicians, Swedish guys and girls, all of them and of course, Marie as a centerpiece of everything. In the pop world it’s never been natural that even though a band has hits, most of them can’t deliver on stage. It takes a certain sort of quality to be able to perform for 55,000 people and have them entertained for 2 hours.

The next song they are talking about is Wish I Could Fly. Sven tells his special memory from later, from the Night of the Proms tour in Germany. The symphony orchestra was playing a piece to introduce Roxette and that was a Scandinavian piece which turned to WICF and Marie entered the stage from the floor, rising from there. When people realized that this classical piece turned into Roxette and saw Marie entering the stage through the floor, everyone stood up and started cheering. It was in 2009. Per explains Marie became ill in 2002 and she had a break for 7 years, so NOTP was the first comeback tour they did.

When Per wrote the songs for Have A Nice Day, he had a couple of years writing songs in different directions. Dance tracks, guitar tracks, electro music. Wish I Could Fly was just different to anything else. He was very surprised that the record label picked it as the first single for the album, because it was so different to what they had done before. Looking back now it feels like it’s a great part of te Roxette puzzle. Per really likes the song and Marie of course delivers it so well. Mr. G likes the lyrics and the way Marie sings it, as well as the arrangement. It’s so 90’s to him with the drum loop that goes on and on. It’s got a great riff too, almost like a Led Zeppelin riff. Sven adds that the song has also got an atmosphere to it that suits Marie’s voice so perfectly. She adds something magical to it. Per agrees. He says it’s a tough song to play live though, because it’s based on that machine loop that goes on and on and it’s hard to play it if you are not using sequencers and stuff like that. You can cheat a little bit if you want to, but they never did. The guys are laughing again.

The next song is from the album that could have been the last Roxette record, as Sven says. Milk And Toast And Honey from Room Service. The album was recorded in 2000. Marie was doing a solo album in Swedish and touring in the summer. She was planning to make more music with Micke. Per adds he is a great piano player. So Marie wasn’t really into making a new Roxette record, but Per wrote a lot of songs and they started to work on the album. Per personally thinks that Room Service contains some of their greatest works. There are some really outstanding songs on it. Sven agrees. He thinks it sounds great and it’s got a cool vibe to it. Mr. G says they used a new engineer, so they got a little bit different sound to it. They had basically the same players though. Jonas Isacsson plays amazing guitar. Marie sounded amazing especially on MATAH. According to Per, this is the best track on the album, because it’s a ballad, but not like a typical huge Roxette ballad, like Spending My Time or Listen To Your Heart. This is like a tiny little ballad that Marie just delivers and it’s beautiful.

By this time Marie already had 2 kids and family was much in focus for her. She wasn’t really interested in touring the world or promoting. She wanted to be at home with her family. Who could blame her for that? They had been doing it internationally for 12 years at that time, so Per thinks she wanted to have a break. The album was done very much by Clarence Öfwerman and Per and then they did a big European tour with that album as well.

Sven mentions the story of Marie arriving to the recordings of MATAH with a taxi and leaving right after recording her vocals. Per tells Marie’s vocals had been recorded already before, but he wanted her to do some different takes on the last chorus to change the melody, to bring the song home. So he called Marie and she came by taxi and kept the taxi waiting outside the studio, sang those 3 lines and she was out again, in the taxi and back home. Per is laughing while he is telling this story. Sven thinks it’s quite cheeky, but Per says that’s the way it was. Marie delivered, then Per and Clarence summed it up and finished the record.

After playing MATAH, this part of the tribute is over.


Unfortunately, it’s impossible to add a direct link to the program, but search for Nordic Rox and go some ”shift forwards” into the show to hear Sven and Per talking.

Thanx for the technical support to János Tóth.

Roxette in the Rock ’n’ Roll Circus

As we already posted about it in November 2019, in connection with the 50th anniversary of founding EMA Telstar (Live Nation today), legendary concert organizer, Thomas Johansson released a book, Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus: Artisterna – Musiken – Mötena (Rock ’n’ Roll Circus: Artists – Music – Meetings). Over the years Thomas has been working together with an endless list of artists and bands and of course, Roxette is one of them.

Thomas told his stories to writer and journalist (also author of The Lonely Boys fiction book among others), Mats Olsson who wrote them down. It’s not tabloid style, not at all. You won’t get to know any secrets you never knew about the artists themselves and most importantly, it’s not a scandal book. Thomas would never reveal anything he had been told in confidence. Why he can still do what he loves to do after 5 decades is that he is proved to be a trusty person and one who can sort out even things that seem to be impossible related to the concerts he organizes. Sometimes even related to those shows where he was not involved in the organizing. This is how his cooperation started with Bruce Springsteen, for example.

For a Roxer, the most important chapter in the book is without no doubt the one about Roxette, but since Per’s name and Roxette turn up here and there even in other bands’ and artists’ chapters, it’s worth reading the complete book. But not just because of that. The book tells you the story of how Thomas started his career already at the age of 17 and created his future day by day, event by event. You learn how important trust is and maintaining connections is another key factor. The little stories let you have an insight of how event organizing and musicians worked in the 60’s and 70’s and how it all has been changing over the decades. How you continuously have to keep up with the trends and be up-to-date with what’s happening in the industry. E.g. if someone has 1 billion views on YouTube, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people would buy tickets for 1000 SEK to see them live.

Roxette’s story in the book starts with them flying from Uruguay to Paraguay for their show in Asunción in April 1992. Thomas tells it was definitely the most dangerous flight ever in his life. He had pictures in his mind how the plane would crash in the rainforest, they would become completely isolated and stranded and started eating each other up. He says it was not a weird thought, because an air pocket caused a four-kilometer straight downfall. Per and Marie were quite calm, but there were other passengers panicking on the plane, screaming and crying. When they finally landed in Asunción, it was raining like hell. There was a press conference right at the airport, as it used to be a tradition in South America. There were 150 journalists sitting in a strange hall and so there was chaos, but they managed to get through it and leave by the cars that were already waiting outside after the conference.

Marie, Micke, Thomas and BoJo were travelling in the same car, a Mercedes. Thomas was sitting in the front and he remembers it was raining so heavily that his feet got completely wet even inside the car. Then suddenly, Marie from the backseat told she forgot her bag at the press conference. The whole convoy stopped, BoJo jumped out of the car into the water that reached up to his knees and rushed back to the airport for Marie’s bag. After he got back, they went to a golf hotel outside the city.

It stopped raining during the night and in the morning Thomas saw that the hotel was situated along a wide flood where dead cows were floating with their legs straight up in the air and crocodiles were swimming like in a Donald Duck comic. And Per was sitting on a balcony, sunbathing. [Hahaha. /PP]

The venue for the Roxette show was a big soccer stadium in Asunción that the organizer sold out. The arena was of the capacity of 30,000 people, but the organizer proudly said he sold 40,000 tickets. Tor Nielsen and Thomas immediately realized that they should strengthen the fences in front of the stage and they brought there a man who helped them with these kind of practical things.

The band was terribly good even if one couldn’t really hear what they were playing, because the crowd sing-along was louder than them. They asked the organizer how that could be, because no one spoke English, but the organizer said that in Asunción they used Roxette records for teaching at schools.

The organizers had built a large tower with mixer boards and spotlights in the middle of the crowd and while the band was playing Thomas saw from the stage how the light cones started to move and the whole tower was swaying by the pressure. BoJo gathered 200 soldiers who marched straight through the audience, up to the tower and they actually built it during the concert.

Thomas tells he has been working together with Per for 40 years, more than half of his life. Together with ”Blixten” Henriksson, who Thomas was working with in EMA Telstar they worked with Ulf Lundell, Tomas Ledin and Magnus Uggla, but after ABBA’s win in Brigthon Blixten took care of many other Swedish artists, while Thomas had other things to do. Blixten didn’t really believe in Gyllene Tider, he couldn’t see Flickorna på TV2 as a big hit and refused to work with them. So GT started working with their competitor, Thomas Nordlund at Showring. Later, in September 1981 they met Gyllene Tider and their business manager, Janne Beime and his wife, Lena in Örebro. Janne suggested to do a tour together. Blixten and Thomas were thinking all night about how to set up a tour for GT. The first time they worked together was in 1982 and the tour started in Ljusdal’s Folkets park. Thomas came just in time for the soundcheck and when he arrived he saw that the whole band was drinking coke except Göran and Per who ordered beer at the restaurant, but they didn’t get served, because they were too young. They were not, but they still didn’t get their beer.

Thomas says there was quite a contrast. They just did The Rolling Stones at Ullevi and then GT in Ljusdal. He was amazed at how good Gyllene Tider was. People loved them and the girls were screaming. Thomas is a nerd when it comes to songs and he can tell Per has written hits. GT was a classic pop band and they sounded fantastic already back then.

Mr. Johansson says it’s been a pleasure to work with Per, Gyllene Tider and Marie in different constellations. Before Roxette’s international break-through they already worked together on the Rock runt riket tour. Thomas could well build on what he learned from when he was organizing concerts for ABBA and other big international bands. Roxette played around the whole world. Not only in traditional arenas in England and the US, but also in South America and even Beijing in 1994. Wham! played there before Roxette, but Roxette was the first rock band allowed to play in China. Thomas remembers that they lived in a nice hotel in Beijing, but the venue, Capital Stadium left much to be desired. There were 12,000 in the crowd and no one was allowed to stand up and soldiers were sitting in the very front. The tickets cost 1-2 dollars, so not too expensive. People from the party listened to the songs in advance, checked the lyrics and they said they can’t play Sleeping In My Car. They didn’t explain why.

Thomas about Per:

Per is the engine, an engine of everything, a living dynamo. He was very young when we met in Örebro, but he was curious, smart and focused already then. Per has visions and thoughts, he wants a lot and that makes you talk, talk, talk and you can’t stand still. It’s a challenge, but also a pleasure to work with someone who is so creative.

Thomas admits he was a little worried before Gyllene Tider’s farewell tour last summer, but in hindsight he understands how incredibly deeply rooted GT’s songs are. They are part of Swedish summer.

Thomas mentions that Roxette had their very last concert in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016. [The very last concert was in Cape Town, 8th February 2016. /PP] As Thomas says, ”Marie, this fragile little person, such a warm and unbelievably strong woman, could no longer tour”. Thomas remembers that after releasing Nu!, Marie so much wanted to do her last solo tour in 2014. Everyone told her she shouldn’t, she can’t, it won’t work, but she insisted and then you could see her enormous strength. She went through so much… The tour turned out to be phenomenal and she was singing like a goddess. Thomas says:

For me this is the essence of Marie, a mix of pop, blues, jazz, a little, little body with a big, big voice. Many have great voices and sing well, but can’t express anything. Marie can do that. She is a storyteller and not many are.

It’s hard to forget Roxette’s last show. It was windy that night in Johannesburg and there were 10,000 – 12,000 people inside the venue. Marie had problems with walking, so BoJo walked her to the stage. She was sitting on a chair, stood up and sat down again. Thomas thought that can’t go on like this for a long time. They booked a summer tour, but then it had to be cancelled.

After Marie stopped touring, Per wanted to continue. He wanted to play the songs he wrote for Roxette and Thomas and PG talked a lot about it. Thomas told Per that if he doesn’t do it, he will be thinking about it all the time in the future. So he said let’s call it Per Gessle’s Roxette and they book a tour in Europe in theatres between the capacity of 200 and 2000. Thomas thought Roger Waters performs as Roger Waters, but he plays Pink Floyd songs and those songs couldn’t sound more like Pink Floyd than when Roger plays them. The same with Paul McCartney and The Beatles. And no one else could sound more like Roxette than Per. The tour was good, even if it wasn’t sold out everywhere. It sounded fantastic and they got nice reviews. We will see what’s next. Now Per also has an electronic band, Mono Mind and Gyllene Tider’s 2019 tour was one of the biggest in Sweden.

Thomas says that Per has two, soon three generations in his audience. Like The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Roger Waters. 40 years of constant hits.

In other chapters Thomas mentions that he is a Formula 1 fan, just like Per. Roxette turns up in a chapter with their 1996 Toronto TV appearance and Mr. Johansson tells that at the same time he was negotiating NHL matches to be brought to Sweden. In the Ulf Lundell chapter Thomas tells the story of how he started working with Lundell. He asked if Thomas still works with Swedish artists and when Thomas said he works with Ledin and Gessle, Lundell said then he wants Thomas to do his next tour. Mr. Johnasson explains that Per, Tomas and Ulf are very different, both in music and in their personalities, but they are very similar in their creativity. Thomas says it’s motivating to work so close together with artists who are so creative, because you can learn what drives them and then it doesn’t matter if the artist’s name is Per, Tomas, Ulf, Mick, Keith, Bowie or Bruce, they have the same thoughts and same questions and Thomas feels lucky and priviliged to work with them.

Mr. G pops up in the David Bowie chapter as well. There Thomas mentions that he, Bosse Norling (tour leader), Bengt Berg (from EMI) and a very young Per Gessle were travelling together to Lyon to see Bowie’s concert in 1983. They were flying to Geneva, rented a car there and drove through Switzerland to Lyon, France. They arrived in the afternoon and Per invited them for lunch at a truck stop. Appetizer, main course, dessert and wine, everything was included and cost ten francs per person. They ate one-minute hearty steak with french fries and there was nothing wrong with the wine either. For the coffee they could choose dessert or calvados. Thomas felt like they had begun to live the glamorous rock life.

From the Tina Turner chapter we get to know that Tina lives in Switzerland and Thomas was once there for dinner with Roxette. They were drinking good wines and eating excellent truffle pasta prepared by Tina herself.

As I mentioned at the beginning, you can see that Per and Roxette really turn up in the book in several chapters. Thomas and Mats picked 25 artists and bands to write about. So besides Roxette you can read stories related to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, KISS, ABBA, Queen, Lou Reed, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, Ulf Lundell, David Bowie, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Tomas Ledin, Neil Young, Tina Turner, AC/DC, Metallica, Rod Stewart, Pink, Roger Waters, Paul Simon, U2 and Paul McCartney. The foreword was written by Björn Ulvaeus from ABBA.

It’s a very interesting reading, I can only recommend. Good for practicing your Swedish too.

A cover of Roxette’s ”Listen To Your Heart” on the US charts

Mainstream Rock is Billboard magazine’s music chart that ranks the most played songs on mainstream rock radio stations in the US. Listen To Your Heart has now entered the charts at No. 40 in the interpretation of an American hard rock band, Through Fire. The band was founded in 2015 and released their 2nd album, All Animals – on which their Listen To Your Heart cover can be found – on 19th July 2019. It’s not the first time the band appears on the charts. Their debut single Stronger reached number 29 and 3 other songs were also charting. Their highest peak position was 13 with their 2016 single, Breathe. Listen To Your Heart was released as a single and an official video to it was published on 9th December 2019, before anyone knew what happened in the Roxette World that day. The single features an acoustic version too.

Listen To Your Heart was written by Per Gessle and Mats MP Persson on 3-4 May 1988 and was released as the second single from Roxette’s second studio album, Look Sharp! in September the same year. This is what Per told about it earlier:

I co-wrote this with MP Persson in May of 1988 and it immediately felt very special. The lyrics came from an all night conversation I’d had with a friend who was going through a heartbreaking divorce. In the studio with Roxette it sounded awesome, with Marie taking the lead role and Clarence creating that beautiful piano intro.

Our ambition was to make it sound really ”American”. I guess we succeeded…

It has become our most popular song all over the world and was our second No. 1 in the US.

Roxette reached their 2nd No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the song on 4th November 1989.

A Belgian dance group, DHT did a trance cover of LTYH and it became a hit in the US and in some other countries. This way in 2005 Listen To Your Heart returned to the top 10 on the Billboard (reaching No. 8) as DHT’s remake.

American radios played Listen To Your Heart more than 5 million times. In 1998 Roxette received an award from BMI for this song being played over 2 million times on American radio. Phil Graham of BMI said it was very unusual for a song to get over the 2 million mark in such a short space of time. In October 2006, helped by DHT’s cover, Roxette were awarded again by BMI for the song’s 3 millionth broadcast on American radio. Per and MP got the Million-Air Award for 4 million plays in 2008 and for 5 million plays in 2014.

Let’s see how high the cover of Through Fire climbs. And hey, looking forward to the 6 million plays ceremony anytime!

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