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.

Per Gessle and Magnus Börjeson discuss ”Station to Station” on Bowiepodden

A Swedish David Bowie podcast, Bowiepodden invited Per Gessle and Magnus Börjeson to discuss David Bowie’s Station to Station album. The conversation was recorded at T&A in December 2022 and the guys talked about the album track by track. Listen to it HERE!

After the podcast host, Sebastian Borg welcomes Per and Magnus, he turns to Per and asks him about when Station to Station came into his life. Mr. G says it happened as soon as it came out at the beginning of 1976. He has always listened to David Bowie a lot and followed him. He attended the Station to Station tour at Scandinavium. He remembers they went there with a group and wore platform shoes, because they thought it was appropriate. Then they were a little disappointed when David Bowie entered the stage looking like Frank Sinatra. Haha. There was also Luis Buñuel’s short film, Un Chien Andalou shown, but it was a fantastic concert, Per thinks. Sebastian can imagine it was magical. Mr. G agrees that Bowie was magical. Sebastian thinks Per was the right age to be a Bowie fan. PG was 17 at the time. On the other hand, Per says these albums from 1976 still sound depressive in a way. Destroyer by Kiss is probably the worst. Hejira by Joni Mitchell was quite good, although it was complicated. You can’t miss Hotel California by the Eagles, but it didn’t mean much.

Per says when he was 11 or 12, he bought New Musical Express and Melody Maker every week and sometimes he bought Goal which was about English football. Magnus adds Per probably bought Buster (sport comic magazine) too. Per says indeed, he forgot about that one. Mr. G remembers that there were a lot of pictures of Bowie all the time. Bowie usually travelled by train, he was afraid of flying. Also, you heard that he stocked his urine in the fridge. It was quite a tough time. ”Or a good PR campaign”, Magnus adds. He thinks you have to take it with a pinch of salt, like everything. Sebastian thinks the whole myth-making around how decadently Bowie lived had an impact on him when he discovered the album long afterwards. He feels like it can’t be removed from the music and sometimes he would just like to listen to it without knowing any background to it. Magnus thinks the album is a bit detached. Per agrees and he adds it has very complex texts and there were no texts printed on the sleeve and there was no internet back then. So you didn’t understand it all, all this weird stuff he referred to, especially in the title track. You don’t exactly understand it even when you read it. Magnus says he has read through it a hundred times, but he has got only half of the answers still. Sebastian says you need to have Wikipedia available when you want to keep up.

Per says there is a book called Bowie Books. He collected books and it’s a book about 100 books that were most influential in his life and there is a lot of stuff he refers to in his texts. Sebastian says Bowie was a bookworm, he read a lot. Sebastian thinks it might not be that interesting to dig into why Bowie did things. He thinks it makes perfect sense that Bowie buried these and also his fascination with Hitler. Sebastian feels a bit that it is a storm in a glass of water, because it’s clear that at some point you are interested in those powers. Magnus says Sid Vicious had Nazi ties back in the days. It was the easiest way in England to provoke at that time. There is a PR element in all this, you have to remember that. After the war, it was so present. It was there all the time. Per says that after Woodstock and the Summer of Love, it feels like the ’70s itself was a real mess if you look at Pasolini, books, music, fashion and everything. Sebastian says he read someone who wrote that Bowie was like a roll of film exposed to too much light, because he was good at taking in all the impressions at the same time.

He was so extremely receptive. There were talks about drug abuse and using drugs, his main thing was cocaine. If he had gone hard for heroin, then he might not have survived. Sebastian feels that Bowie didn’t take drugs for partying and hogwash, but because of being extremely productive. So he had it more as a fuel to endure. He wanted to make music, he wanted to read, he wanted to write, he always had a thousand ideas going on. He was also quite isolated. He didn’t meet many people at the time and mostly hung out with himself and his musicians. There is a story about him putting up little piles of cocaine in the studio in different places, so that he doesn’t have to stretch so far if he was sitting by the piano for example. Magnus inserts it was the same with Fleetwood Mac. That was a Los Angeles thing.

Sebastian adds that Bowie also wanted to keep away from rock at this time. He had already done Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs. Sebastian has a quote where Bowie says himself: „I was absolutely infuriated that I was still in rock ‘n’ roll. And not only in it, but had been sucked right into the centre of it. I had to move out. I never intended to be so involved in rock and roll… and there I was in Los Angeles, right in the middle of it.” Sebastian thinks you can feel very clearly that this is a transition album and it’s not so rocky. It has really come a long way from the Ziggy Stardust sound. Per says if this record had come out today, he wouldn’t have listened to it at all. You gave records so much more time in the old days. Magnus adds that this record needs much time. He listened to it so much on a cassette in a car he had one summer. It always went on and after a while he thought, wait, this is damn good. But in the beginning, listening to this long, long, long intro, was not the best thing in the traffic. Per says it’s better to listen to it in your bed with your headphones on. Mr. G thinks it’s not a fantastic album. He thinks there are elements in Stay, for example, or TVC 15 that are damn good, but the other 5 minutes they could have edited a bit more, to make it more effective. Station to Station, the song itself is extremely protracted. Sebastian says that’s a typical cocaine impact. PG says he never liked Word in a Wing at all. Wild Is the Wind was his favourite, because that was a real song.

Sebastian thinks that a large part of the album’s sound and Bowie’s songwriting was also characterized by the fact that he was in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth. Actually, he wanted to make the music for it, he wrote a lot of music. Magnus says Bowie got super pissed off when they didn’t use it in the end. It was John Phillips from The Mamas & the Papas who got to do the soundtrack instead. Sebastian says he hasn’t seen that movie earlier, but he gave it a chance now before this conversation. An alien, Newton comes down to civilization, trying to find water is the storyline, but it’s a bit loose. And that’s how the sound is on Station to Station too. The cover of the album is a still from the movie.

Magnus says that Bowie got the world’s best partner on this record, producer Harry Maslin, who is so extremely underrated and not talked about. Per says Harry produced 2 albums of Bowie, Young Americans and Station to Station. He also produced Air Supply. Sebastian says Young Americans is also much Tony Visconti, but for example, Fame was produced by Harry and David, without Tony.

Per says it’s true that the sound of Young Americans is very different to Station to Station. There is a distance, STS is a little more metallic, a little cold. Magnus says it’s hard to get into it. PG says when the lead single, Golden Years was released, it was very surprising. He gave it like 30 chances and then finally put it away. It’s not an obvious single right away. For Magnus it was in the late ’80s when he discovered it and started listening to it. It was after Ashes to Ashes, so it was another Bowie.

As a fun fact, Sebastian mentions that Bowie was together with a designer named Ola Hudson who had a son who later became famous as Slash. So Bowie nursed little Slash. His real name is Saul Hudson.

The guys here get down to this epic album, which opens with Bowie’s longest song in his career, Station to Station. When the intro starts, Per says here comes the train. Magnus asks if this was the sound that was during the movie screening. Per says no, the whole concert started with this train and then it was Earl Slick standing in the front of stage doing the intro. Bowie was standing at another place and started singing [here Per demonstrates how deep his voice was] „the return…” It was fantastic.

Still listening to the intro, Per says you would like them to sprout up the song a little bit, get a little tough. Magnus says maybe that was cocaine. PG says, but then it should be fast. There is a little turn though, but you feel like it’s at 4 BPM. It gets a little faster, Per says. Magnus adds you get the reward when Bowie starts singing. Sebastian says the singing starts only 3 minutes 16 seconds into the song, so it’s a massive intro. From the first lines you get a little goosebumps, but musically, it could have been more cheeky. At one point Per asks Magnus what instrument is the one that comes. Magnus thinks it’s melodica, but he is not sure. Per says it sounds like being played with the mouth, so it can be. Sebastian says that when he heard this song for the first time it was at KB in Malmö. A Bowie tribute band was playing with Fredrik Karlsson. The opening lines were inspired by Aleister Crowley, an occultist about whom there is a story that he lured a young couple into his apartment and terrorised them until they died.

Sebastian thinks that there is something strange about the „return” of the Thin White Duke, because it was the first time we heard about him. Who is this guy that he was apparently talking about? Magnus says these characters always come back and descend and come back to take over. It was the same with Ziggy. Per says Bowie is such a storyteller in his lyrics. There aren’t many love lyrics in David Bowie’s catalogue. Per can’t even remember if there is any. Wild is the Wind has beautiful love lyrics, but it’s not Bowie’s song. All the lyrics are about… it’s impossible to say what they are about. Sebastian feels like this is Bowie’s way of tying together a lot of song ideas. It’s a little patchwork that applies to songs like this that have many parts in them. Like a symphony. Magnus says it kind of has a small connection to symphonic rock. It’s not symphonic rock at all, but the form is close. It was big back then. Such super pop people like McCartney did a lot of this sort of thing and there were other bands that made a whole career out of doing it.

Sebastian thinks the intro is magical. Maybe a bit too long, but the second half of the song brings him to Young Americans land. The transition isn’t that pretty. Per and Magnus think differently. They think it’s damn good. Sebastian thinks it’s a bit Jethro Tullish. Per thinks this part is in the song’s DNA. Sebastian thought about comparing it a bit to the title song on Blackstar, because it was also almost 10 minutes long. It’s funny that Blackstar was actually over 10 minutes, but they had to cut it down to 9 min 57 sec, because iTunes didn’t sell singles that were over 10 minutes.

Sebastian thinks Blackstar works better. The parts there fit together more neatly. Regarding why these songs have to be so long, Carlos Alomar talked about it in an interview. It was because he found out on Station to Station that they pay you extra money if your song is longer than three minutes. So it was because of more money.

Sebastian thinks there is a lot to talk about in terms of Station to Station‘s lyrics. They don’t need to talk about every single line, because it’s almost too much, but there are some things that are very interesting. For example, Bowie sings „such is the stuff from where dreams are woven” from The Tempest by Shakespeare.

Above all, he was into Kabbalah and there is this mysticism. It’s dark, but it feels pretty harmless. Then he sings „here are we one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth”. Sebastian says it was hard for him to figure this out without internet. Per agrees that it’s difficult to understand that. He looked it up on the internet too, but he must have forgotten it. It is a reference to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, where Malkuth is the lowest branch and represents the physical world. Kether is on the top of the Tree of Life. It means crown. Life is a journey from one to the other.

Talking about the title, Station to Station for Sebastian it has a train reference, but it’s not really. He thinks Bowie is referring to the Stations of the Cross. It also fits better. The journey goes from station to station, he is on his way from the dark to the light. But it’s a bit misleading that they start with train sounds. So it can be both. Per has always thought that it’s Bowie’s life, he is on his way, but from A to B or from A to F and it’s really wonderful, simple and effective to illustrate it with a train. It could be a boat or any other vehicle, but it’s also like a mental journey. Magnus says Bowie always had a lot of themes going on at the same time, overlapping one another. It might be a dream game. It’s just that things go on and on and on. Per thinks that is the magic of pop and rock music in general, that you can interpret texts in so many ways. Sometimes you can think that it’s all about you. Of course it isn’t, but you interpret it that way and that’s the power of this. Magnus says texts should stand on their own. They can always rest in the music and you can just throw in a line to hold it together. If you have listened to a song a lot, you’ll eventually get into the lyrics too. Every now and then it starts to stick and then you try to draw your own logical conclusions.

Sebastian says that in the lyrics, Bowie was very figurative and has poetic descriptions that are now quite straight to the point when he sings „it’s not the side effects of cocaine, I’m thinking that it must be love”. Magnus says it was one of these lines that you were hooked at first, but that was it.

Sebastian says that Bowie’s texts are not really why he bought a ticket for. They are hard to understand. Per agrees. Magnus thinks these texts do work, but on a much more subconscious level. Sebastian doesn’t like this song as wholeheartedly as everyone else. He thinks some parts are better than others. He is curious if this is one of Per’s favourite Bowie songs. PG thinks it’s really good. It’s long, but he has listened to it a lot. As he said, he was 17 years old when it came out and that’s exactly when he really listened the most for the music.

Magnus says he was maybe 20 when he started listening to this record. Per thinks it’s very difficult to say which are Bowie’s best songs. It depends a little on what you are out for. He thinks Life on Mars? is fantastic, even though it is from a certain angle. Drive-In Saturday from Aladdin Sane he loves. It’s one of his strangest songs. Time Will Crawl is also a fantastic one.

Regarding Station to Station, Sebastian says he tried to get into it. He listened to it closely, listened to it a little less closely, but he can’t get over the fact that for him it’s a little too much of a collection of song ideas that he doesn’t think fit together. He can’t see what everyone else is seeing or can’t really hear what everyone else is really hearing. Per says it helped a lot for him that he listened to it when it came out. Back then you gave music so much more time to get into it and like it. If it had come out today, PG would have never listened to it. Magnus says that back then, you’d never heard a song like that before, but today you don’t have that patience with music. Per adds that it was also the case that everything that came out then was new. It felt new.

Mr. G remembers that when he heard stereo for the first time in the headphones, it was fantastic to experience it. Magnus says it was like a new dimension. Per explains we don’t live in such a time anymore. Today there is such a huge range of everything.

Magnus says it’s so funny that even if Bowie is supposed to be experimental, there is always this damn boogie. Both Per and Magnus demonstrate what they mean by boogie. It’s also there on Heroes. That’s what makes it so cool that you get 2 dimensions.

Golden Years is the next song the guys are talking about. These kind of songs are Sebastian’s type of pop songs. He really loves these pop singles and this, of course, was the lead single and it came out before the album was released.

Per thinks it’s quite lovely to hear a live band that plays funk and soul. It doesn’t exist anymore. Today everything is fixed. Sebastian thinks that this is like a groove and it has different perfect guitar parts that sync up so very well. It’s almost like a duel between two guitarists.

Magnus says it’s also very much the ’70s, where everything is a bit messy. Then there is Let’s Dance in the ’80s, but that record is super swingy in its own way and is organized in a completely different way.

Per says he hears a little Elvis echo on here. Magnus says Bowie wrote it with Elvis in mind. Per says he can’t hear Elvis doing it actually. Sebastian confirms that Bowie indeed thought that Elvis might be interested in doing that. Bowie also forwarded it to Presley’s management, but as far as Sebastian knows, he never got a yes or no from them. He doesn’t even think that Colonel Parker passed it on. Sebastian can hear it with Elvis and thinks it would have been cool if he sang it.

It resonates like the electronic music that Kraftwerk were doing, but not as swinging. Sebastian thinks that songs like this must be hard to learn. It feels natural when you hear it, but if you were to stand alone and try to keep up, you would lose track. Sebastian thinks a bit of Beyoncé, too, having such songs where everything is connected. Sebastian is just very grateful that he doesn’t have to learn the formula.

According to Sebastian, the inspiration for this one apparently came from a song called Happy Years by The Diamonds, but there is also a song called Funky Broadway by The Blazers. Sebastian rather thinks that Carlos Alomar was probably right when he said that it came from when Bowie wanted to do something in the style of On Broadway. He also sings a line from On Broadway on Aladdin Sane on the outro. Per says the song jumps out on the album, because it’s rather commercial. Magnus thinks it’s an obvious single. Per agrees.

Sebastian says that Bowie’s childhood friend, Geoff MacCormack has a big role here. Bowie had some problem with his voice during the recording, so Geoff had to sing some parts. It was his idea to add „run for the shadows” as backing vocals. You would think it’s Bowie singing, but it’s Geoff. Sebastian tried to separate their vocals. Per thinks that when Bowie sang live, his singing was perfectly clear, everything was fantastic. PG has never heard him sing out of tune. Sebastian says that it’s strange that Bowie didn’t play this song live from 1983. He wonders if it could have been something with the key, something that made it difficult to sing it. Mr. G says it’s very falsetto. Magnus says he knows they usually liked to keep first takes on the records. It was almost always the case. According to Sebastian, it is said that if you can sing clearly, you can also whistle clearly. He doesn’t know who is whistling here, but it’s just perfect.

Magnus says it’s so much fun to hear vocals from the time before all became so fixed. We are reminded how exciting it can be with singing. Per says he understands that if you sing out of tune or you make a mistake you can correct it now, but if you have the vocal capacity like Bowie, you wouldn’t want these voices to be autotuned.

Sebastian says drummer Dennis Davis plays wonderfully on the whole album, but here he is in his element. The band is in its full power on this song. It’s so incredibly good, it’s so far from swinging. Sebastian thinks this mixture is so perfect, the black band, the white music. Per and Magnus also find it awesome.

Sebastian says this song is not as long as some of the others, but 4 minutes is about right. Magnus says they got more money for this length too. Haha.

The guys start talking about what the song is about. Sebastian thinks there are lines that are either about Angie Bowie or about Bowie’s girlfriend, Ava Cherry. At the same time, as Bowie said himself, he wrote this with Elvis in mind, so who knows. Per doesn’t think it’s about anything special. It’s that you can interpret it in so many ways. He thinks it sounds pretty nice. The song came about very quickly, Sebastian says.

Now the guys are at the last song on side A, Word on a Wing. Sebastian loves that tentative piano that feels like testing the sound. He is also very fond of how Bowie starts singing. Per thinks it’s the world’s strangest arrangement. He never liked this song and always skipped it. He never liked the melody, the construction of the song. Sebastian likes it quite a lot, but he realized that he wouldn’t like it if it wasn’t written by Bowie. Then he would think it’s too buttery. He maybe also has a little difficulty, because there is a very Christian message in it. Sebastian chose to see it as a love song that might as well be a tribute to a woman, but the consensus seems to be that it’s Bowie who turned towards Christianity or religion in general. He himself had never really been an outspoken Christian like Dylan in a period. Here Bowie sings „Just because I believe, don’t mean I don’t think as well / Don’t have to question everything / In heaven or hell”.

Sebastian says that it’s said that you become more religious by getting older. Per says once again that he thinks people put in so many interpretations. Bowie was probably just looking for a good rhyming word with „well” and found „hell”. Haha.

Sebastian reads Bowie’s words: „I had never been so near an abyss of total abandonment. When they say that one felt like a shell, an empty shell, I can really understand that. I felt that any of life’s intrusions would crush that shell very easily. I felt totally, absolutely alone. And I probably was alone because I pretty much had abandoned God.” A couple of years later, in 1980 he says: „There was a point when I very nearly got suckered into that narrow sort of looking… finding the cross as the salvation of mankind.” Sebastian says that here Bowie admits a little that he had at least opened up the idea that there could be salvation in God, but quite quickly realized that it wasn’t for him. Although he was wearing a cross on his necklace throughout his career. He wasn’t an outspoken religious person, but an intellectual. Sebastian says he is not a convinced atheist, but he has a hard time when there are Christian messages like this in a text, but he chose to ignore it and like the song anyway. Magnus thinks that Bowie sings so terribly well and he can do these super theatrical things that still don’t make it too ridiculous. It gets a little ridiculous and good at the same time.

Per says that in the ’80s and ’90s Bowie’s music became so tough and so harsh that his voice disappeared. Earlier PG mentioned Time Will Crawl and he thinks Bowie sings amazingly on that one, but he also has a lot of resistance. The production is so powerful that he kind of has to push through it.

Sebastian thinks the drum accompaniment is strange, some double beats are a strange choice by Dennis. Then comes the part where Sebastian says this is the only song he has a little difficulty with and that’s when you go into this so-called chorus. There’s something about the falsetto that doesn’t work for him right here. Per and Magnus think it’s nice. Sebastian realizes that he and the guys think a little differently all the time. Haha.

Sebastian says if you want to hear a little Springsteen in a Bowie song, here it is. It’s Springsteen’s pianist, Roy Bittan playing here. Sebastian thinks the song as a composition feels a little Springsteenish. Magnus has never thought about it. Per says Bowie recorded Springsteen songs as well, e.g. It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City. Sebastian has never seen Bowie as being inspired by Springsteen, but he has seen Bowie as someone who looked up to Springsteen musically. Magnus thinks they were contemporaries, but they were completely different. Sebastian feels a little Springsteen vibe in this song, but he doesn’t know Springsteen too well. Per says maybe it’s only because Roy Bittan sits at the piano. Sebastian feels that at parts there is a little too much space for the piano. Per agrees, but says it let’s Bowie relax a bit. Sebastian played with the thought that this is what it would be like if pianist Mike Garson was on this record. Per says there wouldn’t be less space for the piano then. The guys are laughing. It became a bit more theatrical and Garson didn’t really fit.

Sebastian says there is this instrument at the end of the song, a Chamberlin. Per thinks it sounds a bit like a Mellotron. Magnus explains it’s almost the same thing. Mellotron was used a lot in Bowie’s songs.

The guys get down to side B and start talking about TVC 15. Sebastian says it was this song that Roy Bittan was invited to play on, it was only meant to be on this one, and then he stayed and played on all the songs except Wild Is the Wind. Bittan had just recorded Born to Run and Bowie mentioned he was looking for someone who could play like Professor Longhair. So David asked Roy if he knew Professor Longhair and he did, of course. Sebastian thinks the intro is very similar to Hey Now Baby by Professor Longhair. Per says there was Elton John and Leon Russell who played this New Orleans style, so to say, Magnus adds Dr. John.

Sebastian says even this „oh-oh-oh-oh” you can find in a song by The Yardbirds, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. So it also sounds like it had been borrowed, but if you were to look in the history of music, you would find quite many of such things and that’s totally fine. Magnus says Bowie was a filter for all this stuff that was in the air at that time. That happens today too, lifting the vibe from another song and stuff like that. It has always been so, just we didn’t know about it before.

Sebastian loves this chaotic soundscape. Per says you hear a little of that guitar chaos that came later with Robert Fripp. There are no keynotes anymore. Magnus says it’s like trying to get through a chaos. PG says it sounds a bit like how the test picture looks on TV.

Sebastian says the sound pattern creates the airiness that then enters into this wonderful transition part. Per says it’s empty, but it’s fun. Magnus thinks it’s damn good.

This song also became a single, Mr. G says. He thinks that if they had skipped Roy Bittan’s intro, it could have been a very effective single.

Sebastian says that the lyrics were inspired by a dream that Iggy Pop told Bowie. He had dreamed that his girlfriend was eaten by a TV. Apparently, TVC 15 is a TV model. Sebastian doesn’t know more than that. The text can actually be read as a narrative. After all, there is a story and it’s a bit twisted.

Sebastian says that according to Maslin, the mixing was a nightmare with the very many different parts. So he had to make sections by the help of an assistant and then cut it together. You don’t work like that today. They had a 24-track tape, which was also a lot at the time and all the tracks were full of different instruments, so it must have been tough to mix them. Bowie wasn’t involved in the mixing at all. He kind of let them take care of it.

Sebastian thinks it’s one of the highlights on the record. It’s one of Bowie’s classics, one might say.

The guys go into song number 5 called Stay, which was a single in the US. Per thinks it’s amazingly good. It’s enormously good according to Magnus too. Sebastian was sure that the guys would say this. He is a guitarist himself, so he should like the intro, but… he will try. He feels like it could be something that John Frusciante from Red Hot Chili Peppers could have come up with. It feels like a punk riff.

Per has always thought that this intro is promising so much, but then nothing comes out of it. Magnus also thought the same, that it was just building and building, then nothing. Sebastian says it could be half the length, because half of it is just guitars. Per thinks it wouldn’t have gone wrong with a nice melody. It could have been a big hit.

At a point, Sebastian says this is a reworking of John, I’m Only Dancing (Again). Bowie never released it on any record. Per says it sounds like the Young Americans sessions. It’s not that good, but it’s very similar to Stay. Sebastian says it’s the same chords and same arrangement. John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) is also insanely long. It’s 7 minutes.

Sebastian has a clip here with Carlos Alomar where he tells a little about Stay. Stay is John, I’m Only Dancing. The music is the same. Bowie said: „Hey, Carlos, I have a great song. Could you have a new arrangement of that song for me?” And that was it, he got this all new song by changing the lyrics. Sebastian says the album consists of six songs of which one is a cover and this one is a reworking of another song. Sebastian says Bowie started working more and more with soundscapes, ambient pieces and that was of course because he wanted to, but also because he couldn’t write songs. Per says that you can hear that he is moving more and more away from melodies. These are not really songs, but grooves. Sebastian agrees, it feels like he was writing less and less compositions in the way he had done before as a songwriter. Magnus thinks it was a bit like Bowie had ideas, came to the studio and he had the world’s best band and then he wanted to see what they can make out of his ideas.

Per says Bowie is singing amazingly here. There is a fantastic groove to it. Sebastian says that from 3 minutes 50 seconds into the song there is nothing interesting to him anymore. Per can imagine it was very good live. He thinks this part is pretty good, it’s better than the melody. Magnus also thinks it’s fantastic. It sounds like they had much fun.

Here comes the last song on the record, a cover, Wild Is the Wind. Per thinks it’s magical. Sebastian thinks the intro sounds so soft and lovely. It’s also nice that the acoustic guitar comes in. He also thinks that it sounds like this could have been mixed by Tony Visconti. There is something about the drum that sounds differently. It sounds a bit like a Bond song. Per says when there is a really good song on the record, it really pops out. This is really magical music. Bowie sings just amazingly. PG has always thought it’s Bowie’s best vocal performance. Sebastian read it at several places that this is considered as his best and he himself thought so too. Bowie was extremely satisfied with this one.

Per says there is a little slip in there, which is like what you have in Golden Years too. He thinks it is so very attractive. Sebastian says Bowie even got a compliment from Frank Sinatra who came by the studio. He was recording in another part of the building and heard this version and was very appreciative. Magnus says it started with Nina Simone’s version of the song. Sebastian adds that originally, it’s a cover of a song sung by Johnny Mathis for a movie Wild Is the Wind. That version was nominated for an Oscar and peaked at number 22 on Billboard. It was a hit. But it’s Nina Simone’s cover that Bowie actually covers on the album. He was very fond of that version. Bowie and Simone were friends. They had met at some club in 1974 and talked a bit and then later that night Bowie called her at 3 am and wanted to talk a little. According to Nina, the first thing he said was: „The first thing I want you to know is that you’re not crazy. Don’t let anybody tell you you’re crazy, because where you’re coming from, there are very few of us out there.”

Nina Simone told in interviews that Bowie didn’t think he himself was a talented or a particularly good singer, which feels so damn strange, Sebastian says. What Bowie said was „I wasn’t a genius, but I planned, I wanted to be a rock-and-roll singer and I just got the right formula.”

Sebastian thinks that one can understand why Bowie got stuck with this song and this is one of the rare cases of Bowie choosing a cover which is absolutely perfect, because he sometimes had extremely strange and boring choices and here he really does a good version, not just a carbon copy.

Per says it would be interesting to know why he chose a cover. Maybe he felt he didn’t have enough material. This song is a rather odd choice on the album. He heard an interview with Nile Rodgers where he talked about Let’s Dance. He said there wasn’t much coming from Bowie what to make with the songs, but it kind of was like „can you do something about this?” That’s how Let’s Dance and Modern Love were produced. Bowie probably never saw himself as a songwriter like Elton John. It just strikes Per right now that it could be one of the reasons of doing the Pin Ups album to gain time. He didn’t have time. He planned to do an adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, but he was denied the rights, then he was busy with the ambitions to make Diamond Dogs. Sebastian thinks so too. The record company also wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so he could gain time.

Sebastian feels that Station to Station is an album of a rather searching and slightly confused Bowie who still manages to do something that is so comprehensive. Even if the record may not have hit Sebastian the way it would have if he was 16 or 17 when it came out, it’s impressive that Bowie somehow manages to get out of this state he was in. Of course, to a large extent it’s thanks to that now he had great musicians and had a machine that controlled things, but he didn’t care that he was in the studio working and toiling. He wasn’t out there rumbling around like Morrison or Zeppelin. But he realized that somewhere around here he had to find his way out of LA and go further. He was damn lucky that he made that step, because Sebastian thinks Bowie wouldn’t have survived otherwise.

Magnus thinks it’s really incredible that he made a record like this when he was in that state. Even he himself couldn’t remember recording the album at all.

Sebastian feels like this is Bowie’s journey, that he sort of makes his way from the darkest dark up through to lights. The ending is amazing, a positive, beautiful song. It’s a big difference from how the album starts. Magnus says Bowie is really like a Renaissance man.

Per says he met Bowie in 1983 on the Serious Moonlight Tour. PG got down to Lyon, France and had the honor of meeting David. Magnus asks if it was at that gig. PG says yes and it was fantastic. He was blonde of course and he had a pastel coloured suit on. He looked amazing. Per was 23, it was the year after Sommartider. So it was a „hej hej, good luck” before the concert. PG was impressed because Bowie had an environmental manager, a girl who built up those ugly dressing rooms including furniture and stuff.

With this, the conversation comes to an end. Sebastian says a big thank you to Magnus and Per for joining him and he also thanks MP to let him sit in his studio, Tits & Ass in Halmstad and lent them his equipment and the studio itself.

Picture is from Bowiepodden

Micke Syd Andersson about Gyllene Tider on Norwegian podcast

Micke Syd was a guest on Oppland Arbeiderblad’s podcast, Backstage the other day. It’s a Norwegian podcast, so the questions were asked in Norwegian, the answers were given in Swedish. Since these two languages are so close to each other, there is no need for an interpreter to understand each other. Here comes the English transcript of the chat between Micke and Frode Hermanrud. Listen to the podcast HERE!

Gyllene Tider had a concert in Gjøvik on the Moderna Tider tour in 1981, so a bit more than 40 years ago. Micke says it’s a lot and he informs that they are going back to Finland also after more than 40 years on this next tour. He says it’s great to come back and say hello. When GT was there last time, 41 years ago, the reviewer wasn’t too happy, Micke says. He explains he got a clipping of a review from Frode and from that he sees that the reviewer didn’t think GT was that good. Frode reads from the review that the music goes straight to the heart of teenagers in the Nordic region, it’s built on worn-out clichés with lyrics that address youth love and all its variants. „Jag vill känna din kropp emot min…”. It can’t be Swedish top music and the vocalist wasn’t shining either. Micke laughs and says here we are 41 years later and the singer has had three careers and GT is still there. He thinks it’s awesome and it would be fun to meet this guy who wrote the review. His name is Tore Hansen, Frode says. Micke thanks him for the review and says maybe they see each other in Fredrikstad in summer. He puts the guy on the guest list, he promises. „Let’s see if you feel the same way now.” Haha.

Micke says it wasn’t unique that guys didn’t like them back in the days. It’s because the girls thought they were cute. But what could they do… They were nice, sweet and kind. They were on the Swedish charts and so there was a lot of screaming girls. It has evened out over the years. Now the girls don’t scream as much and the guys are much happier these days. Haha.

Frode says what a tour it was in 1981. Micke says it was amazing and just think about that they went all the way without GPS or mobile phones and they set up and took down everything at the concerts themselves. He just watched a film 2 weeks ago when he was at home in Halmstad and did Christmas shows at Gessle’s hotel together with Tommy Ekman from Freestyle and Lili & Susie, Swedish eighties artists. So, a friend of his parents had filmed them in 1981 in a folkpark in Falkenberg which is another town in Halland where Micke Syd comes from and then he saw all the work and all the people. It was a lot of work. And it’s so funny because they did all that job during one year in 1981, then in 1996 they went to „only” 21-22 places and played for as many people. The ’80s were very different.

Frode says Gyllene Tider had 6 concerts before their incredible break-through with Flickorna på TV2. Micke says there was a TV program called Måndagsbörsen, which was huge in Sweden at the time because there were only two TV channels. If you had the chance to be on Måndagsbörsen then there was a big chance to break through. Gyllene Tider appeared on the program as a replacement of an English band, because they couldn’t come. Micke can’t remember who they were. They had Flickorna på TV2 with the lyrics „tänk att få sätta på flickorna på TV2”, but „sätta på” (turn on) has this double meaning, although that was not what it was about. It’s about turning the TV on. Per is good at those formulations. And to appear on the TV was enough for them to make it happen. It’s only them five who sound like them, they had a unique sound already back then. So what Frode said regarding the gigs is true. They had booked some gigs because they had a record deal and were going out to play. They were paid very little, but that was a few years before they were on TV. And then they got paid more after TV, because then everyone wanted to book them. Micke Syd has a friend he has known all his life who was 16 at the time. He organized a gig up in Rottneros which is outside Karlstad in Värmland and he had booked GT for 2500 SEK before the TV program. 2000 people came. There was big chaos and it was overcrowded, because everyone wanted to see GT. Micke’s friend said he has never had such a good evening.

Frode asks Micke about their ambitions outside Sweden, in Norway, for example. Micke says it’s been so long ago and to remember anything from the ’80s they have to be together all 5 of them. Haha. But he is pretty sure their record label EMI had an office in Norway. The music industry was completely different back then. The ambition was to come over to Norway as well, because Swedish music existed there after all. Ledin and lots of others before GT existed and became popular in Norway, so it’s clear that they also wanted to go there. They wanted to be as big as possible. That’s why they did The Heartland Café album. So yes, that was definitely the intention, Norway, Finland. Denmark is a bit more difficult because the languages differ. Some Swedish artists work in Denmark and GT also did some TV in Denmark, but that doesn’t happen much anymore. Norway has always taken Swedes with open arms. Micke is in Norway a lot with Tommy Ekman from Freestyle, doing corporate gigs and other stuff. They appreciate Norway a lot and Norway appreciates them too. Also that’s why Gyllene Tider played in Fredrikstad and then in Oslo, on the roof of the Opera in 2019. Micke tells how the opera gig was. They were on the stage that was above the water and played for people on the opera terrace and it started raining cats and dogs. Micke says they are coming back to Fredrikstad again this summer. Gonna be fun.

Frode asks Micke about the concert film, Parkliv! and is joking if he had a stylist. Micke thinks he looked too terrible. His mom was a hairdresser and had permed his hair. Micke didn’t like it, so he was wearing a cap the entire film and shorts and a T-shirt that he got in a rock club in Southern Sweden. So it wasn’t anything he thought about. The others looked quite nice, he says. It’s as usual with the drummers… So they didn’t have a stylist. If you compare it with the band Freestyle, the old Freestyle, it’s a completely different thing. They have really thought well about the clothes and everything. But that’s Micke’s personality, it’s the way he was. He wanted to play and didn’t think too much about other things. He thinks it’s also part of their success that they are quite ordinary. Now it has become different and Per also had his career with Roxette, but they are from the countryside, they all grew up in small towns and have been close to it all the time throughout their career. Micke thinks maybe that’s what makes people like them too, besides making really good music together of course. And they are good at it. They are good at working. They are very good at what Gyllene Tider is and they stood the test of time. Those songs stay with us. You hear this and that song and think about your teenage years when you were in love or anything else. Micke says he can see it when they play that there are a lot of young people too. When he did those Christmas shows in Halmstad, there were many tables with guests who were 20-25 or so. They weren’t even born when GT broke through. Their parents were teenagers then. But they are just as happy as those who are 60 now, because it means the same thing. Micke thinks it’s cool. It still feels a bit unique that you can get the same feelings when you hear these songs now. They are 40-year-old songs, but still they fit into life in a way. That it would be like this they didn’t know. After all, they just did what they wanted to do, it kind of worked and then it turned out well.

Micke says that when you work with music, it’s not like a regular job. He works with different bands and sings a lot and then he doesn’t play the drums. People in those bands can be much younger than he is. They are working with Gyllene Tider songs too and then Micke sings them. He says you forget age then. He doesn’t think about how old he is. He thinks it’s just as fun now. Micke explains they sat and watched Parkliv! on Youtube in 2013. He tells the listeners to watch it if they want to see him in terrible stage clothes. Then they sat and looked at themselves. They were 20 years old on that film. When he sees it now, he realizes that his youngest son Eddie, who turns 30 now, he was the same age in 2013 as Micke was on that film. And a second later he thought „wait, where am I sitting now”. He is as old now as his father was on the film. It was huge and when you still do it what you were doing back then, it’s just as fun. You can carry something like this with you for the rest of your life. Now there comes another tour, they have finished a brand new record, which they all think will be great. They feel that they make relevant music. Those who like Gyllene Tider will like the record, because it doesn’t sound like they are 62 to 64, but it sounds like they are 20. That’s how they sound together and the best part is to be on this journey together and to share it with people.

Frode shows an autograph card and Micke says he appreciates completely different things now than when he was 20. Then he wanted to be a pop idol and wanted the girls to scream. Then he was kind of satisfied. It’s not quite like that now. But sharing this experience of what they went through together with the others and to talk about that means something to others too. Not so much for Tore in 1981 maybe. Haha. For Micke it’s cool, because it feels like they have done something good with their lives and Per has done even more, because it’s absolutely unique to succeed in having 2-3 different careers at an even bigger level. There isn’t that many artists who have done it the way he did. Micke thinks Per has a great career as a Swedish solo artist and also with Roxette. And Gyllene Tider to begin with. Without that, the other things had not happened and that they are still around is amazing. They reunite every few years and they all have the same attitude as they had when they were 20. They think they should do their absolute best.

The guys talk about 2019, the farewell tour. Micke says it was his idea. He pushed the guys for it to be the last tour, because it was 40 years since they started. He thought anything can happen anywhere at any time in life, but the older you get, the greater the risk is that something happens to you and you wouldn’t be able to give your 100% to, for example, playing in Gyllene Tider. They have some kind of long marriage with their audience that actually the audience has taken care of. They broke up in 1985, but in 1995 they realized how popular they still were, because they sold a lot of compilation albums. So they did a gig at home in Halmstad in 1995. A lot of people came and they didn’t understand it. Then they went on the Återtåget tour, which became the biggest tour in Scandinavia. A band that doesn’t exist. So it’s the audience’s credit. And it was because GT made the songs that you listen to. GT and the audience need each other. They don’t exist without each other. So Micke thought in 2019 they end with the flag at the top, because he saw so many bands and artists that he looked up to and they don’t have the force anymore. Then how to play if someone might pass away, so it’s not all 5 of them? The whole thing about them is that it should be the 5 of them playing, because it’s the 5 of them who can make that Gyllene Tider sound. So he felt they should stop and wanted to honor it. They were doing this because Micke’s feeling was that if they go on stage with that attitude, that this is the last thing they do, then they will have another gear when they do it and those who will see them will understand that. It was so important for Micke, because what he appreciates about all of this is that they and the audience have had this long marriage. They still perform the songs in different forms, Per is out on his solo tour, Micke is out as well playing them. But the 5 of them, they played together then and Micke kind of wanted to say thank you very much to the audience. This is how he wanted the audience to remember them, having a lot of fun instead of saying „yes, it was good when I saw them in 1996, but shit, now it wasn’t fun because they don’t have the power anymore”. So then they decided to make a record in France and that it would be a fantastic tour. But then Covid happened and it was terrible. Sitting for 2 years and not being allowed to do anything. Micke was lucky, because he had a buffer to live on. But he has a lot of musician friends in Norway and in Sweden who didn’t get any money. They didn’t know how to survive. For 2 years, it’s completely unacceptable. Not getting to work, not getting out and do what they think is the most fun. Micke thinks his mental health affects him a lot and it was like that for the others too. Per did a seated acoustic session when it wasn’t allowed to be so many people in the audience and they had to sit. He sang GT songs as well. That session at Hotel Tylösand was a huge success, because people got to see music and we got to go out. Then he was visited by 4 girls who have a film production company. They said they want to make a film about the ’80s from when GT started until they finished in 1985. There should be actors and it should be a feel good drama. So the guys had a meeting with them and were surprised the girls would want to make a movie about them. The girls thought GT has a fantastic story. So there will be a movie. Then Per had bought a new guitar and started writing songs. He is always writing songs, Micke says. So PG wrote 2 songs and said they sound like Gyllene Tider. He asked if they could just test them. Micke was very doubtful, but they did it. Just for fun. The guys recorded those songs and they turned out great. So Micke was more in doubt. He was thinking and also talked to his wife about all his doubts. He thought they fulfilled the criteria, he felt the album is great. They are still doing their best when it comes to GT. Obviously, people would be happy if they go on tour. We are living in pretty tough times now so maybe they can contribute to better times with a little joy out there. And they get the joy back form the audience. So he felt OK, let’s do this. That wasn’t the plan, but no one said that he would be locked up for 2 years either. Haha. So if life is stupid to him, then he can enjoy life instead. So they decided to do this and they did it so good. They can do even better than what they did before and that’s right.

Since it’s a video interview, Micke tells Frode that he can see his drums behind, his digital drums. He thinks they are very good. Micke says this room is his mancave where all the gold records and everything from the ’80s and on can be found. He thinks it’s great fun that nowadays, how the two of them are now sitting and talking to each other via the computer or that thanks to Facebook and Instagram you have contact with so many people who have seen them on stage over the years. He is in contact with 2 or 3 girls in Stockholm who were outside the studio when GT recorded their first album. Micke knows they are very happy and as Frode said, he also bought a ticket to Ullevi. For Micke, this is what makes him think it’s worth it. If people are happy, he is happy. Micke says maybe Frode should bring Tore with him to Ullevi. Let’s see if he still thinks the same as in 1981. If nothing else, then at least it’s a nice ending to everything that he gets to come and check on GT again. Micke says he loves such things. It’s great fun to have reviews from a young person who didn’t think it was fun and here we are again.

Frode says he was there in Karlstad in 1996 with his brother and had much fun and it will be fun again. Micke says the same thing again, we have grown older, but the memories also grow in us. He can see from the stage when someone remembers what it was like when they fell in love with the one standing next to them, things like that. And it’s so cool to see and it’s so much fun. We are older and he is not that little guy in shorts anymore. Haha. He says it might be stupid for a middle-aged man, but when he can see a girl who was in love with him in the ’80s looking at him with the same eyes now, then he knows it’s just an illusion, because it is the memory that she is in love with. It’s so nice to see that music has that power. All music has that, but Micke can only talk about their own songs.

Micke says that he is the type of guy who if once said something, he sticks to that. So he really thought the last tour was the last tour. It wasn’t the case that they wanted to get the most money out of it. Some people think that it was the case, but not at all. He thought it doesn’t work for him, once he said that was the last one, then that was the last one. But then he was thinking a lot and it was exactly as Per said that with Covid and everything that happened during that time, they needed to do something to feel good. He thinks it’s fun and, after all, that’s the way it is. The 5 of them have done it all their lives. He has done a lot of other things too, but without GT none of the other things would have happened. And when life goes in a way that didn’t turn out as you had imagined and you sit at home for 2 years, then you just feel that. They still have very high demands on themselves, both how they deliver the music but also with songs and everything. Micke says no one thought Per would have the motivation to write songs for GT again. They recorded the album a little differently. MP has his own studio where he and Per have made demos since long. Mats has been a very, very important person in Per’s life because he has been involved and done Roxette songs and other projects of Per over the years and so they have done a lot together. They had done rough sketches of songs for GT and done a lot of vocals and guitars so the guys got to listen to them. Micke and Anders come from a small community outside Halmstad called Harplinge and 1 km from Micke’s parents’ home there is now a fantastic studio. It didn’t exist back then, but now it’s there and they recorded in that studio for a week. Micke went home and slept in his boy room at his parents each day after the recordings. The room looks the same as it did when he was 16. He was the last to move away from his parents, so everything remained in the room. It’s hard to understand for those who are not making music, but even if he has played with so many great musicians, them 5 have something together that he couldn’t find anywhere else. The sound and everything. That’s what makes it sound like Gyllene Tider and it doesn’t go away. It’s there even though the years go by and once they are at it again, it’s just there. They were going to do soundcheck in the studio, that’s how it should work, but everything sounded good. They haven’t played together in 3 years, so they tested the drums and bass and MP tested the guitar. Staffan, the technician sat there and recorded. They were all sitting in the same room, tested a song the first day. They would just do soundcheck to see if everything worked well to record the next day. So they tested a song and half an hour later another one. And then all the others. Staffan told Micke a month ago that he was completely shocked. He wasn’t prepared for the guys to start recording right away. Micke says it was like they kind of knew what they were going to do. It’s so cool that it works like that for them. He wants to honor what they have done all the way as long as they exist. Now it seems they got another chance to go on. The album release date is not decided yet. They have just signed a record deal in their fifth decade. How nice, Micke thinks.

Frode asks Micke about his parents whether they supported him in being a pop star or they were skeptical and wanted him to have a regular job. Micke says all five of them wanted to do just this, music. They actually all had regular jobs in principle. But they didn’t care. They recorded their first album and went on with that. That’s how it’s been all the time since then. Micke is turning 62 this year and the only permanent job he had as an employee was for 4 years in the early and mid ’80s. Since then he has always been a freelancer. He is coping with his own life and no one believed it would work. He doesn’t know what his parents thought back then, but it’s clear they were worried and that’s right. But it went well and he can see how happy they were for him over the years. Especially after 1996 when GT reunited again and that they have been allowed to participate. It’s only Micke’s and Göran’s parents who are still alive. Micke’s parents are probably the ones who have been at the most gigs from all the GT guys’ parents. For Micke personally, it is also another highlight, to be able to share this with his parents. They sat and listened when Micke was practicing drums in a sauna in the basement with regular drums for whatever number of years and they never said anything. As he said, his mother was a hairdresser and the saloon was in their house. So the clients always asked about Micke and lot of fans, especially after Roxette, came to see where they lived. Fans have travelled from all over the world and sometimes people knocked on the door at home and said „hello, we are from Germany. Are you Micke’s parents?” Then they tried to talk to them in English and they were very proud and even showed Micke’s room to the fans. Haha. Micke is happy to share all this experience with his family, wife and children now. In the video of Småstad by Pers Garage there is a quick cut of a baby. It was recorded in 1989. It’s Micke’s oldest son who turns 34 this year. He was a newborn then. Micke’s father is also in the video in the car repair shop. His dad was 58 in that clip, Micke was 28. Both his mom and dad are very proud of him. His mother had a lot of contact with people who came to their house. In Parkliv! there is this scene where they say a phone number. That was the number of Micke’s mom’s saloon. Even if they beeped it out, it wasn’t the best of ideas, because it wasn’t that difficult to read the lips what number it was. This was in 1981. There were so many people calling. It was Per’s fault, he was the one who said the number. Haha. Now that’s fun, but it wasn’t back then.

The guys talk about Tuff tuff tuff (Som ett lokomotiv) in Parkliv!, how Micke played the drums there. Micke says it’s called youth and testosterone. It’s fun to see himself there and think „damn, is that me?” Micke says that in the movie it’s not visible, but there was someone who threw a coke bottle on stage. He thinks it was during the first song even. So a glass bottle landed on stage and it might as well hit him. There was some guy who wasn’t completely satisfied, so he threw a coke bottle and it landed between Micke’s legs. He was sitting and playing. They have gotten eggs on them too and things like that sometimes from guys who were mad at them. But that’s what makes it so fun to see themselves there in that film.

Micke says it’s a completely different musical world today than it was back then. But that’s what he thinks is so fun about them that they keep going. They make music the way they have always done it. They can do it in a different way now, but what drives them is that they play together. That’s where their sound comes from. That they are 5 souls, 5 hearts that contribute their part to this delicious cake that becomes Gyllene Tider. That mix has only been refined over the years. They are still doing the same thing. Although, they have a little more screens now, but it’s more for the experience for the audience. It’s all about the connection between the band and the audience.

Frode is curious if it has ever happened that Per presented a song that later became a hit, but when he presented it they thought it wouldn’t work. Micke says they had hits in every decade from the ’80s to the ’90s to the 2000s. And it might happen this time too. There are some songs that can be hits, Micke thinks, because they are spreading Gyllene joy. But to be honest, he can’t remember if they ever said to a song that later became a hit that it wouldn’t work. They must have had it, but it’s been so long and he, for some reason, have gained the ability to remember events. He can remember feelings and stuff, but especially when the GT guys all talk. He always says it’s full on the hard drive. There is no space left up in the hub, things happen all the time. He says he remembers that Per wrote Sommartider while all other four guys went for a lunch break. EMI, their record company said there was no single among their materials when they recorded Puls. So Per got pissed off and he sat down and wrote Sommartider. There is a song, Mony, Mony by Billy Idol. They got inspiration from the groove of it and then it was done.

Frode mentions that when the EP with Gå & fiska! came out in 1996, there was a new, modern, fresh Gyllene Tider sound. Michael Ilbert was the producer. Micke says they worked with Ilbert already before Gå & fiska! in 1995 when Kung av sand and Det är över nu came out. Ilbert had worked with Per and Ilbert had quite a special way of working. And somehow it fitted them and also how Per wrote the songs. So it became a completely different Gyllene Tider that fit with the times and how they played then. How you play also becomes different with the years. You play differently when you are 20 or 25. It worked so well with Ilbert that Per made an English solo album with him and if you listen to June Afternoon and She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore by Roxette, it’s MP, Micke and Anders who are playing there too. Micke liked that era too. It was Roxette, but sounded like Gyllene Tider, just without Fritzon. Now GT is back to something else that’s more where they come from. Now it’s a poppier album than their last record was. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus. Micke says they really felt like 20 and somehow they got the energy. It was like when they did the Sven-Ingvars song on their previous album. That was the last song they recorded, they had 4 hours until their flight departed. They thought they try it and an hour later, it was all done. Micke says it’s nice to have this extra chance to do it again and say that age ain’t nothing but a number. He says they are lucky that they became musicians instead of sportsmen, because then it would have been over. If you take care of yourself as best as you can and you think it’s fun what you are doing, then you can actually maintain a divine level as you get older. Age has nothing to do with it really. It’s more about the attitude. Tommy Körberg is still out there, for example. He plays shows in Sweden. He sings so well and his presence on stage is amazing. Micke says he went to see Paul McCartney at Tele2 and besides the songs that are amazing themselves, it was great to hear McCartney being able to sing that way. And he still has that energy. Music is like that. It works. The joy of it. And the audience will be just as happy.

Frode asks Micke about Ullevi. Micke says it will be the fourth time they play there and he hopes that there will be a lot of people. That will be the last gig in Sweden on the tour. They played Ullevi for the first time in 2004. They were the first real Swedish band to play at Ullevi. When you keep going as Gyllene Tider have, you always have dreams, Micke says. When they started, they wanted to be on a big stage in Halmstad. They made it in 1981. Then there were some other places, 1996 was Stockholms Stadion. There were a lot of people. There were probably no Swedish bands that had been there before, so they have constantly moved the goals. Micke remembers he was at Ullevi when Springsteen was there in 1982 or so. He was also there when the Stones played there. You think you would want to do that too and you thought it would never happen, then it does. They got there and they broke crowd records and it was 26 degrees and a perfect day. It was summertime as much as possible and everyone who was in town was excited. 15 minutes before they started playing Micke’s wife said this is completely crazy with so many people there. Everyone was very happy. And then they went out on stage, started with En sten vid en sjö i en skog and it starts with the drums. They have never played for this many people, they were the first ones. The only ones who did it until then. It was a great day. Micke’s whole family was there. He says first you are nervous, but then it falls and then it’s just outpouring love. He couldn’t manage to sing at the top of his lungs. It was overwhelming. It’s the same thing for the audience, so the band and the audience take each other to new levels. All those who were there they knew that they were part of something unique. Then it happened with a lot of other Swedish artists after that, but right then they were the only ones. Foreign artists came and they did a gig, but GT did more than 20 shows and had almost thirty thousand people at each gig in Sweden except for Ullevi, where the number of people in the audience was double. So that tour was completely crazy in itself, because there were half a million people attending that tour. Micke will never forget that.

Frode asks Micke what he would suggest someone who has never listened to Gyllene Tider and know nothing about them. Micke says they should just put on a compilation album and start there and see if there is something that makes them happy. Everyone finds their thing, or if they don’t find anything, they listen to something else. But there is surely a song they will like.

Frode says or they just have to see Min tjej och jag in Parkliv! Micke says that’s exactly what he thought about. It’s the first song in the encore. When you watch it, you can see why Göran climbed a lot on Micke’s back in that film. Watching a GT film now, you can see why Göran wouldn’t climb on Micke’s back these days. Haha. He says it with all love. He thinks it’s funny how they have changed as people, both in size and in everything else. Although they are the same in spirit.

Pic by Patrícia Peres, GT40 Tour, Halmstad 2019

Per Gessle is back on Framgångspodden

You might remember that Alexander Pärleros did a podcast interview with Per Gessle appr. 4 years ago and shared it in February 2018 on Framgångspodden. Now it was time for another round with Mr. G to ask him about success, creativity and the loss of Marie Fredriksson. You can listen to the podcast HERE (no. 540 is the interview with Per).

Alexander is very happy that Per is back on his podcast. He introduces PG as a living legend. Together with Roxette, he put Sweden on the map and as a front figure in Gyllene Tider he also created immortal hits. He is undeniably one of Sweden’s most successful artists and greatest music exports of all time. He is currently on an unplugged tour.

Per remembers that the first Framgångspodden episode with him came out in 2018. Alexander asks PG if he is good at remembering the years – what happened when. Per tells he is not really good at that, but when he thinks about a year, he thinks about what he was doing then. When he thinks about Gyllene Tider’s Dags att tänka på refrängen album, it was 2013, Roxette’s Have A Nice Day came out in 1999. Per also tells that if you ask his wife or his friends if he is good at remembering dates, they will for sure reply he isn’t.

Alexander tells that last time he asked Per about what he eats for breakfast and PG replied he always eats the same thing: coffee with milk and 2 sandwiches. One with apricot marmalade & cheese and one with ham & mustard & chives. Alexander is curious if anything has changed since then. Per laughs and tells he still eats the same, he only added tomato. He says there is a clash in the mouth between tomato and apricot marmalade if you eat them at the same time, but it’s fine if you have a little break between the two. Alexander laughs and says it’s nice to hear that even PG can develop his eating habits. Per tells it’s the same with lunch. If he is on tour or out in town, he won’t eat the same, but at home he likes it like that.

Alexander asks Per if there is any routine PG was doing during this year, anything he is doing for feeling good. Mr. G tells he thinks he is fine, he tries to walk 1 hour each day if the weather outside is not so scary, like in Stockholm today, drizzling all day. While walking, he is either on the phone or listening to music or just contemplating. It has become more than a routine, it’s rather a way to exist, which is important for him. But he likes routines – to eat dinner at a set time or watch TV almost always at the same time.

Alexander is doing the interview via Zoom and since he sees Per’s office, he asks what that picture of a cow is on the wall. Mr. G tells it’s an Andy Warhol painting that he has since the end of the 80’s.

Alexander tells Per goes on an unplugged tour and it seems to be quite sold out, he couldn’t really find tickets for that. Mr. G tells there are a few tickets left for Karlstad and Halmstad’s second gig and maybe a few for Linköping and Norrköping. [So the interview was done before 5th November 2021. /PP] The biggest venue they play is Filadelfia in Stockholm, for 1,400 people. The whole idea came from the pandemic, because there were very strict rules. He has a hotel in Tylösand and decided to play there 2 acoustic gigs for a smaller amount of people, 475 in the crowd. It went so fine that in the end they did 10 shows. It was much fun and intimate. Per has never played gigs like these and he says that you become naked in a way at such a concert. It’s very different to when you play a big production e.g. at Stockholm Globe Arena or in big soccer stadiums. Here it’s more silent, acoustic and there are anecdotes he tells in between the songs. It’s a very exciting concept for Per. Doing the same concept at theatres around Sweden is going to be much fun.

Alexander says it sounds like something Sweden needs at this time after the restrictions. Per thinks everyone in Sweden needs a party most of all. He says that’s why he will also play Gyllene Tider hits. The guys are laughing. Per says it’s gonna be nice and calm. The band will be sitting, the audience will be sitting. It fits the season and it’s going to be a lovely autumn for everyone.

Alexander asks Per about Marie, telling that PG lost his mother, sister and brother in a short period and then Marie in 2019. Mr. G says it was of course a difficult period. Marie was ill for a long time and mentally you were prepared in a way that one day she will no longer be with us. It was the same with his mother, who died at the age of 88. His sister had cancer and his brother had lung cancer. His brother was only 62 when he died. It happened very suddenly, so it was tough. But life goes on, however, there is no day you don’t think of them. He is reminded of Marie all the time. He learned to live with that. The older you get, the more people disappear from your life. Also your idols. E.g. Charlie Watts from The Rolling Stones passed away a couple of weeks ago. All Per’s super favourite artists, e.g. David Bowie or Tom Petty have left us. You get older, so it will go on like this.

Alexander tells Per grew up in Furet district of Halmstad and he is curious if Per remembers when he got his first guitar. Mr. G tells they had an unplayable guitar at home, which had only two strings. So all you could do with that was striking tough poses. He also remembers that at school they had to do some woodwork and he sawed out an electric guitar. It had no strings though, it just looked like a guitar. He thinks his brother had a guitar, but that was crap too. The first real guitar that could also be played was bought by Per’s mother. Per got it quite late, in 1975 if he remembers right, when he was 16. It was a nylon-string guitar, a Bjärton Estrella made in Sweden. He learned fingerpicking on it, playing Leonard Cohen songs. It wasn’t too rocky, he says. Per bought his first real electric guitar when they started with Gyllene Tider. Some of them travelled to London to buy guitars and amplifiers. He had a summer job at Fammarps mushrooms and weighed mushrooms. All the money he earned he spent on a wine-red Gibson Les Paul Custom. Dave Davies in The Kinks had one like that, so PG wanted to have the same. The only difference was that Per’s was a 2-pickup, while Dave Davies’ was a 3-pickup. It was stupid enough that they had no money to pay the VAT, so they smuggled the guitars. They got caught and came home empty-handed. Per then wrote a long letter of apology to the customs. He wrote that it wasn’t their intention to break the law and they didn’t know they should have paid VAT. They got a fine of 2,000 crowns, which was a fortune back then, but got their instruments back. True story, he says. Per still has that guitar and played it on GT’s first album, on Flickorna på TV2, for example.

Per tells the first setup of Gyllene Tider was Micke Syd, MP, PG and Janne Carlsson, but after Janne left the band, Anders Herrlin and Göran Fritzon joined them. It must have been January 1979. They got a record deal with EMI the same year and recorded their first album. There were a couple of years when they tried to find their sound. They came from nowhere when they met and they spent all their time rehearsing and learning the craft. They had to learn how to write a song, how the bass works, how a band works at all. They started sending their recordings to all record labels in spring and they got their EMI contract in autumn, so all went quite fast anyway. 3 years after he got his first nylon-string guitar. GT played 6 gigs in front of an audience before they became No. 1 with Flickorna på TV2.

Alexander asks how Flickorna på TV2 came about. Per says MP and he were influenced by Elvis Costello’s Watching The Detectives. It has a strange reggae beat. They wanted to record Flickorna på TV2 that way. It didn’t go so well, but that was the song’s identity, pretending to be reggae. It wasn’t until they sat in the studio to record their first album to figure out how to simplify the beat. The song really stood out. The lyric idea came from Hasse & Tage (a Swedish comedian duo). Their word play of the only thing they get to turn on when they get home is the TV was the base. There was also a lot of talk on TV2 back then, Catrin Jacobs was on. It was in Per’s teenage years. Alexander asks if the guys met the girls on TV2 and if the girls thanked for the song, because even more people started watching the TV. PG says he can’t remember, but there weren’t too many channels in that era anyway.

The single was released right before Christmas 1979 and the album was released in February 1980. It wasn’t hysterical yet, but in autumn 1980 when they released När vi två blir en as a single it started to become very big. The song was No. 1 in Sweden for months and that led them to their second album, Moderna Tider. Then came an explosion: record in sales and a huge indoor tour in Sweden. He lived at his mother back then and all what was movable, disappeared. Even the laundry on dry in the garden. Fans stole everything. Haha. When he turned 22 in January 1981, he got appr. 3,000 letters. There were 3 big sacks full of letters in front of his mother’s house. Then came 100 letters each day or so.

Per also talks about the accident in Kristianopel that happened before a GT concert in 1981. 3 fans died because of stampede at the entrance. It was tough, they couldn’t imagine such things could happen.

Another hysterical era in Per’s career was the beginning of the 90’s when Roxette toured South America. Appr. 1,000 fans were waiting in front of their hotel, singing songs at night. PG tells all the Formula 1 teams were at the same hotel and they were complaining. When Per was down in the hall and the F1 guys realized he is from Roxette, they said: „Oh you, you fucker, you kept us up all night!” Haha.

Alexander is curious how Roxette came about. Per says it came step by step. He met Marie at the end of the 70’s at the rehearsal studio they shared, Gyllene Tider and Marie’s band, Strul. She was singing fantastically and played the keyboards. She had a kind of musicality Per had never seen before. They simply became friends. Gyllene Tider broke through, but Marie’s band didn’t have as much success then. They shared a dream to succeed with their music abroad. It was a natural way of development for Gyllene Tider to try their luck abroad and they recorded their fourth album, The Heartlan Café in English. It was released in the US, but nothing really happened with that. Marie’s primary goal was to get a record deal in Sweden. Her career went uphill, while Per’s went downhill. GT broke up and PG’s solo stuff didn’t go too well either. Per was asked to write a song for Pernilla Wahlgren. He wrote Svarta glas, which he thought was perfect for Pernilla, but she never recorded it. Per’s demo was circulating at EMI and the boss, Rolf Nygren suggested PG to write English lyrics to it and record it with Marie. Rolf thought then they would have the perfect song to succeed with abroad. Per thought it was a brilliant idea and Marie was also in, however, her producer and her own record label thought she shouldn’t work together with Per, but rather focus on her solo career. Nevertheless, Marie wanted to work with Per and they recorded Neverending Love. It didn’t become a hit abroad, but a big hit in Sweden and that led to the chance they could record the first Roxette album. Everything went so fast and Per had no songs in English. However, he had songs in Swedish he wrote for his never-released upcoming solo album and quickly translated the texts to English. There were a lot of coincidences that led to Roxette. After the first Roxette album, Marie went back to her Swedish solo stuff, while Per, triggered by Roxette’s success in Sweden, started writing songs for the album that became Look Sharp!

Mr. G talks about the story of It Must Have Been Love ending up in Pretty Woman and tells that the movie’s title first was 3,000. Per talks about Germany, which was the biggest market in Europe back then, but nothing really happened with Roxette outside Sweden. Their German record label told them they should write a Christmas song, because then it might be easier for them to be played on the radio. So in 1987 Per wrote a Christmas song, It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted). They released it in Sweden and it became a gold record, but Germans didn’t like it. The record label in Germany didn’t release it. Marie went back to her Swedish solo, Per started writing songs for the next Roxette album, so IMHBL was kind of forgotten. After they broke through, they were sitting in Los Angeles, having lunch with their US record label and they were asked to be part of the soundtrack to Pretty Woman. They told David Bowie was in, Robert Palmer and several other EMI artists as well. Per couldn’t go home and write a new song for the movie, because they were constantly on the road doing promotions. They were heading to New Zealand then. He said, „but we have a damn good Christmas song!” They updated the intro a bit, took away the Christmas reference, Marie sang a bit and they were ready and gave the recording to their US label. Roxette was recording their next album, Joyride in 1990 and at the old EMI studio in Skärmarbrink Per got a call from the director of Pretty Woman, Garry Marshall. Per didn’t know who he was, they never met. Garry just wanted to tell that he loved the song so much he had given it a great place in the movie and there is no dialogue over it. Per hadn’t seen the movie, so he didn’t know what Garry was talking about, but thanked for it. Marie and Per were invited for the screening of the movie. Mr. G remembers that they were watching it in a theatre and there was an earthquake and someone told them „don’t worry, this is an earthquake-safe building!” Per thinks it’s cool they could be part of the movie, because it became a huge success, one of the biggest movies of all time and IMHBL became a huge song as well. Still one of their biggest songs. Anytime Per hears it he thinks of Marie, how amazing she was, what a fantastic singer she was. PG tells you can find hundreds of covers of IMHBL on YouTube, but there is no version that comes close to Marie’s capacity of singing it.

Per tells again that Marie and he had this common ambition to try to succeed abroad. They loved the romanticism in old pop and rock culture. It was very different vs. what it is today. They wanted to go outside Sweden and play pop and rock music. It was a dream they shared. They also recognized very early that they were good at different things. Marie was an unbeatable singer and Per’s job was rather being the director. Writing songs, planning and networking. Per was always triggered by success, then he became double as good next time. Other people become stressed by success and take a step back, but Per has always been the opposite. The more they worked, the more Per wanted to work. That was also a difference between Per and Marie. The bigger they became, the less Marie wanted to work, Per laughs. They were a very good team.

Alexander asks PG about the creative process. He had written a lot of big hits during that period. Per tells he has never found a formula. There is a big difference between him and today’s pop music. He wrote almost everything himself, text and music. Nowadays artists work a lot in teams of 6-8 different people. One writes the melody, the other finds the groove etc. and that makes it less personal. Roxette’s success is based on several things: they decided to stay in Stockholm, not to record in Los Angeles or London or New York, to work with Swedish musicians and a Swedish producer, Clarence Öfwerman; Per’s songs and Marie’s fantastic voice that sounded like no one else. ABBA did the same and no one else sounds like ABBA. The problem nowadays is that there are too many songs that sound exactly the same. Everyone works with the same computer program, all have the same plugin and same sound. It’s very hard to stand out. When you work the old, organic way, you play real piano, real saxophone, real guitar or real drums, there is a unique sound. If you think about Charlie Watts for example, no one else sounds like him. If you look at the premiere video of their current tour, it sounds OK, but it doesn’t sound like The Rolling Stones now. Charlie’s style affected the whole band. It’s the same with Roxette. Jonas Isacsson’s fantastic guitar playing style put a stamp on Roxette’s early recordings. Per’s songwriting style and how he builds a song also affects the sound, Marie’s singing style and the choice of keys as well. Clarence’s fantastic arrangement and sound choice too. All this makes it special. But Per has no special way of writing a song. He was writing songs constantly. He thinks this comes from the fact that he grew up with the music of the 60’s and 70’s, which is very melodic. Everything he works with is adjusted to melodies. He listens to melodies and harmonies in a different way. It’s hard for him to listen to hip hop music, because there is almost no melody. It’s more grooves and sounds than real melody.

Alexander asks Per to tell an example how a hit of Per’s was written, if he had a phrase first. PG tells he always has his antennas out. It can be an expression or anything to start with. For Joyride it was e.g. a note his then girlfriend, now wife left on the piano, „Hej din tok, jag älskar dig!” and that became „Hello, you fool, I love you!” It sounds like a super lovely chorus. Then he read an interview with Paul McCartney where he said writing songs with John Lennon was like being on a long joyride. So it became „Hello, you fool, I love you! C’mon join the joyride!” It’s a damn good slogan, it’s positive and exciting and colorful. There were a lot of associations and a world came alive in Per’s head, so it went very fast to write this song. He wrote Spending My Time the same day in the afternoon. It was a great Saturday, he laughs.

The Look was written when he bought a new synth and tried to learn how to program it. He used chords A, G and D. It was extremely simple and then he started singing the first thing that came out of his head, „walking like a man, hitting like a hammer, she’s a juvenile scam”. It didn’t sound wise, it meant nothing, it was more about the rhythm and sound. Per’s idea was that Marie should sing it, that’s why it was „he’s got the look” first, but she didn’t want to sing it, because she thought it was too strange and didn’t fit her style. It’s like rap in a way. She was just singing the chorus and that also made the song special.

Per says sometimes it’s like solving a puzzle when you write songs, other times it can be that you write a long lyric and you find a melody half year later and you edit the text to match it. Spending My Time’s lyrics was written before there was music to it. There are a lot of examples. No song is like the other.

Alexander asks Per when he is in his most creative status, maybe in the evening or at weekends or when drinking a good wine. PG says he tries to work as little as possible. He is not the type who goes to the studio and plays the instruments 5-6 hours a day. He only writes when he has something on his mind. There has to be a project or a purpose to write. Mr. G usually writes during the day and not really after drinking wine at brunch, he laughs. He says he must be focused. Per works very intensively when he is working, in his own bubble. His wife leaves him in his bubble until he is ready. PG doesn’t know where his creativity comes from. He likes to write and it’s the way of expressing himself.

Alexander is curious about how it was when Roxette was huge in the US. Per tells it came in different stages. When they broke through with The Look, no one knew who they were. They were from Sweden, which was very strange and most people thought they would have a mayfly’s life. When they released their second single, Dressed For Success in the US it peaked at No. 14 on Billboard. Radios didn’t want to play DFS, it was only The Look that existed from Roxette. Then the third single was Listen To Your Heart and the radios started playing it and it became No. 1. So it happened in different stages. It was overwhelming to have success there and Per thinks they should have focused more on the US. But they had success everywhere else too: in Australia, Japan, South America, Europe etc. The US became only one of the markets. If they focused more on it, they should have stayed there for a year and block everything else, because the US is so huge from New York to Los Angeles. They decided to go everywhere else instead. They had to pay the price for that in the US. Their American record label was bought up and then they kind of lost that market.

Per is thankful for the journey they could do with Roxette. Before they broke through with The Look, they had been working in Sweden for 10 years as professional musicians and they knew it very well that it’s very difficult to succeed internationally. When it happened at the same time everywhere, they were happy: „oh, we have to travel to Sydney, we have to travel to Tokyo, we have to travel to Moscow”. They were thankful that people were interested in them all around the world. When they travelled to South America, there was an economic crisis in the world and a lot of artists cancelled their tours in South America, because you could earn nothing there. Marie and Per still wanted to go, because they thought it would be fun to play their songs in there. Everything exploded then. Theatres of the capacity of 4,000 became soccer stadiums instead and it became a gigantic tour for Roxette. Their experience there was incomparable. That was the greatest memory on the Joyride tour. They never played soccer stadiums before. It’s like Ullevi with 50-60 thousand people. Everyone was singing along. When they arrived to Cordoba, there was a long line of people from the airport to the hotel waving to them. It was magical to be on that whole journey. The first night they played in Buenos Aires there were 50,000 people and they had to add an extra show the next day and sold the rights to broadcast it on Argentina TV1 and the other existing channel broadcast Roxette live in Zurich from half a year ago.

To the question how they succeeded Per replies they were at the right place at the right time and they could deliver. They were of course ambitious and determined. Mr. G says when you work with your own art and own creativity, it’s actually not like a job, it’s more like your hobby, your personality. His whole existence is his work in a way. There is not other art like music, he thinks. You can be on any content, play to different nations with different religions or cultural backgrounds, speaking different languages, there is nothing in common among them, but they all sing along the same songs. It’s amazing to be part of it and hear your songs being sung by fans all around the world. You have to pinch your arms all the time. And those songs are still huge. New generations are coming and they also like them. It’s fantastic.

Alexander asks Per if there is anything he wishes he would have known when he was 20-25 what he knows now. Per thinks there is one thing that is better when you are getting older and it’s the experience that most of the things can be sorted out. When you are young you are more stressed and you are rather on the edge all the time. When you get older you realize that not everything is so important. The unplugged tour, where his music is so much in focus in that intimate atmosphere, he feels like he couldn’t have done 25 years ago. Now he dares to do it and it feels more natural now to take such a step. Mr. G says it wasn’t a real answer to Alexander’s question, but it’s difficult to answer that, because each part of your life is so different. You are in different situations, e.g. when you are 20-25 years old, you build things, you might find your partner and raise a family, then when you are 30 there is another stage and when you are 40 it’s again a different thing. Per says experience and routine help a lot. Go and play each night for an audience and that becomes an everyday routine. Then you have this feeling you want to leave your comfort zone a bit in between. Per thinks when you work with your creativity it’s important to try new things. If you change one key figure in the team before each major project to bring new blood, the others will stand a little on their toes to prove themselves in front of that new member and everyone can be influenced by him. You become a bit different when new people come into your circle. Per thinks it’s good to think about such things.

Alexander asks Per about the worst setbacks in his career. Mr. G tells he didn’t have too many. The worst was when GT broke up in 1984 and he released his second solo album in 1985. Those were very weird times. After his second solo album he had no record deal anymore and started writing songs for other artists. It didn’t suit him to be a hired gun. He always wanted to write for himself. Actually, before Roxette there were appr. 2 years like that.

Alexander asks how it affected Per privately when he was tired or a little lost in his career. Per says he tries to avoid boredom by having many branches on his tree. He had Roxette, Gyllene Tider, his solo stuff, Mono Mind. When he gets tired of one thing, he starts dealing with another. It helped him a lot even when Roxette was huge, to e.g. go back to Gyllene Tider a bit, because it was different and it was in Swedish. That’s how he tries to fool himself. He has never had a mental collapse or anything like that. He tells he can be confused how the music industry has changed during the past decade with streaming and all that. How the pop romanticism disappeared with its album sleeves and videos. We live in a different time now. Pop music’s sole purpose is to reflect its own era. If you look at pop music of the 60’s and 70’s, it reflects very well that era. Fashion, music, movies, all went hand in hand. If you look at today’s pop music, it’s efficient and based on formulas, everything has to be in a certain way. Radio channels play the same type of music all the time. For Gyllene Tider from 1979 from Halmstad it would be very diffult to make it today. They were rather outsiders and then managed to become mainstream in a strange way. Roxette was outsider since they came from Sweden. When they were to release The Look in England, their English record label said in their press release tat Roxette was an Amercian band. Today it’s difficult to succeed when you are an outsider. If you look at all the Netflix movies or HBO series, they follow the same formulas to be efficient. It makes it cheaper to produce that way. When they worked on Joyride, they had no budget. It doesn’t work like that anymore. Alexander agrees that nowadays everyone wants to earn on what they do as soon as possible. Per can understand that it’s like this in the hardcore business, but this way there is a compromise between the artistic expression and earning money.

There comes the section of the last three questions. The first is if Per has any Netflix or HBO series to recommend. Mr. G thinks The Undoing is very good, he watched Midnight Mass too – Åsa likes horror movies, Per says.

The next question is what Per suggests those who want to go outside the box. The only hint Per can tell is that you have to follow your gut feeling all the time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will become extremely rich or successful, but you will feel good doing that. At the same time, he has to tell that his personality and his way of thinking wouldn’t have worked today, because he is not the one who wants to compromise. It’s always sad to hear when nowadays a record label doesn’t want to sign artists who play real instruments, because it takes more time for them to become good. It’s easier to work on computers. That’s how it works today, but it’s good to know how it is to play in a band, when everyone plays the same song. It feels fantastic to be a part of that. Mr. G has no secret recipe, he suggests to do your thing at full throttle, pedal to the metal.

The last question is what Per will be doing in the coming years. PG says he is touring in autumn (2021), then in spring (2022) he releases a new English album and hopes he will be able to tour with it around the world. He thinks it’s a lovely album and he is very satisfied with it. He has no other plans yet. Throw in the towel, he laughs.

Alexander thanks Per for being there and they say goodbye to each other.

Mats MP Persson on Skiss podcast about himself, Gyllene Tider and Roxette

Musician Morgan Lydemo is doing a podcast, Skiss where he meets influential people from different corners of the music industry, who have managed to develop and build a stable platform for themselves with the help of musical talent, hard work and a sense of entrepreneurship. This time he invited Mats MP Persson who was involved in two of the biggest acts of Swedish music history, to talk about himself, the songs he was involved in, Gyllene Tider, Per Gessle and Roxette. You can listen to the podcast episode HERE.

Morgan introduces MP as a producer, songwriter and musician and is uncertain about Mats being a drummer or a guitarist in the first place. MP tells that in his teens he started out as a drummer, but of course, many know him as the guitarist in Gyllene Tider. Morgan tells MP is recording most of the demos of Per Gessle and he asks Mats if he is also doing the final production of the songs. MP tells final production he doesn’t do so often, but last year they recorded a home-made solo album for Per and that was mastered by MP. Demos are recorded at his studio since the early 80’s and it’s fun that they are also released on albums to show how the songs started out. Some are very much produced, some are very simple.

MP tells that at high school he played in a band as a drummer. The bassist, Peter Nilsson was friends with Per Gessle and Per visited them at their rehearsal studio in the attic of MP’s grandma’s house. MP thinks Per changed then completely. Until then he was sitting at home translating Leonard Cohen lyrics, listening to David Bowie, playing a nylon-string guitar nicely, but the rock ’n’ roll experience in the rehearsal studio changed him and he thought that was what he wanted to do.

Morgan asks MP if one can say that he is Per Gessle’s right hand both in Gyllene Tider and Roxette. MP says Per writes a lot himself, but it happened that MP had some ideas before PG started writing and Per thought those were fun to build on. When that happens, both of them are stated as composers of the song. Regarding their collaboration, Mats says it can only work well if you realize that making it together is one step ahead vs. if you are doing it on your own and the other is doing it on his own. Then the collaboration is perfect. Morgan notices that if they have been working together since so long, it must be working fine between them. MP adds of course there are discussions like could we change this or that, related to the arrangement or so and it’s fun. MP has a well-isolated studio and he thinks his stuff there simply fits Per quite well. Often when Per comes to the studio, MP just puts on the right microphone capsule and Per sounds absolutely fantastic, his voice. Per feels safe there and has MP as a sounding board when he sings. Per decides 80% himself and then asks MP for his opinion.

Morgan asks MP how it was to start a band when they started playing together, how different it was vs. nowadays. MP says he hasn’t really been following the music scene nowadays, but today it’s more about computers and music programs, back then it was a must to build a band, have a rehearsal studio, rehearse a lot and do something that no one else was doing or at least do it better than anyone else, create your own identity. The lead singer often became the face of the band. You had to play a lot to be better and better at playing your instrument. It cost a lot of efforts, but if you were talented, it was probably all worth it.

Morgan says Halmstad has always been a big music scene. MP says he and Per were influenced by the punk era at the end of the 70’s, the sound was awesome, they thought. There were a lot of bands in Halmstad those days.

Morgan compares Gyllene Tider to ABBA in the sense that they weren’t so popular in the homefront. MP says GT was on TV on Måndagsbörsen in 1980 and played some songs there. Everyone in Sweden was watching that TV program back then. Himmel No. 7 and Flickorna på TV2 were already out on a single. They picked Himmel No. 7 as the A side, but Flickorna på TV2 was played at discos in Stockholm, so there was a second release of the single as a double A side. They had a huge break-through then and played live on TV. It was awesome. One could see what effect appearing live on a TV show had back then. There were only two TV channels those days.

They were touring, they rehearsed a lot in the studio and they weren’t really social, but had their close friends around them. MP tells that in another sound recording they talked about 1978-79 when they spent ten thousand hours at the rehearsal studio. They were there every day instead of going to the soccer field or running after girls. The money they earned with their summer jobs they spent on strings and cables. They were really focused. MP thinks it comes from those days that whenever they sit down to play together, it’s still there. All of them 5 ride in the same tempo and everyone strives towards one aim. When there is e.g. another drummer or bassist playing those songs, it’s different. Not better or worse, just different. The beat is not the same. All 5 of them live different lives, but when they get together there is a smile on their faces and they know they are there for the sake of music.

Morgan says Listen To Your Heart is probably the most known song MP composed together with Per. He asks MP to mention some more Roxette songs where he was co-writer. Mats mentions (Do You Get) Excited? and Spending My Time from the Joyride album. As per Gyllene Tider, he can’t remember anymore, but it was mainly their first album, e.g. Flickorna på TV2, Ska vi älska, så ska vi älska till Buddy Holly, (Dansar inte lika bra som) Sjömän.

Getting back to LTYH, Morgan asks MP to tell the story of the song, how it was written. MP remembers that they were sitting in the studio in Gullbrandstorp or Styrdal in 1988. MP recorded something on the sequencer, what became the verse part of LTYH, one can say. Per came in with a paper and wanted to record something totally different, but he asked what that was. He thought the melody could work with the text he had on the paper. He put the paper to the side and they started working with the melody. For the next day, Per added another part and they did a simple demo. It’s Per who is singing on the demo. MP says it felt like a little happy accident, because if Per hadn’t entered the studio when Mats was playing that melody, maybe it would have never turned up.

Talking about the studio work, Morgan asks MP if he thinks the new generation is missing anything when it comes to the old studio techniques. MP says that in a way it’s fun to have the limitations of tapes and distortions and such things. When they started, he didn’t have a 24-track multitrack recorder, but an 8-channel recorder, then in 1989 they upgraded to a 16-track recorder and used it until 1998. Now it’s computers and it’s much easier to manipulate the sounds. Morgan says it’s easy to sound good nowadays. MP agrees. Mats adds that it’s e.g. fun for him if there are 4 choruses in a song, he wants to record all four. Copy-paste of course saves time, but it’s more fun in the old school way.

Morgan asks for some basic tips from MP as producer and technician for those musicians who would like to build their own studio. What is what they should think about in the first place. MP repeats that when they started they had a simple mixer and an 8-channel recorder. He adds tips about microphones and amps. He says he still likes coloured sounds, which can e.g. be a strange frequency or a certain distortion. It’s so easy with the plug-ins nowadays. One has to test them.

Morgan asks MP about GT’s break-up in 1985, how it was and how it felt. MP says it was a horrible feeling. They all felt that they had reached a career that they couldn’t top. Before that, they felt they did everything they could in Sweden, so they recorded an English album, The Heartland Café under the name Roxette, not Golden Times. MP thinks the album sounds quite good, but what they did before was not reflected on that album. It became a mini LP with 6 songs in the US, but it didn’t sell at all. Anders wanted to leave the band, so they broke-up in 1985. For Per then came Roxette, a collaboration with Marie Fredriksson, trying something in English with her. It was fun, MP says and in the end, GT’s break-up was a milestone in Roxette’s history. MP adds he started working at Halmstad airport at the time to be on the safe side, so he was recording demos with Per and working at the airport.

Morgan asks MP about GT’s comebacks too. Mats says that in 1989 both he and Per turned 30, then Roxette was on tour for a long time, then they made the album Crash! Boom! Bang! and went on tour again. Then there was a pause and there was this Halmstad All Stars happening at Stora torg in Halmstad in 1995 and the guys in GT were asked if they could put together something for that event. It became so huge that journalists wrote it was time for a comeback of GT. So the guys decided for what became Återtåget and it was fantastic with sold out concerts all around.

There was a longer break when Marie got ill and Per did his Mazarin album in Christoffer Lundquist’s studio in 2002 and went on tour in the summer of 2003. Then came the idea to celebrate GT’s 25th anniversary in 2004. They wanted to do the same size tour as Återtåget was, but they had to book football stadiums instead. So instead of venues of 10.000 they played venues of 20-25.000, then there was Stockholm Stadium and Ullevi too. It was totally crazy, of course.

Mats remembers Marie was a secret guest at their last show on the Återtåget tour at Brottet in Halmstad and it was fun when she was singing a verse of När alla vännerna gått hem. It was like being on a completely different planet. It gives you goosebumps, Morgan says, she was one of the best singers.

MP says there are a lot of things and happenings that became really successful, but all projects take a lot of time and energy. In between their big GT tours they didn’t do anything related to Gyllene Tider. What MP thinks is that a lot of people who listened to them in the beginning of the 80’s are the same age as them 5 and as they got older, they would have also loved to relive their youth. They have now kids and grandchildren and the guys can see that there are different generations at their shows. They are very fortunate. Before they got their record contract in 1979, they – mainly Per – sent mails to e.g Mats Olsson at Expressen, to Aftonbladet, to record labels they also sent cassettes again and again and again, quite frequently. It was kind of a ritual every wekk. One doesn’t have this kind of energy nowadays. They thought they had something in them, they believed in themselves.

Their songs live their own lives, new generations are also listening to them. Morgan says they are evergreens. Mats tells when they were recording Puls, they were looking for a sound and they were inspired by the big American sound that Tom Petty represented. When they thought they were ready, Kjell Andersson at EMI said there was no hit on the album. They needed a hit for the summer. Then Per went and wrote Sommartider, so that was the last song they recorded and it became a huge hit.

Morgan asks MP to tell some more anecdotes he thinks would be interesting for the listeners to hear. MP laughs and says there are some he can’t tell. He says many thought they had a lot of girls around them, a girlfriend here and there, but it wasn’t the case. They were really nice and good guys and were focusing on their job. MP also talks about touring in the 80’s and that they had the same financial management as Björn Skifs.

At the end of the interview Morgan asks MP to pick one option from two made-up happenings (related to music and Gyllene Tider) and then pick another one from other two made-up stories and here it turns out that MP played the trumpet until the age of 15, but he can’t really play the violin.

Morgan asks for some closing thoughts and MP says to play music for people who enjoy it is pure happiness and so satisfying. Music spreads joy, he thinks.

Pic by Patrícia Peres, Ronneby, GT40 tour 2019