Q&A with Per Gessle in Classic Pop magazine

In the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of Classic Pop magazine (UK) there is a Q&A with Per Gessle about Roxette’s Bag Of Trix release.

Steve O’Brien asks Per to tell how this boxset came into existence. Mr. G tells he was looking around for live stuff and found so much material that he had forgotten about. There are a couple of leftover tracks from the Good Karma album that were never finished. He explains that during the recordings Marie had good days and bad days, so as soon as they had enough material for an album, they just stopped. Then he found songs from their Abbey Road session from the 90’s and some old demos too. Per explains there was a lot of material that had got lost (e.g. bonus tracks on CD singles) when they moved from CD into streaming.

Steve is curious how the name Bag Of Trix came about. Mr. G tells he has a list of titles and phrases in his computer and those could be song titles or album titles. When this compilation came into sight he started thinking and he thought of Bag Of Tricks.

Then I changed the ’Tricks’ to ’Trix’ so it reminds you of Roxette. It’s the marketing guy in me, I suppose.

Steve asks Per about the process, how he found all these songs. Mr. G tells he has a big archive of cassettes, CDs, CD-Rs and DAT tapes, all going back to the 70’s. Over the past 10 years he’s been transferring everything to his computer.

Only the other day, I found five cassettes that I’d forgotten about, from the early 80’s before Roxette. I wish I was more organized, though – I’m a seven out of 10.

Steve wants to know if Per rediscovered any songs that he wished, in retrospect, that they had included on an album. Per says on every album they had 8-10 leftovers, because they always had so much material. He thinks most of the time they made the right choices.

There are a couple of tracks off every album which I don’t really rate, like ’Physical Fascination’ off ’Joyride’, I think that’s a crap song.

Steve asks which songs from Bag Of Trix Per is most excited about sharing with fans. Mr. G thinks the live version of Wish I Could Fly is great and the Tom Lord-Alge mix of Soul Deep is really good, too.

Regarding what to include and what not to include, Per tells Classic Pop magazine that the original idea was to see if they can make one album with leftovers and then it just grew. Then someone reminded him about the Spanish tracks and that they weren’t available anymore, so it just went on and on.

To Steve’s question about how it felt revisiting the songs Mr. G replied that it was a very positive thing. He remembers Roxette very fondly, they had an amazing journey together.

It’s terrible when I think about Marie, she was only 44 years old when she got ill. But I listen to it and it’s all coming back. I just love to hear her voice still.

Per tells he is currently releasing a Swedish acoustic album [so the interview must have been done end of October / beginning of November 2020 /PP] and he is also writing a new album in English.

I’ve recorded eight tracks for that so far. Hopefully, that’ll be done by next spring. And one of these years, I’ll go out and do another tour. I miss touring.

The magazine published a Bag Of Trix review as well which is rather based on comparing this release to The RoxBox (Roxette 86-06). One sentence I had to laugh at: ”It’s hard to criticise the motives behind Bag Of Trix, as the collector gene means we all want every cough and spit from the vaults.” Haha. So true. The coughs and spits on those later found five cassettes would just be perfect for a next release from the vaults.

Interview with Per Gessle in QX magazine

In the January 2021 issue of QX magazine there is an interview with Per Gessle. You can read it HERE in Swedish and download it in pdf from HERE.

Anders Öhrman met Mr. G in Per’s office on Strandvägen in Stockholm to talk about Roxette. Anders loves Roxette since they released their first single, Neverending Love. He has the vinyl framed. He saw Roxette live, knows all their songs, followed them on all the charts in the world and managed to get both Marie and Per to participate in the QX Gala, but this is the first time he had the chance to interview the hit machine and pop star, Per Gessle.

Per welcomes Anders to Fort Knox with a big smile on his face at the elevator on the fifth floor. He tells they had to set up a gate on the stairs because Roxette fans sneaked in and slept there in the stairwell.

The interview is done almost the same day as Marie passed away a year ago. Anders says it’s obviously a huge loss. Per lost both a bandmate and a longtime friend. [Here there is a little misunderstanding regarding the dates I assume: the last recordings and the last show. /PP] Anders tells the last recording with Marie turned out to be on 8th February 2016 and says Per has written everything down in his diary from the recordings. [This date was the last Roxette concert’s date though. In Cape Town, South Africa. /PP] Anders mentions that Per flips through his diary and says Marie sang the song Good Karma. That was the last thing she did with Roxette.

The guys start talking about the beginning. The year is 1986 and Per Gessle is without a record contract, but with his third solo record written in Swedish. Per tells he had written a song ordered for Pernilla Wahlgren as well, it was called Svarta glas, but he didn’t get an answer. Roffe Nygren, who was head of Swedish EMI at the time, heard the song, liked it and said, “write an English text and record it with Marie Fredriksson”. Said and done. The song’s title became Neverending Love and Marie recorded it despite the fact that everyone was against it. Her solo career went straight up, she released the album Den sjunde vågen and had Ännu doftar kärlek as a hit, but Marie wanted to record with Per. Even producer Clarence Öfwerman didn’t want to produce Roxette’s single, but luckily, he was persuaded and since then Clarence has produced every single song of Roxette. Per tells QX magazine that there was a huge resistance in the beginning. There were just three people who believed in Roxette – Marie, Per and Roffe. On the cover of the single, there is a cartoon couple dancing. It’s because they thought if the song was a flop, it wouldn’t hurt Marie’s solo career.

Anders tells the song became a big hit in Sweden and an album was recorded. Per took the Swedish songs he wrote for his third solo album and translated them into English. Farväl till dig became Goodbye To You, Dansar nerför ditt stup i rekordfart became Soul Deep, En känsla av en kvinna became Call Of The Wild etc. Per tells the only song that wasn’t translated was a song called Kom ut till stranden, but it is actually on his latest solo album.

Roxette’s debut album’s title was Pearls of Passion and it sold 200,000 copies. Per started writing their next album, Look Sharp!, but before he did that, he also managed to write a Christmas song that the record company in Germany had wanted to get German radio to start playing them. The song was titled It Must Have Been Love (Christmas For The Broken Hearted). But the record company refused it and the song was only released in Sweden where it was a great success. When Look Sharp! was released, it was No. 1 in Sweden, but EMI in the US and the rest of the world didn’t want to release it, Anders says. Per tells QX magazine that they were completely uninterested in Roxette. Most people know the story of the exchange student from the USA who brought Look Sharp! home from Sweden. He sent it to a radio station at home in Minneapolis and asked them to listen to it, which they did [after a while]. The rest is history.

Per remembers sitting and eating lunch at Stureplan when a guy from another record company came to him and congratulated on their bubbling in the US. He read about it in Billboard magazine. Mr. G didn’t understand anything and was thinking what song could it be that they started playing in the US. First he thought it must have been Dressed For Success or Listen To Your Heart, but then he saw in the magazine that it was The Look and it rhymed so damn badly with his idea of Roxette where he was the songwriter and Marie the singer. Per laughs and says he thought it wouldn’t end happily.

QX magazine tells Per was wrong. The Look reached number one on Billboard in the US. Then Dressed For Success, Listen To Your Heart and Dangerous also charted. Being big in the US meant big in the rest of the world. Roxette topped the charts in 25 countries.

Anders himself was in college in the USA at the time and when one day in the spring of 1990 he heard It Must Have Been Love on the radio, as a Swedish Roxette fan he was wondering how it happened that they played that old Christmas song.

Per tells Anders they were offered to record a song for a Hollywood movie that would be called 3,000. Julia Roberts was not known then and Richard Gere was a bit passé. Per got the script from Los Angeles, but he remembers throwing it away already at the airport because it was so heavy to carry. He laughs. They didn’t have time to record a new song, so they changed the lyrics of It Must Have Been Love, Marie sang in a new version and so they sent it to them. Then it became a huge success and their biggest hit ever.

Anders is curious if Per remembers when he first saw Pretty Woman. Mr. G tells before the film went to the cinema they got a private screening in Burbank, California and in the middle of the screening there was an earthquake. The salon shook and the staff came rushing in and said that everything was OK, the house was earthquake safe.

Anders asks Per what he thought about the movie. Mr. G remembers that he thought it was a bit uninteresting or he didn’t think anything directly. But their song got a lot of space and today it is an iconic scene with Julia Roberts in the back seat of the limousine and their song being played. Per must admit that he actually bought back the script for the film afterwards, on a street in New York. He laughs.

Anders is curious if there is a Roxette song that Per thinks has not received the attention it deserves. According to Mr. G it’s Spending My Time. It could have been even bigger if it hadn’t been unlucky. It climbed sickly fast on Billboard when it was released as the third single from Joyride and it would be their fifth number one. But in the middle of the launch, EMI was bought up and 123 people who worked with Roxette were fired and 123 new people they never worked with were hired. Spending My Time stopped climbing the charts and stayed at No. 32. The record company was completely uninterested in Roxette. They opted for Wilson Phillips instead.

Regarding Crash! Boom! Bang! at McDonald’s in the US Per says it’s another example of how uninterested they were in Roxette. They released some sort of collection, Favorites from Crash! Boom! Bang! and probably sold a little over a million of it, but when the real album was then to be released, the record stores didn’t want to sell the record. But Roxette was so big in the rest of the world so then they didn’t care about the US anymore. Now he regrets it, but it felt right then.

Anders is curious if it’s true that Madonna saw Roxette in New York. Per confirms it. They were playing at the Beacon Theater and they knew she was coming, so Marie was very nervous. Marie was “hot shit” in the US at the time. People had an eye on her.

Anders tells Per that he has listened to a lot of Roxette demos and there are a lot of guitars on them, but not so much on the album. Per tells it’s because Clarence is a great man, but he doesn’t like guitars. He laughs. Per brought his demos and Clarence peeled away the guitars. He is a big part of the reason why Roxette sounds how it sounds. So Anders asks if Clarence was sick the day Sleeping In My Car was recorded. Haha. Per says Clarence never liked that song.

Anders asks Per about the gay audience. Mr. G tells they have had great support from the gay audience all over the world. He doesn’t know why, but there is some positivism and honesty in their music that finds a home.

Anders tells Jakub and Dawid from Poland are Roxette’s most famous gay fans. He asks what it was like to surprise them on stage at the QX Gala. Per says it was great fun to be part of the Gay Gala. Jakub and Dawid’s videos that they made for Roxette’s songs are so lovely. They are like cartoon characters, Per laughs. Mr. G says it’s great when people affirm something sincere and in this sense the gay community reminds him of their fans in Latin America. If they like something, they show it.

Anders asks Per in which country Roxette is the biggest. Mr. G tells Germany is their largest market, where they have sold 12-14 million albums. But they have probably meant the most in Argentina and Brazil, where there hasn’t been the same hysteria about any artist since they were there in 1992. They had the riot fence from the airport to their hotel, 50,000 people lined up in the streets and they played for 65,000 people in São Paulo.

Anders asks Per if he continues to write songs in the spirit of Roxette. Per tells it’s impossible musically, artistically and personally to replace Marie, it doesn’t work. But it also feels difficult for him who has written all their songs to just put the lid on. So right now he is actually working on an English language record which is an 80’s inspired uptempo pop record. A bit like Dangerous and very much in the spirit of Roxette. He hopes it will be ready by spring.

As a last question, Anders asks if it’s true that Per handed out the book Bög – så funkar det! (Gay – how it works!) to his dinner guests on a New Year’s Eve. Per laughs and says it’s true. He has a tradition of giving away New Year’s gifts that most people do not have or know about. It has often been a book and then a wide range between Calle Norlén’s literary fireworks and the Encyclopedia of unusual sex practices (Brenda Love) to Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography or an interview book with Tom Waits. The script for Fawlty Towers has also been handed out!

At the end of the article Per suggests a slightly unknown Roxette song. One of his favourites is a leftover song from Joyride called The Sweet Hello, The Sad Goodbye. They recorded a lot of songs for that album and several had to be left out. This one has a fairly typical production that feels a bit dated, but it’s a nice song that Marie sings in a way that only she could. You believe in her when you listen. Nice.

QX lists the 5 best “unknown” Roxette songs:

  1. Speak To Me: A song that didn’t reach a single list, except for an 18th place – in Finland! It would be worth a better fate. The chorus when Marie enters the song is one of the strongest Anders knows and a song he has become a little obsessed with – both the original from the album Charm School and the Bassflow remix where Marie gets even more space. Listen. Turn up the volume. Enjoy!
  2. Lover Lover Lover: The second song on Travelling from 2012 is a real road trip song that was released as a single for radio in Germany, but never became a real single. Lover Lover Lover would fit any Tom Petty record. Playful, melodic and fun!
  3. Shadow Of A Doubt: One of Anders’ absolute favourite Roxette songs and a mystery that it never got bigger. The song from Look Sharp! has such power and energy, and together with Marie’s slightly desperate singing, a killer chorus and a key increase from schlager-heaven, this becomes pop perfection!
  4. My World, My Love, My Life: A little gem from Room Service where Marie sings fantastically, there is a nice bridge where Per asks and Marie answers and the chorus is beautiful – and those who want will hear a little ABBA in the song.
  5. Piece Of Cake: The latest (and last?) single from Roxette. An uptempo song with a bit weird lyrics where Per sings that there is no hot water and he can’t find his comb… The song changes tempo in the chorus – and THAT is a chorus that can move mountains!

Photo of Per Gessle in the article is taken by Anders Roos.

Top 2000: The Untold Stories – Roxette – It Must Have Been Love

You surely remember the Dutch TV program, Top 2000 that interviewed Per Gessle on 19th November 2019 at Baggpipe Studios (the old EMI studio) in Stockholm. In December 2019 they broadcast the story of The Look and they shared it on their YouTube channel in February 2020. Later, in August 2020 they shared an acoustic version of It Must Have Been Love. Per played it the same day they recorded the program and now it turns out there was a story behind IMHBL they recorded as well. It was broadcast on Dutch TV yesterday. You can watch it HERE (if you are in the Netherlands or via VPN).

Per tells the whole idea with Roxette was that they wanted to go international. They had success in Sweden, Marie was a successful solo artist and Per was successful with his Swedih band. Marie’s career was climbing, but Per’s heydays were over. Marie and Per knew each other since the late 70’s and they always wanted to do something together. She had an amazing voice, Per could write songs for her and they shared the ambition. Per wrote different songs for Marie than what she could write herself. There is Soul Deep for instance. She is amazing in that song. She never really wrote material like that. After the success in Sweden with the first Roxette album they were a bit disappointed because they wanted to succeed abroad. So they talked to EMI in Germany and they said they should write a Christmas song, maybe then it’s easier for EMI Germany to get them on the radio. Per went home and wrote It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted).

Per is showing the demo to IMHBL where he is singing. He says it would have been Marie who would be whispering the line they hear (It’s a hard Christmas day, I dream away), to make it more intimate, but they gave it up, it was corny. Per explains this demo was before auto tuning, it’s really out of tune and he laughs. He says it’s a really bad demo actually. They recorded the song and released it in Sweden in 1987 and it became a hit. It was a big song for them, but Germany didn’t release it, EMI Electrola hated it.

Then they forgot about it. Per started writing the Look Sharp! album. They had all the success with it, with The Look and Listen To Your Heart. Then in 1989 they had a lunch with EMI in Los Angeles and they had the rights of a soundtrack to a movie called 3000. It was about a guy who hires a girl for the weekend for 3000 dollars. They said that they have David Bowie on board, Go West and Natalie Cole as well, all those EMI artists. They wanted Roxette to write a song for that movie, but Per said they had no time, they were travelling all around the planet to promote Look Sharp! But Mr. G said they have a Christmas song and he could very easily alter the lyrics to it. He got rid of Christmas day that became winter’s day. They sent it to them and they loved it. The title of the movie became Pretty Woman. Per remembers he was in this studio (the old EMI studio) when Garry Marshall, director of the movie called him to tell that he loves the song so much he had given it a great place in the movie and there is no dialogue over it, because it speaks for itself and it just gives the whole movie a certain character in that particualr scene. Per thanked and put down the phone. The movie became a blockbuster and they were surprised what happened there. IMHBL became this epic song it is today.

Thanx for the hint, Ludo van Denderen! (He also shared a screen recording of the program on his FB.)

Per Gessle at Late Night Concert

Late Night Concert is a collaboration between Live Nation and TV4, which premiered this spring and was recorded at an empty Gröna Lund. The format was born out of the current situation when live music has fallen silent when concerts have been forced to scale down and is based on the idea of spreading live music out into the country and home to the TV couches.

The second season was recorded at Cirkus in Stockholm without an audience and is broadcast on TV4. The program can also be seen on TV4 Play and C More.

Per Gessle’s Late Night Concert day was 16th December. You can watch it HERE (if you live in the EU or can use VPN)! When we are on tour, we expect more and more people to attend the shows and now… we can be happy for concerts where there is literally no one in the audience. How weird this 2020 is. At the same time, we can be grateful that at least this way we can enjoy Mr. G’s performance. Who knows when it will be possible to go on tour again.

Per chose to perform an unplugged set and what a great decision it was! It’s not the first time he plays unplugged. We all remember MTV Unplugged from 1993. It happened at the same place, Cirkus in Stockholm and Mr. G was wearing a similar wild cat shirt. Now there were less instruments and no John Lennon sunglasses.

Helena Josefsson, Clarence Öfwerman, Christoffer Lundquist and Magnus Börjeson joined Per on stage. They played 9 songs (2 Roxette, 1 Gyllene Tider, 6 Per solo).

Setlist

  1. På promenad genom stan
  2. Småstadsprat
  3. Listen To Your Heart
  4. Tycker om när du tar på mej
  5. Ömhet
  6. I din hand
  7. Segla på ett moln
  8. Honung och guld
  9. It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted)

All songs sounded wonderful in this arrangement. I’m a fan of rock concerts and jumping in the crowd, but hey, I want this acoustic set in real life! Not the first time I’m dreaming about an acoustic tour, but now I crave it even more. I mean Per’s vocals were so emotional and Helena was singing beautifully and Clarence, Chris and Magnus were playing so softly, all that absolutely fit the intimate atmosphere. 3 songs put me into tears. Listen To Your Heart… before you tell her goodbye… Gosh… Then Segla på ett moln for whatever reason and then of course, It Must Have Been Love. Oh well, music and its effects. It was amazing to hear songs live from Per’s latest solo album, Gammal kärlek rostar aldrig.

Between Småstadsprat and Listen To Your Heart Per talked about his MTV Unplugged 1993 experience. He said he played Cirkus several times, but he remembers most of all the MTV recording. They were the first non-English or non-American band that was invited to play on the program. He remembers that he was wearing a leopard shirt back then and that’s why he is wearing a leopard shirt now, to celebrate it.

Before playing Ömhet, Mr. G talked about being isolated due to the pandemic and that he thought to record an album based on his old material written in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s. His idea was to play all instruments himself to make it as personal as possible. He tried to breathe new life into those old songs. He thinks it became a pretty cool album.

Before It Must Have Been Love, Per talked about the story of it. He says it’s a super special song. It started out as a Christmas song in 1987 and it was a success in Sweden. The story behind is that their German record label advised them to write a Christmas song so they might get airplay on German radio, because they couldn’t manage it with their debut album, Pearls of Passion. So they recorded IMHBL, presented it to the German, but they didn’t like it. Then in 1990 they were asked to cooperate in the soundtrack of a movie then called 3000. They were travelling around the world with Roxette then and didn’t have time to record a new song. They thought to use IMHBL, just changing Christmas day to winter’s day in the lyrics, recorded a new intro and mixed it differently. The title of the movie was changed to Pretty Woman and became a huge success. IMHBL became Roxette’s probably biggest hit.

The concert was beautifully recorded from great camera angles. I could have lived without the ads in between the songs and it’s always better to see the support acts before the main act comes on stage, but other than that, concentrating solely on the PERformance itself, it was really a fab recording.

Dear Covid-19, don’t you dare ruin our 2021 as well! Besides many other things in a so called normal life, we need tours too!

Thanks a lot to Live Nation and TV4 for bringing Per Gessle into our living rooms and thanks Mr. G & Co. for the beautiful interpretation of these 9 songs. We want more of this! I just had to watch it again right after it ended. And I guess I will give it some more plays. Did I mention it was B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L.???

Stills are from the program.

Per Gessle’s opinion about the recordings:

Had a blast recording the Unplugged Late Night Concert at Cirkus in Sthlm. My favourite players and singers around me. Wunderbar.
Missed you guys out there, of course, but that’s the way it is on Mother Earth right now. Hope you liked it too and didn’t find too slow or too cozy. I wanted it to be intimate since we couldn’t interact with any audience.
If you missed it I’m sure you can catch it on TV4 Play. Love to you all! Stay safe + sound! /P.
For those outside the EU, TV4 uploaded Listen To Your Heart to their YouTube.

Vote for Roxette – Piece of Cake for Song of the Year 2020 on Musikplats!

Musikplats on Swedish Radio P4 Stockholm organized a voting for Song of the Year 2020. The jury for Song of the Week has voted and put together a list of 20 songs for the decision and now the power is in the listeners’ hands. Roxette’s Piece of Cake is also on the list, so hurry up! Click HERE and vote for it!

Voting runs until 11:00 CET, 18th December. Then 5 songs that enter the final are presented. After another listener voting (the counter is reset before this), the winner is published the same day at 11:50 CET. So don’t forget to vote on 18th December at 11:00 CET again!

Fingers crossed!

Top20 songs – pick your favourite HERE!

Vargas & Lagola – Always
Agnes – Fingers Crossed
Albin Lee Meldau – På Riktigt
Jakob Hellman – …Och Känner Mig Utanför
Victor Leksell – Svag
Dotter – Bulletproof
The Sounds – Things We Do For Love
Gustaf & Viktor Norén – Rise Again
Laleh – Det Kommer Bli Bra
Thomas Stenström – Ser Du Månen Där Du Är Ikväll?
Roxette – Piece Of Cake
Mando Diao – Själens Skrubbsår
Miriam Bryant – Nån Av Oss
Darin – En Säng Av Rosor
Sarah Klang – Canyon
Hurula – Tro På Er Ruin
Kygo & Avicii & Sandro Cavazza – Forever Yours (Avicii Tribute)
Miss Li – Komplicerad
Ana Diaz – Bästis
Håkan Hellström – Tillsammans I Mörker