Blog post written by Kirsten Ohlwein
There it is: Bag of Trix, Volume 1. The music from the Roxette vaults. And while in the past, this was hardly music from the vaults, because I knew 95% of the songs already – this time I got surprised, like, really surprised.
Before I share some loose thoughts about the songs we got, I just want to add that my heart is torn regarding this release. On the one hand, it is a lovely „hi, we still think of you“ towards Marie. I fully get that Per doesn’t want to sit on these songs for the rest of his life – and our lives, too. And I am pretty sure Marie would have loved to share her music with us as well.
It’s a present, a gift, it’s an homage to Marie, a huge one. On the other hand, it certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth to release this albums almost exactly on the date of her death. But, of course, that’s again just me. In general, and overall, I welcome this release, certainly.
When I saw the tracklist some weeks ago, I already was positively surprised. Volume 1 offers 12 tracks of which I only knew five. That’s not even 50% and so different from earlier „rare stuff“ releases. Yes, I know, I am a hardcore fan and certainly shouldn’t be compared to nostalgic Roxette fans who didn’t follow every release up and down every road. But collections like this one also should provide something to the hardcores.
So, of course, I remembered both Abbey Road Session songs, „Help!“ and „Listen to your heart“ that are the opener of Volume 1 pretty well.
No. 3, „Let your heart dance with me“, came as brand new, as it was the first single off the album. The „Waiting for the rain demo“ has been leaked on some shady bootleg that turned up on a record fair in October or November 2002. I will never forget that day, because the songs on that CD are so special, so good, so Marie. This demo is very special to me, but not as good as the final version, even if the demo is much rockier. I prefer the full orchestral sound of the album version and I am still happy it got this treatment and has been made faster as well.
And, don’t hit me, but I don’t listen to any version of „Joyride“ anymore. This is probably a mix I have never heard before, but I won’t be able to tell you, because I just can’t listen to that song anymore. And, I am sure, as I have listened to perhaps a trillion versions of Joyride, there is nothing there that I haven’t heard before.
And wow, how good is the „Like Lovers Do“ demo?? Recorded on July 25th/26th 1986, and Marie sounds incredibly strong here. After listening to this one, I wonder why they didn’t stick to the original idea to have Marie sing the verses. The song suddenly grows after 30 years. That’s a nice new touch and I would love to hear a version with both voices together maybe?
„Pocketful of Rain“ is a different thing, though. Honestly, if I hadn’t known the lyrics of „Reaching high“, I would have never suspected that this is just a jazzy, very „den ständiga resan“ like version. I had to listen to it three times to finally recognize the song. It is so different, it is so good, it is sooo Marie, it’s not pop music. Yeah, get your priorities straight. While listening to it, it hits me the first time that I am sooo going to miss all these „first times“. The first time listening to a new song by Marie, the first time listening to new lyrics, to new nuances of her voice, to experience this first time feeling of music at all. It breaks my heart, to be honest, to be fully aware of the fact, that the Roxette vaults are not neverending, but they are empty – soon. There will never be new music sung by Marie again – ever. And yes, it sounds super selfish, it IS super selfish to say that, but I am not sure how to deal with that yet. And while she sings to me, it feels like a voice from the beyond is reaching out, like a ghost, like an epiphany of sorts.
The live version of „Wish I could fly“ sounds ultra raw, the same goes for the demo of „You don’t understand me“, which is even more raw than the live track. It’s a nice live track, because they didn’t really perform that song back then, as there wasn’t a HAND tour. I especially compared it to their live version during „Night of the proms“, which I still prefer, because Marie’s voice after her illness was more of my taste when it comes to songs like „Wish I could fly“; and the way she improvised during the Proms. So, her „Fly, oh, baby“ will never cease to exist in my heart.
Track No. 9,the demo of „Happy Together“ which is actually a b-side? I love the song, but it’s not new, right?
Which brings me to the next track, No. 10, „Beautiful Boy“. I assume this one was written for „Room Service“, as it says „Studio Vinden Demo, March 2000“. Ehrm, don’t get me wrong, but why didn’t THIS ONE make the album, but „Little Girl“ did? I am honest here as honest as I always am, and as much as I love Marie’s music, but „Little Girl“ never got me, it never never never got me, not even on the „Room Service“ album, and it’s probably the most boring track she ever wrote, because she tried so hard to make it „pop music“. She shouldn’t have tried, maybe it would have been a better Blues track, who knows. „ Beautiful Boy“ is such a beautiful ballad, and even the demo tells me a lot about how the final version could have sounded. Oh! My heart breaks a bit for never knowing how this one could have GOTTEN me. I love this track and it could have also easily made every Roxette album since „Room Service“.
The „You don’t understand me“ demo from July 1995 is, as stated before, surprisingly raw. I like that Marie doesn’t sing it perfect and gives herself and her voice room to explore the song for the final album recordings. She probably understood what to change and how and why after this demo. The way she varies her voice – I could listen to that all day and just sit and compare to the final version and find out or rather guess why she or they changed it. There are not many sequences in the demo that are different compared to the album version, but there are some parts, and they are gold!
No. 12, „Hotblooded“, the demo, I mean, it’s THE demo, right? Holy crap, where did you hide this one all those years, Per?? It blew off my shoes when I listened to it the first, the second and the third time. And it still does, after twelve rounds of listening. One of my first reactions to a friend was: „You know what? They could have recorded the whole album in that style and it wouldn’t have sold any worse.“ Okay, that’s probably a bit exaggerated, but how good is this demo? I think it’s extraordinary good for several reasons. 1.) You can already hear how good the song is, even without any production treatment, 2.) Marie’s and Per’s voice blending in the verses. Really, play it again, loud, listen how Per is singing the backing vocals to Marie’s leading vocals and understand how perfectly well they fit each other. This was so unique, and if I had a time machine I would go back to 1990 and tell them to record the album exactly that way, 3.) The fun they had together. Yes, it’s the little things. It’s the funny noise he makes at the end that makes her smile. That’s so real, so honest, so pure. Stuff like that belongs on final version, yes, it does, if you ask me. This demo is a real gem and I am happy we finally got it. Thank you, Per, for opening the vaults!
And as happy as I am about volume 1, a part of me can’t shake off the sadness that comes with it. One of the best female singers of the world with one of the purest, softest voices in the world is no longer among us, and it still feels fucking unfair.