Kjell Andersson, former Head of A&R and producer at EMI Sweden published his autobiography, Ingen går hel ur det här – Mitt liv i den svenska musiken on 8th February 2021. Over 40 years in the music industry, Kjell worked together with many of Sweden’s greatest artists. To name a few: Per Gessle, Gyllene Tider, Marie Fredriksson, Roxette, Mauro Scocco, Eva Dahlgren, Wilmer X, Björn Skifs, Ulf Lundell etc. In his book he writes parallel stories of different artists over the decades.
Even if the main line is not Roxette-related, there are either longer stories from our idols’ lives, mainly the early career of GT, PG, Marie and Roxette, or shorter stories, when Marie’s or Per’s ways crossed other artists’ paths or they joined projects of various artists. Most of the stories hardcore fans have heard already, but it’s always interesting to hear them from another person’s, another participant’s point of view or hear anecdotes related to happenings we’ve heard about.
I will of course highlight only parts where either Roxette or Gyllene Tider or Marie Fredriksson or Per Gessle is written about – for all non-Swedish speaker fans –, but I recommend reading the book in case you are interested in Swedish music history and you want to practice your Swedish. It’s a very informative reading not only about Kjell Andersson’s life, but tons of artists and the Swedish music industry as well. A real history book in a way.
The yellow EP
Kjell writes about how his cooperation started with Gyllene Tider. He received a home-made yellow vinyl EP in January 1979. It contained 5 songs of a band from Halmstad. When Kjell listened to it, he got stuck with Billy. He thought there were vague, yet noticeable, traces of a young John Holm in the singer. Kjell played the EP to his close colleagues at the company and also sent a cassette copy to Ulf Lundell. Calle Bengtsson (photographer) could hear what Kjell heard, but no one else heard the potential. Not yet. Kjell decided to call the number attached to the EP. Per’s mother picked up the phone in their Halmstad home. Kjell asked her if Per was at home and Mamma Elisabeth told him Per was sleeping, but she could wake him up, it was past 12 anyway. Haha. Per came to the phone and Kjell introduced himself. He can’t remember what they talked about, but he told Per he liked their EP and asked if there were more strong songs. Per replied ”There are as many as you want… and only hits!”
Kjell says the guys were determined and anything else in their lives was secondary back then. A couple of weeks later Kjell got a cassette from them and hearing the new demos he realized another side of Gyllene Tider, a playful side. Kjell realized that instead of finding a young John Holm, he came into contact with a young pop band that sounded like a mix of Elvis Costello & The Attractions and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
He played the demos for Lasse Lindbom and Lasse thought there was something in the band, but had to go down to Harplinge to listen to them and then they convinced him. However, he was hesitant to the pop star potential of the singer. Haha.
According to Kjell:
If Springsteen’s Born To Run – according to Greil Marcus in Rolling Stone – is a 1957 Chevrolet running on melted down Crystals, then Gyllene Tider is a rusty Volvo Amazon from the end of the 60’s driven by old Tom Petty, Hep Stars and Nick Lowe vinyls.
Debut single and first LP
Gyllene Tider’s debut single, Himmel No. 7 was released at the end of 1979 with Flickorna på TV2 on the B side. Kjell swears it was planned to be a double A side single, but the record pressing plant in Åmål couldn’t handle double A sides, they got confused. Everyone started playing Flickorna på TV2 , it became a megahit. At some point in the book Kjell adds that it was Niklas Strömstedt who as a DJ first heard the single potential in the song.
The band’s debut album came out in February 1980. It became a huge success.
In the summer of 1980 it was time to start recording Gyllene Tider’s second album. Per and MP claimed all songs they wrote were ready and as usual, Per said they are all hits. As soon as Kjell received the demos he listened to them with high hopes, but thought they were terrible. Per stayed with the subject (teenage sex) that worked in their first hits. Kjell thought it seemed like GT’s own parody. He thought Gyllene Tider was much bigger than that.
Kjell called Per and told him his opinion. Per thought 2 months of work was flushed down and it was a diabolic slap while GT were the biggest in Sweden. Kjell thought and still thinks the real diabolic slap would have been if they released the LP with those songs from the first demos.
So the guys started from scratch and by early autumn there were new songs and the recordings for Moderna Tider began. The lead single, När vi två blir en was released in October 1980. When Kjell played it in the office, a girl from the finance department stopped and asked what he was playing. Kjell thinks that’s always a good sign when someone from the „outside” reacts in a positive way, because they are listening to the songs like everyday people, not like those who are dealing with repertoires all the time and thinking and analyzing the songs too much.
The guys wanted to make GT’s third LP a Swedish pop classic. Per wrote a series of strong and inspirational pop songs: (Hon vill ha) Puls, Vän till en vän and Vandrar i ett sommarregn. Kjell’s favourite from the album is Händerna, but he thinks Puls lacked the charm, joy of playing and spontaneity of the debut album. It often happens when you want to make a masterpiece, you forget to have fun.
When the album was ready, everyone was satisfied with the result, but a single was missing. Kjell was standing in the bus stop Solna Centrum on a sunny spring morning, waiting for bus 503 to EMI and he was thinking about song titles. He thought they needed a summer single – summer and Gyllene Tider – En gyllene sommar (A Golden Summer)? He had some more titles popping up in his head, but he got stuck with Sommartider in the end. Kjell called Per and told him about his idea. Per liked it and immediately wrote a bubblegum pop song.
The Heartland Café
After all their success, GT wanted to go international and record an English album. They were on tours all around in Sweden, they beat the audience record and felt there was nothing more to reach in Sweden. So they recorded The Heartland Café. The album was released as a mini LP with six songs in the US under the name Roxette (from Wilko Johnson’s Dr. Feelgood song). Nothing happened.
Halmstads pärlor – Samtliga hits! 1979-95 was released in May 1995 and Gyllene Tider did a gig on Stora torg in Halmstad in front of 18,000 people and the band was challenged to do a summer tour, which came to life next year. Before the tour, a newly recorded EP with two new hits was released: Gå & fiska! and Juni, juli, augusti. Kjell thinks it’s a perfect pop EP. The tour became a huge success, beating audience records all over the country.
Finn 5 fel!
GT started recording a new album in February 2004 at Aerosol Grey Machine, Christoffer Lundquist’s studio in Vollsjö. Per wanted to release an EP only, but Kjell was nagging an album. Maybe he pushed Per hard he thinks when he is listening to the LP today. It doesn’t stick together like an album should, some songs feel like they are leftovers from Mazarin. The band chemistry was still there though.
GT set a new audience record at Ullevi in 2004. Kjell was there and it was an uplifting experience for him – from a phone call on a winter morning in 1979 to this. He doesn’t say that Gyllene Tider is his creation or that gig wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t called and woke Per up on that January day in 1979. He is convinced that they would have suceeded anyway. The band’s talent and Per’s and MP’s songs would have probably brought them to that magical evening in Gothenburg on other paths as well. Media or the music industry wouldn’t have missed the natural forces of their magnitude.
Kjell remembers he heard Marie in MaMas Barn first. He got to know her via Gyllene Tider, because they shared rehearsal studio in the basement of Harplinge’s school. According to Kjell, their strongest song was Det är svårt att bryta upp, a piano ballad Marie herself sang.
It serves as a sample for what she does later. The ingredients are there, Marie’s building blocks: melancholy, contact with the listener and her peculiar warmth and sincerity.
Kjell tells that Marie and Lasse met for the first time when the Lasse Lindbom Band recorded their Romantisk blackout LP. When Lasse couldn’t find a singer to sing duet on Så nära nu, he asked Per to contact Marie and then she sang the duet with Lasse. She sounded young, nervous and extremely enthusiastic, according to Kjell.
When later Marie and Lasse Lindbom became a couple, Marie wanted to be signed by EMI. Lasse found a song he worked on before, but never finished. It didn’t even have a title or a text. Marie loved the melody and wrote lyrics to it. Ännu doftar kärlek became Marie’s debut single as a solo artist in 1984.
Kjell says that from all the artists he had worked together with during his 40 years in the business, Marie was the biggest riddle to him.
Everyone who meets her likes her, even loves her! Even me. She is warm and personal, but at the same time distanced and shy. I can’t state that I know her. I know limited parts of her, her sides she decided to show over the years, but a big part of Marie as a person is a mystery and will always be.
Marie has the peculiar ability only a few artists have; she can sing a catalogue and make the text sound personal, heartfelt, warm and even poetic. When she sings in Swedish, she is undisguised and open like a child or an old person who no longer has anything to hide. How she expresses herself hits the listener in the heart, it’s impossible to defend yourself.
Den sjunde vågen, Efter stormen
Den sjunde vågen was inspired by Henri Charrière’s novel, Papillon which Marie was reading during her journey with Lasse to the Canary Islands to write material for the record. The novel is about a man who escaped from Devil’s Island, a French penal colony of French Guiana. Marie was inspired by the idea that the sea waves had a pattern: every seventh wave was the biggest and the process is repeated forever.
According to Kjell, Marie’s self-esteem and expressing herself improved by every album. Den sjunde vågen was a big step after Het vind and Efter stormen was even bigger. These two LP’s were very important on the way to Marie’s perfection, artistic flowering, her modern and anxious tour blues album, Den ständiga resan.
Regarding the Efter stormen cover photo Kjell says that Marie had a principle those days: Marie in Roxette and Marie as a solo artist dress differently. In Roxette she was modern, wearing e.g. the type of leather jacket she wears in the video of Neverending Love, while as a solo artist, she was more casual, wearing jeans and sweater. This difference disappeared over the years.
Den ständiga resan
Kjell says Marie chose music to convey her tour blues feelings related to the Join the Joyride World Tour and Den ständiga resan became a dark self-portrait. The lyrics are direct, not poetic and that makes them credible.
Marie wrote the songs on airplanes, at airports, in hotel rooms, on tour buses. She recorded the melodies and parts of the lyrics on a little tape recorder she always had with her. On the tapes one can hear the landing and departure messages through the airport loudspeakers.
It was an important album for Marie. She wanted to show that she is more than the extraordinary voice singing Per Gessle’s songs in Roxette.
After New Year in 2000, the CEO at EMI realized that it would be difficult to reach the budget in the financial year, so he asked Kjell if he had any ideas that could help. Kjell and Rolf talked about a Marie compilation album, but the timing never fit. Kjell then called Marie to ask what she thought about it and Marie was positive. Kjell asked if she wanted to write a new song that could be a single and the opening song. Marie wrote Äntligen and recorded it with Micke. The compilation album was released in March and it sold 160,000 copies until summer, so the budget was safe.
The album was such a great success in spring that Marie’s first solo tour in eight years was also planned for the summer.
In June 2013 Kjell was invited – together with Marie Dimberg and Thomas Johansson – to Marie’s and Micke’s house in Djursholm to listen to their recordings for a new album then called Vad vore jag utan dig. Kjell was interested in Marie’s songs, but to his surprise, when he asked Marie how many songs she had written for the album, she replied „one and a half”. Kjell doesn’t know what happened to that half song.
Kjell told his opinion, both positive and negative. He stayed honest, but minded his words knowing the difficult times Marie and Micke had gone through. The most important and biggest critique was about the title. „What would I be without you” can’t be an album title, he thought. He asked Marie and Micke to send him the lyrics of all songs, so he would search among the lines for title options.
According to Kjell, as a whole, the album lacks Marie’s brushstrokes, her words, motifs and colours. There is a sense of art falsification, when you are trying to recreate an artist’s expressions. The only song Marie wrote for this album is Sista sommarens vals.
All GT guys – except Per – went to the obligatory military service in January 1983. Per released his first solo album instead, a singer-songwriter record, which was probably rather Kjell’s idea than Per’s. Kjell admits that it wasn’t this type of music that made Per unique and world famous.
He is not a rock poet or a troubadour, rather a composer genious and a pop thief of the highest caliber. Per is young, 24 years old, it’s not in his nature to write open and self-disclosing texts that make this genre interesting. His lyrics seek melancholy and romance.
Kjell says Per’s second solo album is unbalanced, heading into several directions simultaneously. Per didn’t know which way to choose. When the recordings started, it was just a side project that he could afford himself next to GT’s success, but it suddenly became his future after Anders left Gyllene Tider. Kjell’s favourite from this album is Blå december.
Son Of A Plumber
Kjell says Per made Son of a Plumber for himself. He wanted to challenge himself, as well as his audience to dare to go even further into that dream he had lived so long. SOAP is a sentimental journey back to the past, a map of all the pop music Per grew up with and worshiped.
For Kjell it’s SOAP, GT’s first three albums and Per’s solo debut album where he shows himself and his songwriting genius most clearly. He thinks SOAP was one of the strongest pop albums during the EMI years.
En händig man
Kjell thinks it’s difficult to follow up on a success like Mazarin. Ideas get thought out and it loses the spontaneous and natural. EHM lacks the unforced charm of its predecessor. According to Kjell, Per’s music is the best when it’s spontaneous and he plays his way through small light clouds, among new ideas and old influences and steals bits from his favourites.
Kjell tells that Rolf Nygren had the idea that Marie and Per should sing together. He thought that Marie could lift Per’s songs to a totally different level when she was singing on his demos. During that period in 1986 Per was writing songs for other artists. Svarta glas he wrote for Pernilla Wahlgren, but she didn’t want to record it. Per sent the demo to Rolf with the following text attached: „You always tell we should make an English single when we have the right song. What do you think about the attached tape?” Rolf thought the song was a hit and Per shouldn’t give away such strong song to another artist. PG wrote an English text to it and the song became Neverending Love.
Per needed a new producer. Kjell heard a Py Bäckman single that was produced by Clarence Öfwerman. Kjell knew Clarence as the pianist in Raj Montana and from Ulf Lundell’s autumn tour leg. The three guys met at Café Opera and Per and Clarence found each other despite the fact that they were coming from different musical worlds.
Kjell wasn’t the most positive about the idea of Marie and Per working together. Marie started her solo career with two albums and for Kjell the Swedish market was the territory he understood the most. He thought the international market was an unrealistic dream and he also had low confidence in international EMI.
Kjell suggested they should handle the Roxette project as a test. Their names weren’t written on the single and the sleeve illustration was a couple’s picture taken from a 40’s American weekly newspaper Kjell found in the attic. There was a rule for Roxette: Marie and Per not to be launched as a couple, no passionate duets.
Neverending Love became a hit in Sweden and Roxette started recording Pearls of Passion from the material that was meant to be Per’s third solo album. Clarence brought his musician friends: Jonas Isacsson (guitar), Pelle Alsing (drums) and Tommy Cassemar (bass). Kjell thinks the undisguised in Marie’s voice was partly lost in English, but her passion survived.
Kjell tells Roxette’s second LP had Paint as the title for a long time. Per wanted to keep up with the period’s machine-produced pop music and wanted to use drum machines, sequencers and synths. Anders Herrlin had been working with machines since a while, so he was asked to do the programming.
The album sleeve, The Daily Roxette was inspired by Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and John & Yoko’s Some Time in New York City. Marie Dimberg wrote the texts and Kjell built up a newspaper front page. Eminent fashion photographer, Mikael Jansson took the picture. Kjell asked colleagues from the company to be there as extras on the photos next to professional models. Marie Dimberg also appears on the sleeve photo, Alar Suurna became a press photographer, Clarence Öfwerman is the driver on the pic.
Kjell tells Per read an interview in Musician with Paul McCartney where he said writing songs with John Lennon was a joyride. Per thought this expression described the feeling he wanted Roxette’s music to convey: joy, excitement and adventure. Joyride contains Kjell’s most favourite Roxette song, Watercolours in the Rain, to which Per wrote the lyrics and Marie wrote the music.
It’s the best-selling album of Roxette and the best-selling album in Kjell’s EMI career. Kjell remembers that before Christmas 1991 Per called him to thank for the year and to wish him merry Christmas and happy new year. Kjell told him he must be satisfied with the album sales, 300,000 copies in Sweden. Per said not really, he thought it could be double. Kjell thought Per was crazy, but by the end of next year the album sold 600,000 copies in Sweden.
Kjell calls Tourism his „gold mine”. Per wanted to release a double live LP from the Join the Joyride tour. Rolf and Kjell were hesitant to the idea. On a studio meeting Kjell could convince Per to make a tour LP instead.
That was the first and last time Rolf gave royalty to Kjell. The album sold 6 million copies around the world and Kjell received 3 million SEK. He bought his first apartment in Stockholm from that money.
Crash! Boom! Bang!
While the band was in Capri to record Crash! Boom! Bang!, Kjell got countless reports about how good things were going and that it doesn’t sound like anything else before. When they got back and the team listened to it at EMI, Kjell was disappointed. If he hadn’t received all the positive reports, he would have probably reacted differently. The album contained rather ballads and it needed an uptempo song, a single. Per agreed with Kjell in the end and the day after he called Kjell to tell that he wrote a new song, Sleeping in My Car.
Have A Nice Day
Kjell tells his influence in the circle around Roxette diminished over the years. He ended up in the group that listened to Per’s demos and told what they thought about the songs, but nothing more. When it came to the cover of Have A Nice Day, Per and Marie chose Kjell’s colleague, Karl-Magnus.
Kjell hoped that Roxette would make an album where Marie would get as much space as a composer as Per, they would be less formatted and allow greater stylistic differences. Like a late Fleetwood Mac with three songwriters, Roxette could have done it with two equivalent composers who coexisted within a more spacious framework. Kjell says he got no response to his ideas and he lost interest in the upcoming albums.
These are only excerpts from the book mainly for the non-Swedish speaker fans, but there are many more little details in this memoir. Details like the inspiration for the lights settings in Roxette’s She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore video or techniques used during recording sessions, as well as ideas of photo shootings for album and single covers, and of course, more of Kjell’s personal opinions, just to mention a few. So one day, if you have the chance, I suggest you read this book, published by Albert Bonniers Förlag. You can order it from Ginza or buy it in Swedish book stores.