Roxette Look Back On A 30 Year Joyride

Roxette Look Back On A 30 Year Joyride

Roxette. Photo by Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images.

An interview with Roxette's Per Gessle

“We’ve had a tremendous career and we’re really grateful for that,” Roxette’s Per Gessle says from his grand Halmstad home. Discussing Roxette’s new album Good Karma, Gessle still seems amazed by the band’s 30 years of success. “In the ’80s when we started out, we didn’t expect anything like this at all. It’s been fantastic.”

A decade later Per Gessle would have a collection of platinum albums, number one singles and a garage of fast cars to his name as a member of Roxette, but in 1982 the songwriter was still searching for an international breakthrough. Gessle found it in the song Threnody, a collaboration with ABBA’s Frida Lyngstad and her Something’s Going On album producer Phil Collins.

"I was 22 or 23 years old and I was still dreaming about international success,” Gessle recalls. “ABBA was over and Frida was doing solo stuff, so for me working on a song with Phil Collins on her album was just amazing, it was a huge step for me. My song was chosen as the B-side to the single I Know There’s Something Going On, which sold something like five million copies. I was lucky - it ended up paying my rent for two years!”

Gessle formed Roxette with Marie Fredriksson a few years after his ABBA-associated success, with their 1988 album Look Sharp! delivering chart-topping pop gold in Listen To Your Heart, Dressed For Success, Dangerous and The Look. The Look’s music clip proved controversial in some places, with one scene featuring Fredriksson playing guitar on the video set’s toilet.

“It was banned in some places in the United States and they didn’t want to play it because of that,” Gessle says. “I think there’s actually a version without that scene in it, because some countries didn’t want to play it. It’s crazy.”

From The Look and Joyride through to Good Karma’s 20BPM, Gessle’s lyrics have often betrayed his love of John Lennon’s psychedelic turns of phrase circa 1967. Given Lennon’s drug predilections during the era, has Gessle also found inspiration in LSD?

“No, I haven’t,” Gessle laughs. “I’ve never really been into drugs at all. Where I grew up in a small town there were a certain number of people fooling around with that sort of stuff, but I was never a part of that. It’s the same with the band and Marie – we were never part of that scene. In the ‘80s and ‘90s when we were travelling the world we’d meet other artists and we’d be offered all sorts of things, but now I’m getting older I’m pretty pleased to say I still have my brain… or part of it at least.”

While they’ve avoided the drug cliché, Roxette have always enjoyed their alcohol. Stories from their 1991 Joyride tour of Australia suggest Marie and Per could drink most bands under the table.

“Almost, but Australians are the greatest [drinkers] - you are the champs! It’s Australia and the Irish! Marie was always a small person size-wise, but whenever we’d go to Germany or wherever, record company executives would begin offering us the tequila and drinks. Marie would always outlast them all – she was an Amazon.”

Fredriksson’s stamina extends beyond the bar. In 2002, the singer underwent emergency surgery to remove a brain tumour. While the prognosis was bleak, Fredriksson’s slow recovery culminated in Roxette’s victorious return with 2011 album Charm School and a successful world tour. 

“When Marie got ill everyone – including me – expected the band to be totally over,” Gessle says. “Since we had a comeback in 2010, we’ve done 280 shows. It’s amazing that Marie has been able to do that, but it doesn’t look we’ll be touring anymore. She’s struggling a bit, but she’s done a fantastic job on this new album.” 

In what sounds remarkably like a farewell, the final line of Good Karma’s closing song April Clouds is "I wish you the best". Whatever their future holds, Roxette’s songs are indelibly stamped on the consciousness of millions. Whether it’s It Must Have Been Love crackling over supermarket speakers in outback Queensland, Joyride airing on an Alaskan radio station or How Do You Do! playing in an airport lounge in Peru, Roxette’s songs are perennial.

“I’m extremely blessed and so proud of the legacy of these songs,” Gessle says. “When I get into a taxi or hear Listen To Your Heart in the airport or whatever, it makes me extremely proud. We come from a small country and working in our second language has allowed us to go all over the world. We’ve played for people of different religions and colours and who don’t even speak English, yet they know the lyrics to all of our songs. It’s just been amazing to be part of that and experience that. It’s happened so many times on stage where Marie and I will look at each other and shake our heads and wonder how this could be happening. I have so many memories of those moments. I’m grateful to have been part of this trip.”

Roxette's new album Good Karma, featuring the new single It Just Happens, is released on 3 June, order your copy here.

Kicking off with "It Just Happens”, the first single off the new Roxette album “Good Karma”, here's 20 of the biggest hits from Sweden's dynamic duo.

Related Posts