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(This page last updated: 10 May, 2013)
Per Gessle, circa 1991
Per Gessle

Per and I go way back--way, way back. Not only have I been lusting after him for over 20 years (Gods, I feel old! laughing emoticon ) but my Dad's family is mostly Scandinavian in origin, and I found out from an aunt who's into geneaology that I had an ancestor back in the 1400's who was some kind of high official in the Swedish province of Halland--the capitol of which is Per's hometown, Halmstad. Pretty cool, huh?

My direct experience with this particular Swede, however, began on a cold evening in March of 1991. That was the night that I happened to turn on MTV just in time to catch about the last third of the video for the Roxette song "Dangerous," and the progression of my thoughts went something like this: "Wow, what a neat song... and gosh, that lady's pretty. And just who is that handsome devil with the voice, and the hair, and the eyes, and the earring, and that grin... and... and...?" swooning emoticon

I've been a Roxette fan ever since, even though it hasn't exactly been an easy job; other than a brief period during the early 90's, they've been popular pretty much everywhere except America. At least import CDs are more easily had these days, thanks to the Internet--finding them when I was still in high school was rather a trial. And particularly since I was buying not only Roxette albums, but also stuff from Per's first band Gyllene Tider (Swedish for "Golden Age") and his and Marie's solo careers. It was all in Swedish, and my friends thought I was crazy for spending as much money on it as I did, but whether I understood the lyrics or not didn't matter. I just wanted to hear as much of those two voices as I possibly could, because, odd as it might sound, I could trust them.

When I first got into rock music, it was frustrating to find that often I would only like one or two songs, or perhaps one particular album, out of any given band's entire repertoire. I had more pocket money than a lot of kids my age because I had a job (my parents owned a small business and paid me for helping out) but I still didn't want to waste it on albums that might have only a handful of good songs. But with Roxette or Roxette-related music, I knew I never had to worry--it seemed as though neither Per nor Marie could make a bad record alone, and whenever they teamed up, it was just magical. (To this day, they've only made a couple of albums with anything on them that I actively disliked--and considering the size of their catalog, that's a pretty good record!) Their songs were like old friends, something that I could always count on no matter what else might be happening. They kept me company when I was lonely, celebrated along with me when I was happy, and helped me cope whenever I was sad. I count it one of the marks of Per's genius as a songwriter, actually, that I like his sad songs just as well as the upbeat ones, because the emotion in them is so pure that it acts as a sort of catharsis. I can sink into the sadness and really feel it for those three or four minutes, then let it fade away with the last notes of the song. Roxette songs almost never leave me feeling depressed.

And, as if that wasn't enough, Roxette also brought me into contact with the first true friends I think I ever had. I'd always been rather the odd man out as a kid; I grew up entirely in small towns (by US standards, anyway--usually the population was fifty thousand or less) and between a lack of "normal" interests, too many brains for my own good, and a natural bent toward introversion, it probably doesn't come as a surprise to hear that I had trouble making friends. I never stopped wishing I had more of them, but it just wasn't in the cards with such a limited pool of people to choose from, and eventually I learned to get by on my own. By the time high school rolled around, in fact, I was so used to doing my own thing that even the "counterculture" cliques held little appeal; most of them were, really, as strict about their own code of conformity as the jocks or the preppies, and I was far too independant-minded to be interested. But then I discovered Roxette, and I knew I couldn't be the only one in the world who saw how great this band was. There might not be any other fans in my own town, but they had to be out there somewhere, all I needed to do was find them. So I did the first thing that any die-hard fan would do: I joined the fan club, and, from there, a multi-national network of pen pals.

I still remember that time with a lot of fondness. It was such a thrill to go out to the mailbox each day and find letters addressed to me, particularly if they had an airmail mark and cool foreign stamps, and I learned so much--I credit that whole experience with making me less of an American and more a citizen of the world. I might never have met my penpals face-to-face, but they meant the world to me, and I really regret losing touch with pretty much all of them. I went through a very rough personal time in the mid 1990's, and I barely had the energy to drag myself out of bed in the morning; the idea of writing letter after letter about all the pain I was going through was just too much. I've managed to reconnect with a few of my old pals via the Internet, but there are a lot still out there that I'd love to get back in touch with. So if you remember writing to a girl in Cheyenne, Wyoming at about that time (1992-1994ish) please, drop me an email!

Going back to Per himself, though--Gods, the lustful fantasies this man has inspired. laughing emoticon He is quite a good-looking fellow (and one who's aged remarkably well) but if I had to pick my favorite of his features, I think I'd be torn between those sparkling dark eyes and his voice. The way he sings just sends shivers down my spine; he probably wouldn't win any awards from a strictly technical standpoint, but to my ears, at least, there's a great deal of inherent sensuality to his singing. Particularly on lower notes, his voice takes on this husky buzz that just drives me to the edge of sanity, and I never, ever, get tired of listening to it.

Quite apart from being a hunk, though, he really is very talented. He's definitely one of my favorite lyricists ever (which is all the more remarkable when you consider that English isn't his native language) and he seems able to hit both ends of the pop spectrum--upbeat and ballad--with equal ease. And I have to mention the demos; Roxette has developed a reputation for sticking demo versions of various songs on the B-sides of their singles, and there are even a couple of bootlegs out there which consist entirely of unreleased demos. And these are invariably fabulous, not least because Per often does lead vocals on the demo tracks, even the ones that Marie Fredriksson sings on the album versions. It's sometimes obvious why the final version was given to Marie (much as I love his voice, Per just simply doesn't have his band-mate's vocal range) but from a musical perspective, the demos are jaw-droppingly well-done. As one writer put it, "The amazing and frightening truth... is that Roxette songs have that glistening studio finish from the moment they emerge from Per Gessle's head, if not before then." (Click here to visit that writer's website; he's reviewed a number of Roxette CDs, and I can confidently state that when it comes to this band, he "gets it.")

So laugh at me if you must, but I've been searching out anything by or related to Roxette for a long time now, and I have the feeling that I'll continue to do so for a long time to come...

Favorite Songs & Videos
Better sit down and get comfortable--this is going to take a while, and I'm even leaving out all of Gyllene Tider and Per's solo material!
Favorite Songs: "Neverending Love"
The first song ever recorded under the Roxette banner, this was a huge hit in Sweden and still sounds good more than two decades later
"Call of the Wild"
Per sounds wonderful on this track drooling emoticon
"From One Heart to Another"
Beautiful and achingly sad
"Like Lovers Do"
Per and Marie always sound so great together when they sing duets
"The Look"
Okay, so the lyrics make no sense whatsoever--it's still loads of fun!
"Dangerous"
The first Roxette song I ever heard, and still one of my favorites
"(I Could Never) Give You Up"
I just love Per-ballads... cloud nine emoticon
"The Voice"
Why this wasn't on the Look Sharp! album I'll never understand. I first heard it over the credits of the Look Sharp Live home video and spent ages trying to track it down; I finally located a copy on the B-side of the UK release of the "Dressed For Success" CD single, though I believe it's now also available on the new "Roxbox" boxed set.
"Joyride"
Pop at its best
"Fading Like A Flower (Everytime You Leave)"
One of my all-time favorite power ballads
"Knockin' On Every Door"
I just love it when Per uses his "deep voice" in a song... bouncygrin emoticon
"Watercolours in the Rain"
This is a very personal song for me. "Ending up, on a frozen morning / With a heart not even broken" could have been the story of my life for a long time...
"(Do You Get) Excited?"
Per likes to describe himself as "cold and unemotional," but how the heck does he manage to write passionate lyrics like this if that's really true?
"Church of Your Heart"
I just love this song--and the acoustic version of it they did on MTV Unplugged is unbelievably beautiful
"Things Will Never Be The Same"
One of the few Roxette songs that I like the studio and live versions of equally well
"Perfect Day"
Another beautiful and heart-rending ballad
"I Remember You"
Apparently this was on the European release of the Joyride album, but we Americans had to settle for getting it as a single B-side
"The Rain"
The album version on Tourism is great, but I love the demo of this, too
"Never Is a Long Time"
There are two very different versions of this song out there: the acoustic album track, which was recorded in an empty nightclub in Sao Paolo, Brazil, during the Join the Joyride Tour, and then a much faster-paced demo which can be found on a couple of different bootlegs. I actually like both versions.
"Silver Blue"
Oh, sigh... This song showcases one of the biggest reasons that I lust after Per Gessle--Gods but that man has a sexy voice! swooning emoticon
"Queen of Rain"
Beautiful, beautiful song--if I had to pick a single Roxette track as my favorite, this one would probably be one of the top contenders for the title
"Fireworks"
"I like it when I light the stars in your eyes..." Sigh!
"Run To You"
Great pop track. The demo version is nice, too
"Vulnerable"
Another sweet Per ballad
"What's She Like?"
I have to admit, I loved the album track on Crash! Boom! Bang! from the first time I heard it, but I've also heard a demo version that, despite mediocre sound quality and some obviously experimental lyrics, I almost like better...
"Do You Wanna Go The Whole Way?"
Exceptionally sensual--Per's part in the bridge just makes me melt... melting emoticon
"Go To Sleep"
Lovely, lovely track
"Don't Believe in Accidents"
A single B-side. Per sounds great!
"June Afternoon"
Pure pop heaven
"Almost Unreal"
A rather ill-fated song, this was written for one movie soundtrack but ended up on a totally different one. The film flopped, and so did the single, but I still like it, and the demo version is quite nice, as well.
"I Don't Want To Get Hurt"
Another Roxette song that could have been the story of my life at one point...
"Wish I Could Fly"
Have A Nice Day is probably my least-favorite Roxette album generally, but there are some gems on it, and this track is one. The demo version is also lovely.
"It Will Take A Long, Long Time"
This is a lovely track in any case, but it's kind of got a special personal meaning for me, as well... one which tugs at the old heartstrings a bit, since it's associated with a loss, but special nonetheless...
"Salvation"
Beautiful ballad. I love the intermixing of Per and Marie's voices.
"Real Sugar"
I was rather wary of the Room Service album when it first came out, since Have A Nice Day had been something of a disappointment. But this, the very first track when I got up the nerve to actually play the CD, convinced me that all was back to normal. smiling emoticon
"The Centre of the Heart"
I love this song, but I will maintain until my dying day that only Per Gessle could write a lyric like "What am I gonna say when I find the centre of my heart is a suburb to the brain" and actually pull it off! laughing emoticon
"Milk and Toast and Honey"
Okay, I will admit that I was dubious about this song when I first heard the title, but it's really quite nice--and Per sounds sooooooo sweet on the demo... hearts emoticon
"It Takes You No Time to Get Here"
One of my all-time favorite Per-ballads. Very romantic!
"A Thing About You"
Great track--the parts where Per's voice sort of morphs into Marie's are really cool
"Breathe"
Like most of Roxette's best ballads, this is unbelievably beautiful and sad, and I honestly couldn't tell you whether the album or demo version was my favorite...
"Makin' Love to You"
Lovely... sigh...
"Bla Bla Bla Bla Bla (You Broke My Heart)"
I do like this song, but I have to confess that I just can't get through the chorus without breaking up in a fit of giggles at the "bla bla bla bla bla" lyric... laughing emoticon
"I Do Believe"
Actually a demo of a song that Per wrote for another artist, this is a breathtaking track nonetheless
"Drowning In You"
An unreleased demo. I love all the water imagery in the lyrics--I am a Piscean, after all. winking emoticon
Favorite Videos: "Dangerous"
This one holds a special place in my heart, naturally, as it was my first exposure to Roxette
"Joyride"
I did so like Per with black hair... sigh...
"Church of Your Heart"
Come on, you know I had to like this one. winking emoticon
"The Big L."
I'm not a huge fan of the song, and the bulk of the video is a bit weird, but OMG, Per looks too hot to be allowed... panting emoticon
"Fingertips '93"
Again, the song is not really one of my favorites, but Per in leather pants is not to be missed! bouncygrin emoticon
"Queen of Rain"
I knew the song for a long while before I ever got a chance to see the video, but when I did, it looked exactly like I had always imagined it would. Eerie.
"Run To You"
Fun video, lots of behind-the-scenes shots from the Crash Boom Bang tour. I love the bit where Per and one of the band members are playing a soccer video game--apparently they upgraded from the table hockey game they had on the Join the Joyride Tour. laughing emoticon
"Vulnerable"
One of the few Roxette videos where Per actually gets the bulk of the camera time. I drooling emoticon at the visual when he's walking along the beach and the wind is blowing that sweater tight against the front of him... I like a man with a good chest, and boy has he ever got one...
"Wish I Could Fly"
Worth seeing just for the brief glimpse of Per with his son Gabriel, who was still a babe in arms when the video was shot. Aww...
"A Thing About You"
Interesting concept, and Per is looking really good--though what the heck is up with the black fingernail polish?
Favorite Per Gessle Quotes

Marie: Today Per ate a big spider!
Per: She means lobster...

rolling on the floor laughing emoticon Poor Marie, I really shouldn't make fun but that was just too funny...

[on his perennially "mod" hairstyle] "I like long hair. I look like an old teacher with short hair."

Fan's question: Does fame corrupt, in your opinion?
Per's answer: Not necessarily, but in my case, yes.

[on what he does in his spare time] "Anything you can think of that includes a goldfish."

Fan's question: What have you been up to lately? It's been a long time since we've heard from you.
Per's answer: It takes a lot of time and energy to own a goldfish.

Per Gessle's Astrological Sign

Date of Birth: 12 January, 1959

Western Zodiac: Capricorn (Earth)
Chinese Zodiac: Dog (Water)

Per, I think, is a very complex individual, and he tends to stick to being witty during interviews rather than saying what he actually thinks. This might be due to the fact that he's on the cusp between signs in both astrological schemes--between workaholic Capricorn and creative Aquarius in the Western system, and the dutiful Dog and the easy-going Pig in the Chinese.

The Chord & Sorcery Angle

If Per Gessle were a character in a fantasy novel, he would be:

Hmm, good question... he's not really a warrior-type, and I don't see him as a mage, either. Maybe a rich merchant; he does have considerable business acumen from what I've read...

The fantasy/period outfit I would most like to see Per Gessle model is:

Another good question... maybe something like a more medieval version of what he wore in the "Fingertips '93" video: all black, ruffly shirt, leather pants...

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