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Together with Marie Fredriksson in Roxette, Per Gessle tasted global success for the first time.
Together with Marie Fredriksson in Roxette, Per Gessle tasted global success for the first time.

Photo: TT

People

One day in history: Per Gessle

03.18.1977Harplinge, SwedenThe day a young Per Gessle tagged along with friends to watch their band practice in a studio, little did he realize that his life – and pop history – was about to change beyond his wildest dreams.

An obsession. That’s how Per Gessle describes his relationship to music. An unadulterated passion for pop music that has colored almost the entire life of this simple guy from Halmstad. With Gyllene Tider and then Roxette, Gessle has conquered the charts in Scandinavia and throughout the world.Photo: Getty Images

It all began with hair. As a six-year-old, little Per went to get a haircut. The barber wielding the clippers, a relative named Artur, promised not to touch the hair that fell down over Per’s ears. It didn’t happen. Per cried for weeks after his Beatles haircut disappeared.

“It wasn’t really about the hair, rather the loss of a way of identifying with the pop world. The haircut had become such an iconic symbol. I wanted to get into the pop bubble,” Gessle says.

Gessle hails from an artistic family, with relatives involved in everything from painting to ceramics. Unsurprisingly then, as a teenager, he looked to find his own way forward, a way of expressing himself. He tried to learn to paint, shot movies with friends and worked in a theater.

At high school, Gessle made friends with a fellow student called Peter, who was the bass player in a band. In March 1977, Gessle drove to Harplinge outside Halmstad to see Peter’s band Audiovisuellt Angrepp practice – that visit proved to be a life-changing experience.

“Seeing how they created music together completely changed my life. The sheer power of expression, volume and creativity. From that moment, I just wanted to play in a pop band –  nothing else would do,” Gessle says.

A few Per Gessle career highlights

1980
Tops the Swedish charts with Gyllene Tider’s first -record, propelling the -Halmstad band and its lead singer Gessle, to the status of superstars in their home country.

1989
Roxette, comprising Gessle and Marie Fredriksson, achieve their first of four US number ones with the album Look Sharp. -After ABBA, Roxette is the most successful Swedish pop band of all time.

2003
Gessle receives a royal medal from the King of Sweden for his achievements.

2004
Gyllene Tider’s comeback tour attracts more than half a million fans.

2017
Releases the critically--acclaimed solo records En vacker natt and En vacker dag, recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. English-language versions of these records are set to be released during 2018.

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Before, he had been sitting at home with a nylon string guitar trying to write songs. Now, he had a new direction. Per and Audiovisuellt Angrepp drummer Mats quickly became good friends and started making music together. After a while, their project became known as Gyllene Tider and the rest is pop history.

The joy of playing with others has been an ever--present feature in Gessle’s music over the years, regardless of whether he is playing with old friends in Gyllene Tider, on a huge world tour with Roxette, or with a country music band as he did during last year’s solo tour. But away from this, for songwriter Gessle, music has been mostly a job for a lone wolf.

“I’m quite comfortable working alone, even if the process has become a little more different at this stage in my life. I work more with others today than before,” he says.

“Stop the Music” by Charla K, one of the songs competing in the Melodi Grand Prix, the Norwegian national song competition that determines the country’s entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest, is an example of this. The song was penned by Gessle, Alex Shield and Charlotte Kjaer (Charla K’s real name), both of whom are signed to Gessle’s record label, Space Station. The project marks something of a Eurovision comeback for Gessle, who performed several entries in the Swedish qualifiers during the 1980s.

“I actually don’t know who submitted the song. It’s one of many songs we’d written together sending files back and forth. I really come from another, older pop school, but it’s fun, mostly because it’s possible to write in this way,” he says.

On his latest album, out this spring, Gessle has employed a similar team approach to song composing. Last year’s Swedish-language records En vacker natt and En vacker dag are set to be released in English, while many of his Swedish lyrics have been translated by American songwriter Sharon Vaughn. Meanwhile, he is planning yet another world tour in the fall, performing songs both old and new – the joy of playing with others remains as strong today as it was back in 1977.

“Many of the songs I wrote as a young man I couldn’t write today. But it’s awesome to be able to interpret them now with a new group of musicians. A pop song is never finished; it just stops at different stages.”

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