Per Gessle’s forgotten years

Between 1977 and 1982 Per Gessle could enjoy an excellent time together with Gyllene Tider, and from 1986, when Roxette kicked the tops, he has been one of the most representative artists of our country, no matter if he has played under his own name or together with the previous band, Gyllene Tider, or with Roxette. But the years between 1983 and 1986, were a bit difficult, even if they were thinking about a little activity with Gyllene Tider in the future. It is a period of time from Gessle’s life that starts to become a bit forgotten, so it is time to talk a bit about it. Many have called Per Gessle ”a pop king” or even a ”pop thief”; regarding myself, I see him as one of the most skillful and most dedicated songwriter that we have ever had and still have in the country. If he had worked in the USA, he would have been compared to names as Tom Petty. And, on the other side, he could also have become a Swedish Dwight Twilley…

The songs Per Gessle wrote to Gyllene Tider at the beginning of the 1980s is a happy soundtrack to the last, innocent, not to say naive time before the submarine bombing, Chernobyl, the murder of Olof Palme, the Swedish prime minister, and other bad things that began to come into the Swedish state. In the end of 1982 and the beginning of 1983, Gyllene Tider released their third LP, ’Puls’. Even if this has not become the same huge success as the previous two disks, Gyllene Tider was still a group to be counted on the musical stage. The question that all people had was in which direction you should go next. And the songs on ‘Puls’ were just a try to improve the sound, they were a bit more advanced, mature songs; even the classical themes like strawberries, lilacs country, summer rains, June, July, August, all of them appear on the album. Well, the album was on the top of the lists and the singles ”Sommartider” and ”Flickan i en Cole Porter-sång” became the top favourites. It is possible to notice on ‘Puls’ a certain lack of concentration, even if I don’t have any proof for this. More than small, small characters – like to fade out ”Sommartider” for example. There are also some weaker songs on the album, like ”Upphetsad” for example.

In January 1983, 4 of 5 members from Gyllene Tider are recruited into the army. The one who was not recruited  was Gessle, who said that he didn’t put on green clothes – but in fact he pretended he is mentally sick, just to avoid. Because Gyllene Tider had a break now, Gessle was able to release a solo album that he had wanted to do, and alreay at the beginning of April you could see the result: ’Per Gessle’ was ready. In fact it wanted to be called ‘Hjärtats trakt’, but Ulf Lundell’s new album had the name ’Hjärtats ljus’ (even if it wouldn’t be released until November perhaps) – so there was a late name change.

Talking about Lundell, Gessle follows the tradition that Lundell has started, regarding solo career. Not because it was something new for him – listen for example to ”Chrissie hur mår du?” from ’Moderna Tider’ (by the way, we can guess that also Lars Winnerbäck has listened to this song a few times). Another name can be included on the CD, namely John Holms, and Gessle includes also a version of  ”Den öde stranden”. In many cases we can say that ‘Per Gessle begins there, where ’Puls’ has finished; the songs are more mature, regarding the texts, than those teen-age texts about summer and love. It is one of his albums I have mostly listened to – more than those from Gyllene Tider (probably with the exception of the great live CD from Mjölby Folkets Park), Roxette and the following solo albums. This album has resisted in time in another way. The first song, ”På väg”, has a great chorus and an exciting mandolin sound, and ”Timmar av iver” had been written in fact for Elisabeth Andreasson. ”Regn”, a song full of traces from Tom Petty, is one of Gessle’s best songs of all times, and the first side of the album ends with ”Historier vi kan”, a Swedish version of John Sebastian's ”Stories we could tell” that Gessle has heard with Tom Petty, probably this song:

After an instrumental moment that opens the b-side of the album, there comes one cover more, this time from his idol John Holm’s ”Den öde stranden”. ”Rädd” has been written during Gyllene Tider’s huge tour in the autumn of 1982, and this is a clear “on the road-text”. ”Tända en sticka till” brings a bit from Neil Young’s ”Old man”. The album finishes with ”Syrenernas tid” – a typical beautiful Gessle-pearl. The only single that has been released was ”Om du har lust”, that came out in the end of June 1983, with 2 songs on the backside, that do not exist on the album, ”Överallt” and ”Man varnade för halka”, the last one having a text written by Niklas Strömstedt. ”Om du har lust” can be found also in a nice version together with Marie Fredriksson:

‘Per Gessle’ is an album that has perfectly mixed the sound with the feeling, this makes it be timeless as well. It feels that the album is very relaxed, but at the same time they have worked a lot on it. A classical Swedish album, if you ask me, that should come more up into the charts of the best Swedish albums. During the summer of 1983 the other members from Gyllene Tider succeeded to come back from the army – they wanted to do civil service without weapons and they postponed the army one year. That is why in the autumn of 1983 Gyllene Tider could record the new album, an English hit collection, that got the name ’The Heartland Café’, that was released in February 1984. The first single was ”Teaser Japanese”, that was released in November 1983, a song for which they have also done a really really expensive video:

In the spring of 1984 they concentrated on a tour and during the summer they have also released a mini album in the USA under the name ”Roxette” – that was a big failure. Gessle started to work now with his second solo-album, at the same time when the future plans with Gyllene Tider started to be done. A new album was going to be recorded and it was also planned a greatest hits album. But, when Gessle presented the plans to the others in March 1985, it happened something unexpected instead. When the group had a meeting and were watching the plans that Gessle had written down, Anders Herrlin let them know that he didn’t want to continue in Gyllene Tider. I shouldn’t be surprised if Herrlin one day could come and say that it was a moment decision; that he just felt that Gessle’s plans were too much. Anyway – Gyllene Tider didn’t exist more. Consequently even Gessle’s new solo album that he had started was situated in another light. A single,  ”Blå december”, had already been released in December 1984, but now, suddenly, he didn’t have two parallel albums to work on and place the songs on, but only one – and this one was a solo LP. To do it a bit longer, he included also the songs that had been written for Gyllene Tider’s following album; he worked on them a bit so that they could fit the new context. For better or worse, it will be seen.

In September 1985 there was released the second single from the new album, called ”Galning”, with Gyllene Tider members for playing instruments. One month later there came a full CD that got the title Scener’. Regarding the sound, it represents the connection between Gyllene Tider and Roxette, but the quality of the album is not as good as the previous ones. There are plenty of strong songs, but also some weak traces and the quality of the songs and of the production made the general opinion worse. But when it is good, it is terrible good.  ”Blå december” is one of Gessle’s nicest song of all times, ”Inte tillsammans, inte isär” became a small radiohit. ”Viskar”, written to his new love and future wife, Åsa, should have become a hit; it is a great strong song, a kind of predecessor to the following Gessle-pearls like ”Tycker om när du tar på mig” and ”Vilket håll du än går”. ”Speedo” is an American rock, it was so closed to the original Jim Hendrix version of ”All along the watchtower” that Gessle was happy not to be brought to the Court for song stealing. Scener’ is like a masterpiece that nobody has cared about, it didn’t reach the expected value. Now we are living in a time when the electronic instruments have conquered the studios, and they influence the albums in a little way. In March 1986 there comes a last disk from Gessle solo that year, ”Inte tillsammans, inte isär”. On it there are also 2 songs that were released, ”Historier vi kan”, ”Ute på landet” in a fantastic country-style, and a cover from Bob Dylan’s ”Farewell Angelina” in Gösta Rydbrant’s amateur translation. ”Väntat så länge” you can watch as live version from 1986.

In spite of this, few years later they release a gratest hits album with demos from those years, with projects and halfdone or fulldone songs (a third solo album had already been planned in fact), but Gessle’s first solo career could be considered to be represented by ‘Per Gessle’ and ‘Scener’. If ‘Scener’ feels like a mess in the songs, it was more complicated how Demos’ were, of course – but it also includes some of Gessle’s best songs ever, like ”Blåa jeans (och röda läppar)” and ”Segla på ett moln”. During the solo-years, Per wrote songs all the time for other artists, as an extra job, but also because he wanted to be in form and to search something new, to discover a new direction. Some examples of songs from these years that Gessle had written are Annelie Rydé’s ”Segla på ett moln”, Elisabeth Andreason’s ”Stjärnhimmel”, Niklas Strömstedt’s ”Skarpa skott”, Marie Fredriksson’s ”Tag detta hjärta”, Pink’s ”Linda” and Shakin Fredrik’s ”Varje hjärtas detektiv”. He wrote also songs for Herreys, Monica Törnell, Efva Attling – and ”30 skäl” was a really big hit with a totally forgotten artist nowadays, called Anna in the autumn of 1986. Ealier that year, Gessle was at Melodifestivalen with a song written to Lena Philipsson, called ”Kärleken är evig”. It was almost at the same time when the disk ”Inte tillsammans, inte isär” appeared, but Gessle begins to decrease this time.

Per Gessle’s career was almost to the end. The question was what would be next. One of the songs he wrote during the solo years was called ”Svarta glas” and was offered to Pernilla Wahlgren – who has refused it that time. At the same time, Gessle wanted to do something with Marie Fredriksson, who has worked with him some times during the latest years. For the moment she was busy with a solo album (Den sjunde vågen) but as soon as that was ready, they could record and English version of ”Svarta glas” and released it under the new name “Neverending love”. As name of the group, they took the name of the disk that Gyllene Tider had had earlier in the USA, namely Roxette. So, in July 1986 it starts again. ”Neverending Love” goes directly to summer hit lists after Freda´s ”Vindarna” and Eurytmics ”Thorn in my side” and becomes a huge summer hit in Sweden in the summer of 1986. A new chapter in Per Gessle’s career has started. The forgotten years were over.

SOURCE: Obladoo - see the original article in Swedish HERE