Page last updated at 08:12 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 09:12 UK

Talking Shop: Roxette's Per Gessle

Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson of Roxette in 2006
Roxette - Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle - claim 55 million album sales

As the pop-drenched 1980s drew to a close, a feel-good Swedish duo became one of the most popular, if least fashionable, groups on the planet.

Roxette have just celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first US number one single, The Look, which was followed by three more - Listen To Your Heart, It Must Have Been Love and Joyride.

Songwriter and guitarist Per Gessle recalls how the group's global success was down to one US exchange student, and reveals that Roxette may return following singer Marie Fredriksson's treatment for a brain tumour in 2002.

Gessle is now on his first solo European tour - and admits going out under his own name can be tough.

How do you feel about the Roxette era - are you proud of it?

Yes, of course. We had seven fantastic years, from '88 to '95. Coming out of a small country like Sweden, the odds weren't in our favour. But we knew that we had something special, and the trick was to make it happen. We had to have the big break.

What was your big break?

We had recorded an album called Look Sharp and it was huge here in Sweden. We heard there was this American exchange student who was in Sweden and became a big Roxette fan. When he went back to the States, a radio channel called KDWB had a show where the listeners can call in and request songs.

I know the Abba guys very well - I always tease them that they only had one number one in the States and we had four

So he went up to the radio station and gave them the Look Sharp album, and they kept it there for a couple of weeks.

From what I heard, the programme director fell in love with the first song, so he played The Look. The phones started to ring and people wanted to hear the song over and over again. It was pure luck.

And then you went on to have four US number ones...

We always joke about that because I know the Abba guys very well. I always tease them that they only had one number one in the States and we had four.

Most people don't realise you were already a huge star in Sweden, do they?

Yeah, I started out really young. I had my first hit record when I was 20, and I was 29 when Roxette had its breakthrough. So I had nine years experience.

We'd made all the mistakes in Sweden when we were really young, so we didn't make the same mistakes 10 years later. When Roxette made it big, we owned our own rights to the songs.

Per Gessle
I know the music is so much more famous than I am

Do you you think you marked the end of an era of pure, polished pop?

Absolutely. I remember hearing Nirvana for the first time. I started playing in the '70s, and my first band was a punk band. So I just loved the grunge thing immediately. But it was the end of an era.

Did that contribute to the end of Roxette's success?

Yeah - that and Marie started a family. We said we'd take a break and see what happens. But when you're working with pop music, you have your heyday and then you wane out. And if you're lucky, your songs survive and then you come back into fashion again after 10 years or so.

How do you think you're perceived now?

I wish I knew. I'm going on this tour now - it's my first tour ever on my own outside Sweden. And it's my first club tour since 1989. I know I'm going to play for 600-800 people a night.

I know the music is so much more famous than I am, which is a fact and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm doing my best and we're going to do a lot of the old Roxette songs.

Does it frustrate you that everybody knows your music, but not everybody knows Per Gessle?

No it's not frustrating. In my home country, everyone knows me. Everyone knows everything about my family, my house, my cars... I've been famous here since I was 20. That's 30 years.

Roxette on Top of the Pops in 1989
Roxette stayed together until 2002, when Fredriksson fell ill

I don't have a problem that when I leave this country it's totally different. Actually it's kind of nice, to sit in restaurants in London or LA and people don't know who you are.

Have you considered doing a Roxette greatest hits comeback tour?

Yeah, we've talked about it. It's really up to Marie. We did a European tour in 2001, then she got ill in 2002, and ever since she's been taking it easy.

She's started doing a few concerts before Christmas as a guest artist in Sweden, which was a big success for her, so slowly but surely she's coming back to the stage.

I would love to do more Roxette and I would love to do more recordings as well, because she's a great person and a great singer, but I don't want to push her at all. It's really up to her. If she calls me up and tells me I'm ready, I'd say let's go for it.

What do you think about the current pop scene?

I've always been a big music lover, but in the last couple of years I'm starting to lose interest a bit in what's happening. Maybe it's because a lot of things sound like you heard it before, when you're my age. But I have a son who's 12 and he listens to Linkin Park and whatever, and it's fresh for him.

Per Gessle is playing the 02 Academy Islington in London on 4 May.

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