|PER GESSLE / SON OF A PLUMBER|
Per Håkan Gessle was born in Halmstad, Sweden, January 12 1959. Thanks to big brother Bengt’s record collection, he quickly became a devoted music fan who dreamed about fronting a pop group. A lot of young schoolboys had the same dream in the ‘60s - but for Per Gessle, reality would exceed his wildest dreams.
Today he is one of the Sweden’s most famous artists, having three successful careers going on separate tracks; as part of the (for now dormant) international superstar act Roxette, as the front-figure of Swedish pop sensation Gyllene Tider, and as a domestic and international solo artist.
It all started with Gyllene Tider. When Per Gessle, Mats "MP" Persson, Anders Herrlin, Göran Fritzon and Micke "Syd" Andersson in 1979 secured a recording contract, the energetic Gessle had already peppered the Swedish record companies with demo cassettes. Few saw – or heard – the band’s potential. Kjell Andersson at EMI did.
When their debut single "Flickorna på TV2" in the spring of 1980 started to fill the Swedish airwaves with its "ah-ha, o-o-o" hook, everybody suddenly understood that it probably was something special with those unknown and somewhat cheeky dudes from Halmstad. The thing that truly separated them from the rest, however, was Gessle’s ability to write irresistible pop hits. An almost never-ending string of instant Swedish pop classics followed in the early ’80s: "Ska vi älska, så ska vi älska till Buddy Holly", "När vi två blir en", "Ljudet av ett annat hjärta", "Sommartider" and many more.
After breaking attendance records and album sales that sometimes dated back to the first pop wave of the ‘60s, Gyllene Tider tried an international career during 1984 – its failure ultimately leading to the band’s demise in the spring of 1985. Per Gessle instead embarked on a solo career leading up to the second solo album "Scener", which turned out to be a commercial disappointment in the autumn of 1985. Encouraged by the Swedish EMI boss Rolf Nygren’s suggestions that Gessle should "do something together" with his old friend, the talented singer Marie Fredriksson, Gessle did.
In the spring of 1986, the two of them decided to record the dance pop single "Neverending Love" under the name Roxette. The single was so successful that they recorded an album, "Pearls Of Passion", which was a massive seller in Sweden during the autumn of 1986. But Gessle’s dream of international stardom had to wait until the second album "Look Sharp!" in 1988. And when it did, it happened by an almost unbelievable chance. "The Look" became a US #1 hit single in the spring of 1989, thanks to an American exchange student who had returned from Sweden with a copy of the Roxette album. He brought it to his favourite radio station in Minneapolis, asking them to have a listen. The song spread from there, and when "The Look" in March 1989 topped the Billboard chart, it was the first time that a Swedish pop group scored a US #1 single since Abba’s "Dancing Queen" in 1977.
For years to come, Roxette would become one of the most successful pop acts in the world, building a love affair with international radio that would last for years. Apart from "The Look", songs like "Dressed For Success", "Dangerous", "Listen To Your Heart", "It Must Have Been Love", "Fading Like A Flower" and "Joyride" gave them multiple US hits during 1989-91 - including four #1 singles and two #2 on the Billboard chart – and numerous other hits all over the world. The World Tour "Join The Joyride" took Roxette to Europe, Australia, North America and South America, showing a mesmerized audience that the band was a bona fide stage attraction, not just a quirky "video act" who got lucky with MTV.
In 1993, Per married his long time fiancé Åsa – otherwise most of the year was spent recording the fifth Roxette album "Crash! Boom! Bang!". After the record was released in 1994, the group once again toured the world – this time travelling to Europe, South Africa, Australia, Asia and South America during the autumn of 1994 and spring of 1995. The tour was a new major success for Roxette, whose February 1995 concert in Beijing helped open up China culturally. Roxette was the second Western band ever to play the country (Wham! was first in 1985), and the first since the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.
In the spring of 1995, Per’s first band Gyllene Tider reconvened in the studio to record three new songs for the greatest hits album "Halmstads pärlor" – among them the hit singles "Det är över nu" and "Kung av sand". Media as well as a growing league of new and old fans praised the band’s return, and "Halmstads pärlor" became the best selling album in Sweden, both 1995 and 1996. With the 1996 summer hit single "Gå & fiska!" behind them, Gyllene Tider reunited for "Återtåget '96", the biggest tour Scandinavia had ever seen.
Apart from the greatest hits collection "Don’t Bore Us – Get To The Chorus" and the Spanish collection "Baladas en Español, Roxette took a break after their world tour. Per Gessle filled the gap by recording a solo album, "The World According To Gessle", in 1997. His and Åsa’s son Gabriel was born the same year, while Roxette spent most of 1998 recording their comeback album "Have A Nice Day", featuring a stark, updated Roxette sound. It included the 1999 European hit singles "Wish I Could Fly", "Stars" and "Salvation".
Their 2001 album "Room Service" was also a million-selling album with strong single hits like "The Centre Of The Heart", "Milk And Toast And Honey" and "Real Sugar", but in 2002 Roxette was struck by tragedy when Marie Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After a successful operation she managed to recover, but for the foreseeable future a Roxette career was out of the question. The drastic changes of plans instead became a means for Per to return to his Swedish solo career.
On the 2003 album "Mazarin", Per surprised everyone with his most personal and low-key songs yet, a side that couldn’t be further from the sharp hit-machine behind Roxette’s biggest hits. Surprisingly enough both the album as well as the single "Här kommer alla känslorna (på en och samma gång)" became the biggest smash that summer. A hastily packaged tour also drew amazingly big crowds, considering the album’s almost "non-commercial" approach.
Despite its success, "Mazarin" was only a foreboding on what was to come in 2004 – the year Gyllene Tider celebrated its 25th year Anniversary. Not only did the band announce a reunion summer tour – they also got together in a studio to record the new studio album, "Finn 5 fel!". Backed by single hits like "Tuffa tider" and "En sten vid en sjö i en skog", the interest in the tour intensified during the spring, until it seemed a complete Gyllene Tider-frenzy had broken out. At the band’s show on the Ullevi arena in Gothenburg nearly 60,000 partying fans raved like crazy, and when the tour finished a staggering 492,252 people had seen them perform – making it the second biggest tour in Europe that summer. A non-existent band that officially quit in 1985, 19 years later reinvents themselves as world-class arena rockers. Swedish pop had never seen anything like it.
The obvious question is: how do you follow success of this magnitude. The answer might yet again come as a surprise. Under his new artist name "Son of a Plumber", Per Gessle will reveal his next move in November 2005; a double album packed with deeply personal and highly inventive music of a kind that explains why he for more than 25 years has been the uncrowned king of Swedish pop – and an international superstar with more than 45 million album and 25 million singles sold. A rolling stone gathers no moss.