• G. Smith

My Roxette story

Okay, it's not "a story" per se. There isn't even anything particularly exciting or extraordinary about it. Frankly, this is gonna be a rather dull text. I feel like I have to write it though. Because yesterday, when I looked at my phone after a couple of busy hours, I had gotten an unusual amount of messages. People I knew were texting me as if it was my birthday. Except the occasion was kind of the exact opposite: Marie Fredriksson had died.


I don't remember the first Roxette song I ever heard. Maybe it was "Wish I could fly" on a mixtape a friend at school had made for me when we were about twelve. It's much more likely that I had heard many other songs before that without realizing it. I think that's how most people's relationship with Roxette is – they know a lot of songs but don't know that they do.


That same friend let me borrow his copy of the Greatest Hits album "Don't bore us – get to the chorus" not too long afterwards. At the time I was playing a lot of "The Sims" on a computer that had some troubles with the sound card. Anyway, there was no sound, and so I listened to the CD nonstop while creating my Sims and building all those houses, drowning people in the pool, using cheats to create huge amounts of money or remove the censorship bars ... you know ... the whole The Sims experience. Roxette's Greatest Hits were my soundtrack for this game. And I played it a lot.


So I guess that's how it started. When I was on vacation in the summer of 2001, some dude was selling burned CDs on the beach (burning CDs was still a thing back then). That's where I got a remarkably crappy version of "Room Service" with the first one or two seconds of every single track missing. I put it in my discman and instantly fell in love with it, regardless of the quality. It was just an amazing album. Frankly, I don't recall ever having loved a CD this much before in my life. It was a magical mix of fast and slow songs, beautifully produced, with clever lyrics and so much emotion. The arrangements were exciting when listened to with headphones. There was just always something going on in the background. The last track in particular took my breath away. I listened to "My world, my love, my life" all day long, on the beach, in the hotel room ... just all the time until I was all out of batteries. This is when I became a true Roxette fan, back in the summer of 2001, on a beach in Italy.


I was quite late to the party. Roxette as a band was founded somewhere around the year of my birth, and their most celebrated time was clearly in the late 1980s and early 90s. "Room service", as much as I personally loved it, was nowhere near to the popularity of earlier albums like "Look sharp!" or "Joyride". So I started buying those CDs, one by one. My budget was rather limited at the time and it took me about a year or two until I had them all. And I listened to each one of them so much. I remember sitting on the school bus next to a friend each morning in the dark, cold fall of 2001 and listening to "Pearls of Passion" (or whatever album I had last bought) on that old discman, the sound coming from two separate pairs of headphones (took me a while to find a working AUX splitter) and holding the CD player mid air for the whole 20 minutes ride because it was very sensitive toward the shaking of the bus. What a time! Frankly, I think those 20 minutes each morning and the 20 back in the evening were easily the best parts of the day. Most things in between really sucked.


I got all the albums. I learned the words. I loved most of the songs. I listened to tracks like "Knocking on every door", "I'm sorry" or "What's she like?" more than many of the famous single releases. There were lots of hidden gems in between. Per Gessle's lyrics can be quite weird at times when it comes to up-beat songs. It's the ballads and the sad parts where he really shines as a song writer. And Marie's voice just made them so ... emotional. What a fantastic singer she was! I think I always liked it best when I could hear both of their voices on a track though. It's the combination of their talents that really made it work for me.


I watched my first Roxette concert in November of 2001. I had just started to call myself a fan and was only about two or three albums in. They played in Vienna and I just had to go. I had surgery on my toe a couple of days before and standing in between thousands of people was not an option. So I sat in the back. I had forgotten my glasses at home and when the supporting act entered the stage, I wasn't even entirely sure if it was already the band I'd come for or not. I was not too experienced with concerts back then. However, when the real show started ... I'll never forget that moment. A large, dark hall, filled with thousands of excited fans, for a couple of seconds completely quiet except for those haunting first sounds of "Crush on you". What a perfect concert opener! I was in awe. It was an amazing concert and I'm so glad they finally released a show from that tour on DVD last year as part of the "Roxette Boxette". Because back in the day, we only had crappy downloads.


The Internet was a vast place, even in the early 2000s, but tiny compared to what it is today. We still got excited when we found a cool Roxette wallpaper (600x800 pixels) or a free demo record for download. Speaking of demo records – I'm sad that "Don't believe in accidents" never got a real release. Pretty cool song if you ask me. I had a Roxette ringtone (still pricey back then) and I read really crappy translations of interviews. I tried to stay up to date. I bought the "All videos ever made and more" DVD and watched those clips in the evenings. I gotta say, there's some real artsy stuff on Roxette's resumé. And I was very much looking forward to "The Pop Hits" and "The Ballad Hits", two announced albums which on the one hand seemed like quite a cash grab (I mean, there had just been a Greatest Hits album not too long ago) but which also meant the first single releases since I had become a fan. And I was so excited and so worried about that next single. Would the future Roxette still be good? Had I come to the party too late? The answer came in form of a 30 second snippet from the next single "A thing about you" – and it sounded damn good! I downloaded and watched that video clip so often (there was no such thing as YouTube at the time) and I was just so excited and pleased. You know that feeling when you're really looking forward to something and then it's finally here? I am blessed to be a member of that unique generation that was able to camp out in front of book stores when the new Harry Potter book was released (and I damn well did just that). It's an experience you could only get from a Marvel movie in recent years. And you share it with many other excited fans all over the world. Those are the magical moments in life. Harry Potter. The MCU. Roxette.


In September of 2002, Marie Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumor. We, the public, only learned many years later that, according to her doctors, her chances of survival were only around 5 %. There was no more Roxette for a long time – and we were pretty sure there wouldn't be any more Roxette ever. Marie was bravely battling with cancer and had to relearn basic skills like speaking ... I can't even start to imagine what that's like.


Per on the other hand was constantly busy working on new solo albums and other stuff. He was really successful with that and I followed his solo work closely for quite a while. In recent years I have developed a bit of Gessle fatigue though, because after hearing hundreds of his songs, they seem to get a bit repetitive (which is to be expected). He's trying out new styles and arrangements constantly, but at the core, the songwriting stays the same. I'm sure there is still plenty more to come from him. And I'll listen to it and I'll like some songs, love others and not care about the rest. Time will tell.


Anyway, back to the past ... In the years following Marie's diagnosis, I tried to order the new Roxette DVD, which was basically the old DVD but with two additional videos. Fortunately, the people working at the official Roxette website and store at the time were complete idiots and sent me the wrong DVD. So I ended up with a live concert from Per's "En mazarin, älskling?" tour, which was completely in Swedish. As a result of that, I guess I had no other reasonable choice but to learn Swedish, which I did.


After almost a decade, Roxette were back. I honestly don't know how they did it. How SHE did it. What kind of determination must a human being have to live through years of cancer therapy and then record a couple of new albums and go on what seemed to be a never ending world tour across all five continents (yes, where I live, there are five continents). It was stunning to see Roxette back on an Austrian stage in spring or early summer of 2011. It was an open-air and the rain was pouring like the world was going to end. I couldn't wait in the car and sit it out because I was afraid I'd miss the beginning of a concert I never thought I'd experience in the first place. So me and my friends walked out in the rain. Never before or since have I seen this much rain. There was water everywhere. Fucking EVERYWHERE! It was totally worth it though.


I watched another concert later that year. And then another one in 2015. I have the posters hanging in large frames on my wall. I bought the new albums. They were really good (although the single choices weren't that great). And I would have watched a fifth show in 2016, but they cancelled the tour due to Marie's poor health. They said her touring days were over and I'm sure that fans all over the world were sad but very understanding because we'd already gotten so much more than we ever thought we would. Those last few years had been such a gift.


I guess I was secretly hoping for more Roxette stuff to come. Surely Per would have been working on another secret album over the years? Well, maybe. If that's the case, we'll know eventually. Right now, it doesn't feel that way. This time it really feels ... over. What's left is sadness and a huge amount of gratitude. Roxette in many ways has been (and will continue to be) the soundtrack of my life. I've listened to them more than to any other recording artist (and I truly like a lot of different artists). Their songs have been around through all the ups and downs of my life ever since I got that poorly copied CD on that Italian beach back in 2001. It's been quite a ride.


I have no doubt that Per Gessle will continue to play Roxette songs live (they're his songs after all), but at the end of the day, that's just not the same. Many people have constantly contributed to the band's success over the last three decades, but Roxette has always been Marie and Per. Half of that is gone now. Things will never be the same. And still I'm curious for what the future might bring. No one could ever replace Marie (and I doubt that anyone will ever attempt to), but there are still ways in which the spirit of the band can live on. I watched a P!nk concert this summer. And, I don't know ... I could totally picture P!nk performing some of Roxette's greatest hits. She might have the voice and the energy to carry them. Now I'm 99.9 % sure that this won't ever happen – but a man can dream. Who knows what strange possibilities the future holds for us?



from a deck of playing cards I designed last year

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