As half of the duo Roxette, Per Gessle became one of the most successful Swedish artists of his generation, if not the rock era. With a knack for catchy hooks, Gessle worked diligently to find international success with his music. When the power pop band Gyllene Tider failed to do so — still becoming one of the best-selling bands in Sweden — he disbanded the group and tried a solo career. When he finally formed Roxette with Marie Fredriksson in 1986, he achieved that worldwide success, which included U.S. number ones like "The Look" and "It Must Have Been Love."
Gessle was born in the seaside town of Halmstad in southwestern Sweden. Inspired by the new wave movement, he had a brief run in the duo Grape Rock in the late '70s before forming Gyllene Tider in 1978. Within a few years, their hooks had entranced Sweden, and their second album, Moderna Tider, sold close to half-a-million copies. In 1983, while most of the bandmembers were doing their military service, Gessle released his self-titled solo debut. The band reunited in 1984 and tried for the North American market, touring under the name Roxette (a different Roxette than the duo he later formed), but remained relatively unnoticed. Discouraged, Gessle released another solo album, Scener, while forming the final configuration of Roxette as a side project.
In 1986, Roxette's debut album, Pearls of Passion, was released. By 1988, the duo of Gessle and Fredriksson had become one of Sweden's most popular groups, and in another year they reached the top of the American charts for the first time with "The Look." Subsequent U.S. number ones included "Listen to Your Heart," "It Must Have Been Love," and "Joyride." During the entirety of the '90s, Roxette was successful on a global scale, selling tens of millions of records and reaching the top of the charts in nearly a dozen countries. They ultimately became one of Sweden's biggest musical exports — second only to ABBA — by selling over 75 million records worldwide.
Coinciding with Frederiksson taking time off from Roxette to raise a family, Gyllene Tider reunited for a summer tour in 1996, and released an EP with newly written songs. Their re-released compilation, Halmstads Pärlor, became the highest-selling record in Sweden during both 1995 and 1996. The following year, Gessle released his third solo album. His first English-language LP, The World According to Gessle saw him backed by members of Gyllene Tider and Brainpool. Gessle's next solo offering, 2003's Mazarin, went multi-platinum (five times) in Sweden. That success was followed by a Roxette reunion album and a hit reunion tour. The year 2005 saw another solo release, Son of a Plumber — Gessle's second English-language solo offering but the first one to go platinum on the day it was issued. The Swedish-language follow-up, En Händig Man, was issued in 2007 (going triple platinum) and followed in 2008 by a third English-language solo album, Party Crasher. The live album Gessle Over Europe followed one year later.
Roxette reunited again for a series of live concerts in Europe in 2009 and ended up playing over a 100 shows on six continents over the course of the next three years. Gessle then provided an instrumental pop score for the 2012 festival film Small Apartments. It received a soundtrack release on EMI in conjunction with the film's wide release in early 2013. That summer, Gyllene Tider reunited for a tour of Sweden. Gessle returned to the top of the Swedish albums chart with the solo album En Vacker Natt (A Beautiful Night) in the first half of 2017, following it in the second half with En Vacker Dag (A Beautiful Day). ~ Lars Lovén, J. Scott McClintock & James Wilkinson