Fuck. Marie Fredriksson has died.
This one hurts. More than Bowie. More than Chris Cornell.
She was probably just about my first crush. I vividly remember seeing the film clip for “The Look” at my grandmother’s house. I must have been about 8. I already loved the song but I hadn’t seen the film clip:
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I remember thinking she must be just about the most gorgeous woman on earth. That cool, short, unkempt, almost-white hair is what did it for me. I didn’t know it at the time but it was actually the tall blonde swedish girl thing. She really did have the look. That’s the moment that made me a Roxette fan, not just somebody who liked that song. It’s stupid and it doesn’t make any sense, but give me a break, I was 8. Roxette were one of the first bands to ever get enough attention from me that I’d call myself a fan. Probably the only one who was earlier was Robert Palmer, who released Heavy Nova just a few months before Look Sharp!.
I lucked out when I decided that I was interested in this pretty girl. Not only was she gorgeous but she could really sing, too. Though you don’t really get much of a chance to hear it in that song because Per does most of the vocals, Marie only joins in for the chorus. It wasn’t until “Listen To Your Heart” and “Dressed For Success” hit the charts that we learned that she could really really sing.
There were a bunch of great singles on Look Sharp!. They got radio play. Roxette became a household name, everybody loved their songs.
Of course, I was 8, so I didn’t buy the album. Those were the days when getting a copy of an album was a really big deal which required much begging and cajoling of parents, and also a trip to the neighboring town where there was a record store, our town was too small. The only albums I remember getting (on cassette, this was pre-CD) as a kid were Heavy Nova by Robert Palmer (another album that still holds up, it’s magnificent, I appreciate it more as an adult), and the Ghostbusters soundtrack (I was a huge fan of the movie as a kid and particularly and loved the theme). So I didn’t own a copy of Look Sharp!, I had to tape my roxette songs off the radio.
And a few years went by. And then Joyride came out. And Roxette cemented themselves as A Big Deal. There were a bunch of huge hits on that album. They were everywhere, getting heaps of radio play and loved by everybody. I’m now perhaps 11 and poor so buying a CD isn’t an option. But I did go to the local library, borrow Joyride, and copy it.
I can’t explain just how huge they were around the Joyride era – everybody knew and loved Roxette. Their songs were (mostly) cool and fun and catchy and accessible. And the ones that weren’t were love Ballads. In other words their repertoire was everything you need to be a huge pop star. And they were. They filled huge stadiums all over the world and contributed to movie scores (Pretty Woman and Super Mario Bros are the two that spring to mind. “Almost Unreal” was the best thing about that godawful mario movie). They were massive.
I was a big fan, but I wasn’t a screaming, rabid Roxette fanboy. I listened to the radio mostly and couldn’t afford albums, so I only really knew the singles.
By 1994-1995 their star had faded a bit. Crash! Boom! Bang! didn’t do as well as their previous albums, and there was a bit of a break before their next real studio album. It seemed that they were pretty much done. This is all pre-widespread-internet, too, so it wasn’t like you could just go to their website and see what they were up to. Somewhere in there, probably ’94, I managed to finally buy Look Sharp! on CD, which I thought was a better album than Joyride
Another very significant thing happened in 1994, but it was probably 1995 before I discovered it: Superunknown. I discovered soundgarden. And Grunge. And Metal. And finally, Tool.
And another significant thing happened in 1994, too: The Spice Girls. Who I. Fucking. Hated. Hated with the white-hot burning passion of supergiant going supernova. My attitudes had changed dramatically, pop was all awful, synths were evil and shit, techno was trash, guitars were what it was all about. Throw in a bit of Satan and it was catnip. Pop music became passé and “Gay” and I loathed it all on principle. This was an extremist attitude which caused me to miss out on a bunch of awesome pop and especially techno music from around this era – I remember hating Daft Punk’s “Around The World”. Which today just seems nonsensical – how could I have ever hated such a great track?? But it’s what happens when things are packaged up into groups and genres like music seemed to be when I was young.
When I had no friends around, I’d still occasionally pop in my copy of Look Sharp!. I still loved Roxette, I just couldn’t tell any of my grunger friends, Roxette was totally not cool. They were my guilty pleasure.
That was the status quo for a long while, maybe even until 2000: grunge and metal and guitars and growls and Tool and Marilyn Manson and Rammstein and so many other great bands. And then I was “outed”. I was listening to Roxette one day when a friend dropped by, and I was forced to admit the most uncool thing ever, expecting to be ostracised from my group of friends – I was a big Roxette fan.
So was he.
That’s when I stopped caring about the rivalries between music genres. It didn’t change what I liked, at least not immediately, but it was the first crack that opened my mind up so that one day I’d also become a huge fan of acts like Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, Vitalic, The Presets, The Faint, and a bunch more. And it enabled me to re-examine a lot of pop music that I never gave a chance in the late 90s and early 2000s. Sca
At some point, I bought Don’t Bore Us, Get To the Chorus (it was cheaper than buying all of the other 4 albums) and listened to it over and over for like a year. I especially loved the previously-unreleased track, “You Don’t Understand Me”. This was what took me from being a big Roxette fan to a huge Roxette fan.
I’ll never forget my excitement I was at work listening to the radio one day and and “Wish I Could Fly” came on, announced as “the new song from Roxette”. They hadn’t released a new album in about 5 years at that point (I still don’t think Baladas En Español really counts), and I’d assumed they were pretty much done. I ran straight to the shop and bought Have A Nice Day. My friend didn’t like it, it was “too techno-ey”. I was more open to it, I loved a couple of tracks, liked a few, and found the rest listenable if not amazing.
I grew up, and I discovered lots of other music, and I didn’t listen to Roxette all that often, but they were always there and I came back to it every now and then.
I just wish I’d seen them live. I had the opportunity a few years back but I think the show was on new years eve or something like that and I had other plans, and also the tickets were pretty expensive, so I gave it a miss, thinking to myself that there would be another chance. And, of course, that was really not very long (like a couple of months) before Marie’s doctor told her to stop touring. So I missed out on ever seeing them live.
Marie was also indirectly responsible for another revelation I had: Digitally sampled music on the Commodore 64. My C64 came with boxes of disks filled with all manner of wonderful pirated stuff, including this:
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Which was the most amazing sounding thing I’d ever heard on a C64 – they’re not supposed to be able to do digitised sound, that’s a bug in the SID chip. This is one of the first demos I ever heard with digitised, sampled sound. And it sampled “Dance Away”, leading me to whip out the album and familiarise myself with that track, which wasn’t a single. And I still love it to this day.
Marie Fredriksson changed my life. She was directly responsible, and she did it more than once. First, she was my first crush and a very early parasocial relationship. Then, she was one of the first artists I was a fan of. Then, she was the catalyst to open up my mind and give up my prejudices against pop and electronic music, broadening my horizons hugely – I’m a much more well-rounded and less judgmental person because of her. And I can’t tell you how many times I came home sad about some girl and put on songs like “Spending My Time” or “Fading Like A Flower”. She brought me countless hours of joy, and just as importantly comfort when joy wasn’t on the cards.
The world is darker today because you’ve left us, Marie. I could never give you up. And I miss you terribly already. :’(
Rest In Peace.