Roxette – Bag of Trix – volume 2
Well here it is, Volume 2 of this incredible project that Per Gessle has treated us with. We truly are lucky that someone like Per cares enough about the fans and the Roxette legacy that he’s rewarding us with a collection of intriguing recordings that most artists would never bother with.
And let’s bear in mind the past 12 months we have collectively experienced, for Per to keep spreading his passion for our favourite band is something we as a community should never take for granted. Ever! We lucked out that Per Gessle is Roxette’s biggest fan. For fellow Rox-Geeks like me and the TDR crew, these releases are just a privilege to listen to.
However, before we begin the review, we need to address a very serious elephant in the room. Unfortunately, I was absent during the Volume 1 review, but I, like many, did manage to read TDR’s article and oh boy, do I have a bone to pick with long-time, resident TDR villain, Mr. Thomas “Tone Deaf” Evensson.
I’m talking about your review of “Beautiful Boy”. How do I sum this up in a way you would understand? *clears throat* You, sir, are an idiot!
“Beautiful Boy” was one of the unexpected highlights of Volume 1, how the heck did that song not make the Room Service album but “Little Girl” did? In fact, “Beautiful Boy” could’ve easily replaced “Bringing Me Down to My Knees”, hell, while we’re at it, it could have replaced “Try” – absolutely should have made the record and it’s a bloody impressive song! Thomas “Grumpy Guts” Evensson, you are so wrong on this. This demo is way better than Per’s “Beautiful Girl” – you Thomas “Donald Melania” Evensson are on very thin ice with me as it is and if I wasn’t away on official TDR duties in Wuhan promoting the Chinese Roxette tribute band “Wok-Set”, that first review would have ended in fisticuffs. Is it time we all start the #FireThomas hashtag?
1. The Look (Abbey Road)
Thomas: Not sure I dare to have an opinion anymore… I… like it…?
Stevo: The whole Abbey Road sessions were fantastic, such a shame that a bigger deal wasn’t made of these songs by the international media. This was right at the time in Roxette’s career where a project like this would’ve give them a shot in the arm, pretentious wanky critics love this sort of stuff – it’s like when popcorn Hollywood blockbuster movies stars go back to the small theatres and do some depressing plays, feels like this is musical equivalent… without the sombre play that is. But I wish more people knew of Roxette in this light – for the world to see them as the underrated musicians that they are. All these sessions sounded so damn tight, amazing to learn that they were basically one takes. This band never bloody ceases to amaze me… and how about Marie’s vocals? This woman is just a phenomenon.
Thomas: Nailed it.
Kai: ‘Evening guys! Good to see Stevo around for a change. Also, good to know this time around not the German is the villain. Back on topic, right? Well, we talked about the Abbey Road sessions last time and I cannot stress enough what an importance these recordings must have had in Marie and Per’s little world. If you ask me, among the probably 20 different mixes and versions of “The Look,” this one is probably one of the best ones and it’s good to have it in this collection. Well, when once asked by TDR if he felt underrated, Per replied “not at all”. He is a very humble man, it seems.
Paul: What else is there to say? As I mentioned in our review of volume 1 and the others have mentioned above, these Abbey Road recordings are fantastic. I always thought the idea of an acoustic tour in small theatres would’ve been a good fit for Roxette – we’ve heard lots of acoustic versions of their big hits over the years and, generally, they’ve worked well. The Unplugged show was superb (well, apart from Per’s hair) and it’s a shame we never got to see more of that.
Colin: Stevo! I guess everything has been said about this track. Excellent recording Ringo!
2. Tu No Me Comprendes (You Don’t Understand Me)
Stevo: This mix of this version sounds really fresh compared to the 1995 release… but understandably, I never really got into these versions… but still, who knew that this even existed? And that’s what makes this “Bag of Trix” project fascinating – really grateful to be given the opportunity to access the hallowed Roxette vaults.
Thomas: Per did mention this back in ’97. Very fresh indeed. Although I never really liked this song, it’s not my cuppa with the machines and the keyboard and without guitars. But the Bergman inspired video is one of their best ever. Also I don’t habla so I can’t vouch for if these lyrics are good or if they are as bad as the others, (all according to the Spaniards.) This demo was on Bag o’ Trix 1 as well, and it will be on the next record too, intriguing!
Paul: Kudos to Marie for the work she did on learning these Spanish lyrics and delivering vocally on these Spanish tracks. My Spanish is even worse than my Swedish so no idea, like the others, what she is singing, but she sounds fantastic. As usual. Per had it pretty easy during the recording of these Spanish tracks.
Kai: Interesting, as soon as Marie sings in Spanish, it changes her voice and the mood of the song. It sends you far far away to South America with its wide landscapes and melancholic villages. While of course I cannot judge on the quality of the lyrics and will leave this to the native speakers, this is probably a very nice new take on the song. Makes me wonder if this was maybe not the last Spanish version we may get to hear? Does anybody know?
Thomas: I think you may be right.
Colin: I don’t speak Spanish so I never really listened to the Spanish tracks but for the Spanish speaking fans this is such a treasure and a great gift to receive. Wonderful release!
3. Soul Deep (Tom Lord-Alge Mix)
Stevo: The best version of “Soul Deep” ever! Hands down, THE VERY BEST mix! Love it! I have it on my gym playlist, always gives me an extra kick! Fast forward to 02.38 as we dovetail of that back of that breakdown and Marie begins bellowing like a possessed woman – honestly, this should’ve been on the Joyride album – feels more raw with those subtle acoustic guitar touches and then of course, we get THAT war cry from Marie at 02.38… boy oh boy, I need a shower!
Thomas: Exactly, hands down the best mix of “Soul Deep” we have. And the sax solo works so great here. Marie is awesome, It’s just that I see her in that dreadful pleather suit from “Jacob’s Ladder” when I hear this song… Then I disagree, this should have been left off Joyride altogether. They just added it to be able to play it live, Per once said. It stuck out like a sore thumb on that album.
Paul: Thomas, I agree – this always sounded so out of place on the album. It’s not similar to anything else at all. However, adding it to the album so Marie could show off her sheer vocal talent live to the world was genius and I still love watching the guitar/vocal duel with Jonas on YouTube. The song itself has never really done much for me but this mix certainly adds something to it.
Kai: Yeah, well, in my earlier days I never got warm with “Soul Deep.” Like you said, it didn’t really fit the rest of the album and somehow it sounded “dry” among all the juicy pop songs, if you can see what I mean. Now, once taken out of the context of the album and with the sax and this production added, it suddenly makes sense. Maybe, had it been released as a standalone single, it would have gained more success because it features that raw side of Marie we too rarely got to hear on the mainstream friendly Roxette albums.
Colin: Dat sax! You wonder why they didn’t just release this, it’s so good! Not all remixes from the Pearls of Passion album were that great, but this one was released much later, on the “Church of Your Hear” CD maxi single.
Thomas: The original single was a dud, this would likely have worked. It was a B-side of course but…
4. Always the Last to Know
Stevo: Hmm… it is what it is I guess. I don’t know… anyone else wanna step in here…?
Thomas: One of Marie’s better demos. It was released in Swedish as a duet with Patrik Isaksson and became a smaller hit. Per obviously wrote these lyrics. This demo was also leaked at that infamous record fair. This is so much better than Per’s version.
Kai: Intriguing! What happened at that fair? Forgive my ignorance but I’m afraid I’m always the last to know when it comes to stories like those. Pun intended.
Thomas: I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you…
Paul: Ahh, I have always liked this demo. I thought Stevo would’ve been all over this. I also liked the Swedish version with Patrik and it was nice that he joined Marie on her 2000 tour to perform that version. The verses in this English version are stronger than the chorus and that’s probably why it didn’t make an album. Nice melody though.
Kai: This demo has been roaming in the fan scene for years, so it’s not a real surprise to the hardcore Roxer anymore. Two things left to say though: While I like the mood of the song, I always had a problem with that hiccup sort of lyrics towards the end, they broke the song for me. Nevertheless, a great version and we shall not forget there aren’t many demos by Marie out there so let us be thankful.
Colin: I’ve liked this demo ever since I got my hands on it years ago. To my ears, it’s like a cross-over between Marie’s Den Ständiga Resan album in the verse and Roxette in the chorus, In like the moody groove it sets, it’s a song you can get lost in.
5. Sleeping in My Car
Stevo: Groovy! Here’s a mystery (perhaps Per can answer this one), considering the genesis of this song came from the fact that EMI listened to the playback of the Crash! Boom! Bang! album and felt they couldn’t hear a “first single” – what were Roxette’s initial plans for the lead single of the album? Was it “Fireworks”? Or did Per and Marie want to lead with the ballad title track? What I’m asking is, if there was no impromptu recording of SIMC, were we destined for a “Fireworks” lead single? Anyone know what the plans were? These unanswered “what ifs” keep me up at night… I need a life.
Thomas: As far as I remember, or should I say “Per told me,” there weren’t “enough hits” on the album like you say, much like the 1982 Puls, so the record company ordered Per to write another hit, and so he came up with “Sleeping.” Also the rumor I heard was that the album was going to be called Fireworks from the beginning. (That does not come from Per…) I recall when this was released, I think I got some extra copies from EMI which we raffled out on Radio Ljusdal. Fun times.
Kai: Radiodirektör Evensson for you, ladies and gentlemen! I love it when you tell stories like these. What else do you know? Ever thought about writing a book? Will that make Per shiver in fear? In America, they fear Trump might reveal secrets now that he won’t be POTUS any longer but this is nothing compared with what the Ljusdal chap is hiding in his gray matter. Anyway. The song. Always loved the final version, that video shot in a London underground supermarket car park (the location of which still remains a secret to this day) fit the song perfectly. Interestingly enough, the demo features even more of this garage sound, it’s even rockier and basic. So now, when you think about it, that music video is actually not only so much about the backseat of the car but about the garage music. Hmmm hmmm. Must ponder a bit….
Thomas: I thought you found that garage?
Kai: No, not yet. I have a few theories though but no chance to check locations for obvious reasons.
Colin: Playing this takes me back to first hearing this song and the then new Roxette sound. The guitars sound a bit improvised, the whole song also sound almost live , rock ‘n roll!
Paul: Certainly a raw energy to this demo and it’s great that carried that over to the more polished album version. Loved this version back in 1994 when I first heard, and still sounds good today. Although what happens at the end? It sounds like Marie is going in for another chorus but the band is like “Hey, we’re done!”.
6. Watercolours in the Rain
Stevo: Now this is super cool to hear, a genuine hidden gem that gives us an insight into the development of what would become a signature Marie ballad. A real gear change for the bombastic Joyride album, providing some light and shade, a nice acoustic break – and this demo is a real joy to finally get access to.
Thomas: A showstopper live. It’s very similar to the finished product, obviously rawer. But yes, to quote Freddie Mercury in BoRhap: “It has potential…” Interesting detail – she sings “watercolor in the rain” here.
Kai: Very similar? Not sure. Yes, the basic idea is the same but when you compare the energies of both versions, demo and final song, they are worlds apart. A shame I must quote Stevo here but this is a real treasure and allows us to have a look at how a simple guitar based ballad can get turned into a power ballad when you have the right vocalist with that certain attitude.
Thomas: Well “similar” in how it was supposed to sound. Miles from the finished product.
Colin: Oh yes, a showstopper indeed. Beautiful!
Paul: A power ballad Kai? I would never describe the album version as a power ballad. What I like about these demos are the vocals. These are natural, unedited vocals and they all sound so pure. Marie’s dictation was fantastic, which has always impressed me. You can hear every word, which can’t be said for many artists these days.
Thomas: He’s German…
7. From One Heart to Another
Thomas: Totally weird demo, ha ha! The voices are excellent, but then over an awful US midwest diner electric Fender Rhodes piano… Always loved this song though. Did you know this is (or possibly was by now) the only song Per doesn’t own the rights to?
Stevo: Ha! I’ve always been a sucker for these big cheesy ‘80s ballads. For me, this song always had a touch of Pete Cetera’s solo work with David Foster … or even Glenn Medeiros “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You” – this track always sounded like it belonged on The Karate Kid Soundtrack. The most “eighties” ballad they’ve ever done, but this stripped back version with their voices really works. It’s beautiful, two totally different voices become one.
Thomas: The original version, in Swedish, was slated for the Eurovision Song Contest, but it wasn’t ever entered due to some problems. Can’t remember why. That title was Skepp utan roder (Ships Without Rudders), and those lyrics weren’t by Per.
Kai: Now, with this background story in the mind, this version makes sense! This is the family friendly Saturday evening TV version meant to win the ESC. Very nice voices. Now that we know the final version of course, this one sounds a bit weird and soft but still interesting. Guess, I’ll have to listen to it once more. It has that certain… something…. Oh, by the way, just found an old post of Per’s in which he mentions that they recorded like ten demos per day back then in the Montezuma studio in Stockholm to prepare the first Roxette album. Tough times!
Paul: 10 demos in one day? Wow – good work! The potential of Roxette is shown in this simple demo, two very different voices that blend so well together. Can you imagine if their lucky breakthrough hadn’t happened? The world would’ve been robbed of this and I wouldn’t be sitting here with these guys discussing a demo from 34 years ago!
Colin: Wow, I never thought we’d get to hear demos like this. I get this romantic picture in my mind, Per and Marie sitting next to each other, candle light and someone playing the piano in the background. This version perfectly captures the essence and emotion of the song, simply beautiful.
8. I Remember You
Stevo: FINALLY! Bloody finally! I’ve always wanted to hear this demo! One of the most underrated Roxette songs in their illustrious catalogue – criminal that it was never played on the “Join the Joyride World Tour”. Marie’s vocals here are just next level – she is such a rocker! The energy and bad-ass attitude in this song is pure rock, that riff is killer – this demo has been worth the wait. Can you believe the Americans didn’t get this song on their album release?
Thomas: That was a terrible decision indeed.
Stevo: Insane! But what a privilege to finally, after all these decades, get to hear this rare recording. Amazing!
Thomas: I love this song on the album, and this is almost as great. A demo of course, so there are parts missing, but the power, the energy… just wow. This is the track that was called “My Heart Goes Boom Boom (And Boom Boom Again)” before Marie stepped in as co-writer. (And a good thing she did too…)
Paul: Well, I’m glad that title never saw the light of day! One thing I have always wondered with these super-polished demos like this one, is how did Per present the song to Marie and the band. Are there loads of acoustic demos somewhere with Per on vocals? Now, that’s a whole other volume of Bag of Trix that is just waiting to be released. A quick mention to the key change on this one. Who doesn’t love a key change? Yet another power-house vocal performance from Marie as well!
Kai: As usual, Paul is so right. Are there earlier demos somewhere and what might they sound like? The question is, will they appear on Bag of Trix 5 or another edition of The Per Gessle Archives? I like to watch all the small and huge changes that there are on the way from the demo to the finished song.
Colin: This one blows me away, one of the best songs of these two discs so far! “I Remember You” was my first Roxette song. I discovered it on a free compilation album called the “Nationale Muziekcadeau” to promote compact discs in the Netherlands and played it over and over again until I got my hands on Look Sharp!. This version lacks the smooth production, it’s raw. But maybe not as raw as “My Heart Goes Boom Boom (And Boom Boom Again)”? Now I desperately want to hear that version, too!
9. It Hurts
Stevo: Probably the best interpretation of this track – it’s an OK song, but I can understand why it never made an album, just pales in comparison to the other strong material they had at the time. Again, lovely to hear both Marie and Per’s voices intertwined, that’s what makes this band so unique.
Thomas: It’s the very exact same version as released before, except for Marie’s harmonies. “You’re on your own your own your own…” No it was never single material, but the song is awesome. So sad. I find this much better than the released version.
Paul: At least I liked the released version! I can certainly see why it wasn’t included on Have A Nice Day, but the song is so sad, haunting. That final chorus is so powerful. This version is so nice as well and I love the instrumental section with the piano and the acoustic guitar. Takes me back to my earlier comment about an acoustic tour…
Colin: Great song, much better than the released version, indeed.
Kai: Both versions are fine to me although now the demo does sound a bit more interesting as it’s more raw and still you hear its typical Roxette sound. Fascinating!
10. Perfect Day
Stevo: “I couldn’t sing it on the demo” Per laughs as he recalls the recording of this ballad in the “Making of Joyride” documentary that we all watched on a loop and know off by heart. And before I now become the TDR member to start an Internet war, I’m so sorry “Queen of Rain” fans, but that song was never good enough to make the Joyride bonanza, Perfect Day is leagues above “QoR” and I can thank Ms. Vicki Benkert for playing accordion that this track closed the album. We heard an excerpt of this song in the aforementioned documentary, but it’s nice to hear the full version.
Thomas: You start an Internet war? Where have you been the last 25 years?? Ha ha! Well this demo is just awesome. A lot like the finished song, but more fragile. A perfect show closer.
Paul: “Perfect Day” is my Mum’s favourite Roxette song. When I took Mum to see Roxette in Manchester back in 2012 I had arranged a meet and greet with Per and Marie without telling her, which came as a big surprise! During the M&G, Marie was her usual gracious self when Mum asked if they were going to perform “Perfect Day” and Marie took Mum’s hand and said “of course – it’s my favourite too”. Such a lovely memory! Nice to finally be able to listen to this demo and this song will always be special to me.
Thomas: What a great thing, Paul!
Colin: Perfect album closer. Why not here?
Kai: Because there are so many other candidates that could serve as an album closer. Also, Bag of Trix is more a compilation of technical demos and leftovers than a real album. But again, we have another demo that is rather close to the released version, I would be, like many others I guess, very interested to hear earlier demos if there are any.
11. New World
Stevo: I’ve always loved this song. Played it to death. First time I heard it was on the RoxBox and I just loved it, sounded so raw – a real “garage band” feel, I just ADORE that bridge “the clouds are slowly going…”, I really think that with a few small tweaks to the lyrics and a proper production overhaul from Clarence and this song could’ve been a real contender for a solid album track. The melody is super strong, really love this melody and I’m still bopping to this one years later! Love it!
Thomas: Are you deaf?? Ha ha! Well, I’ve never liked this song, so there. I always skip it. It just rubs me the wrong way and I can certainly see why it was never used by Roxette. Also, I think this was in the infamous demo leak?
Colin: Yes, one of the better songs in that leak, I think. I do like the song though, it’s upbeat and happy, would’ve made a nice Roxette song I think.
Kai: Yes, it was and thanks to Thomas “I never find the right words” Evensson, our dear audience is under the impression now again that TDR is biased. No, we aren’t but sometimes we fail to lock away Thomas long enough. Sorry for that. Stevo will take care of this now, you’re welcome.
Thomas: Huh?? What are you implying, dear?
Kai: Ha ha, I’m kidding you, Thomas. Maybe…
Paul: Oh Thomas. Your honesty makes me laugh. This song has always passed me by for some reason, but listening to it again for this review and it’s a nice track. Definitely sounds like a song that Marie would’ve put on a solo album.
12. Lo Siento (Salvation)
Stevo: Oh, I don’t know what to say? I’m not the right audience for this… and by all accounts from the large Spanish speaking Roxette fanbase, the lyrics across these projects were a “clunky” translation. Still, impressive that a Swedish singer could translate her English-speaking skills to a Spanish interpretation.
Thomas: Roxette’s most wasted single ever? In English that is. The single was released, but nowhere to be found in the stores. And on radio and TV they played “Stars”… When the single finally found its way to the stores it was dead already. This is a cute version, but like I already mentioned, I don’t speak Spanish I can’t say if it’s great or not. Fun trivia: I sent this track and a few more to Per so he could add them to this project! Yay me?
Paul: Yay you indeed! Where would Per be without you? Yes Thomas, the release of the English single sure didn’t go to plan. It’s a great ballad and it’s a shame it never got it’s time to shine. Although, out of four singles released from Have A Nice Day, three of them were ballads! Again we have to fully applaud Marie for throwing herself into the Spanish lyrics and it’s fun to hear Per tackle español too.
Kai: Amazing to see they nailed the Spanish version as well as the original. Sometimes I’d have loved to watch P&M doing the recordings in Spanish. Must have been fun, them trying to master this foreign language…
Paul: Another strong collection of tracks from the Roxette vaults. How lucky are we that we’re getting these releases and we still have two more to come. If this really is the last of the hidden and unheard gems, then what a way to celebrate a fantastic career. Looking forward to volume three already!
Thomas: Much less solid playing field on vol. 2. Still it’s very nice, and if you put the both released records together, for instance on Spotify and press “shuffle” you’re in for a nice treat. Now I also want to hear vol. 3! Also, just for your information in general – it’s the vinyl editions we are reviewing. The CDs will have a somewhat different lineup.
Stevo: Not much else to add. I’m loving these incremental releases, gives us time to absorb and dissect the nuances of each release. Cannot wait for the physical copy! Oh and Thomas, you’re forgiven, we can still be friends, just don’t let that happen again…
Colin: All these songs are treats. However, I would never listen to them in this order but group them in playlists by era. Favourites: “I Remember You” and “From One Heart to Another”.
Kai: Maybe we are too spoiled now with this second album but yes, putting them in the present order makes less sense than just hitting the random button. Would have prefered them in chronological order as well but thanks to technological progress, we’re all allowed to do exactly this later. Wonder what our audience would say about this?