Roxette Diaries: Egmond’s take

It doesn’t help that 2016 is a special milestone in the lives of Per, Marie and the massive legion of Roxers that loved them since 1986, or in most cases, 1989. Either way, after absorbing the Roxette Diaries (may I add VOLUME 1 since by the end of this review you’ll be demanding VOLUME 2…) mere days after its international release, it’s time to sit back and review it properly.

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Firstly, it starts with some writing and an odd melody playing in the background.  Computer programming obviously of a “Look Sharp!” track.  Which one? I’m not sure to be honest.  But listening to one of the members present saying “Hi Mom!” is classic and reading Per’s introduction to the Roxette Diaries makes you understand that what you’re about to see is going to be Roxette at their most vulnerable.  They’re only human after all – a fact that many fans tend to forget.  And you see that in the film too. Jonas (Åkerlund) did an excellent job at creating this 90 minute and 2 seconds piece of art.  Marie introduces the session musicians after the intro.  After a few minutes in the studio, with a certain EMI representative hearing The Look for the first time, we know we’re in for quite a ride.  The only thing that is really missing is the “Pearls of Passion” era.  Perhaps the real let-down is the expectation from the blurb about the film – the fact that “everything happened to Roxette between 1986 and 1995….”  It makes one expect footage from the dark days, although it makes marketing sense to use footage starting here.  We hear a quick snippet of Don’t Believe in Accidents (that sounds somewhat different than the demo that was released).  Other album tracks have exclusive behind-the-scenes previews too (like the harmonica being recorded for Dangerous). We’re transported to a variety of worlds; from discussions about rehearsals before the release party/premiere of “Look Sharp!” to Marie practicing Half a Woman, Half a Shadow.  We then regularly skip between the band on the road and early live performances.  Soul Deep makes a few appearances throughout the film – yes, that unmistakable playoff between Miss Effe’s voice and Mr Isacsson’s guitar strings….  The band is in high spirits, loving their beer, having lots of fun and Bajs-Majsan (Poop-Marie) decided to tell us that she’s dropped a few turds before the show whilst wearing that crazy brown wig (later on called a mouse) she took off at a certain point during the Look Sharp Live! concerts.  This is followed by a moment when Roxette has a signing session of their second album in some record store.  Seeing Per hold the LP is a special moment.

Screenshot 2016-04-17 16.44.14We’re then in the year of their big breakthrough.  It’s 29 March 1989 and Roxette is visited by somebody from EMI (I presume) with news that The Look is at number one in the US.  Per says that Madonna was considered a huge disappointment by Bosse at WEA.  This actually brings it home that Roxette was MASSIVELY BIG back then in the US.  We get to see Per and Marie pretending to cut that Billboard Hot 100 cake that has been in magazines since our childhood.  That cake looks delicious and one wonders if they ever got to eat it? Roxette played a Gyllene Tider song as part of their 1989 tour. Sommartider was performed in Halmstad to celebrate Anders’s birthday.   Roxette then heads States-side.  People are queuing down a stairway to have Marie and Per sign their copy of the “Look Sharp!” album.  Marie later teaches an American some Swedish words that mean “rocking boobs” (presumably without him knowing what it means).  Listen to Your Heart plays in a taxi in September 1989 as Per and Marie travels somewhere (in the US I presume?).  It does make you think of Julia Roberts in the limo with It Must Have Been Love playing.  Days later they are recording promos for radio stations, arguing quite entertainingly about how to get that Roxette greeting just right.  Ironically TDR recently shared the iconic Roxette greeting on Facebook for the new album, commenting just how practiced they are at this greeting.  The radio interview is followed by Marie complaining about something Roxette won’t be putting up with any longer.  This makes you wonder what type of behind-the-scenes drama made her angry. It was clear that both she and Per were not happy.  Per made fun of it by calling Marie a reporter from ABC News after she had blown off steam at the camera.  We jump across the globe to New Zealand where Roxette receives an award for selling over 5000 copies of The Look.  Moments later we are back in Brussels (still 1989).  Backstage Åsa does a funny impersonation of Per while Marie is quite vocal about the make up artists who don’t know how to do their job properly.  She quickly “tackles” Per with a sponge to fix their mistakes.  After that night’s performance they still made time for a photo session (which Marie proclaims “suck”!).  Who would think that they’d still be patient enough to sit through one of these???  It gives one some more respect for these two bright stars from Sweden who had just struck gold worldwide….  Another photo session follows in France and for the French fans out there – now is the time to marvel at Per “speaking French.” You get to see Marie doing some of her Dangerous-single-sleeve moves (wearing that recognizable outfit and swaying her arms for extra effect).

Screenshot 2016-04-17 16.43.57We then arrive in February 1990.  Roxette is about to embark on the recording of their third album Joyride.  Marie is doing the dishes, commenting on the upgrades at Tits & Ass (a la new leather sofa).  We head to the other side of the Atlantic again to see the music video of It Must Have Been Love filmed.  Ever wondered what Marie looked like singing Mickey Mouse style, as she called it?  Sadly you don’t see that here, but you get a lot more Per than in the final video. Come Back (Before You Leave) also has an appearance in the studio, but you only see Clarence dancing to it (and this film has some band members dancing in different studios!)  A visitor to the studio informs them of their third number one in the US. Marie gets soaked with champagne while Per laments about the fact that you should never ignore left-overs from ’87.  Almost 8 months later we’re in the desert in front of a very impressive silver bus.  No, it’s not the one on the cover of “Travelling.”  We’ve arrived at the filming of Joyride‘s music video. We get a good few minutes of green screen work too before suddenly seeing a room full of “Joyride” LPs waiting for Marie and Per’s signatures.  The next couple of months Roxette is on the road. It’s press conferences after interviews after TV shows after flights…   Zig-zagging across the globe seems so easy.  Mr Å. makes you quickly forget that it’s actually a tedious way of life, very much like being in the recording studio, but what he does capture perfectly is that all of this puts an immense amount of strain on you as a person. At the start of the travelling you see both artists soaking up the energy like a dry sponge in water. At the end of the film, you actually want to invite them to your home to escape the hectic life just for a little while.  In Japan Per has a moment with a fluorescent light where he pretends to be a Jedi while Marie mimics a gadget’s “press-me-to-talk” voice.  It’s quite funny when she finally lip-syncs with it properly.  Little highlights later on has Marie swearing about the smell of their surroundings, and Åsa agreeing with her that Per looks like a zebra when he tans (because of the necklace(s) he wears).  The Big L.‘s behind-the-scenes is very entertaining. Go watch the music video right after you’ve seen it. You’ll enjoy it even more.  This is followed by Spending My Time‘s video. You see more Per here too than in the actual clip.  The director and co make an unwelcome below the belt remark (with Marie sitting in just that silk gown!!!!) about the last lyrics of the song.  You go figure how they’d get from “The bed’s to big without you honey” to whatever they said. Quite tasteless and a bit upsetting since he deliberately patted Marie on the shoulder twice.

We’re then smack bang in the middle of the Join The Joyride tour, gallivanting across the globe once more.  Many golden oldies are played live with many crowds singing right back at the band.  As a piece of interest, smack bang in the middle of the film’s 1991 timeline (and perhaps elsewhere too) there is a cut between scenes and the date reads 8.1.1994.  Go check it out at 44:58. Perhaps a clever trick from Mr Å. since milliseconds later we’re back in 1991….  You get to see Marie with her Live-Ism cover outfit as they’re about to head on stage somewhere. 1992 arrives so quickly and you pick up that the band has finally gotten used to the touring way of life. This must have been the final drops of glue that bonded Marie and Per as they accepted that they were in this thing together for good. Just the way that Church 0f Your Heart is performed acoustically in a hotel room shows this deep respect between them.  What you also see is glimpses of “Tourism” in the making. Photos that appear in the CD booklet actually come to life in the film.  The recording of Here Comes the Weekend (with its infamous suitcases turned drums-story) is seen and even the L.A. Version of It Must Have Been Love has a cameo. Performances in South America brings you face to face with how Rox-mania was born there. Although I only first saw them at the Johannesburg concert in 1995, my friend Arnie saw them at their Cordoba concert in 1992. From what he describes and what you actually see of that same concert, it’s quite obvious that it was magical for both the fans and the band.  An hour into the film we arrive at the recording of How Do You Do!‘s music video. We meet Olivia Newton-Gessle. Seriously. Marie gets bossy with Per by trying to keep him seated during the recording of a certain scene. Later on, with only 21 minutes to spare, they receive a massive award to hang in their garage if there isn’t space in their houses – with the option to build a new house around it if the latter doesn’t work.  This is sadly where the film starts to pick up speed and a lot of good stuff are either cut or were never recorded.

1993 is rushed through by the fabulous inclusion of behind-the-scenes from the Fingertips ’93 music video.  In full color, I might add.  Thereafter we finally get to go behind the scenes of the recording of “Crash! Boom! Bang!.”  Don’t hold your breath, these few minutes aren’t nearly enough. But what it does do is give you some insight as to how certain songs were layered when born in the studio.  I got a brand new love for that album’s opening track.  You’ll never believe the actual catchy rhythm that tune has before the guitars hid it when it took over the song.  It easily would have sounded like a big brother to How Do You Do! if the production had gone a different direction. From the get-go you can hear that their fifth album was in a league of its own. We miss the entire launch of the album, the tour, recording of the videos. You don’t see anything of 1994 really (except that one blip I mentioned earlier).  The film moves straight to 1995 but skips their first visit to South Africa entirely.  It picks up as they say hello to their fans in China (an obvious highlight and we all know why!).  You get a peak at them from behind while on tour that year singing Listen to Your Heart acoustically and It Must Have Been Love (L.A. Version, of course) among others.  The South American fans entertain the band during the midnight hours in front of their hotel and also obsessively follow them in taxis just for a glimpse of Marie or Per. This reminds you very vividly of that black and white footage of Beatle-mania. After a few more globe-trotting moments between the east and west you finally see the entire band heading down a corridor for their last performance of the Crash! Boom! Bang! world tour.  And then the credits start to roll.

What is disappointing is that the rest of that year is missing (very much like the “Pearls of Passion”-era you had hoped to see).  Everything after the summer portion of the Join The Joyride tour happens so quickly that you wish the film was 2 hours long just to make some room for more Roxette.  It might have made for the perfect ending seeing how the tour flowed into their first Greatest Hits album, but perhaps the reason it stopped there is because we already have the next part of that chapter in the Really Roxette documentary.  So somehow it does make sense to stop at the end of their second world tour.  Many of you might miss other things such as scenes from the album sleeve photo sessions etc. Perhaps you also worry that the last 20 minutes might have made both Per and Marie look exhausted because of the sudden speed of the film’s last few scenes . I bet you they both were drained. They took a break after that, didn’t they? And only returned in 1999. OK granted, we got the re-release of the debut album, that Spanish album and “Don’t Bore Us – Get To The Chorus” in the years between (plus “The World According To Gessle”!).  So what the film does is give you the perfect conclusion of what some might call their heyday.  Hej, you clearly haven’t turned the TV or radio on recently.  Roxette never left. They’re back to serve us a proper helping of “Good Karma” in June….

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April 17th, 2016

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