Rest in peace, Marie Fredriksson: Roxette, “The Look” (1989)

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(Above: If you didn’t have this LP, someone that you know did.)

Word is circulating this morning that Gun-Marie Fredriksson passed away yesterday at the age of only 61. Fredriksson had been battling a brain tumor. She, along with Per Gessle, were the forward faces of a band that you couldn’t get away from hearing on the radio at the end of the 1980s: Roxette.

The band formed in their native Sweden in 1986 but hit worldwide success in 1989 with the release of the LP Look Sharp! Gessle started writing songs in English that one critic described as “lacking the sweetness” of his Swedish-language songs. But what the tunes lacked in “sweetness,” they made up for in pure pop appeal. “The Look” went on to become an international smash, reaching #1 in the US as well as in Australia, Finland, and Germany. A re-release of “Listen To Your Heart,” from 1988, also went to the #1 position in the States.

In total Roxette managed four #1’s in America (we can add “It Must Have Been Love,” from the soundtrack of the film Pretty Woman, and 1991’s “Joyride,” which is a damned catchy song that I recall playing a lot in New Zealand). The follow-up to “Joyride,” “Fading Like a Flower,” made it to #2 in America, and I couldn’t tell you the last time I heard it on the radio. Their other #2 record, 1990’s “Dangerous,” is a little more catchy to my ear. In total Roxette placed nine records in the American Top 40 and 17 tunes on the UK charts. If you keep track of such things, that makes them the second-most successful band from Sweden after ABBA.

For me, the song I link with the band is the first one. In early 1989 I was at that crossroads, deciding whether to stay in college radio at WLRA or spend more time at my radio job at WJTW. Needless to say, “your station for light hits” wasn’t going to be playing this record. I heard it from WLLI across town. “I-Rock” was a lot hipper to an almost 20-year-old’s ears, and they played the literal grooves out of this record. In fact, when I hear the song today, when the false ending comes up, my mind fills in the “I-I-I-I-Rock” stutter liner that DJs would usually put in the gap. (It’s sort of the same way that when you hear “Good Lovin’ by The Rascals, you almost expect something in that fake end.) Of course, just two and a half years later I’d be hired by WLLI to host their morning show. By then, the station was a classic rock/classic hits hybrid, and I’d be pulling “The Look” out of the pile as a “hey, do you remember this?” type of record.

It’s tasty like a raindrop. You can hear “The Look” by clicking here.

 

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