22 Dec 2005

P, C & C rockin' the plumber's crack (VI): Kurt, the fastest plumber

Per Gessle, the son of a plumber, remembers his father Kurt and his mother Elisabeth, his childhood and adolescence, in a personal interview by Jan Gradvall translated by Thomas Evensson for TDR's readers. Just read it. It is the most personal interview with Per we have ever read.

I found the drawings made with watercolors and pencil at my mom’s house. I was looking in an old photo album and when I opened it a stack of old drawings fell out. I drew a lot when I was little. This, for instance, is a hockey game. Brynäs scoring against Teg. Kjell Rune Milton played with them. He went to MoDo later, but started in Teg. I was around 7 years. I collected hockey cards aswell. I made lists of everything. I even wrote down who scored in “TV-pucken”. Brynäs was my favorite team. I remember when they lost the Swedish Championship gold in a game against Leksand. I was devastated, I couldn’t go to school. I’ve always been a sore loser.

We were three siblings but we were seven years apart. When I was born my sister (Gunilla) was 14 years old. She disappeared from home rather early of course. It was mostly me and my brother (Bengt). But I remember that my sister had her room at the top of the stairs and that she always played “Lipstick On My Collar” by Connie Francis. A fantastic era. Many of those songs sound exactly the same, but you can’t help liking them. And Joe Mick, the guy who did “Telstar” with The Tornadoes. All his productions are amazing. Almost everything on this collection is great. Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages, “I Ain’t Mad At You.” Unparalleled. Damned great. My brother had this single. My brother is born 1951. I started out borrowing records from him before I built my own collection. My first favorites were the Hep Stars. My parents drove me to see the Hep Stars on stage. They said the exact same things between the songs as on the live album “On Stage.” I asked my mom about this recently, but she couldn’t remember anything about it. She’s 81. I liked the Hep Stars so much I forced my friends to pretend we were a band. We stood there with couronne cues as guitars and lip synced “Sunny Girl” and “It’s My Life” by The Animals. But my friends were totally uninterested in music. They thought I was weird.

We lived by the Folkpark in Halmstad, but moved 20 km up country. We lived there maybe five years, when I was about 9 to 13. Then we moved again, to Vilshärad, where we built a house. That was when my dad got sick. He got prostate cancer. He couldn’t work and laid at home for a year.

I played soccer too, but it wasn’t my thing. I was pretty technical, I could kick the ball in the air 100 times. But I was kind of fat back then and a bad runner. The thing that settled it was when I turned 15. I got to choose between a used moped and a used stereo. I picked the stereo. I’ve always been a loner and became even more so when I decided against the moped. Maybe it’s my personality, but it’s also due to us moving so frequently. You never rooted, didn’t get any close friends. I stayed at home instead, with my headphones. I listened to records, listened a lot to the radio and wrote down statistics.

At the same age, when I was 14-15, I started writing my own songs. We had a piano at home that I never used. I took a few lessons, but I could never connect the thing about musical notes. I never understood how the notes became music. So when I wrote songs it was just lyrics. I had the melodies in my head. I had hundreds of songs in my head. Not the way Mozart did (laughs), they weren’t symphonies where I could hear every single instrument. But I had pop songs all finished in my head; beat, verse, bridge and chorus. It was there, inside my head, where I lived my life. We moved and moved. Junior high school was a damned painful time for me. I felt totally out of place. I was kind of bullied and felt worthless. Plus I was rather fat. To get away from school I decided to take a sabbatical and start working at Bingo-Livs, an ICA [grocery] store. I’m born in January 1959. When I took the school maturity test at the age of six I got to choose if I wanted to start school a year early. We chose that alternative and I started school as early as six. I was therefore always the youngest in the class during my youth. Taking a sabbatical was a way to start over in a new class, with persons of my own age. Mom and all were unanimous that a sabbatical was a good idea. I worked at Bingo-Livs unpacking milk and things like that. I got to drive a moped after all, one with a platform even, picking up groceries. When I stood there packing milk one day one of my teachers at the disgusting school came by and said “Oh, so this is where you would end up after all.” Goddam what an ass. But to me it was a chance to start over. During the sabbatical I managed to lose some weight. I lived on chicken and crisp bread for a year. Everything was at the end of the line. I was determined to start over from scratch. New house, new school, new friends. I was looking for a year zero.

Parallel with this punk rock arrives. I bought Patti Smith’s “Horses” and the Ramomes first. I got a kind of abstract self confidence from this. Punk rock said it was OK to not be especially great. In the spirit of the times that had been before, marked by “Brain Salad Surgery” and “Dark Side of the Moon,” everybody were so damned good. When I came back to school, where I finally ended up in a new class, I found a friend. A great friend named Peter, Peter Nilsson. It was 1977 and he played the bass in a band called Audiovisuellt Angrepp. The band rehearsed in Harplinge, 15 km away. We went there as soon as we could and stayed all day long there. Among the other members of Audiovisuellt Angrepp were MP (Mats Persson, Gyllene Tider) who played the drums. That’s how I got to know him. In the band was also Martin Sternhufvud who later started MaMas Barn together with Marie (Fredriksson). After a while MP and I started a band on the side, but in the beginning I sat there, with my back to the wall, and listened to them play. The room they used to rehearse was small, a lot smaller than this room. And it was so damned loud. I sat there thinking, wow, this is exactly what I want to do with my life.

At the end of my father’s illness period we couldn’t afford keeping the house so we moved again. It was in that house I wrote “När alla vännerna gått hem”. It was at Hamilton’s Väg 1978. I remember it vividly. My dad died in 1978. He only heard us once. It was when Grape Rock was on the radio show “Bandet går” (“The Tape’s Running”). We were supposed to be a punk band, but the song, “En av dom där,” was over six minutes long. It was built on an eternal riff that probably had more in common with Led Zeppelin. But my dad didn’t like it at all. Above all he thought my singing was terrible.
Per Gessle

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