Swedish singer Gunilla Thorn has ensured her place in music’s history books thanks to a collaboration with maverick producer Joe Meek. However, her later work with Danish group The Beethovens on the garage gem Jealous woman is, arguably, her finest recorded moment.
She was born on 14 May 1944 in Malmö, Sweden.
Her first foray into recording was initiated by photographer Jan Olofsson. He appointed himself her manager and took her to London, where she was introduced to legendary producer Joe Meek in 1963.
After passing an audition, she recorded the single Merry go round. Meek had already recorded the Geoff Goddard-penned tune with Billie Davis but had not released it. (Interestingly, before forming Deep Purple, Richie Blackmore was a session guitarist for Meek in The Tornadoes, and plays on Gunilla’s recording.)
Featuring Go on then on the flip, the single was issued in November 1963. It was promoted on shows such as Juke box jury but failed to sell. That Meek had speeded up her recording so much as to destroy it didn’t help.
Nevertheless – and perhaps surprisingly, given the interest in Meek’s work – two further tracks from Gunilla’s session with him, He’s mine and We’re chasing something in another way, remain unreleased.
Gunilla’s time in London was a great experience, she has said, especially since she hobnobbed with stars such as The Searchers, Screaming Lord Sutch and, later, Jimi Hendrix.
After her work with Meek and The Tornadoes in London, Gunilla headed off to Denmark, where she cut Just a closer walk with thee in 1965 with local group The Defenders. The B-side was a cover of Johnny Cash’s I walk the line.
A year later, she recorded one further single, Jealous woman, with another Danish group, The Beethovens. For many, the song remains Gunilla’s finest recording – it showcased her raw, ballsy vocals and is, arguably, one of the best female garage releases from the 1960s.
During this time she also toured extensively, taking in such countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the US, Australia, Korea and a return to the UK. This included a stay in Vietnam in 1967-68, where she entertained the American troops, performing under the name Nilla.
Another bout of touring, Gunilla revealed, included performing on a cruise ship to millionaires. The ship left Rotterdam and took in stops such as the Isle of Wight and, more exotically, Bermuda and New York.
After a brief partnership with Sonny Guerrero of folk group The Immigrants, Gunilla quit the music industry in the 1970s to start her own business.
With thanks to Matthew Meek of Bubblegum soup for contributing this biography and to Gunilla Thorn herself for her help.
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