January 24, 2017 – Björn Ake Thelin (The Spotnicks) was born on June 27, 1942 in the little village of Stöde about 25 miles west from the Swedish town of Sundsvall. He grew up in Frölunda, but lived with his family in northwestern Skåne for many years.
He joined The Spotnicks in 1961. The band had its great time in the 1960s when they became famous for their great instrumental guitar fire works and stage dressing in the form of space suits.
The group toured around the world and was very popular in countries such as West Germany, Japan, France and Mexico. The band sold in excess of 20 million albums. Quite a feat in those early days of rock and roll.
The Spotnicks originated from a duo, “The Rebels” (1956), formed by Bo Starander (rhythm guitar, vocals), and Björn Thelin (bass guitar). They were joined by lead guitarist Bo Winberg and became “Rock-Teddy and the Blue Caps” in 1957 in Gothenburg. He became Gothenburg’s rock king in 1958, like Rock-Teddy, in a competition in Göteborg’s concert hall with the Blue Caps companion group. In 1958 they added Ove Johansson (drums), changed their name to “The Frazers”, and began playing regularly in local clubs. They signed a recording contract in 1961, and changed their name to “The Spotnicks”, a play on the Russian satellite Sputnik as suggested by their manager, Roland Ferneborg. Starander was later known as Bob Lander.
They soon became the first Swedish group to have significant international success, in a similar style to The Shadows and The Ventures. They toured Europe, and one of their early records, “Orange Blossom Special”, became their first big international hit, making the Top 30 in the UK Singles Chart in 1962 on the Oriole label, and reaching #1 in Australia. Around this time they began wearing their trademark “space suits” on stage. They recorded their first album, The Spotnicks in London, Out-a Space, in 1962. Further hits included “Rocket Man” (based on the Soviet/Russian folk march “Polyushko-polye”), and “Hava Nagila” (their biggest UK hit, where it made #13).
In 1963, “Amapola” became one of their most successful singles in their home country, staying at #1 in Sweden for eight weeks. They appeared in the film Just for Fun, continued to tour widely, and recorded their second album, The Spotnicks in Paris. That year, drummer Ove Johansson left and was replaced by an Englishman, Derek Skinner. Two years later, Skinner was replaced briefly by Jimmie Nicol, who had drummed with The Beatles on the Australian leg of their 1964 tour, while Ringo Starr recovered from having his tonsils removed.
In 1964 and 1965, The Spotnicks expanded their popularity in Germany and Japan, reaching #1 in Japan in 1966 with the song “Karelia”. Elsewhere, however, they became less successful as popular music tastes changed. In 1965 the band was joined by organist, vocalist Peter Winsnes. Nicol left in February 1967 and was replaced by Tommy Tausis. Winsnes left in 1968 and organist Goran Samuelsson joined in 1969.
Björn Thelin was founding The Spotnick’s bassist until 1967 when he left and was replaced by Magnus Hellsberg. He contributed to all “classic” recordings in the 60’s and when he returned for the period 1976-1978 he once again contributed to the albums The Great Snowman, Saturdaynight Music and Charttoppers Recorded 1977 .
He once again returned to The Spotnicks when the band “resumed” in the mid 80’s after a shorter retreat.
He also joined when the group celebrated 40 years when all the original members reunited during a number of stage performances in 1998 and 1999. All in all Björn Thelin played on about 280 recorded songs with The Spotnicks.
Lead guitarist Winberg continued to form versions of The Spotnicks, occasionally including Lander and/or Thelin, on tour and in recordings since the 70s. In 2013, Winberg and Lander announced that they would be undertaking a final tour, finishing in May 2014.
Björn Thelin also published a book in 2001 where he depicted the successful years. Together with the Ventures in the US and the Shadows in the UK, the Spotnicks were one of the 3 most popular instrumental bands in the world in the 1960s.
On The Spotnick’s website, Lasse Kjellin writes: “There are many who remember Björn and the little wave he did with his little finger when he stood on stage. Seeing him play on stage was a happy sight!”
Björn Thelin, the original bassist for the Swedish pop/rock band The Spotnicks passed away on January 24, 2017 at the age of 74.