John "Jonta" Norum was born in
Norway, but grew up in Sweden since his family moved
to Upplands Väsby when he was one and a half year old. Much like his friend John Levén, he was a brat who ended up with bad school marks. He liked to play with fire, and one day he
tried to burn down the Runby forest in
Upplands Väsby, bringing a gasoline can with him. Somehow he got burning
gasoline on his
legs, and the
burns on his legs are still visible today.
John's first idols were Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard, and he learnt to play the
guitar when he was 10 years old. But it wasn't until he heard the Deep Purple
song "Strange Kind of Woman" that he knew he
wanted to be a rock star. However, his biggest influence at the time was KISS.
In 1976 he formed the first band, Dragonfly.
One of his fellow band members was drummer Tony Niemistö, later known as Tony Reno. The Dragonfly members wore black and white make-up,
much like KISS, and played their first concert in John's bedroom, where the
walls were covered in tinfoil. His sister Tone was the band's roadie and sold
homemade T-shirts and concert tickets. Since KISS used smoke bombs at their
concerts, so did Dragonfly. This only caused the crowd to run green-faced and
coughing out of the room.
In 1978 John's stepfather, Thomas Witt, who worked as a product manager at CBS
Records, managed to get him a recording deal with the rockabilly artist Eddie Meduza.
John played the guitar solo on the single "Punkjävlar", which was
released the same year. He also played the solo on another song, "I'm a
Fighter", and the two songs were included on Meduza's album Eddie Meduza & The Roaring Cadillacs,
which was released in 1979. Around the same time that John played on "Punkjävlar",
he formed his own punk band, Dog Wayst, and took the artist name Johnny
Fuckfaster. He used hair gel to make his hair stand right up, and wore
a leather jacket and green military pants on stage.
But soon he came back to hard rock and some of his old idols, Gary Moore and Thin Lizzy.
With those influences he formed a new band, WC, in 1978. The first WC lineup
consisted of John, guitarist Micke Kling, bassist Jan Erik Bäckström and
drummer Tony Reno. They mainly played cover versions of Thin Lizzy and UFO
songs. But after a while John left to form another band with bassist
Peter Olsson and drummer Bo "Werner" Sundberg. A couple of weeks later,
"Werner" left and was
replaced by Tony Reno. The band decided to adopt
the WC name, thus creating WC's
second lineup. One time WC got an offer to appear on a TV show, on one
condition: That they changed their band name. They refused.
In 1979 they decided
to get a fourth member. "We decided that we needed a singer. An awesome singer."
That's when John thought about Joakim "Jocke" Larsson, later known as Joey Tempest,
who was the frontman of another local
band, Roxanne. "I'd seen Joey playing the bass and singing some covers. His
voice was great and he had a cool personality on stage." Joey and John had
become good friends, much thanks to their shared interest for music and mopeds.
So one day Joey was asked to join WC. He accepted, and suggested that the band
could change their name to FORCE. In 1982
FORCE was entered into the national talent contest "Rock-SM", changed
its name to EUROPE and won the contest. Joey was voted "Best Vocalist"
and John was voted "Best Guitarist". The first prize was a recording
contract with Hot Records.
In November 1983 John toured with Eddie Meduza and played on the live album Dåren é lös! - The Roaring Cadillacs Live.
John also played the solos on two
songs, "Hold Your Fire" and "California" on Meduza's album West a Fool Away, which was released in 1984. In September 1985 EUROPE went to Zurich, Switzerland to record their third
album, The Final Countdown. The recording went well, but when
it was time to record the vocals, Joey got a cold which delayed the recording
for a while. The waiting made John grow restless, so in February 1986 he
and some other Swedish rock musicians did a small tour that was called The Boys Are Back
in Town. The tour was named after the Thin Lizzy song and was a tribute to Thin Lizzy vocalist Phil Lynott, who
had died on January
4, 1986. Later that year, John played the guitar solos on
Tone Norum's debut album One of a Kind, which was written and produced by Joey.
"Those are some of the greatest guitar solos I've ever done." Mic Michaeli and Ian Haugland
also played on the album.
In September 1986 EUROPE went on their first Japanese tour. The song "The Final
Countdown" was a huge hit, and the band were superstars
in Europe and Japan. But right in the middle of the tour, John Norum made an unexpected announcement: He wanted to leave
EUROPE, due to musical differences and issues with the band's manager at the
time, Thomas Erdtman. "I didn’t really like the direction the band was
going in. We became this teenybopper, bubblegum band and I hated that whole image, the spandex, poodle-rock type of thing. I was more into the heavier, guitar-oriented stuff and the keyboards were taking over more and more, and we were becoming more commercial. So I decided to leave. I didn't really care
if it was number one in 30 countries at the time. It didn't really matter. I just wanted to move on and do something else."
For the band's sake, John agreed to stay for the second leg of the Final Countdown tour in
Sweden and a promotion tour around Europe. His last live concert with the band was a showcase gig
in Munich, West Germany on October 14,
but his very last appearance was a playback show for Sky Channel on October 31, 1986 in
Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After that, John and the rest of the band parted good as
friends at the Arlanda airport in Stockholm. But did he ever regret
his decision? "That's
happened a few times - I missed my pals from Väsby! But at the same time
it was the best thing I could have done. I got a solo deal and could make
a solo album with my own songs. After that, Dokken called and in 1990 I
moved to Los Angeles and lived there for eight years. I wanted to get away
and try something new." Kee Marcello became EUROPE's new
At the end of 1986, John called up his good friend, bassist and onetime FORCE
member, Marcel Jacob. The two of them collaborated and co-wrote several songs on
John's first solo album, Total Control, which was released on October 29, 1987. It was a big
success in Sweden, peaking at number 4 on the album charts. The biggest hit from
the album was the first single, "Let Me Love You", which peaked at
number 4 on the singles chart. Göran Edman sang three of the songs on the
album, and John sang the rest. The album, which included a cover version of the
Thin Lizzy song "Wild One", was dedicated to one of John's best
friends, Tommy Östervik, who died from drowning in May 1986. Both Marcel and
Göran were part of John's band for his first solo tour, which lasted from
February 12 to March 19, 1988, ending with a support act appearance for former KISS guitarist
Ace Frehley at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. It was there that John met former Deep
Purple vocalist and bassist Glenn Hughes. John and Glenn decided
to collaborate and since Glenn was both a vocalist and a bassist, that meant
that Marcel and Göran were out of the band. However, John and Glenn only made one appearance
together, at Rock-SM in Gothenburg, Sweden on May 21, 1988, before the collaboration fell apart. Thus
Marcel and Göran were brought back to John's band for a summer tour in northern
Sweden and Norway. In the same year John played on two songs, "Love Me"
and "Somebody to Love", on Tone Norum's second album, This Time.
In 1990 John released a live EP, Live in Stockholm, which included
tracks that were recorded at a concert in Stockholm on March 14, 1988. Two Thin
Lizzy covers were included; "Don't Believe a Word" and the Japanese
bonus track "Bad Reputation." In the same year John got a telephone call from Don Dokken, the vocalist in Dokken, who wanted him to play
on his new album. John accepted the offer and moved to Los Angeles to hook up
with Don. Dokken had just split up, but Don wanted to keep the band name Dokken
for his new album. However, since Dokken guitarist George Lynch had partial
ownership of the band name, Don was forced to release the album under his own
name, Don Dokken. The album was called Up from the Ashes and
featured John and Billy White on guitars. John went on tour with Don in Japan
and appeared in the music videos for the two singles that were released
from the album, "Mirror Mirror" and "Stay". It was in Los
Angeles in 1990 that John met Phantom Blue guitarist Michelle Meldrum. "We
dated and so on."
In 1991 John got in touch with EUROPE again when they were in Burbank,
record their fifth album, Prisoners in Paradise, and got along
really well with them, especially Joey Tempest. "We started to see each
other again around Hollywood and stuff. We started to talk together again and
started to get along really good. So I thought it would be a fun thing to get
him over to the studio and sing one song with me on my record, and he said yes
and he came over. I had all the music written down already and we started to
work on melodies and stuff together. It was great. It was just like the old
days, it was just like the first two albums we did together. Totally back to the
roots. We sat down and played some guitar and had a couple of beers together and
just having some fun." The song was called "We Will Be Strong"
and was recorded as a duet between Joey and John. It was released as the first
single from John's second studio album, Face the Truth, which was released in
1992. Joey also co-wrote another song on the album, "Counting on Your
Love". However, the most prominent vocalist on that album was Glenn
Hughes, who sang seven of the songs on the album. John sang three songs,
including the Thin Lizzy cover "Opium Trail". John Levén and Ian
Haugland were supposed to play on the album as well, but for some reason that
never happened. The album peaked at number 18 on the Swedish album chart. In
1992 John made a guest appearance on the Glenn Hughes album L.A. Blues Authority Volume II: Glenn Hughes - Blues,
playing the solos on two songs, "The Boy Can Sing the Blues" and
"I'm the Man".
Face the Truth wasn't released in the USA until 1994 and had a
slightly different tracklist compared to the original version, one of the main
differences being that "We Will Be Strong" was not included. In
January 1994 John went on a new The Boys Are Back in
Town tour around Sweden with some other Swedish rock musicians, playing covers of
songs by Thin Lizzy, among others. In the same year John made a guest appearance
with Glenn Hughes on the Deep Purple tribute album Smoke on the Water - A
Tribute, on a cover of the song "Stormbringer". John also played
on the song "Better Off Dead" on the Phantom Blue album Built to
In 1995 John and Michelle Meldrum got married in Las Vegas and John released his third
studio album, Another Destination. It peaked at number 44 on the
Swedish album chart. Kelly Keeling sang four of the songs on the album, which
featured covers of the Humble Pie song "Strange Days" and the Cream
song "Sunshine of Your Love". A tour around Sweden followed, with
Kelly and Michelle as part of the band, as well as John Levén, who appeared in
the music video for "Strange Days". John Norum and John Levén also recorded a
cover of the Thin Lizzy song "Massacre" for the tribute album The Lizzy Songs. In the same year
John made a guest appearance on the song "Right to
Respect" on Joey Tempest's first solo album, A Place to Call
Home. In 1996 John recorded a cover of the KISS song "Cold Gin"
for the tribute album Spacewalk - A Salute to Ace Frehley. John's fourth
studio album, Worlds Away, was released on December 21, 1996.
Once again Kelly and John both sang on the album.
In 1997 Dokken needed a new guitarist for their upcoming tour since their
previous guitarist, George Lynch, had just left. Don Dokken contacted John and
asked if he was interested. John accepted and joined Dokken for the month-long
tour. At the same time John's first live album, Face It Live '97,
was released. The album was recorded in Kawasaki, Japan on June 21, 1997, and
featured songs from all of John's solo albums as well as two EUROPE songs,
"Heart of Stone" and "Scream of Anger". On June 5, 1998 John
was brought in as a replacement for Van Halen at the Sweden Rock Festival. Van
Halen couldn't play because their drummer, Alex Van Halen, was injured, so that morning
John received a call from the festival arrangers who asked him if he was interested
in filling in their spot. He accepted and later that evening he was on stage. In the same year
John and Don Dokken recorded a cover of the Alice Cooper song
"Eighteen" for the tribute album Humanary Stew - A Tribute to
John released his fifth studio album, Slipped into Tomorrow, in November
1999. For the first time in his solo career, John sang all the songs on the album
himself, including the Thin Lizzy cover "Killer Without a Cause". On
December 31, 1999 EUROPE played their first concert since the band went on
hiatus in 1992, and it was also their first concert with two lead guitarists,
since both John and Kee Marcello had accepted to play. "I thought it was great, it was a lot of fun."
In June 2000 John and former Thin
Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson played at the Sweden Rock Festival. In June 2001
John was asked to join Dokken again, this time replacing Reb Beach. John
played on the
Dokken album Long Way Home, which was released on April 23, 2002. A
tour around Europe followed, but at the end of the tour in Gothenburg, with 3-4
concerts left, John told Don Dokken that he wanted to leave. "I was so
tired of it. Don is not the easiest person to work with. He's very moody." John
offered to play the remaining concerts on the European tour, but Don was so
upset that he told him to just leave right then and there. "I think I just
did one show after the Gothenburg thing and then I left." Alex De Rosso
took his place in Dokken and Don officially claimed that John left because he
had suffered a hand injury.
In 2003 John got an offer to join the band UFO to replace their guitarist
Michael Schenker. "I was in America at the time around 2003. I actually knew the guys from UFO from when I met up with them on the
Walk on Water tour. They knew about me and wanted me to hang out with them on the bus and stuff like that. One night we were drinking beer together and I gave them a copy of my
Face the Truth album which they popped into the boom box they had on the bus, they seemed to really like it, especially Phil Mogg. Anyway I said if Michael ever leaves, for the 100th time, to give me a call. You know, I just said that as a sort of joke and after a while Phil called me up and asked if I’d be interested in coming to England to play as Michael had left. I was like,
'Wow, this is great.' What happened is that a few days later Ian Haugland, the drummer from
EUROPE, called to say they were having a meeting in Stockholm to talk about a reunion of the
Final Countdown line-up. There seemed to be a lot of things happening at the same time. I flew straight to Stockholm and had a meeting with
EUROPE. I thought that maybe it was just going to be a reunion tour and that was it but they wanted to push ahead and write new music too. I called up
UFO's manager and the first thing he said was, 'Hi, welcome to UFO!!' and I had to say that I couldn’t do it as I was doing the
EUROPE reunion thing and he said, 'Can’t you just do both??' I decided to do the
EUROPE thing as they are like my family but it would have been nice to do something with UFO as they are one of my
favorite bands. I used to listen to them all the time and used to play along with
Strangers in the Night and learn every solo. I pretty much knew all the songs but I thought it was better for me to play my own stuff that I wrote and recorded myself rather than be a copy of someone else. I think after a while I’d have got bored with it just like I got bored with Dokken where they just wanted me to play as close to George Lynch as possible. It started getting boring after a while. It’s probably OK if you’re in your
20s but it was a little silly in your 40s playing other people’s material."
The EUROPE reunion was officially announced on October 2, 2003. During the
songwriting for the following album, Start from the Dark, John and
Joey started to write songs together for the first time in EUROPE's career, such
as "Got to Have Faith", "Start from the Dark" and "Wake
Up Call". On September 22, 2004, the same day that Start from
the Dark was released, Michelle gave birth to John's first son, Jake Thomas.
John's sixth studio album, Optimus, was released on his 41st birthday,
February 23, 2005. The album had already been finished in 2004, but the release
date was delayed in order not to collide with the release of Start from
the Dark. In 2005 John collaborated with Kelly Keeling on the song
"Nothing", which was included on Kelly's album Giving Sight to
the Eye. In the same year John also recorded a cover of the Frank Marino song
"Stay With Me", which was included on the album Secondhand Smoke - A Tribute to Frank Marino.
In May 2008 John was in Stockholm to work on his upcoming solo album and his wife, Michelle, was in the USA to see her parents. They talked on the phone on May 16 and agreed
that she would call back the next day. However, John didn't hear anything until
Michelle's mother called him and said that Michelle had been rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, California
and was in critical condition. "I said, 'But she will get better, right?' She said, 'No, it doesn't look that way. She has no brain function.'"
John went straight to
the hospital to be with Michelle. On May 21 Michelle Meldrum-Norum passed away as a result of a cystic growth on her brain that had restricted oxygen and blood flow to her brain, rendering her brain-dead. She was 39 years old. "It's been very tough. The worst time in my life. We were together for 16-17 years and she was my soul mate." It was a double tragedy, for at the same time that
John lost his wife, their son Jake Thomas lost his mother. "To lose a parent is the worst thing that can happen to a child. There was a period when he would wake up at night and cry for mommy. To see your child in such pain feels like someone's ripping your heart out. But now my son is happy. I've told him that mommy lives on in our hearts and that she's in Heaven. The angels wanted her."
John's seventh studio album, Play Yard Blues, was released on May 17,
2010. Mic Michaeli makes a guest appearance on the
album and Jake Thomas is pictured on the cover. "It's him and me on the cover,
jamming together, playing guitar together."
John Norum is currently living in Stockholm with his fiancée Camilla
Wåhlander. They have two children together, Jim Henry (born in 2012) and Celine
Margareta (born in 2014).