Björk's first attempt at
Björk was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, the 21st of November 1965. She
got the last name Gudmundsdóttir 'cause her father's first name was
Gudmundur. Her parents knew each other since the age of 14 but they divorced
when Björk was born 'cause the marriage forced her mother to become
a home-wife against her own will. Björk's mother Hildur moved into a
hippie-collective with her daughter and re-married a guitar-player, considered
the Jimi Hendrix of Iceland. Björk learned very quickly to take her
own responsibility. She had to take care about things such as electric bills
and cooking since her parents weren't very handy. Björk had a lot of
freedom and her favorite hobby was to run with her eyes closed in the middle
of the road. She ran into a lamp-lighter once and she's still got a scar
Björk was born musical. At the age of 1 she got goose-pimples when she
heard a beautiul melody. She started to sing and write her own songs very
early. At the age of 6 she went to Reykjavik's musical college where she
learned to play the piano and the flute. One day, when Björk was 10
years old, the kids' parents were invinted to the school and all the children
had to sing a song or tell a poem. Björk sang "I love to love", a song
that reached no 1 in the Icelandic charts in 1976. A radio-theme was at the
school and they recorded Björk singing. A person from Falkinn (once
an Icelandic record-company, today a bicycle-factory) heard the radio-show
and was impressed by Björk's voice. The record-company asked Björk
to make a record and so she did. The album was named "Björk" and entered
the Icelandic record-stores in 1977, when Björk was 11 years.
Björk playing the flute
at 9 years age
Björk aged 11 on the
cover of her first
"Björk" contained a song named "Litli Arabadenngurinn", written by
Björk's stepfather, Icelandic versions of Beatles' "The fool on the
hill", Stevie Wonder's "Your kiss is sweet", pop-versions of old Icelandic
children's rhymes, folk-songs and an instrumental track named "Johannes
Kjárval", written by Björk herself and dedicated to an Icelandic
artist. The album sold about 6000 copies and made Björk a domestic
child-star. Many children came up to her and wanted to play with her when
the album entered the Icelandic charts but she realized very quickly it was
the girl on the album-cover they wanted. Everyone at school hated her
when she faced stardom and the only people she kept company with was musicans,
three times her age, who wanted her to record a second album. She left the
music-scene until 1979 when punk hit Iceland.
Björk fell in love with Discharge, shaved of her eye-browns and played
in many different punk-bands as a teenager. She started as a drummer in a
militant hardcore-feminist riot-grrrl-combo named Spit and Snot who wrote
songs about how much they hated men, but they soon split up because of
"attitude-problems". Two years later she got her second glimpse of
domestic stardom as the lead-singer in Iceland's most popular punk-pop-band
Tappi Tikarrass (the name can be translated as "Cork the bitch's ass"). The
band played light-weight melody-oriented punk-music often remiscent of the
early Cure and was hailed "One of the country's most promising bands". Tappi
Tikarras released their debut-mini-album "Bitid fast i hvitid" (the title
can be translated as "Stuck on the mind") in 1982.
The teenage punk
In 1983 Björk was introduced to the weird surrealist-collective Medusa,
consisting of adventourous Icelandic poets and perfomers. They arranged
live-performances were they threw raw meet on the audience at the same time
as they were reading their poetry. One of the members was Thor Eldon who
later became Björk's first love.
The same year, Gramm (Icelandic record-company) wanted to put together an
Icelandic all-stars-punk-band. Björk was involved in the project and
so was Einar Örn Benediktsson (singer in a band named Purkurr Pilnikk)
and Siggtryggur Baldursson (drummer in a band named Theyr) to name a few.
The band appeared first time on a "We demand the future"-concert in Reykjavik
in 1983, but they came together again in December the same year and released
the single "Söngull". Björk recorded one more album with Tappi
Tikarrass, "Miranda", before they split up.
KUKL's frontman Einar Örn studied media at Polytechs in London. He rubbed
shoulders with many underground-London-punks for example Flux of Pink Indians
and left-wing-activists Crass (the band who invented anarchy). KUKL released
their first full-lenght album "The eye" on Crass' own label Crass Records.
The band also directed a spooky, mysterious video for the song "Anna". KUKL
didn't sound a thing like any other bands on Crass Records. Their music was
a complex cross between gothic, punk, jazz and rhytmic music. The band used
many different kinds of drums, bells and even trumpets when they recorded
"The eye" and the critics categorized it as a cross between Siouxsie and
the Banshees, Killing Joke and Einstürende Neubauten.
"The eye" was only released in London, and though many people thought the
band could get a worldwide breakthrough if they switched label, they never
got very popular anywhere, not even back on Iceland. The KUKL-members had
to have ordinary full-time-jobs when they didn't make music. Björk worked
in a fish-factory and a coca-cola-bottling-plant back on Iceland. She also
used to work as a background-singer on Mega's (Icelandic rock's "grand old
man") albums. In 1985 the band started to tour around in Europe. They visited
Holland during the Pandora's box-festival and Denmark during the
Roskilde-festival. Like many other Icelandic bands they toured around in
Europe dreaming of a breakthrough outside their own native country.
Björk often wore
clothes as a
Inspired by the
17-years old Björk
tattooed a compass on her
left upper arm
Beside the music, Björk was also a great literature-lover. She read
"The story of the eye" at the age of 17 and it changed her life completely.
It's an erotic story about two youths exploring sex. But the message in the
book is that you should always do what you want and only trust your intuition,
even if that means you have to hurt someone else sometime. It was about this
time Björk stopped to believe in moral and only did what she wanted
to do in her intuition. "The story of the eye" has had quite a heavy influence
on her lyrics ever since. It's a recommended read if you wan't to fully
understand her "life-philosophy".
KUKL visited France in 1985 and released the live-MC "KUKL à Paris"
on the French label Flux Rebel. In 1986 the band released their second album
"Holidays in Europe" and they've been remembered as the only band to release
more than one album on Crass Records (except from Crass themselves). "Holidays
in Europe" carries some influences from early "industrial" bands such as
Einstürzende Neubauten and SPK. The band split up the same year and
Björk married her first teenage crush Thor Eldon. Their marriage resulted
in their son Síndri Eldon Thorsson, but the young couple divorced
only a year later and Síndri was raised by his musically gifted mother.
During her pregnancy, Icelandic TV wanted to make a special TV-show about
KUKL. Björk turned up at the TV-studio dressed in nothing but a bra
and a skirt, at 7-months-pregnancy. Icelandic TV-viewers got very shocked
at the sight of it and many people called in and complained. There was even
one woman who got a heart-attack. But Björk has made sure she didn't
The second KUKL-LP
"Holidays in Europe"
A young Björk
and a very young
The world's first
sighting of Björk:
Singled out from the
"Single of the week"
in Melody Maker
Björk first glimpse of
the glamorous rock-
with The Sugarcubes
When KUKL went their seperate ways, Einar Örn wanted to start a new
band. He gathered up Björk, her then-husband Thor Eldon and some
ex-KUKL-members and formed Syklarmanjo (the name can be translated as
Sugarcubes). The band-members thought they'd just play with Syklarmanjo for
a couple of months, and then they'd go back to KUKL. Thor and Einar put up
a label named Smekkleysa (the name can be translated as Bad taste). Syklarmanjo
released their first single "Einn moll'á mann" on Smekkleysa in 1986.
They described their music as pop-clishés, distorted in a grotesque
and tasteless way. Syklarmanjo's music was a lot more humourous and
standard-pop-oriented than KUKL. "Einn moll'á mann" contained the
song "Ammaeli", later re-realesed with English lyrics, as "Birthday". The
single became a big hit in England and it was the first Icelandic song to
enter the charts outside the native country. Syklarmanjo changed their name
to The Sugarcubes. Suddenly representants from diverse multi-national
record-companies, who were attracted by the atmospherical beauty of "Birthday"
(and Björk's elfin eskimo looks), were offering the band millions of
dollars for a record-deal. Sugarcubes signed with One Little Indian and became
the first Icelandic rock-band to face international stardom. In
1988 they released their million-selling debut-album "Life's too good". And
the rest is history...
The Sugarcubes from left to right:
Thór, Siggi, Bragi, Magga, Einar, Björk