How it all started...



Björk's first attempt at
hair-styling
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 since then.

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
album
"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
performing with
Tappi Tikarrass

Surrealist-Björk
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.


Icelandic all-star
anarchists KUKL

 

 
KUKL's debut-LP  
"The eye" 
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
her grandfather's
clothes as a
teenager

Inspired by the
adventurous vikings,
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 die.


The second KUKL-LP
"Holidays in Europe"



A young Björk
and a very young
Síndri


The world's first
sighting of Björk:
Singled out from the
first Sugarcubes-
press-photo


"Birthday" chosen
"Single of the week"
in Melody Maker


Björk first glimpse of
the glamorous rock-
star-touring- life
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