Monday, February 09, 2015

Radio Björk

Yes Björk.  We don't have to discuss bands of the 1940s to find artists whose careers were catapulted by radio. Björk is actually Björk Guðmundsdóttir... good luck pronouncing her surname. I can't. You know her today as that not-quite-pop star who rarely gets played on the radio. We all remember "Army of Me" but that was back in 1995.  Not everything great can be chopped into a 3 minute single. So the star that began on the radio had at best a distant relationship with the medium

At the age of six, Björk enrolled at Barnamúsíkskóli, music school in Reykjavík. Most biographies state that she studied classical piano and flute. [I am not sure when she learned guitar but that's all I've seen her play.] At a school recital she sang the 1976 Tina Charles' hit "I Love to Love." Her teachers recorded it and went it to the radio station RÚV ( Icelandic National Radio.) At the time this was Iceland's only radio station. So pretty much anyone listening heard it. It's like the equivalent of being heard on KDKA back in 1920. Because of this one song, and this one broadcast, the record label Fálkinn record label offered her a record deal, resulting in her first solo album at the age of  12, released in 1977. RÚV more recently posted some footage of Bjork from that year here.

Bjork didn't stick with classical flute and piano, though she did graduate. As a teenager she discovered punk rock. She joined and formed a series of punk bands: Rokka Rokka Drum, Exodus,  JAM80, Tappi Tíkarrass, and the all girl band, Spit and Snot... among others. Most of those groups didnt' record anything official, though Tappi Tíkarrass released an EP in August of 1982, then an actual LP in 1983. The group was featured in the documentary Rokk í Reykjavík. Bjork's face was on the cover of the VHS tape. Reykjavík, Iceland isn't a big place.. she had some local renown and already what we'd now call indie cred.  More here and here.

One more crucial radio intersection. The radio program Áfangar on RÚV, was coming to an end. It had started around 1975 airing underground music not otherwise on the radio at RÚV. The program ran for 8 years with it's final show airing on July 29, 1983. It was hosted by hosted by Ásmundur Jónsson and Guðni Rúnar. For that finale they assembled a super-group of local Icelandic musicians: Einar Örn, Guðlaugur Óttarsson, Sigtryggur Baldursson, Einar Melax, Birgir Mogensen, and Björk.  They performed under the name Gott kvöld that night but stayed together and took the name K.U.K.L. They got a record deal with Crass Records and went on a European tour. Members of that band became the Sugarcubes who had their first US hit in 19898 with "Motorcrash". She went solo for real in 1992, starting with a the single "Human Behaviour". The rest is recent history.