Iceland’s biggest export, aside from volcanic ash, is that pixyish pop singer, Björk. Or at least that’s how it seems in the American popular imagination. Björk’s first three of albums were pretty much required listening in certain circles during the ‘90s. Since then, her stature in the indie world has only grown.
Yet before she had a run of beautiful and strange masterpieces; before she was systematically tortured in front of the camera by Lars Von Trier in Dancer in the Dark; and before she was singing about birthdays with her breakout band The Sugarcubes, Björk cut her very first album. It was 1977, and Björk was only eleven.
Björk, whose name rhymes with “work” not “pork,” landed the record deal after a tape of her singing Tina Charles’ 1976 disco hit “I Love to Love” played on Iceland’s one and only radio station. The album, called simply Björk, was something of a family affair. While Björk sang and played the flute, her stepfather Sævar Árnason played guitar while her mom, Hildur Hauksdóttir, designed the album cover. (See above.) Overall, the record sounds exactly like what you might expect an Icelandic album from the ‘70s sung by a tweenaged chanteuse might sound like – part Abba, part King Crimson and part early Miley Cyrus. Björk does pretty groovy covers of The Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill” (top) and Syreeta Wright’s “Your Kiss is Sweet (middle),” both sung in Icelandic. There’s also an equally groovy psychedelic instrumental track dedicated to painter Jóhannes Kjarval, (below) whose work is on Icelandic currency. Björk reportedly went platinum in Iceland. You can listen to more tracks from that album on WFMU.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring one new drawing of a vice president with an octopus on his head daily. The Veeptopus store is here.