Bjork and the Icelandic Punk Scene

It was not until 1986 that I first heard Bjork and The Sugarcubes, but her musical career goes back further than that, including being part of punk-influenced bands. 

Following her parents split, Bjork was brought up in a bohemian commune in Iceland. Artists and musicians played a big part in her early life and she learned piano and flute at a local music school. Kate Bush was a favourite singer, and that influence can be seen in much of Bjork’s work.   Aged 11, her music school was featured on Iceland’s Radio 1, with Bjork singing a version of Tina Charles’ ‘I love to Love’, which gained her some attention. 

After that, Bjork was offered a record deal by a label called Fálkkin. A number of older, established adult musicians (including step-dad Sævar Arnason) played on her first recordings that resulted in a 1977 album called Bjork. The sleeve was designed by Bjork’s mother and the songs included cover versions of Beatles and Stevie Wonder songs. 

Image result for bjork 1st album 1977

It’s not clear how popular this record was at the time. Iceland is a small place so it’s easier to make yourself known. It seems that the 11-year old Bjork continued at school and with family music-making until punk hit Iceland.

Bjork sees her next band – the all-female ‘Spit and Snot’ – as a punk band which she formed with people her own age and presumably had more control. 

“I started a punk band when I was twelve ….Everyone was equal. .. I’ve worked with a lot of brilliant people who have taught me things  ….. girls having fun, and f**k that sitting-around-and-being-cute.”

Bjork was the drummer, with cropped orange hair and shaved eyebrows. There are no recordings or pictures of Spit and Snot, sadly.

In 1979, Bjork formed Exodus – a new wave band, followed by another band – Jam 80.

Aged 14, Bjork’s new punk-influenced band had a name that translates as ‘Cork the Bitch’s Arse’  -Tappi Tikarass and this band gained more attention, recording two albums.


Here’s the soundtrack album that goes with the classic 1982 Icelandic film ‘Rokk Í Reykjavík’. Commentators claim that this film was so influential that the whole Icelandic arts scene came alive following it, and that its influence can be seen today, with ex-punks having political power and forming many of the literary and music elites. 

By 1983, Tappi split up, and Bjork’s global fame began in 1986 with The Sugarcubes, working with musicians from other Icelandic punk bands and Killing Joke’s singer Jaz Coleman. The rest of Bjork’s musical career is more well-known. 

We at punkgirldiaries think that Bjork is a great innovator, female musician and ambassador for all good things Icelandic. We wonder what it was really like growing up in a musician-hippy commune and how much control and influence from her mum and step-dad there was in those early days. We’re angling for an interview, Bjork; will you talk to punkgirldiaries?



3 thoughts on “Bjork and the Icelandic Punk Scene

  1. Hello Punk Girls.

    First I’d like to say how much I’ve loved binge-reading your blog. I’m the same age and was part of the Icelandic punk scene very nearly from day one. I am at least acquainted with most of the people you mention and still play bass in Iceland’s first (and foremost) punk band, Fræbbblarnir. Gummi of Tappi tíkarrass plays drums with us and TT have started playing again too (without Björk though). We still play regularly.

    Björk never worked with Coleman but some of the guys who briefly played with him in Iceland in 1981-2 had played with Björk in various bands. He tried to recruit me because I “had the look” he was looking for but I couldn’t play an instrument at that time.

    The Björk album was rare and definitely did not sell 50.000 (there are only 350.000 Icelanders now and about 250 back then. Gling-gló, the pop-jazz album she made much later has been enduringly popular and had sold something around that in 2008, more now. It’s very popular with tourists.

    The original scene was winding down when Rokk í Reykjavík was made although it could be argued that it provided the seed for great things later in Icelandic music.

  2. Björk the album sold 50,000 copies which was Platinum in Iceland. I totally recommend Martin Aston’s book Björkgraphy if you haven’t read it. Oh and also don’t forget the Icelandic Punk Museum in Reykjavik, it’s great. As are the KUKL albums.

    This blog looks great, btw. Just stumbled across it, looking forward to reading more…

    1. Thanks – wish we could go to Iceland!

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