Broadening the scope of the blog I suppose, I’m writing a book review. It’s a book on Icelandic music written by a musician who is active and has been in the Icelandic scene for over 30 years. So it’s not too far out of scope.
Blue eyed pop is a historical look at the pop music scene of Iceland. Named after The Sugarcubes song it begins in the early 1900’s and treks across the beginning of Iceland’s love affair with music up to it’s present day music madness. From the 25 wax cylinders Icelanders listened to for years to the hundreds of original bands that call the little island home, the book meanders through the short, but action packed Icelandic musical history, giving the reader plenty of photos along the way.
While there are plenty of books, interviews and summations of the globally famous Icelandic bands, this is the first I’ve encountered where that history is told with character, and from the perspective of another Icelandic musician, one who has been at his craft for over 3 decades. There are so many insider stories and funny tidbits about not only Icelandic bands, but bands such as Yes, Led Zeppelin and Donna Summers. Bands you would never associate with Iceland, but all at one point were somewhat influenced by the little island that straddles two continents.
Dr. Gunni is no stranger to writing about music. He’s been in the scene for over 30 years, playing his first gig in 1980 to now currently working on an adult-ish children’s album, Al-Heimur-inn. A pop-quiz TV host, DJ and author of multiple historical accounts of Iceland’s music scene, he’s perfectly fit to write the first English account of Iceland’s Pop musical history.
In 2012, Dr. Gunni wrote Stuð vors lands. Blue eyed pop is derived from this book, focusing more on the pop aspect. As much as I’d love to go through chapter by chapter and give the good bits. I think I’ll just stick to an overview, as I could never do Dr. Gunni’s writing justice.
The global music scene realized well before the rest of us the potential and creative eagerness Icelanders have.
Bands such as The Kinks, Zeppelin, and The Who all beat us to Iceland to tour, listen and appreciate what Icelandic musicians had to offer. Even Disco was influenced by Icelanders who wrote for Donna Summers as well as other famous US acts of the time.
Trekking through the histories of bands popular not only to Iceland, but the rest of the world such as The Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós and even newer bands like Of Monsters and Men, the book gives the reader a better appreciation of these artists and their music.
From a pre-adolescent Björk, telling an interviewer she may never repeat the recording process again upon completing her first recording session, to a rather kinky magazine cover shoot of Sigur Rós in dresses and bondage gear, the reader becomes aware of the Icelandic ability to work hard and yet have fun at the same time.
This book is a must for anyone who appreciates the history of music. Even moreso, if you are a fan of Iceland and it’s people, as through the book you truly get a sense of the Icelandic culture and personality that has seen their work ethic and dedication to life help them survive over the years.
You can order the book here, Learn more about Dr. Gunni and follow his blog here. Dr. Gunni put together a set of playlists to accompany the book, sorted by decades here. And there’s a great interview between him and Hauker S. Magnusson on the Grapevine website.
Dr. Gunni was nice enough to answer my slightly modified 4 questions here:
1. In all your years of playing, what is your favorite Icelandic venue or festival? Iceland Airwaves is by far the bestest thing ever to happend on the local scene. I do not have a favorite venue, but I guess playing Harpa is quit nice, even though I haven’t played there yet!
2. Combine all your favorite colors, what do you get? Some kind of disgusting grey.
3. Name 3 little known Icelandic bands we should get to know. Taugadeildin were a more poppy Joy Division with an EP out in 1981. Ævintýri were a hard rocking unit that used to be a bubblegum band. The rock version Ævintýri only managed to get one 7″ out in 1971 but later they evolved into Svanfríður. Dj Flugvél og Geimskip is this girl Steinunn Harðardóttir doing out of this world spacy fun art music on a brand new album called Glamúr í geimnum (Glamour in Space).
4. If you could be any animal playing any song, what are you, and what song? A walrus playing Beatles’ I am the walrus, obviously.
All photos were taken from Dr. Gunni’s book.