Björk turns 51 today (November 21), but how much do you know about the Icelandic genius? Here’s 20 geeky facts you might find surprising…
Bjork’s name means ‘birch-tree’ in Icelandic, and is properly pronounced ‘Beyerk’. Most people will stick with the common mispronunciation ‘Bee-york’, though. It’s like Josh Homme – if you say it properly, you just sound like a tool.
2004’s ‘Medulla”s title comes from the Latin word for ‘marrow’, chosen because of its bodily, squishy nature. Björk wanted the album to move away from the brain and rationality into a more intuitive, bodily way of doing things.
Betty Hutton, the original performer of ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ in 1951, also had a hand in the career of another 80s/90s alternative heroine, having been friend, mentor and fellow college pupil of a young Kristin Hersh., who wrote the Throwing Muses song ‘Elizabeth June’ about her.
Björk has a 27-year-old son called Sindri, a journalist and occasional musician, by her former Sugarcubes bandmate Thor Eldon. His name means ‘shining hall’.
Björk’s vocals for ‘Post”s ‘Cover Me’ were recorded in a bat-infested cave in Nassau, the Bahamas.
Björk’s favourite album as a child was Spark’s ‘Kimono My House’ – its theatrical pop partly a reaction against her mother’s hippyish taste.
Her favourite book is George Bataille’s surreal, sexually explicit ‘Story Of The Eye’, to which she’s made frequent reference, for example in the egg-fondling scenes in the Venus As A Boy video.
In 1992, Björk was asked to write a song for Madonna. The resulting single ‘Bedtime Story’ was heavily adapted from the Björk demo ‘Let’s Get Unconscious’.
Björk turned down the role of Jet Girl, Tank Girl’s sidekick and lover, in the 1995 film adaptation of the comic book Tank Girl. The role was subsequently taken on by Naomi Watts.
Three years before ‘Debut’ was released, Björk put out an album of jazz standards with Icelandic jazz outfit trio Gudmundur Ingolfssonar, including their takes on ‘Ruby Baby’ and ‘Dance With Me’.
‘Army Of Me’ and ‘The Modern Things’ from ‘Post’ were actually written with 808 State’s ‘Graham Massey’ before many of the songs on ‘Debut’, before Björk and Nellee Hooper began their collaboration.
Though many people wanted to collaborate with Björk at the 1994 Brit Awards after the success of ‘Debut’, Björk herself requested only one: PJ Harvey. The pair collaborated on a stark cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’
Michel Gondry’s video for ‘Army Of Me’ was banned by MTV in 1995 following the Oklahoma City bombing the same year, owing to a scene in which she places a bomb to wake her sleeping lover who is fast asleep inside an art museum.
Part of the inspiration for ‘Medulla”s largely human voice-only arrangements came from Björk’s drunken a capella experiments with a group of friends, singing their favourite songs one part each. “Most death metal and all heavy metal songs are excellent a capella,” she told the Daily Telegraph in 2004.
Some of Björk’s punk-era friends and associates, including former Sugarcubes singer Einar Orn and one-time punk poet and comedian Jon Gnarr are now involved in running the city with the Best Party, a joke that turned serious following the Icelandic banking crash.
Before joining the Sugarcubes, Björk had been involved in a number of other punk or post-punk bands, namely Spit And Snot, Exodus, Tappi Tikarass (which translates as Cork The Bitch’s Arse) and Kukl, who experienced some success abroad, releasing records through Crass’ label.
Hotel Borg in central Reykjavik was a hangout for many punk bands in the 80s, including Tappi Tikarrass. Björk’s grandad worked on the wiring when it was built.
In 1981, Björk and Icelandic jazz outfit Stifgrim attempted to break the Guinness World Record for longest ever continuous live performance. They failed.
Dancer In The Dark wasn’t Björk’s first film role. In 1986 she recorded a part in independent director Netzchka Keene’s The Juniper Tree, an adaptation of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale that premiered at the 1991 Sundance Festival.
Björk’s early dance collborations with 808 State, ‘Ooops’ and ‘Q-Mart’ are well known – less so is her work with Scottish techno types Plaid, who did remixes of ‘Big Time Sensuality’ and ‘All Is Full Of Love’ for her, but also sought our her voice for their album track ‘Lilith’, named after Adam’s apocryphal, independent-minded first wife in Judeo-Christian myth.