Happy Birthday, Thor Eldon of The Sugarcubes
If you’re Icelandic, then you may know the guitarist of the Sugarcubes as Þór Eldon rather than the more Americanized manner in which his name often appears – Thor Eldon – but no matter how you know him, today’s his birthday either way, so let’s all just wish him a good one, shall we?
Born in 1962 in Reykjavik, Iceland, Eldon founded the Sugarcubes with his then-wife, vocalist Björk Guðmundsdóttir, along with fellow vocalist (and occasional trumpeter) Einar Örn Benediktsson, bassist Bragi Ólafsson, and drummer Sigtryggur Baldursson. The longstanding legend has always been that the band was formed on June 8, 1986, the same day that Björk gave birth to her and Eldon’s son, but whether that’s true or not, it still makes for a great story.
The Sugarcubes’ debut album, 1988’s Life’s Too Good, thrilled music critics to no end and earned rave reviews all over the place, but the band arguably owes much of their UK success to John Peel, he of the famous “Peel Sessions,” who introduced their song “Birthday” to his listeners. In short order, the single hit #2 on the UK indie charts and went on to be voted Single of the Year. The band’s next single, “Coldsweat,” topping the indie charts, and “Deus” proving to be another #2 hit, but all three tracks also made it into the lower reaches of the mainstream charts as well, establishing the Sugarcubes as a significant musical force in the UK.
The band was never quite as popular in the States, but Billboard’s creation of a Modern Rock chart served the Sugarcubes well, with “Motorcrash” cracking the top 10 and singles from their subsequent albums doing even better: “Regina,” from 1989’s Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!, hit #2, and “Hit,” from 1992’s Stick Around for Joy, topped the chart. In fact, Stick Around for Joy actually provided the band with a second chart-topper, albeit on a completely different chart and in a slightly different form: a remix of “Leash Called Love” – one which can be found, appropriately enough, on the band’s 1992 remix album, It’s-It – ascended to the top spot of Billboard’s Dance Play chart.
When you look back, it’s clear that the Sugarcubes’ story had some serious soap-opera elements to it, with Eldon and Björk divorcing (it happened at some point between the release of Life’s Too Good and the recording of Here, Today, Tomorrow Next Week!), and Eldon’s new wife, Magga Ornolfsdottir, joining the group as their new keyboard player. Still, the Sugarcubes stuck together through Stick Around for Joy, after which they decided to call it quits, with Björk going on to solo success. The band got back together for a one-off reunion gig in Reykjavik in 2006 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first single, but while they reportedly all remain on good terms, there was no indication then – nor has there been since – that the Sugarcubes have any intentions of getting back together to do anything more substantial. Eldon, however, continues to pop up here and there, most notably collaborating on an album with Dagur Sigurðsson (you can check out one of the tracks here), and also composing music for such Icelandic films as Gargandi snilld, Syndir feðranna, and Allir litir hafsins eru kaldir a.k.a. Every Colour of the Sea is Cold.
To celebrate Eldon’s birthday, we’ve pulled together a playlist of the Sugarcubes’ most memorable tunes, and to kick things off…well, it would’ve been the first track, no matter what today was, but you have to admit that, as it happens, we couldn’t have picked a more appropriate song to start with.