From Iceland — Ask An Expert: What Was The First Guitar Solo In Icelandic History?

Ask An Expert: What Was The First Guitar Solo In Icelandic History?

Published October 12, 2020

Ask An Expert: What Was The First Guitar Solo In Icelandic History?
Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Dr. Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen

Iceland has certainly made a name for itself as a seemingly boundless source of great music, starting with its full-armed embrace of the rock revolution of the late 1950s. The early days of Icelandic pop music are sometimes a bit murky, though, so we turned to sociomusicologist Dr. Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen to ask a question that had been burning in our minds for years now: what was the first guitar solo in the history of Icelandic music? Turns out, it’s not as straightforward as you might think:

“There is an Icelandic wiki-page which states that the first Icelandic guitar solo was performed by guitar virtuoso Óli Gaukur on the track ‘Vegir liggja til allra átta’, which Elly Vilhjálms sang in 1963. And a great solo it is; drawn out and tasteful, replicating the song’s melody.

“If only it was so simple. It’s hard to nail the exact date of the first appearance of a bona fide Icelandic guitar solo, but in rock terms, they came flooding in – naturally – with the advent of rock’n’roll. Icelanders were just a tad behind developments in the U.S. For instance, Erla Þorsteinsdóttir’s polite rocking up of ‘When the saints go marching in’, released in 1957, does feature a brief, stinging guitar solo, as was the wont with rock’n’roll numbers of the time.

“So, dear readers, this is as close as we get to dating the first Icelandic guitar solo and any challenges to these oh-so-scientific results are welcome at the usual address. Next up: The first use of cowbell in Icelandic heavy metal.”

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