Mythbusting: Four Indie Music Myths

Björk’s private island, Radiohead’s ketchup song, and more

Everyone knows the “Paul is dead” myth and the yarn about Phil Collins writing “In the Air Tonight” after witnessing a man failing to aid a drowning swimmer, but what about the stories surrounding our obscured indie heroes?
 

BJÖRK’S PRIVATE ISLAND

CLAIM: The Icelandic government gifted avant-pop singer Björk a private island for her outstanding cultural contributions in and outside of the country.

Bjork-Island

(Photo by Hansueli Krapf via Wikipedia Commons)

 
ORIGINS: A story dating as far back as February 2012, most of this myth’s press came from travel blogs that coupled the reports with a photograph depicting a lone structure located in a pastured crater of an island called Elliðaey. The most north-eastern of the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) archipelago, Elliðaey is located off of Iceland’s southern coast. It is believed to have formed as a result of a volcanic eruption five-to-six thousand years ago. In the 1700s, the island was inhabited by five families that lived there surviving on fishing, raising cattle, and hunting puffins. But, over the next two centuries, residents filtered out in search of more practical and economical living. Elliðaey is only accessible by rope on its lower east side and by a boat from the mainland, a feature that has inspired some to suggest that the government offered it to Björk for its amplified seclusion and privacy.

VERDICT: FALSE. Björk has led a prolific artistic lifestyle as a solo musician, activist, visual artist, and member of bands like The Sugarcubes, Kukl, and Tappi Tíkarrass, but it’s hard to discern the point behind rewarding a country’s most established and successful musician with a private island, and the Icelandic government must have missed that memo, too. While Björk does confusingly own a property located on another island called Elliðaey (that she purchased independently and was not bestowed upon by the government) off of Iceland’s western coast, it is not the Elliðaey of the Westman archipelago. The lone building seen in the image circulated in most of the press surrounding this tale is an uninhabited hunting lodge constructed by the Elliðaey Hunting Association in 1953 for use during puffin hunts.
 

FUCKED UP’S “FIFTH BEATLE”

CLAIM: Fucked Up has been managed by an elusive “cognitive technician” named David Eliade since at least 2006 and perhaps as early as 2004. Eliade also designed their logo, records, and influenced most of their lyrics.

FuckedUp754

ORIGINS: In the year that saw Fucked Up produce their debut full length Hidden World, on Feb 14, 2006, Fucked Up announced via their Looking For Gold blog that they would subsequently be operating under the management of a man named David Eliade, and that interview requests and philosophical queries could be directed to him. A profile on Jade Tree’s (Fucked Up’s label at the time) website alleged he was born May 21, 1964 in Jerusalem, that his hobbies include “sigils, anagram making, writing musicals, [and] canoe-carving,” and that one of his favourite films is Spaceballs. It also said he recently read the title of a work called Lead a Divide, a work it also credited him as the author of.

Even before Eliade was officially a “member of the FU family,” he allegedly conducted an interview with the band for Maximumrocknroll. He has since fielded interviews on behalf of the band. On one such occasion, he answered an interviewer’s question as to whether there were any final misunderstandings he wished to eliminate about himself with, “that I don’t exist!” In an interview featured on a 2009 Fucked Up mixtape, principal Fucked Up songwriter Mike Haliechuk explained, “nobody ever really gets to meet [Eliade], he doesn’t really come to shows or like hang out on the scene or whatever, but his presence is felt wherever we are.”

Eliade is also the inspiration for the titular fictional protagonist of Fucked Up’s 2011 rock opera and several other releases.

VERDICT: FALSE. Fucked Up has expounded a well of exaggerated truths and casually nonsensical interview replies that runs so deep it once earned them categorization as “liar-art-hardcore.” They’ve baited fans and media alike with allegations of phony lawsuits from nonexistent energy drink companies, frontman Damian Abraham once pretended to be a father before actually siring children of his own – the list goes on, and this is another such hoax. Abraham supplied a definitive confirmation of this on the Feb. 18 edition (episode 15) of his Turned Out a Punk podcast. Interviewing “Kickball” Katy Goodman (La Sera, Vivian Girls), Goodman brought up the subject and Abraham asked, “Did Mike [Haliechuk] ever write you an email as David Eliade?”
 

RADIOHEAD’S UNRELEASED KETCHUP SONG

Claim: An unreleased Radiohead demo titled “How Do You Sit Still” or alternatively, “Putting Ketchup in the Fridge” was unearthed in 2011.

ORIGINS: On Dec. 22, 2011, Radiohead fan blog At Ease reported, “A track surfaced today with vocals sounding like Thom Yorke’s together with a Radiohead sound that could’ve been recorded in the early nineties. Think Pablo Honey, The Bends.” The blog also pointed out the track and Bends B-side “How Can You Be Sure?” have similar question-as-chorus features and alleged the source of the leak to be a former EMI executive. The story was quickly picked up by sources like Exclaim, NME, Spin, and Stereogum. Spin said it “puts a soaring, Thom Yorke-like vocal over shuffling drums, languidly elegant guitars, and an anthemic bass line.” A month earlier, Radiohead announced it would embark on a 10-date North American tour in February 2012. Just three days later, NME reported two previously unreleased demos from Radiohead’s pre-Johnny Greenwood days as On A Friday – “Everybody Knows” and “Girl (in the Purple Dress)” – had been uploaded to the web.

VERDICT: FALSE. Although the song bares an uncanny resemblance to early Radiohead material, this story was debunked seven days later by CNN in an interview with Toronto resident Christopher Stoba. Apparently Stoba, a curious fan, had caught wind of the story and listened to the song online, only to realize it was a song he wrote and recorded in New York in 2001.
“My first thought was to think somehow I had hit play on my iTunes or something on my computer had triggered iTunes and I was hearing my own demos,” Stoba told CNN. “The funny part of course is that that was a song that I recorded in 2001 called ‘Sit Still’ in New York.”

 

NOT A “PERFECT DAY”

CLAIM: Toronto native and acclaimed producer Bob Ezrin captured the crying children heard at the end of Lou Reed’s Berlin track “The Kids” by recording his own children when he presented them with the (false) news that their mother had just been killed in an accident.

ORIGINS: This is an urban legend that has been perpetuated since Berlin’s release over 40 years ago in 1973. Ezrin would later resume his exploitation of children crying for their mommies when he helped produce Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

VARIATIONS: Some versions of this story claim Ezrin beat his children to get the recordings; others suggest Ezrin and other members of the recording crew checked themselves into psychiatric centres after the album was completed.

VERDICT: FALSE. The only emotional abuse Ezrin’s kids endured over the course of Berlin’s production was a firmly enforced bedtime. Ezrin obtained the field recordings heard on “The Kids” by recording his children running around the house protesting going to bed. Ezrin addressed the urban legend in his liner notes for Lou Reed’s 1992 box set Between Thought and Expression: The Lou Reed Anthology: “It’s something you’ve seen a thousand times but because of the compression on it and the way that it’s in your face [in the mix] it’s relentless. And it’s totally dry. It’s completely dry, it’s distorted, and it’s compressed to death. It makes it so unbelievably emotional people accused me of beating my kids.”