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13th April, 2023

Grandma Rock: An Interview With Iceland's First Female DJ

Hailed as the country’s rock grandmother by Iceland’s media, Andrea Jónsdóttir is a well-known radio personality heralded the first female DJ in Iceland and one of the first in the world.

Whilst in Liverpool filming for her upcoming ‘Grandma Rock’ documentary, The Beatles Story team had the pleasure of sitting down with Andrea Jónsdóttir to discuss her amazing career and her love of The Beatles that influenced her to become a DJ over 50 years ago.


How did you find The Beatles Story? Did you enjoy our exhibition?

Oh yes, I really did. I’ve followed The Beatles and read about them and listened to them since their first single came out in 1962 when I was 13. They have been a big part of my life. 

Could you tell me a little bit more about yourself and your career?

I was born in Iceland in a place called Selfoss but I lived in Reykjavik for most of my life. I started DJing at parties in my hometown…well not DJing but just bringing a record player and LP 7” singles to parties and playing for fun. Then I started working in radio when I was just over 20. 

What year was that?

Probably about 1972, I think. I was also a proof-reader for Þjóðviljarin – a daily newspaper. 

What was your life like back in the 70s? Who were you listening to and what were you wearing?

Of course, I was wearing hippie clothes in the 70s! We followed the fashion in Iceland.

Do you remember the first time you heard The Beatles? What made you fall in love with them?

Just the music. Before them it was just Cliff Richard and the Shadows. And there was Elvis Presley of course and all these other people that The Beatles listened to. 

And have The Beatles inspired or influenced you in your work or career?

Yeah. Of course, the music is number one. But they were also so free spirited. What they said, the way they behaved – they brought freedom because they just said what they thought. They made us – even though I was still only little back then – made us question authority. Even my mother was really inspired by them because she felt that they were fresh air in the older society. They changed the world, I would say.

Absolutely. Did you ever see The Beatles live?

No, I never did. But I have seen Paul McCartney live. I saw him in Canada in about 2005 in Halifax. It was really great. There were many Icelanders who went together on the plane.

Do you have a favourite Beatle, and why?

I loved them all as a band. Even after. My grandma bought the Beatles Monthly book once and on the cover there was a picture of George Harrison. I think it was about ’65. His hair had grown long and mine was about the same length. My grandma said, ‘This girl looks a lot like Andrea’ – so I decided to make him my favourite after that.

If you had to sum up your life in one Beatles song, what would it be?

Well, I’m 74, so I would probably say ‘In My Life’! But I think the best single ever made in the world is ‘Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever’. It’s the strongest single ever.

Have you visited Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields?

Yeah! We have been all over and taken the Beatles routes – it’s great. We’ve been to the Casbah even.

That’s great. Thanks so much for sitting down with us! It’s been really interesting!

It’s an honour. I will definitely be coming back. I think you need a whole day in this museum!


Despite being in her 70s, Andrea still DJs regularly. Every weekend, people from all different backgrounds and ages come to Dillon Rock Bar in the centre of Reykjavik to watch her set and participate in a circle dance ritual, led by Grandma Rock, forever an icon in the Icelandic nightlife and music scene.

With Eurovision in Liverpool fast approaching, Andrea’s visit also gave us the opportunity to explore Iceland’s rich musical history and Eurovision Story. Iceland made its Eurovision debut in 1986, but has yet to win the contest. In 1999, Selma finished second with her song ‘All Out Of Luck’, as did Yohanna ten years later in 2009 with her ballad ‘Is It True?’. Their entry for this years’ contest is that of Icelandic artist Diljá, who will be performing original song ‘Power’. Iceland also acted as the setting for Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – a 2020 musical comedy film written by and starring Will Ferrell.

Emma Davies

Emma is a Sales and Marketing Executive at The Beatles Story with a Bachelor's in Music & Popular Music from the University of Liverpool.

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