Nico


Band members               Related acts

- Nico (aka Christa Paffgen) (RIP 1988) -- vocals,

  keyboards, harmonium

 

  supporting musicians:

- Gary Barnacle -- sax, drums (1983)

- John Cale -- bass, guitar, keyboards, sax, percussion

  (1974)

- Andy Clarke -- keyboards (1981)

- Steve Cordona -- drums (1981)

- Graham Dids -- percussion (1985)

- Brian Eno -- keyboards (1974)

- Mohammad Hadi (aka Mad Shee Khan) -- lead guitar,

  bouzouki, snitra, keyboards, backing vocals (1981)

- J.J. Johnson -- percussion, trumpet (1983)

- Phil Manzanera -- guitar (1974)

- Thierry Matiozek -- violin (1983)

- Nico (aka Christa Paffgen) (RIP 1988) -- vocals,

  keyboards

- Davey Payne -- sax (1981)

- Jean-Marc Philippe Quilichini (RIP 1983) -- bass, rhythm

  guitar, synthesizers, percussion (1981)

- James Young -- keyboards (1985)

   

 

 

- Kevin Ayers and Company

- The Velvet Underground

 

 


 

Genre: progressive

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Chelsea Girl

Company: Verve

Catalog: V6-5032

Year: 1967

Country/State: Germany

Grade (cover/record): VG+ /V G+

Comments: minor, edge and corner wear; crease on bottom right corner; cut out hole bottom left

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD

Cost: $66.00

 

The late Nico stands as one of rock's more interesting and tragic cult figures. During her extended recording career she never sold more than a handful of records and never came within a mile of broad based recognition. Regardless, she had a disproportional impact on the music community (it's hard to imagine gothic rock without her pioneering drone), making it clear there was more to life than churning out top-40 corporate crappola. 

Born Christa Paffgen in Cologne, Germany, Nico's original fame resulted from her career as a model (in her prime she was one hot babe). Having moved to Paris and adopted the professional name Nico, the six foot German was discovered by French Vogue. Multilingual, she quickly became one of society's happening' people, spending time with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, French philosopher Sartre and Italian film director Fellini - her appearance in Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" started a minor acting career. After her modeling and acting careers cooled off, Nico relocated to London in the mid-60s, where her romantic relationship with the Stones' Brian Jones led to a musical career highlighted by a one-off single (the Andrew Oldham - Jimmy Page produced "The Last Mile" b/w "") for Oldham's Immediate label. 1966 found Nico in New York City where her appearances at Blue Angel Lounge and friendship with Bob Dylan brought her to the attention of Andy Warhol and company. After appearing in Warhol's "Chelsea Girls" film the artist arranged for her to join The Velvet Underground (see separate entry). Her relationship with the band was brief and stormy; she left after appearing in the groundbreaking multimedia presentation "Uptight" and the recording of their first album "Nico and the Velvet Underground".

Hitting New York's club circuit, her society connections (and good looks) eventually led to a solo recording contract with Verve (which coincidently released the Velvet's early material). Debuting with 1968's "Chelsea Girl" exposed her limited musical talent. Burdened by Tom Wilson's dull production and Nico's flat, heavily accented and virtually expressionless voice, the album featured five previously unrecorded VU tracks (surprising given the VU had previously kicked her ass out of the band), and three contributions from a young Jackson Browne (yup, the same one). Musically the set offered up a quirky blend of heavily orchestrated ballads and occasional pseudo-progressive moves. To be honest, listening to the album wasn't exactly a pleasant experience: to our ears tracks such as the droning and feedback racked "It Was a Pleasure Then" and "Somewhere There's a Feather" holding the same grotesque fascination you experience when driving by a car wreck ... Highlights (we use the term loosely) including Reed's screeching guitar on "It Was a Pleasure Then" and Nico's bizarre Dylan cover "I'll Keep It with Mine" (Dylan reportedly wrote the song specifically for her).  All that criticism aside, the LP's so weird as to be worth hearing ...

"Chelsea Girl" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Fairest of the Seasons   (Jackson Browne - Copeland) - 4:05
2.) These Days   (Jackson Browne) - 3:25
3.) Little Sister   (John Cale - Lou Reed) - 4:20
4.) Winter Song   (John Cale) - 3:15
5.) It Was a Pleasure Then   (John Cale - Nico - Lou Reed) - 8:00

(side 2)

1.) Chelsea Girls   (Morrison - Lou Reed) - 7:25
2.) I'll Keep It with Mine   (Bob Dylan) - 3:20
3.) Somewhere There's a Feather   (Jackson Browne) - 2:15
4.) Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams   (Lou Reed) - 5:15
5.) Eulogy To Lenny Bruce   (Tim Hardin) - 3:45

 

Couple of YouTube clips for those of you brave enough to check them out:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ype6Hw_Hmjo

'Chelsea Girls' live in New York's Chelsea Hotel


 

 


Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The End

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS-9311

Year: 1974

Country/State: Germany

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap; top right corner cut off

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4295

Price: $25.00

Cost: $66.00

 

Perhaps inspired by the favorable reviews that greeted her participation in Kevin Ayer's alternative all-star collaboration ("June 1, 1974"), 1974's "The End" marked Nico's first studio album since 1970's "Desertshore".   Long time collaborator John Cale again handled production with Roxy Music's Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera providing some of the year's scariest instrumental support (check out Eno's "screaming witch" synthesizers on 'Innocent and Vain')   Never in danger of being confused with a bubblegum pop act, this time around Nico's cold, heavily accented vocals and ghostly harmonium simply reek of death, deterioration and hopelessness.  Sounding like it was recorded in the midst of a killer depression, material such as 'It Has Not Taken Long', 'Secret Side' and ' Innocent and Vain' should not be heard prior to going to bed and will scare the crap out of 99% of listeners.  That description is probably going to put a lot of folks off, but there's something mesmerizing about this downer set.  Marianna Faithful sounds like a pop star compared to Nico's creak of a voice and the woman could handle an uplifting tune if her life depended on it.  Maybe it's that complete and utter sense of human despair that makes the album so fascinating.  Clearly an album that includes a tribute to the last time she saw Jim Morrison ('You Forgot To Answer') is unlikely to get much in the way of top-40 airplay.  Geez, compared to this set, Goth wannabees such as Robert Smith and the Cure should hang their heads in embarrassment and simply give up their musical careers.  Elsewhere, her cover of 'Das Lied Der Deutschen' simply has to be heard to be believed, though I've always wondered why in the world Nico would have dedicated live performances of this song to German terrorist Andrea Baader ...


"The End" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) It Has Not Taken Long   (Nico) - 4:11

2.) Secret Side   (Nico) - 4:08

3.) You Forgot To Answer   (Nico) - 5:07

4.) Innocent and Vain   (Nico) - 3:51

5.) Valley of the Kings   (Nico) - 3:57

(side 2)

1.) We've Got the Gold   (Nico) - 5:44

2.) The End   (John Densmore - Robby Krieger - Ray Manzarek - Jim Morrison) - 9:36

3.) Das Lied Der Deutschen   (August Heinrich Hoffman von Fallersleben) - 5:28

 

 

 


Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Drama of Exile

Company: Aura

Catalog: AUL 715

Year: 1981

Country/State: Germany

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5488

Price: $30.00

 

After spending seven years living in near isolation in Paris where she apparently spent most of her time working on a heroin habit (she was also reportedly afraid the Black Panthers had ordered a hit on her), in the late 1970s Nico moved back to New York City and tentatively returned to music.  Her 'comeback' came in the form of a 1980 performance at CBGB's which won rave reviews from local critics and saw her begin to play more and more dates, including a brief tour along the East Coast and Midwest.  Buoyed by her touring successes in 1981 Nico returned with her first studio album in seven years. 

 

While the details remain murky, there are actually two versions of the "Drama of Exile" LP and numerous stories behind the alternative LPs. 

 

Nico always claimed the original tapes had been stolen by a sound engineer who sold the unfinished material to the English Aura label.  Aura immediately released the collection even though Nico filed suit.  In the meantime Nico went back into the studio and with a slightly different line up of musicians re-recorded some of the tracks and recorded additional material which was then released by the French Invisible Records label with different artwork and a slightly different track listing.  

 

Another version has Nico selling the master tapes for $4,000 in order to feed her heroin habit.

 

The third and most credible version has Aura Records president Aaron Sixx offered to finance one album.  The company advanced Nico's management the money only to discover that her 'manager' Nadett Duget and producer Philippe Quilichini planned to steal and sell the master tapes to another company.  Sixx reportedly grabbed all of the tapes before that could happen, quickly releasing the unfinished material in Holland and Sweden.  Before the LP could be released in the UK, or the States Nico's management slapped Aura with a lawsuit.  That led to a nasty extended legal case with Nico pointing out she'd never signed a contract with the company, though she'd accepted Aura's recording money.   In the end Nico ended up parting ways with her management and signing over published rights to the new songs to Aura.   Producer Quilichini then supposedly took some of the working tapes to Paris where he remixed the material, added a couple of previously recorded numbers that had been dropped from the original LP and released it on the French Invisible label.  Aura quickly slapped with an injunction on the LP and it was withdrawn from circulation.  Finally, in 1983 the LP saw a UK release.

 

So in the end what was all legal maneuvering and excitement about?   

 

Recorded in London with Corsican-born Quilcihni producing (he also played bass on the sessions) and backing from an international cast of studio musicians including keyboardist Andy Clarke (who'd engineered and played on David Bowie's "Scary Monsters" album and Ian Dury and the Blockheads sax player Davey Payne, the set offered up a strange, but intriguing mixture of rock, prickly new wave, punk aggression, and an early stab at world music influences.  The set was apparently intended to be something of an autobiographical statement covered Nico's past, present and future lives ...  Don't even ask me what that really means.  "Genghis Khan' was inspired by some guy she met in Spain who she thought looked like her vision of the man.  Regardless of the inspiration, coupled with Nico's heavily accented droning voice and typically icy and mysterious lyrics the results may not strike many folks as being a particularly appealing mixture, but that really wasn't the case.  Propelled in large part by Mohammad Hadi's biting guitar the results were brittle and more than a little scary (gawd only knows why but Nico dedicated 'The Spinx' to German terrorist Andreas Baader).  At the same time there was no denying that Nico and company actually rocked out ...   The set certainly had some lapses.  Producer Quilichini added a weird tinny production sound to collection which didn't do much to benefit Nico's already limited vocals prowess and the decision to cover Lou Reed's 'Waiting for the Man' with a bland martial arrangements wasn't particularly smart , though I liked her bouncy (I'm using the term loosely) cover of David Bowie's 'Heroes'.  'Course Nico repeatedly claimed both songs had been written for her, so why not go ahead and record them?

 

 

"Drama of Exile" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Genghis Khan   (Nico) - 

2.) Purple Lips   (Nico) -

3.) One More Chance   (Nico) -

4.) Henry Hudson   (Nico) -

5.) Waiting for the Man   (Lou Reed) -

(side 2)

1.) Sixty Four   (Nico) -

2.) The Spinx   (Nico) -

3.) Orly Flight   (Nico) -

3.) Heroes   (David Bowie - Brian Eno) -

 

 

In case anyone's interested, here's the information on the withdrawn version of the LP:

 

Invisible Records catalog number C 3813

 

"Drama of Exile" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) One More Chance   (Nico) - 4:13

2.) The Sphinx   (Nico) - 4:00

3.) S„eta   (Nico) - 3:40

4.) Genghis Khan   (Nico) - 3:34

5.) Heroes   (David Bowie - Brian Eno) - 5:41

 

(side 2)

1.) Henry Hudson   (Nico) - 3:46

2.) 60/40   (Nico) - 4:35

3.) Orly Flight   (Nico) - 2:48

4.) Vegas   (Nico) - 3:30

5.) I'm Waiting For the Man   (Lou Reed) - 4:14

 

There's actually another version of the album.  In 1993 the American Cleopatra label released the collection domestically in CD format (catalog number CLEO10792).  Naturally it sported different cover art.

 

 

One final tidbit, Quilichini died in a 1983 car accident.

 

 



Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Camera Obscura

Company: PVC / Beggars Banquet

Catalog: PVC 8938

Year: 1985

Country/State: Germany

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 5621

Price: SOLD $15.00

 

Credited to Nico and The Faction (which was percussionist Graham Dids and keyboardist James Young), 1985's "Camera Obscura" reunited Nico with former Velvet Underground member John Cale.  As usual Cale brought with him a willingness to experiment with different genres, including a big dose of 1980s synthesizers.  While it may not have made for her best album, Cale's presence seemed to have gotten Nico to at least focus on her music.  The result wasn't a classic Nico collection, but it was far more entertaining than her last couple of releases.

 

- The album certainly got off to an odd start via the title track.  Nico's involvement on 'Camera Obscura' seemed limited to occasional floating background vocals giving the song a very weird and discordant feel.  

- The Nico original 'Tananore' offered up another dirge-tempo slice of industrial noise, though this time out it was tempered by a vaguely Middle Easter feel.

- Powered by some cheesy synthesizer effects and a relentless Arabic rhythm pattern 'Win a Few' almost sounded like a Goth's idea of what a dance track should sound like.  You'd never call Nico funky, but this may have come as close to the concept as she ever came.

- I've never been able to figure out if Nico's cover of the Rogers and Hart classic 'My Funny Valentine' was meant to be a joke, or something serious.  Regardless, backed by Young on piano and Ian Carr on trumpet, she managed to turn in a mesmerizing cover of the chestnut.

- Like 'My Favorite Valentine', Nico's cover of 'Das Lied von Einsanen Madchens' (loosely translated as 'Lonely Girl's Song'), was apparently added to the album to pad out the running time.  Suitably dark and disturbing in its native German, the track may have appealed to Nico for it's autobiographical lyric.  Not a great deal of fun, but a great showcase for the woman's unique vocals ...

- Starting with 'Fearfully In Danger', side two featured four Nico originals.  Propelled by another cheesy synthesizer this one probably would have sounded okay on a dance floor (though a couple of beers would have helped).

- Kicked along by a pseudo-martial arrangement and some major depressing lyrics, 'My Heart Is Empty' is not something for the faint of heart.  

- Surrounded by some stark industrial synthesizers and Carr's trumpet, 'Into the Arena' was another harrowing flight that in the tradition of her cover of 'Deutschland Uber Alles' had room clearing potential. 

- Showcasing Nico playing her infamous harmonium, 'Konig' (translated as 'King') sounded like something that would have been played at a midnight mass, or perhaps the funeral for a mass slaughter.  Stunning in its starkness ...

 

Fascinating in a dark and depressing fashion.  You probably don't want to play this one around someone suffering from depression.

 

"Camera Obscura" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Camera Obscura   (Nico - James Young - Dowdal - John Cale) - 3:43

2.) Tananore   (Nico) - 4:28

3.) Win a Few   (Nico) - 6:10

4.) My Funny Valentine    (Rogers - Hart) - 3:25

5.) Das Lied von Einsanen Madchens   (Heymann - Robert Gilbert) - 5:47

 

(side 2)

1.) Fearfully In Danger   (Nico) - 7:25

2.) My Heart Is Empty   (Nico) - 4:50

3.) Into the Arena   (Nico) - 4:13

4.) Konig   (Nico) - 4:08

 

The album also stood as Nico's final studio set.  Living on the Spanish island of Ibiza, in July 1988 she suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage while riding a bike.  She was only 50.

 

For anyone interested, keyboardist Young wrote an interesting, if somewhat sensationalist book about Nico - "The End"

 

 

 

 

 

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