Saturday, February 27, 2010


Get into a bookshop, go to the musicbooksection and you’ll be sure to find one about Nico. Nico was a very charismatic artist from whom a lot is known, but at the same little as well.
Nico means a lot to me, perhaps she’s my fave female artist but that’s a question I never could answer.
The influence of her music is bigger than you think, some go so far by saying that she was the inventor of goth music and even if this statement might be a bit over the top, she’s surely one of the first artists who made a very dark sound. Don’t even know if dark is the right word because in all honesty, I remember times in where I was listening to her album “The end” all alone and it scared me so much that I had to take the needle of the record.
Nico was never born under the name of Nico, her name was Christa Päffgen. The name Nico was given by photographer Herbert Tobias after her ex-boyfriend Nikos Papatakis.
Nico’s youth always had been a mystery but what is known is that she became the victim of a violation by a German soldier who was sentenced to death. Both the violation and the death of the soldier marked Nico. If that wasn’t enough, Nico was also deaf at one ear.
By the time Nico went to Berlin, she got discovered as photo model and got photoshoots for the likes of Coco Chanel. But the big public could see her appearance for the first time in Frederico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”. Not that the role is so important, it even was a sort of joke being made up by Fellini. She got invited to the set and Frederico liked her so much that he created a minor role for her in the movie.
Who was the one who got Nico introduced into making music is an open debate : is it Serge Gainsbourg or was it Brian Jones? Fact is that the first song recorded by Nico was a Serge Gainsbourg-written song (“Striptease”, but the track only would appear in 2001 for the very first time).
With Brian Jones, Nico recorded her first single “I’m not sayin’”.
Nico was the kind of woman who was noticed by everyone (there is a rumour around that she’s the mother of Alain Delon’s son) and also by the inventor of pop art : Andy Warhol.
Andy was extremely interested in Nico and let her appear in his movie “Chelsea girls” and the legend says that it was also him who wanted her to be part of The Velvet Underground.
I always thought the relationship with Nico and The Velvet Underground was a bit strange. Officially she was never been part of them, but I can’t imagine the album “Andy Warhol” being without her….even more, I don’t think if she wouldn’t be part of it that I would like the album that much cos not only my fave tracks are with Nico but from the moment she departed (soon after the recordings of the first album) Velvet Underground were never that good.
It’s also a rumour that Nico’s role in the Velvet Underground was so small because she rejected Lou Reed, she began a romance with John Cale instead…
Soon after Nico recorded her first album “Chelsea girl” which was produced by Jackson Browne with whom she also had a romance, Nico never was in need of lovers!
Even if her debut is quite nice, it stays to her standards a popalbum and the later dark voice from her would only be developed in her albums from the 70’s from which “The marble index” (this time produced by John Cale who then already had a glorious solocareer) is the best one.
“Desertshore” and “The end” were her other two 70’s-albums.
Nico was never afraid of controversial things, for instance there’s the known fact that not everyone was pleased with her cover from the German national anthem (“Deutschland Ûber Alles”) on “The end”.
On the personal level it got worser and worser for Nico. She got dropped from Island Records and she started that other life for which she always would be famous for : the one of a heroin addict.
The fact that “Drama of Exile”, the 5th Nico-album, came out in 1981 wasn’t that much of a coincidence. The musical world was aware of the new dark sounds by bands like Joy Division, Siouxsie & The Banshees or Bauhaus and Nico fitted perfectly into the goth-image (her albums were now released on Beggars Banquet, a label who had various American gothbands under its wings).
In some way, I consider the 80’s tracks by Nico as her best ones. Tracks like “Vegas”or her cover from David Bowie’s “Heroes” belong to my absolute faves and “Hanging Gardens” (which contains some livetracks) is one of my all time fave records.
Sadly enough the eighties brought Nico back but it was also the decade in where the world had to say goodbye to one of the greatest female performers of all time.
On 17 July 1988 Nico fell of her bike while riding her bicycle when being in Ibiza, the fall was caused by a heart attack but the next day Nico died.
She got buried in Berlin along with her mum.
In many ways the life of Nico reads as the ultimate rockhistory cos I guess she saw the holy trilogy (sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll) like no one else. But in stead of being some rock bitch, Nico made the most dark music imaginable and with such an unique voice it made her one of the leading ladies of the musicscene.
Nico’s appearances, how rare they were, always left you heartbreaking and it’s been one of the many mysteries why such a beautiful woman got attracted into a world of morbid emotions and drugs. Whatever the answer might be, it created Nico, a timeless icon.

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