Lingua disponibile: ingleseOne of the most fascinating figures of rock's fringes, Nico hobnobbed, worked, and was romantically linked with an incredible assortment of the most legendary entertainers of the '60s. The paradox of her career was that she herself never attained the fame of her peers, pursuing a distinctly individualistic and uncompromising musical career that was uncommercial, but wholly admirable and influential. Nico first rose to fame as a European supermodel, also landing a bit part in Fellini's La Dolce Vita film and giving birth to a son by Alain Delon. In 1965, she attracted the attention of Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who gave her a chance to record for his Immediate label, though the resulting single, which also featured Brian Jones and Jimmy Page on guitars, flopped. Shortly afterward, she moved to New York, where Andy Warhol installed her as a vestigial presence and occasional lead singer for the Velvet Underground. The band never really accepted her as a bona fide member and she departed in 1967, but not before contributing unforgettable deadpan vocals to three of the songs on their classic 1967 debut album. Nico embarked on a solo career, recording folk-rock-flavored songs for her debut Chelsea Girl album with assistance from Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, and John Cale. Her 1969 follow-up, The Marble Index, was a dramatic departure that unveiled her doom-laden, gothic persona, produced by Cale and prominently featuring her deep vocals, impenetrable lyrics, and ghostly harmonium. Her subsequent '70s albums explored much the same territory, with assistance from Cale and influential art rockers like Eno and Phil Manzanera. Her career fell into disarray during the rest of the '70s and the '80s as she struggled with a massive drug habit and tangled personal life. She released several live albums on various labels, but the ill-planned Drama of Exile and the more successful Camera Obscura were her only coherent studio efforts until she died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Ibiza in 1988. The original goth rocker, Nico's albums are demanding and bleak, but map a unique and starkly powerful vision that has become more influential with age. An intimate of Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, the Velvet Underground, the Stones, Jim Morrison, Iggy Pop, and others, her fascinating story is recounted in the biography Nico: The Life & Lies of an Icon by Richard Witts, published in Great Britain by Virgin books; The End by James Young is a seedy look at her drug-addled final years by a member of her touring band.
© Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Uscito il 01 ottobre 1974 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)
Rock - Uscito il 01 gennaio 1967 | Polydor
Rock - Uscito il 01 ottobre 1974 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.
It is one of the most entrenched visions in the rock critic's vocabulary; Nico as doomed valkyrie, droning death-like through a harsh gothic monotone, a drained beauty pumping dirges from her harmonium while a voice as old as dirt hangs cobwebs round the chords. In fact she only made one album which remotely fit that bill -- this one -- and it's a symbol of its significance that even the cliché emerges as a thing of stunning beauty. Her first album following three years of rumor and speculation, The End was consciously designed to highlight the Nico of already pertinent myth. Stark, dark, bare, and frightening, the harmonium dominant even amid the splendor of Eno's synthesized menace, John Cale's childlike piano, and Phil Manzanera's scratchy, effects-whipped guitar, it is the howling wind upon wuthering heights, deathless secrets in airless dungeons, ancient mysteries in the guise of modern icons. Live, Nico took to dedicating the final cut, a sparse but heartstoppingly beautiful interpretation of the former German national anthem, to terrorist Andreas Baader, even as the song itself conjured demons of its own from an impressionable Anglo-American audience. Nico later admitted she intended the performance in the same spirit as Jimi Hendrix rendered "Star Spangled Banner." But "Das Lied der Deutschen" -- "Deutschland Uber Alles" -- has connotations which neither tribute nor parody could ever undermine. It is only in the '90s that even Germany has reclaimed the anthem for its own. In 1974, it was positively leperous. Listen without prejudice, though, and you catch Nico's meaning regardless, even as her voice tiptoes on the edge of childlike, all but duetting with the little girl she once was, on a song which she'd been singing since the cradle. The ghosts pack in. Former lover Jim Morrison haunts the stately "You Forgot to Answer," a song written about the last time Nico saw him, in a hired limousine on the day of his death; of course he reappears in the title track, an epic recounting of the Doors' own "The End," but blacker than even they envisioned it, an echoing maze of torchlit corridors and spectral children, and so intense that, by the time Nico reaches the "mother...father" passage, she is too weary even to scream. The cracked groan which emerges instead is all the more chilling for its understatement, and the musicians were as affected as the listener. The mutant funk coda with which the performance concludes is more than an incongruous bridge. It is the sound of the universe cracking under the pressure. But to dwell on the fear is to overlook the beauty -- The End, first and foremost, is an album of intimate simplicity and deceptive depths. Nico's voice stuns, soaring and swooping into unimagined corners. No less than "Das Lied der Deutschen," both "Valley of the Kings" and "It Has Not Taken Long" make a mockery of the lazy critical complaints that she simply grumbled along in a one-note wail, while the arrangements (most of which were Nico's own; producer Cale admits he spent most of his time in the studio simply marveling) utterly rewrote even the most generous interpretation of what "rock music" should sound like. The End doesn't simply subvert categorization. It defies time itself. © Dave Thompson /TiVo
Rock - Uscito il 01 gennaio 1967 | Universal Records
Rock - Uscito il 01 gennaio 1967 | Polydor