TJR presents… Top 10: Nico

TJR presents… Top 10: Nico

– I explore an immense ten from an extra-ordinary talent.
  • Runtime: 39m.
  • Compiled from 93 collection entries @ 16-Oct-2019.
  • Fantasy Album Rating: 9.98 “An elite masterpiece”
  • To access shuffle-play or avoid in-play interruption due to territorially blocked videos, it might be best playing directly via YouTube external-link.png

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All Tomorrow’s Parties by The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
(Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Alternative Folk
TJR saysFrom the “The Velvet Underground and Nico” debut LP in March, 1967, an alternative (and much shorter) mix having appeared as a single in 1966. Lou’s passion for using colourful characters from his everyday life is to the fore on “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, almost like a medieval dirge with a contemporary cast. Here, Lou observes the Warhol clique of ’66. According to him, the song is: “a very apt description of certain people at the Factory at the time. … I watched Andy. I watched Andy watching everybody. I would hear people say the most astonishing things, the craziest things, the funniest things, the saddest things.” In a 2006 interview John Cale stated: “The song was about a girl called Darryl, a beautiful petite blonde with three kids, two of whom were taken away from her.” Nico’s vocal is simply stunning. She sounds like she has lived emotionless since the dawn of time.

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Evening Of Light by Nico (1968)
(Christa Päffgen)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Avant-Garde
TJR saysFrom her second solo LP “The Marble Index” released in November, 1968. The sound of desolation row this may well be, but it’s a compelling, beautiful work of art nonetheless. Producer John Cale revealed: “I was pretty much left alone for two days, and I let her in at the end. I played her it song by song, and she burst into tears. ‘Oh! It’s so beautiful!’, ‘Oh, it’s so beautiful!’ You know, this is the same stuff that people tell me, ‘Oh! It’s so suicidal!’” I feel her joy right there. “I’d be disappointed if anyone who listened to The Marble Index properly only heard the dismay” says Cale. “For me, it has a thrill about it. There is something going on that’s inexplicable. You never know what’s coming next. ‘Evening Of Light’ is thrilling, majestic in a way. It has the grandiosity of Carl Orff. The Marble Index makes more sense in terms of advancing the modern European classical tradition than it does as folk or rock music.” No-one can take it away from Nico and John – they worked great together, a wholly unique concoction, each with vital roles to play.

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All That Is My Own by Nico (1970)
(Christa Päffgen)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Alternative Folk
TJR saysFrom her third solo album “Desertshore” released in December, 1970. High art prevails on this, the second of her neo-classical trilogy. Having plundered Wordsworth’s “The Prelude” (1799) for “The Marble Index” two years earlier, our cultured heroine was at it again, delving into William Blake’s “Visions of the Daughters of Albion” (1793) for her follow-up: “At entrance Theotormon sits, wearing the threshold hard. With secret tears; beneath him sound like waves on a desert shore, the voice of slaves beneath the sun, and children bought with money, that shiver in religious caves beneath the burning fires of lust, that belch incessant from the summits of the earth.” All of Blake’s mystical imagery was reflected here both in audio and in film, the two subsequent productions being intrinsically linked, I feel.

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These Days by Nico (1967)
(Jackson Browne)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Alternative Folk
TJR saysFrom her first solo LP “Chelsea Girl” released in October, 1967. In April ’67, just a month after “The Velvet Underground and Nico” was released, Nico stepped into the studio to begin work on her first solo full-length. This was a treat for the small circle of Velvet Underground devotees. For them, this would be a second ’67 serving, again on Verve Records, with Tom Wilson once again handling production in a studio which included contributions from Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison, as well as Jackson Browne, Nico’s current boyfriend. He not only wrote this beautiful song, but played the fast-picking guitar part which added great character to the piece. These songs may well have belonged to others, but Nico takes complete command of proceedings, from the very beginning to the very last. Her presence, in fact, dominates any recording which she’s ever made (bar “Sunday Morning” which buried her backing vocals). Even these lyrics seem to have been penned with the moody chanteuse in mind: “Please don’t confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them.

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Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
(Lou Reed, John Cale)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Cerebral Pop
TJR saysFrom the “The Velvet Underground and Nico” debut LP in March, 1967, an alternative mix having appeared as a single in 1966. This delicious album opener was an after-thought recording, made in November ’66. The keys of John Cale open up the LP by virtue of a randomly-found Celesta in the studio. It’s the prettiest moment in pop since Buddy Holly’s “Everyday”, with a delicate vocal from Lou which belies the paranoia of the lyric: “Watch out, the world's behind you.” Nico was earmarked for lead vocals on this one, but in the end her contribution was as backing vocalist only, and low-down in the mix at that.

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Little Sister by Nico (1967)
(John Cale, Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Alternative Folk
TJR saysFrom her first solo LP “Chelsea Girl” released in October, 1967. The post-production inclusion of Larry Fallon’s string and flute arrangements were like a dagger-blow to her, shattering her dream of how it should have been: “I still cannot listen to it, because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away. I asked for drums, they said no. I asked for more guitars, they said no. And I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! They added strings and – I didn't like them, but I could live with them. But the flute! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute.” I have no idea why she was so down on this LP – to my ears it’s an astounding set – as beautiful as it is haunting, and amazingly consistent, packed with classics at every turn, flutes and all.

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I’ll Be Your Mirror by The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
(Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Cerebral Pop
TJR saysFrom the "The Velvet Underground and Nico” debut LP in March, 1967, an alternative mix having appeared as a single in 1966. Nico’s supreme contributions to the LP are underlined in the seminal “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, a title which was rooted in a throwaway comment she had made to Lou a couple of years earlier. Explaining the sheer perfection of this performance, Sterling Morrison later revealed: “She kept singing “I'll Be Your Mirror” in her strident voice. Dissatisfied, we kept making her do it over and over again until she broke down and burst into tears. At that point we said, “Oh, try it just one more time and then fuck it — if it doesn't work this time, we're not going to do the song.” Nico sat down and did it exactly right.” As I’ve said many times before – every moment of blood, sweat and tears in the studio is worth it in the end. The recording stands immortal.

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I’ll Keep It With Mine by Nico (1967)
(Robert Zimmerman)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Alternative Folk
TJR saysFrom her first solo LP “Chelsea Girl” released in October, 1967. Nico was with Bob Dylan in Greece when he wrote this for her - what a gift! But who's keeping what with what for whom? I refuse to get dizzy in Dylan's maze, and simply enjoy the piece as a searching love song.

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Femme Fatale by The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
(Lou Reed)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Songwriter
TJR saysFrom the “The Velvet Underground and Nico” debut LP in March, 1967, an alternative mix having appeared as a single in 1966. On the album, this serves as the calm after the storm of “I'm Waiting For The Man”. “Femme Fatale” is a less-than-flattering ode to their live show dancer, Edie Sedgwick, who’d die just 3½ years later from a drug overdose.

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Mütterlein by Nico (1970)
(Christa Päffgen)

9.8 “All-time classic” Moodcore
TJR saysFrom her third solo album “Desertshore” released in December, 1970. For the second album-in-a-row, all songs came from Nico’s quill; in this regard it’s truly astonishing just how much strength she had gained through Jim Morrison’s encouragement. Her boldness was extra-ordinary, and her singular vision unmatched by anyone, anywhere. There can be very little doubt that she was at her creative peak at this stage. Ancient Viking goddess, or hopelessly lost in the desert? Perhaps, she was both. This work is rooted in medieval angst, where mystical matters dominate souls. It’s understandable that Nico alienated most in her time. Maybe she functioned better that way, distanced from pop pollution. There are some beautiful dreams in here; but deeply dark nightmares seem to cloud them over. Nico dared to venture where no-one else would, or could, and the end results were intensely compelling, in English or in Deutsch!




TJR presents… Top 10: Nico (via Spotify)

  • 10 tracks, runtime: 38m.
  • To access shuffle-play or overcome other issues with the embed application, it might be best playing directly via Spotify external-link.png




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