Dying With Every Step I Take
But I Don't Look Back
"I'm a total stranger to myself, except sometimes when I get reminded".
A stranger to herself and to the rest of us. Of the thousands (millions?) who have been exposed to the influence of that first Velvet Underground album through the ages, only a fraction will have pursued the thread of Nico's subsequent adventures beyond that band. Possibly because her solo career involved just half a dozen seldom heard studio albums, all on separate labels, spread over two decades spent struggling to avoid total obscurity. Possibly because the tragedy of her personal life is no secret; from the glamour of being a fashion model in 50's Paris, and Andy Warhol's New York art scene in the 60's, to the mother addicted to heroin in 80's Manchester. But most likely because Nico's music is a forbidden forest, a no-go zone for those of weak spirit and frail soul. Like Lester Bangs once commented, "I don't know if I would classify it as oppressive or depressing, but I do know that Nico's music scares the shit out of me.
Born Christa Paffgen, she became Nico in her transformation to actress and model. Suprisingly she then left the comfortable world of fashion to join The Velvet Underground. A band whose subjects for songs were drugs and sado-masochism, in a time of flower children, peace and love, and all that other hippy bullshit. Not the last time Nico would go against the grain despite what people thought of her.
After splitting from them in 1967, Nico released her first solo record, Chelsea Girl, but later denounced it, unhappy with it's production.
At various times she was lovers with Brian Jones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop. She did peyote with Jim Morrison in the desert outside LA, they sliced open their thumbs together and swapped blood. He encouraged her to record the music of her soul and she took this inspiration into her next album, The Marble Index.
The music now had no flowery decoration or 60's psychedelia but a timeless dramatic Wagnerian gothic bleakness, usually made by just her voice and the dischordant infinities of a harmonium she'd learnt to play. John Cale from VU helped direct the production and arrangement aswell as contributing noise and drones with Brian Eno sometimes. The results were songs burning with desire and despair.
The album was released with 8 of the 12 songs recorded. The record company thought that any longer than 30 minutes of Nico's music was too intense for anyone to listen to. "After it was finished, we genuinely thought people would kill themselves" says engineer Frazier Mohawk. "Marble Index isn't a record you listen to; it's a hole you fall into."
The albums Desertshore and The End followed.
Touring Germany in her later years, Nico would sing the banned national anthem and get bombarded with seat cushions.
“If I had a gun,” she said, “I would shoot you all.”
Then one day in 1988, aged just 45 and dressed in the dark fabrics that she favored, she went for a bicycle ride on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
Later, she was found by the side of the road, after suffering a brain haemorrage.
Taken from various sources.
sung by Nico's son Ari.