Sunday, March 23, 2014

Album Review # 24 Nico - Chelsea Girls

'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.' Nico 1981.
There's surely no better record to listen to on a Sunday morning and early afternoon than Nico's 1967 album Chelsea Girl. I should know. I'm just doing so. I selected it about half an hour ago. Can't remember what I was looking for but found this instead. Put on Side One, went back to bed and let it soak me up. Absorb me. Now I'm up again, the needle has kicked into the run out groove and I'll make a cup of tea and listen to Side Two.
It's a very peaceful space. It has no bass or drums but it has sweet acoustic guitars and to Nico's chagrin it has lots of flute. The cover has two images of this one off, beautiful, slightly scary woman in one of which she's cupping her chin an enormous gold ring on her right hand. On the back cover there are those lengthy pretentious reams of notes so beloved of Sixties albums. Much of it is rather poorly done by a journalist who hasn't done her research and is trying to make a virtue of it.
'Her name is Nico. I don't know where she was born, how old she is or anything about her life as a model in Paris, an actress in Rome a beat in Ibiza or a member of the Velvet Underground.
I could easily find out. But I'd rather not. All that was yesterday.'
Perhaps it's because it was the Sixties. Sometimes the comments are more acute.
'She is beautiful. And in a world where so much can easily be possessed on a whim or for a promise, she is unpossessable. She has a clear, pure ring, a trueness like an arrow that has hit an inner mark and can't be wedged loose. Her voice and her manner, that stretch further into the past than perhaps she realises may set the new style.' Liner notes by Pat Patterson.
Nico had left the Velvet Underground to play on New York's coffee house circle where she befriended every singer songwriter and guitarist worth knowing. But she remained close to Reed, Cale and Sterling Morrison who gave her songs for the record along with others donated by Jackson Browne, Dylan and Tim Hardin. Browne's songs are absolute peaches The Fairest of the Seasons, These Days and Somewhere There's a Feather. Bright shafts of daylight and consciousness. Thoughts of moving from one state of existence to another. Reed and Cale's contributions are darker and more troubled, probably closer to the person Nico actually was, notably the title track, (co-written by Lou and Morrison) which details the tragic, confused but beautiful set of misfits and wannabes in Warhol's Factory Circle.
Dylan's song for her, I'll Keep It With Mine is exquisite. If Nico had ever had a hit single this would have been it. It's not a flawless LP however. The two tracks on the end of both sides, It Was a Pleasure Then and Eulogy to Lenny Bruce drag somewhat. But it's an album unlike any in my collection. It's wonderful to spend forty minutes in its company every few months and I've had the record for over twenty five years and it still makes barely a crackle. It plays like a dream. Listening to it I feel like Nico is here in the room with me. Think I'll make her a cup of tea and give her a chocolate biscuit. I have nothing stronger in my cupboards. I'll have to try to persuade her that she's quite wrong about this beautiful album.

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