By Way of the Green Line Bus (from The Royal Tenenbaums)
Nico (born Christa Päffgen, 16 October 1938 - 18 July 1988) was a German singer, composer, fashion model, actress, and Warhol Superstar.
Nico on Andy
She is known for both her vocal collaboration on The Velvet Underground's debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and her work as a solo artist from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. She also had roles in several films, including a cameo in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) and Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls (1966), as herself. She was related to Hermann Päffgen, who founded the Päffgen brewery in 1883 in Cologne.
She died in July 1988, as a result of injuries sustained in a bicycling accident.
Standing 5' 10", with chiseled features and porcelain skin, Nico rose to prominence as a fashion model as a teenager. After leaving school at the age of thirteen she began selling lingerie and was soon spotted by fashion insiders. A year later, her mother found her work as a model in Berlin. She soon became one of the top fashion models of the period.
Her adopted name, 'Nico', which she used for most of her life, was given to her by photographer Herbert Tobias who was photographing her on a modeling job. He named her this after his (alleged) ex-boyfriend, filmmaker Nikos Papatakis.
Papatakis was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and spent his early years between Ethiopia and Greece. In 1939 he established himself in Paris and worked as an extra in films. Eventually, he owned the famous Parisian club 'La Rose Rouge' where performers included singer Juliette Greco. He was married to actress Anouk Aimée from 1951 to 1954 and from whom he had a daughter, Manuela Papatakis, born in 1951 He was then married to actress Olga Karlatos from 1967 to 1982, from whom he had a son, Serge Papatakis, born in 1967
In 1957, he moved to New York City, met John Cassavetes, and became co-producer of Cassavetes' Shadows (1959).
In 1963, his first film, Les Abysses, enjoyed a "succès de scandale" and was entered into the 1963 Cannes Film Festival which refused to show it. It was based on Jean Genet's The Slaves. In 1967, he directed another daring film, Oi Voskoi (The Shepherds) in Greek. During the Algerian War he was active in the Front de Liberation National. He returned to film in 1987 with a film in Greek, I Photografia (The Photograph). His last film was Walking on a Tightrope (1992). He died in Paris on December 17, 2010.
When Nico moved to Paris she began working for Vogue, Tempo, Vie Nuove, Mascotte Spettacolo, Camera, Elle, and other fashion magazines. She was briefly hired by Coco Chanel. In addition to her native German, she spoke four languages: English, Italian, Spanish, and French.
After appearing in several television advertisements, Nico got a small role in Alberto Lattuada's film La Tempesta (1958). She also appeared in Rudolph Maté's For the First Time with Mario Lanza, later that year.
In 1959 she was invited to the set of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, where she attracted the attention of the acclaimed director, who gave her a minor role in the film as herself.
La Dolce Vita
Here’s a link to a more detailed clip from the film.
By this time, she had moved to New York to take acting classes with Lee Strasberg.
She appears as the cover model on jazz pianist Bill Evans' 1962 album Moon Beams. After splitting her time between New York and Paris, she got the lead role in Jacques Poitrenaud's Strip-Tease (1963). She recorded the title track, which was written by Serge Gainsbourg but not released until 2001, when it was included in the compilation Le Cinéma de Serge Gainsbourg.
In 1962, Nico gave birth to her son, Christian Aaron "Ari" Päffgen, commonly held to have been fathered by French actor Alain Delon. Delon always denied his paternity. The child was raised mostly by Delon's mother and her husband and eventually was adopted by them, taking their surname, Boulogne.
"My Only Child"
Nico / Icon part 1
In 1965, Nico met Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones and recorded her first single, "I'm Not Sayin'"/"The Last Mile", produced by Jimmy Page for Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label.
"I’m Not Saying"
Actor Ben Carruthers introduced her to Bob Dylan in Paris that summer.
Ben Carruthers in Shadows (produced by Nico Papatakis)
Dylan wrote the song "I'll Keep It with Mine" for her shortly thereafter, which she recorded for her first album, Chelsea Girl, in 1967.
After being introduced by Brian Jones, she began working in New York with Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey on their experimental films, including Chelsea Girls, The Closet, Sunset and Imitation of Christ.
Nico in Chelsea Girls
When Warhol began managing The Velvet Underground, he proposed that the group take on Nico as a "chanteuse." They consented reluctantly, for both personal and musical reasons.The group became the centerpiece of Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a multimedia performance featuring music, light, film and dance. Nico sang lead vocals on three songs ("Femme Fatale", "All Tomorrow's Parties", and "I'll Be Your Mirror") and backing vocals on another ("Sunday Morning") on the band's debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967).
Nico's tenure in the Velvet Underground was marked by personal and musical difficulties. Violist and bassist John Cale has written that Nico's long preparations in the dressing room and pre-performance good luck ritual (burning a candle) would often hold up a performance, which especially irritated band member Lou Reed. Nico's partial deafness also would sometimes cause her to veer off key, for which she was ridiculed by other band members.
Immediately following her musical work with The Velvet Underground, Nico began work as a solo artist.
Nico sings "Chelsea Girls" in the Chelsea Hotel
For her debut album, 1967's Chelsea Girl, she recorded songs by Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Jackson Browne, among others.
Nico Poem by Jackson Browne
Velvet Underground members Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison contributed to the album, with Nico, Reed and Cale co-writing one song, "It Was a Pleasure Then. "Chelsea Girl is a traditional chamber-folk album, which influenced artists such as Leonard Cohen with strings and flute arrangements by producer Tom Wilson. Nico was not satisfied with the album and had little say in production matters.
For The Marble Index, released in 1969, Nico wrote the lyrics and music. Accompaniment mainly centered around Nico's harmonium while John Cale added an array of folk and classical instruments, and produced the album. The harmonium became her signature instrument for the rest of her career. The album combines classical music with a European folk.
"Evening of Light"
"Fearfully in Danger"
Nico released two more solo albums in the 1970s, Desertshore and The End. Nico wrote the music, sang, and played the harmonium. Cale produced and played most of the other instruments on both albums. The End featured Brian Eno on synthesizer. She appeared at the Rainbow Theatre, in London, with Cale, Eno, and Ayers. The album 1 June 1974 was the result of this concert. Nico performed a version of the Doors' "The End", which was the catalyst for her album The End later that year.
Nico sings “The End” in Tokyo
Nico on Jim Morrison
On 13 December 1974, Nico opened for Tangerine Dream's infamous concert at Reims Cathedral in Reims, France. The promoter had so greatly oversold tickets for the show that members of the audience couldn't move or reach the outside, eventually resulting in some fans urinating inside the cathedral hall. The Roman Catholic Church denounced these actions, ordered the rededication of the cathedral and banned future performances on church property.
Nico and Island Records allegedly had many disputes during this time, and in 1975 the label dropped her from their roster
Nico returned to New York in late 1979 where her comeback concert at CBGB in early 1980 was glowingly reviewed in The New York Times. She began playing regularly at the Mudd Club and other venues with Jim Tisdall accompanying her on harp and Gittler guitar. They played together on a sold-out tour of twelve cities in the East and Midwest.
Nico recorded her next studio album, Drama of Exile, in 1981.It was a departure from her earlier work with John Cale, featuring a mixture of rock and Middle Eastern arrangements. She recorded her final solo album, Camera Obscura, in 1985, with The Faction (James Young and Graham Dids). Produced by John Cale, it featured Nico's version of the Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart song "My Funny Valentine".
Nico sings "My Funny Valentine"
Three drunks singing along with her on "My Funny Valentine"
A number of Nico's performances towards the end of her life were recorded and released, including 1982's Heroine, Live In Tokyo, and her final concert, Fata Morgana, recorded on 6 June 1988. The double live album Behind the Iron Curtain was recorded during a tour of Eastern Europe, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and made from recordings of concerts in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and other cities, and was released before her death in 1988.
Between 1970 and 1979, Nico made about seven films with French director Philippe Garrel. She met Garrel in 1969 and contributed the song "The Falconer" to his film Le Lit de la Vierge. Soon after, she was living with Garrel and became a central figure in his cinematic and personal circles. Nico's first acting appearance with Garrel occurred in his 1972 film, La Cicatrice Intérieure. Nico also supplied the music for this film and collaborated closely with the director. She also appeared in the Garrel films AnathorLes Hautes Solitudes, released in 1974, Un ange passe (1975), Le Berceau de cristal (1976), starring Pierre Clémenti, Nico and Anita Pallenberg, and Voyage au jardin des morts (1978). His 1991 film J'entends Plus la Guitare is dedicated to Nico
La Cicatrice Interieure
J’entends plus la guitaire
Elle a passé tant d'heures sous les sunlights
Nico was a heroin addict for over 15 years. In the book Songs They Never Play on the Radio, James Young, a member of Nico's band in the 1980s, recalls many examples of Nico's fiendish behaviour due to addiction. But just before her death, she had managed to kick the habit and had embarked on a regimen of exercise and healthy eating. Despite her musical talents and singing, she was deaf in one ear, which made it difficult for her to understand what others were saying. She was also said to have been a vegetarian, as well as a self-proclaimed nihilist. Nico saw herself as part of a tradition of bohemian artists, which she traced back to the Romanticism of the early 19th century. She led a nomadic life, living in different countries. Apart from Germany, where she grew up, and Ibiza, where she died, Nico lived in Italy and France in the 1950s, spent most of the 1960s in the US, and lived in London in the early 1960s and again later in the 1980s, when she lived intermittently between London and Manchester.
On 18 July 1988, while on holiday with her son in Ibiza, Spain, Nico had a minor heart attack while riding a bicycle and hit her head as she fell. A passing taxi driver found her unconscious and had difficulty getting her admitted to local hospitals. She was incorrectly diagnosed as suffering from heat-exposure and died at eight o'clock that evening. X-rays later revealed a severe cerebral hemorrhage as the cause of death.
Nico was buried in her mother's plot in Grunewald Forest Cemetery in Berlin, Germany. A few friends played a tape of "Mütterlein", a song from Desertshore, at her funeral.
I was in Nico’s presence (one did not “know” her) on few occasions in the 60’s -- at the Silver Factory and at the Filmmaker’s Cinematheque when The Chelsea Girls was first shown.
I saw her perform live at the Whiskey a year before she died. When she sang “Deutschland Uber Alles”, some punks in the audience gave her the Nazi salute. She stopped them.
Her “special guest” was Tim Hardin. Looking like a Teddy Bear with half the stuffing pulled out, her old junkie pal was a total stranger to the punk-dominated audience. He sang like an angel. A few weeks later he was found dead of an overdose. Most likely a “hot shot” administered by a vengeful dealer. But the cops didn’t care. One junkie less.
Marianne Faithful will sing us out.
p.s. Hey. After Nico practically swept the answers to my recent 'who is your favorite singer' question, it was just a matter of a short time until she got the full-fledged blog Day she'd long deserved, and the masterful and generous David Ehrenstein has brought his full game to the plate this weekend. Please spend some of the next couple of days sharing your Nico related waxings, opinions, and memories with the d.l. in charge. Thanks. And tremendous thanks to you, Mr. E! ** David Ehrenstein, And there you are, sir. Hugs from across the world for taking care of Nico and all of us this weekend. You know, I don't think I've ever read Reynolds Price. I should, yes? And weird/ bad/ suspicious about Keith Olbermann's exit. He was definitely my fave of the MSNBC gang. Wonder what he'll do now. ** Killer Luka, Hey. With that windfall, I'd say a Miles Pride Museum is in order. It'd be good for the Minneapolis economy as well as for a portion of humanity. Thanks for the heads up on your FB friendship with Roxy Red. I asked for his friendship, and he accepted. If he wasn't Catholic and didn't have bad taste, I'd be very disappointed. ** Sypha, Eagle eye there. I'm the only purchaser of that edition? I need to get it signed by you then at some point to get it up to maximum possible value. 'Brigit' is a nice title. What's the novel about? ** Tomkendall, Howdy, Tomster! Man, that is some wonderfully dramatic upswinging going on there! About time. Wow, that magazine you're in really does look beautiful. Everyone, Tom Kendall, awesome writer and d.l., has a story in this new, I think, magazine called Some Ways to Disappear, and the mag is a very pretty thing, as you can see for yourself and also order a copy by merely clicking here. What's the photographic collab project? Can you say? Just have patience with yourself on the novel front. That whole losing your gift thing is bull. Seriously. Anyway, man, such great news about the PhD and everything else, so great to hear! And, yes, get your papers in order and come visit us. ** Jax, Hey. Mm, no, I don't think my camera-wielding abilities are often remarked upon in a positive way, so thank you for that. Did you see Math's comment to you about salvia? If not, it's low down in yesterday's comments section, and it seems like it would be helpful. Hm, yeah, that '10 things I want to do before I die' ... good one. It's about time to do a new SPD. I think that could be the theme right there. Thanks, pal! I was thinking, 'Thomas did a Moe Day here?' *head scratch* but, as you probably saw, it was on his blog. Maybe I'll steal it. Let me go hunt it down. That nip across the channel today is so tempting, but, alas, I think I'm needed here. Well, actually I'm not, but you have a great b'day celebration, and wish her a very happy b'day from a peculiar friend of yours. ** Steevee, I hope the pain and tingling in your feet is easily explainable and excised, obviously. Let me know. ** Jon Reiss, Cool that you pulled out the Rollins interview. I like his Black Flag era, although it's mostly 'cos Ginn got so fucking amazing in that period. When you say nothing's happening with the novel, you mean with publishers and acceptances and all that depressing, stressful, illogical stuff? If so, don't give up on it, man. I mean. 'Closer' was rejected something like 18 times before it finally got a bite from Grove Press. Not right now, but otherwise I've always written journalism and fiction at the same time. It wasn't a problem for me. If anything, I felt like I picked up some basic skills I didn't have by sussing out the non-fiction gigs and working with magazine editors. I went to a party on New Years. I was here in Paris. That and negotiating very drunk people on the metro was my NYE in its entirety. What did you do? ** Pilgarlic, Yeah, Tommy James' stuff was in this weird place between radio pop and the more artful, serious rock back then. Plus, he had that huge jaw and wasn't cute, which I'm sure didn't help him with the teenyboppers. His genius is much clearer nowadays when the pop song structure is considered the footwork of a serious art form more naturally. The Archies song I like(d) is 'Comes the Sun'. It's a little less cutesy. I had this brief period where I wanted to write my autobiography some years ago, but I wanted to do it with a ghost writer like, you know, celebrities and sports figures do, but nobody was interested. ** Allesfliesst, I couldn't find that pic of the boy with the perfect nose, but here are some also-rans. The Czech porn star Peter Azur has a great example: here and here. And these are some guys with pretty decent variations: him, him, him, him. That should give you the idea anyway. ** David, Hi. Oh, the Recollets has hosted some pretty famous people, more famous than me. I'm not sure if it's cool to say their names, so I won't. But, like, there's a very famous fashion photographer living here now. And I already mentioned that Tricky was here. So, I guess I'm in the creme, but I'm not the creme. ** Toniok, Well, demanding is important, but, obviously, don't let yourself get too utopian. Oh, since I'm so godawful with email, I'll just tell you now that your post -- which is really beautiful and charismatic, btw -- will appear here on the blog on Wednesday, February 2nd. Thank you, kind and brilliant sir! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey. Oh, that is a beauty, and that art piece, and smart as a whip. Everyone, behold the honorable _Black_Acrylic's 'Maquette for a Memorial (Silk Forget-Me-Nots with Comme des Garçons 2 Man Eau de Toilette)'. I figure that title will get you over there where the context will be explained. Enjoy! Pray tell about your after party adventures, maestro. ** The Dreadful Flying Glove, Ha ha, ham sandwich, no. Uh, chocolate and vanilla and hazelnut cake(s) w/ a complicated icing based in strawberry, I think. My old shower was awesome, yes, sigh. It's a bone quivering 0 degrees here, but I guess I'd take it over 30 degrees, push come to shove. Air pocket, happens. Redundant? Nah, man, can't be. Not you. Deep breaths. ** Armando, That is the man himself, but, no, I didn't actually meet him. I was just at the same party. I saw him, and I thought, that sure looks like Godard but it can't be, and I thought nothing more of it until I was informed a week or so later that, yes, it was him. My French publisher, who threw the party, publishes Godard's books, so mystery solved. So, I just breathed the same air as him. Better than nothing. ** Bill, I imagine anticipating the start of a semester is like my anticipating of a long plane flight to, say, Los Angeles, in which case, yes, hugs. 'Midori' ... I don't think I've seen that. Hang in there until the school bell tolls, man. ** Ken Baumann, Hey, Ken! Excellent news about your show getting picked up. I bet it was your performance in the final episode that kept it off the bubble. Not that it was anywhere near a bubble, I imagine. Mexico, nice. Where? Dude, you sound gooder than good. I just got back into 'Solip' yesterday after needing to put everything aside to write a theater text. I should be through it soon. It's so fucking good! Gooder than so fucking good! Thanks for alerting me to the Sig tweet. Thing is, he's on board, and it's you-know-who, the decider at the top, who isn't on board yet, as far as I know. Anyway, excuse my worrywarts. Best to you, bud. ** Marc Vallee, Hey, Marc! What a pleasure! How are you, man? The Larry Clark show was very good, of course. The problem with it, at least for me, was that it was dominated by, first, too much work from the 'Tulsa' and 'Teenage Lust' period that was very familiar, and, secondly, too much work he shot during the making of 'Wassup Rockers', which was good but kind of repetitive. So, the show was very top heavy and bottom heavy, but there was hardly any work from the 90s and 00s, which is when he did his best work, in my opinion. That was weird and disappointing. Nonetheless, it was a very good show, just not really representative, I thought. ** Tender Prey, Hi, Marc. Man, I'm sorry on the email thing. I swear today's the day. I've just been kind of out of it. Thank you about the photos, of course. Yeah, green tea Kit Kat, and you didn't get to see what I think is going to be the crown jewel of my Japanese Kit Kat collection when I finally stop being precious about it, i.e. Wasabi Kit Kat. Slurp, no? When I first saw 'Dark City' on release, I was disappointed, but when I rented it a few years later, I really loved it. I like 'City of Lost Children' a lot. Yeah, I love it, and much more than 'Delicatessen'. I had really high hopes for Jeunet after 'CoLC', but his films haven't carried through on the promise for me, and 'Alien Resurrection' was particularly awful, I thought. Some people have liked his new one, 'Micmacs à tire-larigot', but I haven't seen it yet. Did you like 'Brazil'? I'm in the seeming minority who kind of can't stand that film, although I like some Gilliam's other films pretty well. Oh, Kafka, yeah, I have rereading him on my list. I just have to finish the eight or nine novels I'm either partway through at the moment or need/want to read imminently, of course. But yes! ** Chris Cochrane, Hey, Chris. I wrote you and the gang first thing this morning. I'll watch my mail box to see what the others think. ** Thomas Moronic, Thanks, T. Yeah, I'm going to go find your Moe post and, who knows, maybe even borrow it, gods willing. How are you, man? What's going on? Is the novella polished off? What else? ** Steven Trull, My pleasure, man. What's going on with you of late? ** Math, Yeah, ha ha, you did look kind of crazed. My camera sucks in addition to my button pushing suckage. Kind of nice that you managed to both paint the town red and get painted red by it too. Maybe not the vomiting part, but I'm guessing that's just a wisp of a memory by now. Very complicated stuff with your dad. Sounds like you've got his stuff organized in your head though, so hopefully the visit will have a predominant wacky quality? Curious to hear how that went, if it's interesting to say so. 5 thousand dollars to camp at Coachella? Can't be. What?! No, really? ** Statictick, Hey, N. Oh, KK is the best, no? He should get the Nobel Peace Prize. He should. So, great all around, except for the stand-by status. It seems to work out pretty well, though. I have friends who swear by the stand-by route. I think I get too stressed in airports to deal with that uncertainty. I got the emails, I just need to go through them and make everything you sent arrived. I'll do that this weekend. I'm going through the guest posts chronologically, and I think yours is next. I'll let you know if something's absent or wrong. ** Creative Massacre, Hi. French fans are more enthusiastic? See, that's interesting because French crowds at, say, music shows and readings and stuff are much less demonstrative than people in the US in my experience. Apparently, wrestling brings out the French inner child or something. The new blog stuff is cool. You 'covered' them? What does that mean? Like a cover version of a song but with graffiti/tags? That's probably a dumb question. Everyone, Creative Massacre does Hush, D*Face, Paul Insect & Eine right here. Bon weekend! ** Misanthrope, The Coachella line up is weirdly really good this year after last year's worrisome mainstream moves. Well, worrisome is pushing it. Yeah, be careful around Little Show. School teachers have shorter life spans than most other professions, or I read that somewhere at least. Noses are powerful. They deserve their own religion. ** Andrew, My crappy camera didn't show it very well, but the Buche is a car. Here's a better, official picture of what it really looked like. I'll have to hunt down that popstar's poem. Sounds ... uh, awful. Yeah, from what I hear/ read over here, the word is meh on the new collections thus far. But people are excited about a couple coming up today, I think. I can't remember whose. ** Alan, Hey. (1.) I didn't know that was actually him until a week or so later. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. (2.) January 15th: Oh, it was just the day that we happened to eat the Galette and that I also happened to read my interview in the 'Dark Stars Rising' book, in which I talked a lot about George, and it made me think a lot and kind of profoundly about George on that day in particular, and that made me look at the photo I have of him here more closely and lengthily than I normally do, and I thought about my longstanding idea to write a book about the real George, and I wondered if I should do that next, and so it was a day of my thinking about George a lot, and so I included the photo. (3.) No, not really. I just think that someone with that kind of nose way back in my childhood must have marked me for good. But since my characters so often have that nose, either in the writing itself or just in my head, I think about it when I'm working on novels, but those thoughts aren't springing to mind this morning. ** Inthemostpeculiarway, Thanks about the pix. My favorite Cronenberg? Probably 'Videodrome' with 'Dead Rings' being probably my second favorite. My least favorite of the ones I've seen is probably 'Naked Lunch'. What's your fave? I liked your day. Even when your days don't live up to your standards, they're still wonderful reads. My day was another blah, and it definitely won't make for a wonderful read. But my friends like Oscar and Kiddiepunk and Gisele and others finally come back to Paris this weekend, so that'll help drag me out of this room. Let's see ... I actually tried to call d.l. Mark a couple of times in order to see him, but my phone is being weird for some reason, and I can't get his phone to ring. Sometimes mine is weird with international calls, I don't know why. I downloaded the new Smith Westerns album, the new Robert Pollard, and the new Braids album, and I like them all. So, I listened to them, and, when Yury was here, I listened to the Twin Shadows album, 'cos that's his favorite band at the moment. I fiddled around with a new fiction idea, but I can't tell if it's going to be interesting or not yet. I went outside to wander around, but it was really cold, like -1 degrees, so I wasn't out as long and didn't get as far away from home as I'd planned. I made myself pasta to eat, and I ate too much of it, and I felt gross afterwards. I watched a documentary about Jean Paul Gaultier on TV, and it was kind of interesting, especially the early footage. I didn't know that he recorded a single back in the 80s called 'How to Do That' that was a big hit in France. I thought it was an awful track, but it's so 80s that it's kind of charming. Let me see if I can find the music video. Here. I didn't do much else. Yeah, kind of snooze of a day, but the law of averages says I'll have something better in store by Monday by hook or crook. In the meantime, how did you fill your weekend? ** Jeff, Hey. I caught your comment pre-delete by luck, I think. That's a powerful story, man. I could feel it in my nerves. I don't know, but I think it's important to keep that 'or what I think happened' thing in mind because I know you enough to know that if there's a conclusion to come to that will indict you, you'll come to it, whereas he might just as well have been amazed to see if you if he'd recognized you. In any case, I hear you about the feeling that the encounter produced. Thanks for sharing that, man. ** Okay, have a great time with Nico and Mr. E this weekend, okay? I will return to the fold come Monday.