Nico – Island Records – 1974

It Has Not Taken Long / Secret Side / You Forgot To Answer / Innocent And Vain / Valley Of The Kings

We’ve Got The Gold / The End / Das Lied Der Deutschen

Nico’s uncompromising and absolutely vital fourth solo LP is uploaded today rather than the usual crash, bang, wallop…

This LP was recorded in 1973 at Sound Techniques in London, and was produced by John Cale who also performed most of the instruments alongside Brian Eno in the studio sessions. A couple of years later Brian Eno would produce and perform in the studio for the sessions that gave birth to the Thin White Duke’s best work, ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes’. Eno’s solo LP from 1975, ‘Another Green World’ is also a class vinyl outing. Seemingly this period in Eno’s life was most productive indeed. Another ex-Roxy Music member was also involved in the sessions that produced these tracks. Phil Manzanera performed all the guitar parts. Nico performs vocal parts on all the compositions with grace and maturity. She also performs all the harmonium parts.

Listening to this work is an unforgetable experience.

Text below ripped from

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 fits 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 rerout even the most generous interpretation of what rock music should sound like. “The End” doesn’t simply subvert categorization. It defies time itself.

This post is dedicated with respect to Sam, ex of The Heretics and Campbell Buildings squalor, whose birthday it is tomorrow. Many happy returns to you. I do not know if Nico is your bag, but give it a listen. It will, I promise, be worth it!

  1. luggy
    November 28, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Great album.

  2. Sam
    November 28, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Was just reading the review of this and scrolling down and saw my pic. “What the fuck is that doing there?” I thought. “Was Brummy Sue Nico in disguise?” (no….probably not).
    I love the Velvets, Penguin though I’ve never heard this one. I’ll give it a listen now. Thanks so much for remembering my special day (48………..arghhhh!!!!).



  3. Sam
    November 28, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Mr Wankstain came back all excited from dealing Tuinol in Kings X in about 1981 and announced he’d sold a bunch to Nico (he was a huge Velvets fan).
    Listening to this now….it sounds strangely like Bjork.

  4. alistairliv
    November 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Happy birthday Sam. I have this Nico album, but find it a bit teutonically gloomy to play very often. I think I got the Nico album after hearing her live version of The End on June 1, 1974,_1974
    which also has John Cale, Eno and Kevin Ayers on it.

    dot dot dot found the sleeve of June 1st – but no record inside. Damn you and your obscure record collection Mr. Penguin – I am now going to have to search through my boxes of vinyl to see if I can find June 1, 1974.
    And (see wiki link above) John Cale’s Paris 1919 and ‘Lady June’s Lingusitic Leprosy’. [see ]

    Linguistic leprosy made for £400, 5000 copies on Caroline Records so early DIY.. .although a pretty damn awful record.

    KYPP a ‘PUNK’ anorak site? Ha!

    But there is a Centro Iberico connection…

    Lady June [1931-1999] was to return to London on May 16th, 1982 to organise ‘An Odd Acts Event’ at the CENTRO IBERICO in London. This event featured a hilarious story by Lol Coxhill accompanied by Gerry Fitzgerald on guitar; some solo poems by Daevid Allen; and Gilli Smyth’s performance accompanied by extracts from Harry Williamson’s Tarka, as well as Lady June’s own performance. Some of the evening’s music and words was made available on a cassette released in 1983.

  5. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    November 28, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Sam: Listening to this now….it sounds strangely like Bjork.
    Probably the other way round Sam! Happy birthday 48er. I am 43 in two weeks…

  6. Sam
    November 29, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Funny how 43 sounds young now!

    I wonder if there are any connections between Bjork and Nico? Wasn’t Bjork connected to the weird commune / hippy / squatter / Slits scene that Nena Cherry came out of? I wonder if there’s any Nico / Warhol ties there? I think Nico was forced on the Velvets by Warhol.

  7. Penguin
    Penguin • Post Author •
    November 29, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Bjork was connected to 1980’s era Crass and Flux Of Pink Indians Sam.
    Check out her stuff on this site by searching for KUKL via the search function if you fancy investigating further.

    Actually to get you started here is her first live KUKL performance ever:

    Loads more KUKL on this site like I mentioned if you fancy searching it out.

  8. TonyEhrfucht
    November 30, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    ‘Nico : Songs they don’t play on the radio’ is a great book, if humongously depressing, about her years spent living in Manchester in the 80s…

    Sure I read that the book had been optioned by a film company in the late 90s, with David Thewlis playing John Cooper Clarke… knowing the state of the Britfilm industry then and now, they probably dropped the idea and made some straight to video gangster flick instead. With Danny Dyer in it. Although he supposedly made a good job of playing Sidney Vish recently…

  9. nick
    December 1, 2009 at 1:47 am

    You ommited to mention the two previous LPs Marble Index & Desert Shore
    Cale has hailed these two as ” two modern classical releases ” …… if you like THE END then please hear what went before.
    L Nx

  10. luggy
    December 1, 2009 at 11:44 am

    All her early albums are great. ‘Chelsea Girls’ is probably the most accessible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *