Nico: The End
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This is the story of the last "scene" of the art rock diva Nico, whose 15 minutes of fame included her tenure with Andy Warhol's Factory, the films Chelsea Girls and La Dolce Vita, and a stint with The Velvet Underground. In 1982, Nico was living in Manchester, England, far from her "15 minutes" and interested only in feeding her heroin habit. Local promoter Dr. Demetrius saw an opportunity, hired musicians to back her, and set off on a disastrous tour of Italy. In a daze of chaotic live shows and necessary heroin scores, she toured the world with assorted thrown-together bands, encountering a wild crew of personalities, including John Cale, Allen Ginsburg, John Cooper Clarke, and Gregory Corso.
A tour de force in the literature of failure, Nico: Songs They Never Play on the Radio is an unflinching look at the final days of a celebrity in the twilight zone of faded fame. This story of Nico and the characters who orbited around her may be the truest book yet written about life inside the rock world.
about him … he’d lent him a microphone a few months back. Raincoat had promised to return it but Echo knew it had been traded in for dope. Echo kept a strict inventory of the junk in his cupboard. ‘Whenever I look at ’im, I don’t jus’ see a second’and Sinatra, I see the microphone on a stand.’ Raincoat was standing by the check-in desk at Ringway Airport. ‘We’ll get high, starry eyed.’ Like Demetrius, he was fond of a trilby but this one fitted, and had a beautiful red feather in the band. He
don’t know why, but I did too. ‘Bien … ouvre!’ He held out a shining new hypodermic, loaded and ready to go. Nico gasped with joy. A truly loving son understands (and shares) his mother’s needs. The world had shrunk once again, to coal fires, TV game shows, tea drinking and cruel parlour games round at Echo’s. Dr Demetrius’s Great Adventure had shrivelled overnight. Nico was sitting tight. With a wallet-load of phony credit cards, and a pocket full of valium, Demetrius was happy to spoil her so
paranoia. She was clutching her lyric sheet as if it was an audition. Recording studios are a place where you try to preserve the memory of a musical experience you had somewhere else. For a performer like Nico they were discomforting. She needed a live atmosphere, a sense of place, to do her stuff – not a laboratory, however tasteful the decor. With a live audience at least you can project yourself at something. In a studio your audience is potentially that much greater, but invisible. Maybe a
his unrequited love for Nico had finally driven him over the edge. There was also the suggestion that the good Doctor had become involved in certain curious nocturnal practices. His demeanour was certainly different. He now walked with a limp and carried a stick, which he jabbed at the ground to underline his pronouncements. ‘I have knelt before the shining gates of Heaven, and I have crawled beneath the gaping jaws of Hell … and believe me, James, though, in truth, we live upon a dungheap
opportunistic banalities.’ Absolutely. We all agreed. ‘Of course,’ he added, ‘for a man of acute literary sensibility, like myself, such a subject would lie beneath my concern.’ As we came into France, north of Lille, our favourite customs post gave us the traditional shakedown. Demetrius immediately broke into his nervous whistle. Waiting for us in the shed was the same rodent-eyed little ‘flic’ who’d finger-fucked Eric Random the last time we dropped in for a tête-à-tête. Everyone had to