Christa Päffgen (16 October 1938 – 18 July 1988), known by her stage name Nico, was a German singer, songwriter, musician, model, and actress. She had roles in several films, including Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) and Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls (1966).
At the insistence of Warhol, she sang on four songs of the Velvet Underground’s debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). At the same time, she started a solo career and released Chelsea Girl. Nico’s friend Jim Morrison suggested that she start writing her own material. She then composed songs on a harmonium, not traditionally a rock instrument; John Cale became her musical arranger and produced The Marble Index, Desertshore, The End… and other subsequent albums.
In the 1980s, she toured extensively in Europe, United States, Australia and Japan. After a concert in Berlin in June 1988, she went on holiday in Ibiza to rest and died as the result of a cycling accident.
Chelsea Girl is the debut solo album and second studio album by German singer Nico. It was released in October 1967 by Verve Records and was recorded following Nico’s collaboration with the Velvet Underground on their 1967 debut studio album. It was produced by Tom Wilson, who added string and flute arrangements against the wishes of Nico. The title is a reference to Andy Warhol’s 1966 film Chelsea Girls, in which Nico starred.
Much of the album features instrumental work and songwriting credits from Velvet Underground members Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, and John Cale. The song “I’ll Keep It with Mine” was written by Bob Dylan, while three songs are by Jackson Browne, who contributes guitar.
After collaborating as a singer with the Velvet Underground on their debut The Velvet Underground & Nico (recorded in 1966 and released in March of the following year), Warhol superstar Nico toured with the band in Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable (EPI) multimedia roadshow. Before the EPI came to an end in 1967, Nico took up residence in a New York City coffeehouse as a solo folk chanteuse; accompanied in turn by guitarists, such as Tim Hardin, Jackson Browne, and also her Velvet Underground bandmates Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison and John Cale.
Some of the accompanists wrote songs for Nico to sing, and these form the backbone of Chelsea Girl. Browne contributed “The Fairest of the Seasons”, “These Days”, and “Somewhere There’s a Feather”, while Hardin contributed “Eulogy to Lenny Bruce”. “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” by Lou Reed was part of the earliest Velvet Underground repertoire (which did not surface as a Velvet Underground recording until it was included in the 1995 box set Peel Slowly and See), and Reed, Cale and Morrison in various combinations contributed four more songs. Additionally, Bob Dylan gave her one of his songs to record: “I’ll Keep It with Mine”.
Musically, Chelsea Girl can be described as a cross between chamber folk and 1960s pop. The musical backing is relatively simple, consisting of one or two guitars or, alternatively, a keyboard instrument, played by either Browne or (a combination of) her Velvet Underground colleagues, but there are no drums or bass instruments, hence the absence of Velvets drummer Maureen Tucker, and adding to the chamber folk feel of the music are the string and flute overdubs added to the initial recordings by producer Tom Wilson and arranger Larry Fallon without involving or consulting Nico.
In retrospective 21st-century reviews, AllMusic described the album as “an unqualified masterpiece”, while Trouser Press commented that the album “is sabotaged by tepid arrangements and weak production” and is “of interest mainly for its links to the band Nico had just left.”
Nico was dissatisfied with the finished product. Looking back in 1981, she stated:
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.
Two tracks from the album – “The Fairest of the Seasons” and “These Days” – were used in Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. “The Fairest of the Seasons” was also used in Gus Van Sant’s 2011 film Restless. “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” is used in Andrew Dominik’s 2012 film Killing Them Softly. (wikipedia)
Jackson Browne – guitar on 01., 02. 07., 08. + 10.)
John Cale (viola, organ, guitar on 03. – 05.)
Sterling Morrison (guitar on 06. + 09.)
Lou Reed (guitar on 03., 05., 06. + 09.)
01. The Fairest Of The Seasons (Browne/Copeland) 4.09
02. These Days (Browne) 3.33
03. Little Sister (Cale/Reed) 4.26
04. Winter Song (Cale) 3.21
05. It Was A Pleasure Then (Reed/Cale/Nico) 8.05
06. Chelsea Girls (Reed/Morrison) 7.26
07. I’ll Keep It With Mine (Dylan) 3.20
08. Somewhere There’s A Feather (Browne) 2.20
09. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams (Reed) 5.10
10. Eulogy To Lenny Bruce (Hardin) 3.46