Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Velvet Underground and Nico - 1966 - A Symphony of Sound

The Velvet Underground and Nico
A Symphony of Sound 

The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound (1966) is an American film by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey. The film was made at The Factory. It is 67 minutes long and was filmed in 16mm black and white.

The film depicts a rehearsal of The Velvet Underground and Nico, and is essentially one long loose improvisation. Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison play their electric guitars (Gretsch Country Gentleman and Vox Phantom respectively), Maureen Tucker plays her 3-piece drum kit consisting of a rack tom, snare drum, bass drum and single cymbal, John Cale plays his electric viola and Nico bashes a single maraca against a tambourine. Cale subsequently switches to bass and at some stage, he creates feedback on an wooden frame from a piano while Nico plays on Cale's Fender Precision Bass. Cale soon switches back to his viola and near the end of the film, the rehearsal is disrupted by the arrival of the New York police, supposedly in response to a noise complaint.
The film was intended to be shown at live Velvet Underground shows during setup and tuning.

“We’re sponsoring a new band," announced Andy Warhol at the end of the 1966 documentary posted here yesterday. "It’s called the Velvet Underground.” Brian Eno would much later call it the band that inspired every single one of its listeners to start bands of their own, but that same year, Warhol produced The Velvet Underground: A Symphony of Sound. The film shows the group, which features young but now much-discussed rock iconoclasts like John Cale, Lou Reed, and (on tambourine) the German singer Nico, performing a 67-minute instrumental improvisation.

Shooting at his New York studio the Factory, Warhol and crew intended this not as a concert film but as a bit of entertainment to be screened before actual live Velvet Underground shows. It and other short films could be screened, so the idea developed, their soundtracks and visuals intermingling according to the decisions of those at the projectors and mixer.

"I thought of recording the Velvets just making up sounds as they went along to have on film so I could turn both soundtracks up at the same time along with the other three silent films being projected," said director of photography and Factory member Paul Morrissey, best known as the director of Flesh, Trash, and Heat.  "The cacophonous noise added a lot of energy to these boring sections and sounded a lot like the group itself. The show put on for the group was certainly the first mixed media show of its kind, was extremely effective and I have never since seen such an interesting one even in this age of super-colossal rock concerts." Alas, someone's noise complaint puts an end to the Symphony of Sound experience: one policeman arrives to turn down the amplifier, and Warhol tries to explain the situation to the others. But the bustle of the Factory continues apace.

Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico - 2003 - Le Bataclan '72

Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico 
Le Bataclan '72

01. Waiting For The Man
02. Berlin
03. Black Angels Death Song
04. Wild Child
05. Heroin
06. Ghost Story
07. The Biggest, Loudest, Hairiest Group Of All
08. Empty Bottles
09. Femme Fatale
10. No One Is There
11. Frozen Warnings
12. Janitor Of Lunacy
13. I'll Be Your Mirror
14. All Tomorrows Parties (Encore)

Bonus Tracks: Rehearsals
15. Pale Blue Eyes
16. Candy Says

Extra Bonus Rehearsals
17. Conversation
18. Instrumental Check
19. Pale Blue Eyes Check
20. Pale Blue Eyes False Start
21. Pale Blue Eyes Restart
22. Candy Says
23. Black Angel's Death Song
24. Heroin

Recorded live at Le Bataclan, 50 Boulevard Voltaire, 75011 Paris, 29 January 1972

Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Lou Reed
Guitar, Piano, Viola, Vocals – John Cale
Harmonium, Vocals – Nico

CD Liner Notes:
Lou Reed and John Cale formed the Velvet Underground in late 1965, recording their influential debut with Nico the following year. She was never regarded as a full member of the band, however, and ceased to work with them in mid-1967. Cale quit in the fall of 1968, leaving Reed to lead the quartet until his own departure in August 1970..There after a version of the band led by Cale's replacement Doug Yule (with Maureen Tucker the only original member) continued to perform, though by all accounts they were a pale imitation of the band's former self.

It therefore delighted their still small coterie of loyal fans when rumors began to circulate in January 1972 that Reed, Cale and Nico were planning to perform together again. At the time all three participants were in London - Reed was there making his solo debut, Cale was recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Nico had flown in from Paris (where she was living with the filmmaker Philippe (Jarrel.) to work on an abortive fourth solo album, supposedly to be produced by Cale. 

She was also under the impression that the trio would be performing together in the city mid-month, the putative show being promoted by rock journalist Geoffrey Cannon (one of the Velvet Underground's few champions in the British press). In fact, Cale was due to play a gig at the Bataclan club in Rue Voltaire, Paris on Saturday 29th, and it was there that the former collaborators publicly reunited.

A rehearsal tape likely to date from mid-January finds Nico a little rusty on the songs she used to perform with the band - All Tomorrow's Parties, Femme Fatale and I'll Be Your Mirror - and not much better on three songs from her  own debut album, Chelsea Girl (which ended up being performed at the gig).

Another tape apparently finds Reed and Cale rehearsing for the reunion, and runs contrary to the received wisdom that they struggled to be civil to each other. On it they seem relaxed and friendly, and Reed even divulges his delight at having had an album signed for him by Jerry Lee Lewis. They run through Pale Blue Eyes and Candy Says (the originals of which post-dated Cale's tenure with the band, and which did not end up being played at Bataclan,, though they're included here as bonus tracks), as well as Heroin and Black Angel's Death Song (which were performed at Bataclan).

The concert itself, played in front of about 1000 people (with, according to Melody Maker at the time, twice that number unable to get in), was a triumph. Performed acoustically, unlike the vast majority of the Velvet Underground's material, the trio conjured a sparse yet warm sound, well captured by the soundboard recording. Cale played viola and piano over Reed's acoustic guitar, while Nico contributed harmonium. The bulk of the material dates from the VU days, but Reed also contributed his lesser-known gem Wild Child and an unusually lugubrious rendition of Berlin, which he later described as "a real nightclub torch thing... kind of a Billie Holliday trip." 

Cale, meanwhile, offered Ghost Story from his Vintage Violence album, as well as a strange tune called The Biggest, Loudest, Hairiest Group Of All (no studio version of which was ever released). Most surprisingly, he also played Empty Bottles/which he'd written for Jennifer Warnes (whose solo debut he produced soon afterwards).

Nico's harmonium is prominent on three tracks from her albums The Marble Index and Desert shore (No One Is There, Janitor Of Lunacy and Frozen Warnings), but inevitably it's the Velvet Underground material on which all three originally appeared that received the most enthusiastic response – Femme Fatale/I'll Be Your Mirror and the encore. of All Tomorrow's Parties. Clearly all three musicians enjoyed the experience, but a report in Melody Mater that a further performance by them was to take place in London in February was sadly mistaken, and the closest most people came to seeing them was via a partial film of the Bataclan show (offering Berlin, I'm Waiting For The Man, Heroin, Ghost Story and Femme Fatale that was screened on the French TV show Pop Deux on June 10th 1972.

Extra Extra Bonus: Video:

Lou Reed, John Cale, Nico
January 29, 1972 
Bataclan, Paris

POP2 22.01.1972
01. Janitor Of Lunacy
02. Interview
03. You Forgot To Answer

POP2 29.04.1972
04. I'm Waiting For The Man

POP2 10.06.1972
05. Berlin
06. I'm Waiting For The Man
07. Heroin
08. Ghost Story
09. Femme Fatale

POP2 04.11.1972
10. I'm Waiting For The Man

POP2 22.09.1973
11. Walk On The Wild Side
12. Heroin
13. White Light / White Heat

The legendary show recorded at the Bataclan Club in Paris, on January 29th, 1972,  Lou Reed is accompanied by John Cale & Nico, on stage for the first time since the break up of the Velvet Underground.
Broadcast on June 10, 1972, Pop 2, Antenne 2, France.

The show is presented by Patrice Blanc Francard and includes reports about Robert Wyatt's Matching Mole,Lewis Caroll and 23 minutes devoted to the Reed, Cale & Nico concert at Le Bataclan in Paris, on January 29, 1972.

It offers 5 songs filmed by Claude Ventura (Berlin, I'm Waiting For The Man, Heroin, Ghost Story, Femme Fatale) intersected with French journalists discussing.

In January of 1972, before any of them had established themselves as solo performers, the three semi-estranged principles of the disbanded Velvet Underground found themselves in Europe at the same time and played a legendary one-off "unplugged" concert at a thousand-seat venue in Paris called Le Bataclan. The set they played that night has long been available on poor-quality bootlegs, and though I've never heard any of those bootlegs, I cannot imagine how the sound quality could be any worse than on this official release. Sometimes it actually sounds as if the tape were slowing down, and various instruments have that weird, warbly sound that one associates with old cassette tapes well along the way to becoming spaghetti. Still, the novelty of hearing these by-now overly familiar songs in these lo-fi, round-robin, coffee-house renditions has a certain charm that is at times both poignant and illuminating. And the stage banter, always a key selling point with any live Velvets album, is suitably deadpan and entertaining.

"Waiting for My Man" opens the set. The traditional, scene-setting Moe Tucker drum kick-in being unavailable, Cale opts for traipsing in with an almost comically earnest school-recital piano figure. Reed, the star pupil, seems to be concentrating on his Sinatra-esque phrasing at the expense of his strumming, but he's in rare form with the quips. Before "Berlin", he tells the French people, "This is my Barbra Streisand song." Before "Wild Child", he explains, "This is about a wild child, funnily enough." The mandatory "Heroin" is given a decent read, Cale sawing away on his viola, and "Black Angel's Death Song", arranged for viola and acoustic guitar, turns out to be laugh-out-loud funny.

Cale takes center stage after some extended tuning, and some frustratingly inaudible off-mike conferencing with Reed (this is often better than the stage banter), before running through a song off Vintage Violence, and two previously unreleased numbers: "The Biggest, Loudest, Hairiest Group of All", which sounds like one of those old Peter, Paul & Mary sing-along children's songs, and "Empty Bottles", a stately love song he originally wrote for Jennifer Warnes. This last song is the first genuinely moving moment of the entire set. Of course, Lou pipes up: "Anybody got a straw?"

The boys kick in with "Femme Fatale" soon after, without Nico, as if they didn't trust her to talk on-mike, but they have to stop as she misses her cue. You can hear her sigh audibly and give a little embarrassed laugh before the song restarts. Her singing is so careful, it's clear that she's terrified. She doesn't have Reed's above-it-all snottiness, or Cale's formal detachment to hide behind. Her gift, such as it is, is pure human sadness unadulterated by irony. The song ends, the crowd finally goes nuts, and rightfully so. She is the evening's entrée.

She does three of her own songs next, ending with a literally gut-wrenching version of "Janitor of Lunacy": She erupts in a fit of coughing for almost a full-minute after the song ends. Then, Reed, as if he didn't deign to speak directly to Nico, instructs Cale, "Uh, John, have Nico tell them this is the last song." More coughing, then finally Nico recovers and is back at the mike. The crowd cheers her on. "I want to sing the last song now. If I can," she says in her halting English, "I try my best." After a beat, she feels compelled to add, "I don't smoke cigarettes." "I'll Be Your Mirror" is the song. Nico's voice is wrecked, the sound is crummy, but somehow, with Reed and Cale propping her up with two-part harmonies, and finally wrenching substantial sounds from their acoustics, it's an incredibly affecting, heroic rendition. The encore ("All Tomorrow's Parties") can't touch it, but gives the audience a chance to exhale.

If you collect fine-art photography, you probably won't care much for this record. It's under-rehearsed, poorly recorded, and the uneven performances range from the sublime to the incoherent. But if you appreciate the fleeting revelations to be found in snapshots, then this may be just the bit of quicksilver for you, a unique moment in musical history just before these three erstwhile Jekylls became forever Hydes.

Kevin Ayers-John Cale-Eno-Nico - 1974 - June 1, 1974

Kevin Ayers-John Cale-Eno-Nico
June 1, 1974

01. Driving Me Backwards
02. Baby's On Fire
03. Heartbreak Hotel
04. The End
05. May I
06. Shouting In A Bucket Blues
07. Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes
08. Everybody's Sometime And Some People's All The Time Blues
09. Two Goes Into Four

Kevin Ayers – vocals (B1-5), guitar (B1-5), bass guitar (A1-2)
Brian Eno – vocals (A1-2), synthesizer (A1-4, B5)
John Cale – vocals (A3), piano (A2), viola (A1, B5)
Nico – vocals (A4), harmonium (A4)
Mike Oldfield – lead guitar (B4), acoustic guitar (B5)
Ollie Halsall – piano (A1), guitar (A2-3, B4), lead guitar (B1-3), acoustic guitar (B5)
John "Rabbit" Bundrick – organ(A1-3 & B1-5), organ, piano, electric piano (B1-3)
Robert Wyatt – percussion (A1-3 B1-3 + 5)
Doreen Chanter – backing vocals (A3)
Archie Leggatt – bass guitar (A1-3 B1-3 + 5)
Eddie Sparrow – drums(A2&3 B1-3), bass drum (A1), tympani (B5)
Liza Strike – backing vocals (A3)
Irene Chanter – backing vocals (A3)

Original setlist for the show:

01. Intro
02. Driving Me Backwards
03. Baby's On Fire
04. Buffalo Ballet
05. Gun
06. Heartbreak Hotel
07. Das Lied Der Deutschland
08. The End
09. May I?
10. Shouting In A Bucket Blues
11. Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes
12. Didn't Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You
13. Whatevershebringswesing
14. Everybody's Somebody And Some People's All The Time Blues
15. Interview
16. See You Later
17. Why Are We Sleeping?
18. Dr. Dream Theme
19. Two Goes Into Four
20. I've Got A Hard-On For You, Baby
21. Baby's On Fire

On June 1, 1974, several leaders on the British underground rock scene -- Soft Machine bassist Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Brian Eno and Nico -- joined forces for one memorable evening at the Rainbow Theatre in London. Thankfully, the show was recorded for the rest of the world to enjoy as well.
The idea for the concert came from Island Records A&R man, Richard Williams, who suggested it would be a interesting mix of artists and would help generate interest in the label which had, up to then, been associated primarily with reggae."I came up with the idea of doing a showcase concert at the Rainbow, and putting out a live album in record time," Williams told author Richie Unterberger in the book, 'White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day by Day.' Indeed, it was released less than a month later on June 28.
“They had all these cult people on the label," said Cale in a 1974 press release. "The idea was that if you put them all together you might sell enough to justify their presence.” All four artists were part of the Island stable. "I signed Cale and Nico to Island, and invited Eno and Phil Manzanera [Roxy Music] to work on Cale's album," Williams said.
Eno was a founding member of Roxy Music, and though he left after their second album in 1973, his influence has never left the group. Eno went solo, issuing two of the 1974's most eclectic and exciting albums, 'Here Come the Warm Jets' and 'Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy.' A year earlier, he released the groundbreaking 'No Pussyfooting' album with King Crimson's Robert Fripp the previous year.
Ayers had first come into public view as a member of the Soft Machine, who shared stages with Pink Floyd in 1967 at places like the UFO Club. He left the Soft Machine following the release of their debut album, and, by 1974, had a clutch of great albums to his credit. Cale, meanwhile, had also left his first real home, the Velvet Underground, around the same time, also carving out a trail of his own great solo discs. Another Velvets associate, Nico, was also making unique and very personal records. In retrospect, it seems like a natural melding of styles and personalities for this concert.
Joining the four were future touring Who member John 'Rabbit' Bundrick on keyboards and guitarist Mike Oldfield, who was in the midst of huge solo success with his 'Tubular Bells' album. Former Soft Machine drummer and vocalist Robert Wyatt was also on hand. Coincidentally, the concert was exactly one year to the day that Wyatt tragically fell out of a window, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
The concert featured material from all the key players, with side one split between Eno, Nico and Cale. Eno and company deliver great renditions of 'Driving Me Backwards' and a blistering 'Baby's On Fire.'  Cale's haunting rendition of the Elvis Presley classic 'Heartbreak Hotel' took the song into an entirely different world than Presley had ever dreamed of. A certain incident (see below) may have helped supply the venom this night.
Nico's incredible take on the Doors' 'The End' is a hypnotic trip. Ayers is well-represented here with all of side two dedicated to his songs. Two of his finest, 'Shouting in a Bucket Blues' and 'Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes,' are show-stealers with the incredible guitar work of Ollie Halsall taking things skyward.
But the event was not without its own soap opera. Ayers had became involved with Cynthia Wells, Cale's wife. Wells had once been a famous groupie (under the nickname "Miss Cynderella") and, along with the more infamous Pamela Des Barres, a member of the GTO's. Cale learned of their fling shortly before they took the stage that fateful night.

Cale would preserve the incident on his next album 'Slow Dazzle' in the song 'Guts,' which features the opening line, "The bugger in the short sleeves f---ed my wife, did it quick and split." The two eventually mended fences and continued to work together over the years.

Supergroups are one of rock music’s most frustrating entities. On paper, gathering up several big stars to collaborate might look good, but the results are rarely spectacular; for every Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or Derek And The Dominos, there’s at least a dozen SuperHeavys. When a supergroup forms, there are definitely high, oftentimes impossible, expectations from the fan base, not to mention the tremendous amount of ego of its participants, which can easily soil the work. There’s sometimes a sense of quasi-perverseness in the eyes of the band members, whether it’s “everything we do is gold” or “we could try harder, but people will buy this no matter what.” (Although the results turned out to be pretty solid, Them Crooked Vultures—consisting of Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Nirvana/Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones—were selling T-shirts and concert tickets hand over fist before they even premiered a full song.)

The idea for the performance was spearheaded by Richard Williams, A&R man for Island Records, who had helped sign several of the artists. Island was originally a strictly reggae label based in Jamaica, but starting in the late ‘60s, had started to release all kinds of music, especially artists of a more experimental nature. Though the critics lauded Island’s output, much of it didn’t sell very well, so while the concert was, in part, a unique artistic endeavor, there was a business element, too. As Cale explained in a 1974 press release for his upcoming solo album, “They had all these cult people on the label. The idea was that if you put them all together you might sell enough to justify their presence.”

The rehearsals were a dream come true for Eno. The Velvet Underground was a giant influence on him, and in return, branded the band with the legacy-defining sentiments that even though the Velvets didn’t sell many records, everyone who did buy them formed a band. (The exact quote changes depending on who’s telling it, as does who actually said it; it’s likely it wasn’t Eno after all.) Now he was collaborating with two of the band’s members, though he didn’t treat them any differently when it came to the music. He explained in a 1975 interview with Hit Parader, “Working with them was of course interesting; both of them are very demanding people in a way—and so am I in another way. It was a very volatile situation and those are the ones that interest me in music. We weren’t sitting around patting each other on the back saying ‘groovy,’ ‘let’s blow together’—it was quite intense.” As a sort of logistical adviser for the concert, he was careful not to make the mistakes that bog down most supergroups: “what happens usually is that you get the lowest common denominator of every person. You don’t bring out the best points in them, you bring out the points where they all agree.”

As Ayers and backing band the Soporifics were the main attraction, the bulk of the set list was focused on him. Unsurprisingly, he was incredibly relaxed during the short rehearsals, as Ayers seems to glide through things effortlessly, which represents itself in his music. Cale, however, was incredibly nervous about the show, as he had never really played live as a solo artist. Though he had made numerous records and produced a ton of groups, he hadn’t taken it to the stage since his Velvet Underground days. There was one thing, however, Ayers and Cale did have in common: the latter’s wife, Cindy Wells. A famous groupie in the late ‘60s, “Miss Cynderella” was later a member of groupie-band the GTO’s. Wells and Cale had married in 1971, though it was a shaky partnership, at best. The night before the Rainbow Theatre concert, as Cale was stressing himself out, he learned that Ayers and Wells were having sex behind his back. Cale confronted Ayers, who admitted it, but his wife repeatedly denied it. None of this helped Cale’s situation. In fact, the album’s cover photo, taken the night of the show, shows Ayers and Cale in a very awkward stare-down; Ayers is smirking, while Cale looks like he could kill the man. (The next year, Cale documented the incident on Slow Dazzle’s “Guts”: “The bugger in the short sleeves fucked my wife, did it quick and split.” His marriage with Wells ended soon after.)

Rather poetically, Cale’s single solo contribution to the album, though he played several songs that night, is a gnarled cover of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” Taking all the sexiness out of the original and substituting pure rage, the version is almost unnerving at times. In front of pounding drums, Cale’s screams punctuate the choruses, as do the three female backup singers who wail along with Eno’s siren-like synthesizer, echoing through. Cale would record “Heartbreak Hotel” on Slow Dazzle, but this is perhaps the best recorded version. (The song would become a live staple for him, later soundtracking his chicken beheading, as documented in an earlier Hidden Gems.)

Like Cale, Nico also only has one song featured on June 1, 1974, though like the former, it’s a showstopper. Her contribution is a haunting cover of “The End” by the Doors using just a harmonium and Eno’s synthesizer in a nine-minute long float of tension. Nico had a very intense relationship with Jim Morrison for a period in ’67 that was famously filled with fights, drugs and blood rituals in the desert. It ended after a short time, but the two free-spirits remained friends for the next few years. In July 1971, Nico made a phone call to Morrison’s Parisian residence, though he didn’t pick up; when she later found out the reason was because of his death, she was devastated. During May and June 1974, Nico was in the midst of recording her next solo album with Cale, which featured a more filled version of “The End” as the title track. (Also included on the record was “You Forgot To Answer,” a depressing ode to her last phone call to Morrison.) Even without knowing the dramatic subtext, the version here is still ghastly. Nico had one of the most unique voices in music, with her thick German accent and unbound sadness, and her brooding version stays true to the original on a scary, emotional level.

The much more upbeat side two is all Ayers, functioning as a great summation of his solo career up until that point. Opening with “May I?” from 1970’s Shooting At The Moon, Ayers’ charmingly laid-back nature accentuates the mellow grooves, even singing the last verse in French. “Shouting In A Bucket Blues” is almost a perfect representation of Ayers’ style: a melancholic tune about loneliness that sounds less than a self-pitying wallow, and more of a man trying to be happy, even if it’s not going so well. “So I sing for everyone who feels there’s no way out,” Ayers announces in his unique baritone, “but maybe if you all shout, someone will hear you.” The heroes of Ayers’ set are the guitar work of Oldfield and, particularly, Ollie Halsall. The latter’s mercurial runs up and down the neck provides an exquisite counterpoint to the casual atmosphere of the songs, especially the pseudo-rockabilly “Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes.”

June 1, 1974 was remarkably released the same month, as several more performances from the group followed. The album, although superb, merely acts as a sampler of the music that night; various bootlegs capture the entirety of the show, featuring more songs from each of the members, including a mini-reunion performance of a few Soft Machine songs and a version of Ayers’ “I’ve Got A Hard-On For You, Baby” that ironically, given the back story, features Cale on vocals. The participants of the concert would continue to work together over the years—even Cale and Ayers, who later made up. The record went on to become a cult classic, a fusion of some of rock’s most innovative minds. Although the show was a joy for him, the ever-sensible Eno realistically explained, “Of course we really couldn’t take it on the road, because we’d fight after a few gigs.”

Nico - 2012 - Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

01. Janitor Of Lunacy 4:38
02. The Falconer 5:55
03. Valley Of The Kings 3:39
04. The End 9:38
05. Abschied 3:05
06. Mutterlein 4:27
07. Frozen Warnings 4:44
08. You Forgot To Answer 4:50
09. We've Got The Gold 4:51
10. No One Is There 4:05
11. Ari's Song 3:09

“On December 13, Nico performed at another of her always strikingly original concert venues, this time in Reims Cathedral, where France has traditionally crowned her kings for centuries. Following the event, outraged Catholics throughout the country claimed the church was desecrated and cried out for a special purification ceremony for the monument” 
Stephen Demorest (Circus Magazine, April 1975)

On December 13, 1974, Nico was the support act at Tangerine Dream's infamous concert at Reims Cathedral in north-east France. The promoter had so greatly oversold the capacity of the venue that attendees could not move or reach the outside, eventually resulting in some fans urinating inside the cathedral hall. As a result, the Roman Catholic Church denounced these actions, ordered the re-dedication of the cathedral and banned future gigs on church property.

I remember reading about this concert in a British music paper in the 1980s.This was an important gig in her career. The recording unfortunately is very poor. It was probably recorded by a fan in the audience. At times ,dialog in the crowd over shadows the music she makes. This was Nico in her heyday. She performed with only her pump organ and no band.Her best songs are all here. Janitor of Lunacy. the Falconer, and Frozen Warnings among others. Since this was recorded from out in the audience, the reverb from the cathedral is preponderant. However, I take my Nico tunes any way I can get them. this is a landmark recording in her canon. Her performances were deep and moving. Near the end of her performing career, she lost some of the poignancy that she has on these recordings. 

Let's clear up a few facts about this extremely rare, and previously unpublished concert recording. First, Tangerine Dream performed in the concert, as the 2nd act. Secondly, the concert was performed in a Catholic Cathedral with astounding acoustics, but it nevertheless was performed in 1974.... 1-9-7-4 folks! 40 years ago. Even the very best recording technology is nowhere near what it is today. Thirdly, and most importantly, both Tangerine Dream (Their set has also been released officially) and Nico had their hopes for a published work dashed by what happened at that concert. The Catholic Church banned all future performances in the cathedral because of what happened there. You can read about the details on another website. Nico wanted her music sold, not aired one time on a French radio station. Tangerine Dream was trying to make a name for themselves. All dashed because of what happened at the cathedral, and how furious the Catholic Church was about it. They had to reconsecrate their church, for cryin' out loud! 

Nico - 2007 - The Frozen Borderline 1968-1970

The Frozen Borderline 1968-1970

101. Prelude 0:59
102. Lawns Of Dawns 3:10
103. No One Is There 3:36
104. Ari's Song 3:20
105. Facing The Wind 4:58
106. Julius Caesar (Memento Hodie) 5:01
107. Frozen Warnings 4:01
108. Evening Of Light 5:44
109. Sagen Die Gelehrten 3:52
110. Rêve Réveiller 4:07
111. Roses In The Snow (Alternate Version) 4:00
112. Nibelungen (Complete Version) 3:15
113. Lawns Of Dawns 3:15
114. No One Is There 3:40
115. Ari's Song 3:14
116. Facing The Wind 5:05
117. Julius Caesar 5:02
118. Frozen Warnings 4:21
119. Evening Of Light 5:41

201. Janitor Of Lunacy 4:04
202. The Falconer 5:42
203. My Only Child 3:30
204. Le Petit Chevalier 1:17
205. Abschied 3:05
206. Afraid 3:30
207. Mütterlein 4:40
208. All That Is My Own 3:36
209. My Only Child 4:15
210. Janitor Of Lunacy 3:58
211. Abschied Ode (Death/Farewell) 3:01
212. You Are Beautiful (Afraid) 3:17
213. The Falconer 5:46
214. On The Desert Shore (All That Is My Own) 2:44
215. Frozen Warnings (Hidden Track) 4:24

Disc One, tracks 1 to 8 originally released as The Marble Index, Elektra (US) EKS-74029, 1968.
Disc One, tracks 9 to 12 are outtakes from the album sessions. (Track 11 was first issued in 1991 in a different mix, along with an a cappella version of track 12).
Disc One, tracks 13 to 19 are alternate versions from the album sessions.

Disc Two, tracks 1 to 8 originally issued as Desertshore, Reprise (US) 6424, 1970.
Disc Two, tracks 9 to 14 are demos, recorded August 20, 1969 and are previously unreleased.
Abschied and Mütterlein are from the film La Cicatrice Intérieure, directed by Philippe Garrel.
Disc Two, track 15 Frozen Warnings (with John Cale on drone viola) is an unlisted hidden track.

Four decades after its release, Nico's first solo album Chelsea Girls remains her most famous. Its bittersweet folk-pop has continually grown in stature, even hitting a pop culture peak a few years ago when "These Days" showed up repeatedly in commercials and films. Less well-known is how much Nico despised the album. The lithe melodies (written by ex-boyfriends Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, and Lou Reed, among others) and ornate string arrangements struck an irresistible contrast to her chilly vocals. But to Nico they were the antithesis of her own artistic core.

Her next two albums, 1969's The Marble Index and 1970's Desertshore, are more accurate representations of her dark, dramatic vision. They may not have achieved the renown of Chelsea Girls, but they've held up just as well, if not better, artistically. The Frozen Borderline: 1968-1970 is a UK-only deluxe combination of both albums, appending 18 alternate versions to the pair's original 16 songs.

After Chelsea Girls, apparently on the suggestion of Leonard Cohen, Nico took up the harmonium, an accordion sibling that's usually foot-operated. But Nico played a portable, hand-operated Indian version, and the instrument's droning tone was an apt counterpart to her obliquely tragic songs. Spending four days in an Elektra studio in L.A., she recorded 12 pieces with John Cale, who wrapped a rich pastiche of viola, piano, guitar, and more around Nico's harmonium and vocals.

The result is a strange, moving album that Lester Bangs called in a 1978 review "the greatest piece of 'avant-garde classical' 'serious' music of the last half of the 20th century so far." He also said it scared the shit out of him. There is certainly an underlying bleakness that can make The Marble Index a strenuous listen. But Nico's melodies are so hypnotic, and Cale's sonics are so fertile and unpredictable, that it's hard not to be entranced by these songs.

Sure, Nico's cryptic lyrics about "the end of time," "the heaving sea," and "frozen warnings" sound grim, but her Teutonic croon could've made commercial jingles seem foreboding. For every sad line or aching refrain, there's the touching beauty of "Ari's Song", the rising viola of the pristine "Frozen Warnings", the pulsating piano of "Facing The Wind". The Marble Index may seem to strike only one note, but inside it Nico and Cale found a universe of possibilities.

The original release of The Marble Index included eight of the 12 songs Nico recorded for it. The Frozen Borderline adds the other four, plus alternate versions of every track save the opening instrumental "Prelude". Some of these alternates are different mixes of Cale's contributions, but the most interesting present Nico alone with just her harmonium. The sparser setting gives the songs a sunnier feel, transforming the stirring "No One Is There" and the reflective "Julius Caesar (Memento Hodie)" from maudlin to bittersweet.

The Marble Index's lackluster sales led Elektra to drop Nico, but in 1970 Reprise picked her up, and she and Cale teamed again to make Deserstshore, included here on disc two. Many prefer it to The Marble Index for its sonic variety and wider range of moods, and it definitely sounds more open and less claustrophobic than its predecessor. But the album has too many soft and even saccharine moments to be perfect. The sappy melody of "Afraid" and the tinkly ice-dancer piano of "The Falconer" aren't crimes in and of themselves, but they keep Desertshore from matching the intense purity of The Marble Index.

Still, there are a lot of great songs here, and Nico's voice remains unerring, perhaps even stronger than before. On opener "Janitor of Lunacy" a slight strain in her voice adds urgency, while the German lyrics of "Abscheid" slice through Cale's viola like an icicle puncturing a snowdrift. And nothing quite compares to the creepy "Le Petit Chevalier", a nursery rhyme sung by Nico's eight-year-old son Ari.

The extra tracks on this disc are mostly harmonium-and-voice versions of the album's originals, and in many cases they sound better. "Afraid" becomes the haunting "You Are Beautiful (Afraid)", more like an elegy than the original's soft ballad, and the droning "The Falconer" is stranger and darker than its more ornate counterpart. It's perhaps sacrilege to prefer these sparser versions, and the Desertshore originals certainly offer more sonically. But Nico's solo takes are welcome breaths of fresh, uncomplicated air.

The Frozen Borderline ends with a hidden version of "Frozen Warnings", Nico's signature song from this period. Here, the arrangement is pared down to just Nico's voice and Cale's viola. Its stoic beauty is a perfect synopsis of this great period and just might represent the peak of both of these artists' stellar careers. Either way, The Frozen Borderline is an essential document of a high watermark in avant-rock history.