NICO by James Young


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 Model, singer, and pop icon Nico was at the center of 60's hip, but when keyboardist James Young backed her up in the early 80's, a lifetime of heroin addiction had reduced her to a rude and demanding specter haunting the fringes of rock 'n' roll society. Here's Young's coarse and chaotic, entertaining and disconcerting, account of the final years of the Queen of the Junkies. Born in 1938 as Christa Paffgen, Nico was Berlin's top model at 17, soon working for Chanel in Paris and Ford in New York. After hanging out with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, she was taken up by Andy Warhol, who made her the singer for the Velvet Underground (who weren't pleased, but Warhol paid the bills). While never a huge success, the Velvet Underground is widely acknowledged as the hippest band ever, and Nico's association with it created a small audience for her subsequent scattered singing career, managed in the 80's by eccentric rock entrepreneur ``Dr. Demetrius,'' who hired the author for a 1982 tour of Italy. For the next six years, Nico, Young, and the rest of the band performed for often disappointed audiences everywhere from L.A. to Australia to Prague to Japan, in tours ineptly planned by Demetrius and modified by Nico's need to score drugs. Joining them along the way were pop luminaries John Cale and Allen Ginsberg (``Ginsberg...was never really hip, being too much of a celebrant...He'd get excited and take off his clothes in the presence of people who were too cool to remove their Ray Bans''). Young's portrait of Nico is generous, considering the selfish single-mindedness of a career junkie, and his natural ear and eye render scathing takes on everyone else. Unevenly written and sometimes troubling--there are hints of scores settled here--but, still, a funny and engaging chronicle that puts you right on the tour bus, amid the clutter of drums and drugs and unwashed bodies.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1993
ISBN: 0-87951-504-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993


NonfictionTHIS WILL END IN TEARS by Adam Brent Houghtaling
by Adam Brent Houghtaling