NICO: AN UNDERGROUND EXPERIENCE (1983).
I love Nico. Whether it was her music with the Velvet Underground, her work in Andy Warhol's CHELSEA GIRLS, or her infrequent solo albums through the late '60s and beyond -- this throaty, German born goddess was, during her time, one of the only Warholettes who truly deserved the label "superstar". When she sang with the V.U. it was like a loved one taking a razor to your throat -- like a fallen angel too long in the gutter. From her voluptuous, youthful days of modelling and starfucking her way to the party A-list, to the later years of heroin and punk divinity; she was always Nico. Christa Paffgen. Who after all her wild days of excess 'n' heroin, would instead die on July 18, 1988 from a cerebral hemorrhage after falling off a fuckin' bicycle.
But now that the love letter portion of this is out of the way, let's move onto the video in question -- a recently unearthed '83 performance, shot on video in some grungy, shithole club. And though a must-see for hardcore Nico fans, there's no denying it's a sad artifact. Appearing totally strung out and lost, white-knuckling the microphone, and looking like an Avon Lady exploded in her face, this is the SUNSET BOULEVARD of music videos. The audience -- a smattering of spikey-haired punk poseurs -- is no better, with the lone cameraman showing no enthusiasm whatsoever (or maybe he's simply smacked of his gourd out too). With a cigarette hanging from her fingers, Nico could still belt out the decade-old favorites like "I'm Waiting for the Man", "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "Femme Fatale", but you can see in her eyes that she's working on auto-pilot with the aid of a back-up band that shouldn't give up their day jobs at White Castle. The short, listless set (38 minutes) also includes "Vegas", "60/40", "Saeta" and a cover of Bowie's "Heroes", and her performance is alternately heartbreaking and just plain pathetic -- like a slo-mo replay of a massive train wreck. Best of all is the short interview at the end of the tape, where the confused diva is quizzed about the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, how Warhol saved the V.U. from certain obscurity, plus favorite hobbies like heroin and acid. This is a tape for completists only (no one else would have the stamina to sit through it, methinks). A late, not-so-flattering portrait of a lonely icon who was sucked into the Cuisinart of instant fame. And like any of Elvis' final fat-assed gigs or Jim Morrison's lost-in-an-acid-haze poetry babblings, you can't take your eyes off of her, even when you get the feeling she's going to die right up there on stage.
© 1994 by Steven Puchalski.