Though Nico is best known for her association with the Velvet Underground, as a solo artist she charted a career every bit as unique and interesting as her Velvet cohorts Lou Reed and John Cale. Her first single, released on the hip Immediate Records label in 1965, was orchestrated Mod Pop not unlike her contemporary Marianne Faithful, or dozens of others, for that matter. Written by Gordon Lightfoot, I’m Not Sayin’ is the most cautious of love songs, reflecting an emotional honesty not typical of the era, but perfectly suited for Nico’s unmistakable monotonic accent and melancholia. Add to that the twelve string guitar Jimmy Page, and a production from Brian Jones and you’ve got an impressive musical debut.

The following year, at the insistence of Andy Warhol, Nico was brought into the Exploding Plastic Inevitable/Velvet Underground fold, on whose debut she would sing only three songs, despite the album being titled, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Well, as everyone knows by now, that album, despite modest sales, went on to become one of the most influential albums of all time, and cemented Nico’s role as an outsider icon.

So much ink has been, rightly, spilled on the debut, that discussing it further here borders on pointless, so I’ll just add my own random aside: a girlfriend of mine once asked me what song I would play at my wedding. I, never having seriously considered it, can’t even remember what song I said, mostly because whatever it was, she totally trumped me with, I’ll Be Your Mirror. Ever since then I’ve known that, should I get married, that song will be playing. And yeah, I woulda married her then and there, were it meant to be.

Released hot on the heels of the VU’s debut, Nico’s solo LP, Chelsea Girls (named for the Warhol film in which she starred), featured songs written by Reed, Cale and Morrison, in addition to paramour Jackson Browne, Tim Hardin, and an unreleased Dylan nugget, I’ll Keep It With Mine. In addition to songwriting credits, her fellow Velvets performed on the album, and VU producer Tom Wilson again manned the boards. Musically it’s a continuation of her debut single, the orchestrated Pop, while fitting perfectly alongside her Velvets cuts.

Nico’s sophomore album, The Marble Index, saw a dramatic change in sound, as she began her love affair with the harmonium. The droning pump organ was a natural progression from John Cale’s La Monte Young influenced viola in the Velvets, and naturally lent itself to Nico’s world weary melodies. Nico wrote and performed the songs solo on harmonium, then brought them to Cale, who would arrange all subsequent instruments. Though his influence looms large, there is no mistaking that Nico had found what would become her signature sound.

Frozen Warnings is my ultimate winter song.

Look out for another of Nico’s boyfriend’s Iggy Pop in this promo clip from Evening of Light.

Desertshore would see Nico developing that sound, this time with Cale sharing production with Joe Boyd, a legend for his productions of sixties Psychedelia and Acid Folk.

It would be four years before another Nico LP hit the shelves. The End centers on the titular title track, a very Nico reading of The Doors psychedelic magnum opus, and the occasional synthesizer work of a freshly Post-Roxy Music, Brian Eno.

Following The End, Nico would not record until the eighties, at which point she had become an icon to Goths and Punks around the world.

I absolutely love this performance of Chelsea Girls shot in the Chelsea Hotel.


It’s Harry Dean Stanton’s birthday. Avenge him!

A legend whose presence made many of my favorite movies, that much better

Happy birthday, Nina Hagen! Pt I – Videos, concerts, interviews and a documentary

Even within the diverse field that the term Punk Rock encompasses, there is no one quite like Nina Hagen. Born to parents working within the arts and entertainment community, Hagen received formal artisitic training at a young age, studying ballet at four years old and being declared an operatic prodigy by nine. Her artistic studies continued, as did work as an actress, until her graduation from The Central Studio for Light Music in East Berlin at eighteen, at which time she formed the band Automobil.

While Autombil was garnering attention for Hagen’s talents, her step father, a singer and political activist, was denied re-entry into their homeland of East Germany, following a concert in West Germany. Clearly disgusted by such circumstances, Hagen threatened to become an agitator herself, and requested permission to leave the country, which she was quickly granted.

Now in Hamburg, Hagen signed a record deal and traveled to London, arriving just as the Punk Rock movement was exploding. The trip was to change both her sound and look dramatically. Her theatricality rose to the forefront as her style became even more outrageous. Her first two albums, each contained a cover of performers within the larger scope of Punk, The Tubes, White Punks On Dope, became TV Glotzer (with different lyrics), and Hagen’s friend, Lene Lovich, provided the source for Lucky Number. Both songs were dramatic, almost over the top, and perfectly suited for Hagen’s developing range and direction.

For me, it was not until her third LP, 1982’s, NunSexMonkRock, that all of these converging influences coalesced into a perfectly defined Nina Hagen statement. in 1980, Hagen moved to California, then briefly back to Germany, only to return to LA in 1982, recording the album in New York with a varied cast of musicians. The album features Paul Roessler, known for playing in such influential Punk groups as, The Screamers, 45 Grave, Nervous Gender, and Geza X, veteran British session musician, Chris Spedding, and Paul Schaffer, who was just beginning his career as bandleader for The Late Show With David Letterman. The resultant album displays her Operatic vocal talents, and awesomely creepy low register growling, in a Punk/Funk/Reggae/Goth/New Wave/Hip-Hop/Disco amalgam. It’s just that kind of diverse stylistic confluence that contributed to making Nina Hagen, a true original, or as she stated on Merv Griffin, her “individual God identity”.

I love this interview with David Letterman. He seems to be entirely enamored of her, despite his obvious, total confusion as to what makes her tick. Paul must have given Dave some interesting stories of recording with her. One of those moments where Dave expresses some genuine affection.

All that I need say is that Nina, Don and Merv harmonize. Nina is Nina, Don is Don, and Merv, the consumate host.

Nina on spirituality and LSD

A trailer for Cha Cha, a film starring Nina, Lene Lovich and Herman Brood
Nina Hagen – Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen 1974 – MyVideo

It’s Kurt Russell’s birthday, so check out his Han Solo, Star Wars audition tape!

Snake Plissken, Jack Burton, RJ MacReady, the characters that Russell created with John Carpenter are some of my favorite to ever grace the silver screen. Of course it was immediately apparent that Russell was destined for greatness, as he was hand chosen by Walt Disney and his first movie role involved kicking Elvis Presley in the shins…twice!
Can you imagine what might have been… Kurt Russell as Han Solo, or for that matter, William “The Greatest American Hero” Kats, as Luke Skywalker? The mind boggles

an underrated Robert Zemeckis classic, Used Cars

snake plissken war
jack burton crazy

Happy Birthday, John Carpenter!

One of America’s greatest living directors and electronic music innovator, John Carpenter has produced images and sounds that are indelibly etched in my brain. Even so, I’ve probably collectively watched the films of John Carpenter more than any other single director. I own all the classics, have watched all the extras, have listened to and read multiple interviews, and I still can’t help but sit engrossed whenever I stumble past them on TV. I re-watch multiple Carpenter films at least once a year and never tire of them. If someone I know hasn’t seen them… oh shit, it’s on: John Carpenter marathon! Seriously, how can you deny the genius of Assault On Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, and They Live, not to mention the less recognized, yet still fantastic, Dark Star, Christine and In The Mouth Of Madness? Not liking John Carpenter films = deal breaker, pure and simple.

It’s also gratifying to see that Carpenter is finally receiving his due as a composer. His scores, often in collaboration with Alan Howarth, are not only perfectly tailored to his visuals, but are independently worthy and powerful pieces of music (although I will admit that I do immediately visualize his worlds when I hear any music that reminds me of his style, which is, in fact, a massive bonus). His Halloween theme is as recognizable as Bernard Herrmann’s score, during the shower scene in Psycho, if not more so. His use of synthesizer was, and is, wildly influential in the electronic music scene and no less of a Hip-Hop pioneer than Afrika Bambaataa acknowledged the influence when using the End Theme of Assault On Precinct 13 as the source for “Bambaataa’s Theme”. Now, For the first time in his career, Carpenter has set out to create music without the constraint of visual accompaniment or it’s attendant time schedule, and will be releasing his first non-soundtrack album, Lost Themes, in less than one month. Based on the two currently released tracks, it will be the perfect companion for the rest of your Carpenter collection.

clearly influenced by the sound of the Spaghetti Western

An anomaly in the Carpenter cannon, a vocal theme

And the new cuts…

and both Assault on Precinct 13 and Big Trouble In Little China are streaming on youtube, and AMC had Dark Star, for the moment
and I had to include THE fight

Alan Howarth – John Carpenter collaborator, synth score maestro, LIVE!

John Carpenter is responsible for so many of my favorite cinematic experiences. Escape From New York, The Thing, Halloween, Big Trouble In Little China, They Live, The Fog, Assault On Precinct 13… I’ve seen each of these movies dozens of times. One thing that unifies these films is Carpenter’s employment of synthesizer scores. Initially a product of financial restrictions, these scores proved the perfect underpinning for Carpenter’s tension filled films, and, as composer, allowed him that much more creative control. What is often forgotten is that Carpenter had a musical collaborator in Alan Howarth. Whereas Carpenter has yet to perform any of these scores live, Howarth has, in the past several years, made appearances tied to these collaborations. Until I get to attend one of these rare performances, youtube shall have to suffice.

a nice reinterpretation of the Halloween theme backed by the horror score obsessed Zombie Zombie

Check out Death Waltz Records for beautifully packaged editions of these and other synth and horror scores. The label is clearly a labor of love and anything they put out is worth owning.