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Stuck in the Mudd! Four decades later, the doorman of the wildest nightclub in NYC lets you in!

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Here’s a drink ticket—enjoy the post!

“If you’ve been standing here for more than ten minutes you’re not coming in” announces Richard Boch in a stern but cute, almost teenaged stoner way. Don’t get me wrong, he means it. This was how “normal people” were greeted much of the time at the door of the Mudd Club (and many other ultra hip clubs in New York City at the time). This made getting in a huge badge of honor and being turned away a major disgrace. Imagine riding on THAT possibility just to pay to go into a nightclub? An anonymous “sniper” refused entrance once even hit Boch with a dead pigeon from a few yards away and sped off in a taxi cab!

Back then these normal people showing up at Manhattan nightclubs were mostly referred to as the “bridge and tunnel” crowd (Queens, Jersey, Brooklyn) a term not heard much these days, but once heard hundreds of times every night in NYC clubs. Some were 9-5ers, some wealthy disco-types expecting to stroll in on the doorman’s view of their Rolex or hot girlfriend. These regular folks were basically told to cool their heels or fuck off while an 18-year-old kid like me dressed to the hilt in what may have looked to them like idiotic rags, parted the seas and strolled in like I was Mick Jagger. This was not Studio 54 as they would find out soon enough. What it was, though, was a trip into known and unknown galaxies of hip culture throughout history, like a living, breathing museum/funhouse/drug den/concert hall/discotheque, mixed with nitroglycerine and LSD and thrown into a blender to create the unknown. The future. THE NOW!

The Mudd Club was almost literally unbelievable. Inmates running the asylum on an outer space pirate ship. This vessel was founded, funded and schemed by Steve Mass, who was on every side of the street all at once. When I first met Steve, he was roommates with Brian Eno and got that input, but he STILL drove me out to my parents’ apartment in Queens to help pull my record collection from under my bed, my parents shrugging their shoulders until reading about us a year later in the New York Times, thereby making it “Okay.” But really he was always very curious, constantly grilling me, getting inside my head. I once told him I thought he should round off the corners and ceiling of the Mudd Club like a giant cave and have live bats flying around the club. He actually considered it! He did this with certain other kids, rock stars, Warhol superstars, models, designers, Hollywood royalty, junkies, freaks and lord knows who else. We all had a bit of our heart and soul in that place.
 
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Mudd Club owner Steve Mass. Photo by Kate Simon

The above mentioned Richard Boch is the author of a incredibly well-written new book from Feral House titled The Mudd Club. Boch was the main doorman there and the book is his autobiography or a coming of age story told in pretty much the aftermath of the glorious Sixties during the truly, in retrospect, harsh, dark, real version of what was hoped for, but lost in that previous decade. Richard’s story is all of our stories, those of us lucky (or unlucky) enough to have grown up or wound up in New York City’s grimy punk/art/drugged musical and historical mish-mosh. It was the Velvet Underground’s songs come to life after waiting a decade for the world to catch up to it, or crumble to its level.
 
To quote Richard:

I’ve always referred to the Mudd Club as the scene of the crime, always meant as a term of endearment. It was the night that never ended: the day before never happened and the day after, a long way off. There was nothing else like it and I wound up right in the middle. I thought I could handle it and for a while, I did.

 
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Author Richard Boch. Photo by Alan Kleinberg
 
Boch was given marching orders orders early on to avoid bloated seventies superstars and the limo crowd. On one of his first nights of work he was faced with a huge, loud, and very sweaty Meatloaf. “Definitely not something I wanted to get close to, physically or musically,” Boch says, and ignored him. My first ever DJ gig was early on at the Mudd Club and I was told told by Steve Mass to do things like play Alvin and The Chipmunks records when it got a bit crowded, to “make everyone uncomfortable,” including myself. Of course I had the record. I also gouged a 45 with scissors insuring the record would skip horribly and then pretend that it wasn’t happening. Just long enough to get the asylum to freak out a little bit.

Later this stuff went out the window but it was quite a formative experience. Humor filtered through even to the most deadly serious moments there. The Mudd Club was a place where twenty people could literally have had twenty different experiences on the same night during the same hour as there was just so much happening on different mental/pharmaceutical levels and different floor levels. Everywhere you turned there was someone amazing. From the way I had grown up, seeing Andy Warhol, John Waters, David Bowie and the Ramones within a twenty minute span was “my” Studio 54. Watching Screamin’ Jay Hawkins while standing next to Jean-Michel Basquiat, seeing the Soft Boys, girl groups like the Angels and the Crystals, Frank Zappa, Bauhaus, Nico, the Dead Boys, Captain Beefheart, John Cale, a Radley Metzger film presented by Sleazoid Express or an impromptu freakout by Warhol Superstar Jackie Curtis, well this was my dream come to life!

My dream hasn’t changed in 40 years. I’m still in awe that it happened. And in the middle of all that I was allowed to put on my own demented conceptual events with friends (“The Puberty Ball,” etc.) and be a regular DJ. The people I came to know in the punk world who wanted more found it at the Mudd Club. Our mad obsession with the Sixties, especially the Warhol/New York sixties, informed much of what we did, and at the same time the Warhol Factory itself became more corporate. The Superstars were by then getting older and pushed out, but they were looking for more themselves, and they were looking to us to inform them, making for some extremely insane morality and immorality plays coming to life before our eyes. Mudd had the pull of what the press called “downtown,” and for the downtown types, well our voices were about to be heard loud and clear.
 
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David Bowie and Dee Dee Ramone. Photo by Bobby Grossman
 
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Howie Pyro deejaying at Mudd

Richard Boch understood all this, and was also an artist himself so he knew who everyone in the art world was, as well as all the new punk stars and celebutantes, no wavers, new wavers, culture vulture gods and the ones who would become gods themselves in a year or so. In the book he talks about being nervous about starting working there but man, he was the one for the job. In the pages of The Mudd Club, Boch’s quite candid about everything you’d want to know (gossip but not mean gossip: sex, drugs, more drugs, and getting home at ten AM, having done every drug and a half dozen people along the way—normal stuff like that). It reads in one, two, or three page sections, my favorite kind of book. You can put it down in ten-minute intervals or read it in any order you want, IF you can put it down at all. I have literally read certain sections backwards for 40-50 pages while looking for something and didn’t really notice. It made me laugh out loud, and it brought tears to my eyes. It’s kind of like “Please Kill Me, the Day After,” though it’s not an oral history as such, as it is written from Richard Boch’s point of view, but it has the same immediate anecdotal feel.
 
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‘TV Party’ at Mudd. Photo by Bob Gruen
 
The club’s benevolent benefactor, Steve Mass, was responsible for making this incredible witches brew keep bubbling and kept the happenings happening. He was willing to do anything, just for the sake of doing it. Steve originally owned an ambulance service. For my 19th birthday they had a huge party for me on the second floor of the Mudd Club. Since Steve had medical connections, and since we were ALL junkies (well, a good 85% of us were), he furnished a massive cake with dozens of syringes with the plungers & needles removed so they could put the candles in the open syringes. This of course turned into a massive cake fight with the participants looking like the Little Rascals (with pinned eyes). Steve was always down for this sorta stuff. As for the main floor, the bands, writers and performers that I saw in a single month’s time was staggering! More than some people see in a lifetime.
 
From the book:

January 1979. The Cramps freaked out The Mudd Club with a loud Psychobilly grind that included such hits as “Human Fly” and “Surfin’ Bird.” A few months later, the “big names” started to appear…

He goes on to say:

The legendary Sam and Dave got onstage a few weekends later, and it was the first time on my watch that I got to see the real deal. By late summer, Talking Heads took the stage while Marianne Faithful, X, Lene Lovich, and the Brides of Funkenstein waited in the wings.

There were so many great performances: Scheduled, impromptu, logical and out of left field. The locals and the regulars were the staple and the stable and performed as part of the White Street experience. They included everyone you could imagine and some you never could. John Cale, Chris Spedding, Judy Nylon and Nico, John Lurie and Philip Glass were just a few. Writers and poets such as William S. Burroughs, Max Blagg, Cookie Mueller, and “Teenage Jesus” Lydia Lunch all wound up on the Mudd Club stage. The talent pool was so deep and occasionally dark that even Hollywood Babylon‘s Luciferian auteur Kenneth Anger got Involved.

Steve’s willingness and generosity along with his guarded enthusiasm offered support to a local community of artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Together with Diego (Cortez)’ and Anya (Phillip’s) short-lived but “dominating” spirit, the Mudd Club became an instant happening, a free-for-all with No Wave orchestration and very few rules.

Diego described the Mudd Club as “a container, a vessel, but certainly not the only one in town.” What made the place unique was its blank-canvas emptiness. When the space filled up, IT happened and everyone wanted to be a part. A living, breathing work of art, it was beautiful and way off center, a slice of golden time.

I was lucky, and soaked it all in.

 
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Nico playing her wheezing harmonium. Photo by Ebet Roberts

All of us who got to be there were lucky. This was a timeless world of it’s own. A world that could be compared to any and all magical artistic movements, scenes or spaces. Dada. Warhol’s Factory, the Beats in NY and SF, Surrealism, etc.—times, places, people all endlessly written about as there’s just so much to say. Everyone involved had a unique experience, true to themselves. This wasn’t just a nightclub, it was so much more. It almost seemed like a private place where, on the best nights, people’s lives and fantasies were put on display and the public was allowed to watch. The public who just came to do coke and dance (as we all did) but who accidentally got touched by a bizarre and wonderful world that lived in the shadows of the city then, usually just brushing against them like a ghost in the night. Whether they even noticed or not, well, who cares?

This first book on the subject (I guarantee it will not be the last) is Richard Boch’s own experience, peppered with those of us who he interviewed for the reminders. This book is about his eyes opening, his chain-wielding power stance, his blowjobs, his drinks, his drugs, all of which are plentiful. It includes a little of most of us, the people we loved, the ones we lost, the games we played, and the love we shared of each other and our mutual history. Still though, there are a million stories in the Mudd’s microcosm of the naked city, this is just one of them.

And what a glorious place to start: right at the front door.
 
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The trailer for the book
 
More Mudd Club after the jump…

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Posted by Howie Pyro
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09.19.2017
02:47 pm
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Nico sings Serge Gainsbourg, bares all in ‘Strip-Tease’
07.06.2017
09:20 am
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Between appearing in La Dolce Vita and cutting a single with Jimmy Page and Andrew Loog Oldham, Nico beat out Ursula Andress for the lead role in a feature film: Jacques Poitrenaud’s 1963 Strip-Tease (a/k/a Sweet Skin and Lady Strip Tease). Billed as “Krista Nico,” she stars as German dancer Ariane, a character described by Poitrenaud as “a stripper lost in the nocturnal world.”

In White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day, VU biographer Richie Unterberger quotes from an interview with Ciné Monde in which Nico discusses filming her nude scene:

They did it as I preferred. They cleared the set. I then drank several glasses of port. And they played a haunting tune to carry me through the ordeal. As for the rest, a woman always finds out how to keep on top of the situation.

 

 
Serge Gainsbourg, who scored Strip-Tease (and makes an uncredited appearance sharing a piano with Big Joe Turner), recorded a demo of the title song with Nico in ‘62.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.06.2017
09:20 am
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’Sãeta’: Nico live in Europe, 1983


 
Few albums have been, completely by accident, so aptly titled as Nico’s The Drama of Exile. Its recording and release history is convoluted and rife with drama, suspicion, fraud, theft, and legal recrimination. The album was Nico’s first since 1974’s The End, and features music written over a seven-year period. It was recorded twice in 1981—the first recording was released that year by a paranoid label boss who, convinced that Nico’s manager was going to swipe the master tapes and cut him out of the release, himself did exactly that, cutting Nico out of the release and issuing horrible sounding rough mixes as a finished LP, to the utter horror of the musicians and producer, some of whom went uncredited.
 

 
Another version of the album was recorded only one month after the first, but wasn’t released until 1983, after a legal battle over the first version. The second album has a different track list from the first—it includes the songs “Sãeta” (also sometimes known as “The Line” due to its mistitling on the posthumous Hanging Gardens LP) and “Vegas.” Since neither song was on the first version of Exile, they weren’t tied up in the legal mess, and so were able to be released as a 1981 single—on a different label, we hope it goes without saying.

The single was well-received, and a lot of live versions of “Sãeta” have made their way out there, legitimately or not, even before the YouTube/ETEWAF era. But a previously unheard early version is coming to light. In 1976, to help promote the then recently re-opened and absolutely legendary NYC rock club Max’s Kansas City, talent buyer Peter Crowley compiled a selection of recordings by bands associated with the club, a collection that was released as Max’s Kansas City 1976, an epochal compilation that exposed adventurous listeners to radical new artists like Pere Ubu, Suicide, and Nico’s fellow Warhol Factory alumnus Wayne County, soon to become known as Jayne County. That album is being greatly expanded for re-issue—by Crowley himself—to 25 tracks on vinyl, and 40 tracks on a 2XCD set called Max’s Kansas City: 1976 & Beyond.
 

 

 
The expansion includes plenty of previously unreleased material and rarities by the likes of New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers, Iggy Pop, and Sid Vicious, and there’s a really, really great live version of “Sãeta.” I was hoping it was from a performance at Max’s, but evidently recordings made of Nico at that club didn’t survive. For the comp they’ve used a recording made in Europe in 1983, so I guess this falls under the “Beyond” category implied by the re-release’s title. I can live with that, though if there are lost Nico recordings from Max’s in 1976, somebody goddamn find those already. It’s performed in a different key and at a different tempo than the familiar single version, and it’s quite a stunner, with a very prominent guitar part played by the Invisible Girls’ Lyn Oakey. We’ve been permitted to share it with you ahead of the release, and because comparing versions is good dorky fun, we’ve also included the original single version and a live version performed in Manchester with the backing of the Blue Orchids.
 
Listen after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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04.07.2017
06:00 am
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Andy Warhol’s ‘Chelsea Girls’: The druggy draggy morally-bankrupt cult film that scandalized America
01.23.2017
03:46 pm
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The iconic movie poster by famed illustrator Alan Aldridge. Warhol once remarked that he’d “wished the movie was as good as the poster.”

Chelsea Girls was Andy Warhol’s first “commercial” success as a filmmaker. Co-directed by Warhol and Paul Morrissey, the film consists of twelve improvised vignettes (two were semi-scripted by playwright Ronald Tavel) featuring the druggy, draggy, seemingly morally-bankrupt freaks who constituted Warhol’s entourage and inner circle.

The film was shot in summer and fall of 1966 in the Hotel Chelsea, at Warhol’s “Factory” studio and in the apartment where the Velvet Underground lived on 3rd Street. Brigid Berlin (“The Duchess”), Nico, Mario Montez, Ondine (“The Pope”), Ingrid Superstar, International Velvet, Rene Richard, Eric Emerson, Gerard Malanga, filmmaker Marie Menken, Ari Boulogne (Nico’s son), a gorgeous young Mary Woronov—who danced with the Velvet Underground as part of “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable”—and others are seen in the film’s three and a quarter-hour running time (the film unspooled on 12 separate reels). Most cast members are listed by their own names as they were essentially playing themselves.

Chelsea Girls was booked into a prestigious 600 seat uptown cinema in New York and actually distributed to movie theaters across the country. In 1966, it’s unlikely that middle America had any idea that people like this even existed. Film-goers in Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, San Diego and yes, even, Kansas City probably got their first exposure to actual drug addicts, yammering speed-freak narcissists, homosexuals, drag queens and a dominatrix when they watched Chelsea Girls. To Warhol’s delight, the film was even raided by the vice squad in Boston. The theater manager was arrested and later fined $2000 when a judge found him guilty of four charges of obscenity.
 

 
Movie critic Rex Reed said “Chelsea Girls is a three and a half hour cesspool of vulgarity and talentless confusion which is about as interesting as the inside of a toilet bowl.”

Tell us how you really feel, Rex!

The film was presented as a split screen, running simultaneously on two projectors (examples below) with alternating soundtracks. It was a mixture of B&W and color footage. Edie Sedgwick’s vignette was removed from Chelsea Girls at her insistence, but was later known as “The Apartment” or “Afternoon.” A section originally screened with Chelsea Girls called “The Closet” (about two “children” who lived in one, with Nico and Randy Bourscheidt) was cut and later shown as a separate film.
 

 
A young Roger Ebert reviewed it for The Chicago Sun-Times:

For what we have here is 3 1/2 hours of split-screen improvisation poorly photographed, hardly edited at all, employing perversion and sensation like chili sauce to disguise the aroma of the meal. Warhol has nothing to say and no technique to say it with. He simply wants to make movies, and he does: hours and hours of them. If “Chelsea Girls” had been the work of Joe Schultz of Chicago, even Warhol might have found it merely pathetic.

The key to understanding “Chelsea Girls,” and so many other products of the New York underground, is to realize that it depends upon a cult for its initial acceptance, and upon a great many provincial cult-aspirers for its commercial appeal. Because Warhol has become a social lion and the darling of the fashionable magazines, there are a great many otherwise sensible people in New York who are hesitant to bring their critical taste to bear upon his work. They make allowances for Andy that they wouldn’t make for just anybody, because Andy has his own bag and they don’t understand it but they think they should.

 

 
Ebert hits the nail squarely on the head. Chelsea Girls is actually a fucking terrible “movie.” If you view it as “art” or as an important cultural artifact of the Sixties (it’s both) or even as a historical antecedent to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, then you can give it a pass, and probably should, but if you’re expecting to be “entertained,” well, hold on, you’ll need to recalibrate your expectations. Only a few parts of the film are actually engaging (Ondine’s speed-freak monologues; Brigid Berlin poking herself with speed; the “Hanoi Hannah” section with Mary Woronov) the rest of it is… boring.

It looks good and parts of it are “interesting” because you can only hear what’s happening on one side of the split screen and so the silent side becomes somehow more intriguing, but, oh yeah, this is a boring thing to watch. It’s still very cool, but it’s still very boring, if that makes any sense.

Chelsea Girls used to be next to impossible to see since its original release—at least until it got uploaded to YouTube—usually screening just a few times a year around the globe. I caught it myself in the (appropriately) sleazy surroundings of London’s legendary Scala Cinema in 1984. There were probably six people there, including me. I admit to falling asleep for a bit of it, but I think everyone probably does. Thank god that was when you could still smoke in movie theaters!
 

 
Pssst, don’t tell anyone I told you this, but the entire film can be seen here. Probably the best way to watch it is to hook your computer up to your flat screen and do something else, sort of half paying attention—maybe clean?—while Chelsea Girls is on in the background.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.23.2017
03:46 pm
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Like the ‘Wicker Man’ on heroin: Nico and a young Iggy Pop in ‘Evening of Light,’ 1969
01.20.2017
01:29 pm
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Promo video for Nico’s “Evening of Light” directed by François De Menil in 1969, but probably finished much later. There was a tantalizingly brief clip of this in the Nico: Icon documentary. Not the album version of the song appearing on The Marble Index, this alternate take was released as part of The Frozen Borderline: 1968–1970 compilation in 2007.

The story is told in Richard Witts’ (fantastic) Nico biography, Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon, that De Menil, heir to the Schlumberger Limited oil-equipment fortune via his mother’s family, who knew Nico via Warhol associate Fred Hughes, had become besotted by the Teutonic ice queen and proposed making a film with her.

At this time Nico was having a brief affair with a 21-year-old Iggy Pop, who she had met through John Cale, then producing the first Stooges album in New York. (Iggy once revealed to a French interviewer that Nico taught him how to “eat pussy.”) Nico told De Menil that he had to follow them to Ann Arbor, Michigan if he wanted to do it. De Menil obliged, shooting the film behind the house where the band lived.

The way Witts tells the tale is that De Menil seemed to want to get revenge on Iggy because he was Nico’s boyfriend, directing the Stooge to wear white mime makeup and frolic around in a doll-strewn field to embarrass him, but to my mind, this film—and Iggy’s participation in it—is absolutely stunning.
 

 
In an Australian interview Iggy told his version of how the film came to be:

“There were no videos and I didn’t know why she wanted to do this. She had a friend from a very, very wealthy dynasty called the de Menil family who are patrons of the arts in the USA. They have a couple of collections in Houston, they’re very powerful there, it’s oil money. They also contribute to the arts and the major museums in New York City.

“One of the sons, François, was a Nico fan. There was a nexus in New York between the disaffected and super rich kids and the Warhol group, where the art was interested in the money and the money was interested in being arty. She was supposed to do a film with this guy for a song called “Evening Of Light.” She told the guy at the last minute “actually, I’m going to Ann Arbor to live with The Stooges.”

“So he had to drive out with all of his stuff, which was very, very scarce at the time, there were no local rentals for this sort of stuff, and we did this video in a potato field for this beautiful song “Evening Of Light” that she sings accompanied and produced by John Cale, who throws all his art school tricks at this song and very effectively.”

“To me it evokes the old Europe, the feeling around twilight when the church clock is ringing six and the kids are playing in the square and there’s a kind of a peace at hand and a kind of a crack between the worlds and a kind of a feeling that you’re part of this ongoing generation of Euro culture. That’s how I heard it. John was astute enough to make sure this all musically collapses into some pretty scary violence.”

That it does…

Turn it up loud for the full effect!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.20.2017
01:29 pm
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Nico stars in gloomy, depressing 1976 French art flick ‘Le berceau de cristal’
08.19.2016
09:17 am
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Dark, dark, dark. Stéphane Delorme, currently the chief editor of Cahiers du Cinéma, writes of Nico’s face in this movie: “If it does catch the light it’s only to give it back to the darkness.”

Le berceau de cristal (Crystal Cradle, 1976) is director Philippe Garrel’s fifth or sixth consecutive film starring Nico, his compagne during the 70s. None of their collaborations are what you’d call pulse-pounding thrillers; they tend to unfold at the pace of a dream, or a ritual, or a junkie tying his shoes. But this is a special case. Making it to the end of this picture requires a kind of yogic discipline, like slowing your heart rate or raising your body temperature at will. Yet, if you can master your animal nature long enough to dig its glacial pace and scry its black mirror, you’ll discover that Le berceau de cristal is really a completely empty and depressing experience.
 

Dominique Sanda in Le berceau de cristal
 
As background for your fantasy goth or junkie death trip, however, it’s great. Dude: Nico’s in it. Some parts are even set to a gorgeous soundtrack by Ash Ra Tempel—Manuel Göttsching says Garrel asked him for “music to make you dream”—though much of it is as silent as the grave. When Nico’s voice finally does appear on the soundtrack, deadpanning an interior monologue that turns out to consist of the lyrics to “Purple Lips” and other songs from Drama of Exile, it’s been run through a reverb box set to “stony crypt.” French actress Dominique Sanda is also “in” it. So is Rolling Stones consort Anita Pallenberg, who is seen shooting up on camera.

Watch ‘Le berceau de cristal’ (for as long as you can stand to) after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.19.2016
09:17 am
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Patti Smith covering Nico is unforgettable
08.16.2016
10:27 am
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This all begins with a chance encounter on an airplane, when singer/pianist Jesse Paris Smith—daughter of ur-punk high priestess Patti Smith—encountered Stephan Crasneanscki on an airplane bound for New York City. Crasneanscki is the founder and leader of Soundwalk Collective, an acclaimed experimental music trio known for incorporating field recordings and other concrète elements into lush ambient music, and that meeting led to the conception of Killer Road, a 2014 multimedia performance with projections by Tina Frank, that endeavored to examine the work and death of Christa “Nico” Päffgen, the singer best known for her work with the early Velvet Underground, and who died in a bicycle accident in 1988.

That performance has been turned into a studio album for Sacred Bones, also called Killer Road and due out on September 2nd. The album variously features Nico cover songs and poems with Smith mère reciting/singing the lyrics. The songs that have been pre-released suggest that the album will likely be a stunner—a video for the title track, again by Tina Frank, was released in July:
 

 
Over the weekend, a new video was issued, for “Fearfully in Danger,” a cover of a song from Nico’s final studio album Camera Obscura. The track underscores the connection between Nico and Smith, who related “…when I was young … I had no ambition to be a singer – I was simply trying to deliver my poetry – as [Nico] did – in a unique way.” The harmonium played on the song once actually belonged to Nico—it was rescued from a pawn shop by Patti Smith herself, in 1978.

Watch more after the jump….

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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08.16.2016
10:27 am
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Tina Aumont: This beautiful bad girl was the junkie ‘Zelig’ of the 60s and 70s Euro underground
08.01.2016
07:49 pm
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The images, gifs and scans here come from the Tina Aumont Tumblr

Over the course of the past, say, twenty years, I’ve gradually become more and more aware of the late actress Tina Aumont, who died in 2006. She’s one of the great (albeit largely unknown) beauties of the 60s and 70s, and a sort of gorgeous bad girl “Zelig” figure uniting disparate famous people from old school Hollywood types to the Warhol crowd and 60s and 70s European film notables. Truly she was the junkie underground “Kevin Bacon” game connector of the era, if nearly forgotten today.

I first laid eyes on the luminous Aumont in Joseph Losey’s Modesty Blaise, but she was billed there under her married name Tina Marquand. I probably first read her name in Richard Witts’ Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon, his 1995 biography of the Velvet Underground chanteuse. The first time I actually saw Aumont onscreen—and had any context for her—was later that same year when she was an interviewee in the Nico: Icon documentary.
 

 
So my entré to Tina Aumont was being a big Nico freak, which invariably led to an interest in the films of Nico’s paramour, bohemian French film director Philippe Garrel. Aumont was in several of Garrel’s underground films and was the one who first introduced Garrel—then seen as a sort of cinematic Rimbaud—to Nico in 1969, suggesting that her new music (The Marble Index) would be perfect for his Le Lit de la Vierge. (She gifted him with a version of “The Falconeer” heard only in that film, which starred Aumont, with Pierre Clémenti as Jesus.)
 

 
Aumont was born on Valentine’s Day of 1946 in Hollywood, California and it was at birth that her first Zelig-style cameo took place: Her mother was the ill-fated “Queen of Technicolor” Maria Montez, the exotic star of such films as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Cobra Woman. (Jack Smith’s notoriously perverse Flaming Creatures is an homage to Montez and the word “camp” was practically coined to describe her flamboyant performances. Kenneth Anger has cited Cobra Woman as his favorite film.) Marlene Dietrich is said to have sung baby Tina to sleep and Jean Cocteau wrote a poem for her (“La Fille aux étoiles”) when she was born. An auspicious birth by any definition, but her mother died of a heart attack at the age of 31 when Tina was just five. Her father was the dashing French actor and war hero Jean-Pierre Aumont.
 

 
By the time she was 17, with the full approval and encouragement of her father, who thought she was a wild child and wanted to see her settle down, Tina married actor Christian Maquand in 1963. Maquand was a heartthrob actor who was in And God Created Woman playing opposite Brigitte Bardot. He also directed the star-studded adaptation of Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg’s Candy. He was 19 years her senior and close friends with director Roger Vadim and Marlon Brando. This is where her social circle really starts to expand. Imagine what a documentary might look like about Tina Aumont, containing as it would film footage and photographs of her at that age alongside of people like Brando, Vadim, Jane Fonda, Roman Polanski and Donald Cammell. The great New York acting teacher Stella Adler. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the Stones inner circle: art dealer Robert Fraser, Stash Klossowski and Marianne Faithfull. Bob Dylan. The Who. You get the picture.

Keep reading after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.01.2016
07:49 pm
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‘The Inner Scar’: Velvet Underground singer Nico stars in obscure, pretentious French art film, 1972
11.19.2015
09:53 am
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Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico and French avant-garde film director Philippe Garrel had a decade long romantic relationship between 1969 and 1979. Garrel, acclaimed in his youth as being a sort of cinematic Rimbaud, was much admired by Jean-Luc Godard, but is almost completely unknown in the English-speaking world. Nico appeared in seven of his films and sometimes gave him music for them that has not been heard elsewhere. Stills from Garrel’s films appeared on the covers of her Desertshore and The End albums, which show how interested she was in promoting his work. Garrel made his own clothes at the time and began dressing Nico, encouraging her to dye her hair crimson and cut her bangs. Their most significant and fully-realized collaboration was La Cicatrice Intérieure (or “The Inner Scar”), made in 1972 when Garrel was only 22.

During their relationship, the pair became hardcore heroin addicts, resorting to petty thievery from friends and acquaintances to support their habits. According to Richard Witts’ biography, Nico: The Life & Lies of an Icon, their Paris apartment was a “garret” that lacked gas, electricity, hot water, furniture and housed a gargantuan mountain of cigarette butts. The entire apartment was covered in two coats of glossy black enamel paint. Their bed, apparently, was Garrel’s overcoat.
 

 
To call Philippe Garrel’s films “tedious” and “self-indulgent” is a bit of an understatement. They’re preposterously tedious and self-indulgent—I believe the Monty Python “French Subtitled Film” sketch was directly inspired by Garrel’s work—but no more so than Matthew Barney’s movies, if you ask me.  About half of her Desertshore album (and one otherwise unreleased song, the mind-blowing “König,” see below) is used as the film’s soundtrack. (This again seems worth comparing to Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9, a collaboration with his wife, Bjork, herself a big Nico fan.)
 

 
To some, Garrel, who is still making films today, is an underrated visionary genius whose work must be seen in the cinema to be fully appreciated (for years the director refused to release his films on DVD). To them he is revered as some cinephiles worship John Cassavetes. To others, his films (the ones made during his relationship with Nico at least) look like what two junkies with a camera and the financial backing of a French heiress might get up to…
 

 
La Cicatrice Intérieure‘s dialogue, mostly made up right before they’d shoot it, by Nico, consists of existential bitching, basically, as the pair walk around in barren, yet gorgeous landscapes shot in Sinai, Death Valley and Iceland. Garrel uses LONG simple linear tracking shots with minimal editing during scenes. Visually, the film is quite stunning—again think Matthew Barney—but the director forbade subtitles so unless you speak French and German, at a few places you’re bound to be confused. (A Japanese DVD with subtitles popped up in 2005).
 

 
Nico does most of the speaking in La Cicatrice Intérieure, moaning throughout the film in her humorless, stentorian voice, at times coming off like some sort of prophetess of doom. As the Time Out reviewer said of the film when it was released in 1972: “You need a bloody big spliff to enjoy this. A miserable couple who you would not wish to meet at a party [Garrel, Nico] are joined by a naked weirdo [Pierre Clémenti, best-known for his role as the gangster lover of Catherine Deneuve’s prostitute in Buñuel’s Belle de jour] with a bow and arrow and a desire to set everything on fire. That’s about it, frankly, unless I fell asleep, which is likely.”

Nico described the film like so:

“[It’s] an important film, a great film. It concerns the fragility of life. The film treats the story of a lunatic who starts to kill all of his sheep. It is not clear if he is a shepherd or a prince. He has no identity until I show up [of course!]. I am a queen on a journey. A queen finds a kingdom wherever she goes. There are more songs than dialogue in the film which I think is a good idea [of course!].

In the case of La Cicatrice Intérieure, she’s probably right about that, and although the film does have its perplexing, often gorgeous, merits, as our own Marc Campbell put it, La Cicatrice Intérieure is “a gorgeous looking folly that, despite its abundant tracking shots, is so inert it makes L’Avventura look like The Fast And The Furious.” La Cicatrice Intérieure is now in the public domain and there is even an HD version of it floating around on the torrent trackers that elevates the viewing experience quite a bit and is worth finding (Hint, looky here). Yet another fine example of an absolutely M.I.A. film that you can see today without even getting up from your seat. La Cicatrice Intérieure was once the litmus test for obscure, nearly impossible to see movies, but there’s even a quite good version of the film on YouTube (see last video).
 

 
“My Only Child” and “All That Is My Own” are heard in the following two sequences. The child is Nico’s son, Ari Boulogne. Note how the camera moves constantly.
 

 
Continues after la jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger
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11.19.2015
09:53 am
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Intimate photos of Andy Warhol’s Factory Superstars, the Velvet Underground and Nico
09.30.2015
12:51 pm
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1966
 
I wonder how many people in the world had a romance with Andy Warhol and also combined that with being a significant influence on Warhol’s work. You make your list and I’ll make mine, but we shouldn’t discount the possibility that that list will start and end with Billy Name. Born William Linich, Jr., Name was a prominent lighting designer in NYC and even won an Obie for his lighting around the time he met Warhol, which was in 1959.

He had a brief romance with Warhol which evolved into a long-lasting friendship and collaboration. Name was selected to be the archivist for the Factory. At one point Warhol handed him a camera and said, “Here, Billy, you do the stills photography,” and Name’s identity as a photographer was born. By that time, Name had already gone ahead and “silverized” a dilapidated hat factory on East 47th Street, transforming it into one of the most iconic places of the late 1960s. In The Warhol Diaries, Warhol said of Name that he “had a manner that inspired confidence. He gave the impression of being generally creative, he dabbled in lights and papers and artists materials. ... I picked up a lot from Billy.”

Today at the Serena Morton II gallery at 345 Ladbroke Grove in London starts an exhibition of Name’s Warhol-era photos called “Billy Name: The Silver Age” that runs for roughly three weeks. There is a lovely associated book with the same title that came out last year from Reel Art Press, and if you want to hear some eye-popping blurbs, check these two out: Gerard Malanga said that “Billy’s book will go down in history as the best book about Warhol,” whereas Warhol himself said, “Billy’s photos were the only thing that ever came close to capturing the feel of the 1960s Silver Factory.”

The Guardian recently interviewed Name, now 75, at the Mid-Regional Hospital in his hometown of Poughkeepsie (where I attended college, as it happens) for “extreme dehydration” along with a host of other ailments. All of us at DM wish him a speedy recovery.

All of the pictures in this post you can see in a larger version by clicking on them.
 

Warhol using a pay phone at the 1964 World’s Fair
 

Nico, 1967
 

Warhol in the original Factory studio, 1964
 

VU, 1967
 
A bunch more masterful Billy Name shots after the jump…...
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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09.30.2015
12:51 pm
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Pre-Velvet Underground Nico in Spanish brandy advertisements, 1964
09.14.2015
02:10 pm
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These Centenario Terry brandy ad, made for Spanish TV, dates back to 1964 and feature a young and impossibly beautiful Christa Päffgen who would soon go on to join the Velvet Underground at the behest of Andy Warhol.

Years later we have this entry from Andy Warhol’s Diary on Monday October 6th, 1980:

“Went to C.Z. Guest’s for drinks. A guy there told me, “We have someone in common.” He said that his family owned all the brandy and sherry in Spain and that in the sixties Nico was the girl in all their advertisements in all the posters and subways and magazines, that she was famous all over Spain. He wanted to know where this beautiful girl was now and I said that it was a whole other person, that he’d never believe it, that she was fat and a heroin addict. He wanted to see her and I said that if she was still playing at the Squat Theatre we could go see her.”

There used to be a few more of these ads on YouTube, but most seemed to have vanished.
 

 
The actor here, Hans Meyer was apparently closely associated with this particular brand of cognac.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.14.2015
02:10 pm
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Amazing ‘Mod Wedding’ with Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground & Nico, 1966
06.15.2015
12:59 pm
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Picture it: You’re a steady couple in Detroit, it’s the mid-‘60s and you’re hip sort of people, and you get a chance for Andy Warhol, Nico, and the Velvet Underground to participate in your nuptials, making it the world’s first-ever “mod wedding.” What could be better?

This actually happened. The date of the wedding was November 20, 1966, and it was one of the concluding events of a three-day festival held in Detroit called the Carnaby Street Fun Festival, at which the Velvet Underground and the Yardbirds played. The lucky couple were named Gary Norris and Randi Rossi.

In 2011 some ephemera from this event I would love to get a look at were auctioned off at Christie’s, including a five-page “press release” called Pop Goes the Wedding, and an invitation to, ahem, “The Nation’s First Mod Wedding to Unite Two Typical Mod Teenagers in the Bonds of Holy Matrimony.”

In a bio of Al Abrams, the noted promoter who dreamt up the Carnaby Street Fun Fair as well as the idea of having a wedding of this type, it states that Norris and Rossi were not the first couple selected for the event: “The pair earned the chance to exchange their vows in the highly publicized ceremony after the original couple, who had won the wedding competition on the popular Detroit radio station WKNR, had to withdraw.“

Here’s Steven Watson in Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties discussing how the event came about:
 

Perhaps the most conspicuous of [the band’s] Sixties events was a Detroit fair called the Carnaby Street Fun Festival. … As a centerpiece, a Motown publicist [almost certainly Abrams] thought up the idea of a Mod Wedding. Since Andy Warhol was “the father of Pop Art,” he became the perfect choice to play the father of the bride. A columnist for The Detroit News dug up a couple to get married—a twenty-five-year-old clothing salesman and his nineteen-year-old, unemployed go-go dancer girlfriend. While Gary Norris and Randi Rossi were married before a crowd of forty-five hundred, the Velvet Underground played “Here Comes the Bride,” and a roadie pounded on a car with a sledgehammer. After the ceremony Andy signed some Campbell’s Soup cans and threw them into the crowd, and he and the bride cut the six-foot cake with a sword. “It would be in better taste if you had those people throwing up on each other,” Dick Clark told the event’s organizer.

 

 
Reaction at the time had more than its share of eye-rolling disgust. This account by Linda La Marre appeared in The Detroit News the next day; in addition to being pretty well written, it achieves a mocking, derisive tone I’ve seldom encountered in a news story before. The article can be found in Clinton Heylin’s essential compendium All Yesterdays’ Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print, 1966-1971.
 

“Mother’s Mod Lament”

by Linda La Marre

The Detroit News, November 21, 1966

Holy matrimony was replaced by unholy pandemonium in what was billed as a wedding yesterday at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum.

It was a marriage in the Mod Tradition. The country’s first. And let’s hope it’s not what’s happening, baby.

Wearing a white minigown, eight inches over her knees and white, thigh-high boots, Randy Rossi, 18, became the bride of clothing salesman Gary Norris, 25, amid a melange of simultaneous “happenings.”

Andy Warhol, of soup can painting fame and the “father of Pop art,” arrived from New York to give away the bride. With him came his rock & roll group, the Velvet Underground, vocalist Nico, and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Warhol’s gaudy lighting effects.

Some 4,500 shaggy-haired wedding guests swarmed the arena for the prenuptial rituals. Electronic devices screamed, guitars and drums throbbed and a fiddle added to the din as ppurple and orange lights splashed dots and squares across the stage.

“Hey, we’re really witnessing something, it’s history, history!” a young girl shouted.

Huddled on the sidelines were the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Rossi of Mt. Clemens, the bridegroom’s mother, Mrs. Thelma Norris, of Taylor, his sister and brother-in-law, the Robert Wionceks, of Dearborn.

“It’s not the kind of wedding we had planned for our daughter,” Mrs. Rossi said, as eerie screeches emitted from the stage.

“He’s old enough to know his own mind,” Mrs. Norris added, while Nico, clad in a lavender pantsuit, cupped the mike in both hands and began moaning some song.

After an eternity of noise, a black Rolls-Royce with the bridal couple slowly backed into the arena. The pair wisely chose to stay inside the car a few moments.

Warhol’s psychedelic sounds, which seek to create the same illusion as mind-expanding drugs, succeeded.

Gerard [Malanga], the whip dancer, slithered and spun across the darkened stage. Another member of the cast hopped atop a wrecked DeSoto, bashing it with a sledge hammer.

“If I take to love, will I find you gone,” groaned Nico. Warhol ascended the platform, paint bucket and catsup bottles in hand. Contents of both containers were carefully applied to a girl wearing a white paper dress throughout the proceedings.

The bride smiled as she marched up the platform steps. The bridegroom wore a gray checked, Beatle-type suit, black boots, green and white flowered tie. He looked sober.

The couple volunteered for the Mod wedding, which concluded the three-day Carnaby Street Fun Festival. Their reward, a free honeymoon in New York and screen test with Warhol.

After giving away the bride Warhol sat serenely upon a box of tomato soup, autographing cans. A color film of Nico’s face flickered on and off the back curtains as she read a few appropriate, but indistinguishable sentences from a yellow book.

Another member of the cast paraded with a five-foot Baby Ruth candy bar balloon, Warhol’s gift to the newlyweds.

 
My favorite bit in there is La Marre’s description of the music: “Nico, clad in a lavender pantsuit, cupped the mike in both hands and began moaning some song…..”

This online forum on VU supplies a detail that nobody else I consulted had. La Marre reports that Warhol gave the bride away, but on this forum, a user named “taxine” asserts that Nico officiated the wedding. I’m not sure if she did or didn’t, but the photo taxine supplied seems to bear it out. The quality could be a little better, but this sure as heckfire looks to me like Warhol giving the bride away while Nico officiates:
 

 
Rob Jovanovic’s Seeing the Light: Inside the Velvet Underground furnishes an illuminating quotation from Moe Tucker that clarifies the identity of the man with the sledgehammer: “That was lunacy. ... We were playing but [Paul] Cézanne was recruited to beat the hell out of a car with a sledge hammer, during the ceremony and during our set. I don’t know what the significance was!”

Jovanovic suggests that the Yardbirds also played the wedding and covered “I’m Waiting for the Man.” The Yardbirds did play all three days of the Carnaby Street Fun Festival, but nobody else mentions the detail of the Yardbirds playing the wedding—I think what actually happened is that the Yardbirds played the festival and during at least one of their sets (six sets, two per day) they played “I’m Waiting for the Man,” but they weren’t playing the wedding and didn’t cover the song at the wedding per se. At least that’s the impression this chronology gives.

Here are a few more pics, including a great action shot of Cézanne destroying the car with a sledgehammer.
 

 

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.15.2015
12:59 pm
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Incandescent Innocent: Dean and Britta score Andy Warhol’s screen tests


 
At the peak of his fame and influence, from 1964 to 1966, Andy Warhol created somewhere around 500 (the number 472 popped up in my research, as seen below) so-called “screen tests.” Every screen test was a single close-up take of an individual in front of the camera lasting a little shy of three minutes—the idea was that Warhol would run them at two-thirds speed, which resulted in movies about four minutes long each. The short movies that resulted had a consistency of aesthetic feel and featured a wide variety of people, who can be roughly classified into three groups: Factory mainstays, famous people, and un-famous people. Warhol said that he did screen tests for anyone who possessed “star potential.”

As Geralyn Huxley, curator of film and video at the Andy Warhol Museum, wryly points out, “none of them appear to have been used for the purpose of actually testing or auditioning prospective actors.” Some notable people who consented to undergo the Warhol screen test treatment are John Ashbery, Marcel Duchamp, Cass Elliott, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono, Salvador Dalí, Donovan, and Susan Sontag.
 

 
In 2008 the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh approached Dean and Britta to “create soundtracks” for 13 of the screen tests and perform them on stage. As members of Luna, a band that had toured with the Velvet Underground in 1993, Dean and Britta (who are doing kind of a version of Lou and Nico anyway, eh?) were a highly apropos choice for the project. In 2010 it became an album called 13 Most Beautiful… Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests (there is also a DVD).

The track titles on the album are very redolent of the Factory as well as the general VU scene: “Silver Factory Theme,” “Teenage Lightning (And Lonely Highways),” “Incandescent Innocent,” and “Knives From Bavaria.” In addition to much original Luna-esque music of the gorgeous and dreamy variety, the album featured covers of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine” and VU’s “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore.”
 

 
In 2012 LuxeCrush asked Dean and Britta about the project:
 

LuxeCrush: How did this “13 Most Beautiful…” project, pairing your music with Andy Warhol stills, come about? I love the interdisciplinary film/music idea!

Wareham: We were approached by Ben Harrison at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; he described the hundreds of films that the Museum had access to (Warhol made 472 Screen Tests) and asked could we pick thirteen of them and create soundtracks to perform live on stage.

LuxeCrush: What is your favorite Warhol art work, moment or saying? And did either of you ever get to meet Andy?

Wareham: Neither of us ever met Andy. But I love watching him answering interview questions. Where most artists are trained to give long-winded theoretical explanations of why they paint a particular way, he would just say “because it’s easy.” Warhol never ceases to amaze me. We are used to seeing the same famous images again and again (Marilyn, Coke Bottles, soup cans, etc.), but there is so much more, from his early drawings for department stores to his late paintings, paintings for children, TV shows, films. He had a way of turning things upside down.

 
Lots of lovely and stirring videos of Dean & Britta scoring the screen tests after the jump…...

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.19.2015
12:17 pm
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Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico have a Velvet Underground reunion on French TV, 1972
04.01.2015
05:25 pm
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Although I’ve posted about this show in the past, there was never a full version of it on YouTube in decent quality that I could embed, just bits and bobs, but this morning, looking for something else entirely I came across it and wanted to share on the blog. In 1972, Velvet Underground alumni Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico reunited before the cameras of the POP 2 TV program at Le Bataclan, a well-known—and very intimate—Parisian music venue. It was Cale’s gig originally and he invited Reed and Nico to join him. Reed, who hated rehearsing, spent two days with Cale working out what they were going to do. According to Victor Bockris’ Reed biography Transformer, rock critic Richard Robinson videotaped these rehearsals, which took place in London.
 

 
Both the TV broadcast and just the audio from the show and the soundcheck have been heavily bootlegged over the decades. A legit CD release happened a few years ago, but it still sounds like a bootleg. A high quality video turned up on various torrent trackers and bootleg blogs after a rebroadcast on French TV a few years back. It’s fairly easy to find. Now if only some of the outtakes from the Le Bataclan filming would slip out—they did “Black Angel’s Death Song” that night which I’d dearly love to see—not to mention what Richard Robinson is alleged to have!
 

 
This is Reed coming off his first solo record and just a few months before he recorded “Walk on the Wild Side” with David Bowie and Mick Ronson and took on a totally different public—and we can presume, private—persona. This is “Long Island Lou” seen just before Reed’s druggy bisexual alter-ego showed up. Cale is heard doing “Ghost Story” from his Vintage Violence album and Nico looks stunning and happy here singing “Femme Fatale.” It’s before the damage of her drug addiction took its toll on her looks.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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04.01.2015
05:25 pm
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Pre-Velvet Underground Nico with a young Jimmy Page and Brian Jones
12.15.2014
03:32 pm
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Before she became the Teutonic ice queen chanteuse of the Velvet Underground, Nico, via her then boyfriend Rolling Stone Brian Jones, was introduced to Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and signed to his Immediate Records label, where a young Jimmy Page was employed as house producer, session musician and A&R scout. (Page’s brief career as a session musician saw him adding his distinctive guitar sounds to recordings by The Who, The Kinks, PJ Proby, Lulu, Jackie DeShannon, Van Morrison and Them, Burt Bacharach, French singer Johnny Hallyday, Marianne Faithfull, Vashti Bunyan, Donovan and many others. It’s amusing to think of Jimmy Page being a part of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” single, but there he was. There are several CD compilations of Page’s early session work, probably the best is Hip Young Guitar Slinger.)

Page produced and played on Nico’s 1965 single for Immediate, a cover of Canadian folkie Gordon Lightfoot’s “I’m Not Sayin’ ” which was backed by “The Last Mile,” a song composed by Page and Oldham. Jimmy Page plays a six-string in the song, while Brian Jones plays a twelve-string guitar.

A promotional film for “I’m Not Sayin’” was shot at the site of London’s West India Docks (now Canary Wharf) by Peter Whitehead.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.15.2014
03:32 pm
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