“The End” by Nico - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1974Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

The final chapter in her brilliant neo-classical trilogy that began in 1969 with “The Marble Index” and continued in 1970 with “Desertshore”; in the 4 years since, Nico had lost a good supportive friend, Jim Morrison, and perhaps this informs “The End”. The album stars: Nico (lead vocals, harmonium); John Cale (bass guitar, xylophone, acoustic guitar, synthesizers, organ, marimba, triangles, cabaça, boobams, glockenspiel, percussion, piano, electric piano); Brian Eno (synthesizers); Vicki Wood (backing vocals) and Annagh Wood (backing vocals). Phil Manzanera (electric guitar) guests on the title track.

Secret Side” is an early-album classic – it sounds like it could easily have sat on “Desertshore”, and the fact that it was originally showcased in a February ’71 session for John Peel bears testimony to this. “You Forget To Answer”, a song for Jim, had also been aired a great deal earlier – she had performed it on TV in France and the Netherlands in early 1972. It’s achingly beautiful, with Cale’s stately piano, Eno’s ghostly synth washes and Nico’s earnest and genuine vocal, the closest she gets to actually singing wholeheartedly on the LP. Nico pens 6 of the 8, but it’s the two cover versions which gathered most comment and attention in the aftermath. “The End” is as sensational a cover-version as you could ever wish to hear; world-weary, chilling to the core, chock-full of menace, and thoroughly desolate. The musical accompaniment is simply magnificent in every way, with terrifying, gripping textures and distant wails which seem to emanate from beyond the grave. This is pure theatre – yet somehow you get the feeling that it’s based in some sort of screwed-up reality. Her baffling inclusion of the German national anthem “Das Lied Der Deutschen” was a tad silly, but enjoyable for the nonsensical hullaballoo which ensued amongst commentators. Siouxsie Sioux was watching closely methinks, swastika at the ready.

It’s interesting that Nico chose to feature stills of herself from this years’ Philippe Garrel film “Les Hautes Solitudes” on the front and back cover. There is no direct musical link (the 80-minute film is silent) so we can only presume she is making a connection with the plot; the focus is on a sole visage, that of a fallen middle-aged star, Jean Seberg, fourteen years after her iconic role in “Breathless”, the trailer for which reads: “She is struggling with alcohol, fear, loneliness, chemical dependence and dementia. In an hour and fifteen minutes consisting almost exclusively of close-ups, an entire lifetime rises to the surface of a face.” There is no doubt that the tone of this LP is dark; bleakness, blackness and hopelessness abounds. Barely in the land of the living, it’s wholly effective as a 4am nightmare soundtrack; as a famous old song goes, the darkest hour is just before dawn. Just before the end of the year, Nico took her pagan invasion tour to Reims Cathedral – un-missable for many. Following the event, outraged Catholics throughout the country claimed the church was desecrated and cried out for a special purification ceremony for the monument. Live and let live, eh?

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:11] 8.0.png Nico - It Has Not Taken Long (Christa Päffgen) Avant-Garde
A2 [04:08] 9.2.png Nico - Secret Side (Christa Päffgen) Alternative Folk
A3 [05:07] 8.7.png Nico - You Forget To Answer (Christa Päffgen) Contemporary Classical
A4 [03:51] 6.4.png Nico - Innocent And Vain (Christa Päffgen) Avant-Garde
A5 [03:57] 7.0.png Nico - Valley Of The Kings (Christa Päffgen) Alternative Folk
B1 [05:44] 5.8.png Nico - We’ve Got The Gold (Christa Päffgen) Avant-Garde
B2 [09:36] 9.5.png Nico - The End (Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore) Avant-Garde
B3 [05:28] 6.1.png Nico - Das Lied Der Deutschen (Hoffmann von Fallersleben, Joseph Haydn) Alternative Folk

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