Nico was a German singer, who got her start in music with the Velvet Underground from New York City. She was more than just a singer however. She was also a songwriter, composer, model and actress. Chelsea Girl is her first solo record released in October 1967.
Chelsea Girl is considered a pop-folk, chamber folk album, very mellow and subdued, haunting and at certain times, dark. It is an acquired taste that some will disregard, especially those who like music that is harder and that has more substance. But as a record to turn down the lights to and lay back and relax, it serves its purpose and is actually quite good. I had to give it many listens to truly appreciate its subtle charm. However, it is not psychedelic music.
Some have said that Nico didn’t have much of a voice, some say she had a terrible voice, but I tend to disagree. First of all, she sings in English and has a heavy German accent. Which I like. However, her voice is not on par with some of the more popular female singers, but I think she has a nice mellow feel to her, deep and sexy at times.
The Fairest of the Seasons, and These Days are the first two songs on the record, and they were used on the soundtrack of the movie The Royal Tenenbaums.
An interesting point to make about Chelsea Girl is the way that it was recorded musically. There are no bass or drum parts on the record, and the use of the flute and strings give it that chamber music feel. When asked about the making of the album, Nico expressed her displeasure with the use of horns, and she was not happy about the outcome of the record.
Having been a part of the Velvet Underground, Nico had members John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Lou Reed play on the record, and anyone familiar with the Velvet Underground will hear the influence. The musicality of the album is considered by many to be very simple in nature.
Nico starred in the movie Chelsea Girls by Andy Warhol, who was very popular in pop culture during the 1960’s. The song Chelsea Girls talks about the Hotel Chelsea in New York City, where many famous musicians and artists hung out. It is a biographical piece about specific people and what happened to them at the hotel.
The video below is a piece of history filmed at the Hotel Chelsea of Nico singing Chelsea Girl that I thought would give some context as to what the lyrics of the song were about. The song recorded on the album doesn’t have the people and affects that are here in the video.
I’ll Keep It With Mine is a song written originally by Bob Dylan that is covered by Nico on Chelsea Girl, and is one of my favorite songs on the album. It also sounds the most like the Velvet Underground on the record.
This album, although an acquired taste, really grows on me the more that I listen. It is a beautiful, mellow record, which I recommend. It may need more than a few listens, but it is a good, entertaining album.