Hear Nico’s Pre-Velvets Recording, “I’m Not Sayin,” Backed by the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones & Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (1965)

For most of us, the Teu­ton­ic singer Nico has always been asso­ci­at­ed with the first Vel­vet Under­ground album and then a series of fas­ci­nat­ing solo albums (often with Vel­vets con­nec­tions) released dur­ing the ‘70s and ‘80s before her untime­ly death in 1988. The voice and the look are unmis­tak­able, that far away stare, that detached, brood­ing and flat tone. It might also feel like she mag­i­cal­ly appeared from a cloud of smoke in 1967 New York City.

But before she met Andy Warhol, the for­mer teen mod­el had crossed paths with a who’s who of ’50 and ‘60s cool: Coco Chanel, Mario Lan­za, Fed­eri­co Felli­ni (who cast her in a bit part in La Dolce Vita), Lee Stras­berg, Jean Paul Bel­mon­do, Alain Delon (who alleged­ly fathered her first child).

In 1965 Nico met and began dat­ing Rolling Stones’ gui­tarist Bri­an Jones, and that’s how we get to the video above. Already hav­ing sung in night­clubs in New York, her smoky voice was estab­lished, but Jones con­vinced the Stones’ man­ag­er Andrew Loog Old­ham to sign her to his bou­tique label Imme­di­ate, which had just start­ed.

Old­ham brought in his reli­able stu­dio musi­cian and A&R man, a young gui­tarist called Jim­my Page, to pro­duce and play gui­tar (along with Jones) on both sides of Nico’s first sin­gle, the A‑side “I’m Not Say­ing” (a Gor­don Light­foot cov­er) and the B‑Side “The Last Mile” (writ­ten by Page and Old­ham). As a ses­sion musi­cian, Page is on a *lot* of British hit sin­gles, includ­ing Petu­la Clark’s “Down­town,” Them’s “Here Comes the Night,” Mar­i­anne Faithfull’s “As Tears Go By,” and a sur­pris­ing amount more.

The result­ing pleas­ant-enough sin­gle didn’t exact­ly rock the charts, but it was a first foot in the door. Jones would intro­duce Nico to Andy Warhol soon after that and she began to appear in some of his films like Chelsea Girls. Des­tiny was right around the cor­ner.

For a singer so tied to the Vel­vets, it’s worth remem­ber­ing she was only on three songs on the 11 song debut album and then left. But her place in rock his­to­ry was assured, even though it was the odd­est of team-ups at the time.

On a side note, the video for “I’m Not Say­ing” was shot at Canary Wharf on the Thames, long before it was turned into shiny tow­ers for the rich. It’s a win­dow back into a very dif­fer­ent time.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Crazy, Icon­ic Life of Nico; Andy Warhol Muse, Vel­vet Under­ground Vocal­ist, Enig­ma in Amber

Nico Sings “Chelsea Girls” in the Famous Chelsea Hotel

Pat­ti Smith’s New Haunt­ing Trib­ute to Nico: Hear Three Tracks

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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