INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Wire NOVEMBER 2012 - by Alex Neilson
NICO: THE END
Alongside The Marble Index and Desertshore, 1974's The End is the final instalment in Nico's great triptych of late '60s/early '70s albums. After the unlikely commercial success of the first two, reissued as a two-for-one CD, The Frozen Borderline in 2007, producer Andrew Batt has done a fantastic job remastering The End and providing sleeve-notes that give context to the album as the zenith of Nico's career. One can ascribe many degrees of significance to the title: this was her last album to gain major label backing; it preceded a long hiatus in her collaboration with producer/arranger John Cale; and it acts as a memorial to her recently departed soul brother, Jim Morrison. In struggling to announce herself as a serious solo artist and to divest herself of the tag of über-groupie to the counterculture's mad, bad and dangerous-to-know types, Nico entered a process of self-destruction through prolonged drug abuse. Although this contributed to her tragic death at the age of forty-nine, this Rimbaudian pact to travel to the extremes of experience and report back on what she saw produced some of the most powerfully anachronistic music of the twentieth century.
The End finds Nico at her most commanding and conflicted, achieving the uncanny sensation of feeling simultaneously expansive and claustrophobic. On the second track, Secret Side, the serenity of a harmonium drone is torpedoed by Brian Eno's electronic arpeggios while the opening sounds on Innocent And Vain detonate like meteorological field recordings on a Saturnian moon, as she sings, "The battle bracelets do not fit / My favourite gladiator / A fanatic hero piously / Has to be a faker", on a song purportedly about Andy Warhol. Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera's detuned guitar provides a woozy intro to We've Got The Gold against a backdrop of diaphanous electronic debris and Nico's ominous Teutonic intonations: "A pity does not bear a single flower." This proves to be perfectly perverse foreplay to The Doors song that is the title track, with Nico's psychodrama exceeding Jim Morrison's self-consciously Bacchanalian bluster. Her delivery of the Oedipal segment of the song sounds like an unbridled sob of despair after writing her own suicide note.
The second disc comprises live tracks and John Peel radio sessions from the same era, and delves ever deeper into the murky psyche of a unique artist at the apex of her creative ability.