Nico - Chelsea Girl (1966)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 6:57 AM

After collaborating as a singer with The Velvet Underground on their debut The Velvet Underground and Nico (recorded during 1966, released in March 1967), Warhol superstar Nico toured with the band in Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia roadshow. Before the EPI came to an end in 1967, Nico took up residence in a New York City coffeehouse as solo folk chanteuse, accompanied in turn by acquainted guitarists, such as Tim Hardin, Jackson Browne and Leonard Cohen, but also her Velvet Underground colleagues Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison and John Cale.

Some of her accompanists wrote songs for her to sing, and these form the backbone of Chelsea Girl. Browne and Hardin contributed some songs, Lou Reed gave her one of his early Velvet Underground songs, "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" (which did not surface as a Velvet Underground recording until it was included in the 1995 box set Peel Slowly and See), and Reed, Cale and Morrison in various combinations contributed four more songs. Additionally, Bob Dylan gave her one of his songs to record: "I'll Keep It with Mine".

Musically, Chelsea Girl is best described as a cross between chamber folk and Sixties pop. The musical backing is relatively simple, consisting of one or two guitars or, alternatively, a keyboard instrument, played by either Browne or (a combination of) her Velvet Underground colleagues. There are no drums or bass instruments. Adding to the chamber folk feel of the music is the strings and flute arrangement superimposed over the initial recordings by producer Tom Wilson and arranger Larry Fallon without involving or consulting Nico.

Nico was dissatisfied with the finished product. Looking back in 1981, she stated:

“ I still cannot listen to it, because everything I wanted for that record, they took it away. I asked for drums, they said no. I asked for more guitars, they said no. And I asked for simplicity, and they covered it in flutes! [...] They added strings and – I didn't like them, but I could live with them. But the flute! The first time I heard the album, I cried and it was all because of the flute."

Because of the Velvet Underground band members involvement and the similarities with the softer The Velvet Underground and Nico tracks, Chelsea Girl is sometimes seen by fans as a companion record to that album. "Little Sister" and "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," and perhaps others included here, had also been played live by The Velvet Underground during Nico's time with the band. Polydor (the record label that oversees The Velvet Underground's Universal Music Group back catalogue) tends to agree, adding Chelsea Girl tracks to Peel Slowly and See, the 2002 Deluxe edition of The Velvet Underground and Nico and the 2005 Velvet Underground compilation album Gold.
01. The Fairest of the Seasons (4:09)
02. These Days (3:33)
03. Little Sister (4:26)
04. Winter Song (3:21)
05. It Was a Pleasure Then (8:05)
06. Chelsea Girls (7:25)
07. I'll Keep It with Mine (3:20)
08. Somewhere There's a Feather (2:20)
09. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (5:10)
10. Eulogy to Lenny Bruce (3:45)

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