October 16: Nico

NicoChelseaGirlWhen Andy Warhol began managing the Velvet Underground, he proposed that the band add a member, a German actress, model and cabaret singer named Nico, who was born on this day in 1938. The members of the Velvet Underground were not exactly on board with this idea, and the Velvet Underground ad Nico never really quite gone along together. That said, despite the artistic differences between Nico and the band, Nico still made key contributions to one of the 1960s’ most influential records.

1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico was a record ahead of its time. Full of references to drug addiction, urban strife and a little light sexual depravity, and with a rough barely produced sound, this record was distinctly out of place in the sunshiney psychedelic late ’60s music scene. Although the record primarily features Velvet Underground lead singer Lou Reed, Nico (credited on the record as the band’s chanteuse) lent her smoky vocals to three of the record’s songs: The eerily beautiful songs “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “Femme Fatale” and the haunting, almost Gothic “All Tomorrow’s Parties” on which Nico’s vocals are double tracked.

Although the record is now viewed as a classic, and Nico’s contributions are much beloved, The Velvet Underground & Nico was neither a critical nor commercial success when it was first released. However, over the years, the record gained a better reputation as more and more musicians cited it as an influence. As rock legend Brian Eno said about the album:

I was talking to Lou Reed the other day and he said that the first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years. The sales have picked up in the past few years, but I mean, that record was such an important record for so many people. I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!

Nico and the Velvet Underground went their separate ways after the debut record. The Velvet Underground went on to release three other initially under appreciated, but now classic records, before disbanding. Nico began a solo career, with her debut record Chelsea Girl featuring songs written by Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and Velvet Underground members Lou Reed and John Cale; including her version of Browne’s song “These Days,” which was immortalized in the film The Royal Tennenbaums.

And what cocktail shall the poor girl drink at all tomorrow’s parties? Well, since today would have been Nico’s birthday, how about a Femme Fatale? This bubbly cocktail comes to us from the Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This cocktail was inspired by a lip-stick stained cocktail glass left at the bar by Jackie Kennedy when she visited the hotel in 1967. It’s a nice strawberry flavored champagne cocktail that’s perfect for any occasion.

Femme Fatale

  • 1/4 ounce Crème de Fraise
  • Dash of Cognac
  • Champagne

Build in a Champagne flute and top off with Champagne. Garnish with a rose.

Tomorrow: Did Al Capone learn that crime doesn’t pay? Well, he certainly learned he should have paid his taxes.

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