Left image - Chris Connelly photo by Shayna Connelly. Right Image - Nico photo by Howard Goldblatt

FEMME FATALE – Revolting Cocks’ Chris Connelly Sets The Life of Velvet Underground Chanteuse Nico To Music On ‘Eulogy To Christa’ Album

Perhaps the most beautiful and enigmatic of Andy Warhol‘s Factory Superstars, Nico‘s life and tragic death holds an enduring fascination.

Her story has been told in several books and films, but now Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Chris Connelly brings you his interpretation in the form of an extraordinary double album.

Best known for his involvement in the industrial music scene with the likes of The Revolting Cocks and Ministry, the shape-shifting Connelly assumes a variety of personas and styles to create an enthralling musical biography of the difficult and deeply troubled Velvet Underground chanteuse.

Beginning with Ripcord,Ripcord, a disturbing account of her German origins and alleged rape by an American soldier, Eulogy To Christa follows her nomadic ramblings around Europe and New York.

It’s all here, including her time in Prestwich, Manchester, working with acolytes of another Factory, Tony Wilson‘s iconic record label.

Cover art for Eulogy to Chista album by Chris Connelly
Cover art for Eulogy to Christa album – based on picture of Nico taken by Alastair MacKay (Edinburgh Nite Club, August 1981)

About half the tracks are Nico cover versions, starting with her debut recording of Jimmy Page‘s song The Last Mile, but these are punctuated by Connelly’s own compositions tracking significant moments in her life.

Nico’s songs are for the most part treated with the utmost respect, particularly Sixty Forty with Connelly adopting a Scott Walker-ish croon.

The poignant Eulogy for Lenny Bruce a lament for the pioneering comic by Tim Hardin, who would himself succumb to an overdose, is also beautifully sung and played by Connelly.

Only Lou Reed‘s Femme Fatale – one of three songs Nico sings on The Velvet Underground And Nico – gets ripped apart, mangled and reassembled by Connelly as a kind of perverse prayer, all church bells and squelchy synths.

It’s almost as if Connelly is taking revenge for Reed’s treatment of NIco – the singer foisted upon him by arch puppet master Andy Warhol.

Femme Fatale - Chris Connelly - Official Video
Femme Fatale, video by Iain W. Mutch/Walkerandwilliam

Indeed Reed is something of a Pantomime villain of the piece, bitchily voicing his opposition to Nico joining the Velvets on Andy, Incidentally -‘We got no room, for a European silver spoon‘.

Expertly mimicked by Connelly, Reed comes over as insecure and jealous as both Nico and Warhol join the debate over her inclusion in the band.

Warhol chides Reed for being ‘a baby’ telling him Nico will ‘lift your band from the avant garde to fame,’ while a nervous Nico is equally uncertain of her involvement, complaining to Warhol she’s not here ‘just to be looked at’ and capable of writing her own lyrics.

Connelly apes Reed’s sarcastic drawl again later on A Slow Jones in New York, urging Nico to return to the city – ‘We’re passed the point where we’re corrosive’ – only to viciously turn on her again ‘You amount to nought…/You’re the girl that time forgot.

At times Connelly sings in his native Scottish accent -signifying a kind of lyrical reportage – most effectively as he recounts Nico’s time in London and Manchester.

On 80s Beat Boys, NIco cuts a desperate and lonely figure as she she howls her despair into the studio microphone‘ on a grim day in the capital.

Eulogy To Lenny Bruce - Chris Connelly - Official Video

Later on Draw from it (Like a Vampire), Connelly unflinchingly shows how far her star has fallen.

Middle aged and wracked by ‘addiction’s greed’, her performances baffle ‘disinterested provinicial revellers’ who’ve ‘maybe heard of the Velvet Underground’, but know nothing of her solo work.

Certainly this is no hagiography, but Connelly shows great sympathy for the artist born Christa Päffgen.

The subtitle – A Tribute to the Music and Mystique of NICO – says it all.

Thanks to Connelly’s research, imagination and uncanny ability to channel those who knew and worked with her, this double album, is so much more than the Nico covers collection he’d originally envisaged.

Running to more than 100 minutes of music, it’s a massive undertaking that receives warm praise from Jennifer Otter Bickerdicke, whose book about Nico – You Are Beautiful and You Are Alone – helped inspire the project.

“This is a record to be played at full blast, all the way through, as a commemoration not just to Nico the person, the musician, but to art for art’s sake,” Bickerdicke writes in the album’s sleeve notes.

A considerable creative achievement, as complex and beguiling as its subject.

  • Eulogy To Crista is released by Shipwrecked Industries in the USA and Easy Action in the UK
  • The digital version is be available via Bandcamp, as well as Apple Music and Amazon. The CD version will be released on December 4.
  • For more on Chris Connelly visit his Website or Facebook and Twitter pages.
Ripcord, Ripcord - Chris Connelly - Official Video

About the author

Full time journalist, music lover (obvs) and truly terrible guitarist. You can find Matt on twitter @matcatch