“I do not feel connected enough…to throw stones at a policeman. I want to throw stones at the whole world.” – Nico
Nico’s place in this SydArthur Festival was assured when she fired up her newly-purchased harmonium and declared to her gaggle of swooning devoted super-hip songwriters: No More. Jackson Browne, John Cale, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan – all would have been quite content to continue writing material for this beautiful former Fellini Queen and Warhol Superstar. That she dared and demanded to jump off this fabulous conveyer belt, and that the results were of such an extraordinary high quality, obliges us to read her actions as having been nothing less than Total Personal Revolution.
Nico’s was a career of two halves. From having formerly offered in her songs well-organised and charming observations about the Factory scene, suddenly the New Nico presented us with deeply avant-garde art that inhabits Jungian dreamscapes of unspecified times and places. Desertshores. Borderlines. “Where land and water meet.” Across these barren landscapes, Nico’s low-church harmonium drones again and again, offering us clandestine meditations and underworld murmurings. Everything becomes merged and somewhere between the alpha and theta state. Whereas her Warhol vocal contributions are specific, her revolutionary work occupies an entirely different consciousness. She goes from trite to timeless. She becomes shamanic.
As evidenced by the fact that she often drove the Velvet Underground’s tour bus, it is clear that Nico was hands-on whenever she really wanted to be. But it took Jim Morrison’s challenge to goad her into becoming the seeress that so many adore. Once that gauntlet had been thrown down, Nico committed herself utterly to summoning her own magic. To demand to become the magician and not the magician’s assistant: this was her goal, and how highly it was achieved. In this Festival of the Mind, Nico provides for us all a blueprint for total mind transformation. She gave herself permission to become a poet. Her actions show us all that there are secret formulas to fathom and codes to break – but only for those intrepids who dare.
Today let’s listen to ‘All That Is My Own’ – this extraordinary final track from Desertshore in which Nico waves goodbye to the colossal sonic Viking ship that she has just built entirely by hand.