Sunday, March 2, 2008

Book Review : Nico : Songs they never play on the Radio - James Young

If there is one thing I can't stand is when a biography elevates a rockstar to a God like status. In reality they are normal people who's eccentricities are documented and the human side left out.

One can imagine my joy when I read James Young's memoir of the time he spent with German chanteuse Nico (he was her keyboardist for the Camera Obscura tour) during the last six years of her life. Gritty, realistic and entertaining from beginning to end, Young grabs into the story from the start of his torrid journey. Along the way Gegory Corso, Allen Ginsberg and John Cale are dragged along as well.

What is interesting is that Young does not mince his words and tells the tale as it is. Here Nico is not a beautiful ice maiden but a hopless junkie, whose habit is destroying her career and personality, not to mention her sense of hygiene.

As the band travel around Europe they attract a great number of junkies, thieves, gypsies, exotic women, sexually frustrated managers, Deranged American poets, power hungry Welshmen and yes they play the odd gig and tv appearance.

Despite the fact that the same things do happen, Young never descends into repetativness as his writing style is too flowing to let that happen. He has a knack for describing a situation no matter impossible it is and manages to get a laugh out of the reader.

He is a fair writer as well. Although Nico is seen as a dragin he does point out that she was transformed into one by heroin as the chapters on the last her of her life ( when she was clean) depict her as an easy going, calm person in chrage of her career.

Thankfully Young does not devote chapters on Nico's unfortunate end but mentions it casually and respectfully.

As memoirs go Nico Songs... is up there with the best biographies. A must read.

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