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The Enigmatic Connection: Nico, The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, and the Velvet Underground

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The Velvet Underground
American cult group (fronted by Lou Reed) who Brian Jones introduced to Nico, with whom Brian had a brief relationship, later becoming became their singer. Mick got the idea for ‘Stray Cat Blues’ from the Velvet Underground’s song ‘Heroin‘.


velvet underground rolling stones nico brian jones monterey 1967

From the “Nico, the Life and Lies of an Icon” book by Richard Witts (1991):
“One night, early March 1965 Nico met The Rolling Stones. Oldham was looking at Nico and weighing up the options. She was no svelte schoolgirl, but she talked first hand of Fellini and Dylan and was game to get on in the world. He was not only supplying singers for his business, he was equipping his group with girlfriends. […] Oldham noticed that Brian Jones was staring ardently at Nico; the come-hither look was crossing both ways. He acted accordingly. ‘Let’s meet up and talk careers’, he offered. ‘How about tomorrow?’ asked Nico, rather too eagerly. ‘We’re starting a tour. Come and catch us somewhere. We can talk after the show.’ That is how Nico described the conversation.

The show she caught was in Paris, on 17 April 1965. Willy Maywald had found her a small modeling assignment in the city and she was able to visit her son Ari.

She was astounded to learn that her actress colleague Zouzou had spent some time with Brian Jones; at least she was in a position to take Nico backstage past the Olympia’s security staff into the backstage rooms.

The on and off period of three months that Nico spent with Jones is formly documented.

Nico recalled “It was fascinating and frightening. Brian was like my little brother, and I had to stop him sometimes from destroying everything, including himself.” “It’s really very simple”, claimed Nico. “He was sexy. He seduced girls. He was charming, until he locked the door”. Nico said on another occasion that she preferred the Rolling Stones to the Beatles (whom she had met at parties) because the latter were “show business’ and the Stones ‘were living on nerves and more my idea of rebels. I want to be at the center of the edge, do you follow? The Beatles could give me a n-i-c-e time, but I wanted then a b-a-d time. I was foolish in that way.’

Nico gave five examples of her encounters with Jones, and in each case her account is one of a submissive. She talked of his love of ceremonial candles, their golden flames. She had craved for their relationship to be one of genuine correspondence. Nico tried to discuss poetry with Jones, and then music, but ‘he was really too stoned to talk about anything, and often so was I’. She considered him ‘too lazy to be a genuine artist, but he was gifted and could have made some original music”.

Nico flew back to London. That summer of 1965, London was drowned in dirty rain. Brian Jones told her not to worry as Oldham was experienced and knew the trade ‘inside-out’. Jones promised to help her, coach her in whatever song was chosen, and furthermore play guitar in the recording session. Oldham went as close to Dylan as he could get. He chose an A-side by another (Albert) Grossman act, Canadian composer Gordon Lightfoot. Nico was indifferent to the song, “Im Not Sayin”, influenced by Dylan in it’s clever twists of thought. The recording took place in the Soho recording studio down Denmark Street. Oldham produced. Jones strummed his guitar upfront, Nico was encouraged to sound like Marianne Faithfull, which she resented.

Nico did once ask a writer, ‘Do you know Brian was a witch? We were interested in these things and he was very deep about it. Mick knew and was his enemy. It was dangerous sometimes”. She said on another occasion that Jones was keen on the occult but ‘he was like a little boy with a magic set. It was really an excuse for him to be nasty and sexy. He read books by an old English man (Aliester Crowley) who was the devil. I told Brian that I knew the devil and the devil was German!’

It was not hard to get engrossed, and like many bored boys of his generation, Brian Jones was fascinated. He read what he could and learned to love the occult’s deviant spirit. Nico, of course was intrigued by the inverse uses of the Christian symbols. There was a visceral thrill to be had from touching on taboos; in such matters Jones and Nico were of like mind and easily led. (Ref. the velvet underground)

In the second half of 1965 Nico exercised her languages by skipping from country to country. She was not only in search of work, but also her son, who still lived in Paris. She longed to see him right then and there it’s conjectured, because she had just undergone an abortion in London, having discovered she was pregnant by Brian Jones. By early November Nico had flown to New York, where she found the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and his manager.

Brian Jones took Nico to Warhol’s Factory, which, she was disappointed to discover, was nothing more than the 4th floor of a warehouse on East 47th St. Nico greeted Warhol with a copy of her Immediate record. This was a wise move, for that disc proved to be her audition for the Velvet Underground and her ticket to fame as Andy Warhol’s new Superstar and the tag Miss Pop 1966. (Ref. the velvet underground)