Jennifer Otter Bickerdyke chooses her subjects carefully, knowing she will spend several years obsessing over everything, faithful to the character to write the best biography. And so it is when it comes to Niko, a model, actor and singer who rose to fame with his collaboration with The Velvet Underground.
You are beautiful and you are alone. Niko’s biography (Contra, 2022) is over 400 pages long, which, as Rafa Cervera says in his prologue, breaks “Nico’s legend.” Cervera begins his contribution with an important fact: “For a long time Niko’s story was told by men.” The gaze that gave rise to the deified and stereotypical Nico further distanced him from the possibility of understanding, of understanding well. Otter Bickerdyke has a curious history: he is the author of a biography Britney Spears pieces of a modern icon (2022), Vinyl Vindication – Why is vinyl important? (2017) – and the work that connects the post-punk band Joy Division with the fan phenomenon, an interesting reflection, because it is still strange that a group as obscure as Ian Curtis was eaten by T-shirts at cheap clothing chains. (The Devotion of Joy: Ian Curtis and the Importance of Fan Culture).
Originally from Santa Cruz (California, USA), Otter Bickerdyke lived for some time in London, is a cultural historian and works at the Institute of Contemporary Music in Britain and Ireland. To highlight some of Nico’s most important biographical features, it should be remembered that it was Andy Warhol who asked Lou Reed to join the group. He became a star at the factory with his impressively cold aesthetic, German accent, and Zamoran’s blanket-dry yet comfortable voice. Songs I will be your mirror i Femme Fatale They are respected without cracks. The general public usually doesn’t know what happened to her after that, except that she had a child with Alain Delon and he showed up. la dolce vita by Fellini.
“Niko became legendary to many not as an artist and a poet, but because of her appearance and how it changed throughout her life, because of the men she dated and her addiction problems, not because of her music or her work,” explains Missy. Biographer for elDiario.es. “Nico is presented as a human being, not as a perfect idol,” he warns.
The historian has done what he describes as “forensic fact-finding” and, in addition, has tried to show where each piece of information he cites comes from. “As a trained researcher, I felt it was crucial that her story be as factual as possible, which is why it took me so long to write this book. Many Nikos are based on myths rather than reality,” he adds.
Violation of Niko’s male vision
It has been working for four years. Before she made the decision to dedicate this time of her life to Nico, there was a trigger: “how people took a misogynistic myth as fact.” “It’s a shame that men are just not valued equally,” she adds. Cervera explains this in the prologue: “In the eyes of the public, Nico has become a decadent lunatic who has allowed himself to be consumed by heroin addiction while dragging his anachronistic harmonies on stage.” and add a Mea Culpa Not personal, but collective: “It was almost always us journalists who shuddered to highlight the romantic decline.”
And, as Rafa Cervera has said, music journalism has a responsibility that is redoubled by placing male history in music historiography: “You only have to see that 99% of all music reports [en redes sociales] They are written by men to see that something is wrong,” warns Jennifer Otter.
In fact, the two biographical subjects of Jennifer Otter, Britney Spears, and Nico have a few things in common: “misogyny, age, and the grim reality that nothing has changed in the way media and popular culture think.” And they treat women. For forty years,” he notes.
With these “forensic” principles in mind and the need to repair a poorly told story, Otter sheds a lot of light on the artist’s life before he was Niko, when he was Christa Pefgen, a fatherless girl from Cologne, with her mother. A desperate financial situation that briefly landed her in a boarding house, a young girl who hid in a bathroom during World War II bombings was sexually assaulted by an American soldier under the age of 13 in post-war Berlin.
A strange death in Ibiza
However, the period of Niko’s biography that seemed dark to him, the most difficult to understand, is “everything that happened after he went through the Velvet Underground.” the singer’s relationship with The Doors’ Jim Morrison; his disk chelsea girl On what he immediately denied or how he became a drug user and what they meant to him: “Nico’s horse use was like a lot of musicians, a way to deal with the pain that comes with this profession, which either it rewards you. It punishes you in absurd ways or absurdly if you don’t succeed,” Lou Reed biographer Victor Bocris told the author.
And beyond time there was also a dark area: the record Marble index 1968 with John Cale (The Velvet Underground); relationship with mother; the difficulty of getting a foothold in music in the 70s; Cinematographic cooperation with Garel; His approach to post-punk, which led him to open for bands like Siouxsie & The Banshees, or his final years in Ibiza, where he died in mysterious and possibly avoidable circumstances, as the book reveals, in 1988.
Ibiza was Niko’s “refuge”. There he found a “spiritual and emotional home,” Otter writes. “It’s my favorite place, I think I’ll die there,” he told a journalist, according to the book. He lived on the Balearic Islands with his son Ari, who was 25 at the time. The pages that explore Nico’s final hours are written very well with the well-known facts and respect for the unknown. There are different versions. On the July day when he died, it was terribly hot and he was cycling from one place to another. The last time her son Ari saw her, she was pedaling up a hill, wearing sunglasses and a copy of Mark Twain’s Hardship in the pocket of her black jacket.
According to one account of his death, the couple found him next to an overturned bicycle, crushed. She was taken to the Red Cross hospital, but they did not want to admit her: “The staff there thought she was a homeless woman.” Another hospital “didn’t want to treat him because he was a foreigner.” Neither did the third, “because Niko was an old hippie.” Fourth, Can Misses got it. When the next day his son searched all the hospitals and came to the latter, he had already died. The cause of death was a stroke, possibly due to heat and exertion. It was July 18, 1988.
Peter Murphy, a Bauhaus singer, said of him: “Nico was goth like Mary Shelley. Everyone else was Hammer horror movie goth. For Jennifer Otter, and despite this deep and revealing biography, “everything” about the artist remains a mystery. “We’ll never meet the real Nico,” he says, adding that in reality, “it’s impossible to fully know anyone, including yourself.”
A new religion
Otter Bickerdike is passionate and interested in the fan phenomenon. For him, the cult of fans that is now strong in groups like BTS or soloists like Harry Styles has “changed the traditional forms of religious endeavours”. “The Internet has made it completely normal to be a devoted follower of a star or a celebrity, just as it was in the past when someone dedicated their life to a sacred being,” he adds.
“Rock continues to shake our bodies with a mystical and irrational force,” writes Marc Sastre brilliantly. The end of rock. And, in this particular ecosystem, Otter Bickerdike defends the authenticity of music in a world where every day means less. “Music today is seen as disposable,” he muses. “It’s disgusting. The removal of the price and physicality of music has created an industry panorama that is not only hostile to the artist, but also unsustainable for career longevity,” he analyzes some of the arguments he develops in his book. Why Vinyl Matters It has not been translated into Spanish.
Source: El Diario