Nico is unmistakable in her cadence and her vocal tone. It means that as soon as one of her records begins to play, you are certain that the Norwegian model and singer is behind it.
One such recording is this incredible pre-Velvet Underground number ‘I’m Not Sayin’, a track complete with a backing band that included The Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones and one of the greatest guitarists to ever live, Led Zeppelin’s very own Jimmy Page.
A model in her younger days, the presence of Nico is remarkable and far beyond what most singers possess. Throughout her career in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, Nico would provide some memorable performances and unforgettable solo albums with her work alongside the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol being among some of her most recognisable.
Before Nico became the final word in The Velvet Underground—one of the most culturally important bands of the 20th century—she was already making music with some of the best. ‘I’m Not Sayin’ was the singer’s first single and boasts a more than an impressive backing band.
It was to be expected though, as Nico had already become friends with some of the most important figures of popular culture during her early days, that she would always be the toast of any party she graced with her presence and could later call the likes of Coco Chanel, Federico Fellini, and Alain Delon as close friends.
It was an alluring quality to those who met her, including the founding member of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones. The guitarist had met his then-girlfriend, Nico, while she was singing on smoky nightclub stages but it was him that convinced her to release her first single on Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s new record label.
As part of the recording process for the single release, Oldham asked his young studio musician and current A&R man to jump in on guitar. That guitarist was a young and doe-eyed Jimmy Page, the future founding father of heavy metal. He, alongside Jones, played the guitar for the cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘I’m Not Saying’ and also wrote the B-side ‘The Last Mile’ with Oldham. While it may seem odd to see Jimmy Page’s name in the credits for this one, his work as a session musician allowed Page to feature on lot of big releases at the time, including working for Marianne Faithfull, Them’s and Petula Clark.
The song wouldn’t do much in the charts and wouldn’t necessarily aid Nico’s career. However, it would eventually see Jones introduce the former model to a fresh-faced artist with a ‘factory’ in New York, Andy Warhol. It would change Nico’s life and although she only ever sang on three songs of the VU’s LP, she would be forever entwined with one of the seminal moments of popular culture.
For now, watch the beautiful promo video for ‘I’m Not Sayin’ filmed at the barely recognisable, Canary Wharf in London.