We’re looking back at this brilliant piece of BBC Four footage which sees the German icon of sixties New York, singer, Nico performing a rock cover of her famed hit song ‘Chelsea Girls’ in the notorious Chelsea Hotel.
The Hotel is a landmark of New York’s incredible contribution to musical history. At times a home, at others a venue, the establishment is famed for housing some of the alternative scenes of the sixties’ most iconic names.
Such stars as Bob Dylan, Charles Bukowski, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Iggy Pop, Dylan Thomas, or Arthur C. Clarke can all lay claim to a creative connection with the Chelsea Hotel. It truly remains as one of the city’s musical landmarks.
Patti Smith, another notable guest, once said of the Chelsea to Another, “The hotel is an energetic, desperate haven for scores of gifted hustling children from every rung of the ladder. Guitar bums and stoned-out beauties in Victorian dresses. Junkie poets, playwrights, broke-down filmmakers, and French actors. Everybody passing through here is somebody, if not in the outside world.”
The hotel’s growing notoriety also garnered the attention of pop artist and the leading face of the art world, Andy Warhol. The artist even made it a focus of one of his arthouse films Chelsea Girls which peeked into the infamy of the hotel. One of the 1966 film’s stars was Nico and she soon became one of Warhol’s ‘superstars’.
That would inspire not only Nico’s own album Chelsea Girl and the near-title track ‘Chelsea Girls’ but also the German star’s collaborative effort with The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico, which was released in the same year. That was in 1967 and by 1981 Nico had delivered four more solo records, a heap of acting appearances, and cemented her role as a face of the pulsating counterculture movement.
Before Nico’s fifith studio record, the 1982 album Drama Exile would be released, Nico gave an astounding performance in the notorious hotel. As part of The Arena classic Chelsea Hotel documentary, which follows the lives of many residents of the eccentric hotel, Nico gives an emotional and empowering riff-heavy rendition of the 1967 hit.
The 1981 documentary catches Nico in the middle of a creative resurgence. She was recording for Dream Exile, her fifth studio album, and sees her change up the previously lusciously arranged ’67 hit ‘Chelsea Girls’. The orchestral beauty of the original song was dutifully replaced by the moody sound of personal and creative evolution. Nico was laying down another artistic marker.
She was no longer the Chelsea girl of old she was now so much more. Watch below as Nico performs a rock version of her iconic hit ‘Chelsea Girls’ in 1981.