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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great, re-defining book on musicans (and music)
A great and fascinating book. Indeed, it's a classic of its type.
Mr Young is a born observer, the right man at the right place at the right time. John Cale, among other guys, emerges from this book with his reputation in tatters.
One of the two or three best books about a musician - or, better say, a "group" of musicians - as I have ever come upon.
The...
Published on 3 Jan 2004

versus
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Myth-busting account of being on the road with Nico in the 1980s
This book is nothing if not iconoclastic. James Young was keyboardist for German-born singer Nico during her performances and recordings throughout the 1980s until her premature death on the island of Ibiza on July 18, 1988. Having already been so many people - European catwalk model, French actress (e.g. starring in Fellini's La Dolche Vita), Warhol superstar and a sexy...
Published on 13 Dec 2007 by cathy earnshaw


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great, re-defining book on musicans (and music), 3 Jan 2004
By A Customer
A great and fascinating book. Indeed, it's a classic of its type.
Mr Young is a born observer, the right man at the right place at the right time. John Cale, among other guys, emerges from this book with his reputation in tatters.
One of the two or three best books about a musician - or, better say, a "group" of musicians - as I have ever come upon.
The dark, painful side of music. Drugs and death and despair. Funny and insinuatingly convincing, unforgettable in its well-found images and its insights into human nature.
Nico herself comes out of the book well.
(Thanks to irridium for the recommendation.)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HILARIOUS, FASCINATING, ADDICTIVE, 14 Sep 2000
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This biography, variously titled Nico: The End, Nico: The Last Bohemian or Nico: Songs They Never Play on the Radio, is a masterpiece of style and content, one of the very best rock biographies in existence. It explores the life of Nico after the Velvet Underground, covering her life in London and tours of Europe, the USA and Japan in the 1980s.

I found myself devouring the text in utter fascination. It includes descriptions of bizarre performances, wild parties, weird tour experiences, eccentric characters like her one-time manager Dr Demetrius, encounters with luminaries like John Cale, a visit to the motel where Tom Waits used to stay and much much more.

The Preface covers Nico's family background, her career as model, the first move to New York, her role in Fellini's La Dolce Vita, involvement with The Rolling Stones and later Andy Warhol and the Factory crowd. Post Velvet Underground she went solo and made some great albums with the help of John Cale, eventually settling in Manchester in the UK.

The author met her in 1981 and thus this biography deals with the last seven years of her life. The first tour was that of Italy, the next of the USA that included shows in Detroit, Denver, and Chicago. In LA the band stayed at The Tropicana where Tom Waits made his residence at the time. One of the funniest parts is the narrative of Nico's first experience with angel dust in Los Angeles. The tour concluded in New York.

Then came the performances with Gregory Corso in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. A highlight of the narrative is Nico's show at the Free University in Berlin, where she made the mistake of singing Deutschland über Alles, causing a riot. Fortunately, her harmonium shielded her against the hailstorm of beer bottles.

Back in Manchester, there was an interesting encounter with the punk poet John Cooper Clarke and John Cale in a bad patch of his life. At a studio in Shoreditch he produced her album Camera Obscura which was launched with a powerful performance at Chelsea Town Hall. Allen Ginsberg appears in the chapter Suspicious Minds whilst other beats like Carolyn Cassady also make an appearance.

Eric Random joined the band just before the European tour that encompassed Germany, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland (where Nico managed to score opium behing the then Iron Curtain) and Spain. Australia and New Zealand came next and then Japan. The book concludes with an account of her death and funeral in 1988.

Underneath the humor there is a lot of sadness too but it is a strangely inspiring read. Songs They Never Play On The Radio is a gem on many levels and transcends the genre of rock writing. Only Marianne Faithfull's Memories, Dreams and Reflections comes close. You don't have to be a fan of Velvet Underground to enjoy this classic work, as it offers much humor, wit and arresting portraits of a colorful array of personalities.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nico, 25 Mar 2009
By 
Allow me, if you would, a comment or several on the words of a previous reviewer.

"I brought this book in hope that it would capture the bohemian spirit but it simply did not do this"

Please disregard this comment. If there is one thing that this book does do, it is capture "bohemian spirit". And then some. It pokes a long, whittled stick into the remains of such a "spirit," and does so unflinchingly and with a gimlet eye.

"Nico seems like a two dimensional character and the Scottish slang dialogue doesn't flow like Irvine Welsh's."

Heh heh. There is no Scottish slang in this book. None of the characters are Scottish and none of the events take place in Scotland.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Myth-busting account of being on the road with Nico in the 1980s, 13 Dec 2007
By 
This book is nothing if not iconoclastic. James Young was keyboardist for German-born singer Nico during her performances and recordings throughout the 1980s until her premature death on the island of Ibiza on July 18, 1988. Having already been so many people - European catwalk model, French actress (e.g. starring in Fellini's La Dolche Vita), Warhol superstar and a sexy chanteuse with The Velvet Underground - Nico was now Queen of the Junkies, living off scattered solo shows and intermittently releasing albums. After a lull, she decided to launch a comeback in 1982 whilst living in Manchester; a local music entrepreneur, Dr. Demetrius, became her manager and, inevitably, also a go-between for drugs: "Nico needs to work in order to buy heroin, and heroin in order to work," he said. With a motley crew of amateur musicians including Young (who had only played at a few bar mitzvahs previously), Nico embarked on chaotic, largely unsuccessful tours of the US, Italy, Eastern Europe, Australia and Japan. All the while, Young argues, Nico's heart belonged to heroin: "Nothing outside really impinged on her terrifying single-mindedness, her obsessive neurological and emotional need for heroin". What follows are a string of stories from these tours in which Young characterises Nico as consistently lazy, having anorexic tendencies (living off custard and yoghurt, she finds solid food repulsive), a "monster" who makes selfish demands and is prone to tantrums and impatience: "What might have been the forgivable narcissism of a fashionable beauty had now become a tiresome and undignified egotism".

Enveloped by a permanent vapour of opiated hash and burnt heroin, Nico had retreated so far into drug abuse that human relationships were no longer possible. Part of her seemed to relish having sunk so low. There are moments in this book, however, when her emotional vulnerability becomes pathetically clear. Hoping that Bob Dylan would drop by after one of her live shows, she baths - for the first time in months! - and buys a new shirt for the occasion, but he doesn't appear. Young finds her sobbing in the decrepit dressing room, complaining that "no one comes to see me anymore". On another occasion, after an audience has given her an especially negative reception, she silently weeps at her derelict career: "I guess I'm through". Young, sober and pragmatic, concludes with hindsight: "Nico's songs of mortality and decay were not compatible with the dominant rhythm of the eighties".

On the way, there are weird and funny encounters with John Cale, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Young's descriptions of ex-Velvet Cale are particularly amusing, recording his transformation in less than two years from a bloated control freak brimming with paranoid conspiracy theories and tales of Artificial Intelligence to some kind of well-toned, clean-living, anti-smoking Zen Buddist. Some of the stories are less appealing: Young recalls Nico's only son, Ari, trying to sell his dead mother's methadone at her funeral and pocketing the proceeds of a memorial concert held in her name. There is also the suggestion that Nico was raped as a fifteen year-old by an American soldier who was court-martialled and shot for the offence.

James Young is a generous and self-effacing writer, unfettered by bitterness or score-settling; for him, being with Nico on tour was an escape from the dusty, book-strewn world of academia rather than an avowed attempt to jump-start his own career. He is not too proud to appear naive (when Nico covertly asks him for something sharp - i.e. a hypodermic needle - he hands her his Swiss army knife!) nor to admit to prostitutes and porno mags on the tour. Probably not to everyone's taste are his relentless descriptions of bad bodily odours and flesh bloating, flaking, sweating and riven with abscesses and heroin tracks. Nor his penchant for rendering accent textually for the whole book as a way of lightly mocking all concerned, especially Nico ("I was in the Sa-haaara, making a film...that's lo-onely") and Le Kid ("My muzzerre should play ze Carnegie 'All").

Nico's last concert was not, alas, to be in the Carnegie Hall, but in Berlin at the Planetarium a month before she died (Berlin was, in fact, the city in which she would be buried). "Nico wailed out of tune", but the German audience was reasonably positive. The last song Nico played live was one requested by Young and was his favourite of all her songs -

You do not seem to be listening
You do not seem to be listening
The high tide is taking everything
And you forget to answer.
(Nico, 'You Forgot to Answer')
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun!, 28 Oct 2009
What a great little book!

I bought this mainly because of the numerous John Cooper Clarke references in it. I had never heard any of Nico's music before. However - since finnishing the book I am now a Nico fan and have most of her music that is currently available.

The book is very amusing and entertaining. I found that I was repeatedly chuckling aloud to myself - not a bad recommendation considering that I was convalescing after an operation and not feeling particularly jovial! The Nico quotes are particularly hilarious, as the author manages to capture her strong Germanic accent absolutely perfectly with his unique spelling of it.

Of course all this humour and light heartedness is contrasted by the dark side of what is being disclosed: the last years of Nico's life as a heroin addict and ultimately her early death. Yet this is strangely juxtaposed by your subconscious acknowledgement as you read, that she made her own choices & lived as she wanted.

The John Cooper Clark bits are well worth the entire read, even if you're just a fan of his & not Nico - like I WAS!

All in all: A highly recommended read!

P.S. I think the negative reviewer probably lacks a sufficient command of the English language - which probably explains their failure to comprehend much of the humour & irony that this book provides.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars darkly funny and poignant, 27 May 2002
By A Customer
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Probably like many people who read this book, I came across it through an interest in the Velvet Underground. However I was so impressed with the quality of the writing, with its mixture of gallows humour and pathos that I would recommend this book to anyone whether or not they have an interest in Nico or not.
James Young is a talented and yet self effacing writer and musician who spent several years working with Nico whilst she manoevred around the cul de sac of heroin addiction and a stagnant career. These years are documented here with an acerbic wit and compassion not often seen in rock biography.
Definitely recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funniest book I've ever read, 26 Jan 2006
By 
LFF12 (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
Young happens to be the only "normal" person in the motley crew which he describes. A hilariously funny book, compounded with the unfortunate end that Nico reached - having survived years of heroin addiction, she fell off her bike while on holiday in Ibiza - there is a continuous thread of incongruousness that makes this a gripping read. Somehow nothing quite fitted together, but its a good story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your average memoir, 4 Jan 2014
By 
Rob Tigeir (Diùra) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nico, Songs They Never Play on the Radio (Kindle Edition)
An honest account from the player of a bit part in the grand opera of Nico's life. A great read and funny too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, fascinating, honest, 4 May 2009
This is the dark side of rock n' roll. Read this if you want to know what it's like to be famous, but not popular. James Young lived close to Nico at the end of her career and has portrayed a woman with a fascinating personality. Despite her heroin habit he doesn't judge her. You get an insight into the real underground. Sometimes it reads like a novel, you don't have to know anything about Nico beforehand.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great read, 27 Dec 2013
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I knew James Young in the 1970s and met him touring with Nico in the early 80s, a poignant and mesmerising story
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