Some experiences just leave you shaking your head in confusion. Meeting Nico was one of those. 32 years later, I still can’t quite make sense of it. Here’s the story. December 1977. Sitting in my L.A. apartment late one night, reading BAM (Bay Area Music, the free music newspaper,) I came upon an ad I almost couldn’t believe–Nico was appearing the very next evening at Mabuhay Gardens, the San Francisco punk club. The great Nico, from the Velvet Underground ! I loved her solo albums, but I’d never heard of her playing live in America–yet, there it was–she was appearing the next evening only 350 miles north. I called the club; they confirmed it was actually happening. I quickly bought a plane ticket for the next afternoon, and reserved a hotel room for the night.
I brought my copy of Nico’s album “Desertshore” which I hoped to have her sign. Before the show I snuck backstage, scared but acting like I belonged, and miraculously nobody stopped me. And there she was, Nico. Much larger than the svelte model she had once been, but still, Nico ! It was amazing. I introduced myself, and asked if she would please sign my album. I told her I had flown all the way from Los Angeles just to see her. “No you didn’t !,” she replied curtly in that icy, Germanic voice. Somewhat taken aback, I insisted, yes, indeed, I had flown all the way from Los Angeles, just to see her. Again, she replied tersely “no you didn’t !” I was more than a bit intimidated by her brusk manner, not to mention the fact that here was the great Nico, a hero of mine, refusing to believe me. For the third time I insisted, “really Nico, I flew up here just to see you. I’m a huge fan.” This time she replied, as curtly as before, “then show me your plane ticket !”
Luckily I had it in my jacket pocket. After some fumbling, I fished it out, and showed her that indeed, I had flow up that afternoon, and was scheduled to return the next morning. That seemed to convince her, and without further comment she took my album and pen to sign it. She wrote “For Jeff, who came all the way from LA to see me, who seems to be on my side. Nico Dec 8, 1977.” Yow !
The show was great, just Nico and her harmonium, singing her solo work and Velvets songs. In hindsight, I’m sure she was having “issues” at the time. I still have the signed album, of course (above). Not to mention one of the weirder memories from a life in and around music.