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Nico Captured by Fred McDarrah

On January 7, 1967, German-born singer Nico performed with The Velvet Underground at Steve Paul’s nightclub, the Scene, and this moment was captured stunningly in a photograph by Fred W. McDarrah. McDarrah was the photographer behind the Village Voice at the time and he had a fifty-year association with the paper that chronicled the post-War counterculture and captured images of all of the artists, writers, politicians, social movements, and musicians of the day. The Fred W. McDarrah Estate has graciously allowed this photo of Nico and others including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Willem de Kooning, and many others to be included within the GVSHP Historic Image Archive.

Nico performing with the Velvet Underground at Steve Paul’s nightclub, the Scene, New York, New York. © Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

Nico was born Christa Päffgen in Cologne Germany in 1938. Having worked as a model and actress, she became involved in the world of pop music through her relationships with both the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones and Bob Dylan. She was introduced to Andy Warhol who added her to the Velvet Underground, the avant-garde rock group that he managed. In 1966, after touring with the multimedia extravaganza dubbed the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, the band recorded its debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album featured three tracks written for Nico by Lou Reed, the group’s chief songwriter. Although the album, released in 1967, did not sell well at the time, it has gone on to be touted as one of the most influential records in rock music history, and in 2003 it was ranked 13th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The Velvet Underground and Nico album cover.

Both Nico and The Velvet Underground have connections to the East Village. Nico made her home at 101 Avenue A and in 1966, The Velvet Underground performed at and was the house band for The Dom on St. Mark’s Place. McDarrah was quite close to Warhol and the Factory, and extensively documented the Velvets’ earliest days. Key to their rise to downtown prominence was their month-long residency at Warhol’s St. Marks Place club The Dom, which began on April 1, 1966 as part of his “Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” McDarrah was there to capture this bizarre, multi-media performance on the opening night.

The Velvet Underground at Andy Warhol‘s The Dom, 23 St. Marks Place, as part of the ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable,’ New York, New York, April 1, 1966. © Estate of Fred W. McDarrah

For more images by Fred MacDarrah, go to Fred W. McDarrah: Iconic Images of the Village & East Village from the 1950s and 60s and Fred W. McDarrah: Rock Icons.

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