Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Drama of Exile
Catalog: AUL 715
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: minor ring wear
Catalog ID: 5488
After spending seven years living in near isolation in Paris where she apparently spent most of her time working on a heroin habit (she was also reportedly afraid the Black Panthers had ordered a hit on her), in the late 1970s Nico moved back to New York City and tentatively returned to music. Her 'comeback' came in the form of a 1980 performance at CBGB's which won rave reviews from local critics and saw her begin to play more and more dates, including a brief tour along the East Coast and Midwest. Buoyed by her touring successes in 1981 Nico returned with her first studio album in seven years.
While the details remain murky, there are actually two versions of the "Drama of Exile" LP and numerous stories behind the alternative LPs.
Nico always claimed the original tapes had been stolen by a sound engineer who sold the unfinished material to the English Aura label. Aura immediately released the collection even though Nico filed suit. In the meantime Nico went back into the studio and with a slightly different line up of musicians re-recorded some of the tracks and recorded additional material which was then released by the French Invisible Records label with different artwork and a slightly different track listing.
Another version has Nico selling the master tapes for $4,000 in order to feed her heroin habit.
The third and most credible version has Aura Records president Aaron Sixx offered to finance one album. The company advanced Nico's management the money only to discover that her 'manager' Nadett Duget and producer Philippe Quilichini planned to steal and sell the master tapes to another company. Sixx reportedly grabbed all of the tapes before that could happen, quickly releasing the unfinished material in Holland and Sweden. Before the LP could be released in the UK, or the States Nico's management slapped Aura with a lawsuit. That led to a nasty extended legal case with Nico pointing out she'd never signed a contract with the company, though she'd accepted Aura's recording money. In the end Nico ended up parting ways with her management and signing over published rights to the new songs to Aura. Producer Quilichini then supposedly took some of the working tapes to Paris where he remixed the material, added a couple of previously recorded numbers that had been dropped from the original LP and released it on the French Invisible label. Aura quickly slapped with an injunction on the LP and it was withdrawn from circulation. Finally, in 1983 the LP saw a UK release.
So in the end what was all legal maneuvering and excitement about?
Recorded in London with Corsican-born Quilcihni producing (he also played bass on the sessions) and backing from an international cast of studio musicians including keyboardist Andy Clarke (who'd engineered and played on David Bowie's "Scary Monsters" album and Ian Dury and the Blockheads sax player Davey Payne, the set offered up a strange, but intriguing mixture of rock, prickly new wave, punk aggression, and an early stab at world music influences. The set was apparently intended to be something of an autobiographical statement covered Nico's past, present and future lives ... Don't even ask me what that really means. "Genghis Khan' was inspired by some guy she met in Spain who she thought looked like her vision of the man. Regardless of the inspiration, coupled with Nico's heavily accented droning voice and typically icy and mysterious lyrics the results may not strike many folks as being a particularly appealing mixture, but that really wasn't the case. Propelled in large part by Mohammad Hadi's biting guitar the results were brittle and more than a little scary (gawd only knows why but Nico dedicated 'The Spinx' to German terrorist Andreas Baader). At the same time there was no denying that Nico and company actually rocked out ... The set certainly had some lapses. Producer Quilichini added a weird tinny production sound to collection which didn't do much to benefit Nico's already limited vocals prowess and the decision to cover Lou Reed's 'Waiting for the Man' with a bland martial arrangements wasn't particularly smart , though I liked her bouncy (I'm using the term loosely) cover of David Bowie's 'Heroes'. 'Course Nico repeatedly claimed both songs had been written for her, so why not go ahead and record them?
"Drama of Exile" track listing:
1.) Genghis Khan (Nico) -
2.) Purple Lips (Nico) -
3.) One More Chance (Nico) -
4.) Henry Hudson (Nico) -
5.) Waiting for the Man (Lou Reed) -
1.) Sixty Four (Nico) -
2.) The Spinx (Nico) -
3.) Orly Flight (Nico) -
3.) Heroes (David Bowie - Brian Eno) -
In case anyone's interested, here's the information on the withdrawn version of the LP:
Invisible Records catalog number C 3813
"Drama of Exile" track listing:
1.) One More Chance (Nico) - 4:13
2.) The Sphinx (Nico) - 4:00
3.) Sãeta (Nico) - 3:40
4.) Genghis Khan (Nico) - 3:34
5.) Heroes (David Bowie - Brian Eno) - 5:41
1.) Henry Hudson (Nico) - 3:46
2.) 60/40 (Nico) - 4:35
3.) Orly Flight (Nico) - 2:48
4.) Vegas (Nico) - 3:30
5.) I'm Waiting For the Man (Lou Reed) - 4:14
There's actually another version of the album. In 1993 the American Cleopatra label released the collection domestically in CD format (catalog number CLEO10792). Naturally it sported different cover art.
One final tidbit, Quilichini died in a 1983 car accident.