Sunday, March 25, 2007

Nico - Ari

The Nico reissue 'The Frozen Borderline 1968 - 1970' is one of my recent acquisitions, a double cd collecting 1968's album 'The Marble Index' and 1970's 'Desertshore', fleshed out with demos for and outtakes from these albums.

Tinged by psychedelia and informed by folk music, both albums are very much the product their era. The repeating figures and atonal drones of the Indian harmonium Nico plays, point towards inspiration by the NYC minimalists such as Tony Conrad, La Monte Young and Terry Riley - but there's no Vedic enlightenment, there is no euphoria, it's no beautific Dream House. Instead, Nico welcomes the listener to her personal Schloß Alptraum, Nightmare Castle. Both albums are dramatic, terrifying even: one senses the chanteuse is teetering on the brink of the abyss, on the edge of blackest depression and heroin addiction, an abyss she would actually fall into in the next decade. Passing through the prism of NYC's minimalists, the nocturnal unlight of Pandit Pran Nath's Raga Malkauns is refracted into Nico's night of torment.

Nico's heroin addiction should not be romanticized. Heroin is not only highly addictive but also generates a strong tolerance in the user: soon, the drug is used primarily to avoid to prevent the effects of withdrawal, i.e. for future well-being instead of momentary loss of self. Heroin is not a transgressive drug, it is a means to an end and not an end in itself, it produces teleological slavery. Romanticizing heroin addiction is romanticizing economic subservience, romanticizing Nico the junky means romanticizing economic exploitation. Seeing Nico in the next YouTube video is sad, only sad.

Perhaps it is that I am to become a father in a week or four, but the album sparked an interest in Nico's troubled relationship with her only son, Ari. The mother-son-relationship permeats both albums. One of the songs on 'The Marble Index' is called "Ari's Song"; a song on 'Desertshore' is called "My Only Child" and in fact an eight-year-old Ari sings a rather saccharine song on that album. Other songs too point towards mothers and children: "Janitor of lunacy/Paralyze my infancy/Petrify the empty cradle" are the opening words of Desertshore. The mother-child relationship lends a special and (for such a Gothick album) unusual sense of familial intimacy to these stark albums.

In 1962, Christian Aaron Boulogne - Ari was his nickname - was born from a short-lasted relationship between the chanteuse and French actor Alain Delon, who denied paternity for many years. However loving Nico appears from the songs to have been as a mother, maternal responsibility wasn't her strong suit. She supposedly took LSD while pregnant (can you imagine the unborn child hallucinating in the womb?) and dragged the child with her in her nomadic bohemian lifestyle. His infancy was spent in New York with his mother, in Andy Warhol's Factory, as a mascot for the Velvet Underground. At the age of four he emptied the drinking glasses of Bob Dylan, John Cale and Paul Morrissey, and sucked on amphetamine pills, mistaking them for candy. Ari became Warhol's youngest star when he appeared with his Nico in the film 'The Chelsea Girls' in 1966.

When Alain Delon's mother, Edith Boulogne, saw Ari's photograph in a French newspaper, she was instantly convinced it was her son's child.

Edith Boulogne [Alain Delon's mother]:

"I said to myself, that's my son's child. We went to see her [Nico], her and the baby. The kid was about two years old. He came running into my husband's arms. We were so moved. I saw my own son in him. And I truly believed that my son would accept him... When he heard about it two years after we had taken the baby, he had his agent tell me that I had to choose between the baby and my son. My husband said, 'Your son can feed himself, but Ari can't raise himself.' So we kept him.

Think about it, he was so little. Before we took him, she [Nico] dragged him around everywhere. He ate nothing but french fries, in train stations, hotels, airports. They lived like bohemians. She came to see him once in three years. She brought him something from America. Guess what? An orange. My husband and I looked at each other, speechless. We took the orange and thought, she's really not like other people... but I still liked her. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen".

Delon's mother adopted the child, giving him his last name: 'Boulogne'. At the age of 17, Ari ran off from his adoptive parents, joined Nico and became a heroin addict - turned on to the drug by mother (!). Five years later, on july 8th 1988, Nico fell from her bicycle while on Ibiza on and was brought unconscious to Cannes Nisto Hospital,were she died from a brain hemorrhage. Thereafter, Ari spent his much of his life in and out of detoxication clinics and psychiatric hospitals. In 2001, at the age of 38, living in Paris, he fathers a son and writes a book about his relationship with his mother called "L'Amour N'Oublie Jamais" (Love Never Forgets). Currently, Ari works intermittently as an actor under the name of Ari Päffgen, recently appearing in La Repentie, a movie about a mysterious, black-clad femme fatale.