She sang for the Velvet Underground, acted for Fellini, and posed for Warhol, but Nico the German-born singer also led a chaotic life — she was a heroin addict for years — and died in 1988. Singer Tammy Lang, who made a name for herself playing a country singer named Tammy Faye Starlite, is bringing Nico back to life with a show called “Chelsea Mädchen,” where she channels the late rock icon on stage. She talked with Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson.
Lang first came across Nico while reading a biography on Edie Sedgwick, who along with Nico, was one of Warhol’s “superstars.” Immediately after, Lang hit up her local record store to buy the Velvet Underground’s debut effort “The Velvet Underground and Nico.”
After that, Lang was hooked.
“I had never heard a female voice so deep,” she said. “[Nico’s] accent just gave it so much more allure.”
Nico’s German roots shone through in songs such as “Femme Fatale,” where her pronunciation of “clown” sounds more like “clon.” In her cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” the word “dolphin” also takes on a new sound.
“That song just made me love her more for saying dolphins that way,” Lang added.
The inspiration for “Chelsea Mädchen,” Lang said, struck when she heard one of Nico’s interviews from the mid-80s. Lang transcribed the interview, then dissected and rearranged it to her liking.
“I tried to incorporate what some may call her less-loveable tendencies,” she said.
Lang said that Nico is someone who she has long imitated and admired.
“I would love for people to get into Nico,” she said. “She was so underappreciated as a composer and as a singer … [I] also, just [want others] to enjoy all aspects of her humanity, whether they be what is deemed negative or positive.”
“Chelsea Mädchen” takes the stage beginning this Thursday at the Bootleg Theater on Beverly.
KPCC 89.3 Off-Ramp
Performer Tammy Lang channels late singer, Velvet Underground collaborator Nico in “Chelsea Mädchen”
By Kevin Ferguson
With contributions by Teresa Rosales