Episode 3.4: The Marble Index

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The Marble Index – Nico – Elektra – 1968

Although she had been a presence in the New York’s downtown music scene in the ’60s, Nico didn’t begin writing her own songs until late 1967. Dismayed at the finished product of her first solo album, 1967’s Chelsea Girl, she started to pen her own poems, exploring the truth of her own experiences and putting it to haunting harmonium music. Rejecting the Warhol Factory persona that had given her fame, if not artistic satisfaction, Nico allowed herself to outwardly display her inner darkness: she stopped dying her hair platinum blonde, opting for dark red instead, and took to wearing all black. Though many critics believed this was a character she was adopting to make the album seem more authentic, what they were actually seeing, along with the rest of the world, was a free woman. Here was an artist giving herself the room to turn her own reality into art, no matter how messy, dark, and frightening that reality could be. For a woman in 1968, this wasn’t just an odd rarity; it was trailblazing.

Cited by many as the first goth album, The Marble Index went on to influence a number of artists in the goth rock movement that grew out of late-1970s post-punk, including Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus. Within her strident, discordant, and atonal sounds, Nico created an album that carved out a place in mainstream commercial music for artists, notably female artists, who express because they have to — even if you’re not sure that you like what you hear.

In this episode, we unpack the album’s influences and lasting influence, both Nico’s triumphs and and her myriad problems, and just what makes this album so difficult for many to listen to.

Listen to The Marble Index: iTunesSpotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • PSA: This episode deals with dark and heavy subject material. If you’re not feeling your best right now, take care of you and listen with discretion.
  • If your only familiarity with Nico is her work with the Velvet Underground or Chelsea Girl, brace yourselves, because you are in for one bizarre ride.
  • Women 👏 owe  👏 Nico 👏 a 👏 heck 👏 of   👏 a 👏 lot 👏
    • TBH Nico often expressed a problematic lot of internalized misogyny (among many more Not Good views) but that doesn’t negate the inroads she made as a woman herself.
    • It’s cool as heck that she was able to have agency and take control of her career and desired sound and aesthetic in *1968*
    • Also cool as heck that she rejected traditional gender and beauty norms.
    • We are never not on our bullshit yelling that women are complex as heck and can be beautiful and smart and talented at the same time!!!
  • This difficult album is a clear example that art isn’t always entertainment — just like entertainment isn’t always art.
  • The Marble Index is pointed to as the first goth album by several goth rock bands from the ‘80s
  • Forreal, if you like biopics or music movies or Nico or just good filmmaking in general, go see Nico, 1988 if you can. It set Carrie off on a “I must know everything” spiral that led to this episode being done this week and deeply affected us.
    • Peep our further watching links below to see the trailer.
    • We love a good music spiral!!!
  • We just added “heart-sad music” and “head-sad music” to our glossary, check it.
    • Yeah maybe don’t listen to this album during peak SAD season.
  • Check out our further reading links below for Lester Bangs’ take on The Marble Index. If *he* was scared of it, you know it’s some heavy stuff.
  • Sad girls of tumblr = Chelsea Girl. IRL depression = The Marble Index.
  • Shoutout to medieval stan John Cale.
  • “Women are poison. If I wasn’t so special, I could hate myself.” — Nico. Eeeeee she is such a problematic binch!
  • We never really reached a conclusion about how to feel about “Ari’s Song” and Nico’s complicated relationship with her son. Hit us up and share any thoughts you may have.
  • Here’s the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner that Carly was reminded of by “Frozen Warnings”
  • A thought: very few women were making “dark” music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s — and certainly none in the vein of Nico — but women were exploring depression and anxiety and bleak themes in literature.
    • Read some of Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays while listening to this album if you wanna get fuqd up.
  • No, seriously, Nico told so many lies about herself that someone named a biography of her The Life and Lies of an Icon
  • An enormous shoutout to Danny Fields, Jac Holzman, and John Cale for being awesome men who championed Nico and pushed for this album to be made, regardless of whether or not it would sell.
  • As alway, check out our master playlist on Spotify to listen to all the tracks we talked about in this episode, including a slew of legacy influences.
    • Here’s Carly’s goth rock playlist
    • Also, Carrie forgot to mention it, but Body/Head is HELLA Nico. Weird, avant garde, crack-your-skull-open music.
    • Nico : The Marble Index :: Kim Gordon : Body/Head. Even though Sonic Youth got their start more rooted in noise and no wave, it was a huge change for Kim Gordon after the more melodic music she made in Sonic Youth’s final days.
  • Share all your thoughts with us!

Favorite track(s): Frozen Warnings (Carly) | Frozen Warnings and Ari’s Song (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Facing the Wind (Carly) | Julius Caesar (Memento Hodié) (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Nico — Words, music, harmonium, vocals
  • John Cale — Arrangements
  • John Haeny — Engineer
  • Frazier Mohawk — Producer
  • Jac Holzman — Production supervisor


Further watching:

Nico, 1988 trailer | 2018  
Nico, Icon (documentary) | 1995  
Unknown New Zealand TV interview | 1985
“Evening Of Light” short film | 1969 

Further reading:
Made You Look: On Beauty, Ugliness, and Nico (ed. note: If you only read one of these pieces, wowwowwow make it this one) | The Ringer (August 2018)
7 Musicians Reflect on Nico’s Enduring Influence | New York Times T Magazine (August 2018)
Thirty Years After Her Death, Nico Finally Comes Into Focus | Pitchfork (April 2018)
The influence and tragedy of Nico | i-D (March 2017)
Nico and The Marble Index: “She hated the idea of being beautiful” | Uncut (October 2015)
Nico: Facing The Wind – The Marble Index trilogy | The Quietus (January 2013)
You won’t enjoy Nico’s album, but it’s good for you | The Guardian (October 2008)
The Frozen Borderline: 1968-70 deluxe reissue review | Pitchfork (March 2007)
Your Shadow Is Scared of You: An Attempt Not to Be Frightened By Nico (ed. note: This is some Lester Bangs goodness) | New Wave Rock (1978)

Episode 3.2: Viv Albertine talks Dionne Warwick, the Slits, feminism, and more

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The Slits now-iconic 1979 debut Cut is an unusual, but delightful, melting pot of sounds: strains of UK punk mix with Jamaican reggae, girlish chants dance with abrasive DIY noise. Slipping between the grooves and finding a home within the mix — perhaps most indecipherably, or even curiously, to the casual listener — is the influence of the early-60s pop standards of Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach.

Growing up in post-war Britain in the 1960s, Slits guitarist Viv Albertine heard plenty of Warwick’s hits while listening to pop radio. Later, as a scrappy young woman running around London with next to no money and not much to do in the early-to-mid ‘70s, she came across a compilation album — Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One — in a used record shop with her bandmates. It became not just an album that they spent countless hours listening to together, playing it front-to-back over and over again, but one they — particularly Viv and lead singer Ari Up — would study, dissecting songs to their individual parts and taking note of the details, attempting to learn how to emulate Warwick and Bacharach in their own unique way.

For the past 40 years, the Slits have served as touchstones for female musicians, often cited for blazing a necessary trail for the coming riot grrrl movement and beyond. Today, we have the privilege of being able to look to Viv Albertine, and the Slits as a whole, for inspiration and empowerment, and are finally beginning to see their important role in history recognized in more mainstream circles. But in their formative years, female role models, particularly musicians, were much harder to come by; Dionne Warwick was one of them.

In this very special episode, we are so pleased to discuss Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One with Viv Albertine herself. Join us for a wide-ranging conversation that touches upon Warwick, Bacharach, and Hal David’s influence on the Slits’ music, as well as their own lives as young women in late-70s and early-80s London, the importance of representation, and so much more.

Listen to Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part OneSpotify | YouTube
Listen to the Slits’ Cut: iTunesSpotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes
(and while you’re there, rate and review us in the iTunes store)

Read the full transcript of our interview with Viv Albertine here

Episode notes and postscript corrections

First and foremost: We’ve said this a million times, but we truly cannot recommend Viv’s books more or praise them highly enough. Both have had a tremendous impact on us, and we have yet to meet anyone who has read either and cannot say the same.

Support your local small bookstore or check them out here:
To Throw Away Unopened | 2018
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. | 2014 

Follow our master playlist on Spotify to hear every song we discussed today
Follow Viv Albertine on Facebook and Twitter 

Follow ’77 Music Club on Facebook and Twitter or shoot us an email if you have thoughts

Further watching:
Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits documentary trailer | 2017
Viv Albertine in conversation at British Library | 2016
The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girls (BBC women in punk documentary) | 2014
“Typical Girls” music video | 1979
The Slits live performance and interview | 1970s; specific year unknown

Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach: Live at the Rainbow Room | 1996
Burt Bacharach… This Is Now
(BBC documentary) | 1996
“Walk On By”
live
| 1965
“Don’t Make Me Over” live | 1963

Further reading: 
On Viv and the Slits
New Doc on The Slits Questions Why These Pioneering Punks Have Been Overlooked | Paper (May 2018)
Viv Albertine Has Used Her Rage to Write Herself into Punk History | Noisey (April 2018)
The Slits Are Refusing to be Written Out of Music History | Noisey (October 2017)
The Slits’ Viv Albertine Defaces Male-Focused Punk Exhibition | Pitchfork (July 2016) ed note: HYFR, BAMF move.
How we made Cut | The Guardian (June 2013)
Like Choosing a Lover: Viv Albertine’s Favorite Albums | The Quietus (April 2013)
Girls Unconditional: The story of the Slits, told exclusively by the Slits | Loud and Quiet (July 2009)
Cut re-release album review | Pitchfork (February 2005)

On Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, and Hal David
Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music (Burt Bacharach’s memoir) | 2014
My Life, as I See It  (Dionne Warwick’s memoir) | 2010

50 Essential Albums of 1967: Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part 1 | Rolling Stone (September 2017)
Burt Bacharach interview: what was it all about? | The Telegraph (June 2013)
Dionne Warwick: ‘I refused a couple of Bacharach and David songs’ | The Guardian (November 2012)
Dionne Warwick sings Hal David’s last lyrics | CNN (September 2012)
Music And Lyrics: Burt Bacharach and Hal David | NPR (May 2010)
Bacharach and David: Reconciled and Honored | LA Times (May 1993)
Singers: Spreading the Faith | Time (July 1967)

 

Episode Credits:
Creator and co-host: Carly Jordan

Co-host, editor, producer: Carrie Courogen
Special thanks to: Becky Kraemer and Viv Albertine

Episode 3.1: Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

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Eli and the Thirteenth Confession – Laura Nyro – Columbia – 1968

The source of inspiration for her peers and generations of songwriters to come, Bronx-born Laura Nyro has a legacy that has only grown in legend and mysticism since her untimely death in the early ‘90s. Lauded by Carole King, likened to Joni Mitchell, and emulated by some of today’s cleverest singer-songwriters, her style was singular, speaking of and to the female experience in a way that was at once specific and universal, relatable and abstract.

In this episode, we comb through her 1968 album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, a collection of songs so rife with evocative imagery and sense of self that it brought up many of our own memories, connections to our own experiences as young women in 2018, and of course, musical earworms. For a 50-year-old album recorded and produced by a 20-year-old girl, this prodigious record still remains astonishingly relevant.

Listen to Eli and the Thirteenth Confession: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hello, and welcome to a new season of the pod! Literally nothing has changed; we’re just calling it a new season because we took a break (because we are our own bosses who determine when and why we go on hiatus and when and why we come back!)
  • Some things we mentioned to check out:
    • The Rock & Roll Explorer Guide to New York City is a dope book if you’re into New York and music and history and where they all intersect and want to know where everything happened. We were pleased to moderate the discussion for the book’s launch at Rough Trade this week.
    • ‘80s Redux is a dope book if you’re into music and the ‘80s and photography of cool people doing cool things.
  • So, uh, more than a year into this pod and this is the first time we’ve actually covered a ‘60s album. Can you believe?
  • We’re gonna talk about this a lot because we’re so shook by it, but something to keep in mind during this whole thing: Laura Nyro was just 20 when this was made. TWENTY.
  • Lol here we are again debating an album’s season.
    • Is Eli and the Thirteenth Confession a fall? Or a summer?
    • Do other normal people classify music like this?
  • Don’t forget to hit up and follow our master playlist on Spotify to hear all these songs, the covers that actually made money, and more!
  • “YES, WE KNOW.” — all of you when Carrie says she hates flutes
  • See our further watching links below to see the debut of “Poverty Train” at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Cry your eyes out when you hear they were yelling “beautiful” at her, knowing she spent her whole life since thinking they were booing.
  • Evergreen Take: “Dated” doesn’t always necessarily mean bad or unenjoyable.
  • “Lonely Women” clearly created a divide in interpretation between the two of us. Slide into our DMs or email us to let you know what you think. It’s complicated and we’re interested.
  • In case you missed it, this album is feminist as hell, and it’s fascinating and surprising to see how much of it translates to today.
  • See our further reading links below for some more info about Laura Nyro’s relationship with Maria Desidero, who may or may not have been the inspiration for “Timer” and “Emmie.”
  • We definitely have very specific wishes of songs that we’d want other bands or artists to cover — so specific we can hear how they’d sound in our brains — that will likely never, ever happen. Message us to find out / Please tell us if you’ve done this too so we don’t feel too weird.
  • Don’t listen to “December’s Boudoir” unless you’re ready to get the Sunday Sads.
  • Talk to us about anything and everything ~feminism~ we covered re: “The Confession” — i.e. second wave feminism vs. fourth wave, “as a father of daughters…” — ANYTHING! We love to talk about this stuff.

Favorite track(s): Luckie and Timer (Carly) | Eli’s Comin’ and Stoned Soul Picnic (Carrie)
Least favorite track: December’s Boudoir (Carly) | December’s Boudoir (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Laura Nyro — piano, vocal, harmonies, “witness to the confession”
  • Ralph Casale — acoustic guitar
  • Chet Amsterdam — acoustic guitar, bass
  • Hugh McCracken — electric guitar
  • Chuck Rainey — bass
  • Artie Schroeck — drums, vibes
  • Buddy Saltzman — drums
  • Dave Carey — percussion
  • Bernie Glow, Pat Calello, Ernie Royal — trumpet
  • George Young, Zoot Sims — saxophone
  • Wayne Andre, Jimmy Cleveland, Ray DeSio — trombone
  • Joe Farrell — saxophone, flute
  • Paul Griffin — piano on “Eli’s Comin'” and “Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)”

Further watching:
Laura Nyro in the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame | 2014
Laura Nyro’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2012
Alice Cooper discusses his love for Laura Nyro (ed note: OH MY GOD) | 2011
“Poverty Train” at the Monterey Pop Festival (with current intro from D.A. Pennebaker, Michelle Phillips, and Lou Adler) | 1967

Further reading: 
Laura Nyro remembered: “A musical force of nature” | Uncut (June 2017)
Laura Nyro’s Lasting, Eclectic Musical Legacy | NPR (December 2011)
Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, Maria Desiderio | Rabdrake Blog (October 2009)
An Enigma Wrapped in Songs | The New York Times (October 1997)
Laura Nyro’s legacy of passion | Entertainment Weekly (April 1997)