2022 was a very creative year for me, in terms of writing and recording.
By this time last year, EULOGY TO CHRISTA was starting to take shape: I had recorded most of the songs by NICO and it was in January that I started writing the songs about her life. I have to thank author JENNIFER OTTER BICKERDICKE for her book YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND YOU ARE ALONE which was a real treasure trove of knowledge, and Jennifer’s support and enthusiasm was incredible. I have been overwhelmed at the response to the album, mostly because I want her story to be out there. Just like STELLA CARTWRIGHT from THE BIRTHDAY POEMS, Nico was an artist — a very important artist. Often this side of her was maligned or ignored in favour of her affiliations with people like Iggy, Dylan, Reed — and, of course, heroin. But her art was unique: she invented her sound, along with the empathy, talent, and skill of John Cale, of course.
SONS OF THE SILENT AGE finally got to play in May and it was a wonderful experience, with our friend MICHAEL SHANNON bringing T REX back to life in front of our eyes! Later that summer, we, along with many of his musical friends, would play a set to honour our late friend JOE CASSIDY. Joe was a beautiful man, and a brilliant musician, he died far too young. Joe and I became friends when he moved to Chicago in the 90s, and he generously scored the strings for the album BLONDE EXODUS.
I had another appearance later in the summer after the passing of CYNTHIA PLASTERCASTER, someone I have been friends with since I moved here in 1988. It was a pleasure to throw down with THE HANDCUFFS playing “Tae the Poets” (from THE BIRTHDAY POEMS), a Mothers of Invention song – “Why Don’t You Do Me Right”, and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone by The Kinks.
In March, to commemorate BILL RIEFLIN’s death, I recorded the LARGO 22 EP — reworking three of the songs we had written together and writing “Largo’s Prayer” in his honour. Between this release and Prayer birthday tribute, we raised $585 this year for the clinic where Bill spent his last times.
A new JOY THIEVES EP was recorded and released — “6 TO 3”, a violent musical reaction to the supreme court overturning ROE V WADE. I wrote the lyrics and sang “Property” to remind the world that a woman’s body is her body. All money raised from this brilliant EP (which has a ton of amazing remixes) is going to the NATIONAL NETWORK OF ABORTION FUNDS.
The documentary “WHAT YOU COULD NOT VISUALIZE” about the brilliant band REMA REMA came out this year. Both myself and FRANK NARDIELLO were interviewed about this unique and incredible band who released one EP in 1980, whose flame has never died.
…And then there was the REVOLTING CORPSE. This was the last run of this incarnation — who knows what will happen in the future. I just know that although I am (skeptically) proud of this band, but I am not going back. The final show in Denver was just wonderful, followed by a night in a hotel that looked like a set from “Saw”. Hmmmmm. The audiences were great and I don’t take it for granted, but I am hanging up that battered old Stetson. I do have to say, the fun and camaraderie of PAUL BARKER, JASON NOVAK and DAN BRILL (and the lads from FRONT 242) is a real tonic.
So now it is 2023! I am focusing on the next album, which I am recording right now, and looking forward to new music in 2023.
Thank you SO much for listening to what I do. I get emails and messages from all over and I am often overwhelmed at the kindness and sincerity of these.
There’s been loads of great press and positive reviews of the singles popping up online, and Chris has done a few interviews as well. Here’s a small sampling of some — keep up with Chris on social media for more:
RIPCORD, RIPCORD, the second single from Eulogy to Christa: A Tribute to the Music & Mystique of Nico, is out today!
The song is a powerful opener to the album, based on a pivotal event in the young life of Christa Päffgen. Chris learned of this story when reading Jennifer Otter Bickerdicke‘s biography of Nico, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND YOU ARE ALONE. “When Nico was in her mid-teens, she worked in a U.S. army office in Berlin. She was raped by an American soldier and the soldier was executed. Some have said this may not have happened. Some have gone so far as to call her a liar. This event and the trauma of being in the rubble of post-war Berlin clearly, in my opinion, helped create the haunted spirit of Nico.”
Originally planned as a 10-song tribute featuring Chris’s versions of NICO songs, at the end of the recording, Connelly decided to write a parallel album of his own compositions spanning the life of one of the most unique, tragic and misunderstood female artists in the history of music. The result is the 24-track EULOGY TO CHRISTA: A TRIBUTE TO THE MUSIC & MYSTIQUE OF NICO, to be released digitally on November 11th, 2022 and in physical form on December 2nd, 2022 — in the US by Shipwrecked Industries and in the UK by Easy Action.
Working again with producer CHRIS BRUCE, EULOGY TO CHRISTA sees Chris purposefully adopting the personas of NICO, LOU REED, and JOHN CALE – even ANDY WARHOL makes a cameo! The lead single, EULOGY TO LENNY BRUCE, was premiered on Monday, September 12th and is available on many streaming services.
The album was inspired by the brilliant book, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND YOU ARE ALONE by author JENNIFER OTTER BICKERDICKE, who contributed to the liner notes for the album. She writes, “This is a record to be played at full blast, all the way through, as a commemoration not just to Nico the person, the musician, but to art for art’s sake, for making something because it is important and needs to be done – an idea that is as rare and precious as Nico herself.”
1: Ripcord, Ripcord
2: Via Margutta
3: The Last Mile
4: Union Square West
5: Andy, Incidentally
6: Femme Fatale
7: Eulogy to Lenny Bruce
8: Oh Jim II
9: Frozen Warnings
10: I Cannot Care for You
11: The Falconer
12: The Black Rooms of Richelieu
13: Valley of the Kings
14: Reims 12/74
15: A Slow Jones in New York
16: 80s Beat Boys
17: Running Pure
18: Sixty Forty
20: Draw From It (Like a Vampire)
23: Fa Massa Calor
24: Hanging Gardens of Semiramis
Even the photos used of Nico in the album artwork have particular significance: the cover shot was taken by author ALASTAIR MACKAY from the audience at the Nite Club in Edinburgh in 1981, where a 15-year-old Chris was also in attendance. The inside photo of Nico was taken in 1982 by Chicago photography legend HOWARD GOLDBLATT.
The Nico material spans from her first Jimmy Page-composed single B-side through the Velvet Underground, to her intense and unique solo recordings up until she died. In song, Chris follows her from Berlin to New York via Paris, Ibiza, and Rome, then back through Paris, London, Edinburgh, Manchester and up to her tragic and needless death in Ibiza.
This is a labour of love, empathy, sadness, acting, and channeling along with Chris’s adoration of the dark corner of rock inhabited by the Velvets and their peers.
To celebrate the release of EULOGY TO CHRISTA, Chris will be performing tracks from the album with the help of MATT WALKER, CAROLYN ENGELMANN, and other members of SONS OF THE SILENT AGE on Thursday, November 10, 2022 at Gman Tavern in Chicago. Tickets are on sale at http://bit.ly/ChrisConnelly_1110. An online event is also in the works.
Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, and 23 written by Chris Connelly. All other tracks by Nico (Christa Päffgen) except “The Last Mile” by Oldham/Page, “Femme Fatale” by Lou Reed, “Eulogy to Lenny Bruce” by Tim Hardin, and “Vegas” by Nico/Quilichini.
Chris Connelly: Vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, harmonium, harmonica, keyboards, bass
Chris Bruce: Additional instruments and guitar solo on Ripcord
Sleeve design by Greg Rolfes
Cover photo of Nico taken by Alastair MacKay at Edinburgh Nite Club, August 18th, 1981
Inside photo of Nico taken by Howard Goldblatt at Tuts, Chicago 1982
Tray photo of harmonium by Jonah Rubash
Here Connelly, with his beautiful timbre and artistic candour, delivers a haunting and touching rendition of Nico’s music. Nobody performs quite like this masterful musical chameleon and here, he channels her fabulously, honouring her with depth and personability as if the tragedy explored was his own personal loss. Not surprisingly, Connelly offers impeccable delivery and smoothness, which almost nobody else could possibly get away with.
The track is now available on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and will be coming soon to other streaming platforms.
More information on the album, including both digital and physical release formats, will be posted this week!
Chris is excited to announce a very special release coming out exclusively on Bandcamp on Friday, March 4th.
ABANDONED PREMONITIONS is a new mini-album of 8 pieces made up of music I wrote but never recorded until now: the discovery in my files of a folder full of music that was untitled, with few notes sitting in a cabinet in my studio, stretching back about 30 years. I sat down and played them, chose 8 and recorded them, pairing them up with poems that were also unrecorded, some published in the book “THE HEART HAS TO ACHE BEFORE IT LEARNS TO BEAT”. It was wonderful to basically navigate these pieces in the dark, with no recollection of tempo, key, etc. Complete with beautifully spectral artwork by Kimberly Blessing!
Learn more about the project and preview one of the tracks – HARBOUR DAYS II — on Bandcamp now.
First of all, a sincere word of gratitude to those of you who listen and read what I write! I do not take it for granted, and I am privileged, so THANK YOU!
Also, thank you to everyone who participated in the Largo fundraiser. This year, we raised over $1,350 for the Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute in memory of Bill Rieflin.
2021 was a remarkable year for me. It saw the release of THE BIRTHDAY POEMS, which was the realization of two years of research for what I wanted to be a book originally, but organically and alchemically and spiritually became an album, which was written and recorded during lockdown of 2020. Being able to work remotely in isolation but so closely with CHRIS BRUCE and MONICA QUEEN proved that indeed, distance was just a number (and a bit of a time difference) yet we were so connected. THE BIRTHDAY POEMS is work I am proud of, the “if I pop my clogs today, I am satisfied” kind of proud (though I want to stay around!!). The videos created by MATT WALKER & DERICK SMITH (Tae the Poets), IAIN MUTCH (My Father Took Me Everywhere), and KIMBERLY BLESSING (Let Us Be Hushed) were amazing, beautiful, and humorous foils to the album, as was GILLIAN WHISKER’s evocative photography of Edinburgh.
In June, I played three nights at the GMAN TAVERN in Chicago, highlighting THE BIRTHDAY POEMS and my recent book, THE HEART HAS TO ACHE BEFORE IT LEARNS TO BEAT. It was a wonderful experience before an appreciative audience; it felt amazing to play live again, to share stories, sing and read aloud that which I had written, again, a privilege.
The year also brought AMERICAN PARASITE by THE JOY THIEVES, for which I provided all the vocals. Born out of political frustration, humanitarian panic and anger, I could not censor myself or “nice up” the vitriol against the wave of enraged and powerful music I was given to sing on whilst soaking up CNN to a soundtrack of CRASS. The album was born screaming and fighting, and I am very bloody proud of that, too.
In September, I teamed up again with PAUL BARKER, this time to mine the LUXA/PAN treasures of the earlier WaxTrax days. As a duo, we played COLD WAVES in Chicago and LA as well as playing Brooklyn with our old pals FRONT 242. It was nostalgic and a lot of fun.
I feel fortunate to be able to move forward creatively and still be able to acknowledge what I did decades ago. I am looking forward to 2022 as I busy myself with SONS OF THE SILENT AGE, as well as a number of writing projects. Keep an eye on Bandcamp — there is new music on the way as well as some reissues/resurrections from the past.
(…and here is my top 10 for the year!!)
1: CIRCUIT DES YEUX “-io”
2: LINGUA IGNOTA “SINNER GET READY”
3: NICK CAVE & WARREN ELLIS “CARNAGE”
4: AROOJ AFTAB “VULTURE PRINCE”
5: L’RAIN “FATIGUE”
6: PASTOR T.L. BARRETT “I SHALL WEAR A CROWN” (REISSUE)
7: ADAM GEOFFREY COLE “FALLOWING”
8: JESSICA GALLO “WALK TO THE SUN”
9: ABBA “VOYAGE”
10: NICO “DRAMA OF EXILE” (REISSUE)
Chris’s new album, THE BIRTHDAY POEMS, will be released on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by Jnana Records. The album draws on Chris’s Scottish origins and interest in Scottish literary history by presenting a fictionalized account of the romance between STELLA CARTWRIGHT and GEORGE MACKAY BROWN, and their friendship with STANLEY ROGER GREEN.
The album is performed by Chris Connelly and singer Monica Queen and features Levon Henry, Dave Eggar, Blake Collins, and Phil Faconti. Long-time collaborator Chris Bruce has produced the album.
One year ago we said goodbye to Bill Rieflin. Since then, with your support, the CC community has raised nearly $1,200 for the Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute, which provided care and support for Bill. Today we have another opportunity to raise more funds, to further support their good work.
Back in September, on what would have been Bill’s 60th birthday, Chris and Jessica Gallo released an arrangement of Bill’s song Prayer, from the album Largo.
Largo is long out of print — but Chris has managed to find six copies of the CD and some promo photos to make available to fans as a fundraiser. Here’s how you can get one of these items and support the cancer institute:
Silent auction: Three copies of the CD are up for auction to the highest bidders. Winners in the US and Canada will have the option to make their donation directly to the foundation in order to qualify for a tax deduction.
Raffle: The other three copies of the CD will be raffled off — “tickets” are just $5 each.
Bandcamp: The promo photo sheets (see photo below) will sell for $10 on Friday, April 2nd (the next Bandcamp Friday). Look for them around 7 AM CDT!
Auction bids must be received by 12:01 AM CDT on April 1st, 2021. Raffle tickets will be available through April 1st, 2021 with the raffle taking place on April 2nd. Winners/buyers will be notified on April 2nd by email; they will have the option to have their CDs or promo photos autographed (alas, by Chris only). Our aim is to share the love (or Largo) as widely as possible, so we’ll only accept the highest bid from each bidder, and regardless of how many raffle chances purchased, you can only win one copy of the CD. Use the buttons below to bid or buy your raffle ticket!
Update: The silent auction has now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted a bid!
Update: Raffle tickets are no longer available. Thank you to everyone who purchased a ticket!
If you wish to make your own tax-deductible donation, please visit the Virginia Mason Foundation Donate Page and select “Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute” from the Designation drop-down. After clicking the button, complete your personal and payment details, and indicate that the gift is in memory of Bill Rieflin in the Tribute section.