The Marble Index (album)

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The Marble Index
Studio album by Nico
Released November 1968
Recorded September 1968 at Elektra Sound Recorders, Los Angeles
Genre Avant-garde[1][2]
Length 30:48
Label Elektra
Producer Frazier Mohawk
Nico chronology
Chelsea Girl
The Marble Index
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating 4.5/5 stars[1]
Allmusic 3/5 stars[3]
Lester Bangs (favorable)[2]
The Guardian (favorable)[4]
NME (7/10)[5]
Pitchfork Media (favorable)[6]
Rolling Stone (positive) [7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[8]
Sputnikmusic 1/5 stars[9]

The Marble Index is the second studio album by German musician Nico, released in November 1968. Produced by Frazier Mohawk, it was released on Elektra Records. Described by critic Simon Reynolds as "one of the most harrowing and death-fixated albums in rock history",[2] The Marble Index was written by Nico and features musical arrangements by John Cale, who had worked briefly with Nico during her collaboration with the Velvet Underground.

Though a commercial failure upon release, the record has since received acclaim from music critics and has influenced decades of music to come.[3][10] Music journalist Lester Bangs considered The Marble Index "the greatest piece of 'avant-garde classical' 'serious' music of the last half of the 20th century so far," although he also famously wrote it "scared the shit out of [him]."[2]

Background and recording[edit]

The Marble Index was produced in a period of Nico's life that biographers tend to barely probe.[11] Jim Morrison, who Nico later referred to as "[her] soul brother," encouraged her to write her own songs; Simon Reynolds described this as "a key breakthrough for [her]."[12] A hippie in San Francisco sold Nico a harmonium,[13] an instrument with which "she discovered not only her own artistic voice, but a whole new realm of sound."[1] The droning pump organ became her trademark.[14]

Regarding the album's recording process, John Cale remarked, "I was pretty much left alone for two days, and I let [Nico] in at the end. I played her [the album] song by song, and she'd burst into tears. 'Oh! It's so beautiful!', 'Oh, it’s so beautiful!' You know, this is the same stuff that people tell me, 'Oh! It’s so suicidal!'"[13]

The album takes its title from The Prelude, magnum opus of William Wordsworth; in it he contemplates a statue of Isaac Newton "with his prism and silent face / The marble index of a mind for ever / Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone."[10]


The music of the album was a new style for Nico, distancing herself from rock and pop.[1][3] The album also unveiled Nico's songwriting, as Chelsea Girl featured none of her compositions. Her lyrics deal with introspective and somber themes. The tracks were originally recordings of Nico singing over her droning harmonium; Cale later added musical arrangements on top, reminiscent of European classical, avant-garde and folk music.[3][15] The resulting soundscape has been described as "stark", "dislocating", "extreme" and "frightening".

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Nico. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Prelude"   1:00
2. "Lawns of Dawns"   3:11
3. "No One Is There"   3:37
4. "Ari's Song"   3:21
5. "Facing the Wind"   4:55
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Julius Caesar (Memento Hodié)"   5:02
7. "Frozen Warnings"   4:02
8. "Evening of Light"   5:40



  1. ^ a b c d Carew, Anthony. "Definitive Albums: Nico 'The Marble Index' (1969)". Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bangs, Lester (2008). Morthland, John, ed. Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader. Random House. pp. 205–213. ISBN 978-0375713675. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Unterberger, Richie. "The Marble Index – Nico". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (14 October 2008). "Nico's The Marble Index is hard listening but worth it". Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Thornton, Anthony (10 August 2005). "Nico : The Marble Index". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Masters, Marc (9 March 2007). "Nico: The Frozen Borderline: 1968-1970". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Micklo, Anne Marie (March 15, 1969). "Records". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  8. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly (1992). The Rolling Stone Album Guide. Random House. p. 508. ISBN 0679737294. 
  9. ^ Arp, Louis (7 May 2005). "Nico - The Marble Index (album review)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Nico - The Marble Index (Elektra, 1968) - The Top 100 Alternative Albums of the 1960s". Spin. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Lindsay, Matthew (14 January 2013). "Nico: Facing the Wind - The Marble Index Trilogy". The Quietus. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Reynolds, Simon (16 March 2007). "From the Velvets to the void". Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Witts, Richards (1995). Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0863696558. 
  14. ^ "Nico Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  15. ^ Howard, David N. (2004). Sonic Alchemy: Visionary Music Producers and Their Maverick Recordings. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 184. ISBN 978-0634055607. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 

External links[edit]