Camera Obscura (album)

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Camera Obscura
Studio album by
RecordedMarch–April 1985
StudioThe Strongroom, Shoreditch, London
LabelBeggars Banquet
ProducerJohn Cale
Nico studio album chronology
The Drama of Exile
Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura is the final studio album and seventh studio album overall by German singer Nico, featuring the backing band the Faction. It was recorded in March–April 1985 and released later that year by Beggars Banquet Records. It was produced by John Cale, marking their first studio collaboration since The End... in 1974. It was Nico's final studio album before her death.


Nico's vocal style on Camera Obscura is somewhat different from her prior records, with some songs bearing similarities to Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard.[citation needed] The jazz standard "My Funny Valentine", by contrast, has a more standard legato vocal style, despite her very deep contralto. Many of the tracks offer a refined version of the new wave gothic rock of her previous album Drama of Exile.[citation needed] The album is dedicated to her then-manager, Alan Wise.

Sonically, the album follows on from Drama of Exile in that Nico's core songs are given full band arrangements. Whereas Drama of Exile carried a strong North African influence and exotic, new wave-inspired instrumentation, Camera Obscura makes use of synthesizers.


The album's oldest composition, "König", was originally recorded for Desertshore and re-recorded some fifteen years later for Camera Obscura. A version was included in the Philippe Garrel film La Cicatrice Intérieure (1972). John Cale reportedly wanted to produce the song with a more percussive, synth-based arrangement in keeping with the rest of the material, but Nico insisted it should be kept as a solo harmonium piece.

Another early song re-imagined for the recording sessions was "Tananore", which Nico had performed at a Cale concert in Marseille on April 12, 1975, and kept in her set ever since. Nico had incorporated "My Funny Valentine" into her set since February 1982, and previously at her earliest live performances (at the Blue Angel nightclub in New York City). "My Heart Is Empty" and "Fearfully in Danger", meanwhile, had been set mainstays since her Library Theatre appearance in Manchester on June 16, 1983.

"Das Lied vom einsamen Mädchen" ("The song about the lonely girl") originally derives from the 1952 film Alraune.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Trouser Pressfavorable[2]

Camera Obscura was released in 1985 by Beggars Banquet Records. The album received mixed reviews from critics. AllMusic gave the album two-and-a-half out of five, whereas Trouser Press received the album in a favorable light.

A music video was filmed for "My Heart Is Empty" at the Fridge in Brixton.

Nico performed songs from Camera Obscura up until her death, although there are no known performances of the opening instrumental "Camera Obscura" or the song "Into the Arena".

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Nico except where noted. All arrangements by the Faction.

Side one

  1. "Camera Obscura" – 3:42 (Nico, John Cale, James Young, Graham Dids)
  2. "Tananore" – 4:24
  3. "Win a Few" – 6:10
  4. "My Funny Valentine" – 3:23 (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart)
  5. "Das Lied vom einsamen Mädchen" – 5:40 (Robert Gilbert, Werner R. Heymann)

Side two

  1. "Fearfully in Danger" – 7:26
  2. "My Heart Is Empty" – 4:37
  3. "Into the Arena" – 4:12
  4. "König" – 4:08


  • Nico - voice, harmonium
  • The Faction
  • John Cale – additional vocals on "Camera Obscura"
  • Ian Carr – flugelhorn on "My Funny Valentine", trumpet on "Into the Arena"


  1. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Camera Obsura – Nico | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  2. ^ Isler, Scott; Robbins, Ira. " :: Nico". Retrieved July 5, 2016.