Tuesday, March 28, 2006

ROCKOBIT: Nikki Sudden

Former Swell Maps man Nikki Sudden has died at the age of 49.

Born in London half way through the fifties, Sudden was inspired to pick up the guitar by the glam giants of the early 70s - most notably, T Rex. Teaming up with his brother, Epic Soundtracks, they formed Swell Maps. Perfectly placed to take their place in the DIY punk maelstrom, the Maps saw every one of their four singles and two albums hit the top of the then vibrant indie charts. The band split in 1980.

Maps' two solo albums didn't catch the imagination in quite the same way, and in 1983 Sudden joined up with Dave Kunsworth to form the Jacobites, making - again - two albums (Jacobites and Robespierre's Velvet Basement) before splitting.

Sudden found a fitting home amongst the kilter-free 1986 Creation roster, with whom he stayed for five years and the same number of albums (not to mention proping up more than one of Alan McGee's inspired compilation projects).

A world tour found Sudden's path crossing with REM, which would lead to The Jewel Thief, an album made with Peter Buck, Mick Mills and Bill Berry (now known as Liquor, Guns & Ammo) before Sudden decided to resurrect the Jacobites. Three more albums (and a limited edition bit of business Kiss of Life) followed, before Sudden switched back to solo mode.

Although solo may give a false impression of Seven Lives Later, the guest line-up on which captures just how well-respected and liked Sudden was on the alternative music scene. He pulled in favours from various members of The Jet Boys, The True Spirit, The Fatal Shore, Band Of Outsiders, Once Upon A Time, Vermooste Vløten, The Flaming Stars, Sonic Youth and Voodoo Witch.

The Jacobites hit the road again, while Sudden also squeezed in a session or two with DM Bob and the Deficits - the resulting album has yet to appear, as has Golden Vanity, a 1998 project.

1999's Red Brocade did get a release - the duet with Jeff Tweedy helped, of course. He continued to work on a number of projects - including a book of his lyrics, film soundtracks and working on new editions of his music, part of a long-running campaign by Secretly Canadian to reactivate his entire back catalogue.

The cause of death isn't yet public, but Dave Kusworth has released a brief statement:

We are all just incredibly sad to lose our friend Nikki.

Our thoughts go out to his Mum and Dad....

Nikki had just finished work on his new album and had played it to us only a few weeks ago - its easily his best - long time producer John Rivers believes this too - and we'd chatted together about ideas for the cover .... I'm sure you'll all get to hear it in time.

A Jacobites gig had been booked for the 12 bar club in Denmark St. on 29th March....Dave intends to play on that night with support from Paul Caton and Darrell Bath - playing the gig in his memory - Dave feels sure that that is what he'd want....

Nikki was always a great support to us all - he was a big part of our past, part of everything we did - always believing in us - always ready to share his contacts - Nikki Sudden believed in Rock n Roll - and how hard was that in this cold new millenium!!??

Perhaps, though, the best summation of Sudden comes from his own words - this is from his 2004 journal:

The other day I came across a description of me on Ebay, "NIKKI SUDDEN ~ JACOBITES ~ INDIE PUNK GLAM". I've always hated being described as 'Indie' - I can't think of a worse insult… I wouldn't ever claim to have been a punk either. Swell Maps missed that particular epithet by a year. Our first single, Read About Seymour, was released in December 1977 but we were never punks. I'm not sure what we were but I know better than any of those who have tried to pigeonhole us over the years.
The descriptions that have been applied to me sometimes beggar description. A week or so back Tip, which is a kind of Time Out for Berlin, and who, seeing they've been writing about me for years, should know better, described me as Alternative Folk. Alternative Folk! I've had all kinds of epithets thrown at me from Glam Rock Legend to Underground Superstar. The worst, well the most inaccurate ever, was 'dark wave poet'. The best - the most accurate - is still waiting to find itself. Glam Rock Superstar? I prefer English Rock'n Roll myself…

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