One of the selfish (but great) things about being involved with WFMU is how it's repeatedly granted me the opportunity to interact with my musical heroes. I'm no starfucker, but there's something to be said for dancing right nextdoor to the fantasy, and how doing so often reveals details of Our Most Exalted Rock Gods which are strangely absent from the written histories. For instance, did you know that Joe Strummer smells of tobacco and peppermint, Donovan is a bit like a leprechaun, or that Anton Newcombe is actually a really sweet guy?
In other words, there are the people, and then there is the mythology. But within the sacred confines of WFMU, the crossroads of those two competing concepts never resonated with greater poignancy for me than in the case of Nikki Sudden.
In the early 1970s, Nikki started a band with his brother called the Swell Maps, who somehow married the disparate influences of Krautrock and T. Rex to spectactular and lasting effect. His next band, the Jacobites, made no less a statement, albeit with very different ingredients in the cooker. And then there is the decade's worth of amazing solo albums and the memorable NYC-area shows that Nikki played in support of them. I made it a point to see him perform every chance I got, so by the time schedules finally granted him time to swing by my radio show for a live set on March 20th 2006, it felt like a meeting that was long overdue.
Nikki Sudden passed away unexpectedly less than a week after that performance, and it remains a crippling testament to what was a truly wonderful night of music in Jersey City. I wrote a short piece about the evening for the Brooklyn Rail several days after the news broke, so no need to go into all the sad details again. I'm just glad the tracks from that session are finally available for everyone to enjoy. Hosting Nikki on the radio was a years-long dream of mine, and I'm still humbled and honored to have spent some time in his company.
Eternal gratitude to Rob Watts and Danny Hole. Thanks be to Nikki. Stay bruised.
Xposted on the FMA here. Check the other Nikki sessions just made available there, too.