Nikki Sudden

Singer/guitarist with Swell Maps


Nicholas Godfrey (Nikki Sudden), singer and guitarist: born London 19 July 1956; died New York 26 March 2006.

Swell Maps were one of many British garage bands who followed the DIY route pioneered by punk groups like Buzzcocks and Desperate Bicycles and issued records on their own label, Rather Records.

Led by the singer and guitarist Nikki Sudden and the drummer, pianist and vocalist Epic Soundtracks, Swell Maps released their début single, "Read About Seymour", on Rather in 1977. In the post-punk era, they secured a distribution deal with Rough Trade and issued a further four singles - "Dresden Style", "Real Shocks", "Let's Build a Car" and "Forest Fire" - which all topped the independent charts, as well as two critically acclaimed albums, A Trip to Marineville (1979) and Swell Maps in Jane from Occupied Europe (1980).

Mixing the pop sensibility of T-Rex with the soundscape experiments of German art-rockers Can and Faust, Swell Maps became darlings of the UK alternative scene and recorded three John Peel sessions (later included on the Whatever Happens Next compilation) before imploding in 1980.

Sudden went solo, fronting the Jacobites, the French Revolution and the Mermaids as well as collaborating with Mike Scott of the Waterboys, Rowland S. Howard, the former guitarist with the Birthday Party, and Boz Boorer, Morrissey's long-standing guitarist. Sudden's heroes were Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, and he emulated their rock'n'roll attitude and outlaw mystique.

Nikki Sudden was born Nicholas Godfrey in London in 1956, moving with his family to Solihull in the mid-Sixties. After seeing Marc Bolan on television in 1971, Godfrey and his friend David Barrington bought their first guitars and in 1972 formed Swell Maps - the name came from an episode of the television serial Stingray. Godfrey became Nikki Sudden, Barrington took the name Phones Sportsman and Godfrey's younger brother Kevin, now called Epic Soundtracks, "drummed on anything that would make a noise, cardboard boxes, telephone books", recalled Sudden:

Epic only got a snare drum the following year. Gradually he built up his drum-kit but he also played piano very well.

The Swell Maps line-up changed constantly around the Godfrey brothers but, by the time they made their live début as a trio at Barbarella's in Birmingham on Boxing Day 1977, Jowe Head was playing bass. "Read About Seymour" featured Richard Earl on guitar. Swell Maps packed a lot of recording and gigging into the next three years until they fell apart on a tour of Italy in 1980.

Two years after the band split, Nikki Sudden recorded Waiting on Egypt, his first solo album. In 1984, he joined forces with Epic Soundtracks and the guitarist Dave Kusworth to form the Jacobites, a group modelled on the Faces and the Rolling Stones and also heavily influenced by Bob Dylan and Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls and Heartbreakers fame.

Alan McGee signed the Jacobites to his label Creation and issued the 1986 album Texas, as well as the follow-up, Dead Men Tell No Tales (1987), and Back to the Coast, a compilation of Sudden recordings, in 1990 but, despite releasing a further 20 albums, including the excellent Treasure Island with the Last Bandits in 2004, the guitarist and singer never made the transition from cult figure to the mainstream.

Always popular with continental Europe's rock'n'roll cognoscenti, Sudden moved to Berlin in the mid-Nineties. At the time of his death, he was working on a biography of the Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood as well as an album entitled The Truth Doesn't Matter and had been due to return from New York to play UK dates next month. Epic Soundtracks was found dead in his flat in London in November 1997, and Sudden compiled a posthumous album, Good Things (2005), from demos of his brother's work.

Asked about the influence Swell Maps had on the DIY bands that followed, Sudden once said,

You're always creating for yourself and for the moment and that's what we were doing. But one also thinks of how one's work will be seen, to some degree or another, even if it's just in the back of your mind. I've always wanted to make records that are timeless, in the same way that Beggars Banquet [the Rolling Stones album] is timeless. Whether I've succeeded is another matter. I think that sometimes, many times, I have. I'm pretty proud of most things I've done. Just wish that I'd done more.

Pierre Perrone

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker