kevin salem

Nikki Sudden-Happy Birthday

maybe 8 years ago, one of my favorite songwriters, nikki sudden, ended up at my house around christmas time. i can’t remember how that happened, but i feel like it had something to do with a mercury rev connection. i had met him very briefly once or twice before. anyhow, he stayed for a few days. very polite guy. good drinker, lotsa cologne, always wore a suit to dinner.

one night, he told me he had finally written the song that was going to make him rich. i took him out to the studio, didn’t have to coax him too hard. he and i played guitar, he sang, i played bass, piano and my daughter’s plastic toy trumpet. my dear friend tarka cordell was there also, so we all sang a little. 

nikki was a funny guy. for whatever reputation he had, he was pretty tender, not at all the undergrounder he was perceived as. i saw him once at cbgb’s. the place was nearly empty, god knows why. someone shouted for a swell maps song and nikki replied,‘the swell maps are dead, baby. like me.’ when he’s eating christmas pudding at your table, all that kind of cool is a million miles away. in fact, the last time i saw him play live was opening for mercury rev at irving plaza. they were at the height of their superpowers, around the time of deserters songs. he looked like a little boy on stage, playing solo. but he won. the audience heeled. rough as his presentation was, there was no way to hide his ability to write from his heart.

tarka and nikki are both gone, sadly. this is probably the only place you’ll hear this. i think it’s fascinating to get insight into what a brilliant writer like nikki thought a wildly commercial song sounded like. enjoy…