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Emmys 2017
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Article

Nikki Sudden's Lasting Impact

The obscure British singer echoes his fellow countrymen The Rolling Stones and T. Rex

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At a time when every British Radiohead clone gets a U.S. record deal, the continued obscurity of Nikki Sudden is mysterious. For most of his 20-year solo career, the ex-member of ’70s post-punk noisemongers Swell Maps has had no American label and scant distribution of his catalog, despite cult-hero status in his native England. As a result, he’s nearly unknown here even though his music—the sort of boozy, reverb-soaked ballads Keith Richards might nod off to after a gig—is hardly inaccessible. “It doesn’t make much sense,” says Sudden. “Anyone who likes the Stones, the Faces, T. Rex, etc., would like my stuff. Anyone with taste.”

Fortunately, some people with taste run a tiny Bloomington, Ind., label called Secretly Canadian. In October, the imprint started reissuing Sudden’s ’80s work, kicking off with a pair of two-CD sets that include his Waiting on Egypt (1982), The Bible Belt (1983), Texas (1986), and Dead Men Tell No Tales (1987). Three albums Sudden recorded (with guitarist Dave Kusworth) under the name the Jacobites will come out Feb. 6. Sudden’s work is full of bleary tunes echoing his twin obsessions, T. Rex and the Rolling Stones. “[The Stones] are my favorite band ever,” he says. “It was T. Rex when I was growing up, and I still love T. Rex. But the Stones—I’ve seen them about 35 times.” Sudden is also working on a new CD, which might see a 2002 U.S. release. Don’t look for any big changes, though. “It’ll be a cross between [T. Rex’s] Electric Warrior and [the Stones’] Let It Bleed,” he promises. Who says you can’t always get what you want?