So at the invitation of Art Black and Monica Dee of (Hoboken, New Jersey) fanzine "Away From The Pulsebeat", I wrote a kind of background and introduction to Nikki. This appeared in their early 1988 edition which also included a four track, four band single featuring Nikki (Redd Kross, feedtime, and Broken Jug were the other three). Here's the song he gave them:
Nikki Sudden & The Jacobites - "Flower Bed Romance"
(from the Away From The Pulsebeat EP)
And here's the article:
About a year ago, those frivolous popsters Sonic Youth visited a glitzy, gaudy and gratingly noisy club in the Midlands city of Leicester, There ensued quite the most thrilling and intense performance this fey spirit ever did witness, made more memorable by the masochistic pain inflicted by the sheer, shrill, razor-sharp edge of the sound on a truly EVIL toothache.
I'd been dragged along not quite unwilling but most certainly uncertain by one Epic Soundtracks, who on a recent tour of America with his band Crime & The City Solution, had met and be-friended the man they call Thurston. And so it was with this link established that prior to the show, and to escape quite the most ear-shattering “alternative” disco you'll ever hear – from the Damned to the Dickies – that we sallied forth with said Thurston, the demurely delectable Kim, Blast First supremo Paul Smith and Lee Ranaldo to sample the delights of Leicester's night-life.
AMERICANS IN LEICESTER CULTURE SHOCK HORROR PROBE
Where are the 24 hour pet shops? What about the late movie shows? And bars, sorry, pubs closing at 10.30? Sheesh!
And so, by this circuitous but quite reasonable route we reach THE POINT. Yes there was rhyme and reason in introducing The Sonic Youth into the scenario. Y'see, starting a few years back, and continuing to this day, Thurston's been a bit of a Swell Maps fan, and he was anxious to obtain a couple of rare singles which young Epic kindly provided for him to take back to New York, and no doubt share the aural delight with another avowed Maps aficionado Mr Jim Foetus.
SO DON'T YOU THINK YOU OUGHT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THESE SWELL MAPS CHAPS?
Well, there just happens to be readily available starting point out there for you, in the shape of the recently (May 1987) released “Train Out Of It”, a collection of deleted singles and unreleased material, out as part of the Antar Seventies Nostalgia Series. It's a labour of love undertaken by another long-term Maps-head, Cally, manager of yet one more inspired by the magic of the Maps, Mister Julian Cope. Buy this and you'll start to understand the importance, the significance and the influence of Swell Maps.
Together in one form or another from 1972 to 1980, they left behind a clutch of fascinating and incredibly diverse recordings, four singles “Read About Seymour”, “Dresden Style”, “Real Shocks” and the magnificent “Let's Build A Car”) and four albums (“A Trip To Marineville”, “...In Jane From Occupied Europe”, “Whatever happens Next” (a double album) and “Collision Time”) all on Rough Trade Records.
Their live début was on Boxing Day 1977 in Birmingham, sandwiched between the Scent Organs, featuring Duran Duran's Roger Taylor, and TV Eye, featuring Andy Wickett, “original” composer of “Rio” (hey, watch those libel suits flood in....). The first single from the same year “Read About Seymour”, to quote Andy Bean, author of WANWTTS “Consumer Guide To Swell Maps”, was a “90 second burst of light, a two chord thrash, pretty meaningless but exciting....” - a declaration of intent....
Commercially, the Maps weren't in it, making things extremely difficult for themselves. Had they stuck to one style, their popularity would no doubt have been far greater, but they never played things easy. For every Pop song there was an unnerving sound bombardment, for every Grunge Rock track, a sublime piano instrumental. Although Richard Earl (Biggles), David Barrington (Phones) and John Cockrill have bowed out gracefully from music, the three (arguably) main protagonists continue to thrill us in their chosen way.
Epic Soundtracks, multi-instrumentalist and drummer supreme with the band now plays with both Crime & The City Solution and Rowland S Howard's These Immortal Souls.
Nikki Sudden, main song writer and lead guitarist, has been the most active since the Maps split in 1980, recording numerous solo and collaborative LPs and singles. More on him later. Jowe
Jowe Head, bassist and the man largely responsible for the wacky image that still haunts the band, is a Palooka, a Househunter, a TV Personality and a STAR in West Germany. Many who make up the horribly styled “Anorak” movement, the new wave of British indie bands, cite Swell Maps as an influence, only to serve up a cross-bred sound drawing heavily from the Buzzcocks and the Ramones, with just a tinge of the perverse pop that served the Maps so well.
The attraction for them may be the independent, slightly off-beat approach that made up just a small part of the Swell Maps. They find it impossible to look beyond the band's use of household appliances as instruments, song titles such as “(I Am) The Greatest Plumming” and “Here's The Cupboard (Thrash)”. True, whilst all part of the Maps' charm, for me, more importance should be attached and more attention paid to their Can-influenced rhythmic excursions on the likes of “Full Moon”/”Blam”/”Full Moon (Reprise)” and the aforementioned “Let's Build A Car”, described, again by Andy Bean, as “...3 minutes of glorious noise, from the unrecognisable guitar to the screamed lyrics and the kamikaze piano solo; so much poise and so much recklessness.....”
Toyota Use Swell Maps To Sell Cars - Wrong song, surely?
GIVE ME MORE OF THIS MANIC OFF-THE-WALL BUGSHIT, MAN!