Anyone who has been following this journal
knows that I am a friend of poet, singer and
songwriter Nikki Sudden.
Nikki has been an active member on these forums
and has posted journal responses often.
A frequent contributing member of this list.
We worked together last year on a Ron Wood
tribute recorded in Switzerland, and it was the first time
we'd met, although we'd emailed for years prior and were
in contact regularly.
I found Nikki to be a flamboyant and wonderful character.
Like someone from a different time, where things were more
ornate and romantic. His strongest gift was his poetry, and he was
truly a genius in his use of the written word.
Several days ago Nikki called me and asked me to play bass
on his New York show at the Knitting Factory club in Tribeca.
I had heard Nikki's records of course, but I had never sat down
and worked out the music to his releases.
At first I declined, joking to Nikki that I'd be
making mistakes and fumbling
since I didn't know the material.
He is a charming guy, and persuaded me to do the show
anyway, in spite of my protests.
So at about 9PM, bass in tow, I headed down to the Knitting Factory
on Leonard street in a taxi.
We had no sound check. When we arrived there was another band
on stage playing a set.
I wouldn't even have time to run through the numbers before the show.
I slammed back a few vodkas and got a positive attitude going.
It would be fine, I told myself.
Out of the blue, Nikki asked me to sing him Ben E King's
"Stand by Me" while we were backstage waiting to go on,
and I was happy to oblige.
Nikki smiled approvingly after I did a verse and chorus for him,
beaming that lovely impish grin of his.
Then we discussed some of the songs we'd do in the set.
At 11 PM we took the stage and launched in to "Treasure Island,"
and it seemed to be working, in a loose, sloppy sort of way.
Drummer Danny Hole was great, keeping the solid back beat.
I was watching his hands, finding his style
so I could get the right bounce on bass,
and we locked in as the rhythm section fairly quickly.
The songs ran by, one after another, and I was lost in total
concentration, doing my best to get the songs right.
About halfway through, Evan Dando of The Lemonheads got up
on stage with us. I had never heard of him before, but it seems he
was a media star with a record deal at some point or other.
He has a decent voice and got through a few numbers with us.
Then we finished the show, and it had gone quite well, in spite
of my initial fear of playing totally unrehearsed music.
Above- Danny Hole drums, Nikki Sudden guitar, Alan Merrill bass.
After the show we had a few drinks at the club, and then moved on
to a place called Motor City, which was packed.
On the way to the club, as we walked across an intersection,
Nikki pulled a small
smooth glass shaped heart out of his pocket,
with a figurine of an angel inside.
and he asked me if I believed in angels.
I said I guess I did, joking that I hadn't given it a
lot of thought.
He let me hold it, and look at it, and then put it back in
We got to the Motor City bar, which was filled to capacity.
It seemed impossible to get to the bar, and
I said to Nikki perhaps we should look for another place, since
we probably couldn't get a drink there with the masses
between us and the bar..
After I said that, Nikki plowed through the crowd
like a warm butterknife through butter,
and got us all drinks from the busy
and hard to get to bar.
After a while the place thinned out and we
were able to talk for a while.
Nikki was buzzing with plans to make new music
and record in New York.
There was a British bartender (from Leeds) at the bar,
and Nikki told him about how he had watched my
TV series in the UK when he was a teenager,
and he was so pleased to have done a gig with me in New York.
The bartender was funny, telling jokes in a camp way.
There were a bunch of attractive girls around us,
wondering who we were. We were obviously,
to them, a band of some sort.
At the bar Nikki told me that he'd mentioned me a few
times on his new album, "The Truth Doesn't Matter,"
mainly in the song "Burgundy." The "pilot arrow" reference.
Then, in another tune called "Green Shield Stamps" he states that he
"never missed an Arrows Show" in his teens,
referring to my weekly TV series back in 1976.
He pulled his new, not yet released album out of hs bag
and proudly gave me a copy of it on a burgundy coloured CDR.
(It's right next to my keyboard
as I type this journal entry).
We stayed at the Motor City bar until about 5 AM,
and then I gave Nikki a big hug goodnight.
My dog needed walking.
I told him I might see him in Europe in a few weeks.
I fell asleep at about 6 AM after walking the dog,
and when I woke up I called drummer Danny
to see if Nikki had caught his flight.
Danny said that he had some terrible news.
Nikki had passed away during the morning
at the place where he was staying.
It was beyond a shock.
We had just been on stage having fun playing music
only a few hours earlier.
I thought I was dreaming.
This was not registering as reality.
But it was real.
Nikki Sudden slipped away on the morning of March 26, 2006.
He had played a great show in New York City.
I hope that he passed into the next life
with a smile, after having a wonderful day.
Nikki truly believed in angels
I like to think rather than having died,
he just earned his wings.
Nikki Sudden and Alan Merrill - Switzerland - August 2005